Lakers-Suns Game Six Preview
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
MOST COMPELLING PLAYOFF SERIES REACHES SIXTH GAME TONIGHT
It's been the best playoff series BY FAR in the 2010 NBA postseason.
Sure, Atlanta/Milwaukee went seven games. But, those were mostly seven lousy games played by teams who established they weren't playoff caliber. Atlanta subsequently got OBLITERATED by Orlando in one of the most embarrassing second round performances in history. If not for the East/West imbalance right now, even somebody like Atlanta would have been borderline to reach the playoffs. It felt like #20 playing #25 in terms of the full league.
Cleveland/Boston had a dramatic result...but most of the games were yawners. The most compelling storyline was a star player NOT doing what was expected because of an elbow injury (and, possibly, because he's just not as good as everyone thinks right now in terms of his ability to sway playoff games).
Most everything else has stunk this year. The Lakers/Oklahoma City series was "almost" a classic. Oklahoma City has the potential to arrive very quickly next year in terms of legitimate greatness. This is it....this is the series. PHOENIX VS. THE LA LAKERS currently represents the very best of what NBA basketball is all about.
It might come to an end this evening if the Lakers are able to win on the road. They've had a knack for close wins in the prior rounds, winning very late once against Oklahoma City and once against Utah. They do that again tonight, and their in the finals. Phoenix has a great chance of forcing a Game Seven based on their home play of late.
LAST SIX PHOENIX HOME GAMES
Phoenix (+1) beat the Lakers 115-106
Phoenix (-3) beat the Lakers 118-109
Phoenix (-2) beat San Antonio 110-102
Phoenix (-4) beat San Antonio 111-102
Phoenix (-7) beat Portland 107-88
Phoenix (-8) beat Portland 119-90
The CLOSEST game has been 8 points, with both the Spurs and Lakers sitting in the 8-9 range. Those are good teams. Many saw the Spurs as the team playing the best basketball (in terms of playoff style) entering the postseason. The Lakers are proven champs. Portland can walk and chew gum even if they were shorthanded this year. Phoenix is DOMINATING opponents at home when you adjust for context.
In terms of beating the spread, the recent covers were by 10, 6, 6, 7, 12, and 21 points. Phoenix is better than the market realizes in terms of home win potential. At least, they are when they haven't mentally thrown in the towel on a series. If the tough loss Thursday Night was a punch in the gut they won't recover from, then those prior results don't mean much of anything. The Lakers are fine closing out a series on the road. Doesn't bother them a bit. If the Suns get up off the mat...then tonight's market price may be too low once again.
Let's look at the odds, then the key stats from Game Five in LA...
GAME SIX: LA LAKERS AT PHOENIX
LOS ANGELES leads series 3-2
Vegas Line: Phoenix by 1, total of 215
Obviously, that pointspread is indefensible in terms of Phoenix at home in the playoffs...and what we've seen the last there games of the series. Phoenix lost at the buzzer in LA, which would suggest the Suns should be more like 4-5 point favorites here. Why are oddsmakers pricing the Suns so low?
- The Lakers have a very good history in terms of winning road playoff games, and they're obviously very motivated to win here so they can rest up for the championship round.
- Basketball fans have seen countless times that series underdogs don't play to their normal level once they've given up hope. Utah was -3.5 at home against the Lakers in a "must win" game to avoid a sweep. The Lakers beat the Jazz 111-96. Cleveland didn't play with fire in their elimination game against Boston. San Antonio lost at home to Phoenix once they were facing elimination. Basically, a spread of Phoenix -1 is "splitting the difference" between the established home performances of Phoenix...and the established performances of playoff teams who have given up hope.
- Vegas gets hit with more Laker money than Suns money as a general rule, so lines are often shaded a point or two against Kobe and Company as a result.
The total is down to 215 after a gradual rise to 217 in the earlier games. Defense picks up from Game Five on...and tempo often slows down. Game Five in LA landed on 204 for the first Under of the series. Vegas is bringing the total back down to match the expected flow of the series.
LA LAKERS 103, PHOENIX 101
Three-Point Scoring: Phoenix 27, Lakers 21
Two-Point Scoring: Phoenix 54, Lakers 62
Free Throw Scoring: Phoenix 20, Lakers 20
In our Game Five Preview, we ran through the "two-point scores" so far in the series to show how well the Lakers were dominating inside the arc. What you see above is consistent with the early results.
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
Game Five: Lakers 62, Phoenix 54
Well, it's consistent in terms of victory margin. Things slowed down scoring-wise for both teams...as each had a series low on deuces. The Lakers still won the stat by eight points, bringing the series average to 9.6. The Suns have to outscore the Lakers on one's and three's to have a chance to win. They could only pick up six of the eight points needed for equality Thursday Night in LA. Just remember they had NO PROBLEM picking up the slack in Phoenix, with "one and three" edges of 52-43 and 55-34 edges at home in Games Three and Four.
And, that pretty much sums it up. The Lakers have an edge inside the arc that isn't likely to go away. Phoenix has the ability to trump that by hitting three's, attacking the basket to draw fouls, and using their quality depth to stay fresh in those efforts. If Phoenix still believes in themselves, this is their game to win and cover. If recovering from the near-upset is tough...then the Lakers can go for the jugular early and try to hold on for a win.
Handicapping is always about dealing with "if's" to varying degrees. Every game is a set of possibilities rather than an absolute certainty. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK does its best to deal with the "if's" from a variety of directions.
- We have SCOUTS AND SOURCES with every team so we know the physical and mental condition of all the key players before every game. The "physical" element is a big deal during the regular season because Vegas is slow to react on injury news. In the playoffs, it's often the "mental" element that is most important. You've seen that yourselves with so many virtual tank jobs from demoralized teams this season.
- We have STAT HANDICAPPERS who have developed a series of red flag indicators in the boxscores that lead to a deep understanding of what's REALLY happening on the floor. ESPN and TNT will tell you who the high scorers are. If one guy has a bunch of rebounds, they mention that. Our guys know what EVERY PLAYER is doing EVERY MINUTE they're on the floor!
- We have COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS who have developed state-of-the-art simulation software that allows us to play every game out thousands of times to account for every possibility. Others have tried modeling NBA basketball. Right now, they're about where we were in 1998. JIM HURLEY is always ahead of the curve!
- We have WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore that let us know what the smart money is doing, and what the dumb money is doing. This year, it's been hard to tell the difference sometimes! Many of the "sharp" moves have been wrong because too many old school guys are playing outdated strategies. We understand the full impact of all the money coming in, and we're able to get you on the best plays at the best prices as a result.
This is why we win in the NBA PLAYOFFS...this is why we win in MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL...and this is why we win in FOOTBALL as well.
And, THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD CALL JIM HURLEY TODAY!
Time is running out on that BLUE RIBBON BOMBSHELL package we announced a few days ago. If you sign up before the end of May (and it's already the 29th!), you can get the rest of BLUE RIBBON BASEBALL, plus AUGUST PRESEASON FOOTBALL and SEPTEMBER REGULAR SEASON FOOTBALL for the low price of $349. Basically...pay for baseball and the first two months of football are FREE!
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JIM HURLEY has the basketball winner TONIGHT. He has a huge weekend on tap in the bases. And, he's got the offer of a lifetime that's about to expire. CALL NOW...1-800-323-4453!
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