Wednesday NBA Playoff Previews + Baseball Report



By Jim Hurley

There’s more NBA Playoff Game 2’s straight ahead on this Wednesday night and so let’s get you some previews from Miami, San Antonio and Houston:


Okay, so there were not many folks — in the very first place — that believed the Charlotte Bobcats could win this best-of-seven series and you might have seen where Las Vegas listed the back-to-back defending champion Miami Heat as a 25-to-1 betting favorite here, but let’s make one thing perfectly clear:

If Charlotte center Al Jefferson — one of the NBA’s top six or seven overall players this past 2013-14 regular season — isn’t full-speed ahead here for this Game 2, then the ‘Cats are really cooked!

Jefferson received two pain-killer injections in his injured foot in the first half of Sunday’s 99-88 win/cover by 10-point home favorite Miami — he claimed afterwards he heard something “pop” — and no doubt his 18 points and 10 rebounds made for a respectable stat line, but the truth is Jefferson wasn’t much of a factor in the second half when the Heat was putting Game 1 on ice.

Throw in the fact Charlotte committed 13 turnovers — Miami only turned the ball over seven times with PG Mario Chalmers not committing a single turnover in 25 minutes of play — and you can see how the Heat kept the Bobcats at arm’s length for the most part in last Sunday afternoon’s Game 1.

If Miami would like to step on Charlotte’s throats here with a big-time win, then might we suggest a few more shots from LeBron James, who nailed 8-of-16 FG tries en route to a 27-point, 9-rebound performance, but anyone that watched this playoff opener knows the real key to victory was Miami reserve F James Jones, who canned 4-of-6 FG attempts for 12 points in 14 minutes as he sparked a late second-quarter rally that separated things from a one-point Miami lead to 47-36 faster than you could say Pat Riley!

Hey, Big Al, you comin’ to play?

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Here’s the strange-but-true fact about the Spurs’ 90-85 non-cover win against 9-point road underdog Dallas in Game 1 back on Easter Sunday:

The Mavericks actually held an 81-71 lead with 7:45 remaining in the fourth quarter following a Brandan Wright old-fashioned three-point play, but then the tank ran dry for Dallas.

In all, the Mavs went scoreless for some 5 ½ minutes and they banged home their only field-goal during this time with a mere second left on the clock.

Yes, part of it was San Antonio dialed up the defensive heat — overall Dallas shot just 35-of-85 from the floor (41.2 percent) and star reserve G Devin Harris (19 points in 32 minutes) disappeared down the stretch and part of it was Gregg Popovich’s crew just let its star G Tony Parker take over the show.

Parker’s numbers — 21 points, 6 assists and just 1 turnover — were solid stuff but his spinning moves to the hoop not only resulted in a bunch of baskets but seemed to demoralize the Mavericks as well. Parker wound up the do-everything guy when San Antonio’s bench — save for veteran Manu Ginobili (17 points and 6 rebs) really didn’t kick in much help as other than Ginobili the SA reserves drained just 3-of-16 field-goal tries and we truly believe the likes of Boris Diaw and Patty Mills must step up here and help Parker/Tim Duncan (27 points) and the aforementioned Ginobili … or else this series could get deadlocked especially when you consider Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis each shot just 4-of-14 from the floor and neither seemed to have a whole lot of giddy-up in their games.

You’d have to think Nowitzki and Ellis will be bigger factors here, right?  

Count us among the folks that believed the series price here — Houston entered this best-of-seven set as the — 210-to-$100 betting favorites — was a tad out of whack when you consider both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Rockets finished the regular season with identical 54-28 records.

Okay, so no one here is saying this series is “over” just ‘cause the Blazers escaped Game 1 with a 122-120 overtime win in H-Town last Sunday night but the fact of the matter is not a whole lot separates these two crews that were seeded #4 and #5 in these Western Conference Playoffs and yet the Rockets were a better-than-two-to-one choice? Hmmm.

No doubt if the Rockets are gonna “get even” in this series than the following absolutely must happen here in Game 2:

Houston — which finished the regular season at 33-8 SU (straight-up) at home — must get the red-clad crowd into an early-game frenzy and may we suggest more screens/picks for lefty G James Harden, so he might get off a bunch of early-game shots.

Harden wound up Game 1 shooting an ugly 8-of-28 from the field en route to scoring 27 points but rarely did he get off any “easy shots” as the defensive in-his-face pressure was at times quite intense;

Secondly, the Rockets — should they perhaps be without G Patrick Beverley (knee/check status) — need an energizer type here and while G Jeremy Lin made some daring scoop-shot hoops en route to a nice 14-point showing in Game 1, look for G Francisco Garcia to get some extra minutes but he’s gotta hit those three-point shots (the former Louisville star missed all three of his triples in Game 1);

Finally, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale is gonna have to decide which way he goes with C Dwight Howard (27 points and 15 rebounds in Game 1 before fouling out in OT) — no doubt keeping Howard on the floor in late-and-close situations is a problem because of the shaky free-throw shooting but you saw how Portland chopped away at an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter with no Howard then to get boards or blocks.

Maybe Blazers’ mega-star LaMarcus Aldridge — who wowed everyone with his glittery 46-point, 18-rebound showing — might not have felt so empowered in the paint had Howard been on the floor for all those possessions.

If the Blazers — a six-point dog here for Game 2 at press time — are gonna swipe this one too then Aldridge may not need 40-plus points but he must stay on the floor for 40-plus minutes and G Damon Lillard (31 points and the OT star in Game 1) must show no fear in his drive-to-the-hoop moves.

Finally, the Blazers must “get greedy” and want this thing … they can’t pull a Golden State and not show up for Game 2 (see Monday Night’s walk-in-the-park 138-98 win by the Los Angeles Clippers over the 8-point underdog Warriors).

As TNT game analyst Reggie Miller correctly said in that telecast, NBA teams that don’t have the home-court advantages in their series must figure they need two road wins in a best-of-seven playoff series so maybe Terry Stotts’ crew will recognize that fact here.

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The Philadelphia Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game at the Los Angeles Dodgers with a less-than-spectacular 9-11 overall record:

But don’t you go blaming lefthander Cliff Lee for the Phillie woes!

Lee — now 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA — retired 21 of the last 22 batters he faced in Monday night’s easy/breezy 7-0 win against the Dodgers and finished up with 10 strikeouts and no walks while allowing only four hits and, in case you wanted the up-to-date numbers, note that Lee now has fanned 38 batters and walked only two of them through his first five starts that also include wins against the Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs.

And, and he’ll be available to the “highest bidder” sometime later this 2014 Major-League Baseball season.

The Phils will be only too glad to kayo Lee’s huge contract off their books and you gotta believe that at least 10-to-12 MLB teams will have interest in making Lee their prize pick-up and — while it’s extremely early and few trades are made at this time (unless you’re 1B Ike Davis and getting shipped from the New York Mets to Pittsburgh) you can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves (among others) will be looking to snag Lee for just the right price.

Now, back to Monday’s win on the left coast:

Lee — the 2008 Cy Young Award winner while with the Cleveland Indians — held the top five batters in the Dodgers order to a collective 3-of-18 and only his elevated pitch count (113 total pitches) prevented him from going back out there for the bottom of the ninth inning.

Enjoy ‘em while you can, Phillies fans!

NOTE: More NBA Playoff Previews plus lots more in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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