Sunday's NBA Playoff Previews

SUNDAY'S NBA PLAYOFF PREVIEWS

EXTRA, EXTRA: GO AHEAD AND SAY IT, THERE'S A GAME 7 TILT IN OKIE CITY PLUS THE NBA'S EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

ZOOM INTO ACTION WITH SUNDAY'S PRIME-TIME AFFAIR IN CHI-TOWN ...

PLUS THERE'S MORE NFL 2011 SCHEDULE CHECKS WITH DALLAS, SAN DIEGO & SEATTLE GETTING OUR JIM SEZ ATTENTION HERE TODAY

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, the numbers don't lie:

The Chicago Bulls - the numero uno seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference - did beat the mighty Miami Heat all three times they played one another this past 2010-11 regular season (okay, by a sum total of eight points) - but now everyone's acting as if the Bulls were to win this best-of-seven series for the right to play in the NBA Finals it would than qualify as some sort of major upset.

So, you tell us ...

Is the perception all wrong here or will this simply be a case of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and mates imposing their collective will on the Bulls and winning this series despite not having home-court advantage?

One thing that's for sure:

If the Heat is gonna get back to the franchise's first NBA Finals since 2006 (see dramatic six-game, come-from-behind series win against the Dallas Mavericks) than someone's gonna have to get in point guard Derrick Rose's way! The league Most Valuable Player is averaging a haughty 28.8 points-per-game in 11 post-season tilts so far plus he's averaging a nifty 8.2 assists-per-outing this post season and - suffice to say - he's been the single-best player on the floor in any/all Bulls games this playoff season.

So, what's the magic formula for Tom Thibodeau's Bulls to extinguish the Heat in these next two weeks?

No doubt it all begins - and ends - with team defense as Chicago's 7-2 SU (straightup) when holding playoff foes to 90 points or less.

Okay, so this one's getting served up Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time but the "warm-up act" ain't half-bad as the Sunday matinee (3:30 p.m. ET on ABC) is that gotta-see-it Game 7 from the Western Conference Semifinal round between the Memphis Grizzlies at the Oklahoma City Thunder ... the Jim Sez Preview is below.

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Playoffs - right thru the end of the NBA Finals in mid-to-late June -- and all the Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call our 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, Sundays and Holidays

THE NBA PLAYOFFS - SUNDAY'S SHOWDOWNS FROM O-CITY AND CHICAGO

On Sunday, it's ...
WESTERN CONFERENCE - MEMPHIS at OKLAHOMA CITY - Series tied 3-3

In case you had lost track, the Grizzlies and Thunder have squared off thus far already for 308 minutes of hoop action in this playoff round and all that separates 'em are 13 points (do the math!).

And here's more math for the Okie City gang:

You better make more than four triples in this survive-and-advance game (see 4-of-25 trifectas in Friday's loss) or else you'll be the second team to fall to a #8 seed in this post-season (see San Antonio getting ousted by Memphis a couple of weeks back).

No doubt that ace scorer Kevin Durant (just 3-of-14 FG shooting and 11 points) has to bring his "A game" here but the real critical components to this tilt figures to be OKC's grunt players - both Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka must pile up the rebounds/blocked shots so that Durant and the more "skilled" players on Scott Brooks' team can get out and go.

Did you realize the Thunder attempted nine fewer shots (that's 83 to 74) from the field than did Memphis in Game 6?

Folks, that's gotta change for Durant, PG Russell Westbrook (11-of-22 FGs for 27 points on Friday) and key reserve James Harden (5-of-10 FG shooting for 14 points) here ... or else!

One note on the underdog Grizzlies: The points/boards for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol simply have to be there (let's call it 40-plus points and 25 rebounds between 'em) for starters but there better be an "X factor" guy for Lionel Hollins' squad ... might it be energetic backup PG Greivis Vasquez?

Now, here's the game-by-game look at Grizzlies-Thunder while heading into Sunday's Game #7 (note home teams are in CAPS below):

DATE FAV SPREAD RESULT
5-1 OKLAHOMA CITY - 7 Memphis 114-101
5-3 OKLAHOMA CITY - 6.5 OKLAHOMA CITY 111-102
5-7 MEMPHIS - 2.5 MEMPHIS 101-93 (ot)
5-9 MEMPHIS - 2 Oklahoma City 133-123(3ot)
5-11 OKLAHOMA CITY - 6 OKLAHOMA CITY 99-72
5-13 MEMPHIS - 2 MEMPHIS 95-83

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - #2 MIAMI at #1 CHICAGO - Game #1 at 8 p.m. ET

Let's just fill in some blanks here after getting to whet your Heat-Bulls appetite with the chatter at the start of this Jim Sez column: While the Bulls are praised to the high heavens for their defense, it's a part of Miami's game that never - ever - gets enough credit. There is talk that Heat boss-man Erik Spoelstra will put a slew of fresh players up against the aforementioned Rose here but our gut feeling is Miami will see how things go in Game 1 and then stick with whomever had the most success dealing with the MVP the rest of the way - no doubt that will compromise the offense of whomever gets that defensive call but Miami won't mind playing games in the 80s here and can survive James or Wade having a sub-20 point tilt.

If there's one thing to watch for right out of this series' starting gate it's how does Chicago handle the "no-name" perimeter players on the Heat?

Hey, James Jones (16 triples in the playoffs so far including that major dagger late in Game 5 versus Boston) and G Mario Chalmers (14 trifectas in this year's post-season) are quite capable of wrecking a game on their own.

Here are the regular-season head-to-head matchups between the Heat and the Bulls (home teams in CAPS):

DATE FAV SPREAD RESULT
1-15 Miami - 3 CHICAGO 99-96
2-24 Miami - 3 CHICAGO 93-89
3-6 MIAMI - 5.5 Chicago 87-86

 

NFL NEWS & NOTES - CHECKING OUT THE 2011 SLATES FOR THE COWBOYS, CHARGERS & SEAHAWKS

Here's more NFL team-by-team looks at what's straight ahead in the upcoming 2011 regular season:

DALLAS - It was pure fact and not fiction that last year's Cowboys started off the season at 1-7 SU (straightup) and so you can't help but check out what's on the agenda the first month-plus for the 2011 Pokes and things won't be easy right at the very start with season-opening coast-to-coast road games at the New York Jets (a Sunday Night clash in Week 1) followed one week later by a trip to San Francisco. Note that the 'Boys draw their bye in Week 5 and so there's two actual weeks to prep for that Week 6 game in New England ... hmmm. Finally, Dallas concludes its 2011 campaign with three divisional games in the final four weeks of play and that includes a pair of hoedowns versus the New York Giants and the Cowboys are slated to play five prime-time games including a Week 8 game at archrival Philadelphia.

SAN DIEGO - As we stated in a previous edition of Jim Sez, it's always worth checking out what East Coast games are on the menu for the guys on the "Left" Coast and note the Chargers - who only played in one Eastern time zone game last year (the Week 16 loss at Cincinnati) - play half of their eight road affairs this season in the ET zone (at New England in Week 2, at the New York Jets in Week 7, at Jacksonville in Week 13 and at Detroit in Week 16). The Bolts will go without a home game for a four-week stretch that features three road tilts and the Week 6 bye and than San Diego will finish out '11 regular-season play with consecutive road games in Detroit and Oakland.
  
SEATTLE - Half of the Seahawks' six NFC West games will occur in the final four weeks of play and that includes a season-ending game in Arizona and so if Pete Carroll's crew is battling hard for a playoff berth for a second straight year than "taking care of business" within the division late will be ultra-important ... wouldn't you say? The 'Hawks - who will play the AFC North this year - will play the 2010 conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field in Week 2 play and they'll go to Cleveland one week after Seattle's Week 6 bye. If you're looking for a silver lining with this 2011 schedule, than note that Seattle doesn't play back-to-back road games following that Week 1 and Week 2 journey to San Fran and Pittsburgh, respectively. Note that the NFL rates the Seahawks as playing the 24th-toughest schedule in the league with opponents having gone 125-131 overall last season.

NOTE: Catch all our NBA Playoff News & Notes - and lots more from MLB and the NFL - in the coming editions of Jim Sez.

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