Memories are short in the NBA, with one game following another in a dizzy blur. But the Memphis Grizzlies will not have forgotten the pain of the 2011 Playoffs. They held a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semi-finals over the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to lose Game 4 in triple overtime and the series in seven games.
That alone will be enough to remove any sense of complacency from Memphis. With an identical cushion, they will try to capitalise on home advantage on Monday night and push OKC close to the exit door. The Grizzlies held their rivals to just 91 points in a six-point victory on Saturday, the Thunder paying the price for some abysmal shooting.
Such off-nights can happen to any team, of course. But it is rare for Memphis to come off second-best in the paint, so it likely Oklahoma City view it as a chance squandered. The Grizzlies are -4.5 on the handicap at 1.91 in a game that could go over the total points line of 184 if Kevin Durant gets some help for OKC.
But with San Antonio unconvincing, Memphis remains my dark horse for the West title, even though they’re now down to 3.00. The Thunder are now out at 6.00.
In the East, the Miami Heat look unstoppable and are 1.15 favourites for the Conference crown with Indiana (8.00) and New York (9.00) their closest rivals. The Chicago Bulls, at 50.00, have all been written off and go into Game 4 of their series with the Heat tonight needing another miracle.
Luol Deng, returning from illness, will likely be limited even if he makes it to the court, with Kirk Hinrich also a probable spectator. In their absence, the Heat, who are favoured on the handicap by -7.5, have taken the last two games by an average of 23.5 points after their shock loss in the opener.
Chicago are 4.05 to steal one back on their home court but as admirable as their resilience has been, Miami have too much.
Best bet: Take Memphis on the handicap of -4.5 over Oklahoma City at 1.91