Western Final Game 3 and MLB Teams To Watch

THE NBA PLAYOFF UPDATE: HERE’S SUNDAY’S GAME 3 PREVIEW OF SPURS-THUNDER PLUS OUR HOLIDAY WEEKEND HOOPS REPORT INCLUDES KEY POINTSPREAD FACTS & FIGURES TOO

THE BASEBALL REPORT: WHO’S GONNA BE “THIS YEAR’S” DODGERS? WE SAY KEEP AN EYE ON THE RAYS & THE BUCCOS

By Jim Hurley:

Want to know just how incredibly hot the San Antonio Spurs have been the past three-plus weeks?

Well, consider that since San Antonio’s whopping 119-96 victory against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of the first round in these NBA Playoffs, the Spurs have gone 7-1 both SU (straight-up) and ATS (against the spread) and now Gregg Popovich’s crew actually enters this Memorial Day Weekend tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a .500 mark in this post season (that’s 7-and-7 spreadwise … see our chart below).

Okay, so maybe that pointspread record isn’t gonna pay for a new flat screen TV that’s on sale this holiday weekend but consider the Spurs were – once upon a time – 0-6 versus the vig this post-season and so they’ve come off the pointspread “death bed” and now are roaring hot at just the right time.

Meanwhile, we entered this Memorial Day Weekend with the following poinstpread notes:

NBA Playoff Betting Favorites went into the Indiana at Miami Game 3 tussle in the Eastern Conference Finals with a 25-48-1 ATS record with two pick ‘em games tossed into the mix and that means the playoff chalk sides are hitting ‘em at 34.2 percent.

Folks, we’ve been all-too-quick to alert you over all these years that whether it’s the NBA or the NFL or College Football/Basketball, the facts are by season’s end we usually are right at or about the .500 mark when it comes to how Favorites vs. Underdogs fare against one another but this NBA Playoff season has been a whole different animal and consider the following statistical figures:

  • In the first round of these NBA Playoffs, the Betting Favorites went 15-33-1 spreadwise with one pick ‘em game for a 31.2 winning rate …
  • In the second round of these NBA Playoffs, the Betting Favorites went 7-14-0 with one pick ‘em game for a 33.3 winning rate …
  • Now, heading into Pacers-Heat Game 3, the Betting Favorites in these Conference Finals have gone 3-1 spreadwise for a 75.0 winning percentage and you can circle the Spurs as the biggest “swing team” here as they couldn’t cash a bet as the chalk in Round I till Game 7 and have been blistering hot as favs ever since.

NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
Note that we’ve included only the four playoff teams that are still alive in these Eastern and Western Conference Finals and here’s the pointspread won/loss marks through the games of May 23RD:

TEAM WON LOST PUSH PCT
Miami 7 4 0 .636
Indiana 8 7 0 .533
San Antonio 7 7 0 .500
Okla City 7 8 0 .467

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
On Sunday night, it’s …SAN ANTONIO at OKLAHOMA CITY – Spurs lead series 2-0; 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT

Gotta admit that we never did “buy” the notion that Oklahoma City defensive stud Serge Ibaka (calf) was suddenly going to re-appear in this playoff round despite his comments made early in the week that he planned on getting back on the floor sometime in this Western Conference Finals best-of-seven series.
Ibaka’s absence has been huge as the Spurs have run wild so far with 122- and 112-point outputs and remember San Antonio registered 66 in-the-paint points in Game 1 and in Wednesday’s blowout victory the black-and-silver shot 50 percent from the floor (41-of-82 field goals) and again had carte blanche to the hoop against a flimsy Oklahoma City defense.

If the Thunder – a 2-point betting favorite for this clash in Game 3 – is going to do something about these San Ant scoring surges, then may we suggest better on-the-ball pressure against the likes of point guard Tony Parker (22 points and 5 assists in Game 2) and reserve G Manu Ginobili (11 points and 4 assists in Game 2) and so OKC head coach Scott Brooks may well opt for a new-look starting backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson with both “informed” they should pick up Parker and Ginobili at half-court and body them up far away from the hoop.

No question that the Thunder also isn’t gonna cash any bets or win any games here if MVP Kevin Durant is going to be scoring just 15 points in a game.

Okay, so Brooks rested both Durant and Westbrook (note the latter shot just 7-of-24 from the floor in Game 2 for 15 points) for major second-half minutes the other night once that game got away from Okie City but Durant must be a “volume shooter” here and he has to take control late in quarters when the Thunder’s really been hurt.

As TNT’s Charles Barkley wisely pointed out the other night, Oklahoma City was down just five points with two-plus minutes remaining in the first half and yet when the proverbial dust had settled the Thunder were losing by 14 points at the break.

Game, set, match fellas!

Durant is a particularly key figure in the last two minutes of the half and the quarters and let’s see if Westbrook/Jackson feed him here or he gets ignored at these key moments.

Finally, the Spurs know all too well that two years ago they let the Western Conference Finals slip-slide away from ‘em after going two games-to-love and you can bet your last peso that “Pops” has reminded his troops of that fact more than once this holiday weekend.

If you’re looking for a road energizer here for San Ant, than reserve G Marco Belinelli could be your guy ‘cause we could see the scenario where the Thunder concentrates its defensive efforts on the “name players” on the floor and that could leave Belinelli open for triple tries … we’ll see.

On the flip side, we expect Oklahoma City rookie C Steven Adams to be a major part of the Thunder game plan. Adams has been coming on during this playoff experience and if he could gum up the works a bit on “D” and gobble up 10-to-15 boards, then it would serve as a major lift for the home folks.

Here’s the Thunder-Spurs series in game-by-game chart form (note all home teams in CAPS below):

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
5-19 SAN ANTONIO    - 6 Okla City 122-105
5-21 SAN ANTONIO    - 5 Okla City 112-77

Note …
Now, this important reminder; Make sure you cash in each and every day as Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers steer you straight into the winner’s circle with NBA Conference Finals (we're 6-0 so far!) and Major-League Baseball action.

Check in here online or else call us toll-free at 1-800-323-4453. It’s been a monster post-season on the NBA hardwood for Jim’s clients – and there’s still lots of winnin’ straight ahead!

THE BASEBALL REPORT

Hey, remember last year when the Los Angeles Dodgers staggered out of the starting gate for two-plus months en route to a 31-42 record on June 21st?

Well, as everyone remembers the Dodgers turned the beat around – thereby saving the job of manager Don Mattingly in the process – and went a sizzling 46-10 in their next 56 games on the way to winning the National League West Division crown.

So, is there anyone out there lying in the weeds that’s gonna come from way back in the pack and make such a run here in 2014?
Here’s two teams to keep an eye out for as the “unofficial” start of summer is here …

TAMPA BAY (20-28) – The Rays are in the American League East basement as we speak and some six full games back of the front-running Toronto Blue Jays but little by little the Rays’ tattered pitching staff should take form in the coming days/weeks.

Righthander Alex Cobb just made his return from the DL to post 6.2 scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s in Thursday’s 5-2, 11-inning win and righty Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) just faced some live hitters the other day and soon should be back on the hill.

Throw into the equation that Tampa Bay should begin to hit too:

The Rays are just 11th in the AL in runs scored with 186 (or just 3.87 runs per game) and sooner or later this back-of-the-bullpen mess should get straightened out although you have to wonder how long manager Joe Maddon stays with angry closer Grant Balfour who now has become the object of the Tropicana Field boo-birds in recent games.

Still, we’ll nominate the Rays as a team that could run off 25 or 30 wins in a 40-game span, so keep your eyes peeled on them as we shoot into summertime.

PITTSBURGH (20-26) – You’ve likely heard some of the commentary by baseball “talking heads” that the 2013 Pirates had lots of magic on their side and yet this here-and-now team hasn’t been getting all that many good bounces.

Hey, Bucco fans, don’t give up the ship!

Last year the Pirates ended a two-plus decade playoff drought and wowed the fans of the Steel City and now Clint Hurdle’s club is just 5 ½ games of the second wild card spot and no doubt the pitching’s got to get better after Pittsburgh sported a 3.94 ERA (that’s 12th-best in the National League) through the team’s first 46 games.

Expect starting hurlers RHP Gerrit Cole (4-3, 3.84 ERA), LHP Francisco Liriano (0-4, 4.86 ERA) and righty Charlie Morton (0-6, 3.45) to both pitch better and get better support as we enter the middle portion of this 2014 campaign.

Okay, so the Pirates have not been winning lots of games in their last at-bat as was the case a year ago but there’s pop in this lineup besides 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen (a .442 on-base percentage but only four home runs) and so it’s safe to believe the Pirates will get on a run and maybe even give Milwaukee and St. Louis a run for their money atop the division.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff coverage in the next Jim Sez plus there’s MLB, NBA Draft and NFL News/Notes too coming soon.

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