Sunday's Playoff Previews - NFL Draft: LBs and DBs

THE NBA PLAYOFFS - FIRST-ROUND PREVIEWS ROLL ON HERE WITH THE FOUR SERIES THAT START UP SUNDAY...PLUS THERE'S MORE NFL DRAFT POSITION-BY-POSITION GOODIES AS TODAY WE CHECK IN THE TOP DBs AND LBs

By Jim Hurley:

We'll get you right to our jam-packed weekend edition of Jim Sez in a moment -there's NBA Playoff Previews and NFL Draft analyses galore -but first this important message:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or when you go online right here: The check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA Playoffs and MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Extra, extra: The NBA Playoffs have swung into action this weekend and so please make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our special NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Get in touch with Jim or one of his service representatives today!

THE NBA PLAYOFFS

Here are the NBA Playoff First-Round Series that begin on Sunday -note that we've included the team's conference playoff seeds below along with the regular-season records. The Game #1 starting times are included here as well. Also, take note that home teams are listed in CAPS in our listing of regular-season head-to-head showdowns:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#7 CHARLOTTE (44-38) at #2 ORLANDO (59-23) -5:30 p.m. ET, TNT
The Orlando Magic -as everyone knows -has a new and different mix to this 2010 team from last year's NBA Finals runner-up squad as Vince Carter (16.6 ppg) is an integral part of this unit where once Hedo Turkoglu was an important ingredient. Yet, it really all comes down to just how dominant center Dwight Howard (18.3 ppg and 13.2 rpg) can be in the paint and how often the Magic can click from beyond the three-point arc.

No doubt that Stan Van Gundy's gang counts on the trifecta as the Magic drilled an NBA single-season record of 841 triples plus Orlando is super-deep -probably the NBA's deepest team at this point in time -and there's no major drop-off when the"subs" step foot on the floor.

In this opening-round playoff clash against Larry Brown's Bobcats, the Magic figure to start off each game concentrating on getting the ball down low to Howard and hoping he's either quick to the hoop or quick to throw an outlet pass to an open perimeter shooter -while the flip side says Charlotte's only got a chance to win this best-of-seven set if star scorers Stephen Jackson (20.6 ppg) and Gerald Wallace (18.2 ppg) get hot early and stay hot late and if center Tyson Chandler (hip pointer and elbow injury) is healthy enough to stand in against Howard for some 30-plus minutes a night.

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

11-10

Orlando

-4

Orlando 93-81

11-16

ORLANDO

-12

ORLANDO 97-91

1-23

Orlando

-1½

Orlando 106-95(ot)

3-14

ORLANDO

-8½

Charlotte 96-89

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#8 OKLAHOMA CITY (50-32) at #1 LOS ANGLES LAKERS (57-25) -3 p.m. ET, ABC
Now that Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson has tossed the first stone -he said publicly this week (and then paid the NBA headquarters 35K for saying so) that Okie City megastar Kevin Durant (a league-best 30.1 ppg) gets the favorable whistles from officials -there's instant"juice" in this playoff set that already had major hype thanks to the principals:

Durant may indeed by one of the NBA's new saviors but this remains Kobe Bryant's kingdom -the playoffs are where the four-time champion makes his bones and now everyone will see whether or not Bryant gets more calls than the second-year pro from Texas.

Bryant (27 ppg) put things into cruise control late in the year -note that he missed nine games in all for the defending champs -but now you can expect a spirited effort from LA's biggest star plus look for the Lakers' defense to roll out on Durant, James Harden, Jeff Green and others when they're looking to spot up from deep.

In a nutshell, that's the key here as the Lakers must keep Okie City's three-point tries/makes to a bare minimum and must get 30-plus points in the paint each game where Pau Gasol could have a real field day.

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

11-3

Lakers

-7

Lakers 101-98 (ot)

11-22

LAKERS

-10½

LAKERS 101-85

12-22

LAKERS

-10

LAKERS 111-108

3-26

Lakers

- 1½

OKLA CITY 91-75


#7 SAN ANTONIO (50-32) at #2 DALLAS (55-27) -8 p.m. ET, TNT

It seems like old times for these Lone Star State franchises as this will mark the fifth time in the era including Spurs star Tim Duncan and Mavericks kingpin Dirk Nowitzki (25 ppg this year) that these clubs will clash in post-season play -in case you're keeping score these teams have split the prior four post-season series with Dallas winning the last two in a row including that five-game series win last spring.

Nowadays, the Mavs consider anything prior to that pre-Trade Deadline deal that imported the likes of Caron Butler, Brandan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson to be ancient history and no doubt that Rick Carlisle's club has played splendid ball since that February 13th deal with the Washington Wizards (maybe exporting bad-guy Josh Howard was really the biggest part of that deal!).

Now, Dallas' younger legs will look to get into a full gallop against a San Antonio team that creaks plenty -Duncan (17.9 ppg and 10.1 rpg) ain't what he used to be and even point guard Tony Parker remains covered in rust these days after a prolonged injury-related layoff. If Parker has trouble staying step-for-step with Mavs point guard Jason Kidd (9.1 assists per game) than this could be a short-and-sweet series.

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

11-11

Dallas

-2

SAN ANTONIO 92-83

11-18

DALLAS

-3

DALLAS 99-94 (ot)

1-8

SAN ANTONIO

-4½

Dallas 112-103

4-14

DALLAS

-5

DALLAS 96-89


#6 PORTLAND (50-32) at #3 PHOENIX (54-28) -10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Both of these Western Conference clubs finished the regular-season on nice runs as the Phoenix Suns copped wins in eight of their last 10 games while the Portland Trail Blazers won seven of their final 10 tilts -but you sure get a different perspective when looking at these teams on the eve of this post-season series.

The Blazers have more of a doom-and-gloom feel to 'em as Nate McMillan's team will be going without superstar G Brandon Roy (21.5 ppg) who could well be gonzo for the year with a blown-up knee while the Suns have a refreshed feel to this franchise with young blood (see Channing Frye, Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, et al) helping veterans Steve Nash (11 apg), Amar'e Stoudemire (23.1 ppg), Jason Richardson and Grant Hill have a real pep in their step.

If the Blazers are gonna make any noise in this series than point guard Andre Miller must play close to mistake-free ball in the half-court game and 36-year-old born-again F/C Marcus Camby must be a major force on the offensive glass where the Suns could be vulnerable.

Plus, the Blazers will need some X-factor types to deliver late in the game where Roy used to be the automatic go-to guy -perhaps kid Nicolas Batum (54 made triples this year and a 41 percent shooter from beyond the arc) will have a coming-of-age party here in this series. Stay tuned.

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

12-17

PORTLAND

- 1½

PORTLAND 105-102

2-10

PHOENIX

- 9½

Portland 108-101

3-21

PHOENIX

- 6

PHOENIX 93-87

 

THE NFL DRAFT: TOP DBs AND LBs ARE THE ORDER OF THE DAY

Editor's Note: We will continue with our complete and daily Position-by-Position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 25-26) into next week and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 21st: Now, here's a look at the top Defensive Backs and Linebackers:

ERIC BERRY, FS, Tennessee -The NFL draft boards all claim this 6-foot, 210-pounder will be among the top half-dozen players picked in this draft but we've seen 'em get beat plenty in this Volunteers career and so he could be a major overrated item. Berry's chief strength is the ability to read-and-react to plays in a hurry plus he can be a real burner once he picks up a fumble or grabs an INT.

JOE HADEN, CB, Florida -Best cover corner in this draft and thus many SEC teams avoided throwing to his side of the field in 2009. Haden's super-fast at 5-foot-11, 193 pounds and he can close on an enemy wide receiver and last year wound up being named a Jim Thorpe Finalist. Look for this former Gators star to get nabbed inside the top 10 picks.

ROLANDO McCLAIN, ILB, Alabama -Major key to the Crimson Tide snagging last year's national championship, this monstrous 6-foot-4, 250-pounder won the '09 Butkus Award and probably should have garnered a batch of Heisman Trophy votes too. McClain is considered coach-on-the-field material and he spearheaded a rush defense last year that allowed just 68.2 ground yards a game (second-best in the nation). Most draft boards have him getting picked #11-thru-#15 but we would leap at a shot to grab him in the top five picks.

BRANDON GRAHAM, OLB, Michigan -Pro scouts love the tenacity shown by this former maize-and-blue star who last year led the country in tackles for losses (26) along with his 10 ½ quarterback sacks. Graham's 6-foot-2, 268-pound frame means he can really pack a wallop and his stock could be rising from mid-first round pick to somewhere right around #10 or #11.

EARL THOMAS, CB, Texas -Here's a player who figures on getting drafted in the middle of Round I more on potential as he departed the college scene after his redshirt sophomore season and having played safety for the Longhorns. Thomas has plenty of good football sense but remains rough around the edges and not considered to be a strong tackler at this stage of his development.
 
TAYLOR MAYS, FS, USC -There's plenty of debate regarding this four-year starter who often was burned in high-profile games and often was beaten when the Trojans played man coverage. Mays is a great physical specimen at nearly 6-foot-3, 230 pounds and some folks believe he's a better pick at FS over Tennessee's Berry but some in-the-know folks think he regressed in his senior season.

KYLE WILSON, CB, Boise State -Most NFL draft boards have this 5-foot-10, 195-pounder as the third-best corner in play but the former Broncos star should land somewhere in Round I and may have improved his status with a fabulous"Pro Day" that included a sizzling 4.43 time in the 40-yard dash. Throw in the fact Wilson performed exceedingly well in last season's Senior Bowl and you might see this four-year starter get gobbled up inside the top 22 or 23 picks.

SEAN LEE, ILB, Penn State -This 6-foot-2, 235-pounder produced some great"Pro Day" numbers including a solid 40 time of 4.60 and remember he came off knee surgery in the spring of 2008. Lee is ultra-active on the field (see 11 tackles for loss last year) and sports major leadership skills and should be among the top 50 players picked in this year's NFL Draft.

SERGIO KINDLE, OLB, Texas -At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds this former Longhorns star is rock-solid and cat-quick to the ball as he collected 34 ½ tackles for losses over the course of the past two seasons. Kindle's had a series of nagging injuries in his college career and that could scare away some NFL folks at the bottom of Round I or at the top of Round II.

CHAD JONES, SS, LSU -The two-sport star (drafted by the Houston Astros in the 13th round) could wind up getting tabbed early in Round II (and thus higher than most forecast) based on all-around athleticism as his return skills must be included into the mix. Jones started at free safety in all 13 of LSU's games last year but he's been tabbed a strong safety for his pro career and has shown the ability to be an excellent open-field tackler.

NOTE: More NFL Draft Preview info (the Defensive Linemen) and NBA Playoff talk too in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

SUNDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN

 Sunday Night baseball is goes to St. Louis, as the Mets and the Cardinals square off for the ESPN audience and the baseball-only handicappers at the Jim Hurley Network are ready with the winner. We're already tearing up the diamond to the tune of 69 percent and we're locked in on this game. Our experts have a strong opinion as to why the Mets have been slow out of the gate and whether it's a situaiton that can be rectified in short order. Our stat handicappers have uncovered key data regarding the Cardinals, in particular how the offense below Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday can be expected to perform in this particular spot. Jim Hurley himself is convinced that this information holds the key to victory. And the fact it points the same direction as our people's opinion on the Mets only makes us want to up the ante! Win our Sunday Night Showdown and get two best bet plays from the afternoon card!

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