Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 10:21 AM
THE NBA PLAYOFF UPDATE:PACERS CLOSE OUT THE WIZARDS IN 6; THUNDER FINISH OFF THE CLIPS IN 6
PLUS WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE HEAT & SPURS, TOO BEFORE STARTING THE CONFERENCE FINALS ON SUNDAY …
THE BASEBALL WEEKEND UPDATE: THREE KEY SERIES WORTH NOTING INCLUDING TIGERS-RED SOX & BRAVES-CARDS
By Jim Hurley
Hey, NBA Playoffs, take a breath already!
The first two rounds of post-season action are in the books and here’s possibly the strangest thing we’ve written in a "Jim Sez" column the past 20 years:
the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conference Finals begin Sunday/Monday, respectively, with the top two seeds surviving in each conference and yet NBA Playoff Betting Favorites are 22-47-1 ATS (against the spread) with 2 pick ‘em games tossed into the mix … folks, that’s a .319 winning rate for chalk sides and yet somehow the teams that were supposed to be here (Indiana, Miami, San Antonio and Oklahoma City) are still here as we head into the conference finals.
Go figure, indeed.
Here’s how the round-by-round spread stuff looks …
1st Round — NBA Favorites 15-33-1 with 1 Pick ‘Em
2nd Round — NBA Favorites 7-14-0 with 1 Pick ‘Em
Okay, so let’s go ‘round the league and touch on these survivors with a reminder there’s Conference Finals Previews in the next two editions of "Jim Sez", so don’t dare miss out.
EASTERN CONFERENCE —
#1 INDIANA — The Pacers finally quashed the critics and the Washington Wizards with that six-game series win capped with last night’s 93-80 triumph.
Frank Vogel’s team has been the poster children for erratic play this post-season but in the final eight-and-a-half minutes the Pacers were all-world as they outscored a turnover-prone Wizards bunch 20-6 and hats off to veteran F David West who poured in 29 points while 13-of-26 FG tries.
West’s composure and don’t-sweat-it play was opposite of what Washington displayed late when miscues and faulty communication on the defensive end of the floor sabotaged hopes of forcing a Game 7 and the 4½-point favored Wizards couldn’t cut it on a night when PG John Wall nailed just 5-of-16 shots from the floor and when the oft-troubled bench didn’t show while collecting just 12 total points on 4-of-15 FG shooting.
Indiana’s hot-and-cold ways might be driving ownership nutty — we love the facial shots of Larry Bird, who sometimes appears in pain watching his club perform — but here they are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for yet another date with Miami beginning on Sunday and who would have believed the Pacers would still be alive-and-kickin’ after being down three games-to-two versus Atlanta in that opening-round series?
Probably not us!
#2 MIAMI — The two-time defending champion Heat is making its fourth consecutive trip back to the Eastern Conference Finals and there are some folks who believe the cumulative nature of having to play all these playoff games three-plus years in a row is about to catch up with ‘em.
The only thing about that logic is four-time MVP LeBron James (29 points in that series-clinching 96-94 non-cover win against Brooklyn this past Wednesday night) might be playing better than ever before, and did you note where “ancient” G Dwyane Wade poured in 28 points in that Game 5 tilt, plus Wade committed only one turnover in some 37 minutes against the Nets in that latest outing.
If Miami gets 50-plus points from James/Wade per game in this series and F Chris Bosh (16 points in Game 5 versus the Nets) can give ‘em in the teens (and make the late-game clutch shots) than betting against Miami to three-peat might be hazardous to one’s health.
One key for the Heat here in this upcoming series:
Get on that offensive glass where Miami garnered only seven O-rebounds in that finale against Brooklyn and it’s high time Chris “Birdman” Andersen converted his offensive boards into points … just sayin’.
#1 SAN ANTONIO — The hold-your-breath moment for the Spurs came early in Game 5 versus Portland when Hall of Fame-to-be PG Tony Parker asked out of the game with a hamstring tweak, but all reports claim Parker is “good-to-go” come Game 1 of this series beginning Monday night in the Alamo City and so now the biggest worry for San Ant is simply getting 30-plus nightly minutes from F Tim Duncan (an effective 16 points and 8 rebounds in Wednesday’s series-clinching win against a clearly overmatched Trail Blazers team) and getting Parker back nin the saddle.
The Spurs had wins of 24, 17, 15 and 22 points in that just-completed series, and for anyone that thought the “younger legs” of Portland would win the day, forget about it!
San Antonio has even more reason to smile while heading into the Western Conference Finals as smooth-stroking Danny Green has regained his touch — his 22 points in Game 5 against Portland were key, and it’s funny but he finally got his rhythm going in “garbage time” back in Game 4, and give Portland boss-man Terry Stotts the thumbs down there for allowing Green to heat it up — and don’t forget the whole-is-greater-than-the-parts theory as some of the Game 5 stats featured 18 points off the bench by gunner G Patty Mills, and what about F Kawhi Leonard’s 22 points, 7 rebounds and 0 turnovers in 35 minutes?
|5-6||SAN ANTONIO||- 6.5||Portland||116-92|
|5-8||SAN ANTONIO||- 6||Portland||114-97|
|5-12||PORTLAND||+ 4.5||San Antonio||103-92|
|5-14||SAN ANTONIO||- 8.5||Portland||104-82|
#2 OKLAHOMA CITY — There was no wild comeback in the final moments for the Clippers last night as the OKC Thunder took control of this game in the early stages of the second half and never let up.
True, Kevin Durant (39 points and 16 rebounds — both Game 6 highs) was a monster and PG Russell Westbrook (19 points despite a wobbly 4-of-15 FG game) played his usual spirited-if-out-of-control game but kudos here to board-banging rookie Steven Adams, who hauled down 11 rebs and what about the great play from veteran reserve F Nick Collison, who stepped up for an injured Serge Ibaka and gave Scott Brooks’ club 17 ultra-effective minutes with his defense, rebounding and superior in-the-paint passing.
The Thunder — which swept all four regular-season games from San Antonio this season — now get a couple of days to cool their jets after that emotionally-charged series with the Clips, but can’t help but think Durant and Company are mega-confident following the Game 5 comeback win and then this latest showing at the Staples Center.
Gotta believe that reserve G Reggie Jackson (14 big points in last night’s six-point win in LA) will be an important player against a Spurs team that goes nine or even 10-deep.
|5-5||Clippers||+ 5.5||Okla City||122-105|
|5-7||OKLA CITY||- 5.5||Clippers||112-101|
|5-9||Okla City||+ 4.5||CLIPPERS||118-112|
|5-11||CLIPPERS||- 5||Okla City||101-99|
|5-13||OKLA CITY||- 5.5||Clippers||105-104|
|5-15||Okla City||+ 4||CLIPPERS||104-98|
NBA PLAYOFFS POINTSPREAD CHART
Note that we’ve included only the eight playoff teams that were/are part of the Eastern/Western Conference Semifinal Round.
Take note …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been bashing the books right from the start of this year’s NBA Playoffs and nothing’s gonna change here as we start closing out the Round II action.
Just go online right here at www.vegassportsmasters.com or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 each/every day and be sure that we’ll send you straight into the winner’s circle.
Plus, there’s Major-League Baseball on tap and so the time is just right to cash in big this spring!
THE BASEBALL WEEKEND UPDATE
Lots of fun matchups on this mid-May MLB menu and so let’s check in on three of ‘em:
In the National League, it’s …
ATLANTA (22-17) at ST. LOUIS (21-20) — Fri, Sat & Sun
From the believe-it-or-not department comes this fact:
The Atlanta Braves — whose starting rotation has been tattered and torn this spring — sport the NL’s third-best overall record while heading into this high-profile series in St. Loo and tonight’s hurler Ervin Santana (4-0, 1.99 ERA) is one major reason why Freddi Gonzalez’s club has a pulse. Santana was a last-second signee following devastating arm/elbow injuries to the likes of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy and he’s already been worth a pretty penny but what’s also buoyed the Braves so far is an offense that ranks third in the league in home runs (38) and so a major part of this series will be whether or not Cardinals’ pitchers can keep lefty 1B Freddie Freeman (7 home runs) and OF Justin Upton (team-leading nine dingers) in the park here.
In the American League, it’s …
DETROIT (24-12) at BOSTON (20-20) — Fri, Sat & Sun Nite
Speaking of keeping a slugger in the ball park … that’s the numero uno story line here as the revved-up Tigers (winners of three in a row and seven of their last 10 games) look to stifle red-hot DH David Ortiz who wound up with four homers in that three-game set in Minnesota and so the stats for “Big Papi” upon entering this series feature 11 HR, 25 RBI and 21 walks to boot.
Keep in mind that Detroit won’t be pitching RHP Justin Verlander here — he won in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon before attending the Montreal Canadians at Boston Bruins Game 7 tilt in Beantown that night with trophy girlfriend Kate Upton — but still it’s 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.04 ERA) to start off this series and so it’s not as if John Farrell’s club is catching some kind of major break at series start.
In Interleague play, it’s …
PITTSBURGH (17-23) at NEW YORK YANKEES (21-19) — Fri, Sat & Sun
Don’t look now but the Pittsburgh Pirates already are 8 ½ games back of front-running Milwaukee in the NL Central and Clint Hurdle’s club is a rotten 5-12 on the road and so even though the host Yankees won’t be throwing mega-star RHP Masahiro Tanaka (6-0) here, the Buccos will be hard-pressed to get more than a single game in this set in The Bronx.
Keep in mind that Pittsburgh’s pitching has let ‘em down so far — the Pirates rank 11th in the NL in team ERA (3.82) — and there’s been too many times where the middle-of-the-order guys in this Pittsburgh lineup has failed to get the big hit.
On the flip side, the Yanks are a bit of a walking wounded unit these days with OF Carlos Beltran (bone spurs in elbow) just placed on the DL and 1B Mark Teixeira can’t run worth a lick. Heck, all his swings in that just-completed Subway Series four-game split with the Mets were upper-cut jobs going for the fences. If the Yanks need a little spark here, than maybe INF Yangervis Solarte (.325 batting average and a .403 on-base percentage) can keep up his wonderful play.
NOTE: Stay with us all month long for NBA Playoff Previews/News/Notes plus all the Major-League Baseball Updates too!