NBA Playoffs Second Round Previews + Baseball Report

EXTRA, EXTRA –
IT’S TIME FOR THE SECOND ROUND OF THESE THRILL-A-MINUTE NBA PLAYOFFS AS WE PREVIEW THE EASTERN & WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIS …

THE BASEBALL REPORT: A BRAVES BUNCH IN A MAJOR FUNK … PLUS REMEMBER WE’LL HAVE OUR NFL MOCK DRAFT IN THE NEXT EDITION OF JIM SEZ! …

By Jim Hurley

Folks, it’s always a good idea to take a step back before you take a giant leap forward and so let’s get you a little recent NBA Playoff history from the just-completed Round I of this year’s post-season before we dive head-first into the Eastern and Western Conference semifinals.

Note that it took a whopping 50 games in all to complete Round I as five of the eight series went the distance … wow-wow-wow!

First off, here’s a line-by-line review of the opening round from a series price standpoint:

Eastern Conference …

All series prices below are based on $100 per-play wagers:

WINNER SERIES PRICE  LOSER     # OF GAMES
Indiana     - 600  Atlanta  7
Miami  - 2500  Charlotte 4
Brooklyn   - 130 Toronto 7
Washington     + 165  Chicago  5

Western Conference …

WINNER SERIES PRICE  LOSER     # OF GAMES
San Antonio - 900  Dallas  7
Oklahoma City  - 500 Memphis  7
LA Clippers   - 400 Golden State 7
Portland + 175    Houston   6

Overall, NBA Playoff Betting Favorites in the first round of action finished with a 15-33-1 ATS (against the spread) mark with one pick ‘em tossed into the mix – and that means chalk sides covered just 31.2 percent of the games and we can’t ever remember underdogs ruling the roost quite like that in any recent playoff round. Ever!

Now, here’s the NBA Playoff Pointspread Standings through Round I – hey, take note that the eight teams that copped first-round playoff series wins are just a combined 23-26-1 versus the vig:

TEAM   RECORD PCT.
Dallas   6-1 .857
Washington 4-1 .800
Miami 3-1 .750
Golden St. 5-2 .714
Houston 4-2 .667
Brooklyn 4-2-1 .667
Indiana 4-3 .571
Memphis 4-3 .571
Atlanta 3-4 .428
Oklahoma City 3-4 .428
Portland 2-4 .333
Toronto 2-4-1 .333
LA Clippers 2-5 .286
Charlotte 1-3 .250
Chicago 1-4 .200
San Antonio 1-6 .143

Tonight, it’s …

EASTERN CONFERENCE –
#5 WASHINGTON at #1 INDIANA – 7 p.m. ET, TNT
Hey, the college kids don’t exactly have a patent on the “survive-and-advance” phrase that’s been around for a long, long time as the Indiana Pacers — the East’s top seed – knows the feeling all too well following that grind-‘em-out seven-game series win against the Atlanta Hawks.

No question that star Paul George played his finest post-season game this spring in last Saturday’s 92-80 triumph over 6½-point underdog Atlanta – George finished Game 7 with 30 points, 11 rebounds and only 2 turnovers in the rubout win and Frank Vogel’s club may need similar nightly figures here if the Pacers are gonna sidetrack this up-and-coming Wizards bunch (note Indiana is a -175-to-$100 betting fav to win this series at press time).

Washington’s been sitting idle since extinguishing the Chicago Bulls in five games —the Wizards have not played a game since last Tuesday night—and that’s when star PG John Wall filled up the stat sheet with 27 points, 7 rebs and 4 assists in a series-clinching 75-69 win against the Bulls.

And – as you can see by our accompanying chart below – the Wizards and Bulls played some low-scoring games against one another in regular-season play and so any 20-plus point games here from Wall or sidekick Bradley Beal could be all that’s needed to kayo the still-fragile Pacers here.

Best bet is that Washington head coach Randy Wittman looks to “turn up the volume” here and that means a faster-paced game with more shots taken than usual.

Does that or will that take Pacers’ C Roy Hibbert out of the mix here? We shall see.

(Note all home teams in CAPS below):

DATE WINNER   SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
11-29 INDIANA -11 Washington 93-73
1-10 INDIANA -9 Washington 93-66
3-28 WASHINGTON +1 Indiana 91-78

WESTERN CONFERENCE
#3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS at #2 OKLAHOMA CITY – 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Well, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers both escaped with opening-round series wins in respective seven-game sets, but the question now is what’s left in the tank for this showdown series?

Much of the pre-series chatter centers around the health and well-being of Clippers’ PG Chris Paul, who’s been bothered by hand, hamstring and other assorted injury woes this spring but the pitchman for an unnamed insurance company was absolutely dazzling in last Saturday’s series-clinching 126-121 non-cover win against 7½-point pup Golden State as Paul poured in 22 points to go along with a sweet 14 assists.

In fact, the Clippers sported six double-digit scorers in that Game 7 win—Jamal Crawford’s 22 points off the bench was uber-important—but if Doc Rivers’ emotionally spent team is gonna win this series (the Thunder’s –190-to-$100 right now) then it’s defense and C Deandre Jordan’s board work/blocked shots that’s gonna have rule.

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, must convince NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant that he needs to pop up 20-plus field-goal tries per game while PG Russell Westbrook—whom NBA TV’s Brent Barry called a “Tasmanian Devil”—must test Paul’s ability to defend here ‘cause the Thunder star (his 27 points in Game 7 against Memphis neatly complemented Durant’s game-high 33 points) can’t worry about any outside criticism.

Ask us and we’ll tell you a huge factor here will be OKC’s backup center Steven Adams, who is not afraid to agitate an opposing big man—he’ll use up his daily allotment of fouls but can he also unnerve Jordan and even Blake Griffin here?

DATE WINNER   SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
11-13  CLIPPERS -4½ Okla City  111-103
11-21  OKLA CITY  -5½ Clippers 105-91
2-23 Clippers +5½ OKLA CITY 125-117
4-9 Okla City +3½ CLIPPERS 107-101

On Tuesday, it’s …

EASTERN CONFERENCE
#6 BROOKLYN at #2 MIAMI – 7 p.m. ET, TNT

And for eight days, they rested.

Well, not exactly, as the two-time defending champion Miami Heat played some well high-spirited practices while awaiting the winner of Brooklyn vs. Toronto and even four-time league MVP LeBron James called the scrimmages “intense”.

Now we’ll see if the rested Heat is “game-ready” for this series opener after not having played since the first-round sweep of Charlotte last Monday night and it’s not as if there’s a lack of motivation for Erik Spoelstra’s club which lost all four of its regular-season games to the Nets this 2013-14 season.

Please, nobody remind “The King” of his shot that was blocked at the buzzer by Nets reserve F/C Mason Plumlee, or that dual-OT game that Miami lost in Kings County way back in early January.

The Heat’s hungry for some payback here but Miami catches Brooklyn off an emotional seven-game series win against Toronto in which the Nets covered Games 5, 6 and 7 while quiet assassin G Joe Johnson (26 points in the hang-on-for-dear-life 104-103 win in Toronto in Sunday’s series clincher) really got juiced up.

Still, the Nets need PG Deron Williams to be his “old self” as Sunday’s spotty 13-point, 4-assist game was nothing special, and so let’s see if the Heat try to run him ragged here and so expect the likes of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole to keep the pressure on the still-gimpy Williams at all times.

Also, look for the Heat to pound the boards against one of the NBA’s worst rebounding sides – maybe that means more minutes for F/C Chris “Birdman” Andersen or maybe the Heat will go with more three-guard looks with Chris Bosh and Andersen asked to hit the glass first and foremost.

The Heat’s won nine consecutive playoff series – and the aging Nets could run out of gas here by the time we get to a Game 5. Just sayin’.

DATE WINNER   SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
11-1 BROOKLYN  +3½ Miami 101-100
1-10 BROOKLYN +5½ Miami 104-95
3-12 Brooklyn +9 MIAMI 96-95
4-8 Brooklyn +7½ MIAMI 88-87

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
#5 PORTLAND at #1 SAN ANTONIO – 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT

It’s not as if the San Antonio Spurs were taking in-state rival Dallas “lightly” in that seven-game, first-round series—but we do have to wonder aloud whether last year’s long-and-fruitless run to the NBA Finals followed by this 60-win regular-season past didn’t take a little starch out of Gregg Popovich’s team in that latest series.

Sure, the Spurs manhandled the Mavericks in Sunday’s Game 7 romp—the 119-96 score could have been much worse—and what you could take out of that game was San Antonio’s one tough out when “big three” cast members G Tony Parker (32 points), F Tim Duncan (15 points and 8 rebounds in just 31 minutes) and G Manu Ginobili (20 points in 24 minutes off the pine) are in the mood to play.

Still, you must factor in the short turnaround for the Spurs here while Portland’s gotta be refreshed following last Friday’s series-clinching buzzer-beater win against Houston.

The Trail Blazers – who lost the board battle 44-to-34 in that 99-98 win in Game 6 – must bring their lunch pails here even if the likes of G Damian Lillard (the author of that fall-away triple that eliminated the Houston Rockets in six games) and F LaMarcus Aldridge (a 30-point showing in Game 6 after back-to-back 40-plus point performances in Games 1 and 2) are in All-Star form and so pay special attention to active C Robin Lopez, who really contributed lots of rebs and hustle plays versus the Rockets.

If the Blazers have designs on snagging this series upset, then we’ll recommend that they win Game 1 … or else.

DATE WINNER   SPREAD LOSER  SCORE
11-2 PORTLAND +2½ San Antonio 115-105
1-17 Portland +6 SAN ANTONIO 109-100
2-19 `San Antonio +3½ PORTLAND 111-109
3-12 SAN ANTONIO -7½ Portland 103-90

THE BASEBALL REPORT

Betcha if we asked you prior to this past weekend what MLB team would not get swept at home you probably would have answered … the Atlanta Braves.

Wrong!

The Braves (17-13) may still reside in first place in the everyone’s-over-.500 National League East, but their losing streak’s now hit six in a row following that 2-1, 3-1, 4-1 straight sets sweep at the hands of the born-again San Francisco Giants.

Not only did the Braves produce only a mere three runs in that home series but there’s serious concern that something must be done —and soon—to straighten out some of the bats in the Atlanta order as 2B Dan Uggla went 0-for-4 against LHP Madison Bumgarner and the Jints bullpen, and Uggla’s now batting a meek .190 while perpetually-slumping OF B.J. Upton’s hitting .204 and OF Justin Upton already has struck out 37 times in just 103 at-bats.

In comes the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game set and note that not a whole lot of folks get healthy off the likes of RHP Adam Wainwright.=

NOTE: Lots more NBA Previews in the days ahead but it’s NFL Mock Draft time in the very next edition of Jim Sez, so don’t miss out!

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