NBA Playoff Overview
THE NBA PLAYOFFS REPORT:
SPURS & SUNS LOCK UP THEIR OPENING-ROUND SETS
PLUS HERE'S AN UP-TO-THE-MINUTE HOOPS LOWDOWN
WHILE HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S ACTION ...
BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES:
CAN THE HOT-HOT-HOT METS KEEP IT UP IN PHILLY?
Both the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns locked up their first-round NBA Playoff Series last night -- now the question is can Milwaukee, the LA Lakers and Utah all do likewise this evening?
There's a trio of Game 6 tilts on this last-night-in-April hoops docket and we still haven't had a single post-season game go overtime plus there's been only one solitary buzzer-beater among the first 41 playoff games (see Boston's Paul Pierce drilling Miami last Friday night in a Game 3 tilt).
Maybe this evening will provide some mega-drama late but just make sure you're watching 'cause this might be the last game of the year for the likes of Atlanta's free-agent-to-be Joe Johnson, Oklahoma City's wunderkind Kevin Durant and/or Denver's Carmelo Anthony.
One thing we learned last night is that there is still juice in the tank of four-time champion San Antonio and there's a whole lot of buzz surrounding a Phoenix team that's more than just point guard Steve Nash.
We'll get into all the pertinent NBA Playoff analyses in just a moment but first this key reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and all the MLB 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, of course, anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.
And remember to cash in big with the Kentucky Derby -- post time on Saturday is 6:24 p.m. ET and Jim has all the winners lined up for you when you check in today.Go ahead and pile up your spring-time profits with America's #1 Handicapper -- Jim Hurley!
THE NBA PLAYOFFS
Let's go 'round the league with all the post-season updates:
EASTERN CONFERENCE --
On Friday night, it's ...
ATLANTA at MILWAUKEE -- Bucks lead series 3-2
One thing about opening-round playoff series in the NBA, they rarely feature upsets (just check out the last few years) and yet here the host Bucks are on the verge of an epic upset when you stop to consider Atlanta entered this best-of-seven set at -725-to-$100 (Milwaukee's 'take-back' was + 525-to-$100). The $64,000 question now is -- of course -- can the Bucks seal the deal here at the always-noisy Bradley Center?
Milwaukee's game-ending 14-0 scoring spree in Wednesday's 91-87 win at 9-point favorite Atlanta truly was a thing of beauty for Scott Skiles' feisty club as clutch scorer Carlos Delfino drained a monster three-pointer from in front of the Hawks' bench and rookie point guard Brandon Jennings hooped-and-scooped his way to a 25-point outing that included some late-game magic.
As for Atlanta, there were a few key players particularly in meltdown form as the aforementioned Johnson (just 6-of-16 FG shooting and only 13 points) fouled out after committed a charge late while NBA Sixth Man Award winner Jamaal Crawford (4-of-18 FG shooting for 11 points) was downright miserable -- now Mike Woodson's squad has to pull itself up by its collective bootstraps and show some toughness.
Fear the Deer, indeed!
On Saturday, it's the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals ...
BOSTON at CLEVELAND -- Game #1 is 3 p.m. ET, ABC
The Cavaliers fans have a word of advice for megastar guard LeBron James: Put some elbow grease on that injured right 'bow and let's get it on already!
The favorites to win it all in this year's NBA Playoffs (remember they entered the post-season at even money to swipe this year's crown) may not entirely know what they have upon entering this Game 1 tilt after James apparently further injured his now-famous right elbow in that Round I wrap-up win against Chicago this past Tuesday night. The missed free throw -- the one shot left-handed by James with 7.8 seconds left in that hang-on-for-dear-life 96-94 win -- may have been a tad dramatic (even for the oft-dramatic James) but it also showed that the soon-to-be-named league MVP is hurting.
James has deferred to his lesser-known teammates at the start of all this year's playoff games thus far but gotta feeling #23 will look to put immediate points on the board in Game 1 and thereby show the Celtics that he's good-to-go. Folks, when you look deeper into this series it's easy to say that Boston has a fighter's chance as look as it takes James 30-or-so shots to get his 30-or-so points but the real key for the heavy-duty underdog C's here is can they win more than a single game at Quicken Loans Arena (we don't believe the Cavs will get blanked in Boston) and can the three-headed monster of Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett hold up for 40-minutes per night?
Gut feeling is that Boston point guard Rajon Rondo will make numerous drives to the hoop in the hopes of drawing fouls and thus damaging Cleveland's deep bench here but if James is physically 'right' than the Beantowners are in a heap of trouble 'cause no one on their side can cover him -- simple as that.
Here's the regular-season head-to-head matchups between the Celtics and Cavs:
|10-27||CLEVELAND - 5 Boston||95-89|
|2-25||Cleveland - 2 Cleveland||108-88|
|3-14||CLEVELAND - 6.5 Boston||104-93|
|4-4||Cleveland - 1.5 BOSTON||117-113|
NBA POWER TRIO
There's nothing like a great power trio in music and there's nothing like betting one in basketball! That's what the Jim Hurley Network intends to do on Friday night and we intend to win all three games! Denver forced a Game 6 by beating Utah at home on Wednesday night and our on-scene sources have offered great insight as to whether the Nuggets' persistent complaints about the officiating have taken hold and will give them an edge. Oklahoma City hosts Los Angeles, with our Vegas pipeline weighing in with how betting patterns on this series have created an advantage. Finally our basketball experts have studied the Bucks' three straight wins over Atlanta and have identified precisely how they did it, and whether Atlanta has countermove left in them for Game 6. We've got the knowledge base, we've got the information, and all that's left is to GET THE MONEY! Go 3-0 with his power trio on Friday!
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WESTERN CONFERENCE --
Tonight, it's ...
LOS ANGELES LAKERS at OKLAHOMA CITY -- Lakers lead series 3-2
Size matters -- and don't the smaller Okie City Thunder know that by now! In Tuesday's Game 5 tilt at Staples Center, the Lakers utilized their in-the-paint size advantages to butcher Scotty Brooks' club 111-87 as Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 46 points, 22 rebounds and 3 blocked shots and so it takes no rocket scientist to proclaim that Oklahoma City needs this game to be run at a quicker pace with a premium put on fast-break hoops (see both Game 3 and 4 in this series) and some defensive muscle down low.
Durant wound up with a quiet 17 points in Game 5 and needs to stir this noisy crowd with some downtown launches but gotta believe LA's Ron Artest will be in Durant's grill from the get-go and so that makes Okie City point guard Russell Westbrook the second-most important player on the court -- hey, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant is always the most important player on the floor in any game he plays -- and the Thunder needs better than a 4-of-13 FG night (and 8 turnovers) from the former UCLA star here.
DENVER at UTAH -- Jazz lead series 3-2
Never mind the fact that some of the Denver Nuggets were patting themselves on the back for staving off elimination in Wednesday's 116-102 home win against 7-point pup Utah -- guys, that's hardly a big deal when you were a solid 2-to-1 betting favorite to cop this set in the first place!
Now, Anthony (26 points and 11 rebounds) looks to energize the visiting Nuggets here and likely Denver's gonna be without burly center Nene who suffered a second-quarter knee injury in Game 5 and wound up playing just 14 minutes.
If Nene is -- as expected -- a no-go here than the Nuggets need the tandem of Kenyon Martin and Chris 'Birdman' Andersen to pick up the defensive slack and that means halting another big numbers game from Utah's Carlos Boozer (25 points and 16 boards in Game 5). Boozer's been battering Denver both inside and out and his ability to take the pick-n-roll pass from PG Deron Williams (34 points and 10 assists in Game 5) and score easily has made life miserable for interim coach Adrian Dantley.
On Thursday night, it was ...
SAN ANTONIO 97, DALLAS 87 -- Spurs win series 4-2
Let the record state that the better team won this best-of-seven series -- yes, we know San Antonio was the #7 seed and Dallas was the #2 seed in the West -- and let the record also state that the Spurs could have/should have won this game in much easier fashion had not Gregg Popovich's club clanged so many free throws: When all the dust settled, the Spurs were not exactly addressing their shaky 19-of-31 night from the free-throw line (that's 61.3 percent) but that could be the Achilles Heel in the next series ... fair warning to one and all!
In this series-clinching win the Spurs had the extra pep back in their steps with big man Tim Duncan collecting 17 points along with 10 rebounds but it was a pair of well-timed blocked shots that might have been his biggest contribution here while Manu Ginobili (26 points) and George Hill combined for 47 points and more than once sucked the life out of Dallas' hopes with killer hoops.
Okay, so folks are wondering today why Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle didn't give more fourth-quarter minutes to cat-quick guard Roddy Beaubois (16 points and 5 rebs in 21 minutes of game action) but then you did see him commit a major turnover in the game's final minute -- still, only Beaubois, Dirk Nowitzki (33 points) and Caron Butler (25 points) 'came to play' for Dallas and so you wonder if this club is -- finally -- gonna get busted up for good.
PHOENIX 99, PORTLAND 90 -- Suns win series 4-2
The good news for the Phoenix Suns is that they won't have to play a Game 7 against a gutty-if-undermanned Portland Trail Blazers team -- and the bad news is that next foe San Antonio has been impossible for them to beat in playoff series the past several years.
Hey, let's not peer into the future just yet -- note Spurs-Suns doesn't open till Monday night in the Valley of the Sun -- but instead concentrate on this Game 6 win as Alvin Gentry's club didn't get anything from star guard Nash in the first half of this tilt (seven turnovers before intermission and no field goals) and yet rolled on behind the 28-point explosion from guard Jason Richardson who drilled five triples (in eight attempts) and made a fourth-quarter trifecta that, for all intents and purposes, kayoed the battered Blazers once and for all.
Sure, Nash wound up helping to put the game away (he finished with just 10 points and 6 assists and no second-half turnovers) while getting a 31-minute 'real time' rest in the second half but it was Richardson's dead-eye shooting and a real 'intangibles' game from veteran forward Grant Hill (12 boards and some great 'D') that did the trick while Portland never could get untracked offensively (see 30-of-79 FG shooting for 38 percent) and too bad gallant G Brandon Roy (4-of-16 FG shooting) had to end his 2009-10 season this way.
BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES:
MEET THE 2010 METS
From death's door step to first place in the National League East?
Hey, meet the 2010 New York Mets (13-9) who were once-upon-a-time 4-8 this year following four consecutive lost series (all two games-to-one) and now have zoomed to the top of the NL East. That's what a 9-1 home stand could do for you -- the best home stand the Mets experienced since September of 1988 when that NL East champion team also won nine-of-10 home games.
How did this all turn around so fast?
Well, the Mets did get some help the past 10 days -- the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves bungled their way in the field and on the base paths while the Mets were busy copping six-of-seven games there and then Jerry Manuel's crew swept away the Los Angeles Dodgers three straight with RHP John Maine snagging a much-needed win in Wednesday's series finale plus don't forget that 3B David Wright finally has gotten his bat going after a grim run there where he struck out at least once in 11 consecutive games.
Throw in the fact that rookie 1B Ike Davis -- called up prior to the first game of that noted home stand -- has stepped right in and contributed with 11 hits in his first 31 at-bats (.355) including some key blows including the longest home run hit at Citi Field this year and that the Mets bullpen has been nothing short of brilliant and the M-E-T-S zip into Philly this weekend atop the standings and suddenly stealing all the back-page tabloid headlines away from the defending World Series champion Yankees.
Heck, only the Yankees' well-documented visit to the White House earlier this week knocked the Mets off the lead sports pages in NYC this week -- can Subway Series talk be far behind?
NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff Updates in the next edition of Jim Sez.