NBA Monday Previews
ORLANDO, LA LAKERS TRY TO FINISH OFF SWEEPS
by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor
This could be one of the most boring weeks in NBA playoff history. NO GAMES!
Both the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers will try to finish off 4-0 sweeps Monday Night in their second round series. Should either fail, each would be prohibitive favorites to get the job done at home in their respective Game Five's.
The championship combatants from last year are playing very well in recent days. Orlando is just plain OBLITERATING overmatched Atlanta. The Lakers have their hands full with game Utah, but they always find a way to finish out on top. They should change the hype from "Showtime" to "CRUNCHtime" because of how well Kobe and Company play when the game is on the line. If you can produce when it matters, it's very hard for opponents to beat you four games in seven. Utah hasn't been able to win one game in three.
We'll crunch the numbers for you from their Saturday meetings in just a moment. Just be aware that tonight's handicapping will very much revolve around mindset and motivation rather than the numbers. We've been saying that a lot the past few days. That's because mindset is EVERYTHING once a series has been pretty much determined. In a tight showdown, what you learn from matchup and boxscore analysis will typically determine who's going to win and cover in the biggest games. When somebody had a 3-0 lead, the trailing team is either going to show up or not. If they don't, traditional analysis isn't going to matter much.
Utah has been showing up so far, but has to be demoralized that they can't finish the job in close ones. Atlanta is playing like it was all a lost cause even before opening tip off of the first game. Let's run through the numbers and see what we might learn about tonight's possibilities.
GAME FOUR: ORLANDO AT ATLANTA
ORLANDO leads 3-0
Current Vegas Line: Orlando by 5, total of 194
It's taken oddsmakers forever to recognize Orlando's extreme superiority in this series. And, you could argue that they still haven't got it right yet. The Magic won by 43 and 14 at home, then 30 on the road in Game Three. They're winning most halves by a lot more than this spread. Frankly, if Atlanta's still in the tank, this is a HORRIBLE spread! Orlando will have it covered by the first quarter and coast home. If the Magic are flat, and Atlanta has any pride, then maybe this is a reasonable spread.
The total hasn't moved off the 194 from Game Three. That game landed on 180. Note that the slaughters have landed on 185 and 180, with Atlanta's best game making it to 210. Tonight's total represents a midpoint of the possibilities in that sense. Vegas is clearly expecting an Atlanta bounce-back given that line and total combination.
ORLANDO 105, ATLANTA 75
Three-Point Scoring: Orlando 30, Atlanta 12
Two-Point Scoring: Orlando 52, Atlanta 50
Free Throw Scoring: Orlando 23, Atlanta 13
The great thing about breaking down scoring this way is that it really drives home the point about Orlando's "head start" every game on three-pointers. They're going to make 8-10 most of the time (sometimes more). If you can't keep up in that category, you're in big trouble at the get-go. Atlanta can't...and is barely involved in this series.
THREE-POINT SCORING THIS SERIES
Game One: Orlando 27, Atlanta 6
Game Two: Orlando 27, Atlanta 18
Game Three: Orlando 30, Atlanta 12
Note that the Vegas spread isn't even capturing this particular element with its full game spreads, let alone the full games!
Atlanta has to make up those deficits inside, against a great halfcourt defense. No shot. That's just shoveling the hole deeper in this particular matchup.
This is why Orlando is championship material. They may not go the distance. They really haven't been tested yet...and you have to assume everyone they face from this point forward will provide tougher tests! The bottom line is that this powerful inside/outside model is the future of the NBA. Teams who can put together the right talent mix make it very difficult for opponents to compete.
What's going to happen tonight? If Atlanta has thrown in the towel, Orlando names the score again. Remember that Orlando's bench strength allows them to run up the score once the starters are out. "Garbage time" in the NBA traditionally is a crapshoot because everyone's benches are roughly the same. Orlando's got a great bench. That's how they're turning 19-20 point halftime leads into 30-40 point victories. Orlando did have a flat first half after their first rout, and could come out flat again. We're working very closely with our sources on that. ONLY the combination of flat Orlando and fired up Atlanta could make this a game. And, as we mentioned above, smart total options will also be triggered by what we learn about game intensity. We could well have a side and total parlay here.
MONDAY NIGHT GRAND SLAM
The NBA playoffs features outstanding action tonight, with the Lakers visiting the Jazz for Game 4, and the Magic in Atlanta for their own fourth game. The Network handicappers have been closely studying all teams, but they've been especially diligent about coordinating with our Vegas connections to make sure our reads on Orlando and Los Angeles are precise down to a tee! Because these teams made the Finals last year, the public is going to be involved on their games and that means the opportunity for edges and free points are only enhanced! We've got our edges razor-sharp for Monday night and intend to sweep both games. Our people in Vegas have a similar strong opinion in baseball regarding the Yankees-Tigers game tonight on ESPN, and our baseball stat guys have uncovered one game that has three key historical trends with 80 percent predictive value all pointing the same direction. Get all four games--Atlanta-Orlando, Los Angeles-Utah, Yanks-Tigers, plus a fourth game and you've got your Monday Night Grand Slam!
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In the nightcap...
GAME FOUR: LA LAKERS AT UTAH
LOS ANGELES leads 3-0
Current Vegas Line: Utah by 2½, total of 206½
The line has dropped from Utah by 2½, which is the standard drop in a fourth game. You saw the same thing in Phoenix/San Antonio. And, we've seen something very similar in the past even if the home team WON Game Three rather than losing it. Oklahoma City dropped back in Game Four after beating the Lakers in Game Three back in the first round.
You can see the total is still surging upward. Game Three was 202, yet flew all the way to 221 on the floor. That's 203, 214, and 221 on the floor through three games with the Overs getting there comfortably. We have to say that the betting markets have been playing catch up on either sides or totals in a lot of series this year. You can tell the oddmsmakers were so busy with MARCH MADNESS that they didn't properly evaluate NBA teams coming into the playoffs!
LA LAKERS 111, UTAH 110
Three-Point Scoring: Lakers 39, Utah 30
Two-Point Scoring: Lakers 56, Utah 54
Free Throw Scoring: Lakers 16, Utah 26
An amazing three-point shooting performance from both. The Lakers were 13 of 29 after combining for a very soft 6 of 29 in the first two games. Utah was a sharp 10 of 22, which is normally good enough to get the job done. Heck, it's normally good enough to win big!
That drove an evening that was probably higher scoring than it should have been. You can't assume one or both teams will maintain those paces from behind the arc. We'll have to think about an Under with the total skyrocketing to 206.5 just as the shooters are due to cool off.
The "mindset" question is tricky here. Utah can definitely play with the Lakers. This isn't a David vs. Goliath showdown by any means. But, we've seen throughout playoff history that strong teams often lose their spirit when it becomes clear they're just not good enough. They stop hustling on defense and on the boards. Ball movement isn't as aggressive as it should be on offense. The adrenalin stops flowing, and the superior team swoops in to finish things off. Los Angeles surely doesn't want to give Phoenix a significant edge in rest prior to the start of the Western finals.
We see this going one of two ways, with BOTH ways missing the spread by 6-8 points or more.
- Utah maintains its intensity, and the Lakers fall back to earth from three-point land. Los Angeles knows they can wrap the series up at home in Game Five, so they save their energy after falling behind (similar to what the Spurs did in Dallas just before clinching at home). Utah wins comfortably
- Utah gives up hope, and the Lakers grind out a comfortable road victory similar to what they did last year in the playoffs. You may have forgotten that the Lakers beat Denver last year in the Western Finals 119-92 on the road to finish the series (as 5-point underdogs), then won the trophy at Orlando 99-86 (as 3-pont underdogs).
We're working with our sources to pick the right pathway!
If you're having trouble making decisions about tonight's games, call 1-800-323-4453 for guidance. Be sure to ask about our value rates that take you through the NBA Championships...and about our MLB package that's really picking up steam of late. With the potentially very quiet NBA schedules this week, YOU HAVE TO START GETTING BUSY IN BASEBALL!
Game day releases and packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.
Will be see broomsticks tonight? Or, will the trailing underdogs live to fight another day? JIM HURLEY fights every day...AND SWEEPS THROUGH VEGAS EVERY YEAR IN THE NBA PLAYOFFS!
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