NBA Playoff Update


By Jim Hurley:

Let's state the facts here when it comes to the NBA Playoffs:

So far, we've seen some amazing hoops action but note that exiting Tuesday night there have been more games decided by double-digit margins than single-figure scores (that's 19-to-18 in favor of double-digit wins so far) and so there haven't been many buzzer-beaters nor has there yet been a post-season game that's gone into overtime. Betcha didn't realize that factoid, folks.

Does that mean us NBA fans are "due" for some barnburners in the days/weeks ahead?

We shall see.

All we know is that on Tuesday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers needed to put the hammer down on the frisky Oklahoma City Thunder, the defending champs delivered a loud-and-clear "message" while absolutely suffocating Okie City's high-octane offense - so when this best-of-seven Western Conference series shifts back to the heartland on Friday night not only will the Lakers be the ones owning the three games-to-two advantage but Phil Jackson's guys will be holding all the edges in the "mind games" department too.

As it turned out, two of the three other NBA Playoff series that could have ended on Tuesday evening did so with both Cleveland and Boston pushing on to the next round where they will play one another - and that surely won't be any love-fest, folks! - while Dallas stayed alive for the time-being with its robotic 103-81 triumph over San Antonio. The Spurs - as we told you in our earlier-week edition of Jim Sez - were not going to play all-out with their veterans here and so now Gregg Popovich's crew goes for the clincher on Thursday night and that qualifies as "must-see" action, if you ask us!.

Now, hear this:

Note that Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and MLB 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. Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball games; anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NBA Playoff and MLB weeknight games; and anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Pile up your profits all week and weekend long with the NBA Playoffs, MLB and - of course - Saturday's 136th running of the Kentucky Derby!

Extra, extra: NBA Playoff Betting Favorites exited Tuesday night's games at 24-12-1 ATS (against the spread) for a resounding .667 winning rate spreadwise. We shall continue to keep you posted on all the spread results throughout the post-season plus note we will get you a Boston versus Cleveland series breakdown in the next Jim Sez (that best-of-seven series tips off Saturday in the rock-n-roll city).



Here's some NBA Playoff series notes while heading into the games of Wednesday, April 28th:

In the Eastern Conference, it's ...

BOSTON 96, MIAMI 86 - Celtics win series 4-1
Much of the post-game spotlight here was focused on Miami guard Dwyane Wade as folks wondered aloud would he or wouldn't he be back with the Heat for the 2010-11 season but that question has a time and a place - and it's not right now!

Kudos to the Celtics for dispatching Wade (31 points but only 10-of-24 FG shooting in Game 5) and Company and what you had to like best from the Beantowners was their renewed commitment to team defense. Miami shot just 39.2 percent from the field in the clincher and there was plenty of in-the-paint fire as center Kendrick Perkins swatted away three shots plus active PG Rajon Rondo collected four steals and Boston fended off some late-game noise from a Miami team that once found itself down by 21 points in the third quarter.

No question that Ray Allen's five triples in the second half keyed the offense and jacked up the home crowd but make no mistake: The Boston defense - the one head coach Doc Rivers thought was missing for much of the regular season - proved it is indeed alive and well.

Now we'll see if Allen (24 points in Game 5), Paul Pierce (21 points) and Kevin Garnett (14 points and 8 rebounds) all have enough left in their aging tanks to best The King and his Court.

CLEVELAND 96, CHICAGO 94 - Cavaliers win series 4-1

All anyone wanted to talk about following this Cav clincher was the condition of LeBron James' injured right elbow - heck, it received such serious attention with the TNT gang of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley that you might have thought they were analyzing world politics.

Okay, so James (19 points, 10 rebs and 9 assists in the win) did attempt a free throw left-handed with 7.8 seconds remaining in the game and did appear downcast afterwards despite the first-round series win but now he's got three days of R&R and there's surely a lot of ammo on this current Cleveland team that surrounds "The King". One such puzzle piece - Antawn Jamison - really stepped up his game with 25 points in 38 minutes and it appears center Shaquille O'Neal is working himself back into better basketball shape as he dropped a key (and much-needed) 14 points on the pesky Bulls on Tuesday night.

Expect a minute-by-minute update of James' elbow in the days ahead - and then expect him to average 40-plus minutes a game versus Boston beginning Saturday.

On Wednesday night, it ...
MILWAUKEE at ATLANTA - Series tied 2-2
Now that Cleveland, Orlando and Boston have moved on, this is the lone Eastern Conference series with any "legs" - yet we're wondering how/why the Hawks (a better than 7-to-1 better favorite at the start of this best-of-seven set) haven't flexed their muscles against a Milwaukee team without star forward Andrew Bogut and with a team that sports minimal playoff experience.

Atlanta won the first two games of this series in easy-enough fashion - the 102-92 win in Game 1 was followed up by a 96-86 triumph in Game 2 - but Mike Woodson's club has looked lost ever since the series shifted to Beer City, USA:

Too much one-on-one basketball; Too much complaining to the officials;

And not nearly enough toughness on the defensive end of the floor where the Bucks have scored 107 and 111 points while evening this series and making this one a real head-scratcher.

If you missed Game 4, then you missed Milwaukee guard Carlos Delfino drilling six triples en route to a sizzling 22-point game and you also missed dazzling rookie point guard Brandon Jennings (23 points and 6 assists) make Atlanta's collective heads spin with some magical moves to the hoop and some find-the-open-man passes that might have allowed old-timers to think back to a young Nate "Tiny" Archibald.

The Hawks need point guard Mike Bibby (15 points but just 2 assists in Game 4) to play with more emotion and it would be nice if the ball movement overall was a bit better - Joe Johnson (29 points on Monday night) is a classic great shooter but he can't and won't win this series all by himself.

You tell us: What's really the bigger story here ... the problems being suffered by the favored Atlanta Hawks or the renaissance of the Milwaukee Bucks? Hmmm.

In the Western Conference, it's ...

LOS ANGELES LAKERS 111, OKLAHOMA CITY 87 - Lakers lead series 3-2
Has the sleeping giant awoke?

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers had a real ornery attitude right from the start of Tuesday's Game 5 from Staples Center - part of that 'tude stemmed from the fact the Lakers were clobbered 110-89 last Saturday night in Okie City and part of it stemmed from the fact that the Lakers simply don't like when anyone somebody takes what they feel is rightfully theirs.

No doubt that the Lakers heard all the whispers about how they were ripe to be beat in this best-of-seven series - some folks even brought up the question of age with LA and that had us a tad amused but when push came to shove in Game 5 there were the Lakers leading 16-1 right out of the starting gate and there was plenty of road kill left here - the Thunder's Kevin Durant found a seat on the bench to start the fourth quarter and he stayed there after draining just 5-of-14 FG tries en route to a quiet 17-point outing plus PG Russell Westbrook - who banged his head on the court on a freaky second-quarter foul - connected on just 4-of-13 FG attempts on his way to an ineffective 15-point game.

The Lakers used their height inside to crush Oklahoma City's upset hopes as 6-point favored LA saw to it that Pau Gasol (25 points) and Andrew Bynum (21 points) got plenty of "touches" and note this twosome combined for an outstanding 18-of-26 FG night.

The "old" Kobe Bryant was fiery - he finished with only 13 points but played hard and got into the Thunder's face when necessary.

Now we'll see if that raucous home crowd in Okie City can help sway the momentum of this series back to the Thunder's side - in any event, the Lakers sent their message and it was received.

DALLAS 103, SAN ANTONIO 81 - Spurs lead series 3-2
Talk about your "cosmetic" wins!
When the Dallas Mavericks couldn't snag a win in either Game 3 or Game 4 in the Alamo City last week/weekend, it really knocked Rick Carlisle's club on its heels and no sense getting all jacked up here about a lopsided win in which San Antonio rested Tim Duncan for half the game, Manu Ginobili for 30 minutes of game action and point guard Tony Parker for nearly half the game ... it was a true "mail-it-in" game for the Spurs who decided to take their lumps in Game 5 and then come out cooking on Thursday night when the four-time champs look to put a bow on this series.

Dallas saved face with the Tuesday night home win as Caron Butler busted loose for 35 points (a career high) and fellow trade deadline mate Brendan Haywood chipped in 8 points, 8 rebounds and some steely defense but the truth is not a whole lot can be gleaned from this one and so all the energy/effort will be on Game 6 where Duncan should play 40 minutes and where Ginobili - broken nose and all - sure as heck will get off more than the seven FGs he tried in Game 5.

Biggest under-the-radar key in Game 6?

Let's check to see if Dallas can limit San Ant's three-point makes here as the Spurs only connected on 3-of-16 triple tries in Game 5 (yes, we realize that weren't trying that hard) but something in the realm of 20 percent shooting from downtown could spark the Mavs on the road.

On Thursday night, it's ...

PHOENIX at PORTLAND - Suns lead series 3-2
The Suns have shown a real dominant side in the wins this series: Phoenix's three triumphs over Portland have come by 29, 19 and 19 points but now the Trail Blazers do have their proverbial backs to the wall and so closing out Nate McMillan's club at the Rose Garden won't be easy as A-B-C.

In fact, the Blazers darted out to a 23-9 lead in Game 5 - Portland drained its first seven shots from the floor before reality set in - and both LaMarcus Aldridge (17 points in that 107-88 loss in Game 5) and PG Andre Miller (team-high 21 points in that tilt) are quite capable of becoming stars in a half-court style game here and that's the key: If the Blazers can make sure this one's not run at 78 rpm, then we could be settling in for a go-the-distance seven-game set.

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff Updates and MLB News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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