Saturday Playoff Previews - NFL Draft: DL's

THE NBA PLAYOFFS HAVE ARRIVED! WE BREAK DOWN THE FOUR SERIES THAT TIP OFF SATURDAY ALONG WITH THE ODDS TO WIN IT ALL ...

THE NFL DRAFT - HERE'S THE TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

By Jim Hurley:

So, you tell us: Is there anyone out there in NBA-land that can beat - and thereby unseat -- the Miami Heat from what surely appears to be a second straight championship on the horizon?

The Heat's an overwhelming favorite to repeat - check out the "Odds to Win it All" below - but do keep in mind last year's run to the title wasn't easy with a six-game series against Indiana and a stirring seven-game set versus Boston before the NBA Finals win against Oklahoma City.

Let's rev it up and get the NBA Playoffs started!

First off, here's the NBA Playoffs "Odds to Win it All" and guess you can say there's one overwhelming favorite, eh?

TEAM ODDS
Miami - 200
Oklahoma City + 250
San Antonio + 800
New York + 1000
Denver + 1750
Los Angeles Clippers + 1750
Indiana + 2000
Memphis + 2000
Boston + 4000
Brooklyn + 4000
Chicago + 4000
Golden State + 4500
Los Angeles Lakers + 5000
Houston + 6000
Atlanta + 8500
Milwaukee + 10000

Note that last year the Miami Heat was "even money" to cop the then lockout-abbreviated 2012 NBA season and now you must lay 2-to-1 odds that the defending champs will repeat - no bargain there, folks!

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will prove once again to be the champions of the 2013 NBA Playoffs as they swing into action with Four (4) games on Saturday and Four (4) games Sunday and remember they will run straight through the end of June plus don't forget there are loads of winners this 2013 Major-League Baseball season and so sign up today and get it all - Hoops and Baseball right through the spring and summer! 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.

THE NBA PLAYOFFS

Now here's a look at the NBA Playoff series that begin here on Saturday plus notice that we've included all the regular-season head-to-head matchups between the teams playing in Round I (with all home teams in CAPS below) ...

EASTERN CONFERENCE

#7 BOSTON (41-40) at #2 NEW YORK (54-28) - Game #1 is at 3 p.m. ET
The emotions will be running sky-high in this best-of-seven set especially following the earlier-week Boston Marathon bombing - will Celtics veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett perhaps have a little more spring in their respective steps here?

No doubt this dynamic duo - averaging 33 points per game between 'em this season - have been through more than a few NBA playoff battles and gotta believe that sheer experience will help the underdog Celtics win a game or two that otherwise they might not deserve to win here.

On the flip side, there's little doubt that the New York game plan is to fire up a ton of triples here:

This 2012-13 Knicks team truly lived and died by the three-ball this season with four different players banging out 100-plus treys this year led by Carmelo Anthony (157 treys and averaging 28.7 ppg) and J.R. Smith (155 made triples). Let's just say if either Anthony or Smith cools down from beyond the stripe, than this could be a go-the-distance series that could get decided by which teams' role players step it up ... will it be New York PG Raymond Felton or maybe Boston's veteran G Jason Terry?

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
1-7 Boston + 7.5 NEW YORK 102-96
1-24 New York - 1.5 BOSTON 89-86
3-26 New York + 3 BOSTON 100-85
3-31 NEW YORK - 6.5 Boston 108-89

#5 CHICAGO (45-37) at #4 BROOKLYN (49-33) - Game #1 is at 8 p.m. ET
Please don't ask Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau - or anyone else in the organization - if point guard Derrick Rose is gonna suit up for these playoffs because you're liable to get a mean look in return!

The fact of the matter is Rose was "cleared to play" weeks ago but continues to test out his surgically repaired knee and it's anyone's guess if Rose is going to play here.

Still, you know what you are gonna get with these two teams if Rose doesn't play:

The Bulls - who won three-of-four regular-season showdowns with Brooklyn - will bring that lunch-pail mentality on defense and Joakim Noah and mates will crash the boards hard while the flip side says the Nets will expect guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to hoist 40-or-more shots between 'em and than the only drama is whether those perimeter jumpers are falling ... or not.

No doubt the Nets need an X-factor or two to come through for 'em here and so check out what Gerald Wallace "brings to the table" and let's see if P.J. Carlesimo's better-than-you-think bench can help swipe one or two games here.

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

12-15

CHICAGO

- 5

Brooklyn

83-82

2-1

BROOKLYN

- 3.5

Chicago

93-89

3-2

CHICAGO

- 4.5

Brooklyn

96-85

4-4

Chicago

+ 5.5

BROOKLYN

92-90

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#6 GOLDEN STATE (47-35) at #3 DENVER (57-25) - Game #1 is at 5:30 p.m. ET
Okay, so here's an NBA Playoff series to satisfy for the hoop folks out there - that's both college and pro - who didn't think there was enough scoring this year!

Both the Nuggets and underdog Warriors surely can fill it up and note in the head-to-head series this year Denver averaged a rollicking 107.5 points per game and keep in mind George Karl's club missed plenty of man-power games all year long with various injuries. No doubt the biggest absence here for Denver is star F Danilo Gallinari who quietly averaged 16.2 ppg and thus was the team's second-leading scorer behind PG Ty Lawson (16.7 ppg) ... can Karl trust Wilson Chandler or Andre Iguodala to average closer to 20 points a game here? Stay tuned.

The Warriors, meanwhile, make no bones about it:

Mark Jackson's crew wants to get the inside-out game going with three-point record-setter Stephen Curry (22.9 ppg) and F David Lee (18.5 ppg) the major engines here but the only way G-State is gonna pull the upset here is to win more than once on the road and note the Nuggets finished the regular season with a league-best 38-3 mark. Gulp!

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-10 Denver - 2.5 GOLDEN STATE 107-101 (2ot)
11-23 DENVER - 6.5 Golden State 102-91
11-29 GOLDEN STATE + 1.5 Denver 106-105
1-13 DENVER - 6.5 Golden State 116-105

#5 MEMPHIS (56-26) at #4 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (56-26) - Game #1 is at 10:30 p.m. ET
Go figure: The road teams won three-of-four games played between these two fledgling rivals this season and you cannot forget that in the first round of last year's playoffs the Clippers won a Game #7 in Memphis ... so might the so-called "home-court advantage" be a tad overrated for this Western Conference set?

The Clippers roll into the post-season while riding a seven-game winning streak and - no matter how you slice it - a healthy PG Chris Paul (16.9 ppg and 9.7 assists per game) will always be the best player when he's on the floor but the first order of business for defensive-minded Memphis is to limit those alley-oop and lob passes to the likes of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan or else all heck will break loose for Vinny Del Negro's team.

If the Grizzlies want a real strategy to win this series than it's to "rough up" Paul when possible and make Griffin take more 15-footers than he would like. The Memphis inside tandem of Zach Randolph (15.4 ppg and 11.2 rebounds per game) and Marc Gasol (14.1 ppg and 7.8 rpg) must steer clear of silly fouls and generally pump in 40 points between 'em ... or else!

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
10-31 LA CLIPPERS - 3.5 Memphis 101-92
1-14 La Clippers + 4.5 MEMPHIS 99-73
3-13 Memphis + 7 LA CLIPPERS 96-85
4-13 La Clippers + 2 MEMPHIS 91-87

THE NFL DRAFT - THE TOP D-LINEMEN

The NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday, April 25th and here in today's Jim Sez we bring you our latest position-by-position update: The top available Defensive Ends and Defensive Tackles:

SHARRIF FLOYD, DT, FLORIDA - A minor ankle injury kept this 6-foot-3, 303-pound junior from performing on his recent Pro Day but that won't hurt his draft status at all as the reports continue to build that he'll be the second overall player nabbed in this draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Floyd sports both great strength and a great initial burst and note he sacked Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater twice in the Gators' Sugar Bowl loss in early January. If there is one thing that Floyd needs to improve on than it's his leverage as scouts claim he "stands up" at the snap and thus doesn't have the low-driving ability to knock blockers into the backfield. P.S., if the Jags pass on Floyd at #2 than would fully expect the Oakland Raiders to snap him up at overall pick #3.

STAR LOTULELEI, DT, UTAH - The prospect rankings may have this 6-foot-3, 318-pound senior ranked in the #17-thru-#25 range but odds are he'll get scooped up somewhere in the top 10 just months after piling up 11 tackles for losses and 5 quarterback sacks despite often getting triple-teamed at the line of scrimmage. The incredibly strong Lotulelei played better against high-quality competition and seemed relentless in many games and there is some belief that he could get snapped up somewhere in the top five with Philadelphia at #4 extremely interested and ditto for Tennessee at #10.

EZEKIEL ANSAH, DE, BYU - Considered the best defensive end in this draft, the 6-foot-6, 272-pound senior has a sky's-the-limit feel as he features great explosiveness and is quick to slip off blocks. This native of Ghana has played football for only a brief period of time as he aspired to be an NBA star but now Ansah comes off a season in which he collected 4 ½ sacks and totaled 8 quarterback pressures and 13 tackles for losses. Predictably, he's been favorably compared to current New York Giants DL Jason Pierre-Paul who was "late" to the game of football but now is a perennial Pro Bowl player. Look for this former Cougars star to get nabbed somewhere in the #10-to-#15 area of this year's draft with the Carolina Panthers at pick #14 a distinct possible destination.

BJOERN WERNER, DE, FLORIDA STATE - One draft board we checked out claims this 6-foot-3, 261-pound German-born pass rusher ranks among the top 10 overall players in the country but unless there's a major run early on the aforementioned Floyd, Lotulelei and/or Ansah, than Werner probably won't go until somewhere in the high teens-to- low 20s in Round One. Note that Werner dropped nearly 20 pounds while heading into the 2012 season and he claimed that greatly improved his stamina - he finished his career in Tallahassee with 23 ½ sacks and NFL scouts loved his athleticism but do have some questions as to whether he's strong enough to make hay in traffic. Gut feeling is Werner could be headed to Chicago at pick #20.

SHELDON RICHARDSON, DT, MISSOURI - Powerful 6-foot-3, 295-pound St. Louis native who figures to be the third defensive tackle to get nabbed in Round One. Richardson recorded 10 ½ tackles for losses last year while generally wrecking havoc with enemy offensive lines but critics claim his lack of experience at the FBS level will haunt him as he started just 13 of Mizzou's last 24 overall games. Still, major physical specimen makes him instant impact player in the draft and word is Dallas at pick #18 could be good fit although someone in the 20s might trade up for him midway of Round One ... perhaps the New England Patriots (picking #29).

DATONE JONES, DE, UCLA - Expect this 6-foot-4, 277-pounder to round out the D-linemen that get selected in the first round of this year's NFL Draft as this Compton (CA) native collected 17 ½ tackles for losses and six sacks last year under first-year head coach Jim Mora. Note that Jones sports strong hands and long arms but questions abound as to whether he's bulky enough or strong enough overall to handle the rigors of NFL life. Suffered a broken right foot prior to the 2011 season but appears to be fully recovered now. Jones might stay right there in the Golden State should San Francisco at pick #31 pull the trigger on him.

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

19
Aug

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