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IT'S GAME 7 FOR THE CLIPPERS-GRIZZLIES PLUS MVP JAMES AND HIS MIAMI MATES START UP THEIR EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMI SERIES AGAINST THE INDY PACERS
By Jim Hurley:
It's inevitable, we guess.
There was ESPN Radio on Saturday morning debating the now age-old question of who will go down in NBA lore as the better player:
Will it be Kobe Bryant of the Los Angels Lakers - owner of five NBA championship rings and one league MVP - or will it be Miami Heat megastar LeBron James who was just announced as the 2011-12 MVP for the third time in his brilliant (yet title-less) career?
We bring this up not only because ESPN Radio chose it as their topic du jour but because James -- who now becomes the third player in NBA history to win at least three MVP awards - may never have a better shot to win it all as he does right here and right now:
Consider that the Heat is a 10-to-1 betting favorite to advance past the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series that tips off on this Mother's Day afternoon and Miami - should it make it to the Eastern Conference Finals for a second consecutive post-season - will be an overwhelming favorite against either Boston or Philadelphia and so that's why many in-the-know NBA folks are claiming that the Heat really only have to win one big series this whole post-season.
Okay, so a potential NBA Finals duel with the likes of the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder (or someone else) is still weeks away but you start to be a bit of day dreaming here:
James has three MVP in nine years in the league - but zero crowns -- and if you happen to check out the list of previous three-time (or more) MVPs than you see the gallery of great names:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone each have won at least one NBA championship.
Not that it's now-or-never time for James who probably could play another 8-to-10 years in this league but when else will all the stars align just right for "The King"?
Let's see if the trophy that James holds up Sunday afternoon in South Beach is the only one he lifts this year - or will he make that Kobe vs. LeBron argument a little juicier in the days and years ahead.
We will get to the Sunday afternoon b-ball action in just a moment but first this key reminder ...
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will prove once again to be the champions of the NBA Playoffs as they continue to shine this post-season and remember the playoffs will run straight through the end of June plus there are loads of winners this 2012 Major-League Baseball season too and so sign up today and get it all - Hoops and Baseball every day and nights! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.
#5 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS at #4 MEMPHIS - Series tied 3-3
Game #7 at 1:05 p.m. ET
It sure didn't look good for the Grizzlies when they trailed the Clippers 76-68 in the fourth quarter of Friday's Game #6 but give Lionel Hollins' crew credit, Memphis - which scored 10 straight points during a key 17-4 second-half run - didn't abandon its game plan and so that meant lefty Zach Randolph scoring big points from the low box and PG Michael Conley and F Rudy Gay nailing perimeter shots plus a take-no-prisoners approach on defense (note the Clips shot just 4-of-15 from beyond the arc and couldn't drain a big shot for a while).
Maybe that highlight-making dive play by LAC's Blake Griffin turned the beat around for a time but when push-came-to-shove - and, believe us, push has turned to shove plenty of times in a series that "features" 20 technical fouls (13 of which have been called on the Clips, by the way!) - the Grizz had all the savvy of a playoff-veteran team and now here is Memphis looking to finish off the rally that started with 'em down three games-to-one.
If the Grizzlies are gonna get "mission accomplished" here than three main things must happen:
Memphis must get its usual all-hands-on-deck approach with Randolph, Conley and Gay needed to upgrade their 44-point combined performance in Game #6 plus C Marc Gasol - who has shown a special toughness in this series - needs another one of those 23-point, 9-rebound games as he enjoyed Friday night;
Secondly, the Grizzlies must cut down on the Clippers' offensive boards and so that means boxing out pain-in-the-neck F Reggie Evans when he is on the floor for 25-or-so-minutes here;
Finally, make the aforementioned Griffin "play small" as when he's forced to operate in the half-court game the former Oklahoma star has a tough time getting off his shots in traffic. In Game #6 Griffin shot 6-of-11 from the floor for 17 points and something's telling us - bad knee and all - he better uncork at least 20 FG tries here and so PG Chris Paul better put his blinkers on and make sure Griffin gets it in the course of full-court style action here.
Here's how the Grizzlies-Clippers series has gone so far through the first six games of this best-of-seven series (note home teams are in CAPS):
|4-29||MEMPHIS||- 5||LA Clippers||LA Clippers 99-98|
|5-2||MEMPHIS||- 6.5||LA Clippers||MEMPHIS 105-98|
|5-5||LA CLIPPERS||- 3||Memphis||LA CLIPPERS 87-86|
|5-7||LA CLIPPERS||- 2||Memphis||LA CLIPPERS 101-97(ot)|
|5-9||MEMPHIS||- 8||LA Clippers||MEMPHIS 92-80|
|5-11||Memphis||- 2||LA CLIPPERS||Memphis 90-88|
Spread Note: The Grizzlies have covered four of the last five tilts in this series since that Game #1 Memphis meltdown at home.
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#3 INDIANA at #2 MIAMI -- Game 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Okay, so we've said our bit about King James who averaged a nifty 27.8 ppg in the five-game Eastern Conference opening-round series against the New York Knicks ... but what can we expect here from the rest of the cast?
Well, Dwyane Wade - who averaged 21 points a game against the Knicks - needs to get his foul-line act together as did you realize Wade canned just 17-of-30 FTs against New York and that included the infamous 4-of-11 FT showing in Miami's Game #4 loss?
Plus, this may well be a series in which three-point guys Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller - a combined 21-of-52 from beyond the arc in that series against New York - need to step in and drill a big fourth-quarter trifecta here or there 'cause this Indiana team can "ball" and did you know the Pacers shot a sizzling 77 percent from the charity stripe in that five-game series win against undermanned Orlando?
Yes, Frank Vogel's crew converted 80-of-104 FTs and that's key because it will be Indy strategy to go to the rim and try to draw cheap fouls on James, Wade, Chris Bosh and friends here. Bank on it!
No doubt that F Danny Granger (21.4 ppg in the series against Orlando) ranks as Indiana's main go-to guy but keep in mind four players averaged in double figures against the Magic and big man Roy Hibbert could pose many paint woes for a Magic team that's "vertically challenged".
As this series opens up in Miami this afternoon, keep a close eye on how Indiana's key reserves - that's Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough - handle their time on the floor against James/Wade/Bosh.
If the Pacers' subs can "hold their own" right from the very start of this series, than this one could go a lot longer than the experts think.
Here are the four regular-season matchups between the Pacers and the Heat this year (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|1-4||MIAMI||- 8||Indiana||MIAMI 118-83|
|2-14||Miami||- 2||INDIANA||Miami 105-90|
|3-10||MIAMI||- 9||Indiana||MIAMI 93-91(ot)|
|3-26||Miami||- 3.5||INDIANA||INDIANA 105-90|
Spread Note: The home teams split the four spread verdicts this past regular season in the Miami-Indiana showdowns and note that the Heat was favored by a per-game average of 5.6 points a game (and Miami's favored by 7 ½ points here in Game 1 at last glance).
NOTE: Get all the NBA and MLB News & Notes action in the next edition of Jim Sez!
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