Wednesday NBA Previews
JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK
LAKERS, SPURS IN MUST-WIN SPOTS, NUGGETS ALSO LOOK TO EQUALIZE
We move West Wednesday Night for a tripleheader of Game Two action from Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Los Angeles.
The ground shook this past Sunday afternoon when #1 San Antonio and #2 Los Angles both lost outright at home as clear favorites. Then, the ground shook some more Sunday Night when Denver and Oklahoma City put on the best show of the playoffs so far in front of an electric home crowd! It was a day for the history books. And, it sets up a Wild Wednesday where the Lakers and Spurs have to hold serve at home just so they can break serve on the road later on...as well as the rematch of a series that could well be featuring the team(s) playing the absolute best ball in the whole NBA right now.
As always, we take the games in rotation order...
GAME TWO: DENVER AT OKLAHOMA CITY
Oklahoma City leads 1-0
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 4.5, total of 208
The total has jumped way up here. The Game One closer was 203, but THAT had lifted from 199 or so based on late money that apparently knew these teams were going to push tempo in the opener. They did, and that money cashed in. Are we seeing an overreaction here? Things did slow down in the second half Sunday Night...suggesting a possible new flow to the series now that the high energy buildup has diminished somewhat. The team side line has dropped half a point. Oklahoma City won by four as a 5-point favorite Sunday. Tough to make a major move off that. We may see some late money on the dog from Vegas bettors wanting to root for a bounce-back from the Game One loser.
OKLAHOMA CITY 107, DENVER 103
Shooting Percentage: Denver 51%, Oklahoma City 49%
Three-Pointers: Denver 4/16, Oklahoma City 9/19
Free Throws: Denver 21/33, Oklahoma City 22/28
Rebounds: Denver 34, Oklahoma City 37
Turnovers: Denver 11, Oklahoma City 11
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 5, total of 203
Notebook: This was the most entertaining game of the weekend by far. And, in terms of the "quality" of basketball, you'd be hardpressed to point out teams playing any better this past weekend or the past three weeks than Denver and Oklahoma City. The Nuggets topped 50% from the field against an improving defense. But, there were two trouble areas that bit them here. They uncharacteristically shot poorly from behind the arc (just 25%), and they failed to take advantage of an edge in free throw attempts. So, that leaves us with Oklahoma City playing the best all around basketball of the 16 teams this past weekend...and Denver just a shade behind them.
Classic handicapping says you look at the loser of Game One in what's projected to be a competitive 4-5 series in the brackets. The boxscore would certainly complement that theory because Denver's probably going to shoot better than 25% on treys, while Oklahoma City probably won't make nine again. DENVER COVERED THE FIRST GAME DESPITE BEING -15 POINTS ON TREYS!
That being said, we can't help feeling that Oklahoma City is a "true" #1 seed right now in the West. They've peaked at the right time. They've got the right balance of offense and defense now that Kendrick Perkins is in the lineup. They have not one but two go-to guys when they need a basket in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They're much younger than the Lakers and Spurs, and are playing like they're ready to do something special NOW rather than sometime down the road.
Denver makes sense in terms of the handicapping process. Just be aware that betting on Denver may mean you're hoping to cover a short price against the only NBA team playing like champions at the moment. We'll be working closely with our sources to get a read on the mindset of both squads. This has a chance to be a truly great series...and a chance to launch the winner to something special in May and June.
GAME TWO: MEMPHIS AT SAN ANTONIO
Memphis leads 1-0
Vegas Line: No line pending status of Ginobili
As of press time there was no line in this game because Vegas oddsmakers didn't know whether or not Manu Ginobili would be ready to play. You saw how much he was missed in the opener. His presence and health is worth a few points just because of the nature of this matchup. For now we should expect something similar to the Game One line. Maybe 2-3 points higher if Ginobili says he's at 100%. Maybe a point lower if he can't play. The Spurs are in the obvious bounce back spot, so Vegas has to defend against bettors wanting to take the #1 seed in a must-win situation.
MEMPHIS 101, SAN ANTONIO 98
Shooting Percentage: Memphis 55%, San Antonio 40%
Three-Pointers: Memphis 6/10, San Antonio 6/15
Free Throws: Memphis 21/33, San Antonio 36/47
Rebounds: Memphis 38, San Antonio 40
Turnovers: Memphis 16, San Antonio 10
Vegas Line: San Antonio by 6.5, total of 195
Notebook: We don't expect Memphis to win shooting percentage by a huge margin like that again. But, San Antonio probably won't shoot almost 50 free throws either! In terms of the personnel matchup, Memphis has a lot going for them in terms of physicality edges and athleticism. The Spurs are the smarter team, and will get more respect from the refs. As we project changes from the opener, odds strongly favor Memphis falling back in both two-point and three-point shooting. A similar scenario was in play Monday for the Indiana Pacers. Indiana DID fall back in those categories and still almost upset Chicago because of hustle and turnover aggression. Memphis has a chance to do the same thing here.
We'll only lay the points on game day if there's line value based on our computer simulations and what we're hearing from our on site sources. There's a good chance that Memphis will offer more pointspread value overall the rest of the series though. This one should get very interesting before it's all said and done. Tonight's game may not be so interesting if San Antonio can put things together in a way similar to what Miami did to Philadelphia Monday Night. San Antonio has more championship-level experience than Miami does.
GAME TWO: NEW ORLEANS AT LA LAKERS
New Orleans leads 1-0
Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 11.5, total of 188
The Lakers are a half point more expensive here than they were in the opener because they're a two-time defending champion in a gut-check game. It's been awhile since the Lakers played like 11-point favorites though, so you're paying an EXTREME premium if you want to back them. The total has jumped from 184 to 188 because the first game was so high scoring. Chris Paul looked unstoppable. Tough to have a very low total given Paul on one side and Kobe Bryant on the other. Just remember that these teams prefer slow basketball. Smarter defense and fewer whistles may expose 188 as an overreaction.
NEW ORLEANS 109, LA LAKERS 100
Shooting Percentage: New Orleans 52%, Lakers 46%
Three-Pointers: New Orleans 4/11, Lakers 6/11
Free Throws: New Orleans 23/33, Lakers 26/33
Rebounds: New Orleans 33, Lakers 41
Turnovers: New Orleans 3, Lakers 13
Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 11, total of 184
Notebook: The Lakers defensive strategy was apparently to bunch up inside and stand still. They only forced three turnovers, which is passivity of historic levels for a playoff game. They let the Hornets top 50% from the field despite a low percentage on treys. They made Chris Paul run through and shoot over trees...but they couldn't replace a tree with a cheetah that might chase him down. Can New Orleans play at this level three more times?
Kobe's knees are balky. Same story with Andrew Bynum. Derek Fisher is old. Pau Gasol is tall, but doesn't move well defensively. That leaves the dynamic Ron Artest who isn't an ideal match to get in the way of a small point guard like Paul. The Lakers bench is shaky and sick (Steve Blake has chicken pox). You know what? New Orleans obviously has a chance to do this at least once or twice more...and three more times isn't out of the question considering how badly the Lakers played in the last two weeks.
Before those last two weeks, the Lakers were 17-1 after the All-Star Break against a schedule heavily dotted with playoff teams. If THOSE Lakers can show back up again, then the pointspread and series prices will make sense. Handicapping tonight and the rest of the way will mostly mean trying to determine which Lakers team is going to show up. If you can determine that, it's pretty obvious who to place your Las Vegas bets on!
We'll be working with our Los Angeles and Wise Guy sources to get the best possible read on tonight. And, we won't play the game unless there's an edge worth attacking. The great thing about having three games per night right now is that you have some flexibility in finalizing your card. Given how soft the totals have been so far, we could easily have a major release on an Over/Under in this game or elsewhere too.
That wraps up our Wednesday previews. You regulars know we can't post our official selections here in the NOTEBOOK. Those are for paying customers. You can sign up for the rest of the NBA playoffs online with your credit card. Or, try things out day by day here at the website. Don't lose track of baseball! You can build your bankrolls for Wednesday Night NBA with our top plays from day baseball action from a schedule that features Boston/Oakland, Milwaukee/Philadelphia, San Francisco/Colorado, and San Diego/Chicago Cubs. If you have any questions about either sport, or combination packages, call the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back Thursday with more previews. The thrills are just beginning in what could be an NBA postseason that plays out like no other we've ever seen. Do you want to flounder on your own? Or, DO YOU WANT TO GET ALL THE MONEY THANKS TO JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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