Suns About To Set?

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR PHOENIX AS SERIES LEAVES L.A.

Many pundits have already decided the Phoenix Suns/Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference championship series is over.

*Los Angeles found its championship form in the Utah series, and hasn't slowed down since.

*Los Angeles has a huge edge in the paint, and it's not like Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom are going to get shorter any time soon.

*Oh, did we mention Kobe Bryant? The ultimate insurance policy late in close games?

*Phoenix used the "element of surprise" to dominate San Antonio surprisingly easily. Los Angeles had time to prepare, figured out the antidote, and coasted to two easy wins.

*Even if the Suns do come up with something new today and in Game Four...well, they still have to win four out of five games to advance, with at least one of those coming on the road!

The pundits are probably right. Phoenix is a longshot to rally back for a win. That being said:

*The Lakers have only "held serve" so far. They were supposed to win those games. This series was supposed to be 2-0 at this stage. If Phoenix holds serve as small home favorites, we're back to 2-2 in a couple of days...and then we're talking about a best of 3.

*Phoenix has a great home crowd. That could definitely inspire a big effort today and in Game Four should the Suns win this one.

*We've seen in past years (though not so much this year), that the Lakers have a tendency to relax when things start going very well. They're never as dominant as they should be, even at their best. That leaves the door open a crack for Phoenix to get back into the series.

Let's run through our preview data and see if we can find any keys that may signal a turnaround...

 

GAME THREE: LA LAKERS AT PHOENIX
LOS ANGELES leads series 2-0
Vegas Line: Phoenix by 3, total of 219

The Lakers were -6 and -7.5 at home, so we're seeing the standard line adjustment for a change in cities. Oddsmakers have been adjusting Game Three's in particular since that stretch in recent seasons where trailing teams were EXPLODING in this game before falling back to earth the rest of the way. We expect the Game Four line to drop regardless of what happens here. Should Phoenix have that big outing, oddsmakers would defend against the "bounce back" betting on the Lakers after a loss. Should the Lakers make it 3-0 in the series...most people are betting on sweeps now, which would also bring the number down lower.

And, frankly, the Lakers looked better than a 6-point or 7-point favorite in those first two games, winning by 21 and 12 points. It's conceivable the Lakers would be favored in a Game Four if they won Game Three.

The total has taken another leap forward, after oddsmakers posted 212 and 216 in the first two games. With reality landing on 235 and 236, they may still have some work to do! Phil Jackson does have a history of more restrained play with his teams on the road in the postseason. That didn't happen at Utah though, with Game Three there landing on 221 against a 202 total.

Basically, it's been a Lakers and Over series so far. Handicappers have to determine if that's going to continue or hit a roadblock.

Let's look at the scoring breakdowns in those two Lakers victories...

GAME ONE
LA LAKERS 128, PHOENIX 107
Three-Point Scoring: Phoenix 15, Lakers 24
Two-Point Scoring: Phoenix 68, Lakers 86
Free Throw Scoring: Phoenix 24, Lakers 18

GAME TWO
LA LAKERS 124, PHOENIX 112
Three-Point Scoring: Phoenix 30, Lakers 27
Two-Point Scoring: Phoenix 62, Lakers 72
Free Throw Scoring: Phoenix 20, Lakers 25

We're using BOTH games again because there's been such a long layoff since the last time you watched the series, and because the games were so similar. It may not seem like a 21-point win and a 12-point win are clones. But...the Lakers scored about the same, and did it in the exact same way. Phoenix made more treys (their only hope of being competitive), yet still wasn't a factor in the last six minutes of the game.

The Lakers are just DOMINATING in the area of "inside scoring" (one's and two's). Let's look at those scores so far:

INSIDE SCORING (one's and two's)
Game One: Lakers 104, Phoenix 92
Game Two: Lakers 97, Phoenix 82

That's +12 and +15 points in margin, and an average just over 100 per game. It's supposed to be hard to score 100 points of any kind in playoff games. The Lakers are doing it even before you count three-pointers!

Clearly, Phoenix has to win the three-point category BIG to have a chance to get a win. They actually lost the category in Game One, leading to a rout. They had a stellar 10-trey night in Game Two, yet still only picked up three points because the Lakers made nine!

If the Suns want to win, they need:

*To STOP SOMEBODY FROM DUNKING ON THEIR HEADS!

*And, to hope that the Lakers have a couple of games where they only make 3-4 treys instead of 8-9.

Remember, Phoenix has to win treys by 4-5 makes just to get back to even. That's to set up a nailbiter finish that probably favors Kobe Bryant anyway. To WIN, Phoenix has to win treys by 7-8 (virtually impossible to do "on purpose"). It's going to take both of these for this to become a series.

Of course, you're not handicapping "the series" at this point. You're handicapping today's game at the numbers of 3 and 219. JIM HURLEY has been talking with his SCOUTS...talking with his SOURCES...talking with his STAT HANDICAPPERS...talking with his computer programmers...and he's very confident about today's MAJOR RELEASE!

In fact, he says it's going to cover by at least six points. That means either an outright win for the Lakers, or a blowout win for the must-win Suns (unless the big play is a total...and that proposition is just as volatile today!). Call 1-800-323-4453 to get on board. Be sure to ask about today's INTERLEAGUE play as well. NETWORK has it's eye on the Yankees/Mets game tonight on ESPN in addition to some other strong possibilities (like Cubs/Rangers on WGN).

Be sure to ask about our BOMBSHELL offer with the BLUE RIBBON CLUB. We mentioned it the other day, and time is of the essence. If you sign up for BLUE RIBBON BASEBALL for the season before June 1st at a price of $395...you'll get PRESEASON FOOTBALL and SEPTEMBER FOOTBALL at no additional charge! Again, this early bird offer is only available through the rest of May. Start TODAY so you can include INTERLEAGUE action!

As always, game day releases and club packages are also available here at the website for credit card purchase. Be sure you're back with us tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK for a preview of Game Four in the Orlando/Boston series. We'll be talking baseball and football later in the week.

Are the Suns about to set? Or, will they heat up again and make this a series? DON'T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

 

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