Celtics Slumping



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

Sometimes close games don't turn out to be great games, as we saw Sunday afternoon when the road weary Los Angeles Lakers survived the slumping and banged up Boston Celtics in a national TV game.

Kobe Bryant, nursing an ankle injury suffered the other night in Philadelphia, hit the winning jump shot with about seven seconds to go. Boston couldn't answer...and didn't even look like they wanted to answer after blowing a double digit fourth quarter lead. It would end up being Boston's sixth loss in its last eight games, and its 10th loss since beating Orlando back on Christmas Day (6-10 since then!).

Let's crunch the numbers from that game...some other select matchups (including that Saturday Night showcase in Manhattan Kansas!)...then we'll finish off with a look at the RED HOT clubs that have been making fortunes for you of late...JIM HURLEY'S CASHLINE and BLUE RIBBON services.

Shooting Percentage: Lakers 48%, Boston 47%
Three-Pointers: Lakers 4/14, Boston 6/20
Free Throws: Lakers 16/22, Boston 15/19
Rebounds: Lakers 36, Boston 39
Turnovers: Lakers 16, Boston 18
Vegas Line: Lakers by 1, total of 195
Comments: That's a low scoring game for such high shooting percentages. What does that tell you? The game was played at a molasses pace. Boston was trying to protect it's banged up warriors. Kevin Garnett has missed 10 games recently, but was back on the floor for this once in a season affair (the Lakers only visit Beantown once each campaign). The Lakers tend to slow down and play defense in big road games anyway. We've been telling you about that Phil Jackson tendency for YEARS! This was a grinder...with both teams watching big leads get erased...and the most surefire scorer on the floor getting the basket in the final moments that won the game.

Not artwork by any means. Just professional basketball in the era of grueling schedules and injured players!

Boston's age issues continue to be a factor, as they haven't been able to groom the next generation behind the Garnett/Pierce/Allen trio just yet. When healthy, this team plays old. When banged up? Well, it's just not something Rasheed Wallace off the bench is going to fix, especially when he's banged up!

We do expect the Celtics to play better than their recent form come playoff time. But, we don't see how they'll lift their game in a way that matters against Cleveland and Orlando in a best-of-seven series. We wouldn't even take them over Atlanta right now.

The Lakers can seemingly coast to the top seed in the West. They may choose to do that so Kobe, Pau Gasol, and Ron Artest are healthy for the postseason. The latter have missed games already this year, with Artest suffering self-inflicted wounds at home over the holidays.

From the handicapping perspective, Boston will be on the 'go against' list for the time being. We'll pick our spots against the Lakers...only considering 'take' spots when they're fresh at cheap road prices (they did cover their three prior games on this Eastern swing as single digit favorites).

Frankly, it's games like this that will have us focused on the COLLEGES for the next several weeks! If the Lakers and Celtics can't even get the juices flowing for each other...they're not going to be the center of focus for our clients either.

Earlier Sunday afternoon in the NBA...

Shooting Percentage: Denver 54%, San Antonio 43%
Three-Pointers: Denver 9/12, San Antonio 3/17
Free Throws: Denver 20/25, San Antonio 18/21
Rebounds: Denver 41, San Antonio 33
Turnovers: Denver 19, San Antonio 15
Vegas Line: San Antonio by 5, total of 197
Comments: Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker were both out with injuries. How can you have marquee games when the marquee talent is on the sidelines? That will be the question David Stern has to deal with in coming seasons. Basketball has become football on wood in terms of physicality. Either shorten the schedules or stop the muggings in the paint!

Denver was clearly the better side here, as the Spurs barely looked like their normal selves. Defense and rebounding defined the San Antonio dynasty. Here, they allowed 54% from the floor and got out-boarded badly. Without a little guy on the defensive perimeter flying at shooters, the Spurs defense allowed a ridiculous 75% on three-point attempts! Big game for Chancey Billups. Big win for the Nuggets against a team they might run into this Spring when the playoffs roll around.



The Monday NBA card is one of the most overlooked in handicapping. It spends the first couple months of the season buried by Monday Night Football, and as soon as that's over, it becomes overshadowed by ESPN's Big Monday college doubleheader. But Jim Hurley has always maintained a separate NBA staff to make sure he could always exploit the soft lines in any card, and his NBA experts have helped him do just that! The latest example was our NBA Moneymaker last Monday. Atlanta matched up with Houston. The Hawks -- one of the under-the-radar really good teams in the NBA -- had a slew of athletic advantages over short-handed Houston here and a 21-3 scoring spurt in a 32-point second quarter really sent Mike Woodson's club on its way. We knew that nobody on the Rockets could slow down Hawks scorer Joe Johnson -- and we were right as he scored 20 points plus Atlanta's defense bogged down host Houston (just 39.8 percent shooting from the floor). It was an easy winner, and we've got another one just like it set to go this Monday!

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Sunday in college hoop action...

Shooting Percentage: Minnesota 51%, Ohio State 63%
Three-Pointers: Minnesota 4/11, Ohio State 9/20
Free Throws: Minnesota 9/14, Ohio State 8/11
Rebounds: Minnesota 22, Ohio State 26
Turnovers: Minnesota 17, Ohio State 12
'Phantom Score': Minnesota 66, Ohio State 76
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 8, total of 136
Comments: The Buckeyes are on a great run of late. We've talked about several big name teams that are falling off the radar. Ohio State is flying up the ladder with authority after getting healthy. This is their fifth win in the last six games within a strong conference. You can see dominance here...with Phantom Score (two-point scoring plus rebounds) registering a double digit victory too. We've sure seen some gaudy shooting percentages in big college games the past couple of days. Maybe fatigue is starting to hit some defenses.

How about that tribute to the 1960 Buckeyes in Columbus? Longtime fans may have trouble believing that John Havlicek led Ohio State to a national title 50 YEARS AGO! Other members of that legendary squad (including Bob Knight) were on hand for a weekend of celebration. It sure rubbed off on the players. Both Ohio State and Georgetown scored big TV wins this weekend in front of electrified houses. The Buckeyes are now 16-3 on the season, 6-3 in Big Ten play.

Minnesota, a team that's been struggling on the road for awhile now, is 13-8 overall...4-5 in league action. The Gophers are on the wrong side of the bubble right now in the bracketology department. This blowout loss will hurt their cause even more.

Shooting Percentage: Florida 48%, Tennessee 39%
Three-Pointers: Florida 4/16, Tennessee 7/23
Free Throws: Florida 10/16, Tennessee 4/12
Rebounds: Florida 31, Tennessee 37
Turnovers: Florida 17, Tennessee 13
'Phantom Score': Florida 69, Tennessee 73
Vegas Line: Tennessee by 8, total of 142
Comments: Remember when Tennessee started thinking everything would be fine after those player dismissals. The Vols upset Kansas, then routed Auburn. No problem. The team was STRONGER now that the troublemakers and distractions were out of the way. Since then, Tennessee is 1-4 against the spread, and very lucky to be 3-2 straight up. They won a nailbiter here as a medium favorite...and survived an overtime game with Ole Miss not too long ago. The wheels aren't exactly coming off, but they sure are getting wobbly!

Phantom Score does show a bigger victory for the Vols...but not one that would have covered the spread. Shooting comes and goes. Inside defense was a problem today (which you can deduce from above because Florida shot 48% for the game while hitting just 25% of trey attempts!). Tennessee isn't as good as their 16-4 record would suggest (4-2 in the SEC), and will likely be overseeded (again!) come March. Florida falls to 15-6 (4-3 in the SEC), and is another Sunday loser that's currently on the wrong side of the bracketology bubble. Given how far the SEC has fallen of late, they may have a tough case to make in a few weeks.

Late Saturday in college hoops...

#2 KANSAS 81, #13 KANSAS STATE 79 (in OT)
Shooting Percentage: Kansas 50%, Kansas State 43%
Three-Pointers: Kansas 5/10, Kansas State 6/18
Free Throws: Kansas 22/33, Kansas State 15/22
Rebounds: Kansas 33, Kansas State 36
Turnovers: Kansas 15, Kansas State 13
'Phantom Score': Kansas 77, Kansas State 82
Vegas Line: Kansas by 3, total of 152
Comments: The game we previewed in our Saturday edition of the NOTEBOOK turned out to be an instant classic, so we wanted to crunch the numbers for you. The game was played after our publication deadline for the prior report. GREAT GAME!

Phantom Score shows Kansas State winning at roughly the same scoring pace. Why couldn't the hosts pull off the upset? They lost free throws by 7 makes on 11 attempts. That's basically everything right there. The other categories canceled out, with K-State picking up in treys and turnover advantage what they were losing by allowing 50% shooting from the floor. The referees aren't ready to have a changing of the guard in this state quite yet!

Kansas State falls to 17-4 with the loss, with just a 4-3 record in the Big 12. They're very unlikely to catch Kansas from behind now. The Jayhawks are 20-1 on the year, 6-0 in the Big 12. K-State is two games behind in the standings and has already played their home game with Kansas. A revenge win on the road would still leave them out of range unless Kansas gets upset a couple of times in other spots.

It's going to be hard for anyone in the Big 12 to catch Kansas this year...just like it's going to be hard for any handicapper to catch JIM HURLEY for #1 in the industry!

We week ago we talked about how HOT the popular CASHLINE had been this season. Well, IT GOT HOTTER! Clients who had been scoring better than 60% winners on the season enjoyed a 10-3-1 sprint this past week. Amongst the highlights:

*Michigan (+4) over Michigan State in a 57-56 loss
*Maryland (-7) over Miami-Fla 81-59
*Arkansas (+3) over Mississippi State 67-62
*Georgia Tech (-4.5) over Wake Forest 79-58
*San Diego State (-4) over Colorado State 64-52

Note the mix with dogs and favorites...and the mix with regions! Talk about owning a sport! Let's emphasize that JIM HURLEY has a NATIONAL NETWORK of scouts and sources supplementing his stat handicappers, computer programmers, and Wise Guy connections. Clients are just as likely to win in the ACC as they are in the Mountain West Conference.

HURLEY'S BLUE RIBBON stayed hot as well. Those plays went a sparkling 8-4 the past week...including:

*Syracuse (-6) over Georgetown 73-56
*Providence (+5) over Connecticut 81-66
*Arizona (-6) over Stanford 76-68
*Arkansas State (-2) over Denver 73-62

You can sign up with either service (or both!) by calling 1-800-323-4453. Game day selections and service packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

You know we won't be taking tonight off. It's BIG MONDAY on ESPN with Connecticut visiting Louisville and Texas trying to bounce back from a loss to Baylor on the road tonight at Oklahoma State. Find a way to link up with JIM HURLEY before tipoff...


This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


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