NBA Thursday Previews (April 21, 2011)

Blue Ribbon Baseball Goes 1-0-1 On Wednesday
Indians (-110) Royals 7-5 WON
Braves/Dodgers (Under 7) 6-1 PUSH

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THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT --
BULLS, HEAT & MAVERICKS LOOK TO PUT THE HAMMER DOWN
IN THEIR FIRST-ROUND SETS ...
PLUS OUR NFL DRAFT UPDATE FEATURES
THE TOP INCOMING INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Just in case you had forgotten ...

The opening round of the NBA Playoffs last year produced only one seven-game series (see Atlanta over Milwaukee) and there wasn't a single Game #7 in the second round of the 2010 post-season and so recent history suggests there's not always that survive-and-advance single game that most pro hoops fans love at this time of the year.

And there may not be all that many this spring, either.

As we head into Thursday's action, all three road teams this evening are gunning for commanding three-games-to-none series lead after Chicago, Miami and Dallas all 'held serve' on their respective home courts earlier this week.

We'll get you our Jim Sez quickie previews of their Game #3s being played on this Thursday night but first this important message:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs and Major-League Baseball 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: The check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA Playoffs and MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

THE NBA PLAYOFFS:
THURSDAY'S GAME #3 PREVIEWS
FROM INDY, PHILLY & PORTLAND

CHICAGO at INDIANA -- Bulls lead series 2-0

Don't let anyone tell you that this has been a walk-in-the-park series so far for the Eastern Conference's top-seeded Chicago Bulls!
In fact, following Monday's hang-on-for-dear-life 96-90 non-cover win against 11-point underdog Indiana, Bulls point guard (and sure-shot league MVP) Derrick Rose was asked if he's relieved or concerned with how this series has gone so far (note Chicago won the series opener 104-99 as 12-point favs) and his honest answer was, 'Kind of both'.

The Bulls have been beaten to a slew of loose balls in the first two games of this set and that hasn't made first-year Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau a real happy camper and everyone in/around Chitown is still wondering how the Bulls only won that last game by six points after out-rebounding the Pacers by a whopping total of 57-to-33.

The Bulls' tag-team tandem of Carlos Boozer (16 rebs in Game #2) and Joakim Noah (10 boards in Game #2) must pound the glass here if Chicago plans on taking a 3-zip series lead but must Rose (25 FG tries in that last game en route to a game-high 36 points) have to shoulder so much of this load each and every game?

A real Pacers key here: Get 40-plus points -- again -- from their reserves who shot a nifty 16-of-32 for 43 points this past Monday evening.

MIAMI at PHILADELPHIA -- Heat leads series 2-0

Interesting to note that through Tuesday's action NBA Playoff Betting Favorites were a composite 3-10 ATS (against the spread) and two of the chalk covers were by the Dallas Mavericks and the other was by the Miami Heat -- the Game #2 rocking-chair 94-73 win against 9-point underdog Philadelphia was just what the Miami folks were looking for as the 'Big Three' of LeBron James (29 points), Chris Bosh (21 points) and Dwyane Wade combined for 64 points but what really should have been the headline following that rout was the fact Philly's starting five scored a combined 29 points while taking 35 FG attempts -- yikes!

The 76ers now come home where the fan support hasn't been great (or didn't you check the box scores this past regular season?) but where head coach Doug Collins' crew believes the likes of veterans Andre Iguodala (2-of-8 FG shooting in Game #2) and Elton Brand (just 1-of-5 FGs) figures to perk up their respective offensive games ... they better or this series will be over faster than you can say Moses Malone!

DALLAS at PORTLAND -- Mavericks lead series 2-0

Say this for the veteran-flavored Dallas Mavericks ... they usually find a way to blow a good thing (see 2-0 series lead in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat and we all know how that turned out!) but maybe this edition is different.

After all, the Mavs had plenty of reasons to 'blink' in their 101-89 triumph on Game #2 against the 4-point underdog Trail Blazers but instead Dirk Nowitzki (33 points) scored his team's final 11 points while three-point marksman Peja Stojakovic drained five triples and each and every one of 'em was a dagger to a Portland team that scored plenty of points off their famed alley-oops but really bogged down after intermission (see a combined 37 points in the third/fourth quarters).

Nobody thinks this will be 'sweep city' here in 'Rip City' but the fact of the matter is the T-Blazers better find a way to cover Dallas point guards Jason Kidd (18 points and 8 assists is 33 minutes in Game #2) and J.J. Barea (6 points, 4 assists and lots of energy in 16 minutes of play) who absolutely torched the Blazers at every turn.

P.S., can somewhere tell us why Portland's Rudy Fernandez only played 11 minutes and attempted just one shot in Tuesday's road loss? Hmmm.

THE NFL DRAFT:
IT'S THE TOP INSIDE LINEBACKERS

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 right into early next week too 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 Inside Linebackers:

MARTEZ WILSON, ILB, Illinois -- Note that most draft 'experts' don't believe that an inside LB will be picked in Round I but this 6-foot-4, 250-pounder from Chicago is the best bet to top the players at this position based on a sterling 2010 season that included 112 total tackles and 11 1/2 tackles for losses. Wilson is not considered an 'instinctual player' by scouts but his overall length allows him to pull down runners from behind and he has been compared to Miami LB Karlos Dansby. Expect this former Big 10 star to wind up in the early part of Round II with Houston at pick #42 said to be highly interested in his services.

GREG JONES, ILB, Michigan State -- This former Spartans star received rather mixed reviews by pro scouts who witnessed him struggle during Senior Bowl week in January but Jones does possess great speed at 6-foot, 240 pounds and his leadership skills are considered a major plus and could get him slipped into the late second round or early third round of next week's draft. The Cincinnati native collected 16 1/2 quarterback sacks in his college career and -- better yet -- he led Sparty in tackles in all four of his years in East Lansing.

QUAN STURDIVANT, ILB, North Carolina -- Possibly a reach to land up in the draft's second round, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Sturdivant missed five games last year with hamstring woes yet still finished third on the Tar Heels with 61 total tackles. His interception in the second OT session enabled North Carolina to fend off Tennessee 30-27 in last year's wild Music City Bowl. Note that in the 2008 campaign Sturdivant led the country with 87 unassisted tackles. His greatest asset: Straight-line speed to an enemy QB or RB.

KELVIN SHEPPARD, ILB, LSU -- The 23-year-old native of Stone Mountain (GA) started 30 games in his college career and finished up with 26 tackles for losses but pro folks want to see him increase his upper body strength and not 'bite' so much on play-action fakes. Sheppard -- who stands in at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds -- isn't an overly physical player but can make up for some lack-of-strength issues with his football IQ. No doubt his recent LSU teams were blessed with great speed/heart and Sheppard was considered your typical Bayou Bengals defender.

NOTE: Catch our continuing NBA Playoff coverage plus there's more NFL Draft News in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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