Sunday NBA Playoff Previews - NFL Drraft: OT's

THE NBA PLAYOFFS - HERE'S A LOOK AT THE FOUR SERIES THAT TIP OFF SUNDAY ...

PLUS NFL DRAFT NOTES EXAMINES THE BEST OFFENSIVE TACKLES

By Jim Hurley:

Let's not miss a beat ...Now here's a look at the NBA Playoff series that begin here on Sunday 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

#6 ATLANTA (44-38) at #3 INDIANA (49-32) - Game #1 is at 1 p.m. ET
It was a hold-your-serve type of regular season when the Hawks and Pacers squared off as the teams won their home games (and note home betting favorites covered three-of-four games) and so that's key here 'cause you generally don't win playoff series unless you can win on the road.

The Pacers - who sport a nice one-two scoring punch in Paul George (17.4 points per game) and David West (17.1 ppg) - don't generally get mission accomplished with their offense as Indy's the best defensive squad in the NBA's Eastern Conference but something tells us George/West must deliver their normal scoring averages and than somebody else - maybe kid Lance Stephenson - is gonna have to be a legit third scoring option at other moments of these games.

The Hawks don't always play crunch-time defense - the word "soft" has been bandied about with this Atlanta team - but if lefty Josh Smith (17.5 ppg) can get some scoring help in the paint than this one could get real scary for Indiana.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-7 ATLANTA - 4 Indiana 89-86
12-29 ATLANTA - 3.5 Indiana 109-100
2-5 INDIANA - 6 Atlanta 114-103
3-25 INDIANA - 6.5 Atlanta 100-94


#8 MILWAUKEE (38-44) vs. #1 MIAMI (66-16) - Game #1 is 7 p.m. ET
Okay, so everyone's thinking the same thing here: Do the Bucks get one game against the defending NBA champs or will this be "sweepsville" between the top and bottom playoff seeds in the NBA's Eastern Conference?

If Miami is gonna make this a short-and-sweet series than the game plan is simple: Lead-pipe cinch league MVP LeBron James (26.8 points per game and 7.2 assists per game) must get out and go and make easy hoops via the fast break - consider 20-to-25 fast-break points per game for the Heat to be the real goal - and make sure you're in the grill of Milwaukee guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings who average a combined 37 points a game.

If the left-handed Jennings gets enough open looks from "downtown" - where he shoots it at a solid 37.1 percent - than these games all could be closer than the Las Vegas expert think.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-21 MIAMI - 9.5 Milwaukee 113-106 (ot)
12-29 MILWAUKEE + 4 Miami 104-85
3-15 Miami - 6 MILWAUKEE 107-94
4-9 MIAMI - 6.5 Milwaukee 94-83

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#7 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (45-37) at #2 SAN ANTONIO (58-24) - Game #1 is 3:30 p.m. ET
The drama-filled Lakers season isn't over yet - but it will no doubt take some Herculean efforts by big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to KO the favored San Ant Spurs here.

Okay, so the "oldish" Spurs are a bit banged up and thus the rather bizarre signing this week of Tracy McGrady but one thing to be sure about is San Antonio PG Tony Parker (20.3 ppg and 7.6 assists per game) will go right at the Lakers here and so that means oft-injured Steve Nash could be spending lots of time backpedaling or perhaps Steve Blake will be getting trampled by Parker who has made a personal history of obliterating LA defenders.

No doubt the Spurs' defense - one that holds opponents slightly below 97 points a game - is key here as even without Kobe Bryant the Lakers have some legitimate scoring threats - how to defuse them and keep Howard, Gasol and others shooting under 40 percent is the key.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-13 San Antonio - 1 LAKERS 84-82
1-9 SAN ANTONIO - 13.5 Lakers 108-105
4-14 LAKERS + 3 San Antonio 91-88


#8 HOUSTON (45-37) at #1 OKLAHOMA CITY (60-22) - Game #1 is at 9:30 p.m. ET
You might recall the one-and-only time that the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in head-to-head action this year, Rockets G James Harden poured in 46 points - now can the former celebrated Thunder star come up that huge more than a couple of times here in this best-of-seven set?

Okay, so that seems unlikely especially when you consider Scott Brooks' OKC team will be "battening down the hatches" regarding Harden in this series and so Houston's only real shot at pulling the shocker here is to get Okie City PG Russell Westbrook (23.2 ppg and 7.4 apg) out of his game and than make sure there's a hand in the face of star scorer Kevin Durant (28.1 ppg) more often than not.

One key for Oklahoma City besides the big two of Durant and Westbrook is what will G Kevin Martin contribute?

If his threes are falling - and Martin shot the long ball at a wicked 42.6 percent this year - than this series could be over faster than you can say "Fear the Beard"!

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-28 OKLAHOMA CITY - 10.5 Houston 120-98
12-29 Oklahoma City - 4 HOUSTON 124-94
2-20 HOUSTON + 3 Oklahoma City 122-119

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 NFL DRAFT - THE TOP OFFENSIVE TACKLES

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 Offensive Tackles. Next up are the Quarterbacks and than on Wednesday we'll bring you our NFL Mock Draft:

LUKE JOECKEL, OT, TEXAS A&M - Interestingly enough, most of the mock draft boards out there believe that an offensive tackle will be the numero uno pick in this year's draft but we'll say the Kansas City Chiefs will land this 6-foot-6, 307-pound stud who protected Heisman Trophy-winning QB Johnny Manziel last year. Note that Joeckel snagged the coveted Outland Trophy last year as a junior as his college career was top-notch as he started all 37 games at left tackle. The pro scouts love his fundamentals and his ability to immediately pick up blitzes and has been favorably compared to perennial Pro Bowl OT Joe Thomas (Cleveland Browns). P.S., if Joeckel happens to drop it won't be far!

ERIC FISHER, OT, CENTRAL MICHIGAN - The other player that's been getting talked up as a potential #1 overall draftee, this behemoth 6-foot-8, 305-pounder from Rochester (MI) generally is considered one of the three-best players in this draft and so if he's not the Chiefs' choice at #1 than expect him to go next to #2 Jacksonville or #3 Oakland. One thing about Fisher is that he has great coordination for a man with his size and he has a nasty streak - something that Joeckel's critics claim he needs to develop. Did show some weakness during the Senior Bowl practices as Fisher was bowled over a few times but he appears headed for one of those prototypical 12-to-15-year careers at left tackle. We say he's wearing silver-and-black on Draft Night.

LANE JOHNSON, OT, OKLAHOMA - One-time Sooners tight end and defensive lineman, he played right tackle in 2011 and left tackle last year and so some NFL teams believe he's not completely polished even though many draft boards list him as one of the five-best overall prospects in this draft. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Johnson has quick feet and long arms and merely overpowers most blockers but he's also been deemed a bit too "mechanical" at times and so it would help him immensely if a club with a great offensive line coach selected him. Maybe shocks some and winds up with the Raiders - and their new OL coach Tony Sparano - but odds are he'll be landing in the laps of the San Diego Chargers at #11.
 
D.J. FLUKER, OT, ALABAMA - The Foley (AL) native recently weighed in at 334 pounds and that was reportedly 10 pounds less than what he played at for the Crimson Tide in their BCS Championship Game win against Notre Dame. Note that the 6-foot-5 Fluker is an overpowering run blocker that appears destined to play the less glamorous right tackle position in the NFL and thus his draft stock might drop towards the lower third of Round I even though draft boards have him clearly as the fourth-best OT in this draft. Okay, so we've seen him mentioned as possibility for the New York Giants at pick #19 but we'll say he probably drops to the low 20s and that means Cincinnati at #21 or maybe even a tad lower.

MENELIK WATSON, OT, FLORIDA STATE - Another top 25 draft prospect who figures to get announced in the draft's first round, this 6-foot-5, 315-pound English native is rather raw but has all the feel of a future star and note he is terrific as a downfield blocker once he gets off the line of scrimmage. The Florida State coaches pleaded with Watson to stay put for another year of seasoning but he elected to go pro and now will be one of the bottom five or six picks in this first round ... perhaps the Houston Texans at #127.

NOTE: More NFL Draft coverage and NBA Playoffs News & Notes in the next Jim Sez.

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