Celtics/Cavs Pivotal Game Five



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

The second round of the NBA Playoffs has largely been a colossal disappointment. But, we have one series guaranteed to go six games that could provide plenty of drama throughout the rest of the week.

The Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight in a pivotal fifth game. Tied at two apiece, tonight's winner will be in the driver's seat to finish things off. Should Boston steal another road win, they can take the series Thursday Night in Boston. Should Cleveland hold serve, they'd just have to split the last two games...with the tie-breaker set for its home floor if the series goes that far.

We've noticed some very interesting statistical indicators we wanted to present for you regarding LeBron James and that injured arm. Let's jump right into the preview for tonight's showdown.

Series tied 2-2
Current Vegas Line: Cleveland by 7.5, total of 193.5

Cleveland was -7 and -6 at home in the first two games. This line has nudged up a bit because Cleveland (and most championship threats) get a lot of betting respect after a loss. This particular Cavs team is 2-0 ATS off a straight up loss so far in the postseason, with thundering blowouts of Chicago and Boston. If they could only bring that kind of intensity every game! The total is higher than the 191 and 192.5 numbers we saw last time in Cleveland, but down from the 195 that was posted Sunday in Boston. That was the first time any sort of defensive intensity happened from both teams at the same time, yielding a 184 finish that stayed Under by double digits.

Three-Point Scoring: Cleveland 12, Boston 3
Two-Point Scoring: Cleveland 46, Boston 66
Free Throw Scoring: Cleveland 29, Boston 28

Both teams marched to the free throw line as referees kept whistling contact. Boston show 40 free throws, Cleveland 39. Neither did as much damage as they could have from the line, so that was mostly a wash. Boston had a clear edge inside the arc with jumpers. Cleveland won three pointers surprisingly big, but it still wasn't enough to stay within single digits on the scoreboard. Boston can be tough to guard inside when the refs are calling everything!

To us, the most important factor right now isn't the overall team breakdowns. It's the condition of LeBron's arm. We've seen VERY strong tendencies here suggesting that the extra rest helps him...and short turnarounds cause a problem. Check out these key numbers when you break things down that way.

Game One: 12 of 24 for 35 points, 3 of 6 on treys, 2 turnovers
Game Three: 14 of 22 for 38 points, 2 of 3 on treys, 1 turnover

Cleveland had plenty of rest coming into Game One, and LeBron had one of his typical MVP type games. There was extra time in the layoff before Game Three to allow Atlanta/Orlando to get caught up on the calendar (because Atlanta had gone seven games in the first round). LeBron was even BETTER in terms of shooting accuracy, scoring, and avoiding turnovers. This is the LeBron everyone expects to see in big games. His arm doesn't seem to be much of an issue at all given more than one day of rest before a game.

Game Two: 7 of 15 for 24 points, 0 of 4 on treys, 5 turnovers
Game Four: 7 of 18 for 22 points, 0 of 5 on treys, 7 turnovers

Everything falls. He shoots less often. The percentage isn't as good. He can't make a trey to save his life...which isn't a surprise if you're right elbow is so painful you can barely lift your arm. Turnovers become a real problem because he's trying to force passes to teammates in traffic rather than shooting the ball. You can deduce from the percentages that he's mostly shooting layups, dunks, or other close in shots. That's 7 of 11 and 7 of 13 on two-pointers in these two games.

The Cavs are clearly the superior side when his arm is rested...and clearly NOT with only one day to get ready. That matters because THERE WAS ONLY ONE DAY BETWEEN GAMES before tonight! And, that will be the case again before Thursday's Game Six in Boston. Should we see seven games, the finale is set for Sunday...which does allow an extra day of rest.

That sets the stage very clearly. Boston has a window of opportunity here. Cleveland needs to see LeBron lift his game in a fatigue spot, or the role players step up big tonight or Thursday. Sunday will have some extra rest time if the Cavs can take it that far. Boston can't afford to let the series reach Sunday...because they'll be in trouble on the road against a rested LeBron.

Does this mean we're all over the Celtics tonight? We're definitely working very closely with our sources to find out what we can about James condition. And, we're also talking with our Boston guys. This Celtics group has a HORRIBLE habit of relaxing when things start to go well. That cost them what could easily have been a win in Game One. That saw them have to sweat the fourth quarter for awhile in Game Two after they build at 25-point lead. That led to a no-show in their home opener after they had broken serve in Cleveland. Sunday, they frittered away a big early lead only to build it back up at the end.

If Boston's going to relax, we'll look at the Under. If Boston's going to show up, we'll take the points. If we get surprising reports about LeBron being in better condition than expected, we'll recalibrate at that time.

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The Boston-Cleveland series hits its pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday night and the Jim Hurley Network is going to be ready with the winner. After four games in a series, all the information about the matchup that anyone is going to find is already out there and the edge shifts to who can best find the small intangibles that make the difference. That takes connections and it's what Jim Hurley has after 25 years in handicapping. Hurley's network has on-scene sources close to both teams that have the right read on where each is at mentally. And our Vegas connections are no less important--they've got the lowdown on what the sharps think, what the public thinks and how that's shading the line and creating gift points. Connections and inside information--that's the Network edge and why we're your best bet to win Game 5, plus our top baseball play of the day!

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Tonight would have featured an NBA doubleheader if Phoenix hadn't made such short work of San Antonio. Let's briefly wrap up that series. Here are the stats from Sunday Night's Game Four...

Three-Point Scoring: Phoenix 30, San Antonio 12
Two-Point Scoring: Phoenix 54, San Antonio 62
Free Throw Scoring: Phoenix 23, San Antonio 27

Par for the course, with San Antonio thriving inside (one's and two's), but Phoenix dominating so dramatically from behind the arc that the Spurs didn't have much of a chance to win scoreboard.

Look at what happens if you break down inside and outside scoring for the series...

INSIDE SCORING (one's and two's)
Game One: San Antonio 90, Phoenix 90
Game Two: Phoenix 83, San Antonio 81
Game Three: San Antonio 72, Phoenix 65
Game Four: San Antonio 89, Phoenix 77

You have to admit that matches up fairly closely with what many experts felt about the series going in. It would be competitive, but the experience and savvy of San Antonio would end up ruling the day.

You have two nailbiters at Phoenix, suggesting San Antonio was the better side because home court is worth something. The Spurs basically erased home court internally in those first two games. When the series moved back to Texas, you have the the Spurs bouncing back strong to take command of the series. It would either be 2-2 with two big Spurs wins and two close Suns wins, or maybe even 3-1 San Antonio if they had won that first game in extra time. In Las Vegas terms, San Antonio would have gone 4-0 against the spread instead of 0-4! Pencil in about 15-18 points per team for 5-6 treys, and you have a decent representation of past playoff matchups between these two teams.

Of course, that didn't happen.

Game One: Phoenix 21, San Antonio 12
Game Two: Phoenix 27, San Antonio 21
Game Three: Phoenix 45, San Antonio 24
Game Four: Phoenix 30, San Antonio 12

Phoenix held its own inside even if they were inferior, then rolled up points from the perimeter to take all four games in a surprising sweep.

Can they do this against the LA Lakers in the next round? It will be tougher, because the Lakers have more inside depth than the Spurs, and more defense on the perimeter. The Suns have so many different weapons from outside though that they will have a puncher's chance in the series. They only have to get hot four times in seven. Could get interesting!

There's plenty of drama ahead in the remaining playoff action...and that starts TONIGHT with Game Five in Boston/Cleveland. Call 1-800-323-4453 right now to sign up for service. We've got great rates for the rest of May or the rest of the playoffs. Don't forget that the PREAKNESS STAKES goes this Saturday in Triple Crown horse racing. We have busy baseball schedules every night, with series of interest this week including:

NY Yankees at Detroit
Tampa Bay at Los Angeles Angels
Toronto at Boston
Oakland at Texas
Philadelphia at Colorado
San Diego at San Francisco

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