Tonight, two games out west. Games start at 10 PM ET/7 PM PT and are on LiveAccess unless I say otherwise.
The Heat is Riding Off a Heat Wave
Game 4 of the Finals last night resulted in a 104-98 victory for the Heat. The play that iced the victory was when Thunder guard Russell Westbrook fouled with seconds left on the clock in the game while the shot clock was still running and OKC still had one chance left to tie the game if they could get the stop... He still had a great game with 43 points and singlehandedly kept the Thunder in this game. LeBron didn't finish this game due to leg cramps. Heat spot up guard Mario Chalmers was the ex factor-man last night, scoring 25 points, 12 of them in the fourth quarter.
So, it's now 3-1 Miami in the series, and historically, no team has ever come back from this margin of a deficit. The Thunder must win out to win its first championship since 1979 when they defeated the Washington Wizards. If KD's Krew can do it, this could possibly be the best comeback in NBA Finals History ever, let alone franchise history.
However, this hypothetical scenario would be the best comeback ever for a reason. The odds are really not in their favor. KD hasn't been shooting particularly well in the latter part of the last couple games, James Harden hasn't played well for the entire series, and there are no true scoring threats in the low post positions. Serge Ibaka is the closest thing to a stretch big man that the Thunder has. Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison are really just clean up guys on offense. The Heat has Chris Bosh... We'll see on Thursday if OKC can stave off elimination and bring the series back for "home barn" advantage. Okay, home court advantage!
Game 1: Washington Mystics (2-6) at Phoenix Mercury (2-7), 7 PM PT and Arizona Time/10 PM ET
Despite the regular season records for these teams, this is the game of the night. Why?
Both teams just came out of some notable losses and want to show that they're better than their last loss. First, for the Mercury players, they just lost to the Tulsa Shock on the road this past Sunday. It also happened to be the last winless team standing. Sure, the commenters on this site have been a bit biased for the Shock and wer glad that Volt's cunning and sly cheers would help the team, and we are certainly glad they did on Father's Day, but still, the Mercury was that first team to lose to the Shock. Candice Dupree was injured last game, and may miss this one tonight, which would only further deplete a depleted roster without its top two players.
Now for the road team. The Mystics' last loss was just pitiful. The turnovers were almost as bad as ever, and even in the "garbage time fourth quarter", the Mystics still couldn't keep the margin from growing over the long haul. The big three of Lang, Mo, and Matee all played badly, and as I've noted before, if they don't all have good games, they may lose. Well, I guess we now know first hand that when they all play badly, the Mystics will get crushed. It is possible that there were some agendas out there on Monday, especially for Alana and Marissa, but it was the rookie out of Stanford, Nneka Ogwumike who really took it to DC most of all.
So with both teams trying to erase the bad taste out of their mouths tonight, on the surface it should be a battle. In fact if you look at the Mystics' main page, they wasted no time adding new stories to the front page, and I don't blame them. Still, only one team will be able to erase some bad memories sooner, and I think it will be the Mercury, even if Dupree is out or if Samantha Prahalis overdribbles too much. Why? The Mystics have already lost 12 in a row on the road, and considering how down the team likely is, I know the DC Basketcases piled on (and I piled on too by showing you the link), I just don't see them being able to win any game on this road trip, especially when the trip ends in Seattle on Sunday with the league's best and most passionate fans, even if the Storm is currently with a sub .500 record right now.
I honestly would like to see the Mystics play better this game and even win it, but I just don't see this team being tougher than last year's squad, and in fact, the players may have tuned out their coach already.
Game 2: Tulsa Shock (1-9) at LA Sparks (8-3), 7:30 PM PT/10:30 PM ET
This matchup features the same two teams that beat the teams that played in game 1. The Shock wants to continue the momentum from last game, play good ball and get another win, this time against a team that is basically at full strength. Nneka Ogwumike (I mentioned the rookie from Stanford first this time!), Candace Parker, Alana Beard, Kristi Toliver, and the Sparks want to keep playing good team ball like they did this past Monday.
In their first matchup back in May, the Sparks barely beat the Shock with a Toliver buzzer beating three. The bigger issues for them are that Jennifer Lacy and Scholanda Dorrell suffered knee injuries in the Mercury win. Courtney Paris and Amber Holt were signed in the last couple days, and I'd like to see how they are once they're thrown into the fire.
As for the Sparks, I was really impressed with Nneka's hustle on the offensive glass this past Monday, as she grabbed six boards on that end after a one game excused absence so she could walk at Stanford University's commencement. Do I expect another total domination from LA like I saw this past Monday? No, because the Shock has a better team, and the players are mentally tougher than the Mystics are. However, either way, the Sparks have a massive advantage in this game on paper, and should come out with the W.
If you live in the LA area, turn on TWC 101.
Nate is sure to add his NSR Predictions and other advanced stat analysis at some point. Feel free to stay up late if you're East, or get some work done and relax during your evening commute if you're out west!