NBA Saturday Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

HAWKS, JAZZ FACE 2-0 DEFICITS...HOPE TO SLOW DOWN MAGIC, LAKERS

The NBA loves it when dominant teams are putting on shows in the playoffs. But, they want those shows to last longer than four games per series!

Both the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers expressed clear control of their second round matchups with 2-0 starts on their home floors. Orlando was so dominant they put themselves back in the championship discussion. The Lakers looked like they could turn things on and off at will...and they're saving the best of their "on" for later games.

Can Atlanta and Utah draw blood today? Or, will they fall behind 3-0 with the writing on the wall seemingly written in indelible ink? Let's crunch the numbers from the most recent outings to see what might be in store today and in the rest of these series. We'll be back tomorrow to talk about Game Four action in Cleveland/Boston and Phoenix/San Antonio.

GAME THREE: ORLANDO AT ATLANTA
ORLANDO leads 2-0
Current Vegas Line: Orlando by 2, total of 195½

This is being priced like it's a first round series rather than a second round series...meaning that Orlando is going to be laying about 10 points at home, then still be favored on the road (very similar to Charlotte/Orlando last round). Atlanta sure hasn't looked like a top four seed much. They struggled through the Milwaukee series, then lost the first two games to Orlando by 57 points! Vegas has posted a line that assumes Atlanta will be competitive again...but not get such a big boost from home floor that they should be expected to win the game.

The total has shot up from the 192½ and 189½ we saw in Florida. Game Two had some tempo to it, and with teams attacking the basket so ferociously that they combined for 70 free throws. Oddsmakers have shaded up on the assumption that intensity won't decrease in a must-win game for the Hawks.

ORLANDO 112, ATLANTA 98
Three-Point Scoring:  Atlanta 18, Orlando 27
Two-Point Scoring: Atlanta 50, Orlando 58
Free Throw Scoring: Atlanta 30, Orlando 27

As we said in our previews, and our recap of Game One, Atlanta just doesn't have any workable options. They're starting each game in a hole because they're probably going to lose three-pointers unless the Magic are ice cold. How are they going to make up for that inside against Dwight Howard and the great Orlando defense? Atlanta actually held its own inside in Game Two:

INSIDE SCORING (one's and two's)
Game One: Orlando 87, Atlanta 65
Game Two: Orlando 85, Atlanta 80

Can they hope for more in a road game than something like 85-80? They still lost by double digits because Orlando is going to add bonus points from long range.

Atlanta has to play GREAT while Orlando has an off-day just to win one game. Maybe they can do that twice at home. Four times in five to win the series? No way. Not the team that's basically been routed three halves in four so far.

Handicappers have to realize though that TODAY COULD BE THE DAY! Atlanta will get a boost from their home crowd. Orlando is prone to relax with a comfortable lead. They had issues with that in the Charlotte series even though it was a sweep. And, you saw Orlando play flat in the first half right off the 43-point slaughter.

Our on-site sources have done what they can to determine the Atlanta mindset. Will this be the game the Hawks win in the series? Or, have they mentally thrown in the towel already on a possible sweep? JIM HURLEY HAS THE INFORMATION! And, that information might even yield something big on the total too.

In game two of the Saturday doubleheader...

 

GAME THREE: LA LAKERS AT UTAH
LOS ANGELES leads 2-0
Current Vegas Line: Utah by 4½, total of 202

Utah gets a lot of respect at home, so we see about a 10-11 point jump from the numbers in Los Angeles. The Lakers were laying 6.5 and 5.5 in the first two games. We saw jumps like this in the first round with good home teams, and with San Antonio in Game Three versus Phoenix. Whenever a GOOD team is in a must-win spot, Vegas has to defend against public money on that side. Let's also remember that the Lakers didn't cover in Oklahoma City in Games Three or Four, saving their peak road effort for Game Six.

The total is up from the 198.5 range we were seeing in Los Angeles. The games in California actually landed on 203 and 214, meaning the market undershot the mark by a good bit. The big move we see here is an attempt to get back in phase.

LA LAKERS 111, UTAH 103
Three-Point Scoring: Utah 24, Lakers 12
Two-Point Scoring: Utah 60, Lakers 72
Free Throw Scoring: Utah 19, Lakers 27

We're definitely seeing an inside/outside dichotomy in this series, with the Lakers focusing on getting Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol into the mix as much as possible, and the Jazz realizing that's probably going to work! So, they have to make up for an inside deficit with three-point shooting.

INSIDE SCORING (one's and two's)
Game One: Lakers 98, Utah 84
Game Two: Lakers 99, Utah 79

Those are HUGE numbers for the Lakers. It's tough to score 100 points consistently in playoff games. They're making a run at it before you even count points off of treys. Utah is in real trouble here inside. They foul too much (particularly on the road), and they don't have the height necessary to slow down the combination of "bigs plus Kobe."

THREE-POINT SCORING (treys only)
Game One: Utah 15, Lakers 6
Game Two: Utah 24, Lakers 12

Utah has to be fairly demoralized because they can't hope to do much better than +9 and +12. With those edges they still couldn't steal a win in Los Angeles. And, there's no guarantee they'll maintain those edges. The Lakers CAN make treys after all. A two-game performance of 2/12 and 4/17 for the Lakers is horrendous. That's going to turn around. Then, the Lakers will be winning inside scoring, and making 5-6 treys instead of four or less.

Phil Jackson teams tend to pace themselves vs. tough opposition, and go for the jugular vs. weak opposition so they can get a series over with quickly. Utah is tough, even though they trail 2-0. We would well see one of those Lakers no-shows here, meaning Utah is offering value even at the inflated price. On the other hand, if the Lakers show up, this line is inappropriate given the talent matchups. Defense and rebounding win championships. The Lakers are playing better defense so far, and have won rebounding 43-38 and 58-40.

Today is the PERFECT day to call NETWORK because INFORMATION MEANS EVERYTHING!

  • The home series underdogs could well play their best games of the fortnight in this particularly schedule spot.
  • The road series favorites are actually underpriced given their talent edges and dominance so far. How often are you going to get the Lakers +4.5? Or, a power like the Magic near pick-em vs. a team they can dominate?

A tricky day for handicappers...a BIG MONEY PARLAY FOR JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

Call 1-800-323-4453 right now to get on board today's combo...our weekend package...or the rest of the NBA playoffs. Be sure to check on baseball when you call (don't forget the Yankees and Red Sox are on national TV both today and Sunday Night!). And, horse racing will be back on the plate soon with the Preakness now just a week away.

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