Playoffs Wednesday Previews + Baseball Report
THE HEAT & SPURS LOOK TO SLAM DUNK THEIR NBA PLAYOFF SERIES IN WEDNESDAY’S PAIR OF GAME 5 TILTS …
PLUS BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES
The NBA Playoffs brought us a record five series that went the full seven games in Round I – now last year’s NBA Finals combatants are looking to make sure their conference semifinal round ends in a swift five games.
Both the two-time defending champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs are odds-on favorites to close out their respective series here on this Wednesday night:
Miami’s a 7-point betting favorite against Brooklyn while San Antonio’s an 8-point betting choice over Portland – and this is often where the experienced, savvy teams say “over-and-out” while not allowing new life to the teams down three games-to-one.
No question that Miami – which enters this Game 5 with a 7-1 SU (straight-up) mark overall in this year’s post-season – wants as much rest as possible before getting into a fourth straight Eastern Conference Finals best-of-seven set while San Antonio knows only too well what it’s like to go seven games after finally dunking Dallas in a go-the-distance set the last round.
Will anyone be truly surprised here if/when the Heat and Spurs win these Game 5 tilts in blowout fashion?
BROOKLYN at MIAMI – Heat leads series 3-1; 7 p.m. ET, TNT
Hey, Paul Pierce … are you still glad you asked for that assignment to cover LeBron James?
Okay, we fully realize that Pierce wasn’t the only Brooklyn player to get torched by “The King” in his monumental 49-point performance in Monday night’s 102-96 win/cover in Game 4 against the 2-point home underdog Nets, but the former Boston Celtics great was on the wrong end of the highlight package for many of James’ points and let’s just say Pierce wasn’t quite as “chatty” following this post-season game.
James’ stat line in Game 4 was incredible enough:
There were 16-of-24 field-goal makes to go along with 6 rebounds and just one turnover in 43 total minutes, but how about the foresight to not force a shot late in a tie game and get it to the open man (Mario Chalmers) who then got it to another open man in Chris Bosh, who sank the tie-breaking triple from deep in the corner with 57 seconds remaining in that fantastic showdown?
Keep in mind that James and Company didn’t exactly mess around in the last round while smashing Charlotte in a four-game sweep – remember that the Heat won Game 4 of that set 109-98 as 7 ½-point road favorites – and now Erik Spoelstra’s club looks to put the hammer down here against a Nets team that doesn’t defend well in the paint, doesn’t rebound very well and can’t trust veteran PG Deron Williams to get “mission accomplished” as he shot a miserable 5-of-14 from the floor for just 13 points in Game 4.
If the Nets are gonna steal this one in South Beach, then among the keys will be forcing more turnovers (Miami committed eight turnovers in Game 4) and taking (and, of course, making) more triples as Brooklyn’s Game 3 star Mirza Teletovic missed all three of his trifecta attempts in Game 4 and he must be a major noise-maker here.
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PORTLAND at SAN ANTONIO – Spurs lead series 3-1; 9:45 p.m. ET, TNT
Great point by TNT studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal following Monday’s 103-92 win by underdog Portland in this best-of-seven series against San Antonio:
Sometimes in a Game 5 you find out whether or not those stave-off-elimination teams are in a series for keeps or were – as this may still prove out – the Trail Blazers merely happy to avoid getting swept and thus the embarrassment that comes with it?
The Blazers played with a major ferocity in Game 4 as they charged out of the second-half starting gates and opened up big leads following the 50-48 intermission advantage,and whether you wish to tip your cap to Portland PG Damian Lillard (25 points and 5 assists) or hail the off-the-bench energy of guard Will Barton (17 points and 6 rebounds) the fact of the matter is the Spurs didn’t match that overall energy and Sant Ant coach Gregg Popovich didn’t deem it important to keep starters Tony Parker and Tim Duncan (a combined 26 points) in for much of the final quarter when the Blazers ballooned the lead to as much as 20 points.
Now, the Spurs – who are a money-toasting 4-7 ATS (against the spread) this post-season – know that getting back on a jet and playing a Game 6 in Portland on Friday night isn’t an idea they like, and so would expect Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili to rev up the engines early on and anyone that would be surprised by a twin-digit halftime lead by the home team here probably hasn’t been paying much attention to this particular Western Conference Semifinal series.
Let’s see if Shaq’s comments are true …
Were the T-Blazers merely content to avoid the sweep or will we have some drama here in Game 5 in the Alamo City?
|5-6||SAN ANTONIO||- 6.5||Portland||116-92|
|5-8||SAN ANTONIO||- 6||Portland||114-97|
|5-12||PORTLAND||+ 4.5||San Antonio||103-92|
BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES
No doubt that you could comprise an All-Star starting rotation from the guys that have gone down to Tommy John surgery the past 10-to-12 months as Miami RHP Jose Fernandez appears to be ready to join a list that also includes New York Mets righthander Matt Harvey, Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin, Atlanta RHP Kris Medlen and Oakland righty Jarrod Parker (among others).
The Fernandez injury has a much wider scope than just another twenty-something star going down for a year-or-more as it probably allows for the other National League East teams a few extra wins per year by not facing the ultra-talented Fernandez (4-2, 2.44 ERA this year) and so you wonder if the likes of the New York Mets – who this week have elevated a couple of their Triple A pitching gems from Las Vegas (that’s righties Rafael Montero and likely reliever Jacob deGrom)— think they’ve become a contender despite the sub-.500 record while entering Tuesday’s game at Yankee Stadium (see 18-19) or whether even the last-place Philadelphia Phillies believe they can make a run at a division that could stay bunched up at/or near .500 for the better part of this season ….
Why does it seem to us already that the Detroit Tigers have “wrapped up” the American League Central?
Okay, we know that’s crazy talk but the Tigers exited Monday’s 4-1 brawl-featured win in Baltimore with a 5 ½-game lead over Kansas City and nobody should be really surprised if the Motowners have a double-digit lead over their closest competitors in their division come Memorial Day weekend…
Finally, how’s this for we’ve-been-down-this-road-before:
Toronto’s Melky Cabrera currently leads the AL in hitting with a .333 batting average and the last time he was topping any league hitting charts was as a member of the San Francisco Giants two years ago and we all know what happened there – Cabrera was suspended, the Giants went on and won the World Series without ‘em and everyone said it would be tough for Cabrera to get a “second chance”.
Let’s hope this story has a better ending for Cabrera who must prove to baseball fans at large that he’s a great hitter without any “chemical” help
NOTE: More NBA Playoff coverage in the next Jim Sez.
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