Bulls, Lakers Need Road Wins


The two respective conference favorites entering the second round both had their star players battling ankle injuries. Neither Derrick Rose nor Kobe Bryant has attacked the basket in their normal fashion (Kobe hasn't taken a shot at the rim in two games). Chicago managed a split of their first two home games with Atlanta thanks to an inspired defensive effort you'll read about in a moment. The Lakers fell TWICE to Dallas. Kobe had one good game and one so-so focusing only on jump shots. The rest of the team played in slow-motion while the faster, deeper Mavericks ran circles around them.

That sets up a very important Friday Night where Chicago needs a road win to reclaim home court advantage in the series...while the Lakers just need to stop the bleeding long enough to figure out a new strategy.

Let's crunch the numbers from Wednesday Night to see what they say about tonight's possibilities...

Series tied 1-1
Vegas Line: Chicago by 2.5, total of 178

Chicago was laying -8.5 or -9 at home, so this is a standard line adjustment for a series where home court is expected to be worth three points. You move it six points from one place to the other. Of course, neither of the first two games landed close to the line, which means there's plenty of room for handicapping to have an impact. If Rose's ankle starts improving, or the rest of his team starts to shoot with more confidence, then this line is too low. But, if Atlanta can play as tough here as they did against Orlando, then the Hawks can certainly with their fourth straight playoff home game (all as underdogs).

The total jumped from 177.5 to 181 in the first two games because of all the hot shooting in the series opener. Both teams cooled off, which led to the lowest scoring playoff game this season in the rematch. That's dropped the Game Three total down to 178, which may still be too high as a best expectation for a typical game in this series. None of the last five games in Atlanta/Orlando cleared 178.

Shooting Percentage: Atlanta 34%, Chicago 39%
Three-Pointers: Atlanta 3/13, Chicago 5/22
Free Throws: Atlanta 18/24, Chicago 15/18
Rebounds: Atlanta 39, Chicago 58
Turnovers: Atlanta 12, Chicago 13
Vegas Line: Chicago by 8.5, total of 181
Notebook: Both teams really picked up their defensive intensity. And, both offenses struggled to make shots. It was a double-digit win for the hosts because they kept giving themselves second chance opportunities off the misses. Note the monster rebounding edge for the Bulls. If both teams are shooting badly, but one team gets extra conversions on misses, that's the ball game right there. A couple extra treys didn't hurt.

We'vetalked for years about how 'defense and rebounding wins championships.' And, we'vetalked all of this season about how the Chicago Bulls are trying to build that model. You see a peak performance in those areas tonight. The problem Chicago's going to have in later rounds (if they survive Atlanta) is that their competitors also play defense, but have shooters they can rely on. Derrick Rose is scoring, but losing the ball frequently as he tries to play through his injury. Last night's game was probably a loss vs. a better team...because Chicago probably won't outrebound somebody like Miami 58-39.

In terms of tonight's game, we're working with our sources to determine the status of Rose's ankle (the lack of an extended rest in this series for him could be a problem), and the mindset of the Hawks after their loss. They did bounce back from a Game Two loss vs. Orlando with an 88-82 home win. That could set up a home dog and Under tandem combination for our clients. But, if Rose is getting better, Chicago should be favored by more like five or six based on what we saw from this matchup in the regular season. Information will mean everything!

Dallas leads 2-0
Vegas Line: Dallas by 2, total of 186.5

The Lakers were -6 and -7.5 at home (with Game Two inflated for the projected bounce back that never materialized). The move to Dallas -2 suggests home court advantage of four points in the minds of the market (an 8-point reversal from one site to the other). Handicappers have to ask themselves if the Lakers are really two points better on a neutral court than Dallas right now. Because, it's pretty obvious that the Dallas team we just watched in Hollywood should be favored by a lot more than two points at home! We all know the Lakers have it in them to play better. They&'d better find that championship mojo quick.

The total has come down a bit from 188 with last game's increased defensive intensity leading to a 174 finish.

Shooting Percentage: Dallas 42%, Lakers 41%
Three-Pointers: Dallas 8/25, Lakers 2/20
Free Throws: Dallas 17/21, Lakers 11/20
Rebounds: Dallas 38, Lakers 44
Turnovers: Dallas 11, Lakers 10
Vegas Line: Los Angeles by 7.5, total of 188
Notebook: It wasn't talked about much during the game because everyone's is so focused on Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki because networks want to match stars vs. stars instead of teams vs. teams. But, the 8-2 edge on three-pointers was huge for the Mavericks here. That's +18 points in a game they won by only 12. Note also that it was 8-0 until the Lakers hit a couple in desperation time. Dallas has been very consistent from long range in the postseason. Something like 2 of 20 for the Lakers from long range is a disaster against an opponent like this. And, that's an even bigger problem if Kobe Bryant can't drive to the basket and pick up free throws. You can live with a deficit on treys if you're going to have a big edge inside the arc or at the free throw line. The Lakers shot fewer free throws! They made six fewer because of a cold night at the line too.

You can't possibly count the Lakers out just yet. It is possible to come back from 2-0 down in a series when you'vedropped the first two games at home. Dallas did it themselves back on 2005. The problems facing the Lakers are significant though:

*Kobe Bryant is hurt, and has to make a million jumpers to be useful given his bad ankle and fading knees.

*Andrew Bynum still isn't back to 100% either, which reduces his ability to be a meaningful weapon.

*Ron Artest has too much of a butterfly mentality rather than an uncaged tiger right now. He's all over the place when the Lakers need him to do specific things at specific times.

*The Lakers&' bench has been useless. They match up poorly with the Dallas bench, and they don't fit in well with whatever the Lakers are trying to do at the moment.

That's the story so far. And, it's the story of a sweep if Kobe can't get to the basket...if Bynum can't be more of a factor, if Artest can't be harnessed, and if the bench is just going to come in and miss three-point shots.

So, clearly our sources on site know what to look for leading up to this game! A bounce back for the Lakers could lead to a double digit cover one way (they had victories of 14 and 18 at New Orleans). A shattered psyche leads to 3-0 deficit after another one-sided loss.

JIM HURLEY has something very special planned for tonight. In fact, there's a major release scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the NBA Playoffs. You can purchase our daily parlays right here at the website with your credit card. We have great rates for the rest of the postseason too where you get the most bang for your buck.

Be sure to check on our Kentucky Derby offers too. The 'Run for the Roses' is tomorrow! You can purchase the race, the full day at Churchill Downs, or the full Triple Crown at great prices.

And, don't forget about baseball! We'll talk more about the bases here in the NOTEBOOK when the schedule permits. Series of interest for us this weekend include: NY Yankees at Texas, Minnesota at Boston, Atlanta at Philadelphia, Milwaukee at St. Louis, LA Dodgers at NY Mets, and Colorado at San Francisco.

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In baseball, basketball, and horse racing, PROCEED DIRECTLY TO THE WINNER's CIRCLE THANKS TO JIM HURLEY's NETWORK!

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