NBA Wednesday Previews
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
BUCKS/HAWKS IN PIVOTAL GAME FIVE...NUGGETS TRYING TO STAY ALIVE
Hey, sometimes we like to make the headlines rhyme!
Only two games on the card this evening, but both have interesting lines for handicappers to consider. Amazingly, the favorites are priced well above what you'd expect based on where each series stands.
- Milwaukee and Atlanta are knotted at two games apiece, suggesting a dead even series. Atlanta won its home games by 20. Milwaukee won its home games by 25. Are the Bucks slightly better? Pencil in 3-4 for home court, and you get Atlanta as a short favorite. Instead, Atlanta is 8½ as we go to press!
- Utah leads Denver there games to one, and is playing with much more enthusiasm on both sides of the ball. About the only time the Nuggets looked like a playoff team in the last month was in their series opening win over the Jazz. Otherwise, it's the Jazz who have been the superior team. They're +13 points in net differential through four games. Factor in home floor, and you get Denver as a small favorite at best. Yet, Denver is -7 as we go to press.
Clearly the markets are expecting the original series favorites to come out with peak performances Wednesday Night. Is that likely to happen? Let's crunch the numbers from the prior game in each series to see if there are any hints...
GAME FIVE: MILWAUKEE AT ATLANTA
Series tied 2-2
Current Vegas Line: Atlanta by 8½, total of 191
It's been a series of decisive home wins...so the spread is less outlandish here than in the Denver game later tonight. Atlanta did win the first two games at home by 10 apiece...meaning 8.5 isn't ridiculous. The Hawks were favored by 7½ and 8 in this games, meaning there's a slight adjustment for the bounce back factor in play. And, just the plain fact that Atlanta has to get its act together or they won't make it out of the round. The total is up from 186 and 188 in the first two games, and the 189 of Game Four. Clearly Vegas is chasing this one...with the actual games landing on 196 and 215 the last two times out.
MILWAUKEE 111, ATLANTA 104
Three-Point Scoring: Atlanta 30, Milwaukee 21
Two-Point Scoring: Atlanta 56, Milwaukee 62
Free Throw Scoring: Atlanta 18, Milwaukee 28
Early in the series it looked like Milwaukee's lack of an inside game was going to kill them in the series. Without Andrew Bogut, the Bucks were going to have to rely on little guys hitting long shots to win. Note how dramatically that changed in Game Four. The Bucks won two-point scoring by six, and "inside" scoring (adding in FT's) by a whopping 16 points.
INSIDE SCORING BY GAME
Atlanta 84, Milwaukee 74
Atlanta 87, Milwaukee 74
Atlanta 80, Milwaukee 77
Milwaukee 90, Atlanta 74
To us the key to handicapping tonight's fifth game is figuring out what that fourth game breakdown means. If Milwaukee has solved the riddle of inside scoring vs. the Hawks, then the series is now a toss-up. Atlanta has lost its most decisive advantage. If that was just a one-game fluke because the Hawks lost their focus temporarily...then you're looking at a double digit win tonight for the Hawks inside, with the fickleness of three-pointers then influencing the final cover.
Let's note that this is a 3-6 series in the seedings, and the 3-6 series in the West also saw a 2-2 start. Phoenix was able to rise to the occasion at home to take a series lead late Monday Night. Sometimes the series underdog is so worn out from evening the series that they lose a step in the fifth game. That's something to keep in mind as well. We'll be working with our series sources to determine the Milwaukee fatigue situation, and to discover any schematic changes Atlanta may be making on defense.
We know for sure there will be a Game Six back in Milwaukee later in the week. The same can't be said for part two of the Wednesday doubleheader...
GAME FIVE: UTAH AT DENVER
UTAH leads 3-1
Current Vegas Line: Denver by 7, total of 215
Denver was laying 5½ and 6 in the first two games, so it's odd to see a jump to -7 in a series that's going badly. Oddsmakers are clearly expecting the public to bet the series favorite in a must-win situation. To this point, nobody's buying shares of Utah because it's possible they'll take this game off then try to win the series at home. That could change on game day though. If you see the line drop Wednesday afternoon, that means some Wise Guy money is on the dog. If you don't see a drop, you can assume that money will wait until Game Six. The total of 215 is up from the 209 and 213 earlier in Denver...games that landed on 239 and 225! After a Game Three Under, Game Four also few Over with a 223 final sum. The four-game average is 221. Typically defenses rule the day in playoff action...but we have a few series this year where the defense has been lacking.
UTAH 117, DENVER 106
Three-Point Scoring: Denver 18, Utah 15
Two-Point Scoring: Denver 62, Utah 72
Free Throw Scoring: Denver 26, Utah 30
And, nobody lacks more on defense than Denver! They allowed 102 points on inside scoring alone, which is the single worst performance by anybody in the playoffs so far. It can be tough to score 100 in a playoff game even with treys counting.
INSIDE SCORING BY GAME
Denver 93, Utah 92
Denver 99, Utah 96
Utah 84, Denver 81
Utah 102, Denver 88
Not much defense by either team in the first two games. The numbers in that sequence suggest to us the following:
- This series is very evenly matched when Denver is trying. They need treys to get distance from Utah, and have no chance to get comfortable if they're not making a lot of treys (an 11-7 edge in their Game One win by the way).
- Denver kind of gave up hope in the fourth game once things started to get away from them. We went from "inside nailbiters" to an "inside blowout," which reflects a lack of effort on defense more than anything else.
That sets the stage for what Denver needs to do tonight to win and cover. They have to re-focus on defense, and get Utah down to the high 80's or low 90's again (granting an up-tempo game allows for some scoring inflation), and they have to hit some treys. They're trey line is 11-4-4-6 so far. Tough to see a cover with seven or less, unless Utah goes in the tank to save themselves for a peak home effort.
Bottom line...Utah's the better team right now! And, Utah will decide when they make the final push to win the series.
Even with the challenging lines up on the board, JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has something very special for you tonight in the NBA playoffs. Call 1-800-323-4453 for details. Be sure to check on Major League Baseball too. There are a lot of DAY games on Wednesday, meaning you can build your bankroll with early winners...then let the money ride tonight in the NBA. Oh, don't forget about the Kentucky Derby coming up! Nobody handicaps the horses better than JIM HURLEY!
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Back tomorrow with more basketball talk. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's really happening in the world of sports!
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