Spotlight On Point Guards
POINT GUARDS CARRY BURDEN ON MONDAY
Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics can barely lift his left arm. But, he's planning on carrying his team on his shoulders with the season on the line tonight against the Miami Heat. Many believe Russell Westbrook is the main reason the Oklahoma City Thunder are down two games to one in their series with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Point guard...point break...
Rondo was surely an inspiration after dislocating his elbow Sunday Night in Game Three. He'll be on the floor tonight unless doctors kidnap him and lock him in the attic. But, is this banged up team ready to come back on short rest to even up their series? Rondo's hurt. Paul Pierce keeps getting hurt. Ray Allen has had some issues and is getting pushed around quite a bit. Kevin Garnett has shied away from the paint (only two free throw attempts this series). Shaquille O'Neal hasn't been shying away from any buffets during his injury recuperation time. He's moving horribly now, and will probably pull or strain something else if asked to make a serious contribution.
Let's run through the numbers and see what might be in store in both games of tonight's NBA doubleheader...
GAME FOUR: MIAMI at BOSTON
Miami leads 2-1
Vegas Line: Pick-em, total of 181
The line has moved three points from Sunday's closer because many were planning on betting Miami in the bounce back anyway...and now Rondo may be unable to contribute as much as needed with a bad arm. Some believe Rondo is the KEY to Boston in the postseason because he plays such a huge role in ball distribution and providing energy. If he's not near 100%, it's very tough seeing the Celtics surviving the week. The total has dropped two points from 183 because of Rondo's injury and the 178 final scoreboard sum on Sunday.
GAME THREE STATS
BOSTON 97, MIAMI 81
Shooting Percentage: Miami 43%, Boston 50%
Three-Pointers: Miami 5/23, Boston 9/18
Free Throws: Miami 14/19, Boston 14/17
Rebounds: Miami 36, Boston 39
Turnovers: Miami 14, Boston 12
Vegas Line: Boston by 3, total of 183
Notebook: This was the best Boston has looked in a long time against a real team. They did have two good wins in New York. But, the Knicks were shorthanded with injuries, and don't really know how to play playoff basketball anyway. Miami obviously does, and this wasn't much of a game the whole second half. It is worth nothing though that Boston won three-point scoring by +12 in a game they only won by +16. This would have been more of a nailbiter with even trey distribution. Miami won treys in the second game, and is doing more in the other areas that would be representative of the better team in the series.
Basically, Boston needs three days of rest and a big edge from long range to post a victory margin like this. The next two games come after only one day off. And, open looks on treys may become less common if Rondo can't penetrate and dish at his usual speed.
Does that mean Miami is a sure thing if Rondo isn't his usual self? We wouldn't go that far. Remember that the Heat are 1-2 straight up on the road in the playoffs thus far. They lost at Philly, and only won by six in their victory with a finish they had to sweat. Chicago and Dallas have looked better on the road so far than Miami has. The Heat may not yet be championship material. Tonight is where we find out.
Obviously the status of Rondo is huge here, and will go a long way toward influencing JIM HURLEY'S release and its unit rating. Our sources our on the job, and will make sure NETWORK knows what it needs to know. Note that we may be very strong on a total in this game or in the nightcap.
GAME FOUR: OKLAHOMA CITY at MEMPHIS
Memphis leads 2-1
Vegas Line: Memphis by 2.5, total of 198
The team side hasn't moved from the closer. Normally you'd expect support for the road underdog in a bounce back spot, particularly when that team was the series favorite. But, Memphis continues to impress oddsmakers and the Wise Guys. They kept winning and covering vs. San Antonio. Even down 16 in the third quarter Sunday afternoon, they didn't give up and came back to steal a win in overtime. Memphis is 7-1-1 so far against Vegas expectations in the postseason. That's why this line didn't drift back toward pick-em. The total has dropped three points from 201. You saw defense really kick in this past Sunday, with regulation ending at 172. That was Under by 29 points...and the full game stayed Under even with overtime.
GAME THREE STATS
MEMPHIS 101, OKLAHOMA CITY 93 (in overtime)
Shooting Percentage: OK City 37%, Memphis 38%
Three-Pointers: OK City 4/21, Memphis 3/10
Free Throws: OK City 21/23, Memphis 30/44
Rebounds: OK City 53, Memphis 55
Turnovers: OK City 13, Memphis 9
Vegas Line: Memphis by 2.5, total of 201
Notebook: The big keys for Memphis were clearly in the areas of free throw shooting (where they should have taken even more advantage, and turnovers. Memphis does a great job of forcing turnovers. It's one of the hidden keys to their success (though the media is finally starting to talk about it more). The inside game gives them many ways to score. They can hit their first shot. They can snare the offensive rebound and get a put back. Or, they can get fouled (on the shot or the put-back!). This constant pressure makes it very tough to defend. San Antonio never solved the riddle. Oklahoma City looked like it did...but then ran out of gas down the stretch and allowed a lot of easy baskets.
If Oklahoma City is going to get back in the series, they need to play 48 minutes of tough defense rather than 40, and they need to encourage Russell Westbrook to share the ball more on offense. His aggressiveness plays right into the turnover trap that Memphis sets. When he doesn't turn it over, he's likely to take a bad shot rather than position a teammate for a better opportunity. Kevin Durant may have to grab more defensive rebounds and just keep the ball if he wants more offensive touches!
It's amazing how quickly this series turned on a dime. Oklahoma City was on the verge of re-taking home court advantage and establishing a dominant tone. Now, Memphis just has to win two of the next four games, knowing that they get two of those at home...and that they're 3-2 straight up on the road already. Memphis can win anywhere with this style. Oklahoma City needs to hunker down live they've never hunkered before to win three of the last four.
We've been studying the numbers and the personnel matchups very closely in this series. We don't believe the market is properly capturing tonight's best expectations. We'll leave it at that because we want to protect the information for our clients. You can expect a BIG play here, and a MAJOR release tonight in our NBA PARLAY, which as a bonus includes baseball action on ESPN with the Red Sox-Twins, ensuring a full night of watching and winning.
It's available right now here at the website for credit card purchase. We have great rates for the rest of the playoffs. Be sure to check on our baseball too. If you have questions about combination packages, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.
The point guard position will play a huge role in both games tonight. Your POINT MAN when it comes to BIG JUICY WINNERS is HANDICAPPING CHAMPION JIM HURLEY!
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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