NBA Friday Showdowns

IT'S CAVS-CELTICS & SUNS-SPURS IN BIG-TIME GAME #3 SHOWDOWNS TONIGHT PLUS CATCH THE LOWDOWN ON LAKERS-JAZZ & HAWKS-MAGIC TOO ...

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES BRINGS YOU OUR QUICK-HITTER COMMENTS ON FRIDAY NIGHT'S BEST HURLERS

By Jim Hurley:

Memo to the Orlando Magic: You're taking all the drama out of this year's NBA Playoffs!

The Magic - a 112-98 runaway winner against the Atlanta Hawks last night in Game 2 of that Eastern Conference series - now is a perfect 6-and-oh SU (straightup) and 5-1 ATS (against the spread) in this year's post-season action and don't look now but Orlando's liable to have another multi-day layoff between the end of this series and the Eastern Conference Finals.

Yup, could happen again.

We'll delve deeper into Orlando's Game 2 win in just a moment but now here this:

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 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. Go ahead and pile up your spring-time profits with America's #1 Handicapper - the one-and-only Jim Hurley.

Now, here is today's look at the NBA Playoffs while entering this second weekend in May:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Tonight, it's ...

PHOENIX at SAN ANTONIO - Suns lead series 2-0
Here's the question in/around San Antonio that everyone's asking today: Is there anything left in the Spurs' tank?

No doubt that the second half of Wednesday night's 110-102 loss in Phoenix showed that the four-time NBA champs weren't quite as quick to the ball or to cover three-point shooters as they were in a 51-51 first half - folks such as San Ant's Tim Duncan (29 points and 10 rebounds) didn't have the same pep to his step after intermission -- and the Suns really got scorching-hot from beyond the three-point arc after a slow start.

In fact, in that Game 2 win on "Cinco de Mayo", Phoenix nailed 9-of-19 trifectas and who knew that forward Channing Frye (5-of-6 from beyond the arc) would be the real X-factor in that ultra-important home game?

Now, the Spurs are in the unenviable position of trying to win four of the next five games against a younger/quicker Suns team that is playing with lots of confidence - and a short memory (keep in mind San Antonio has eliminated Phoenix from the playoffs the last four times they've met). San Antonio will try to take the first step towards getting back into this series here but note Gregg Popovich's club just lost a game in which it shot nearly 51 percent from the floor (that's 40-of-79 FGs) and had a double-digit lead for portions of the second quarter.

Your move, Spurs!

On Saturday, it's ...

LOS ANGELES LAKERS at UTAH - Lakers lead series 2-0
The tote board may indeed show that the Hollywood gang sports a two-games-to-love advantage in this best-of-seven series but anyone who's had a keen eye on the first two games knows that a bounce here or a roll there could have changed things - but, then again, Kobe Bryant does play for the guys wearing the purple-and-gold.

Bryant absolutely took control of Game 1 - a 104-99 non-cover triumph by the 6 ½-point home favorites - and then his 30-point showing in the 111-103 triumph as 5 ½-point favs in Game 2 proved to be another exclamation point effort but do keep in mind this was a 107-101 game with just 47 seconds left when Utah's forward Paul Millsap had his layup blocked by the Lakers' Pau Gasol and then it was "lights out" from there.

Both Gasol (22 points and 15 rebs in Game 2) and fellow big man Andrew Bynum (17 points and 14 rebounds in just 29 minutes) really owned the paint despite the fact the Jazz's Carlos Boozer powered his way to a 20-point, 12-rebound game but here Boozer must draw some early fouls on both Gasol and Bynum and the Jazz bench - which got 26 points from Millsap in Game 2 - must have at least another major contributor and don't be shocked if this tilt in Salt Lake City is won or lost based on a handful of open three-point tries by Utah's Kyle Korver (see one three-point miss in Game 2).

Finally, key stat from Game 2: The Lakers collected a whopping 13 blocks but that doesn't mean Utah should settle for only perimeter jumpers here as G Deron Williams and mates must go hard to the iron ...or else!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Tonight, it's ...

CLEVELAND at BOSTON - Series tied 1-1

Hope the medics are on call!

It only seems that all the pre-Game 3 talk in this series has been about battered body parts from Cavaliers megastar (and now two-time league MVP) LeBron James' dinged right elbow to Boston's big men Kevin Garnett (mid-foot strain) and Kendrick Perkins (right knee) and so this tilt could be a real battle of attrition - and this is all after three days between games!

The Celtics really have not backed down at all this series with Monday's 104-86 win in Cleveland in Game 2 amplifying the fact that Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is now - and don't argue with us! - the second-best player on the floor when these teams square off.

Rondo's spiffy 19-assist outing (along with 13 points and 4 rebounds) was monstrous stuff as was the vital off-the-bench contribution from reserve forward Rasheed Wallace (17 points on 7-of-8 FG shooting) but it's the aforementioned Garnett who must give the Celts major energy here and it's the above-mentioned Perkins (10 points and 9 boards in Game 2) who must gather up all the "garbage" and allow for Boston to get its fair share of cheap points.

This one's a virtual toss-up but here's how the Cavs can swipe back home-court advantage:

Get James to be an early-game distributor and then keep fingers crossed that G Mo Williams and/or G/F Anthony Parker can hit some downtown jumpers. The Cavs missed 17-of-21 triple tries in Game 2 and might find themselves down twin figures again come the final quarter if they can't do better than that from three-land.
      
Last night, it was ...

ORLANDO 112, ATLANTA 98 - Magic leads series 2-0
Here's all you really need to know about the Magic's rousing win here: They scored 63 second-half points to make this a route and all head coach Stan Van Gundy wanted to talk about was how his guys couldn't get a defensive stop in the first three quarters.

As the ESPN graphic shown late in the game illustrated, Orlando's pounded the Hawks by some lopsided scores the past two years and this latest twin-figure killing featured a real comeback - okay, so center Dwight Howard (29 points and 17 rebounds) was only "coming back" from a bloody nose suffered in the opening moments of the second half but he really dented Atlanta's upset hopes and you know the place was rockin' with Howard going 13-of-18 from the free-throw line.

Consider the contributions of Vince Carter (24 points) Jameer Nelson (20 points and 6 assists) and Rashard Lewis (20 points) and this was romp city once Atlanta showed some lack of heart late - we don't mean to pick on Hawks' small forward Josh Smith but he failed to play all-out for much of this game and wound up with 5 of his team's 8 turnovers and a shoddy 6-of-15 shooting night to boot.

On a night when the Hawks canned an amazing 30-of-31 free throws - they hit their first 28 in a row - there was no drama at game's end as Orlando's defense did indeed show up for the final frame while holding Mike Woodson's squad to a mere 15 points in the last 12 minutes.

As long as we're passing out memos, here's one to Atlanta guard Joe Johnson (5-of-16 FG shooting for 19 points): You're costing yourself a lot of free-agent bucks right now with some less-than-stellar playoff moments.

WATCH & WIN EXTRAVAGANZA!

  It's a big TV weekend in the NBA and major league baseball and the Jim Hurley Network intends to make sure you spend the next four days in front of your television set, not only watching, but WINNING, and making the kind of money you deserve! From Friday through Monday, Games 3 & 4 of all the second-round NBA playoff series will go. On the diamond, the Red Sox-Yankees renew their rivalry. At the Network we see it all as a chance for a big score--Four For A Score in fact, because we'll have four plays a day for four straight days. Click here to learn more!


 

THE BASEBALL REPORT: HERE'S TO TONIGHT'S TOP HURLERS

Hey, we're more than a month into this 2010 Major-League Baseball season and already we've heard more than we care to regarding crazy fans running on the field (see Philadelphia) and crazy players acting up (see Seattle's Milton Bradley) - and so let's put a positive spin on things right here and right now with some genuine tips-of-the-cap to some starting pitchers who will go on the mound this evening:

CHRIS CARPENTER, St. Louis - From the what-else-is-new-department comes word that this ultra-talented righthander enters tonight's game in Pittsburgh sporting a 4-0 mark with a 2.84 ERA and it seems that he's also figured out how to stop yielding home runs. You might recall that Carpenter surrendered five dingers in his first two starts this year (at Cincinnati and at Milwaukee) but since April 11th Carpenter has not allowed a single long ball.

Carpenter - who enters tonight's game a spiffy 11-1 lifetime against the Buccos (and with a 2.27 ERA) - has 39 Ks in 28 innings pitched this year and has been getting strikeouts when it matters most for Tony LaRussa's team. No doubt that the National League has an out-of-the-gate favorite to win this year's CY Young in Colorado RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (6-0) but don't be surprised if Carpenter stays on his tail all throughout the '10  season.

MIKE PELFREY, New York Mets - Okay, so this hard-throwing righty hit a bump in the road last Saturday in that 10-0 loss at Philadelphia as the former Wichita State star allowed a key three-run home run to the Phillies switch-hitting CF Shane Victorino but take in the whole body of work so far in 2010 and you see Pelfrey's 4-1 with a 2.40 ERA and a critical save in that wild 20-inning win in St. Louis last month.

Pelfrey enters this evening's start at Citi Field with a 1.77 ERA in three prior starts against the San Francisco Giants and his ability to get ahead and stay ahead of batters this year with both his signature sinker and his newfound cutter makes him a key member of Jerry Manuel's pitching staff. Folks, don't look now but Pelfrey's been better than ace Johan Santana this season.

ZACK GREINKE, Kansas City - Okay, so last year's American League Cy Young winner hasn't notched a single "W" so far this year ...but that's not his fault. The lanky righthander enters tonight's game in Texas with these baffling numbers: An 0-3 record with a 2.27 ERA and with 33 Ks and only 7 BBs in nearly 40 innings of work. In fact, check out Greinke's past three starts and you'll see that he's pitched to a microscopic 1.23 ERA with 19 Ks and 1 BB ...now that deserves a wow.

Still, Greinke has started six games and in this time the anemic Royals offense has scored a grand total of 17 runs (or 2.83 runs per game) and - more often than not - the KayCee bullpen has imploded after Greinke has left a game or else blew a chance for him to earn a victory. Could tonight be the night against the Rangers? Stay tuned.

DAVID PRICE, Tampa Bay - The Rays are off and running as the best team in Baseball and this still-young southpaw is a major reason why: Price will enter this evening's game in Oakland (where the ball never travels well at night) with a 3-1 record and a tasty 2.34 ERA.

Note that Price owns a 27-to-10 K-to-BB ratio through 34.2 innings and he's been allowed to throw 308 total pitches in his last three starts - maybe manager Joe Maddon hasn't completely taken the "kid gloves" off Price but the fact that he threw 107 pitches in his last start (a no-decision against Kansas City last Saturday) and is averaging a tad better than 100 pitches in these last three outings illustrates TB's more liberal handling of this star hurler.

There is - without a doubt - a Cy Young or two in Price's future but the $64,000 question is will the future mean 2010?
 

Note: Catch more NBA and MLB goodies in our Jim Sez Weekend Edition tomorrow.

23
Nov

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