NBA Tuesday Previews
MAGIC/HEAT FINALLY READY...
GAME TWO IN JAZZ/LAKERS
The Orlando Magic have been patiently waiting for several days to find out who their second round opponent would be.
They couldn't have been very intimidated either way. Both Atlanta and Milwaukee looked horrible through that seven-game first round series, particularly when you compared their level of play to everyone else in the playoffs. You get the sense that any of the four first round losers in the West could have taken out Atlanta or Milwaukee in about five games.
Orlando is a very strong team...and looks to be in position to do the same thing unless they come in very rusty, or very overconfident.
Let's run the key indicator numbers for this fourth and final second round matchup. Then, we'll look at Game One stats from the Utah/LA Lakers series for some guidance about what might happen in tonight's Game Two!
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SERIES PREVIEW: ATLANTA AT ORLANDO
Orlando 1st in the NBA
Orlando has the best defense in the NBA in terms of points allowed per possession. They're also best in the league, by the way, on two-point defense...allowing just 46% of deuces to go in. This is how the Magic were able to derail the Cleveland Cavaliers last year in the Eastern half of the brackets. It's why they definitely have a chance to get back to the finals again this year. Nobody defends with more authority than the Magic.
Atlanta's defense comes and goes. They can be proud of the last two games of the Milwaukee series. They can't be proud that they had to win the last two games of the series to barely survive the opening round against a shorthanded team!
No surprise here. Defense and rebounding wins championships. Orlando plays like a champion in those categories. Atlanta is playoff caliber, but nothing special. It's hard to see them advancing past the Bucks if Andrew Bogut had been healthy. It's 20 times harder to see them advancing past the Magic unless Dwight Howard get hurt, or gets into foul trouble in every single quarter of every single game.
Normally, this is where Atlanta makes up for its lack of defense and rebounding. They are very efficient on offense, with several sharp shooters who know how to get their open looks. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they're running into a team that's even more efficient than they are!
You can see why stat handicappers have such respect for the Magic. It's very hard to rank top two on BOTH sides of the court! We'll grant that the West is tougher than the East, so that Orlando probably wouldn't grade out quite that high if they played a Western Conference schedule. That will be something to worry about if they make the championships.
THREE-POINTERS PER GAME
This is where the Magic just run away and hide. They make so many three pointers that they basically have a 12-point head start on the Hawks in every game. That's before you factor in defense and rebounding! How can the Hawks hope to compete? Atlanta will have to play way over its heads from long range just to counteract this one category. It's hard to see them counteracting all of their various weaknesses.
This last one does give them some hope. Atlanta can earn a few extra productive possessions per game by protecting the ball, and taking advantage of Orlando's relative sloppiness. This could allow the stars to align in one or two games where Atlanta shoots great, protects the ball, and takes advantage of a flat effort from the Magic. It's very hard to see the stars aligning four different times.
Will they align tonight?
GAME ONE: ATLANTA AT ORLANDO
Vegas Line: Orlando by 8.5, total of 192
Orlando lays the highest price of any first round host. Part of that we have to admit is the big fatigue advantage. Atlanta just finished off a mentally draining seven game series Sunday, they has to come back Tuesday Night to play on the road against a very fresh opponent. This is one of the biggest fatigue advantages you'll ever see in the playoffs. Of course, Atlanta-Milwaukee wasn't exactly a war involving the Bad Boys of Detroit's heyday and whoever hated them most in a given year. Still, it was draining, and that's likely to be an issue.
Orlando looks like they have blowout potential tonight, and in terms of the series. We will point out though that they didn't exactly impress us with a sense of urgency against Charlotte. It's like they were going half speed much of the time, just doing what it took to win. Odd to say in a sweep. They just did enough four straight times! We're prefer a bit more 'go for the jugular' from the Magic. It's tough to cover big numbers like this without that intensity.
That's why we're checking very closely with our sources for tonight's game. Orlando makes sense on paper. On the floor, a sharpshooting team that doesn't have the pressure on them any more is getting a very high spread from a rusty favorite that lacks a sense of urgency! Cleveland didn't breathe fire until very late vs. Boston on Saturday. The Lakers were trailing Utah with a few minutes to go in their opener Sunday. ANYTHING can happen in tonight's opener!
JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will have a selection for you here, in addition to something from the nightcap out West...
GAME 2 MONEY MOVES
As the games get bigger, the Jim Hurley Network keeps rising to the occassion. We've won 5 of our last 7 in the NBA playoffs and are poised to go 2-0 tonight on TNT. The first game of the doubleheader is Game 1 of the Atlanta-Orlando series. Are the Hawks as bad as they looked against Milwaukee, or did they just need to settle in to the playoffs, similar to Boston in 2008, who won a championship after a poor first-round showing. What about Orlando? They are playing tremendous basketball right now, but are they rusty after sweeping aside Charlotte and then waiting for their opponent? Thanks to our sources, we know the answers with both teams! Then Utah matches up with Los Angeles in Game 2 of their series. We picked up the cover on the Jazz in Game 1. Will they offer similar value in Game 2, or will either the linesmakers or Lakers adjust? We know! We've got Game 2 Money Moves ahead, so tune into the Network and go 2-0!
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GAME TWO: UTAH AT LA LAKERS
LOS ANGELES leads 1-0
Current Vegas Line: LA Lakers by 6, total of 199.5
The total has dropped a bit from Sunday's opener. That game started at Lakers -8, but dropped to -6.5 by tipoff. If you watched, you know the Lakers almost vultured a cover the way Cleveland did over Boston. The total has nudged up from 198.5 in the opener. That game coasted Over in the final moments even though defensive intensity picked up late.
LA LAKERS 104, UTAH 99
Three-Point Scoring: Utah 15, Lakers 6
Two-Point Scoring: Utah 66, Lakers 78
Free Throw Scoring: Utah 18, Lakers 20
It was a cover for the Jazz, but mostly bad news in our eyes if you're a Jazz fan. They had to win treys 5-2 to be in the game. The Lakers will usually make more than two treys! If that category evened out (which it's likely to the rest of the way), we're looking at a 14-point win for the hosts.
Note how dominant the Lakers were inside the arc. As we suggested in our preview, their big defenders are just the right antidote to what the Jazz try to do. We lost count of all the blocked shots and missed putbacks from the Jazz because they weren't used to tall guys who were actually trying to guard them! This series could get very ugly very fast if the Jazz are going to lose two-pointers by double digits each game.
The Lakers didn't make the most of their 27-21 edge in free throw attempts, but showed that they're likely to win this stat for the series. Maybe they won't on the road (the refs are generally friendlier to Utah in Salt Lake City). This won't be a replay of the Oklahoma City series where the Lakers were dominated from the charity stripe.
Textbook handicapping says you're supposed to take the Game One loser here. Maybe we will. Maybe we won't. Textbook handicapping also says the Lakers will make more than two treys!
It's a tough night, and really a tough week for do-it-yourself handicappers. You've been winning with JIM HURLEY...so keep right on winning by calling 1-800-323-4453! We've got great rates for the rest of the playoffs...plus combo packages that include baseball, and the Preakness and Belmont horse races that are coming up.
Game day releases can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.
We're down to the FINAL EIGHT in the NBA Playoffs. JIM HURLEY has been cashing playoff tickets for more than 20 years. Don't make a move tonight until you hear what he has to say!
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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