Sunday NBA Playoff Previews + Baseball Weekend Report

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By Jim Hurley

The NBA Playoffs rock-n-roll on this April weekend with the start of Four (4) more post-season series Sunday, so let’s get right to ‘em:

EASTERN CONFERENCE —

#7 CHARLOTTE (43-39) vs. #2 MIAMI (54-28) — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
News flash …

The Miami Heat’s the far-and-away biggest first-round betting favorite in this year’s NBA Playoffs — the guys/gals in sunny Las Vegas have the Heat as close to 20-to-1 favs here — and so naturally the question that seemingly begs to be asked is whether or not the Bobcats can get at least one win in this best-of-seven set?

We all know that Charlotte was the team that took it on the chin by LeBron James back on March 3rd in South Beach when “The King” poured in a season-high 61 points en route to a resounding 17-point victory (see accompanying chart below), and so you do have to wonder if Charlotte has any answers for slowing down the league’s four-time MVP winner.

Just in case you needed a refresher course, James finished the regular-season grind averaging 27.1 points per game, 6.9 rebounds-per-game and 6.4 assists per outing with numbers that figure to give him second place to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in this year’s MVP race.

Meanwhile, with all the talk that Charlotte big man Al Jefferson (21.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg) will do as he pleases here, the talk in/around Miami is that the Heat will pressure the Bobcats’ ball-handlers and not allow “Big Al” so many touches … we’ll see.

What we do know is that Charlotte G Kemba Walker really had trouble getting comfortable in his regular-season game against Atlanta last Monday after sitting out some time with a groin injury but Walker did register 22 points and 8 assists in Wednesday’s 91-86 overtime win against 1 ½-point pup Chicago and so let’s see if he’s good to go against the heavy-duty chalk-eaters from Miami.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-16 Miami -8½ CHARLOTTE 97-81
12-1 MIAMI -11½ Charlotte 99-98
1-18 Miami -6½ CHARLOTTE 104-96 (ot)
3-3 MIAMI -11½ Charlotte 124-107

#5 WASHINGTON (44-38) at #4 CHICAGO (48-34) — 7:05 p.m. ET, TNT
Interesting to note that the Chicago Bulls are a solid 2-to-1 betting favorite for this best-of-seven series even though it was Washington that banged out two-of-three winners in their regular-season hoedowns.

Note that Washington — which sports five different double-digit scorers including speedy PG John Wall (19.3 ppg) and super two-guard Bradley Beal (17.1 ppg) — did see its whole offensive attack ground to a halt in that final regular-season meeting versus the Bulls when the D.C. crew scored just 78 points and shot a wobbly 39.5 percent from the floor (that’s 34-of-86 FG makes) and for Randy Wittman’s crew to stand a chance of stealing this series, then Wall, Beal and mates must get to the rim (and the free-throw line) often and do everything in their collective power to negate the board-banging ways of Chicago’s Joakim Noah, who had 21 points and 12 rebs in that aforementioned Bulls’ blowout win earlier this month.

Noah averages 11.2 rebounds per game and it’s his penchant for getting his teammates “second-chance points” that really can have a devastating effect on the opponent and so Marcin Gortat is a major key here for Washington (he averages a solid 9.5 rebs a game).

Tell us who wins the board battles and we’ll tell you who wins these Wizards-Bulls bashes … hey, Washington absolutely has to get one of these games in Chitown to start the series because the Bulls are road-tested tough come playoff time.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
1-13  Washington  + 2 CHICAGO 102-88
1-17 WASHINGTON - 5 Chicago 96-93
4-5 Chicago + 2 WASHINGTON 96-78

Now hear this …

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers/Bloggers are all geared up for the NBA Playoffs that tip off this weekend — just go online right here at www.jimhurley.com or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 each/every day during these NBA Playoffs and we’ll send you straight into the winner’s circle or sign up now for the entire NBA Playoffs.

Plus, remember there’s Major-League Baseball on tap every day and so the time is just right to cash in big this spring as the NBA Playoffs and Baseball pounds out major profits!

WESTERN CONFERENCE

#8 DALLAS (49-33) at #1 SAN ANTONIO (62-20) — 1 p.m. ET, TNT
Just when you thought the San Antonio Spurs had shown you all their magic from this era, along came this remarkable 2013-14 regular season when Gregg Popovich’s squad won a league-best 62 games … and didn’t come close to “burning out” old stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

In fact, you can look it up:

Duncan played in 74 of the team’s 82 games this year; Parker played in 68 games; and Ginobili — who really was showing major wear-and-tear in last year’s NBA Finals — wound up playing in 68 games, and so “Pops” has ‘em all fresh for a new playoff run.

No doubt last year’s NBA Finals — not Popovich’s finest hour as we’ve said before — was a bitter pill to swallow in that seven-game series loss to Miami, but there appears to be a new awakening for this team with Duncan (15.1 ppg), Parker (team-leading 16.7 ppg) and Ginobili (12.3 ppg) all “getting their numbers”, but so much of this season was about new/rising stars such as G Patty Mills and F Kawhi Leonard, and it’s not likely the heavy-duty dog Mavericks have the bodies or the talent to stay close here.

As you can see by our accompanying chart, San Antonio swept the four-game season’s series (the Spurs covered three of the four games and missed another cover by a half-point back on March 2nd) and about the only real shot Rick Carlisle’s club has here is to get the dynamic duo of Dirk Nowitzki/Monta Ellis (they combined to average nearly 41 ppg this year) hot at the same time and hope Vince Carter can nail some monster “threes”.

Watch how Popovich doles out the minutes to his so-called “big three” here — it will have a major bearing on how they perform come the next round (or two) in this post-season.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
12-26 San Antonio -3 DALLAS 116-107
1-8 SAN ANTONIO -11½ Dallas 99-98
3-2 SAN ANTONIO -6½ Dallas 112-106
4-10 San Antonio +2 DALLAS 109-100

#5 PORTLAND (54-28) at #4 HOUSTON (54-28) — 9:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
You keep hearin’ all this “sleeper” talk when it comes to these here-and-now Houston Rockets, but our simple-minded question is how is anyone a sleeper squad when it has C Dwight Howard (18.3 ppg and 12.2 rpg) and offensive machine James Harden (25.4 ppg) on its sides?

Plus, the good folks in Las Vegas agree with our premise here — at least for this round — as Kevin McHale’s Rockets are a resounding -220-to-$100 betting favorite for this clash and that seems a tad high considering these Western Conference clubs finished with identical won/loss records this past regular season.

Okay, we get it in terms of the “sleeper” talk as it pertains to winning the West where both San Antonio and Oklahoma City are prohibitive favorites over everyone else, but the problem the Rockets might have here is counting those proverbial chickens too fast — these Trail Blazers were the better road team (23 wins to Houston’s 21 road triumphs) this season and can’t hide the fact Portland charges into this post-season on a five-game winning streak and with nine wins in its last 10 games.

If head coach Terry Stotts can bank on anything here in this best-of-seven set, it’s that he’s gonna plenty of ammo to match Howard, Harden and mates as five Blazers average twin-figure amounts starring well-rested F LaMarcus Aldridge (23.2 ppg) who hopes to draw Howard out onto the perimeter while sinking jump shots (and thus negating Howard’s interior defense/rebounding).

If the Blazers have designs on snagging this series than the likes of Nicolas Batum (13 ppg) and Wesley Matthews (16.4 ppg) must have hot stretches and we believe this duo must shoot it above the 40 percent mark from downtown.

It’s time to find out if Portland’s “soft” … or for real.

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
11-5 Houston +2 PORTLAND 116-101
12-12 PORTLAND -2½ Houston 111-104
1-20 HOUSTON -2 Portland 126-113
3-9 HOUSTON -6½ Portland 118-113

THE BASEBALL WEEKEND REPORT

Let’s zip ‘round the diamond and get some Major-League Baseball thoughts out there on this holiday weekend:

The Tampa Bay Rays are just one of a handful of MLB teams that will be without a key starting pitcher because of Tommy John surgery as LHP Matt Moore is on the shelf till 2015, but the $64,000 question now is do the Rays have enough pitching to survive both that Moore injury and one to RHP Alex Cobb, who suffered an oblique strain and could wind up missing up to eight weeks.

Chuck into the mix the fact Joe Maddon’s club already was without righty Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) and suddenly this American League East team that was very much a vogue pick (and our "Jim Sez" pick to win the World Series this year) is running short on high-quality arms.

Maybe it’s too early to talk trades — you never see many swaps at this early stage of the season — but it could be that Tampa Bay inquires about the likes of Arizona’s RHP Brandon McCarthy, or maybe Chicago Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija sooner rather than later …

Finally, we know it’s early but did you really check out those numbers so far for Miami OF Giancarlo Stanton?

While heading into the weekend series against Seattle, the slugging Stanton already had five home runs, 21 runs batted in and sported a .597 slugging percentage.

Stanton’s struck out 20 times already this year — always a bugaboo for this oft-injured star — but MLB pitchers better learn quickly that in this hit-or-miss Marlins lineup you just don’t duel with Stanton. Hey, it wouldn’t surprise us if he finished with 40 dingers, 125 RBI and a .300 batting average — call ‘em MVP-like numbers should he get there.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez … have a great sports weekend!

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Aug

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