NBA & MLB Weekend Wrap - NFL Draft Winners and Losers
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OUR JIM SEZ WEEKEND WRAP-UP IS CHOCK FULL OF GREAT STUFF AS LEBRON'S CAVS SMOKE THE BULLS PLUS THE SPURS AND JAZZ GET CLOSER TO CLINCHING
WHILE THE WINDY CITY'S BASEBALL TEAMS BRING OUT THE BROOMS WITH A PAIR OF CLEAN SWEEPS ...
NFL DRAFT '10 IS HISTORY AND WE PROCLAIM THE "WINNERS" AND "LOSERS"
By Jim Hurley
Maybe you already know what's coming ... one of those "perception vs. reality" deals.
Here's what we mean:
The NBA Playoffs are only nine days old and it would appear there's some real humdinger series upsets on the horizon with heavy-duty dog Oklahoma City (a 5-to-1 underdog) all knotted up at two games apiece with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and than there's both San Antonio and Utah leading their respective best-of-seven series by haughty 3-games-to-1 margins (yes, both the Spurs and Jazz were declared the underdogs versus Dallas and Denver, respectively) and yet we're here to tell you that through the post-season's first 30 games the NBA Playoff Betting Favorites are actually a resounding 19-10-1 ATS (against the spread) for a sizzling .655 winning rate.
Okay, so the Thunder, Spurs and Jazz just completed a combined 5-0-1 spread showing in their initial home playoff games - while going a combined 6-and-oh SU (straightup) - and all of 'em were Betting Favorites in those home tilts but it just goes to show you that "perception vs. reality" bit is alive and well in the NBA Playoff universe where it only seems half the series are "shockers".
Now, if Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Utah all survive-and-advance the opening round of these playoffs, then it will be quite a coup - especially when you consider that the Eastern Conference Playoffs enter this new work week sorely lacking in true drama with Cleveland, Orlando and Boston all just a single "W" away from depositing their respective first-round foes in the nearest garbage bin.
Lots more NBA Playoff comments straight ahead along with Major-League Baseball and NFL Draft "Winners" and "Losers" but, first, this important reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and the Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you go online right here. Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball games; after 1 p.m. ET for all the NBA and MLB weeknight games; and anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.
Extra, extra: The 136th running of the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday - and Jim gets you into the winner's circle and so don't miss out on all the fun-and-profits in America's Favorite Race, folks!
THE NBA PLAYOFFS
Let's zip around the league and check in with some of the ongoing Opening-Round Playoff Series. Here's some Sunday results/comments:
CLEVELAND 121, CHICAGO 98 - Cavaliers lead series 3-1
It wasn't exactly high drama unfolding inside the "Madhouse on Madison" on Sunday afternoon - the 5 ½-point favored Cleveland Cavaliers pretty much sucked the life out of the ole building with a 38-point second quarter and then a 37-point third quarter but LeBron James (37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) did give Bulls fans plenty to ohh-and-ahh about with his half-court hoop that ended the third quarter.
Let's just say that was a rather symbolic way to stick a fork in Chicago's hoop season.
James started slowly but really revved up the engines and his nine points during a scintillating 22-9 run that ended the first half really energized a Cavs crew that was stumbling/bumbling a bit - remember that Cleveland trailed with three-plus minutes left in the opening half but a King James triple helped swing the momentum and then both Antawn Jamison (he scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter) and Mo Williams (19 points) helped to squeeze the life out of a timid Bulls team that - dare we say - may have shown real quit for under-fire head coach Vinny Nel Negro.
What's Next? - The Cavs look for the KO blow on Tuesday night (the Las Vegas folks already have installed 'em as 12-point home favorites for Game 5) and what chance do the Bulls realty have especially if the Chitowners are shooting it under 40 percent from the field (see 34-of-91 for 37.4 percent)?
SAN ANTONIO 92, DALLAS 89 - Spurs lead series 3-1
Was Game 4 more about the Spurs and their unyielding resolve never to quit (see Dallas owning a 14-point third-quarter lead) or was it more about the fact the Mavericks not now - and never were - able to close out key playoff games and/or series?
If you choose to give Gregg Popovich's San Ant club the credit for this gallant win on Sunday night then you're tipping your cap in the direction of guard George Hill who poured in 29 points (11-of-16 FG shooting) and a bench that starred guard Tony Parker (10 points, 5 assists and some great defense) and rookie F DaJuan Blair (7 points and 7 rebounds in 12 hard-core minutes).
Nope, it wasn't birthday boy Tim Duncan who shined - the 34-year-old scored only one bucket and finished with just 4 points in 36 minutes of play while bandaged G Manu Ginobili shot a putrid 4-of-16 from the floor but did drain a critical three-point goal from deep in the corner late in the game.
Maybe the Mavs can change their supporting cast players and it still doesn't matter - Dirk Nowitzki managed a meek 17 points and didn't even get off a shot for a huge chunk of time in the third quarter and now here's Mark Cuban's club on the verge of playoff extinction ... once again.
What's Next? - Game 5 is set for Tuesday night in Dallas and don't be surprised if Popovich rests Duncan and Ginobili for major minutes here and then looks for the knockout blow come Friday night in the Alamo City.
UTAH 117, DENVER 106 - Jazz leads series 3-1
If you happened to catch the halftime report during the Cleveland-Chicago tilt, then you saw ABC/ESPN go inside the home of cancer-stricken Nuggets head coach George Karl and you heard him cringe following Friday's Game 3 loss - and you know Sunday night's game didn't make the long-time NBA sideline boss feel any better.
Let's face it:
Denver - a solid 2-to-1 betting favorite to win this best-of-seven series before it ever started - has not played a lick of defense while so far surrendering a per-game average of 112 points in this series and there is no question that Karl's absence has been a big blow here. Interim head coach Adrian Dantley is in over his head and looking more than a bit uncomfortable attempting to coach up a team that's not real easy for anyone to handle.
When star point guard Chauncey Billups fouled out in Game 4 with under three minutes remaining, the horse was already out of the proverbial barn as Utah point guard Deron Williams "showed off" for college coach Bruce Weber (Illinois) with a dazzling array of hoops/passes en route to a 24-point, 13-assist evening and not to mention bruiser Carlos Boozer (31 points and 13 rebounds) who often times flicked off the likes of the rugged Nene as if he was a 98-pound weakling.
If Utah is gonna get gutsy 21-point performances from C.J. Miles and key reserve Paul Millsaps (see 12 points and 5 rebounds) is going to chip in with big-time showings, then even an epic scoring game by Denver's Carmelo Anthony won't be enough - Anthony's 39-point showing in Game 4 had some real doozy long-range makes but nothing worked as long as Denver was asleep at the wheel on "D".
What's Next? - The Jazz go for the clincher come Wednesday in Denver and you just have to wonder if the Nuggets have any life in 'em at all. One year after a stellar run to the NBA's Western Conference Finals, this Karl-less group appears a beaten bunch.
THE BASEBALL REPORT:
CUBBIES AND CHISOX SNAP UP WEEKEND SWEEPS (AND SO MAYBE THE SEASON'S NOT LOST JUST YET!)
As of Sunday night, the National League Central and American League Central standings showed the Chicago Cubs (9-10) and the Chicago White Sox (8-11) both to be under the .500 mark but at least Windy City baseball fans know that these teams still have a pulse!
It's only three weeks into the 2010 MLB Season but "Second City" fans were having second thoughts as to whether or not they should bother to follow their favorite teams on a day-to-day basis but you gotta believe the weekend sweeps - the Cubs copped three in a row in Milwaukee and the White Sox snagged a three-game home sweep over Seattle - has energized folks in Chitown.
And why not!
The Cubs blitzed the Brewers by a cumulative score of 25-4 - pretty ironic considering Milwaukee had entered that rivalry series weekend fresh off a 20-0 thumping of Pittsburgh last Thursday afternoon - and despite all that offense it wasn't lost on Cubs manager Lou Piniella that his three starting pitchers all earned wins as Ryan Dempster, prodigal son Ted Lilly and the still-underrated Randy Wells all chalked up "W's" and thus relieved some heat on the Cubs relievers who have been an utter disaster for the most part this year.
The White Sox, meanwhile, kept it real interesting with that weekend sweep of the Mariners as Ozzie Guillen's guys won the first two games with ninth-inning walk-off home runs - first by OF Andruw Jones and then by OF Alex Rios -- and then in Sunday's 3-2 nail-biter triumph it was 1B Paul Konerko smashing the tie-breaking dinger in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Forget the fact that the Chisox went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in that Sunday win or that veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski is in a dreadful 1-for-26 slump at the plate, the Pale Hose are back in the conversation in the AL Central and you might not have thought that to be possible just a few days ago.
THE NFL DRAFT:
THIS YEAR'S BIGGEST WINNERS ... AND LOSERS
We offer this up as a yearly disclaimer here: It's always too early to declare NFL Draft "Winners" and "Losers" just 48 hours following the completion of the seven-round exercise but here's how we see it right here and right now ...
San Francisco - The Niners snagged a pair of high-quality offensive linemen with their two first-round picks at OT Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and G Mike Iupati (Idaho) and then reached down into the, ironically enough, 49th overall pick to grab S Taylor Mays (USC) who really will be in a something-to-prove state once he arrives in camp. Chuck in the fact San Fran gobbled up a Penn State LB in Round III - that's Navorro Bowman - and this NFC West crew really did well and soon could be ready to finally take that next step up the ladder.
Pittsburgh - So, the Steelers didn't deal away knucklehead QB Ben Roethlisberger ... you didn't really believe they were gonna now, did you? Still, the Steelers very quietly had a solid draft week with C Maurkice Pouncey (Florida) a real keeper, LB Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech) an active sort and WR Emmanuel Sanders (SMU) a gem and all of the above were rock-solid and make-sense selections in the first three rounds, respectively, and maybe Pittsburgh also nabbed a real steal in Round 6 with RB Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech). Thumbs up to the six-time Super Bowl champs.
New England - Are the Patriots just not the same team in the "war room" without current Kansas City GM Scott Pioli? New England grabbed CB Devin McCourty (Rutgers) in Round One, injury-prone TE Rob Gronkowski (Arizona) in Round II and DE Jermaine Cunningham (Florida) with its second pick in Round II and it says here none of the above with be major contributors to the Pats for the next couple of years - and now's the time to win with QB Tom Brady not getting any younger.
Philadelphia - Maybe the Eagles were so giddy about trading away QB Donovan McNabb earlier in the month, they didn't spend enough time checking out draft prospects because the trio of DE Brandon Graham (Michigan) in Round I, S Nate Allen (South Florida) in Round II nor DT Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (Washington) in Round III is hardly worth get excited about even if Philly head coach Andy Reid cracked a "funny" about having a "new T-oh". Get it? No question the NFC East crew needed to bolster a sagging defense but not one single CB among the first three picks? Hmmm.
NOTE: More NBA Playoffs coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez
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