NBA Tuesday Previews

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

CAVS, CELTICS, SPURS TRY TO FINISH...
LAKERS/THUNDER IN HUGE GAME FIVE

Some of the dead weight may be trimmed out of the playoff picture tonight. Both Chicago and Miami are longshots to rally from 3-1 deficits in their Eastern Conference playoff series (against Cleveland and Boston respectively). Both are underdogs tonight, and HEAVY underdogs in terms of coming all the way back to steal a series win.

Dallas is far from dead weight, but also faces elimination tonight against a San Antonio Spurs team that's playing much more like a #1 or #2 seed now that they're healthy. Dallas plays at home at least, and does have a legitimate chance to rally in the series because it's such a competitive matchup.

Tuesday's GRAND SLAM of action wraps up with the much anticipated Game Five of the Thunder/Lakers series. It's turned out to be everything fans of the upstart Thunder had hoped for. They're attacking the basket and challenging the multi-time defending Western champs on each possession. We can't say that all 16 teams in the postseason are putting on a great show. There have definitely been some first round matchups that have had a championship feel to them though. We hope you're enjoying the great action, and we hope you're making money along with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

Let's run through all four of tonight's matchups in rotation order. As always, we'll be breaking down inside and outside scoring to give you a perspective on each series that the mainstream media is missing...

GAME FIVE: MIAMI AT BOSTON
BOSTON leads 3-1
Current Vegas Line: Boston by 6, total of 188

Boston is now getting respect in the line that was lacking earlier in the series. They were just -4.5 in the opener, then -1 in Game Two on this floor when Kevin Garnett was suspended. Now, they're laying a whopping six points. The Boston totals were lower than this (around 183), with both games registering lower than tonight's total. Scoring picked up in Miami, with the games landing on 198 and 193. That 188 you see is a mix of the two places, which may not be the right way to post a number!

MIAMI 101, BOSTON 92
Three-Point Scoring: Boston 24, Miami 30
Two-Point Scoring: Boston 52, Miami 56
Free Throw Scoring: Boston 16, Miami 15

Boston won free throws for the fourth straight game, even with the three late misses by Ray Allen. That means Miami will be starting out tonight with a deficit. The refs just aren't putting the Heat at the line much. Boston is +12, +12, +4, and +1 so far through four games. If they go back to +12 on the home floor, the Heat are probably eliminated already. Miami must figure out a way to defend without fouling...or to get somebody besides Dwayne Wade to the free throw line.

Wade had a huge game Sunday in the must-win spot for the Heat. He scored 46 points, yet the team still trailed in the fourth quarter before rallying for the nine-point victory. Looks like he'll have to reach 40 again for the Heat to have any chance.

We'll be talking with our on-site sources about the Boston mindset. If they have their heads on straight, this is their game to win and cover. If they've gotten arrogant (signs of that on the Boston bench Sunday), they could find themselves sweating out another finish. You know D-Wade isn't going to give up. Oh, don't be surprised if we find something on the total here.

GAME FIVE: CHICAGO AT CLEVELAND
CLEVELAND leads 3-1
Current Vegas Line: Cleveland by 12, total of 199

A jump in the line from the 11 we were seeing the last time these teams were in Cleveland. There's a perception from the market that Cleveland is going to take care of business tonight so they can rest up for next round. They'll probably get Boston. The last thing Cleveland wants is to give away a game here at the same time Boston is earning early rest by wrapping up the Miami series. The total has jumped from the 192-193 range we saw the first time around. The last three games in the series have landed on 214, 214, and 219.

CLEVELAND 121, CHICAGO 98
Three-Point Scoring: Cleveland 36, Chicago 12
Two-Point Scoring: Cleveland 60, Chicago 60
Free Throw Scoring: Cleveland 25, Chicago 26

That was a championship team sending a message! The Cavs took control about midway through the second quarter, then just kept piling on the points. You can see that most of the damage was done from three-point land. That's actually a good showing in two-pointers though, because Chicago had owned inside the paint scoring in the earlier outings.

TWO-POINT SCORING
Chicago 72, Cleveland 66
Chicago 74, Cleveland 60
Chicago 74, Cleveland 44
Chicago 60, Cleveland 60

The Cavaliers really clamped down on internal defense, holding Chicago well below their prior norms on deuces. Then, they ALSO won three-point scoring 36-12! That's why it was a blowout. And, that's why few in this league can touch the Cavaliers when they're hitting on all cylinders.

The good news for Bulls fans is that Cleveland hasn't figured out how to do that every single game! As long as Chicago's players haven't thrown in the towel, this fifth game could surely be as competitive Games Two and Three were. We'll be checking very closely with our sources here. If Chicago is going to show up, the 12 points are a steal. If they've given up hope, they'll trail by more than that at halftime. We'll also have to think about the Over here given the scoring tendencies of the last three games.

GAME 5 DYNAMITE

The first round of the NBA playoffs are hitting fever pitch as the top seeds in each conference go into action. It starts with Chicago-Cleveland, and our on-scene sources are at hand offering critical advice as to whether Cleveland's frame of mind is up to not just closing out this series, but covering a big point spread. Then in the nightcap, we've got a huge Game 5 with Oklahoma City-Los Angeles. Did the Thunder's two wins mean they're good enough to win the series, including winning a game on the road? Our basketball experts have the answer! And we've got the winners on both games!

 

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GAME FIVE: SAN ANTONIO AT DALLAS
SAN ANTONIO leads 3-1
Current Vegas Line: Dallas by 5, total of 193

Dallas was laying 4.5 and 3 in the first two home games (standard home court in the opener, then an adjustment for the bounce back in Game Two). Now Dallas is at home in the bounce back spot off two road losses, so oddsmakers have lifted the premium for textbook bettors. The total has dropped a smidge from where it was the first time around. We had expected a little more, given that the last three games have landed on 190, 184, and 181.

SAN ANTONIO 92, DALLAS 89
Three-Point Scoring: Dallas 21, San Antonio 18
Two-Point Scoring: Dallas 50, San Antonio 56
Free Throw Scoring: Dallas 18, San Antonio 18

This is a very competitive series with both teams capable of doing many of the same things. Either can blow hot or cold from long range (the Spurs bounced back from an 0-7 in Game Three to go 6 of 17 in Game Four). You never know for sure who the officials are going to favor (Dallas was +13 in their home win, the Spurs were +6 in their home peak). Inside scoring is a WAR with the Spurs throwing everything at Dirk Nowitzki since the opener, and the Mavs valiantly trying to chase down the Spurs threats every night.

Generally speaking, Dallas -5 is obviously too high for the series. The Spurs are either slightly better right now at full health, or the teams are even. The market is reacting to what's been common in past playoffs though. If the early series underdog is up 3-1, they've been known to 'give a game away'so they can have everything prepared for the shot to take the series at home. Greg Popovich is a very smart coach. Handicappers have to determine if he believes 'smart'is going for the jugular tonight, or going for the jugular back in Alamo City.

GAME FIVE: OKLAHOMA CITY AT LA LAKERS
Series tied 2-2
Current Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 6, total of 194.5

This matches the Game Two line, which had fallen to six after the opener was -8. It's interesting that a championship team like the Lakers are in a double bounce back spot, yet aren't getting more respect than this in the line. That tells you how much the Thunder have impressed oddsmakers and big bettors in Vegas. And, you also get a sense that dumb public money isn't a big factor yet. The public loves to bet the Lakers, especially after a loss. They're seeing what everyone else is seeing! A fading champion in the fight of its life against a young upstart.

OKLAHOMA CITY 110, LA LAKERS 89
Three-Point Scoring: Lakers 12, Oklahoma City 18
Two-Point Scoring: Lakers 60, Oklahoma City 50
Free Throw Scoring: Lakers 17, Oklahoma City 42

Seems like we keep saying something like 'Now you know why Phil Jackson was worried about the officiating'after every game. Oklahoma City attacks the basket with abandon. Lakers defenders tend to be on the slow side, particularly with Kobe's various injuries slowing him down.

FREE THROWS BY GAME
Oklahoma City 19, Lakers 15
Oklahoma City 29, Lakers 23
Oklahoma City 27, Lakers 10
Oklahoma City 42, Lakers 17

That's +4 and +6 in the road games for the Thunder (which is HUGE when you consider how much respect Kobe usually gets in LA), followed by +17 and +25 in Oklahoma City. The Lakers absolutely HAVE to figure out a way to guard the basket without swiping a guy's arm as he flies by them.

Will the Lakers finally make the needed defensive adjustments? That's the whole key to handicapping the game. If not, then Lakers -6 is a horrible line. We're looking at another nailbiter. If they do...then we could see the first truly comfortable win of the series. Think of the breathing room the Lakers get on the scoreboard when you erase the Thunder's free throw edges from the scoreboard. The Lakers were +12 and +9 in non-free throw scoring in the first two home games.

We told you the playoffs were going to be very exciting this year. We told you that the #7 and #8 seeds (San Antonio and Oklahoma City) were MUCH better than the caliber you usually see in those spots on the ladder. We hope you've been seeing the playoffs through new eyes based on our NOTEBOOK entries the past couple of weeks. And, we hope you've been winning with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK with the service plays. If you'd like to get on board, call 1-800-323-4453 right now. Start with a Tuesday Night GRAND SLAM! Game day selections and packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Your next NBA champion may well be on the floor tonight. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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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