Saturday's NBA Grand Slam

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

BULLS MAY SWEEP BEFORE TWO SERIES PLAY THEIR THIRD GAME!

The NBA's emphasis on getting the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose on TV early and often may come back to bite them. Chicago can finish off their first round series with a 4-0 sweep in the first game of a Saturday quadrupleheader. If that happens, the Bulls will be finished before Memphis/San Antonio and Oklahoma City/Denver even play their third games! Nothing like a week off to kill a buzzworthy team's momentum.

We continue our playoff preview coverage with a look at all four Saturday sizzlers. Back Sunday to do the same thing with the remaining four matchups. As always games are presented in rotation order...

GAME FOUR: CHICAGO AT INDIANA
Chicago leads 3-0
Vegas Line: Chicago by 5, total of 187

The line has moved up a point from Chicago -4 back in Game Three on Thursday. Why would the line go UP in such a competitive series? There's a believe in some parts that once a team falls way behind in a best-of-seven series, they just go in the tank to get things over with. Why would Indiana want to go lose Game Five in Chicago when they can just end the misery now? We have seen that in prior years. Often in fact. But, in this case, it's a short trip...and Indiana's a young team that may not mind going all out until the final gun of the final game. It's one thing if you're flying cross country for a game you're probably not going to win. The Pacers may not have that mindset at all. We'll check with our sources because a motivated Pacers team is probably a live home dog at that price. The total has dome down three points from a 190 in Game Three. The scoreboard totals are trending downward, going from 203-186-172 in order.

GAME THREE STATS
CHICAGO 88, INDIANA 84

Shooting Percentage: Chicago 39%, Indiana 38%
Three-Pointers: Chicago 9/20, Indiana 1/10
Free Throws: Chicago 23/27, Indiana 17/18
Rebounds: Chicago 42, Indiana 42
Turnovers: Chicago 15, Indiana 11
Vegas Line: Chicago by 4, total of 190
Notebook: If Indiana could have made a couple of treys, they would have won this game. It's amazing that a team that went 10 of 19 from long range on the road in the series opener could only manage 1 of 10 on their home court. This has been a very evenly matched series for about 45 minutes of each 48. Chicago has workable late game strategies that grind out key points. Indiana doesn't have confidence in any of their crunch time approaches. Those same issues will be in play today if the game goes down to the wire again.

Given stat equality, the intangibles are going to mean everything here. Indiana can rise up to play one great game and extend the series. If Indiana holds form, we have another nailbiter with line value on the underdog. If the Pacers have given up hope, Chicago will coast to a double digit win. This is why we have sources all over the country! The numbers are important. Handicapping is about more than just the numbers.

 

GAME FOUR: DALLAS AT PORTLAND
Dallas leads 2-1
Vegas Line: Portland by 4.5, total of 187

The line has dropped a half point because of the national tendency for the market to shade against the bounce back. Dallas lost Game Three, and played better than many expected even if they didn't end up covering the closing spread of +5. The total is down a point from 188 on the expectation that shooting is bound to cool off. This has been a very slow series with high shooting percentages...an odd duck for the NBA postseason.

GAME THREE STATS
PORTLAND 97, DALLAS 92

Shooting Percentage: Dallas 52%, Portland 48%
Three-Pointers: Dallas 9/22, Portland 8/14
Free Throws: Dallas 13/23, Portland 17/21
Rebounds: Dallas 37, Portland 37
Turnovers: Dallas 16, Portland 9
Vegas Line: Portland by 5, total of 188
Notebook: The three-point shooting has been stunning in this series outside of Portland's poor first game. Dallas has been very productive from long range the whole way through (10-8-9 in makes). Portland still hasn't caught them in that category, but did enough other things well to get on the board in a must-win situation. Turnovers look like they'll be a key. Dallas had turnover troubles this season. They've gone 13-6-16 in turnover committed so far, which is alternating sloppy with clean. Hey, only two more clean games and the Mavs advance! But, if Dallas cools off from behind the arc, and doesn't fix the turnover issues...then Portland can easily come back and take the series.

Jason Kidd is the linchpin player for the Mavericks because of his influence in both of those categories. Our on site sources are watching him very closely. Some time off before the series definitely revitalized Kidd. That looked to wear off a bit in Game Three. Now, in an afternoon game with just a day-and-a-half since the last meeting, Kidd's legs will likely determine who covers Saturday's spread.

 

GAME THREE: SAN ANTONIO AT MEMPHIS
Series tied 1-1
Vegas Line: Memphis by 2, total of 191.5

This is only Game Three remember, so it's the first meeting in Memphis. We've seen a swing from San Antonio -8 in Game two with Manu Ginobili returning to Memphis -2 here. A 10-point adjustment isn't out of character for a site switch, particularly when there's some travel involved. The total has come down from 195.5 and 193...as the scoreboard is trending down with 199 and 180 finishes.

GAME TWO STATS
SAN ANTONIO 93, MEMPHIS 87

Shooting Percentage: Memphis 40%, San Antonio 44%
Three-Pointers: Memphis 3/14, San Antonio 7/17
Free Throws: Memphis 14/20, San Antonio 22/32
Rebounds: Memphis 47, San Antonio 48
Turnovers: Memphis 14, San Antonio 18
Vegas Line: San Antonio by 8, total of 193
Notebook: Ginobili's return may have sparked the Spurs, but they really didn't play all that well in the big picture. You can see that they were +12 points in treys, and +8 points in free throws, yet they still only won by six points! They were hurt by turnovers. And, they didn't control the boards in the way Gregg Popovich-coached teams have in the past. Memphis is likely to own the inside game if they can keep their bigs out of foul trouble. That could make this series very interesting...well, EXTREMELY interesting for a #1 vs. #8 matchup.

We expect the experience of the Spurs to loom larger down the stretch. And, veterans usually get respect from the refs in the playoffs...which will play into their hands as well. Will that show up as early as Game Three? On the road in front of a rabid crowd? Maybe, maybe not!

 

GAME THREE: OKLAHOMA CITY AT DENVER
Oklahoma City leads 2-0
Vegas Line: Denver by 5.5, total of 205

Big site switch adjustment here because Denver always gets so much respect at home. Oklahoma City was -5.5 and -4.5 at home. Now Denver is at -5.5 in their opener. Is home court really worth this much in the playoffs? Sometimes it's worth more! Oddsmakers aren't sure of what to do with the total here. We've seen 210 and 195 so far on the actual scoreboards. Denver is usually an up tempo site. We may step in with a totals release here ourselves.

GAME TWO STATS
OKLAHOMA CITY 106, DENVER 89

Shooting Percentage: Denver 39%, Oklahoma City 44%
Three-Pointers: Denver 7/16, Oklahoma City 10/30
Free Throws: Denver 28/37, Oklahoma City 24/28
Rebounds: Denver 31, Oklahoma City 54
Turnovers: Denver 11, Oklahoma City 15
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 4.5, total of 206
Notebook: Denver fell way behind early, making much of Game Two garbage time. Oklahoma City would slack off a bit until the Nuggets got within 10 or 12 points. Then, they turn on the jets again and pull away. Note the huge rebounding edge. If Oklahoma City can approximate anything like that on a consistent basis, this series is already over. Oklahoma City is going to be a true handful for anyone in the West if they can add strong rebounding and defense to what is already a talented scoring core. Late season evidence suggests they have done that...meaning the later rounds could be very interesting indeed in the Western brackets.

Obviously today is a must-win for the Nuggets. There have been reports of chemistry issues after the sweep down South. Denver played great as a team after the Carmelo Anthony trade. This is the first time they've been tested since in terms of a real gut check. Maybe we're about to see some cracks in the foundation that weren't clear when the going was so good.

Our sources are very much on top of this story. If there's bickering in Denver, they shouldn't be this big a favorite over the hottest team in the West. If the rumors are overblown, then this is likely to be Denver's best game of the series.

Thanks to our scouts and sources all over the country, JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is ideally suited to find the best NBA playoff games on the board. Our statheads run the numbers. Our computer programmers run their simulations. Our trend historians map the ebb and flow to see how it compares to past years. Then, with news and notes from our sources and Wise Guy connections, we're able to put the finishing touches on a powerful portfolio.

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Day One of the Weekend GRAND SLAM EXTRAVAGANZA is about to start. GO TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS! See you bright and early Sunday for more previews.

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