Western Conference Finals Preview

THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT

OUR EXTENSIVE PREVIEW OF THE WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS IS HERE AS THUNDER-SPURS BATTLE IT OUT ...PLUS THERE'S MORE MLB NEWS & NOTES

By Jim Hurley:

Go ahead and blame the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder for sucking some life out of this year's NBA Playoffs!

The Spurs - the top seed in the top-heavy Western Conference - have not lost a single post-season game in two rounds of winners against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers and, in case you were wondering, the Spurs are the best spread side in this year's NBA Playoffs at 6-2 for a glittery .750 winning rate.

Note the Spurs have clobbered the competition in their Game 1 tilts these past two post-season rounds with a 106-91 victory against 11 ½-point underdog Utah way back on April 29th and then a similar 108-92 triumph over the 11 ½-point pup Clippers back on May 15th.

Meanwhile, the Thunder has thundered its way to an 8-1 SU (straight-up) mark thus far in this post-season as Oklahoma City swept Dallas four straight and then extinguished the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Western Conference semifinal round. Overall, Oklahoma City's a solid-if-unspectacular 5-3-1 versus the vig in these playoffs (that's a .625 winning mark) and so if you've happened to wager on both the SA Spurs and the OKC Thunder this "second season" than you're sitting pretty at 11-5-1 overall  ... and that's a tidy $550 profit based on $100 per-play wagers.

Not bad at all!

But as the saying going, something's gotta give in this much-anticipated and much-hyped NBA Western Conference Finals that would seem to be a good bet to go six or maybe even seven games although you've probably already noted that the series price here has the Spurs at a 2-to-1 betting price (you take back + 170 on $100 per-play wagers on the Thunder) - is that a bit too steep or perhaps do the linesmakers know that this is "San Antonio's year"?

We'll dig deep from an analytical standpoint into this series shortly - plus we've charted out the 2011-12 regular-season matchups between the Thunder and Spurs - but first this important reminder on this Memorial Day Weekend holiday:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are rock-n-rolling through this year's NBA Playoffs and we will continue to bang out the post-season winners right through the end of June plus get all the 2012 Major-League Baseball Winners too -- so sign up today and get it all as that's plenty of Hoops and Baseball action every day and night! 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.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#2 OKLAHOMA CITY vs. #1 SAN ANTONIO - Game 1 is Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET
It's hard to believe but it's true: The Spurs have won their last 18 games in a row dating back to regular-season play and they've won their eight playoff tilts by a per-game average of 13.8 points ... now that's sheer domination, folks.

No question that PG Tony Parker (team-leading 19.1 ppg to go along with a heady 7.1 assists-per-game average) has been absolutely brilliant this post-season while really experiencing just one shaky outing while F Tim Duncan (17.6 ppg) has found the proverbial fountain of youth and is not at all fazed by playing 30-plus minutes a game.

Let's face it: Parker and Duncan must be San Antonio's offensive ringleaders in this series and probably need to score somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-to-45 points a game for Gregg Popovich's crew to advance to its first NBA Finals since 2007 but there must be solid bench scoring too and stand-still shooter Danny Green and rookie Kawhi Leonard must connect on their open perimeter looks here because scoring lots of the points in the paint ain't likely against Oklahoma City defensive monster Kendrick Perkins and shot-blocker deluxe Serge Ibaka.

Look for one piece of Spurs strategy to include having Duncan float out to the foul line area where someone will have to pick him up on "D" and then you could see Parker and Sixth Man Manu Ginobili (11.2 ppg in these playoffs) make backdoor cuts to the rim.

Conversely, the Thunder cannot afford to have either of its top two guns - that's F Kevin Durant (26.7 ppg these playoffs) or cat-quick PG Russell Westbrook (24.1 ppg) - show any scoring slippage here but it's that aforementioned interior defense that must stay strong and control the boards and we've gotta see the Okie City bench guys be a bit more productive (and especially on the road) with instant offense needed from the likes of veteran G Derek Fisher and/or G Daequan Cook (just 9-of-27 FG shooting this post-season).

If Thunder boss-man Scott Brooks has his way, than the aforementioned Westbrook won't "sleepwalk" on defense - remember how he left Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake wide open for the corner jumper in Game 2 (a shot that missed and truly turned around that series) - and Sixth Man Award winner James Harden will continue to drive hard to the hoop as he's been extraordinarily aggressive while averaging a haughty 17 ppg and keep in mind Harden's netted 64-of-71 FTs this playoff season and that's apt to win the Thunder a game (or two) here in this series.

Here's how the three regular-season showdowns between the Thunder and Spurs went in 2011-12 (and note all home teams are in CAPS):

DATE FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
1-8 OKLA CITY - 6 San Antonio OKLA CITY 108-96
2-4 SAN ANTONIO - 2.5 Okla City SAN ANTONIO 107-96
3-16 OKLA CITY - 3.5 San Antonio San Antonio 114-105

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

Hey, let's get you up-to-date with how Major-League Baseball teams have fared behind specific starting pitchers so far this season as we take one hurler from each division:

In the American League ...

  • The Tampa Bay Rays are 8-2 in games started by RHP James Shields and note TB's 5-and-oh in his daytime starts;
  • The Minnesota Twins are a combined 3-10 in games started by RHP Nick Blackburn and LHP Francisco Liriano;
  • The Texas Rangers are 7-2 in the games started by RHP Yu Darvish and that includes a tasty 4-0 home/night mark.

In the National League ...

  • The Philadelphia Phillies are 8-1 in games started this year by LHP Cole Hamels and note he's 4-0 on the road;
  • The Chicago Cubs - surprise, surprise - are 0-8 in games started by RHP Chris Volstad;
  • And the San Francisco Giants are a rotten 2-7 in games started this season by RHP Tim Lincecum.

NOTE: Get NBA and MLB News & Notes in tomorrow's special Sunday edition of Jim Sez.

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