Are the Oklahoma City Thunder Really the Best Bet in the West?
Did the two teams destined to make it to the 2012 NBA Finals each win on Thursday night in blowouts on the road? Both are No. 2 seeds in their respective conferences and could be on a collision course to meet for the NBA championship in June. However, the Western Conference looks to be a lot more competitive than the East, so the Oklahoma City Thunder will likely have a much tougher time than they did on Thursday in a 95-79 rout of the defending NBA champion and seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of their first-round round series.
The Thunder looked a little better than average in taking the first two games against the Mavericks on their home court, winning both by a combined four points. But Game 3 was another story with Oklahoma City's All-Star forward Kevin Durant finally shooting the ball like he is capable of en route to a game-high 31 points. Durant had made just 15 of 44 shots through the first two games before connecting on 11 of 15 in Game 3, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Earlier in the night, the Miami Heat cruised to an 87-70 win over the seventh-seeded New York Knicks in the East to go out 3-0 in their series. Miami's probable MVP winner LeBron James overcame some early foul trouble to score 17 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter as the Heat outscored New York, 29-14. The Knicks suffered their 13th straight playoff defeat to set an all-time league record for futility in the postseason.
As discussed on Wednesday, the Heat have a fairly easy road in the East now that the top-seeded Chicago Bulls are without reigning MVP Derrick Rose due to a torn ACL. On the other hand, the Thunder have to compete with the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, who visit the Denver Nuggets on Friday as 4-point road underdogs. The Lakers are up 2-0 in their series while the Spurs will be going for a sweep of the eighth-seeded Utah Jazz on Saturday as 5.5-point road favorites following a 114-83 rout in Game 3 on Wednesday.
Only time will tell if Miami and Oklahoma City meet for the NBA title. San Antonio and a couple teams from Los Angeles may have something to say about that before all is said and done. The fifth-seeded Clippers also head home to Staples Center on Saturday as 3-point home favorites against the fourth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in an important game for both teams since their series is tied at 1-1. The Lakers will play the Nuggets again on Sunday as the lone Western Conference game on the board that day.