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April 18, 2014

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NBA Finals in Vegas: Does Oklahoma City have one last gasp?

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) takes the ball down court against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half at Game 4 of the NBA finals basketball series, Tuesday, June 19, 2012, in Miami.

Thursday's Game Five

  • Spread: — Oklahoma City +3 @ Miami
  • Moneyline: — Oklahoma City +135 @ Miami -155
  • Total: — o/u 194
  • Talking Points' Pick: — Thunder 96, Heat 94
  • Numbers from Stations Casinos

Everything about Game Four of the NBA Finals felt epic.

The way certain moments played out in the Heat’s 104-98 victory over the Thunder to take a 3-1 lead in the series made the contest one that fans will discuss for years.

There was LeBron James, the superstar who was much maligned for supposedly not rising to the occasion in big games, turning in one of the best performances of his career before cramping up in the final minutes. James was one rebound away from a triple-double when teammates had to help him off the floor, and then he returned anyway to drain a three-pointer that gave Miami a lead it never relinquished.

There was Russell Westbrook, the budding All-Pro known dually for athleticism and carelessness, out-shining even James for stretches before a critical error. Westbrook scored 43 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds before committing an unnecessary intentional foul with 13 seconds to go that iced the game for the Heat.

There was Mario Chalmers, the Heat’s designated whipping boy in Games 2 and 3, making several big plays to lock up what Dwyane Wade called “his moment”. Chalmers scored 12 of his playoff-high 25 points in the fourth quarter.

These occurrences make it easy enough to declare the series over. That was the popular opinion Tuesday night, but it helps bettors little in the immediate future.

Thirteen teams have trailed 3-1 in the NBA Finals since the league went to a 2-3-2 home court format and none of them have won the series. Analysts tossed that statistic around like a pregame baseball after the Heat’s win.

But how often did anyone hear that those 13 teams have gone 7-6 in Game Five after finding themselves on the verge of defeat? None.

Oddsmakers find Miami no more likely to win Game Five than they did Game Four. The Heat are posted as 3-point favorites — actually a half-point less than Tuesday’s game — in books all around town.

They are -550 (risking $5.50 to win $1) to win the series, with the Thunder coming back at +450. That means it would take the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history for Oklahoma City to win the title.

But even if the series is over, that doesn’t mean it has to end Thursday.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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