Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 9:14 AM
THE NBA PLAYOFFS --
FROM THE WHAT-THE-HECK-IS-GOING-ON DEPT:
UNDERDOGS EXIT THE WEEKEND A CRAZY 22-7-1
AGAINST THE SPREAD WHILE HEAT & WIZARDS
LOOK TO WRAP UP FIRST-SERIES WINS …
PLUS OUR BASEBALL NOTEBOOK FEATURES A REAL SWEET/SWEEP WEEKEND FOR THE MAGICAL BRAVES
By Jim Hurley
If you’ve been paying close attention to these NBA Playoffs then you know that road teams have been having a veritable party so far with away sides a delicious 17-13 SU (straight-up) record, but the bigger story in the “real world” of handicapping is that NBA Playoff Underdogs are a dazzling 22-7-1 versus the vig … yikes!
No, that’s no typo, folks, as NBA Betting Favorites have been savaged badly in the first nine days/nights of post-season play and take note that not a single team is perfect spreadwise at home already with the likes of Chicago and Houston both 0-2 ATS (against the spread) in their own backyards and both will get a shot to change that in respective Game 5’s against Washington and Portland.
But keep following the bouncing ball here for just another moment …
Strange but true, NBA Playoff Home Favorites are 5-16-1 ATS through the first week-plus of this post-season and so that — and we’re being a tad sarcastic here, folks — makes you wonder what everyone was fighting for in terms of home-court advantage during the regular season.
Hmmm, maybe that’s why it seemed so many teams were losing out on home-court deals late in the year — think they saw all of the home failures coming to fruition?
All we know is this:
The odds greatly favor the pendulum swinging back in the other direction a lot sooner than later. Maybe that doesn’t necessarily mean NBA Betting Favorites are gonna “cash in” night-in and night-out this week but rarely do major pointspread themes stay so one-sided and so please don’t say you haven’t been warned!
We’ll get to some quick-hitter previews/comments on a few NBA Playoff series in just a moment but first this important reminder …
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NBA PLAYOFFS — EASTERN CONFERENCE
Tonight, it’s …
MIAMI at CHARLOTTE — Heat lead series 3-0; 7 p.m. ET, TNT
Game 4’s on tonight’s docket and there’s not a whole lot of folks holding out hope that the in-the-hole Bobcats can even get one game in this best-of-seven series but while Charlotte fans bemoan the hobbled status of C Al Jefferson (still 20 points and 5 rebounds in that 98-85 loss last Saturday against 4 ½-point fav Miami) the real story of this series is that Heat mega-star LeBron James has gone about his business of piling up numbers while shrugging off cheap shots.
James registered 30 points and 10 boards in that Game 3 road win — keep in mind the Heat did trail 27-23 after one quarter — and an under-the-radar key here as Erik Spoelstra’s guys go for the sweep is Miami’s snazzy 17-of-20 free-throw shooting from that last game as similar success from the charity stripe (at a time when lots of folks are missing FTs like they’re going out of style) is key.
Hey, don’t forget Miami committed just 6 turnovers in Game 3 while Charlotte committed almost that many in the final three-plus minutes of the first half!
ATLANTA at INDIANA — Series tied at 2-2; 8 p.m. ET, NBA TV
Let’s see if the oft-dysfunctional Indy Pacers can finally get over the hump in this best-of-seven set — they’ve never led in this series but last Saturday’s 91-88 win/cover at 2 ½-point pup Atlanta was more-like-it Pacers basketball as they held the Hawks to just 30-of-84 shooting from the field (35.7 percent).
In this pivotal Game 5, look for Indiana C Roy Hibbert (just 6 points and 3 boards in 25 minutes of action in Game 4) to be the make-or-break player — if Frank Vogel’s team is gonna survive and advance this series than we’re gonna have to see more 20-and-10 nights, got it?
WESTERN CONFERENCE —
SAN ANTONIO at DALLAS — Mavericks lead series 2-1; 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Go ahead and raise your hand if you thought the mighty (and West’s top-seeded) Spurs were ever gonna be behind in this series.
Gregg Popovich’s club can lament the fact that Dallas’ Vince Carter nailed that three-point bomb from the corner at the buzzer in Saturday’s 109-108 win against 3 ½-point road favorite San Antonio, but if “Pops” and Company doesn’t figure out a way to contain G Monta Ellis (29 points in Game 3) then the 6.5-to-1 underdog Mavs could pull the shock of the century this series.
On Tuesday, it’s…
EASTERN CONFERENCE —
WASHINGTON at CHICAGO — Wizards lead series 3-1; 8 p.m. ET, TNT
Now, let’s see if the pressure is actually turned up against the underdog Washington Wizards:
Consider that Washington’s been playing with proverbial “house money” for much of the first four games in this best-of-seven set but once you get a shot to clinch a series things tend to tighten up a bit — will Randy Wittman’s crew play loose-and-easy here in Chitown where it copped both Game 1 and Game 2 or will PG John Wall and mates be a bit tense?
No doubt the Wizards handled the Game 3 suspension of rugged F/C Nene wonderfully as swing-man Trevor Ariza stepped into the forefront and banged out six triples en route to a Game 3-high 30 points, and don’t forget the contributions of the aforementioned Wall, who scored 15 points with 10 assists and just 2 turnovers while the Bulls dug themselves an early two-TD deficit and couldn’t surge back with Mike Dunleavy’s 6-point showing (yes, we know he injured his thumb in the fourth quarter) far from the 35-point showing he delivered in a Game 3 win.
Now, the Bulls must show that “professional pride” here in looking to avert the first-round series loss — we’ve told you before Chicago was a near 2-to-1 betting favorite for this series — but who has got the legs to stand in there for 48 minutes against the cat-walking Wall and his talented buddies?
Is it time to say goodnight, “Mr. Thibs”?
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WESTERN CONFERENCE —
MEMPHIS at OKLAHOMA CITY — Series tied 2-2; 8 p.m. ET, NBA-TV
It’s downright incredible to think that the last three games of this series have all gone into overtime and — we’ll soak in your round of applause now — we told you that if Okie City was gonna get the Game 4 win than reserve PG Reggie Jackson would have to lend and hand and all he did was score a playoff-best 32 points.
Jackson had registered a mere 15 total points in the first three games of the set and odds are the Thunder bench will shine again here — you know old coach Hubie Brown’s theorem that home team reserves always play better than road team backups — but we want to know here if the Grizzlies can trust lefty F Zach Randolph will do better than 5-of-14 shooting from the field?
GOLDEN STATE at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS — Series tied 2-2; 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
We’ll spare you all the rhetoric and drama surrounding those “alleged comments” from Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was front-and-center in the news/sports cycle this past weekend — enough’s enough, right? — but we will concentrate in the on-the-court stuff here and silent protest or not the Clips did not show for Sunday’s 118-97 loss in Oakland and shame on Doc Rivers’ squad for that fact.
Now, the Clippers come back to the Staples Center where they did bury the Warriors by 40 points back in Game 2 but somebody better “check” G-State star Stephen Curry, who went off for a playoff-high seven triples in the Game 4 “get-even” affair and how about the Clippers sending notice that they own the boards after getting beaten on the glass 34-32 to this center-less Golden State gang?
THE BASEBALL NOTEBOOK —
IT’S A BRAVES NEW WORLD
You tell us …
Were the Atlanta Braves really supposed to be 17-7 while exiting the final weekend in April considering all those devastating injuries to their pitching staff?
May we remind you the likes of young righties Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were lost for the year with spring-time elbow injuries plus the National League East team has yet to get a start from lefty Mike Minor, who is expected back from the DL later this week.
Yet here’s the Braves atop the NL in team ERA at 2.14 and looking to make this a route in the woeful NL East where the hot-and-cold New York Mets (14-11) are three games back in the early divisional race, but who can really count on them or the Washington Nationals (14-12) for that matter?
The Braves “broomed” the Cincinnati Reds this past weekend with straight set wins of 5-4, 4-1 and 1-0 (the latter in 10 innings) as the pitching was just peachy for a Braves bunch that’s riding the unlikely arms of RHP Aaron Harang and righty Ervin Santana.
In Sunday’s shutout win, RHP Julio Teheran (0 runs and 3 hits allowed in eight innings of work) walked just two batters and silenced the Reds’ lefty bats of 1B Joey Votto and RF Jay Bruce (a combined 0-for-7) and so the Braves just keep rollin’ along despite the fact three-fifths of this spring’s starting rotation has yet to contribute a single inning.
Maybe pitching coach Roger McDowell is due to take a bow, eh?
NOTE: More NBA Playoff Notes/Previews in the next Jim Sez.