NBA Playoffs Friday Previews + NFL Draft Kickers and Punters

THE NBA PLAYOFFS UPDATE —

HERE’S THE FRIDAY NITE ACTION FROM BROOKLYN, DALLAS & PORTLAND …
PLUS THE NFL DRAFT UPDATE: WE FINISH OFF OUR POSITION-BY-POSITION LOOKS WITH THE TOP KICKERS/PUNTERS

As we pointed out in an earlier-week edition of "Jim Sez", the NBA Playoff wagering world pretty much is awaiting when the “other shoe will drop” on post-season underdogs:

We went into last night’s action with NBA Playoff Underdogs standing tall with an electric 28-10-1 ATS (against the spread) record thus far — can’t think of any other time in recent memory when pups cashed in so large at this time of the year — and now we’ll see if point-grabbers Toronto, Dallas and Houston can snag pointspread “W’s” on this first Friday in May.

First, this important reminder …

Make sure you cash in each/every day as Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers steer you straight into the winner’s circle with NBA Playoffs and Major-League Baseball action. Check in here online at www.jimhurley.com or call us toll-free at 1-800-323-4453.

And make sure you’re all aboard for the Kentucky Derby, too!

Now, here’s the Friday evening hoops menu…

EASTERN CONFERENCE —

TORONTO at BROOKLYN — Raptors lead series 3-2; 7:05 p.m. ET, NBA TV
What’s amazing about this best-of-seven series is that the trash talk that started before the first jump ball was ever tossed has subsided and both these teams have gotten into major hot-and-cold play …

The latest “Exhibit A” was Brooklyn falling behind by 26 points in Game 5 and then rallying all the way back — and still losing 115-113 after a faulty pass by Andray Blatche off a missed free throw.

Hey, if the Nets want to point a finger of blame at someone than look in the general direction of PG Deron Williams, who failed to contain slippery Toronto G Kyle Lowry (game-high 36 points this past Wednesday night) plus Williams (13 points in Game 5) just hasn’t been the explosive player Brooklyn thought he’d be in this series.

Major key for this Game 6 at Barclays Center is bench play as Toronto’s really been given a major energy boost by emotional G Greivis Vasquez, who scored 15 points and grabbed 6 boards in 26 minutes of action in Game 5 … will Brooklyn’s reserve tandem of Mirza Teletovic (17 points) and Alan Anderson be able to combine for another 30 points — or more — here?

DATE WINNER  SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-19 Brooklyn + 3½ TORONTO 94-87
4-22 TORONTO   - 5   Brooklyn  100-95
4-25 BROOKLYN - 5  Toronto 102-98
4-27 Toronto + 4 BROOKLYN 87-79
4-30 TORONTO - 3  Brooklyn 115-113

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WESTERN CONFERENCE —

SAN ANTONIO at DALLAS — Spurs lead series 3-2; 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Strange but true, the San Antonio Spurs — the top seed in the West — can close out this best-of-seven series this evening even though Gregg Popovich’s club has yet to cash a bet!

The Spurs may be 0-for-5 in the wagering department, but otherwise they have to feel good following Wednesday’s 109-103 home win against 6 ½-point underdog Dallas — a game in which new pa-pa G Tony Parker shook off a bum ankle to register 23 points to go along with 5 assists (and only one turnover), but the real underlying hero for the Spurs there was F Tiago Splitter (17 points and 12 rebounds).

Now, if those so-called “support players” for San Antonio can step it up here, then a Spurs team that entered this playoff round a whopping 9-to-1 betting favorite to advance should get “mission accomplished” and so that means the likes of Splitter, G Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli must put up some decent stats here and do keep in mind the Mavs finally got a “Dirk Nowitzki Night” from their 16-year vet as he poured in 26 points with 15 rebounds in Game 5 even though his defense remains lacking these days.

The Mavericks hit a dozen triples in Game 5 — Vince Carter nailed seven of ‘em en route to his dazzling 28-point performance — but it says here that Dallas may have to score even more trifecta points in order to secure the mild upset (San Ant’s a 3-point betting fav at press time) plus Dallas must force more miscues as the Spurs turned the ball over only five times in Game 5.

P.S., Dallas F/C DeJuan Blair (one-game suspension) is back in the lineup tonight.

DATE WINNER  SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-20 SAN ANTONIO  - 9  Dallas 90-85
4-23 Dallas +7½ SAN ANTONIO  113-92
4-26 DALLAS + 3½ San Antonio  109-108
4-28 San Antonio - 4½ DALLAS 93-89
4-30 SAN ANTONIO - 6½ Dallas  109-103

HOUSTON at PORTLAND — Trail Blazers lead series 3-2; 10:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
The best thing you can say about the Houston Rockets is — despite losing a pair of overtime games in this best-of-seven series — they didn’t give a hang-dog effort in Wednesday’s 10-point home win/cover over Portland.

The all-hands-on-deck win featured five double-digit scorers including reserve G Jeremy Lin’s 21 points, but the $64,000 question remains can ace scorer G James Harden snap out of his series funk in time for this tilt out West?

Harden’s 5-of-15 FG shooting in Game 5 was — sorry to say — par for the course this series and ain’t no way the Rockets are forcing a decisive Game 7 without one of those 30-point outings from the bearded one.

If Houston can rule the boards here as it did in Game 5 with a resounding 48-to-34 advantage, then a less-than-scintillating shooting night from Harden would be easier to take, but gotta believe the likes of F LaMarcus Aldridge (just 8 points in Game 5) will step up to the plate in a big way, and everyone realizes that the Rockets simply have not been able to slow down second-year PG Damian Lillard (26 points, 8 rebs and 7 assists in Game 5) throughout the first five games of this set.

One so-called X-factor to watch for here:

Can Rockets head coach Kevin McHale coax any kind of a decent scoring game from former D-League star G Troy Daniels, who scored 17 points in a Game 4 showing for the ages. Daniels has gotten play calls for him a couple of different times in this series and his electric play could mean plenty at crunch time … so stay tuned.

DATE WINNER  SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-20 Portland  + 5½ HOUSTON 122-120 (ot)
4-23 Portland + 7 HOUSTON  112-105
4-25 Houston + 2½ PORTLAND  121-116 (ot)
4-27  PORTLAND - 4 Houston 123-120 (ot)
4-30 HOUSTON - 5 Portland  108-98

NFL DRAFT REPORT

We wrap up our "Jim Sez" NFL Draft Position-by-Position look with the top Kickers/Punters — and don’t forget we’ll bring you our exclusive NFL Mock Draft in Wednesday’s column, so don’t miss out:

CHRIS BOSWELL, PK, RICE — Okay, so don’t expect any kickers/punters to go inside the top 150 draft picks this year but this former Owls star did kick 13 field goals of 50-or-more yards and his booming kickoffs make him a real weapon. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder could get snapped up late in the fourth round or early in Round 5. Boswell may stay put in the Lone Star State should Houston be interested in his services.

ANTHONY FERA, PK, TEXAS — The former Penn State transfer may be our favorite amongst special teams draftees this year as he nailed 20-of-22 field goals in the 2013 season and don’t forget he’s 36-of-43 in his career on all field-goal tries. Might wind up leapfrogging Boswell in Round 4 or 5. Could be headed back to the Keystone State with the Pittsburgh Steelers showing some interest.

KIRBY VAN DER KAMP, P, IOWA STATE — The country’s top punting prospect is a huge 6-foot-4, 205-pounder who was a four-year starter for the ISU Cyclones. Van Der Kamp averaged 41.6 yards per punt as a senior last year and his 289 overall punts is the most in Big 12 gridiron history. A round five pick likely who is drawing some interest from the two New York/New Jersey teams.

TOM HORNSEY, P, MEMPHIS — This 6-foot-4, 222-pounder is considered almost the equal to Van Der Kamp but the reality is Horney won last year’s Ray Guy Award after averaging 42.5 yards per punt in 2013. The former Aussie Rules Football player could be a surprise dash-up-the-board pick for someone like Minnesota or Miami.

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff action right here in the next edition of Jim Sez and stay tuned for all our NFL Draft Notes — the NFL Draft begins May 8th.

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