Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 8:27 AM
Hey, it's Father's Day and so why not just a bit of "light reading" for pops and so let's get you a short-and-sweet version of Jim Sez while tackling some fun topics in the NFL, NBA and MLB? Here goes ...
Last year's Green Bay Packers wound up becoming a mere footnote in the NFL Playoffs after unceremoniously getting bounced in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game 37-20 by the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants but remember how the Pack started off the season 13-and-oh en route to a sizzling 15-1 SU (straight-up) regular season?
Now, Mike McCarthy's club surely has designs on a big-time 2012 campaign but the schedule could really work against the Pack:
Note that this NFC North crew must play the dreaded back-to-back-to-back road games beginning with a Week 5 game in Indianapolis followed by away tilts in Houston and St. Louis and it's reported that Green Bay ain't too happy with the schedule-makers even though GB does have its bye right before a key divisional road game against Detroit (see Nov. 18th).
The Packers are one of eight NFL teams this year that will be forced to play three road games in as many weeks so it's not as if Green Bay is being singled out but McCarthy's crew should be most interested in the fact that it plays two games against the rival Lions in a four-week period and odds are the team with the better late-season health report will be the one that wins the divisional crown.
Amidst all the hoopla of this NBA Finals series between "names" Miami and Oklahoma City is the fact that the "other team" in the Sunshine State is in the market for a new general manager and head coach after the recent firings of Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy, respectively.
The word coming from central Florida is that the Magic's GM search is down to three names including former New Orleans GM Jeff Bower, OKC assistant general manager Rob Hennigan and San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey and so you can fully expect the "winner" of this three-way GM war to name a head coach they are comfortable with and so you might see Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks back as an NBA head coach or possibly someone from those other staffs but here's a name that could be bandied about as Van Gundy's sideline successor and it's former New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns head coach Mike D'Antoni.
If big man Dwight Howard does not return to the Magic -and right now we'd place the odds on returning at 25 percent or less -than D'Antoni might be a good fit with a fast-and-loose team that could include free agent point guard Steve Nash.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to crush the folks in Las Vegas with this year's NBA Conference Finals action and there's lots more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead -note the NBA Finals will continue Sunday in Miami (we're 3-0 in the first 2 games of the Finals)-- plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too. Now 16-7 in baseball the past week!
Okay, so the hottest team in the bigs while entering this Father's Day weekend is the New York Yankees -winners of seven games in a row following Friday's 7-2 win in Washington.
The Yanks -who handed manager Joe Girardi his 500th career managerial win in that outing -are a season-best 13 games over the .500 mark (see 38-25) but that doesn't mean GM Brian Cashman will be sitting on his hands these next few weeks. Word is the Yanks really would like to add an arm to this starting rotation and maybe get some bullpen insurance too in case current closer Rafael Soriano "blows up" as he was wont to do last year as the team's eighth-inning set-up guy.
Two names to watch for here:
The Yanks would like to get Chicago Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster who has top-notch stuff and lots of moxie and the Bronx bunch also is said to be eye-balling either Houston's Brett Myers or Minnesota's Matt Capps (he's 14-of-15 in save opportunities this season) -maybe the Yankees believe Joba Chamberlain will return in time for the second half (or so) of this 2012 campaign but doesn't sound like they are counting on it.
One blockbuster deal that won't happen is the Yanks sending RHP Phil Hughes anywhere even though there have been some juicy offers lately as many MLB teams would like to make Hughes either their eighth-inning man or even their closer ...
Finally, just finished filling out our All-Star ballot online and is it us or do the Cincinnati Reds deserve to place their 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips and SS Zack Cozart all on this year's starting National League lineup?
And if your ballot doesn't include the likes of Pittsburgh Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (11 HR, 37 RBI and .321 BA) and Baltimore Orioles OF Adam Jones (18 HR, 39 RBI and .310 BA) than you need to go back and vote again!
NOTE: We will have an NBA Finals Game 3 re-cap in the next edition of Jim Sez. Here's a preview.
HERE IS SUNDAY NIGHT'S NBA FINALS GAME 3 PREVIEW AS THE HEAT HUNKERS DOWN WITH 3 STRAIGHT HOME TILTS
By Jim Hurley:
The Miami Heat know all too well the feeling of being up in an NBA Finals series two games-to-one - heck, that happened last June en route to a painfully disappointing six-game series loss to the Dallas Mavericks - so excuse Erik Spoelstra's squad if it is not treating Sunday night's Game 3 clash in South Beach as the be-all and end-all to this championship round.
In fact, if you happened to catch the ESPN post-game interview between Stuart Scott and Heat megastar LeBron James (see 32 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in that 100-96 hang-on-for-dear life Game 2 win in Oklahoma City) than you know "The King" wasn't all too pleased with lots of what went on in Thursday's game:
James admitted that he "lost" Thunder star Kevin Durant (32 points in 39 foul-plagued minutes) more than a couple of times on three-point shots plus you know James was miffed that Miami allowed a game that began with the Heat leading 18-2 to get oh-so-close in the waning moments. Funny thing is James didn't say much about that foul on Durant that was not called in the game's final 12 seconds ... hmmm.
Well, if the NBA Finals are all about making adjustments from game-to-game that be sure that both sides were busy in the "laboratory" these past couple of days:
Miami did what we recommended prior to Game 2 and that's the Heat got to the free-throw line 25 times (making 22 of 'em!) and who ever would have known that the foul line would be more friend than foe to Miami this series while the Thunder's experienced a few notable shaky moments from the charity stripe (see 19-of-26 FTs in Game 2 for just 73 percent with Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden each missing a pair of FTs apiece) - now the Heat's gotta get back there at least another 25 times here;
On the flip side, Okie City's now-infamous slow starts in this series - and throughout many of its post-season games this spring - must be fixed and now!
Look for the predictable - that is Durant will get fed early-and-often and could be a double-digit scorer in the first quarter alone here - and the not-so-predictable and that means maybe more early-game work for bangers Kendrick Perkins and reserve Nick Collison who must get physical with James, Dwayne Wade and mates here.
Really, exactly how many times are they gonna let those Heat stars cruise into the lane and not "pay a toll" for their hoop journies?
Now, here's some more Thunder-Heat Game 3 Preview goodies:
THE NBA FINALS
#2W OKLAHOMA CITY at #2E MIAMI - Series tied 1-1; Game 3 is Sunday at 8:05 p.m. ET
Okay, so let's get down to some real nuts-and-bolts issues when it comes to this pivotal Game 3:
The Thunder's critics - and there's been more than a few of 'em the past 48 hours - have really piled on aforementioned point guard Westbrook for a number of indiscretions but one thing Oklahoma City really needs is Westbrook to keep shooting despite all these howls for him to stop after his 10-of-26 FG shooting in Game 2.
Hey, Westbrook is a scorer first and foremost - his passes to Durant and mates will be there too but it says here the Thunder can't win this Game 3 without a 20-plus point game from the impassioned point guard and so don't expect OKC head coach Scott Brooks to have him pulling in the reins here.
As far as the critics who claim the Heat shouldn't depend too much on the three-point shooting of defensive specialist/charge-taker deluxe Shane Battier we say ... why not? Battier's been a beacon on the offensive end this series as he poured in 17 points in the Game 2 win with his 5-of-7 shooting from downtown mucho important for Miami. If the Thunder continues to slough off Battier here, than he must make 'em pay and look for more of those top-of-the-key jumpers because he's been easier to find there for the drive-and-dish James and Wade so far this series.
Looking for a Game 3 "X factor"?
Don't be surprised if one of Miami's bench players shines here - whether it be forward Udonis Haslem or backup PG Norris Cole. As one-time NBA head coach and now long-time TV/radio analyst Hubie Brown first pointed out, the "6-7-8" players on one's team always seem to perform at a higher level in playoff home games and Haslem could wind up a 10-point, 8-board guy here or perhaps the rookie Cole can energize a fast break that scored just 4 points in Game 1 of these NBA Finals and only 10 points in Game 2.
The X factor for the Thunder could well come in the form of blocked shots - as in how many can Serge Ibaka (5 swat-downs in Game 2) reject here as maybe nine blocks in that last game weren't enough. Ibaka may well look to set a shot-blocking tone early here and we'll suggest Brooks will play him more than 29 minutes (see Game 2) in this road clash. Stay tuned.
Here's how the Thunder-Heat NBA Finals Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|6-12||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 5||Miami||OKLAHOMA CITY 105-94|
|6-14||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 5.5||Miami||Miami 100-96|
NBA Playoff Pointspread Note: Oklahoma City is a collective 5-1-1 ATS (against the spread) on the road this post-season for a flashy .833 winning rate while Miami enters this Game 3 tilt so far having gone 6-3-1 versus the vig at home during the playoffs (a nifty .667 winning rate).