Wednesday NBA Previews

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

FOUR SERIES COULD END TONIGHT WITH 3-1 LEADS COMING IN

The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder have home court advantage tonight as they try to wrap up their respective series with the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets. Even if they're upset tonight, they'll still have TWO more chances to finish things off...including one additional game at home. Clearly, the Heat and Thunder are in the driver's seat to move along. We wouldn't be shocked if those teams are destined to meet down the road in the league Finals given the inconsistent form we're seeing around the NBA right now.

The Memphis Grizzlies have the tougher task tonight of trying to win on the road in San Antonio. They have done that once already. And, they know that they will get a home game Friday if they can't stun the Spurs this evening. It's amazing that a #8 seed has such a commanding lead over a #1 seed. This is the NBA...where the format makes it very difficult for the lesser team to advance. It turns out that San Antonio may be the lesser team!

Let's review what happened back in Game Four in all of these series for hints about what might happen tonight in Game Five. As always, we take the games in schedule order for your convenience...

GAME FIVE: PHILADELPHIA AT MIAMI
Miami leads 3-1
Vegas Line: Miami by 10.5, total of 186

The line has actually jumped up from the Miami -9's we saw in the first two games. That's odd considering the victory margins for Miami were 8-21-6 in their three wins. They're obviously capable of winning by a big margin. But, they've only won by double digits once in four tries. They've also shown that fourth quarter scoring can be an issue. If it's close, they get bogged down trying to force bad shots from their superstars. If it's not, the bench is very iffy to protect a big lead. There looks to be a sense from this line that Philly had its last hurrah, and will no-show the finale. Hey, we've seen that happen enough over the years to know that's a real possibility. The total is down four points from the 190's we saw in Miami (games that landed on 186 and 167), and two points from Sunday's 188.

GAME FOUR STATS
PHILADELPHIA 86, MIAMI 82
Shooting Percentage: Miami 39%, Philadelphia 41%
Three-Pointers: Miami 5/23, Philadelphia 8/18
Free Throws: Miami 17/21, Philadelphia 14/16
Rebounds: Miami 41, Philadelphia 49
Turnovers: Miami 8, Philadelphia 13
Vegas Line: Miami by 5.5, total of 188
Notebook: This was an odd game. Philadelphia jumped out to a big early lead. It's amazing how many superstar teams just can't get their eyes open for weekend afternoon games. Messes up with their nap time! Miami did recover though, and seemed to be in command in the fourth quarter. In fact, the Heat led 82-76 with 95 seconds left. The Sixers would hit a couple of treys. Miami would have it's stunningly standard late game failure...and a sweep was averted.

The key stat to us Sunday was rebounding. Miami had owned that category with a +35 differential through three games. A lack of effort just SCREAMS out when Philly gets a 49-41 win in that stat. We do expect more intensity on the boards from the Heat. And, knowing that Boston has been sitting around resting since Sunday has to be weighing on their minds too. Boston is next up starting this weekend for the Heat.

The second most important stat in our view is three-point shooting. This has been awful for Miami throughout the whole series. Anything better than 5 of 23 and they would have wrapped up the series Sunday. The prior games were 4 of 12, 3 of 15, and 4 of 17. Horrible! This doesn't matter against Philly. It will matter against Boston and anyone else that shows up on the schedule if the Heat keep winning. You're not going to win a championship on two-pointers and free throws from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Defenses better than Philadelphia's will see to that.

We'll be talking with out sources about Philadelphia's mindset coming in. We know Miami will be focused. The Heat can win by double digits unless Philadelphia throws in the towel. We'll find out what's going to happen with that towel before releasing a play to clients. We'll think about the Under too given the flow of the playoffs so far this season.

GAME FIVE: MEMPHIS AT SAN ANTONIO
Memphis leads 3-1
Vegas Line: San Antonio by 6.5, total of 189

San Antonio laid this spread in the opener without Manu Ginobili, but was then -8 in the bounce back spot after the loss when he returned. Vegas has decided Ginobili may not mean that much given the two losses in Memphis! The total is a minor tweak from the 188 in Game Four Monday Night that landed on 190 with a rash of last minute scoring.

GAME FOUR STATS
MEMPHIS 104, SAN ANTONIO 86
Shooting Percentage: San Antonio 47%, Memphis 51%
Three-Pointers: San Antonio 5/18, Memphis 5/12
Free Throws: San Antonio 11/14, Memphis 17/21
Rebounds: San Antonio 37, Memphis 39
Turnovers: San Antonio 17, Memphis 8
Vegas Line: San Antonio by 1.5, total of 188
Notebook: It's amazing how mortal the Spurs have looked in this series. Yes, Memphis was dangerous for a #8 seed. But, if you have the best record in the West, you're not supposed to lose three of your first four games to anyone! The Spurs have struggled from long range, which had been a big strength of theirs during the regular season. Miami struggled, but had some margin for error. San Antonio is struggling, and just doesn't have any other cards they can play in this showdown. Memphis is strong inside. Memphis is great at forcing turnovers (17 takeaways from the Spurs up above). The Spurs have basically turned into Orlando. They HAVE to make treys to advance, and they're not making them. Yet.

The good news for Spurs fans is that their frontline experience is about to matter. The stars have won championships. Nobody on the Grizzlies is in a leadership position to guide them through the nerves they're about to face. Teams much better than the Grizzlies have choked big games before. San Antonio is in position to climb back into the series just by holding serve at home and hoping nerves take care of Memphis in Game Six.

In fact, if the Spurs start making some long range shots, they could STORM to three straight wins and still advance to the next round. This one isn't over yet by any means.

This is a game where our historians will have a bigger impact than our on site sources. We know what teams have done in this situation in the past (and we're using second and third round series too since this is much more like those than a first round matchup in terms of talent). We know whether or not 6.5 is the right number. Maybe it's high. Maybe it's low. Maybe you need to link up with JIM HURLEY to find out!

GAME FIVE: OKLAHOMA CITY AT DENVER
Oklahoma City leads 3-1
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 6.5, total of 205

Oklahoma City was around -5.5 and -4.5 in the first two games on this court. So, the Thunder are clearly gaining respect from those in the know in Vegas. The total hasn't moved from the 205 we saw in Denver...as that fourth game in the series landed on 205.

GAME FOUR STATS
DENVER 104, OKLAHOMA CITY 101
Shooting Percentage: Oklahoma City 44%, Denver 39%
Three-Pointers: Oklahoma City 7/19, Denver 9/19
Free Throws: Oklahoma City 24/31, Denver 31/44
Rebounds: Oklahoma City 50, Denver 44
Turnovers: Oklahoma City 15, Denver 8
Vegas Line: Denver by 3, total of 205
Notebook: The Thunder didn't win here. But, they did show you a continuation of their 'defense and rebounding'theme. They've held the Nuggets to 39%, 37%, and 39% from the floor in the last three games. They've won rebounding 54-31, 49-43, and 50-44 at the same time. And, two of those games were in Denver! That's the toughest place to play in the league because of the altitude. The Thunder didn't advance because of turnover issues, and because they were a bit too slap happy in the paint (Nuggets were +7 in made free throws and +13 in attempts). Officiating will probably be friendlier tonight at home. And, the offense will be smoother once Russell Westbrook is dissuaded from shooting the ball 30 times.

Oklahoma City has topped 100 points in three of the first four games. You stick that with defense and rebounding and you have something special. We still think of the Thunder as a championship threat, even with their Game Four loss. We expect Game Five tonight to either be a replay of the three tight ones (margins of 3-4 in three of the four games), or of the Game Two blowout where Denver got down in the mouth and couldn't storm back. The options are obviously on either side of the spread. You can take your guesses, or you can call JIM HURLEY!

We think Wednesday Night has the potential for some extreme results. All three road dogs are in potential laydown situations...but the lines are too high if they're NOT going to lay down. The totals seem particularly vulnerable too based on our read of the games. You can purchase our Wednesday winners right now here at the website with your credit card. Or, sign up for the rest of the playoffs at a great rate.

We hope you'll check out our red hot baseball too. Be sure to take care of business EARLY today. There are FIVE afternoon games in the National League!

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This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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