Sunday's NBA Slam

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MIAMI, BOSTON GO FOR SWEEPS TO SET UP SECOND ROUND MEETING

Sunday's quadrupleheader may see two Eastern powers finish off their first round series and move on to a much anticipated second round meeting. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics both lead their respective openers by three games to none. Both would like to take care of business today so they can get some time off before what's expected to be a head-to-head war.

Also Sunday, Orlando tries to even things up in their sluggish series with Atlanta. Orlando must break serve with a road win at some point in the series, or they won't be advancing to face Chicago in the next round. The Los Angeles Lakers finally looked like their championship selves Friday Night in New Orleans. They'll try to continue that form on a Sunday that's just jam-packed with NBA action.

Let's run through the key stats from Game Three to get a sense of expectations for Game Four. As always, we take the games in schedule order...

GAME FOUR: MIAMI AT PHILADELPHIA
Miami leads 3-0
Vegas Line: Miami by 6, total of 188.5

The line has moved up by a couple of points from Game Three based on the general tendency we've seen this decade for superior teams to finish the job once they've taken a 3-0 lead. Trailers throw in the towel and go play golf. Contenders know the value of extra rest and try to finish things off. Oddsmakers are aware of this, and will adjust accordingly...particularly when the superior team has been covering some spreads. We didn't see a lift Saturday in Chicago/Indiana because the Bulls hadn't covered a game yet heading into the fourth meeting. The total has show way up from 184.5 based on the 194 ending in Game Three, and the likelihood that a Philly fade-out would show up on defense.

GAME THREE STATS
MIAMI 100, PHILADELPHIA 94

Shooting Percentage: Miami 46%, Philadelphia 44%
Three-Pointers: Miami 4/12, Philadelphia 9/21
Free Throws: Miami 24/30, Philadelphia 13/19
Rebounds: Miami 50, Philadelphia 34
Turnovers: Miami 12, Philadelphia 6
Vegas Line: Miami by 4, total of 184
Notebook: You can see that Miami really owned the inside game. They were dominant on the boards with a 50-34 rebound slaughter. They were +11 in both attempts and makes at the free throw line. They're not making many treys yet. Miami's -15 point deficit in that category is the only reason this game was near the number. The better team is winning every game...and will continue to do so today unless their lose their focus, of Philly has another big game from long range.

The question for handicappers is more along the lines of how big the final margin will be. Doug Collins is a high energy coach, and may not let his Sixers throw in the towel. If that happens, we could see a replay of Games One and Three where the Heat couldn't run away to blowout margins. But, if the team has tuned him out because they know they have no chance...then we'll see a replay of Game Two, which Miami won by 21 points.

We'll be talking with our on site sources very closely. Philadelphia's mindset is everything in this one.


GAME FOUR: BOSTON AT NEW YORK
Boston leads 3-0
Vegas Line: New York by 2, total of 195

That line may change based on New York's injury situation. Chauncey Billups has been unable go to. Amare Stoudemire was basically unable to go in Game Two even though he was out on the floor much of the game. It was a disaster! He was horrible on both sides of the floor because of a bad back...and the Knicks got abused on both sides of the floor as a result. Vegas has made a small adjustment that may be more in the line of wishful thinking than anything else. New York doesn't have the depth to play shorthanded. The total has jumped from 191.5 because Game Three was so high scoring. The game landed on 209 with an amazing 23 made three-pointers between the two teams. Rumors that Mike Dantoni had the rim strength softened this year may finally have reached Vegas oddsmakers.

GAME THREE STATS
BOSTON 113, NEW YORK 96

Shooting Percentage: Boston 51%, New York 43%
Three-Pointers: Boston 14/24, New York 9/20
Free Throws: Boston 15/17, New York 21/28
Rebounds: Boston 43, New York 33
Turnovers: Boston 20, New York 18
Vegas Line: New York by 3.5, total of 191
Notebook: The Boston stars really came through here...with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on fire from the field, and Rajon Rondo scampering all over the floor to get them open looks. We expect everyone to cool off. And, New York's best chance to win and cover here is if Boston cools off and Carmelo Anthony has another 40-point barrage. If that doesn't happen, the more physical and experienced team is likely to finish things off. Well, Carmelo MUST have a huge game or the series is already over.

Again, having on site sources matters A LOT late in a one-sided series. The stats don't matter if one team is only going half speed. Our New York sources are the best in the business. They'll get us what we need to know to make sure you're on the right side. Maybe the Knicks have one last hurrah in them. Maybe the Game Two near miss was that last hurray and things just didn't work out.


GAME FOUR: ORLANDO AT ATLANTA
Atlanta leads 2-1
Vegas Line: Orlando by 2, total of 179

Vegas is being pretty stubborn about pricing Orlando as the much superior team, even though there's a lot of evidence in the series so far that they're not. If Orlando is -9 at home, and -2 on the road, then they'd be -5.5 on a neutral court. Based on what you've seen, does that make any sense? In terms of line value, this isn't a justifiable number. But, Orlando DOES have its backs to the wall, and IS overdue to start making some treys. Sometimes teams cover inflated numbers anyway. And, it's not like you can trust Atlanta to protect a lead if they get one. They almost blew a big lead Friday. The total is down a point from 180 after games landing on 170 and 172 in the last two meetings.

GAME THREE STATS
ATLANTA 88, ORLANDO 84

Shooting Percentage: Orlando 43%, Atlanta 42%
Three-Pointers: Orlando 8/28, Atlanta 6/14
Free Throws: Orlando 14/21, Atlanta 14/19
Rebounds: Orlando 41, Atlanta 38
Turnovers: Orlando 9, Atlanta 7
Vegas Line: Orlando by 1.5, total of 180
Notebook: Not much separated these teams in the big picture. You'll recall it was a one-point game late before Atlanta banked in a three-pointer. The Hawks seemed to be in control much of the night, but couldn't shoot well enough to seal the deal until Lady Luck smiled at them through the glass. Orlando is likely to keep winning the rebound category. Atlanta is likely to keep winning the turnover category. Orlando has what it takes to put together a big game if they ever make treys on the same day Dwight Howard is making free throws. Too often this year neither of those things were happening.

We're aware that Orlando bounced back well from a Game One loss with a 6-point win to pull even. That didn't cover -9 at home, but would cover -1.5 here. We'll be checking with our sources to see if the Magic are discouraged about the series so far, or mad about it. We like Dwight Howard when he's mad. There's nothing to like about Orlando when they get down in the mouth.

GAME FOUR: LA LAKERS AT NEW ORLEANS
Los Angeles leads 2-1
Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 5.5, total of 183

The team side only moved up a half a point because so many bettors like taking the prior game's loser if the series isn't on the verge of being over. Well, this one might be after seeing the Lakers find their championship form Friday Night. They were dominant except for a couple of short stretches on the way to a 14-point win. The total has jumped from 179.5 all the way up to 183 because it became pretty clear that the Hornets have no way to defend the Lakers inside. LA has hit the century mark in two of three games, even though they lost one of those.

GAME THREE STATS
LA LAKERS 100, NEW ORLEANS 86

Shooting Percentage: Lakers 49%, New Orleans 46%
Three-Pointers: Lakers 7/16, New Orleans 2/13
Free Throws: Lakers 19/24, New Orleans 18/24
Rebounds: Lakers 43, New Orleans 38
Turnovers: Lakers 13, New Orleans 14
Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 5, total of 179.5
Notebook: It's a bit odd that the Lakers margin of victory came from their edge in treys. Their bigs were having great success inside. But, New Orleans can score two-pointers too thanks to the magic of Chris Paul. Ultimately, both teams shot well inside...only the Lakers shot well outside. Maybe the Lakers got a late start...but they now look as dominant here as Miami has against Philadelphia, and Boston has against New York since the injuries. Remember that New Orleans lost a big man late in the regular season.

The key here is the focus of the Lakers. They seem to have an on switch and an off switch that determines whether they're going to embarrass other teams or get embarrassed themselves. A Vegas line of -5 falls right between those extremes. An unfocused Lakers team that loses its discipline can easily lose another game in this series. A focused Lakers team should win what's left by double digits each time out as they wait for the winner of Dallas-Portland in the next round. Our sources will be helping us gauge the mindset of the Showtime crew, particularly Ron Artest...who's always a monkey wrench waiting to happen.

You can purchase our top Sunday plays right here at the website with your credit card. We have big stuff in the bases today too...with an eye on Dodgers/Cubs in the national TV game this afternoon on TBS, and Reds/Cardinals tonight on ESPN. Be sure to check out our seasonal rates to get the most bang for your buck. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Hey...we're still in the first round...THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!

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Nov

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