Up 3-1, Heat favored by 3 for Game 5

Published on June 20 at 11:53 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

LeBron James and the Miami Heat are one win away from winning the 2012 NBA title after capturing a 104-98 win in Tuesday’s Game 4 in South Florida. The Heat took the cash as a three-point home favorite, while the 202 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 193-point total.

James drained a clutch 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining to give his team the lead (97-94) for good. After a stop, Dwyane Wade got into the lane and finished an acrobatic layup for a five-point advantage.

Mario Chalmers, who came alive with a stellar 25-point effort, made 3-of-4 free throws to put the game on ice in the final moments. James nearly had a triple-double with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Wade also scored 25 points.

The Thunder came out on fire and took a 33-16 lead late in the first quarter. However, the Heat answered with a 17-2 run and the game was a nail-biter the rest of the way. Rookie reserve point guard Norris Cole gave Miami quality minutes in the first half, scoring eight points on a pair of 3’s and a driving layup.

Russell Westbrook was absolutely sensational for OKC, producing one of the finest individual efforts in Finals history. The UCLA product tallied 43 points, seven rebounds and five assists while making 20-of-32 shots from the field. Only Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal have gone for 43, seven and five in the Final before. Like Westbrook, they also had those performances in losing efforts.

Kevin Durant scored 28 points but he had just six in the final stanza when he coughed up a pair of turnovers. James Harden was horrible for the third time in four games of this series. Harden was 2-of-10 from the floor and missed a run-out layup early in the fourth quarter that would’ve given OKC the lead. He finished with just eight points and twice as many turnovers (four) as assists (two).

For Thursday’s Game 5, most betting shops are listing the Heat as a three-point home favorite with a total of 193 ½. The Thunder are available on the money line for a plus-135 payout (risk $100 to win $135).

Sportsbook.com has adjusted the series price to Miami minus-525 with OKC now listed as a plus-375 underdog. The website has James as the minus-500 ‘chalk’ (risk $500 to win $100) to win MVP honors, while Durant can be had for a 4/1 return (risk $100 to win $400).

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Huge play that got overlooked: With the Heat leading 82-79, James missed a mid-range jumper and Derek Fisher appeared poised to pull down the rebound. However, Udonis Haslem was able to tap the ball out to Chalmers before Fisher could secure the ball. Chalmers got a clean look at a trey and drained it to give Miami a six-point advantage.

–Solid Game 4 analysis from ESPN’s Tim Legler on Sports Center early Wednesday morning, especially the criticism of Thabo Sefolosha’s shot selection when the Thunder were down three with a minute left.

–Westbrook’s odds to win MVP in the series are plus-650. Wade is a 15/1 longshot.

–Sportsbook.com has released its odd to win next year’s NBA title. OKC and Miami are the plus-250 co-favorites, while Chicago and San Antonio have 5/1 and 7/1 odds, respectively.

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