NBA Weekend Update - Baseball News & Notes

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: JUST PERFECT - A'S HURLER BRADEN STEALS THE WEEKEND HEADLINES - BUT WE ASK NOW IF HE'S AMONG MLB'S TOP 5 STATERS RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW ...

NBA WEEKEND UPDATE; SUNS SLAM THE DOOR SHUT ON THE SPURS SEASON AND WE WONDER IF THAT'S IT FOR THE DUNCAN ERA IN THE ALAMO CITY

By Jim Hurley:

In case you happen to be wondering, the "worm has turned" when it comes to Major-League Baseball so far in this 2010 season:

Scoring (and home runs) are way down and the art of great starting pitching has re-emerged and become ultra-important once again.

Heck, in Sunday's kooky 6-5 win by the San Francisco Giants over the New York Mets, the TV folks flashed a graphic that showed Giants starter and two-time National League Cy Young Tim Lincecum (4-0, 1.70 ERA prior to the start) actually entered the matinee tilt with the sixth-best ERA in the senior circuit with a batch of NL starters actually stingier in their respective starts.

Well, we already had one no-hit game thrown by the NL's best starter so far - that's Colorado RHP Ubaldo Jimenez - but then on Sunday the American League showed (DH and all) that it was quite capable of excellence in the pitching department and so Oakland's A's lefthander Dallas Braden threw the 19th perfect game in MLB history and that's headline-making stuff.

Okay, so you knew all the Alex Rodriguez stuff was gonna come out front-and-center here - you know all about that cross-the-mound bit between A-Rod and Braden in Oakland last month - but what really got us thinking was where do you rank Braden (4-2, 3.33 ERA) right now in terms of MLB starters when you consider that the aforementioned Jimenez and Lincecum deserve to be ranked among the game's true elite hurlers ...does Braden deserve some unofficial spot in MLB's Top 5?

Maybe you say "nay" considering there are two members of the St. Louis Cardinals - that's righties Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright - that deserve a Top 5 ranking but go ahead and tell us what American League starters have been better than Braden so far in '10?

All the guy has done is beat the defending World Series champion New York Yankees 4-2 back on April 22nd and then there was a 4-2 home win against Baltimore on April 16th and a 9-4 win at the Los Angeles Angels on April 11th - following Sunday's "perfecto" in that 4-0 win against the scalding-hot Tampa Bay Rays there was Braden sitting pretty with 22 Ks and only 7 BBs in 37 innings pitched this season and ready to stake the claim as best starter in the AL ahead of the likes of the Yankees CC Sabathia, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Seattle's Felix Hernandez - among others.

Hey, when you can put Dallas Braden and Jim "Catfish" Hunter in the very same sentence - the only two Oakland pitchers to throw perfect games (and more than 40 years apart) - than you know this Phoenix native has hit the big time ...hey, too bad only 12,2298 fans witnessed this gem on Mother's Day in the Bay Area because history doesn't happen every day.

Okay, so we'll dig into more MLB News & Notes plus the NBA Playoffs in just a moment but first this very important reminder:

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.

 

DIVISIONAL DYNAMITE!

Nothing creates explosive dynamics in any sport like division rivalry games. The teams are familiar with each other down the smallest detail. There's intense emotional dislike. And even apart from that, there's the reality that teams know these are the games they must win if they want to play into October. Explosive dynamics make for handicapping opportunity, as the linesmakers can't get an accurate read on games. There's nine divisional games scheduled for tonight. Now the Network has no intention of insulting your intelligence by telling you every one of them has a bad number. Most of them in fact, are sharp as a tack. But we don't have to bet every game, we need only find the ones the linesmaker has misfired on. With games like Rangers-A's, Nationals-Mets, Dodgers-Diamondbacks and Padres-Giants among others on tap, there are two that are ripe for the picking! It's real Divisional Dynamite and these two games are the way to explode in your man's face!

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BASEBALL WEEKEND NEWS & NOTES

Okay, so Braden's 109-pitch (77 for strikes) perfect game win against Tampa Bay on Mother's Day was the be-all-and-end-all game Baseball game on this past weekend's card but let's not let a couple of other items get lost in the proverbial shuffle:

The Milwaukee Brewers sent out notice they were far from being finished this 2010 season with a three-gamer sweep over the host Arizona Diamondbacks. In Sunday's 6-1 win in the desert, the Brewers (15-16) got back to basics - that means long balls - and whacked three dingers just one day after pounding out a 17-3 win against the D-Backs when journeyman OF Jody Gerut went for the cycle.

The Brewers may be an afterthought in the NL Central these day but Sunday's win - highlighted by home runs by 1B Prince Fielder (his fourth) and 3B Casey McGahee (his 6th of the season) - showed that Ken Macha's club won't be going away without a fight and don't look now but no-name RHP Chris Narveson (3-0 with 8 Ks in five-plus innings in Arizona) may be the X-factor that Milwaukee needs to hang around in the NL wild card race this summer/fall ...

So, what did Boston's take-charge wire-to-wire 9-3 win on Sunday night against the New York Yankees really mean in the grand scheme of things?

Well, besides the fact that the Bosox didn't get swept in this three-game series at Fenway Park against the hated New York Yankees, it meant LHP Jon Lester was continuing on his fast track back to stardom after a slow start in 2010 - Lester's two-run, four-hit, seven-inning effort in the win against the Yanks means he sports an 0.98 ERA in his last four starts (with 30 strikeouts) and there's little doubt these days who's the real ace of the Red Sox staff. It's not you. Josh Beckett! ...

Finally, the Seattle Mariners managed to avoid a winless home stand with Sunday's 8-1 win against the rival Los Angeles Angels - yes, just mere hours after M's batting coach Alan Cockrell was fired - and don't for a second overlook the fact that RF Ichiro Suzuki went 3-of-5 with a run scored in this rare win. If the M's are going to make any noise at all this season, then Ichiro (.326 batting average) must get his act in gear and maybe the M's will loosen up a bit now with a road trip this week beginning in Baltimore.
     

THE NBA PLAYOFFS

Here's the latest NBA Playoff Pointspread Chart with listing of just the eight that are playing - or had played - in conference semifinal action:

NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
(Thru games of Sunday, May 9th)

TEAM

WON

LOST

PUSH

PCT.

Orlando

6

1

0

.857

Phoenix

8

2

0

.800

Boston

6

3

0

.667

Utah

5

3

0

.625

Cleveland

4

4

0

.500

LA Lakers

4

4

0

.500

Atlanta

4

6

0

.400

San Antonio

3

6

1

.333

As you can see, the numbers don't lie and the Orlando Magic continue to pound out lots of spread winners this post-season with the latest being last Saturday's 105-75 walkover win against the Atlanta Hawks. In fact, here's a game-by-game playoff look at this year's magic with its "spread differential" listed below. Note all home teams are in CAPS with the first four results here against Charlotte in Round I and the next three games against Atlanta in Round II:

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

SPREAD DIFFERENTIAL

 

 

 

 

 

4-18

ORLANDO

- 9½

ORLANDO 98-89

4-21

ORLANDO

- 9

ORLANDO 92-77

+ 6

4-24

Orlando

- 2

Orlando 90-86

+ 2

4-26

Orlando

- 4

Orlando 99-90

+ 7

 

 

 

 

 

5-4

ORLANDO

- 9

ORLANDO 114-71

+ 34

5-6

ORLANDO

- 9½

ORLANDO 112-98

+ 4½

5-8

Orlando

- 2½

Orlando 105-75

+ 27½

How about the fact that this year's Magic team not only has covered approximately 86 percent of its playoff games this year but have covered the spread wins by as per-game average margin of 13.5 points - maybe it 's high time everyone started to recognize what this team - and head coach Stan Van Gundy - has accomplished though the first handful-plus of post-season games this year. Three cheers!

Now, let's check out what other NBA Playoff action:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

BOSTON 97, CLEVELAND 87 - Series tied 2-2; Game 5 is Tuesday in Cleveland

Remember what we told you in our latest Jim Sez column:

Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is always the second-best player on the floor when these two clubs collide (of course, behind the Cavaliers' LeBron James) but in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon there was Rondo not playing second fiddle to James or - for that matter - anyone else on the floor.

The Rondo stats - 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists - were mind-boggling numbers on their own merits but better yet Rondo played 47 minutes and committed only four turnovers all the while the Cavs were missing 17-of-21 three-point field-goal attempts and coughing up 17 turnovers including seven of 'em by James who finished with an ordinary 22 points and has been so in and out of rhythm this series that you wonder if it's more about his ailing right elbow or more about the fact the Cavs are just not a cohesive enough club to win it all this year even though they entered this post-season as the odds-on betting favorite to snag a first-ever crown.

The Celtics still have to win another game in Cleveland to win this best-of-seven series - remember they copped Game 2 last Monday night 104-86 - but that's not the seeming impossibility it was days ago - before James showed he was human and before the Cavs allowed Boston to register some 50 points in the paint in Game 4 just when you might have believed this was gonna be a short-and-sweet series.

Think about it: Without Cavs-Celtics here this conference semifinal round of playoff games would be completely devoid of any real hoops drama right now.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PHOENIX 107, SAN ANTONIO 101 - Suns sweep series 4-0

Go ahead and say it - the Suns bested the Spurs in the series-clinching win on Sunday night with Phoenix point guard Steve Nash playing with "one eye tied behind his back."

Nash overcame an inadvertent Tim Duncan elbow to score 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and he helped to put away years of playoff misery at the hands of the mighty Spurs with a resounding road win in Game 4 that pushed the Suns into their first NBA Western Conference Finals since 2006 and could well have ushered in a new era in San Antonio hoops - could that have been it for the Tim Duncan Era?

No doubt that's a fair question here as Duncan - who scored 17 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in 36 minutes of action in the Game 4 loss - showed in this series that he only has glimpses of greatness to his game these days and simply cannot be a warrior for 40-plus minutes anymore even though it's plain to see that Gregg Popovich's crew still needs maximum effort from the four-time champion power forward.

Hey, this isn't to simply indict Duncan as the "goat" of this just-completed series but it's his overall presence - as a scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker and defender that made these Spurs truly special for years and years (really, since 1999) - but now you wonder if that so-called window of opportunity has closed and the Spurs will be forced to move in a new and different direction.

Gut feeling is well-respected general manager R.C. Buford will recognize it's high time to move on and so look for Duncan to be a 25-minute-per-game guy next year and you might see San Ant in a mover-and-shaker roll when the NBA Draft night rolls around on June 27th.

After kayoing the Suns in four playoff appearance since 2003, it's Phoenix who ruled the roost on this unexpected sweeperoo.

Hey, coach Alvin Gentry, go ahead and take a bow!    

NOTE: Next catch our mid-week edition of Jim Sez as we'll have more NBA Playoff coverage plus MLB News & Notes.
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