NBA West Game 5 Preview - NYC Super Bowl

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

SUNS/LAKERS KNOTTED AT TWO...PLUS: HOW TO HANDICAP A N.Y. SUPER BOWL

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

A lot on the plate today. The sports world is buzzing about the great performance from the Phoenix Suns in Game Four against the Lakers. And, ESPN spent some time running a virtual marathon about a football game that won't be played until 2014.

Let's crunch some numbers from the basketball...and talk HANDICAPPING for the New York Super Bowl now locked in stone for early February...two years after the world will be destroyed according to Mayan prophecies.

First, the basketball...

GAME FIVE: PHOENIX AT LA LAKERS
Series tied at 2-2
Vegas Line: LA Lakers by 7½, total of 217½

The Lakers were -6 and -7 in the first two home games, and covered those handily. As impressive as Phoenix looked Tuesday Night after the final performances of "American Idol"(not a grueling task this year...just as it wasn't tough for Boston/Orlando to be more compelling than the final night of "24"), they still haven't established they can play with the Lakers in L.A.

In fact, many teams are having that trouble! Look at the Lakers results at home this year:

Lakers (-7.5) beat Oklahoma City 87-79
Lakers (-6) beat Oklahoma City 95-92
Lakers (-6) beat Oklahoma City 111-87
Lakers (-6) beat Utah 104-99
Lakers (-5) beat Utah 111-103
Lakers (-6) beat Phoenix 128-107
Lakers (-7) beat Phoenix 124-112

That's 7-0 straight up, 5-2 ATS, with victory margins from low to high of 3-5-8-8-12-21-24. The average result is a double digit win. The median result is an 8-point win even though the Lakers haven't closed as an eight-point favorite yet. Maybe they will tonight.

Oddsmakers are basically going with the standard Laker result as the line. The fact that Phoenix lost by 12 and 21 makes it difficult to justify anything lower than that.

The total continues to creep and crawl higher, despite seeing four straight Overs. This is the time that scoring tends to die down because pace slows and defense picks up. Plus, the last two games have been right on the number until last-minute scoring rushes cleared the mark. By game, we've seen 235, 236, 227, and 221. At some point the two ships are going to pass in the night.

Here's a look at the key stats from that big Phoenix win in Game Four.

PHOENIX 115, LA LAKERS 106
Three-Point Scoring: Lakers 27, Phoenix 33
Two-Point Scoring: Lakers 72, Phoenix 60
Free Throw Scoring: Lakers 7, Phoenix 22

Sometimes the numbers tell the story. And, sometimes they're as dry as old paint. This was an electric game that sizzled from start to finish. 33-27 doesn't really tell the story on treys because that element of the game was much more like a prize fight with the Suns scoring 11 uppercuts and the Lakers coming back with nine roundhouse rights of their own. The home crowd cheered every uppercut, and sweated every roundhouse.

22-7 is very important on Free Throws because it shows that Phoenix was attacking the basket with Amare Stoudemire, while the Lakers were attacking the basket with nobody. Kobe Bryant has a lot of games where he makes more than seven free throws by himself. The Suns were +15 in makes here, after being +21 in makes back in Game Three. Los Angeles needs to get back to drawing fouls if they want to regain control of the series.

That 72-60 edge for the Lakers was fairly consistent with the rest of the series. It's enough to win if the Suns AREN'T doing damage from the free throw line. It's not enough when the Suns are winning the other two categories.

TWO-POINT SCORES THIS SERIES
Game One: Lakers 86, Phoenix 68
Game Two: Lakers 72, Phoenix 62
Game Three: Lakers 66, Phoenix 66
Game Four: Lakers 72, Phoenix 60

Note that Game Four was almost a replica of Game Two in deuces (and also in treys, with Phoenix  winning Game Two 10-9, and Game Three 11-9)...yet the results were reversed (12-point win for the Lakers, 9-point win for the Suns) because of what was happening at the free throw line.

This year's results have shown that the Lakers are less likely to concede the free throw category on their home floor. That's probably the single biggest key to determining who covers tonight. If the Suns zone defense continues to keep the Lakers firing from the perimeter, then we've truly got a series on our hands. If the Lakers do a better job of penetrating, then replays of Games One and Two on the scoreboard are more likely (though probably lower scoring with a more defensive-minded pace).

We should mention as well that the basic stat breakdowns from Game Four don't give you any sense of the amazing bench performance from the Suns. Many teams hope to get a boost from one guy every so often. Phoenix got a boost from everyone! The water boy may have snuck in and hit a three when nobody was looking. Can that happen two games in a row? If you're handicapping the game, that's a big question to answer.

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IT'S GOING TO BE A WESTERN SHOOTOUT TONIGHT!
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First, let's digress for a moment into football. Here some HANDICAPPING angles to the announcement that the Super Bowl will be played in potentially frigid New York in 2014.

  • First, with global warming, it may not be that frigid by 2014, meaning all the gnashing of teeth from critics was about nothing.
  • If it is cold, DEFENSE is going to play a very big role. Cold weather tends to neutralize quarterback play and the passing game. This is a reversal from the traditional Super Bowl format where great conditions allow elite quarterbacks to post big numbers. We've talked a lot about Eli Manning's problems in the swirling winds at the Meadowlands. Maybe the new stadium won't have swirling winds. Or, maybe the 2014 Super Bowl is going to end 12-9 with four interceptions from each QB!
  • If it's cold, the RUNNING game will play a more prominent role. This will be much more of a smash mouth game than we're used to seeing with the trophy on the line. If you're an old school fan, this is GREAT! Maybe that's why so many Hall-of-Fame types are coming out in favor of the announcement. This returns the championship game to a style they're more comfortable with.
  • If the weather is a factor, that's going to favor the team that has the most experience in those conditions. We think the story of the "reverse"of this was much underpublicized back during the Buffalo dynasty. They went to four Super Bowls, and lost them all. Their "cold weather prevent"defense was repeatedly exposed. Jim Kelly's great QB play was neutralized. Who else is famous for losing Super Bowls? Minnesota! Back in the pre-Metrodome days.

Sure, it's extremely early to go much deeper than that. But, talking football DOES give us a chance to remind you about the BLUE RIBBON BOMBSHELL offer that's still available at 1-800-323-4453.

If you sign up for the rest of BLUE RIBBON BASEBALL for $349 (the rest of the season in MLB)...you'll get AUGUST PRESEASON FOOTBALL and SEPTEMBER REGULAR SEASON FOOTBALL for 2010 absolutely free...!

This early bird offer is only good through the end of May. So, ACT NOW. Be sure to ask about including the rest of basketball for a nominal charge. Your first BIG WINNER will go tonight in the Phoenix/Lakers game on TNT.

Of course, game day selections and packages can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Back tomorrow with more news and notes. Now...CALL JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK FOR SOME BIG JUICY WINNERS AND A BLOCKBUSTER BASEBALL/FOOTBALL OFFER!

19
Nov

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