NBA Eastern Conference Game Three
THE NBA'S EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
IT'S AN ALL-IMPORTANT SUNDAY NITE GAME #3 FROM MIAMI AS THE TOP-SEEDED BULLS TRY TO WIN BACK HOME COURT ADVANTAGE ...
PLUS, OUR FINAL INSTALLMENT OF NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM SCHEDULES REELS IN A HANDFUL OF TEAMS INCLUDING THE BILLS, PANTHERS, STEELERS, FALCONS & BENGALS
By Jim Hurley:
Okay, so can everyone out there now just knock if off when it comes to talk that Miami Heat megastar LeBron James "can't get it done in the clutch"?
No doubt that the folks here at Jim Sez have shared such a sentiment in recent years when "King James" was unable to deliver the last-second shot both for the Cleveland Cavaliers and for his new team the Miami Heat - but that all changed this past Wednesday night when James banged home nine points in the game's final four-plus minutes en route to a game-high 29 points in an 85-75 victory.
Folks, not only did James chip in 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals all the while fighting off a nasty head cold but he proved to one-and-all that he can indeed be a late-game savior even though most in-the-know folks believe teammate Dwyane Wade (24 points in Game #2) should be the guy taking all the clutch-time shots. James played a whopping 46 minutes in that clash and seemingly got stronger as the game progressed - c'mon and give the man his due already!
If James was one of the Game #2 heroes and Wade was another one, just don't forget the contributions from reserve forward Udonis Haslem who scored 13 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in 23 minutes of hellacious action - now will the Heat ride the momentum of that road win in Game #2 or are the top-seeded Chicago Bulls gonna steal back home-court advantage?
We'll get to the Game #3 Preview in just a moment plus we'll get you the final installment of our NFL Schedule Notes but first this important reminder:
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THE NBA PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
CHICAGO at MIAMI - Series tied 1-1
One of the "talking points" following that Game #2 clash at the United Center was the chatter that the Bulls didn't play with a whole lot of energy: Break down some of the numbers from that tilt and you'll see that Chicago did secure 17 offensive rebounds, 7 blocked shots and 6 steals but in this case the numbers did "lie" as the Bulls lagged badly on the offensive end of the floor - the 28-of-82 FG tries (34.1 percent) was hideous stuff and for the umpteenth time in this year's playoffs there was big man Carlos Boozer laying another egg (see 3-of-10 FG shooting for 7 points with 8 rebs in 27 minutes) and it's tough to survive that quinella: Bad shooting and no effective Boozer.
Also, consider here that Chicago needs stud point guard and league MVP Derrick Rose making more of those drives to the hoop:
The Bulls' superstar drilled just 7-of-23 field goals in Game #2 and even Rose said afterwards that he missed far too many easy shots. Look for Rose (21 points with 8 assists and only 2 turnovers in Game #2) to get some help handling the ball here - perhaps Luol Deng will serve as a helping hand - so that Rose will be able to expend more energy on his drives and his twisting/spinning short jump shots.
On the flip side, the Heat can't take for granted that home court is gonna mean a sure "W" despite the fact that Miami is a perfect 6-and-oh SU (straightup) in this year's home playoff games. James needs to get untracked early and somehow the Heat needs to include Chris Bosh in its attack after he dropped off from a 30-point showing in Game #1 of this series to just 4-of-8 FG shooting for 10 points in Game #2.
Looking for a true "X factor" here?
Let's see if Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau - who wasn't at his very best in that Game #2 loss - can convince his troops that steals lead to gimme baskets. No doubt that Chicago's shaky three-point shooting the other night (3-of-20 from downtown) has coach "Tibbs" believing his club needs more old-fashioned transition hoops here.
NFL 2011 SCHEDULE NOTES
In our final installment of NFL 2011 Team-by-Team Schedule Notes, we'll bring you five teams and what's straight ahead on their upcoming agenda:
BUFFALO - It's a case of join the party for these Bills who represent one of nine NFL teams that will be forced to play three consecutive road games as this AFC East crew is at Dallas, Miami and the New York Jets beginning in Week 10 play and then the remaining road games ain't easy either (at San Diego on Dec. 11th and at rival New England on New Year's Day in a Week 17 tilt). Note that Buffalo plays the NFC East this year and so that means road trips to the New York Giants and to aforementioned Dallas. Gulp!
CAROLINA - Last year the Panthers managed just a pair of SU wins and both of 'em occurred when playing NFC West sides (see 23-20 over San Francisco and 19-12 over Arizona) and as fate would have it Carolina plays just one NFC West squad in 2011 (see Week 1 tilt at Arizona). Overall, the Panthers play back-to-back-to-back road games beginning in Week 11 with trips to Detroit, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay on tap but perhaps the biggest challenge for rookie head coach Ron Rivera and Company will be those NFC South tilts in Atlanta (Oct. 16th) and at New Orleans (New Year's Day). One piece of potential good news for these Panthers is that they get to stay home for a four-week period starting in Week 7 when Carolina plays three home games to go along with a Week 9 bye.
PITTSBURGH - The Steelers will have to wait till Week 11 to get their bye and so Mike Tomlin's crew needs to stay healthy early on and that includes key road games in Baltimore and Indianapolis during the first three weeks of play. Note that the defending AFC champions only have to play back-to-back road games once this year (at Indy and at Houston in Weeks 3 and 4) and three of Pittsburgh's final five regular-season games come against fellow AFC North teams. Finally, the Steelers - in a strange-but-true factoid - play the NFL's 28th-toughest schedule this year as this season's opponents rang up just a 121-135 won/loss mark ... now how does that happen when you're a first-place team a year ago?
ATLANTA - Last year's top-seeded team in the NFC accomplished a major feat en route to a 13-win season as the Falcons won each/every game in a three-game road swing through Tampa Bay, Carolina and Seattle but this year the NFC South crew won't be one of the nine NFL teams that face three-game road swings in 2011. Instead, Atlanta has circled some "marquee" road games such as the Week 1 clash in Chicago, the Week 9 battle in Indianapolis and a Week 16 game in New Orleans ... might that one be for all the divisional marbles? Interesting to note that Atlanta does play three consecutive home games this year beginning with a Week 10 tilt with the Saints and don't forget that N'Orleans was the only team to best the Falcs inside the Georgia Dome in regular-season play in 2010.
CINCINNATI - The Bengals have sandwiched a pair of four-win seasons around that snazzy 10-win campaign in 2009 but if the Cincy kids are gonna avoid another slumbering season this year than handling a sked that includes season-opening road games in Cleveland and Denver along with two head-to-head showdowns against Pittsburgh within a four-week span must be tackled with great vim-and-vigor. Note that the Bengals are not slated to play in any prime-time games this year.
NOTE: Catch up with our NBA Playoff Reports plus the latest in Major-League Baseball in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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