The NBA Weekend Report

THE NBA WEEKEND REPORT

CELTICS SMACK DOWN THE HEAT 101-91 TO TIGHTEN UP THE EASTERN FINALS ...PLUS CAN THE THUNDER "GET EVEN" TONIGHT WITH THE SPURS OUT WEST? ...

EXTRA, EXTRA: JOHAN SANTANA THROWS THE FIRST NO-HITTER IN NEW YORK METS HISTORY (BUT HE HAS SOME HELP FROM THE MEN IN BLUE!) ...AND MORE BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: WILL THE FISH STILL BE JUMPING IN JUNE?
 
By Jim Hurley:

Let's just say there will be a few folks in the New York metropolitan area that will be playing the daily number 8020 today!

Yes, that's how many regular-season games were played in the 50-plus year history of the New York Mets before one of their pitchers threw a no-hitter as Friday night's no-no by veteran LHP Johan Santana in an 8-0 win against the St. Louis Cardinals ranked as one of the "top five" moments in Mets history ...but by now you know he had some help.

A blown call by third-base umpire Adrian Johnson on a Carlos Beltran line drive just past the bag that kicked up some chalk had St. Loo manager Mike Metheny and third-base coach Jose Oquendo kicking and screaming (for a few minutes, at least) plus there was a hit batsman late that was blown (wouldn't have effected the no-hitter, of course, but could have changed how things happened in that eighth inning) but even those boo-boo's by the umps couldn't dampen the mood at Citi Field where history was made.

Okay, so Santana threw a career-high 134 pitches and manager Terry Collins was out-and-out fretting afterwards what that work load might do to him in his next start and beyond but - hey - can long-suffering Mets fans at least have this moment of glory to stash away in their memory banks?

In case you're wondering might not happen now till next Friday - against the cross-town rival New York Yankees. Now that will be fun if it happens, right?

Meanwhile, here's what happened last night in NBA-land:

BOSTON 101, MIAMI 91 - Heat leads series 2-1
The Boston Celtics heard it for the better part of the past two days: Just how was this veteran group gonna respond following that crushing 115-111 overtime loss in Miami on Wednesday night?

Okay, so there. You got your answer as the C's bounced back big-time with three different players scoring 20-plus points - led by push-up king Kevin Garnett's 24 - but what may be most telling about this hold-your-serve win by Doc Rivers' squad is that Boston actually received some stirring plenty from its bench as both the dread-locked Marquis Daniels (9 points and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes) and G Keyon Dooling (7 points and 4 boards in 20 minutes) gave the Celtics hope that the "big three" plus PG Rajon Rondo may not have to play 45 minutes-or-more in all these games.

We shall preview Sunday's Heat-Celtics Game 4 bash in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez, so don't miss out!
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#1 SAN ANTONIO at #2 OKLAHOMA CITY - Spurs lead series 2-1

Game 4 is tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET

Suddenly, it's a different streak that folks are talkin' about in this best-of-seven series:

No longer is there chatter regarding the San Antonio Spurs' now-dead 20-game winning streak that traced back 10 games into this 2011-12 regular season but instead hoop fans are sitting up and taking notice that the Oklahoma City Thunder is a perfect 6-and-oh SU (straight-up) in this year's NBA Playoffs.

Now the Thunder - who beat Dallas twice and the Los Angeles Lakers three times in past post-season games this spring - need to string together back-to-back "W's" against a San Antonio team that not only played a sloppy Game 3 (see 21 turnovers and just 30-of-76 field-goal shooting for 39.5 percent) but threw in the towel as well once the lead swelled into the teens. Maybe San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich was sending a message to his star players Tony Parker and Tim Duncan - neither of whom played a single minute in the fourth quarter this past Thursday night - but nevertheless the Spurs are certainly well-rested after Parker played 28 minutes, Duncan played 26 minutes and super-duper reserve Manu Ginobili saw a mere 21 minutes of action.

Okay, so than it doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to realize that the Spurs will come out at Okie City with guns blazin' here but look for a couple of particular strategic points:

San Antonio needs to whip the ball around the perimeter and make the Thunder guard guys for 17, 18 seconds every possession and so look for a more patient approach here by the Spurs - it won't be merely pick-n-roll stuff with Parker and Duncan playing the so-called two-man game and than the open guy hoisting up a shot;

Secondly, the Spurs need to do something about OKC's points-in-the-paint stat line: Did you know the Thunder scored 44 of its 102 points in Game 4 from inside with the likes of Kevin Durant (team-leading 22 points) and Thabo Sefolosha (19 points) doing most their damage from the lane and who can forget that image of Durant throwing it down over Duncan on one of the great playoff dunks of the year?

If Okie City's gonnna "get even" at two games apiece this evening than those supporting role players - that's Serge Ibaka (14 points in Game 3) and reserve G Derek Fisher (now just 4-of-18 FG shooting since his 6-of-8 performance in Game 1 of this Western Conference Finals) - must make a positive impact on this game.

Hey, the Thunder has been perfect in its own noisy, blue-bathed backyard this post-season (okay, so OKC is only 3-3 versus the vig in these half-dozen games) but doesn't anyone out there in NBA-land believe the Spurs are not going be hell-bent on making up for a rotten Game 3 here?

Strap up your cowboy boots, guys, it's going to be a doozy Saturday night in the Sooner State!

Here's how the Spurs-Thunder best-of-seven NBA Western Conference Finals series has gone so far:

DATE FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
5-27 SAN ANTONIO - 5.5 Oklahoma City SAN ANTONIO 101-98
5-29 SAN ANTONIO - 4.5 Oklahoma City SAN ANTONIO 120-111
5-31 OKLAHOMA CITY - 4.5 San Antonio OKLAHOMA CITY 102-82

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.

MORE BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES

So, we've turned the calendar page on the month of May - but whatta month for the Miami Marlins (now 29-23)!

The National League East team rock-n-rolled its way to a 21-8 month - that's a scintillating .724 winning rate, folks - and it sure seems that a couple of everyday lineup guys are just now heating up as OF Giancarlo Stanton whacked 12 home runs last month and SS Jose Reyes carried an 11-game hitting streak into last night's series-opening game in Philadelphia (a rainy 6-4 loss) and don't look now but the former New York Mets leadoff hitter was 10 for his last 26 at-bats while heading into last night's game in Philly and then promptly went 3-for-4 against the Phils to raise his season average to .275.

If the Marlins are not the "team to beat" in the NL East, than you've got a news flash:

Okay, so the Fish exited last night a full game back of the Washington Nationals but Davey Johnson's crew has lost its last three in a row -- and do you really/truly think RHP Stephen Strasburg is gonna give the Nats close to 200 innings this season? Not a chance!

Miami has quelled its early-season problems both on and off the field (paging big-mouth manager Ozzie Guillen) and the team is learning more and more about its brand-new ballpark where the Marlins currently own a solid if unspectacular 16-10 record.

Maybe closer Heath Bell - who's blown four save opportunities in 14 tries this year while pitching to a bloated 7.20 ERA - isn't the long-term answer in the Fish bullpen (stay tuned there!) but what about the fact RHP Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.00 ERA) appears to have regained his talent and LHP Mark Buehrle (5-4, 3.26 ERA prior to last night's start) has been golden lately as Buehrle registered a snazzy 4-0 mark with a tidy 3.19 ERA in his five May starts (and the Marlins won all five of those starts).

Too early to reserve playoff tickets in South Beach?

Maybe so but the Marlins were baseball's best bunch last month and may just be "jelling" now.

NOTE: Lots more NBA Playoff coverage right through the month of June and don't forget we'll have draft notes in the days/weeks ahead too!

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