Coference Finals Report - Those Hot Halos

THE NBA CONFERENCE FINALS REPORT

  • WILL THE PACERS PLAY WITH ANY FIGHT/FIRE IN TUESDAY'S GAME 4 OR IS THE ROAD-LOVING HEAT READY TO PUT THE HAMMER DOWN ON THIS SERIES? ...

  • PLUS OUR WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS QUESTION: IS IT TIME FOR "LAST RITES" FOR THE GRIZZ? ...

  • A MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND EDITION OF BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: WE CHECK OUT THE RED-HOT HALOS

By Jim Hurley:

Maybe the Miami Heat do prefer playing on the road. So far in this year's NBA Playoffs, the defending champions have chewed-up and spit-out their opponents in the other guys' backyards ... check it out in chart form here (with the losing home teams in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-25 Miami - 7 MILWAUKEE 104-91
4-28 Miami - 9 MILWAUKEE 88-77
5-10 Miami - 8.5 CHICAGO 104-94
5-13 Miami - 8 CHICAGO 88-65
5-26 Miami - 2 INDIANA 114-96

Folks, Sunday night's resounding Game 3 win at Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals marked the fifth consecutive double-digit road triumph in this post-season for Erik Spoelstra's squad - note that Miami has won these five playoff road games by a per-game scoring margin of 12.4 points a game and yet the all-knowing Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Heat a mere 2-point betting favorite for this latest game - and so you do have to wonder if this is put-the-hammer-down time in Game 4 come Tuesday night, right?

After all, you can dissect this latest Miami win backward and forward and come up with the notion that this was the Heat's most complete game of the whole post-season:

Consider that Miami allowed Indiana to score 30 first-half points and than - after a little sideline chat between quarters one and two from Mr.Spoelstra - held the Pacers to just 66 points the rest of the way.

Afterwards, the quotes from both sides pretty much mirrored one another - Indiana players complained that Miami got "too comfortable" in its offensive sets and one or two Miami players were heard to utter into the TNT microphones that they became "comfortable" with their shots.

No doubt TNT analyst Charles Barkley made a valid point when he said the opening few minutes of Game 3 was key because Miami's LeBron James backed down defender Paul George with a succession of dribbles and than - often - beat 'em easily with in-close shots (three lefty bank shots, among the carnage) en route to a solid if unspectacular 22-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist game for James.

It was an all-hands-on-deck affair for the Heat as all five starters registered double-digit scoring marks - yes, veteran power forward Udonis Haslem was mega-important with his 17 points on 8-of-9 field-goal shooting - while the Pacers' much-hyped defensive stars simply got run over as Miami shot a sizzling 54.5 percent from the floor (that's 42-of-77) but somehow it only felt as if the Heat only missed just a handful of shots for the whole game.

NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - Game 4 is Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
#1 MIAMI at #3 INDIANA - Heat leads series 2-1

Okay, so now that "The King" has showed his trump card of playing effective low-post offense against Indiana, how does Frank Vogel's team counter?

One thing you can fully expect from the Pacers here is instant double-teams when James does put his mitts on the ball in the low box - why Vogel insisted on not giving the aforementioned George any real help after those first couple of possessions is beyond us but expect more zone-type looks here from Indiana.

Naturally, that will turn James into more of a passer - as we mentioned he sported only three assists in Game 3 but didn't commit a single turnover (after committing those two costly turnovers in the final minute of Game 2) - and so this Game 4 bash likely will hinge greatly on whether or not the likes of lefty Chris Bosh (15 points in Game 3 on 6-of-10 FG shooting) and PG Mario Chalmers (14 big points in Game 3) can drill those 15-foot standstill jumpers. If they're going down - and if Dwyane Wade can make some noise as a "cutter" to the hoop, than the Heat's road magic should continue this post-season.

The $64,000 question we asked on our Jim Sez headline is will the Pacers play with any fight or fire here?

It shocked us that Indiana was so darn passive in Game 3 - the Pacers collected only one steal for the whole game (Miami's five turnovers was a playoff-low for this organization) and TNT's post-game video highlights included Vogel asking his guys for "more deflections" and yet there was little interference against Miami save for an occasional David West elbow or Roy Hibbert forearm.

Hey, forget their particular stats in Game 3 - West and Hibbert combined for 41 points but never did you ever get the sense from mid-second quarter on that the Heat was in any real trouble here.

A Pacers club that's thrived when playing emotional, blood-and-guts basketball this post-season in series wins against Atlanta and New York now is being called a bit "soft" here in the post-Game 3 comments of this best-of-seven series and that should jackhammer up the intensity level at "The Fieldhouse" come Tuesday night.

Question is will even Indy's best shot be good enough for a Heat team that just doesn't lose on the road.

Here's how the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals Series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

5-22

MIAMI

- 8.5

Indiana

103-102 (ot)

5-24

Indiana

+ 7.5

MIAMI

97-93

5-26

Miami

- 2

INDIANA

114-96

NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS - Game 4 is tonight (Monday) at 9 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC
#2 SAN ANTONIO at #5 MEMPHIS - Spurs lead series 3-0

Perhaps you noticed that the Spurs' 104-93 overtime win in Game 3 the other night marked the first time this post-season that an NBA road team had won in OT (after originally going 0-7) but - better yet - San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili called it "one of the best wins I've witnessed being a Spur" ... and that's saying something.

Forget for a moment that Gregg Popovich's crew overcame an 18-point first-quarter deficit or that the Spurs finished with a resounding 58 points in the paint and consider that San Ant drained 8-of-10 FGs in the overtime session and "old man" Tim Duncan was the major headliner in that frame en route to a 24-point, 10-rebound performance.

Now, the Spurs smell blood - maybe you saw the ESPN graphic the other night that showed the Spurs never allow a series beyond five games when holding a three games-to-none advantage in the Popovich Era and usually sweep a foe once they're cooked - and so it could be "last rites" time for a Memphis team that is wondering what has gone wrong here in a series in which the Grizzlies have lost Games 2 and 3 in overtime and Lionel Hollins' crew didn't have a true go-to guy in a couple of instances this round including at the end of regulation in Game 3 when a running right-handed shot by G Mike Conley was tipped away by Tiago Splitter.

Think Rudy Gay was missed right about there?

Here's how the Spurs-Grizzlies Western Conference Finals Series has gone so far (note home teams are in CAPS):

DATE

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

5-19

SAN ANTONIO

- 4.5

Memphis

105-83

5-21

SAN ANTONIO

- 5.5

Memphis

93-89 (ot)

5-25

San Antonio

+ 5

MEMPHIS

104-93 (ot)

NBA PLAYOFFS POINTSPREAD CHART
(thru Sunday, May 26 - conference final round teams only)

TEAM W L P PCT
Memphis 11 3 0 .786
San Antonio 9 4 0 .692
Indiana 10 5 0 .667
Miami 7 5 0 .583

HOLIDAY EDITION OF MLB NEWS/NOTES - THE ANGELS HAVE A HEAVENLY WEEK (AND IT MIGHT BE GETTING EVEN BETTER!)

Are the Los Angeles Angels now officially "back in business"?

The American League West team - hotter than most of the country this Memorial Day Weekend - comes off a four-game weekend series sweep in Kansas City (despite some awful umpiring that went against the Halos) and now LAA enters this week's home-and-home "Freeway Series" with the hated Los Angeles Dodgers having won eight in a row

Toss into the mix the fact that RHP Jered Weaver will return for Wednesday's game.

Last year's AL Cy Young runner-up has been on the DL since April 8th after he broke his left arm in his second start of the year (a 7-3 loss in Texas on April 7th) and now you take a sneak peek at the standings - as everyone likes to do for the first "official time" on Memorial Day - and you see the Halos are still below .500 (23-27) but dare we say just 4 ½ games back of Cleveland and Oakland for that second AL Wild Card spot. Just sayin'!

The flip side is this: The Angels enter the Monday holiday with baseball's longest current winning streak and yet nine AL teams still have more wins than Mike Scioscia's club. Hey, you gotta start somewhere!

NOTE: Catch more NBA Conference Finals News & Notes plus MLB Updates too all this week right here at Jim Sez!

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