NBA Finals: Will LeBron James score 32 points tonight?

English: LeBron James in New York City to disc...

LeBron James… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published daily that focuses on stats that go beyond the numbers.

If you believe in numbers and stats and karma (and if you’re anywhere near a roulette wheel) you may want to put money on Miami’s LeBron James scoring 32 points tonight in Game 1 of their NBA Finals series against Oklahoma City. In Game 1 of the three previous series in this year’s playoffs, James has scored 32 points in each game. Oh, did I mention that the Heat won each Game 1 in the three previous series?

James averaged 33.6 points in the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Celtics, scoring 30 or more in six of the seven games. For this year’s playoffs, James has scored 30+ in 11 of the 16 games. This would lead a lot of people to guess that we’ll see a 30-point game from James in tonight’s contest.

But here’s an interesting stat to ponder: James has played in 10 NBA Finals games (six with Cleveland in 2007 and four with Miami last year). He has scored 25 or more points in only two of those 10 games… and he did not score 25 or more points in any of the six games in last year’s finals. Here’s another quick stat to consider: In the two opening games of the finals that James has played in, he scored 14 in Game 1 in 2007 and 24 in Game 1 in 2011.

What will his Game 1 performance look like this year?

Keeping with the Game 1 in the NBA Finals theme, here’s a look at the players in the last 30 years (since 1982) that have scored the most points in the first game of the NBA Finals.

Points in Game 1 of NBA Finals, Player, Team (Year)

48 Allen Iverson, Philadelphia (2001)

44 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2001)

43 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2000)

40 Kobe Bryant, L.A Lakers (2009)

39 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1992)

36 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers (2002)

36 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1991)

34 Shaquille O’ Neal, L.A. Lakers (2004)

34 Adrian Dantley, Detroit (1988)

33 Tim Duncan, San Antonio (1999)

33 Michael Jordan, Chicago (1998)

33 Isiah Thomas, Detroit (1990)

33 James Worthy, L.A. Lakers (1987)

33 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston (1986)

* Since 1982, there have been 45 players who have scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals; teams were 27-18 (.600 winning percentage) in those games. Twenty-three players scored 30 or more points in the opening game; teams were 16-7 (.696 winning percentage) in those games. In the four games where players scored 40 or more points, teams were 3-1.

* The last time teammates each scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals was 2004 when Shaq scored 34 and Kobe added 25 . The Lakers lost that game. In the last 30 years, at least one player has scored 25 or more points in Game 1 of the finals in 28 of those 30 series (2008 and 1989 were the exception).

Who will score 25 or more points in tonight’s game?

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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