Sunday's Playoff Previews - MLB Notes - NFL Draft: DEs

 
THE NBA PLAYOFFS - HERE'S THE FIRST-ROUND SERIES THAT BEGIN ON SUNDAY

By Jim Hurley:

In case you didn't catch the "series lines" in this year's opening round of the NBA Playoffs, here's what you're looking in (and note all figures below are based on $100 per-play wagers):

Let's start off in the NBA's Eastern Conference:

  • Chicago - 3000 vs. Indiana + 2000
  • Miami - 2000 vs. Philadelphia + 1000
  • Boston - 380 vs. New York + 300
  • Orlando -565 vs. Atlanta + 425

In the NBA's Western Conference, it's...

  • San Antonio - 400 vs. Memphis + 320
  • LA Lakers - 2200 vs. New Orleans + 1400
  • Dallas - 210 vs. Portland + 175
  • Oklahoma City - 215 vs. Denver + 180  

Editor's Note: The NBA Playoffs have officially begun and so make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Get in touch with Jim Hurley or one of his service representatives today! Call us at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and get all the important information!
 
Now, here's the NBA Playoff Series that get kick-started on Sunday:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
    
#6 NEW YORK (42-40) at BOSTON (56-26) - 7:05 p.m. ET
Let's face the facts: Neither the Boston Celtics nor the New York Knicks can be truly satisfied with how the latter part of the 2010-11 regular season played out as the C's were plainly peeved about the trade of big man Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City and the word "mutiny" arose more than once in/around Beantown while the Knicks never did settle into any real comfort role following the multi-player deal that imported Carmelo Anthony (25.6 points per game) into the big city.

So, who can right the ship the fastest here in Round One?

Well, the Celtics rested plenty of star players in the final week of play - thus costing Doc Rivers' squad any/all hopes of stealing a #2 seed - and so don't be shocked if Boston roars out of the starting gate here with revved-up vets Paul Pierce (18.9 ppg) and Kevin Garnett (14.9 ppg) in a something-to-prove mood.

If there's one key stat to follow here in this series it is this: Is Celtics PG Rajon Rondo consistently cranking out double-digit assist games? If so - and Rondo averaged a haughty 11.2 apg this year - than the Knicks will be slam-dunked and sunk.

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

10-29

BOSTON

- 9.5

BOSTON 105-101

12-15

Boston

- 4

Boston 118-116

3-21

Boston

- 2

Boston 96-86

4-13

BOSTON

- 3

BOSTON 112-102

 
WESTERN CONFERENCE

 #8 MEMPHIS (46-36) vs. #1 SAN ANTONIO (61-21) - 1:05 p.m. ET
All is not A-OK in the Alamo City: The San Antonio Spurs - the second-best team in the NBA record-wise (see Chicago at 62-20) - lost their final two regular-season tilts while head coach Gregg Popovich rested plenty of starters but now as action heats up G Manu Ginobili (elbow) is a major question mark plus there's talk that the underdog Grizzlies "wanted" to draw the Spurs in Round One because of so-called matchup advantages in the low box for both Zach Randolph (20.1 ppg) and Marc Gasol (11.7 ppg).

If this Grizzlies' dynamic duo can get off 40-plus shots a game between 'em here, than San Antonio could have a major reason to fret but one major key on the flip side here is the Spurs will be looking to lock up lefty PG Mike Conley (just 6.5 apg) who will have to make the correct decision more times than not when looking to feed someone in the post.

You tell us: Is there still enough life in the legs of Spurs star Tim Duncan to make this a deep run into June?

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

12-18

SAN ANTONIO

- 11.5

SAN ANTONIO 112-106 (ot)

2-27

SAN ANTONIO

- 9

SAN ANTONIO 95-88

3-1

MEMPHIS

- 1.5

MEMPHIS 109-93

3-27

MEMPHIS

- 1.5

MEMPHIS 111-104


#7 NEW ORLEANS (46-36) at #2 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (57-25) - 3:35 p.m. ET
Let's just say that the hoop folks in Hollywood have been in the news this week: There was the earlier-week bone bruise injury to Lakers center Andrew Bynum who hyperextended his right knee in a game against San Antonio and than followed the now-infamous $100,000 fine levied to Kobe Bryant following his "homophobic slur" against an NBA referee and then - just to top things off - the Lakers organization and head coach Phil Jackson were fined 75 K each for comments made regarding the league's collective bargaining agreement and LA went out and nailed down the Western Conference's number two playoff seed with a wild 116-108 win at going-nowhere Sacramento this past Wednesday night.

Whew... maybe Game #1 itself will turn out to be a form of therapy for the two-time defending champions who swept the season series against the N'Orleans Hornets (see accompanying chart) and never did allow the "Bugs" to crack the 100-point mark in any of the four games.

New Orleans PG Chris Paul (15.8 ppg and 9.8 apg) not only has to be the proverbial facilitator here on the fast break but he must score 20-or-more points per game too for these heavy-duty dogs to have a shot... trust us!

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

12-29

Lakers

- 3

Lakers 103-88

1-7

LAKERS

- 7.5

LAKERS 101-97

2-5

Lakers

- 5

Lakers 101-95

3-27

LAKERS

- 9

LAKERS 102-84


#5 DENVER (50-32) at #4 OKLAHOMA CITY (55-27) - 9:35 p.m. ET
The Oklahoma City Thunder may well be the "sleeping giant" of this year's NBA Playoffs: They have that "it" player in Kevin Durant (league-leading 27.7 ppg) and there's plenty of maturing talent surrounding him plus remember the strides Okic City made a year ago before losing their first-round series to the Lakers in six games. The Thunder was down two games-to-zip, rallied to knot the series and could have forced a decisive Game #7 had they just handled the "little things" - is this now the time for Scott Brooks' club to make a big-time splash on the pro hoops scene?

We can tell you that the Thunder won 13 of its 16 games inside the NBA's Northwest Division this 2010-11 regular season and that included three wins in four tries against Denver (see our chart below) but the Nuggets have been brilliant since dealing away the aforementioned Anthony - George Karl's club rolled to an 18-7 SU (straightup) record since the much-ballyhooed Feb. 22nd deal - and right now there's plenty of firepower on the Nuggets' side with eight different players averaging in double figures including red-hot point guard Ty Lawson who bombed away a 37-point game last week.

The Nuggets admitted that they preferred a first-round series against Dallas - they didn't get it and now have to tackle that "sleeping giant" that sports a pretty good point guard too in Russell Westbrook (21.9 ppg and 8.2 apg).

DATE

FAV

SPREAD

RESULT

12-25

OKLAHOMA CITY

- 6.5

OKLAHOMA CITY 114-106

1-19

DENVER

- 3.5

DENVER 112-107

4-5

DENVER

- 4

Oklahoma City 101-94

4-8

OKLAHOMA CITY

- 4

OKLAHOMA CITY 104-89

 

OUR WEEKEND BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES SECTION HIGHLIGHTS THE UNDER-THE-RADAR KC ROYALS ...

PLUS THE NFL DRAFT COVERAGE ROLLS ON WITH A LOOK TODAY AT THE TOP DEFENSIVE ENDS

By Jim Hurley:

Has there been a flying-under-the-radar team already in this 2010 Major-League Baseball season?

Okay, we say there has been and we nominate the Kansas City Royals for that title.

The Royals - who entered Saturday's afternoon tilt against the visiting Seattle Mariners - have galloped out of the starting gate at 9-4 and that's pretty neat stuff considering KayCee was projected (and by everyone!) to finish at the bottom of the American League Central and instead the Royals have given hope to their long-suffering fans.

And - as is often the case with teams playing .692-or-so ball - the Royals are getting out-of-this-world contributions from a bunch of folks including RHP Luke Hochevar who limited the Mariners to an Ichiro Suzuki double to lead off the game and than just one run in all through seven innings en route to a 6-5 win.

Than there's free-swinging veteran RF Jeff Francoeur who walloped a two-run homer on Friday among his three hits and, don't look now, but"Frenchy" is hitting .327 and that's got to give him some real satisfaction when you consider that both the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets"gave up" on Franceour after his bouts of wild swings at pitches that were often well off the plate.

Hey, no team in the big leagues ever does anything without a top-flight closer and righty Joakim Soria nailed down his fourth save of the year (in five tries) with Friday's one-run win against the M's. True, Soria got himself into a major jam but wriggled free and he rates among the top five or six closers in the sport even if Kansas City is often considered an after-thought in MLB.

Can the Royals sustain this magical start?

The cynics out there in Baseball-land will tell you"no" but as long as the starting pitching holds out - see Bruce Chen (2-0, 2.37 ERA), Jeff Francis (2.61 ERA after three starts) and the aforementioned Hochevar (2-1 and a 16-to- K-to-BB ratio thus far) -- than it's a case of anything goes and in a year in which the Minnesota Twins are down (and hurting) and the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have their own issues, maybe the Royals will be a surprise team.

Right now manager Ned Yost and Company don't mind"flying under the radar" for a while longer.   

And now hear this:  Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here: Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA & MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Extra, extra: The NBA Playoffs have swung into action - please make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Just talk to Jim or one of his service representatives today!

THE NFL DRAFT: THE TOP DEFENSIVE ENDS

Editor's Note: We will continue with our complete and daily Position-by-Position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 28-29-30) right here and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 27th: Now, here's a look at the draft's top Defensive Ends:

ROBERT QUINN, DE, North Carolina - This 6-foot-4, 265-pounder is mentally tough as evidenced by the fact he has fully recovered from a benign brain tumor in his senior year in high school and now he enters the NFL Draft having not played a single down last year after being suspended by the NCAA as part of that major crackdown on ineligible Tar Heel players. Note that Quinn - nicknamed"El Roy" - wowed NFL scouts with his workouts that included a 33-inch vertical jump. An explosive player, Quinn sports a quick burst off the line of scrimmage and he can really rock a ball-carrier as exhibited by his eight forced fumbles in just two years on the college level. Look for Quinn to get snapped up somewhere in the top 10 picks with Washington at #10 a real possibility.

DA'QUAN BOWERS, DE, Clemson - Here's another ACC product with a"past" as the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from Bamberg (SC) comes off arthroscopic right knee surgery this past January and there are concerns that he has lost some of his off-the-ball explosiveness but that shouldn't drop him much below the top 10 picks in this draft. Bowers - who was a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Nagurski Awards last season - finished last year with 15 ½ quarterback sacks and 17 quarterback"pressures" and he could be a solid fit at #16 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

CAMERON JORDAN, DE, California - Considered to be a sure-shot selection somewhere between picks #12 and #20, this 6-foot-4, 287-pounder is willing to play any position along the D-line and that sort of versatility could catapult him a couple of spots in this NFL Draft. Jordan is a top-flight run defender who is extremely strong and plays with a revved-up motor at all times. Note that Jordan played in 50-of-51 games at Berkeley (he started 32 games between the 2007 and 2010 seasons) and he boasted a 112-tackle game last year against Washington State. His father Steve played 13 years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings (a six-time Pro Bowl player, to boot) and wouldn't it be a kick if Jordan was nabbed #12 by the Vikes? More than likely he'll drop to #18 with the San Diego Chargers.

ADRIAN CLAYBORN, DE, Iowa - This 6-foot-3, 280-pounder definitely dropped off significantly from his junior-to-senior seasons in terms of overall productivity but that shouldn't kayo him from Round One of the draft. Clayborn is a strong pass-rusher who utilizes his lower center of gravity to scoot past O-linemen and his ability to lead is an intangible key that could this Big 10 star somewhere inside the top 20 picks. Let's play it safe and say that Clayborn goes to the Kansas City Chiefs with pick #21.

ALDON SMITH, DE, Missouri - This rangy 6-5, 255-pounder only produced 5 ½ quarterback sacks last year for the Big 12 Tigers but do keep in mind he missed three games with leg injuries in 2010. Smith did procure 10 tackles for losses in the '10 campaign but than surprised many folks when he opted to leave Mizzou following his redshirt sophomore season. The consensus belief here is that Smith still needs a lot of work but there's plenty of room to grow (and maybe even physically) and so he should find a place in the top 25 picks with some draft boards claiming he could go as high as #11 to the Houston Texans. Stay tuned.

J.J. WATT, DE, Wisconsin - A relentless pass rusher who collected 21 tackles for loss last year, Watt was the Badgers' best player in a batch of games last season and is slotted in to be a mid-to-late first-round pick who could dart up the draft board thanks to the fact he probably can play a couple different positions. The former transfer from Central Michigan is listed at 6-6, 285 pounds but his wing span is such that he can bat down passes from taller QBs and he often must be double-teamed on even the short-to-medium pass plays. Gut feeling is he'll last into the 20s on draft day and maybe his destination with be Philadelphia at #23.

NOTE: Get our NBA Playoff Updates plus more NFL Draft coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.

18
Nov

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