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December 21, 2014

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NBA Finals in Vegas: Heat vs. Spurs Game 4 betting preview, odds and picks

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Larry Smith, Pool / AP

Miami Heat forward LeBron James shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) during the first half of Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in San Antonio. James had 35 points and 10 rebounds in a powerful comeback from the cramps that knocked him out the opener, as the Heat tied the series with a 98-96 victory over the Spurs.

Thursday's Game 4

  • Spread: San Antonio plus-5.5 at Miami
  • Moneyline: San Antonio (plus-210) at Miami (minus-250)
  • Total: Over/under 197 points
  • Talking Points pick: Over 197 points (1-2)

Game 4 Player Over/Unders

  • Tim Duncan points-plus-rebounds: 27.5
  • Manu Ginobli points: 14.5
  • Kawhi Leonard points-plus-assists: 16.5
  • Tony Parker points: 18
  • LeBron James points: 28.5
  • Dwyane Wade points: 19
  • Chris Bosh points-plus-rebounds: 21.5
  • LeBron James rebounds-plus-assists: 13.5
  • Talking Points pick: Dwyane Wade under 19 points (1-1)
  • All numbers come from the LVH Superbook.

If the Miami Heat can truly play their best with the flip of a figurative switch, now would be the time to make sure it’s engaged.

That’s been a prevailing theory all season long when it comes to the two-time defending NBA champions. The Heat may not have put together as strong of a record or statistical profile as NBA Finals opponent San Antonio, or even Eastern Conference foe Indiana, but they’re lethal when they decide to play their best.

Miami showed no sign of playing above a championship level in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, getting beaten 111-92 as 4-point favorites in their first home game of the series. Coach Erik Spoelstra’s halftime grievance of the Heat not playing with enough intensity in giving up 71 points was another way of saying they never turned on.

The failure to launch is a common theme for the season when Miami feels no desperation. But the desperate times have arrived with the 6 p.m. start of tonight’s Game 4 at American Airlines Arena.

Analysts have drawn many comparisons to the 2-1 hole Miami dug itself in last year’s Finals, but this season is more dire, according to Las Vegas sports books. San Antonio is now a minus-215 (risking $2.15 to win $1) favorite in the series with Miami coming back at plus-185 (risking $1 to win $1.85).

At this time in 2013, the NBA Finals were a near pick ’em with the Spurs only a slight minus-130 favorite. Despite a 36-point pasting in last year’s Game 3, the Spurs had only outscored the Heat by 21 points overall in the series.

This year, the Heat are down 32 points through three games. And they don’t have the luxury of knowing home-court advantage awaits in Game 6 and 7.

The Heat must power up in Game 4 or kiss the three-peat goodbye. No team has ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals history.

This is when their track record would indicate the Heat will put their best effort forward. They’ve won in 13 straight playoff games after a loss and covered in 11 consecutive.

The exception was last year’s Game 6 of the Finals when Miami miraculously beat San Antonio 103-100 in overtime but couldn’t cover the 6.5-point spread.

Overall in the Big Three era, Miami has gone 19-5 straight up and 17-7 against the spread after a loss in the playoffs.

The resilience is practically common knowledge in sports books, which is why anyone wishing to bet the Heat will pay a premium in Game 4. Miami is up to minus-5.5, a full 1.5 points more than it was in a blowout loss Tuesday.

San Antonio has performed well on the road all season, going 28-22 against the spread. But the Spurs have only won, or even covered, in two straight playoff road games twice in the past six years.

They’re the more consistent team. It’s time to find out whether the Heat still have the higher ceiling.

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

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