Suns Have Hope

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

PHOENIX OUTPLAYS LAKERS IN GAME THREE
WILL TRY TO EVEN SERIES TONIGHT

Finally, some quality basketball to talk about!

The Phoenix Suns restored hope that the 2010 NBA playoffs will bring thrills and excitement to fans and legal sports bettors with an aggressive 118-109 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers this past Sunday Night.

That sets up a chance to 'hold serve' with another home victory this evening, which would level the series off at two games apiece.

Let's crunch the numbers from the last game, and see if that was a one-time fluke, or something the Suns are capable of replicating.

First, here's what the oddsmakers have posted...

GAME FOUR: LA LAKERS AT PHOENIX
LOS ANGELES leads series 2-1
Vegas Line: Phoenix by 1, total of 221.5

This line was destined to be Phoenix by about one no matter what happened Sunday Night. Bettors love playing the bounce back, and Lakers money was going to inspire a line drop from Phoenix -3 if they fell. Had the Lakers won...well, everyone would have bet them to sweep! Vegas oddsmakers are trying to defend against the action with a move down to one. Handicappers like you have to figure if that's an overreaction or the right call.

The total continues to climb, and is on pace to reach the right number by about Game 15. Okay, we're exaggerating.

Game One: 235 against a Vegas total of 212
Game Two: 236 against a Vegas total of 216
Game Three: 227 against a Vegas total of 218

That's an average in the low 230's, and a midpoint of 235. So, we weren't really exaggerating all that much! Vegas has badly missed this series in terms of projecting pace and the lack of defense. Playoff matchups do have a history of slowing down in later games though...so that 227 Sunday Night may be a sign that lower numbers are ahead...and Vegas is on the verge of catching up.

What did Phoenix finally do right? Let's run the numbers...

PHOENIX 118, LA LAKERS 109
Three-Point Scoring: Lakers 27, Phoenix 15
Two-Point Scoring: Lakers 66, Phoenix 66
Free Throw Scoring: Lakers 16, Phoenix 37

Did Phoenix make a lot of treys? No, they actually lost that category handily for the second time in three games. Did Phoenix shut down the Lakers dangerous inside attack? Phoenix improved. But...the Lakers scored 72 points on deuces in their Game Two victory. They still got 66 here. It's not like Pau Gasol is having nightmares about somebody blocking his shots.

It's actually pretty simple. The Suns shot a zillion free throws! If you believe in NBA conspiracy theories, a 42-20 edge in attempts and a 37-16 edge in makes is pretty good evidence for you. The league desperately needed a compelling series, and some inventory for their TV partners. The refs marched the free throw line all night to guarantee there would be a fifth game.

GAME 4 CRUNCH PLAY

 Phoenix bounced back strong tonight with a big game inside from Amare Stoudamire and a big edge at the foul line. Now it's a series again as we go to Game 4. Are the Lakers are going to bounce right back themselves? Or have we seen the unfolding of a series in which homecourt will be decisive? Our basketball experts have dissected tape of the first three games. Our stat guys have run data analysis. Our Vegas connections have let us know what way the public and the syndicate players are going. And the maestro, Jim Hurley himself, has put it all together in a winning move on Game 4 that grades out at 84 percent! It's a big play on a big game. Now all you need to do is make a big bet with Hurley!

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We've mentioned a lot over the years here in the NOTEBOOK that 'perceived' conspiracies with basketball officiating are often better correlated to offensive aggression. Teams that attack the basket draw more fouls. Teams that lay back and launch a lot of treys don't. That's very obvious in college basketball. It's less common in the pro's because of standardization of play.

Sunday Night, there wasn't any standardization. Los Angeles tried 32 three-pointers, way up from the 17 and 16 they tried in the first two games. Phoenix only tried 20, and made a concerted effort to fly at the basket with Amare Stoudemire or whichever ballhandler happened to be driving at any given time.

It was reminiscent of the Lakers/Oklahoma City series...where the Thunder enjoyed big edges at the free throw line in Games 3, 4, and 6 at home; while the Lakers inexplicably settled for trey attempts. Remember these free throw discrepancies from our earlier coverage:

LAKERS AT OKLAHOMA CITY: FREE THROWS
Game Three: Lakers 10/12, Oklahoma City 27/34
Game Four: Lakers 17/28, Oklahoma City 42/48
Game Six: Lakers 9/14, Oklahoma City 27/31

Free throws were relatively even in LA...with the Lakers actually enjoying an edge in attempts. In Oklahoma City, the Lakers shot 54 free throws, compared to a stunning 113 for the Thunder.

Sunday Night: Lakers 16/20, Phoenix 37/42

Clearly, that sets up the key to tonight's handicapping challenge.

*If the league is still in conspiracy theory mode, they'd love to guarantee a sixth game! That would mean another big night at the line for the Suns.

*If there aren't any conspiracies, attacking the basket could still yield a huge edge at the line for Phoenix. Oklahoma City won Games 3 and 4 in their series, and only lost Game Six by a point. If Phoenix keeps attacking, they're back in the series.

*The Lakers have clearly seen the success of their own aggression at home vs. Oklahoma City, in all games vs. Utah, and in the first two games vs. Phoenix. Are they going to go back to what was working? Or, will they settle for a night of trey launching again?

This is why it's so important to have SCOUTS and SOURCES studying developments from all angles. Tonight's team side cover, and probably the total too, will be strongly influenced by the Lakers strategic approach. If they go back to pounding the ball to their bigs, you'd have to assume they regain the initiative in the series. Anything less, and fired up Phoenix is going to hang around for awhile.

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Among the possibilities tonight on the BLUE RIBBON BASEBALL package:

*Philadelphia at NY Mets
*LA Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
*St. Louis at San Diego
*Boston at Tampa Bay
*NY Yankees at Minnesota

Interleague weekend was a lot of fun, but we're back to some very high impact games in league play. Can the Yankees get back on track after dropping well behind red hot Tampa Bay? Will the Dodgers continue their surge while the Cubs continue to crash under Lou Piniella? It's far from a quiet week in the bases, making this a great time to get on board.

The rest of the week we'll be talking about basketball, baseball, AND some football here in the NOTEBOOK. Gridiron thrills for 2010 will be here before you know it. And, the NBA championships are shaping up to be something special. They're just around the corner. BE SURE YOU'RE WITH US EVERY DAY SO YOU KNOW WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING IN THE WORLD OF SPORTS!

And, play the best plays on the board along with JIM HURLEY every day to maximize your bank accounts. Game day releases and club packages can be purchased here at the website with your credit card if you prefer taking care of business online.

Enjoy the basketball tonight. We're thankful that Steve Nash and the Suns restored our faith in the character of NBA players. Too many tank jobs this year! Put your faith in JIM HURLEY if you'd like to close out the NBA campaign a winner. Call 1-800-323-4453 for details on the top handicapping service in the nation!

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.

17
Nov

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