NBA Monday Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

HEAT GO FOR SWEEP...HAWKS FEAR THE DEER...SUNS MUST HEAT UP!

Plenty of storylines in play as the very exciting NBA playoffs continue Monday Night. No rest for the weary oddsmakers!

The Orlando Magic will try to wrap up their opening round series with Charlotte after surviving a relatively uninspired performance Saturday afternoon. You get the impression they'd win easily if Dwight Howard could stay on the floor...but the refs won't let him stay on the floor!

Atlanta was beaten badly Saturday by a very motivated Milwaukee team. Can the Bucks play that well two games in a row? Or, was that one of those "get up for Game Three and that's it"performances we've seen often in recent seasons?

Phoenix was hoping their stellar play from Games Two and Three would carry over in the fourth game at Portland. Didn't happen. The return of Brandon Roy inspired his teammates, and the crowd, and added a new dynamic to a series that was in need of a pick-me up. Now it's a best of three...and Portland's more dangerous with Roy back than they were when they won Game One without him.

Let's take a look at tonight's games in rotation order, studying the key inside/outside numbers we've been using to add context throughout the playoffs. We told you the playoffs were going to be great! Hope you've been enjoying the ride so far. At JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK, the WINNING is just beginning!

GAME FOUR: ORLANDO AT CHARLOTTE
ORLANDO leads 3-0
Current Vegas Line: Orlando by 4, total of 183.5

The line has gone up two points from Game Three. We've seen a tendency in recent years for teams with a 3-0 lead on the road to go ahead and finish things off that game. They want to rest up for the next round. The trailing team isn't particularly motivated to win Game Four just so they can go on the road and get spanked a couple of days later. Oddsmakers are anticipating the betting action to follow that theory, and have lifted the line two points...matching the final victory margin from Game Three.

ORLANDO 90, CHARLOTTE 86
Three-Point Scoring: Orlando 27, Charlotte 15
Two-Point Scoring: Orlando 44, Charlotte 52
Free Throw Scoring: Orlando 19, Charlotte 19

This one could have gone either way at the very end. Charlotte didn't have much of an offensive game plan in the final minutes...and kept settling for missed three-pointers. Orlando was more successful with its possessions, but still saw Jameer Nelson force up two bad shots when better scoring options were spaced around the perimeter. You can see above the perimeter production is what separates Orlando in the series. They were +12 points from behind the arc in a game they only won by four.

For the Series, three-poont scoring in game order:
Orlando 39, Charlotte 9
Orlando 30, Charlotte 18
Orlando 27, Charlotte 15

That's plus 54 points, and Orlando's victories have only come by 28 points.

Just a horrible matchup for Charlotte. Their strength is inside. Orlando's got a good inside team...then piles on additional points from behind the arc. No way for the Bobcats to compete.

Can they steal a win today? If Orlando gets complacent, that's surely possible. The Magic were very sloppy Saturday (19 turnovers, after just 14 and 7 the first two games). Larry Brown teams tend not to give up, at least on the defensive side of the ball. There is upset potential here. We'll be working closely with our on site sources to make a final call. Definitely a game that could miss the Vegas line by six points or more in either direction.

 

GAME FOUR: ATLANTA AT MILWAUKEE
ATLANTA leads 2-1
Current Vegas Line: Atlanta by 2, total of 190

Big jump in the line here, as Atlanta is now a 2-point favorite rather than a 1-point underdog. This is a traditional move whenever a team that had been trailing 2-0 wins Game Three in their home opener. Most bettors ask the series favorite to bounce back strong. Vegas oddsmakers know this and play defense with the line in hopes of keeping the action relatively balanced. You don't want to be one-sided in a game rooting against the motivated series favorite at a line near pick-em! The total has come up a little after a fourth quarter scoring surge created an Over Saturday. Games have landed on 194, 182, and 196 so far.

MILWAUKEE 107, ATLANTA 89
Three-Point Scoring: Atlanta 9, Milwaukee 30
Two-Point Scoring: Atlanta 62, Milwaukee 62
Free Throw Scoring: Atlanta 18, Milwaukee 15

We'd be more optimistic about Milwaukee's chances to get back in the series if Saturday's win wasn't so heavily influenced by three-pointers. They jumped to a big lead early thanks to some treys, and kept the distance safe because the bombs kept falling in. This just isn't a team you can count on to make their treys. A sequence of 4-4-10 tells you the 10 was uncharacteristic.

Let's look at "inside scoring"over the three games...which is two-point production plus free throw production:

Atlanta 84, Milwaukee 74
Atlanta 87, Milwaukee 74
Atlanta 80, Milwaukee 77

Very consistent, and you can see when the series moved to Milwaukee! Atlanta was +10 and +13 at home, then +3 with the site switch (a standard adjustment when you factor in home court advantage).

Milwaukee can't win inside without Andrew Bogut. They NEED to hit three's to have a chance to win. It's VERY difficult to do that four times in five games...which is what the deer were facing after the 2-0 deficit. The good news for Milwaukee is that they were close enough in Game Four that they don't have to hit A LOT of treys to win. Something like the 4 of 17 or 4 of 24 from the first two games probably won't get the job done.

Many years ago we made it a point with our computer simulation software to account for how three-point production cycles through a series. We're the ONLY people we know doing this. And, this program has us way ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating true expectations today. In some playoff series, THIS is the single most important handicapping tool.

 

GAME FIVE: PORTLAND AT PHOENIX
Series tied 2-2
Current Vegas Line: Phoenix by 6, total of 202

We're back to Phoenix now, where the Suns were -8 in both of the prior games. The line has come down to -6 because of the return of Brandon Roy. He was the best player on the Blazers before his injury. The market says he's worth two points in the spread. Seems like a reasonable estimate. The total has come down from the 204's we saw earlier in Phoenix. That's more likely a result of the series slowing down a bit. The games in Portland landed on 197 and 183, with better defense and more halfcourt play.

PORTLAND 96, PHOENIX 87
Three-Point Scoring: Phoenix 18, Portland 15
Two-Point Scoring: Phoenix 54, Portland 60
Free Throw Scoring: Phoenix 15, Portland 21

Roy was certainly a positive influence for the Blazers, as was that great home crowd. Let's not that this showed up on defense rather than just scoring. Portland played like they believed they could win...and that meant intensity on both sides of the floor. Most importantly, Portland did a better job of getting a hand in the face on three-point shots. Phoenix had gone 13 of 28 in their Game Three rout. It was just 6 of 23 in Game Four.

This is another series where three-point shooting means a lot. Phoenix is much more like Orlando though in that they can make a high number "on purpose,"rather than a Milwaukee-type team who launches and hopes some go in.

Earlier we looked at the Orlando/Charlotte differentials on trey production. Let's do that here:

Phoenix 33, Portland 18
Phoenix 24, Portland 12
Phoenix 39, Portland 15
Phoenix 18, Portland 15

The Blazers start out every game in a hole because they're going to lose this stat. Unlike Charlotte, they DO have a chance to do damage inside. Portland isn't facing the tough Orlando defense...they're facing the softer Phoenix defense. Hence, we see something similar to what Atlanta was doing to Milwaukee inside the arc.

Here's "inside scoring"for the series:
Portland 87, Phoenix 67
Portland 78, Phoenix 95 (a tank job loss)
Portland 74, Phoenix 69
Portland 81, Phoenix 69

Portland no-showed Game Two defensviely after stealing Game One (not uncommon after a road upset in the NBA playoffs). In the other three games they held Phoenix to 67 or 69 points...while reaching 74, 81, and 87 themselves. That's why this has a chance to be a great series that goes the distance...or even an upset for the dog now that Roy is back on the floor. Phoenix isn't very scary unless they're making a run at 8-10 treys, and even then they're not a sure thing.

We hope you've been enjoying the playoffs so far, and that our coverage here in the NOTEBOOK is helping you see things you weren't seeing before. If you'd like to win money you weren't winning before, sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK by calling 1-800-323-4453! We've got great rates for the rest of the playoffs. The Kentucky Derby is coming up. Ask about how to get both the NBA Playoffs and Triple Crown horse races in a dream combo package. Baseball can be included too if you're an all-sport player in Vegas.

Game day selections and club packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Will Orlando wrap things up? Will Milwaukee even things up? Will Portland mess things up in terms of the projected Western brackets? Will JIM HURLEY shake things up with BIG PLAY WINNERS? You can only be confident of the last one. CALL WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY NOW!

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