NBA Playoff Update: 2 Down & 2 To Go

HERE'S THE LATEST NBA PLAYOFF UPDATE

THE HEAT MOVES ON TO THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS AFTER TUG-OF-WAR GAME 5 WIN AGAINST CHICAGO, WHILE MEMPHIS ADVANCES IN THE WEST WITH HANG-ON-FOR-DEAR-LIFE WIN AT OKC ...

PLUS WE PREVIEW TONIGHT'S NBA PLAYOFF TILTS IN NYC AND G-STATE ...

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: THE NOT-SO-PHANTASTIC PHILLIES

By Jim Hurley:

Two down, two to go.

One night after the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder were officially kayoed from this year's NBA Playoffs, we're on the verge of possibly watching two other playoff teams have their seasons end as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors look to hold off "fishin' season" signs for at least another couple of days.

Here's what is on tonight's menu and what happened last night and note we head into this evening's play with the following spread factoid:

NBA Playoff Betting Favorites are now 34-30 ATS (against the spread) this post-season for a .531 winning rate (yes, both underdogs covered last night's games).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Tonight, it's ...
#3 INDIANA at #2 NEW YORK- Pacers lead series 3-1
There has been a real hue-and-cry in the "Big Apple" regarding the play of Carmelo Anthony who didn't exactly shine in either Game 3 or Game 4 in Indianapolis but one part of Anthony's game that has to change here is this: The Knicks' top scorer (24 points on 9-of-23 FG shooting in Game 4's never-in-doubt loss) must get to the free-throw line more (4-of-5 in Game 4) and he must be quicker with his decisions- only one assist in Game 4 while getting double-teamed once he put his mitts on the ball?

Toss into the mix the fact that the Knicks- a live-or-die team regarding three-point shooting- really bagged only three or four triples while in the so-called body of the game the other night (they finished 8-of-28 from beyond the arc) and that's gotta change if Spike Lee's favorite ballers are gonna extend this to a Game 6 come Saturday night in Nap City.

What's on the to-do list for the athletic Pacers?

Well, underrated head coach Frank Vogel must stress that wonderful perimeter defense- both Paul George and George Hill have been splendid at stopping Knicks from hurling up long balls- and the Pacers must get more fiery moments from reserves Tyler Hansbrough and friends. No doubt the Knicks have been unnerved at times by the oft-frenetic play of Indiana's bench this series as they've stepped it up from the opening-round, six-game series victory versus Atlanta.

Finally, the Pacers- a 5-point underdog at press time here- needs veteran F David West to keep banging the boards (10 rebs in Game 4) while also playing critical in-the-paint defense. If West can chip in 15-or-more points here, it could be the secret formula to help sink the Knicks once and for all.

Here's how the Pacers-Knicks series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

5-5

Indiana

+ 5.5

NEW YORK

102-95

5-7

NEW YORK

- 6

Indiana

105-79

5-11

INDIANA

- 5

New York

82-71

5-14

INDIANA

- 5

New York

93-82

#1 MIAMI 94, #5 CHICAGO 91- Heat wins series 4-1
Yes, the short-handed Bulls played gritty and gutty and all that but when push came to shove in Miami's series-clinching win on Wednesday night it was a 45-second (or so) sequence starring well-wrapped Dwyane Wade that made the difference plus a Miami bench that registered 15 of the team's 25 points in the fourth quarter.

The Heat- which entered the final frame down 77-69- responded like true champs with four-time MVP LeBron James the centerpiece again with his 23-point performance but why did Erik Spoelstra's squad take its foot off the gas pedal after charging out to a 22-4 lead?

So, Miami is now 6-0 SU (straight-up) in potential closeout games the past couple of years and James, Wade and mates will get a few days off awaiting the conclusion of Knicks-Pacers and something tells us Spoelstra is gonna be spending some time figuring out how to get even more minutes for red-hot reserve G Norris Cole.

Hey, that flat-topped dude could be a real key in the upcoming Eastern Conference Finals- especially if he's getting 20-plus minutes of "run" each game.

Here's the game-by-game re-cap of the just-completed Bulls-Heat series (note home teams in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
5-6 Chicago + 13 MIAMI 93-86
5-8 MIAMI - 12.5 Chicago 115-78
5-10 Miami - 8.5 CHICAGO 104-94
5-13 Miami - 8 CHICAGO 88-65
5-15 MIAMI - 14 Chicago 94-91


Take note ... Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to bash the Las Vegas books with this year's NBA Playoffs (on a 9-3 run!) and there's lots more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead this 2013 post-season plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too -- so go ahead and sign up today and get it all as that's NBA and MLB winnin' action each and every day! 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

Tonight, it's ...
#2 SAN ANTONIO at #6 GOLDEN STATE- Spurs lead series 3-2
No question this has been the best conference semifinal playoff series of 'em all with both the Spurs and Warriors winning once on the other team's court although there remains a very good chance Golden State will rue the day it let Game 1 slip away in twin OTs at San Antonio- now that's one of the real haunting losses for any NBA team in this here-and-now post-season.

Still, that was some 10 days ago and so now Mark Jackson's youthful-if-tired Warriors must summon up the strength to even this set and there are no real magic formulas: The starting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson- a combined 6-of-22 from the floor in that 109-91 loss in Game 5 this past Tuesday night- have to not only come out firing here but "Preacher" Jackson has to get big man Andrew Bogut in Tim Duncan's grill and make him work harder for his points. It appears Duncan is being allowed way too much space to operate and his pick-n-roll options with G Tony Parker continue to crush a Warriors club that's a step slow on defense.

Let's pay special attention tonight to San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich and how he handles the Curry/Thompson backcourt here:

Does "Pop" sic Kawhi Leonard and/or long-armed Danny Green on these shooters for most of the game's 48 minutes or will he rotate fresh bodies and even try some zone defense too?

The Warriors better remember to get back on "D" as San Ant's beating 'em up the court after missed long jumpers- so don't say you haven't been warned!

Here's how the Spurs-Warriors series has gone so far (and note home teams are in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
5-6 SAN ANTONIO - 9 Golden State 129-127 (2ot)
5-8 Golden State + 7.5 SAN ANTONIO 100-91
5-10 San Antonio + 2.5 GOLDEN STATE 102-92
5-12 GOLDEN STATE + 2 San Antonio 97-87 (ot)
5-14 SAN ANTONIO - 7 Golden State 109-91

Last night, it was ...
#5 MEMPHIS 88, #1 OKLAHOMA CITY 84 -- Grizzlies win series 4-1
Now that we've discovered that getting behind one game-to-none or even two games-to-none seemingly does not bother this here-and-now Memphis Grizzlies team, it's safe to say Lionel Hollins' crew heads into the upcoming Western Conference Finals with mucho momentum and a whole lotta confidence.

The series-clinching win against Oklahoma City was- let's face it- aided and abetted by a rotten shooting night by OKC's Kevin Durant (5-of-21 from the floor) who forced more off-balance shots that anyone should be allowed to take but "hats off" to the Grizzlies for sticking to the game plan:

Feed big men Zack Randolph (28 points and 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (10 big points and 7 boards) enough to keep 'em happy and allow PG Mike Conley, defensive specialist Tony Allen and a high-quality if underrated group of reserves the freedom to turn the open floor into their playground whether it's offense or defense they're concentrating on plus kudos to the Grizzlies for tiring out Durant game-after-game.

Just when the Thunder made its valiant late-game run- Okie City chopped a 12-point deficit to two points before a Durant jumper misfired badly with six seconds left- the Grizzlies didn't allow for an offensive putback and Allen iced matters with a pair of free throws that sealed the Thunder's fate without mega-valuable PG Russell Westbrook.

One final note here: Count us among the folks who aren't really big Scott Brooks fans as the Okie City boss-man did a lousy preparation job here- why was the desperate home team down a dozen points at the half?- and his late-game moves all throughout this five-game set were awful. Just sayin'!

Here's the game-by-game re-cap of the just-completed Grizzlies-Thunder series (home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

5-5

OKLAHOMA CITY

- 3.5

Memphis

93-91

5-7

Memphis

+ 3

OKLAHOMA CITY

99-93

5-11

MEMPHIS

- 5

Oklahoma City

87-81

5-13

MEMPHIS

- 5

Oklahoma City

103-97 (ot)

5-15

Memphis

+ 4.5

OKLAHOMA CITY

88-84


BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES- ARE THE PHILLIES PHINISHED ALREADY?

It's a funny thing.

When the annual Major-League Baseball wins totals were released this past spring, one team's number really grabbed our attention:

There were the Philadelphia Phillies at just 85 ½ wins- or a barely-better-than-.500 squad. Okay, so last year's injury-wracked Phillies finished 81-81 but the general feel in/around Baseball was that LHP Cliff Lee would win his first game before July 4th (see 2012) and the lineup would crank out plenty of runs, especially in tiny Citizens Bank Park.

So, it almost seemed a trap- the Phils would have to exceed 85 ½ wins this year, right?

Not so fast, my friends!

Following Wednesday's matinee tilt- a dispiriting 10-4 home loss to the Cleveland Indians- the Phillies stood at 19-22 with LHP Cole Hamels falling to 1-6 in his starts (and with Philadelphia 1-7 overall in Hamels' first eight starts this year).

Don't look now but Charlie Manuel's team is 9-11 at home and 10-11 away while ranking 10th in the National League in runs scored, 8th in the league in home runs and 10th in team ERA- plus keep in mind only the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff has surrendered more dingers so far this 2013 season than the Phillies' pitching staff.

And- even with that season-starting suspension- who would ever have believed that C Carlos Ruiz would finally get his first RBI this year?

Maybe those brainiacs who come up with the MLB won/loss figures know a little more than folks were giving 'em credit for back in March, right?

NOTE: More NBA Playoff goodies in the next Jim Sez.

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