NBA Playoff Weekend Update
THE NBA PLAYOFFS WEEKEND UPDATE
HOPE YOU WEREN'T GEARING UP FOR A WHOLE BATCH OF GAME 7 TILTS 'CAUSE THERE'S ONLY ONE OF 'EM ON TAP AS THE BATTERED BULLS CHALLENGE THE NETS ...
PLUS WE PREVIEW CONFERENCE SEMI ACTION AS GRIZZLIES-THUNDER AND PACERS-KNICKS SERIES TIP THINGS OFF SUNDAY AFTERNOON
By Jim Hurley:
Let's get one thing straight here, ladies and gentlemen:
The good folks in the NBA offices on Park Avenue in New York City really were salivating at the thought that there would be a bevy of Game 7's to show you this weekend but - and by now you're well aware of it - all the teams leading three-games-to-two in their first-round series won on Friday night past and the fact is there wasn't even a whole lot of drama in those results as the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies won their Game 6 bashes by a per-game average of 9.5 points per game.
No buzzer beaters.
No sweaty palms in the last minute-or-so of any of the games.
The truth of the matter is the Game 6 winners on Friday night all went about their business in different ways - the Knicks, for example, charged out of the proverbial starting gate with a 21-5 lead in Boston and eventually dunked the Celtics despite a gallant second-half comeback try - while Oklahoma City absolutely surged past Houston in the mid-to-late stage of the third quarter and then never looked back while outclassing a not-so-classy bunch of Rockets.
Here's hoping that we don't have to watch that little pain-in-the-butt Patrick Beverley all that much longer in the years to come!
The reality of the situation is that the better teams all won their Game 6 battles and now you wonder which of these clubs will use that first-round triumph to catapult to bigger/better things this post-season. Maybe the Grizzlies will wind up getting to the NBA Finals. Maybe oft-overlooked Indiana - now that it finally won a game in Atlanta (after 13 straight losses there) - can make a major run this post-season.
Hey, we know that you will stay tuned - even though you get just one Game 7 in this opening round of play:
THE NBA PLAYOFFS
In the Eastern Conference tonight, it's ...
#5 CHICAGO at #4 BROOKLYN - Series tied 3-3
The NBA history books claim that only eight teams in playoff history have come back from being down three games-to-one to win a best-of-seven series but those same history books say nothing about the plight of the team that had the series lead here:
Right now the Chicago Bulls are a banged-up, sick team that merely would like to keep this Saturday night game at the Barclays Center close: No Derrick Rose (of course) but ill Luol Deng missed Game 6 with flu-like symptoms and defensive-minded G Kirk Hinrich sat out with a calf injury plus there's an array of other players sick and with the chills (see Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson) and so you wonder what's the best plan of attack here for Tom Thibodeau's team that is keeping fingers crossed that a blood-and-guts effort will be enough this evening.
Even if Robinson (18 points in Game 6) and steady Jimmy Butler (17 points in Game 6) can chip in 35-to-40 points between 'em here, the Bulls need big man Joakim Noah to convert on some of those in-close gimmes plus it may take a 20-20 game from foul-prone Carlos Boozer just to give the Bulls a fighting chance.
On the menu for the heavy-duty favored Nets, it would behoove P.J. Carlesimo's crew to shoot it better from the charity stripe - the Nets missed 11-of-33 FTs in Game 6 and thereby allowed a gritty Bulls bunch to hang around plus PG Deron Williams (17 points and 11 assists in Game 6) must take it to the tin more and not be afraid of contact. If Williams is scooting to the hole, than Noah/Boozer will help out on "D" and Nets big men Brook Lopez and/or Andray Blatche will get their fair share of easy in-the-paint hoops.
Want an X-factor that could doom Brooklyn here?
If a bench that neatly contributed 27 points in the Game 6 win fails to make a mark here, than we might just have a sweaty palms finish in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn.
Here's the game-by-game look of Bulls-Nets this season and note all home teams are in CAPS:
|4-27||CHICAGO||- 2.5||Brooklyn||142-134 (3ot)|
On Sunday, it's ...
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS -
#5 MEMPHIS at #1 OKLAHOMA CITY - Game 1 at 1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Okay, so who gets hurt worse here with the ridiculous short time between series (keep in mind both Okie City and Memphis wrapped up their first-round sets after midnight ET on Friday night and here they are squaring off in a series opener some 36 hours later!)?
The knee-jerk reaction is to believe that the Thunder probably would have welcomed an extra day or two rest here as Scott Brooks' club continues to solider on without mega-star PG Russell Westbrook (one of the NBA's top five players this year no matter what the MVP balloting says!) but at least OKC discovered that Kevin Durant doesn't have to do everything on his own as his game-high 27 points on Friday night was neatly supplemented by key reserve Kevin Martin's 25-point outing and let's not forget veteran G Derek Fisher who registered 11 key points in Game 6 - yes, we told you Fisher would have to be a factor for the Thunder to advance and he was clutch with some momentum-turning jump shots.
Memphis, meanwhile, won its last four in a row in beating back the over-hyped Los Angeles Clippers four games-to-two and right now Lionel Hollins club has major momentum - to say nothing of a team that these days is playing with a bit of an edge as evidenced by the Zach Randolph scrapes with Blake Griffin (guess those fellas really don't like one another, after all!). If Randolph (23 points in Game 6 versus the Clips) and fellow in-the-paint monster Marc Gasol bring their lunch pails here than they can strike the first blow in this series but can anyone expect the Grizz to shot it better than 50 percent from the floor after Memphis canned 36-of-71 field-goal tries the other night?
Hey, keep a close eye on Memphis reserve G Jerryd Bayless (18 points in Game 6) as he is a have-no-fear player who could help Memphis steal a game or two in this series. Just sayin'!
Here's the regular-season meetings between the Grizzlies versus the Thunder and note all home teams are in CAPS:
|11-14||Memphis||+ 6||OKLAHOMA CITY||107-97|
|1-31||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 10||Memphis||106-89|
|3-20||MEMPHIS||- 1||Oklahoma City||90-89 (ot)|
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
#3 INDIANA at #2 NEW YORK - Game 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Maybe the best thing about the start of this series is that neither the New York Knicks nor the Indiana Pacers have to hear any more negative comments regarding their first-round play:
Only all of Gotham City was in an uproar after the Knicks dropped back-to-back games to Boston after charging out to a three games-to-none series lead and, boy, the Indiana Pacers were getting mocked for their general inability to put away the Atlanta Hawks before Friday's muscle-flexing 81-73 road win.
The best thing about the Pacers' first-round series triumph was that their perimeter defense was terrific as the Hawks managed to connect on a mere 3-of-19 trifectas in Game 6 and - as any true NBA fan knows - this 2012-13 edition of the Knicks lives and dies by their three-point shooting. The fact that Indy got in Kyle Korver's grill all throughout that Game 6 win - Korver finished that tilt 0-for-7 from beyond the arc - means New York shouldn't put all its proverbial eggs in the basket of three-point bombers Carmelo Anthony and/or J.R. Smith.
Hey, if you needed to be fed a stat line regarding Mike Woodson's NYK team than note the aforementioned Anthony missed 19 consecutive three-point shots before drilling a key triple late in Friday's 88-80 win and such downtown droughts here could well derail Knick plans to go head-to-head with the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference championship in a couple of weeks from now.
If the Pacers are gonna win this series - and it sure has six or seven games written all over it, right? - than David West and Paul George (21 points apiece against Atlanta in Game 6) must stay aggressive and get right to the rack while looking to create fouls on Knicks big man Tyson Chandler. On the flip side, New York must continue to get solid play from new star Iman Shumpert (17 points, 6 rebs and more great defense in Game 6 against the Celtics) as he's right now blossoming into one of the most important players this post-season.
Here's the regular-season meetings between the Pacers vs. the Knicks. Again, home teams in CAPS:
|11-18||NEW YORK||- 7||Indiana||88-76|
|1-10||INDIANA||- 5||New York||81-76|
|2-20||INDIANA||- 3.5||New York||125-91|
|4-14||NEW YORK||- 3.5||Indiana||90-80|
NBA PLAYOFFS POINTSPREAD CHART
(thru Friday, May 3)
Editor's Note: We head into Game 7 of Bulls-Nets with NBA Playoff Betting Favorites standing tall at 25-19 ATS (against the spread) so far for a .568 winning rate. Note that in Friday's quartet of Game 7 tilts, three-of-four chalk-eaters won/covered including 2 ½-point favorite New York over Boston 88-80; 1-point road fav Oklahoma City over Houston 103-94; and 6 ½-point home favorite Memphis blasting the Los Angeles Clippers 118-105. The lone dog win: Indiana's 81-73 triumph at 1-point favorite Atlanta.
NOTE: More NBA Playoff coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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