Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 9:43 AM
THE NBA REPORT —
CAN PACERS, SPURS BOUNCE BACK FROM
THEIR GAME 3 ROAD LOSSES IN THE CONFERENCE FINALS? …
PLUS OUR BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES COLUMN:
DODGERS’ BECKETT HURLS SUNDAY NO-NO BUT
WHAT ABOUT THE WEEKEND’S OTHER GREAT PITCHING GEMS?
Sorry, we’ll decline to call the return of Serge Ibaka to the Oklahoma City Thunder lineup just in time for Sunday night’s decisive 106-97 Game 3 win against 2½-point underdog San Antonio a “Willis Reed moment” … but, then again, only a foolhardy soul would dismiss Ibaka’s premature emergence from a “season-ending calf injury” as meaningless.
The down-in-thee-dumps Thunder — coming off 17- and 35-point setbacks in the first two games of this best-of-seven series in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals — needed some sort of energy boost and Ibaka immediately provided it with a brilliant first quarter that featured 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 critical blocked shots.
Yes, we can hear the San Antonio players/coaches/fans all grumping about the same thing today and that’s they never really “believed” that Ibaka would miss this whole series but ask Okie City head coach Scott Brooks and his club and they’ll swear they thought this rim-protecting stud was a goner for the remainder of the post-season.
Now, while Ibaka (15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 30 action-packed minutes in Game 3) was the major newsmaker in that key had-to-have-it home win, it’s no secret that San Antonio played one of its worst playoff games in weeks as PG Tony Parker drained just 4-of-13 FG tries while the normally efficient Spurs shot a horrid 39.6 percent from the floor (that’s 36-of-91 shooting) and so no wonder San Ant head coach Gregg Popovich was miffed that his club didn’t show more of a “foot in the neck sort of attitude” … shortly we’ll offer up our Spurs-Thunder Game 4 preview and we’ll club you in as to whether or not you’ll see a different San Antonio team here.
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
Here’s the four still-alive NBA Playoff teams as we head into the action on Memorial Day … later this week we’ll again pop up the “full chart” of all 16 NBA Playoff teams and show you the pointspread breakdown numbers:
NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS —
INDIANA at MIAMI — Heat leads series 2-1; Game 4 is tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so maybe climbing out of an early-game 17-4 hole isn’t too tough for a two-time NBA champion team but — let’s face it — the Miami Heat right now has so many ways to confound the Indiana Pacers that it isn’t funny!
In Game 3 this past Saturday night — a rollicking 99-87 win/cover by the 6-point home-favored Heat — there was Jesus Shuttlesworth himself (a/k/a Ray Allen) doing the lion’s share of the damage with four monster triples during one stretch as he scored 16 of the most potent points ever registered in a Miami playoff game.
Sure, the comeback from down 13 points just moments into Game 3 actually started with the likes of LeBron James (26 points and 7 assists) and Dwyane Wade (23 points including a pair of rare triples) getting all hot-and-bothered but all the late-night highlight shows blabbered on about Allen (and rightfully so) and now you must ask Indiana the rather pointed question of what can it exactly do to silence a Heat squad that shot a blistering 54.4 percent from the floor in Game 3 (that’s 37-of-68 FG shooting) and who can the Pacers count on to get ‘em this must-win road game now that concussed small forward Paul George (5-of-13 shooting for 17 points) proved without a shadow of a double that he’s nowhere near the player he was prior to his Game 2 head-knock.
If the Pacers — a prohibitive 6 ½-point underdog right now in this Game 4 — are gonna stop this playoff losing slide at two games then Frank Vogel’s guys must get back to what was so successful in that double-digit Game 1 win and that’s lots of in-the-paint looks and a no-fear mentality when driving to the hoop — did you happen to notice that Indiana had 17 turnovers to go along with those 17 assists in Game 3 and that’s not gonna get you any brass rings!
If you’re looking for a stat line that could help win this Game 4 for the Pacers than it’s this: Center Roy Hibbert needs to take close to 20 shots from the floor and he must produce a 20-plus point game, 10-plus boards and generally steer clear of foul woes so he can stay aggressive … you have been forewarned, Indiana hoopsters!
Here’s our updated game-by-game series look of these NBA Eastern Conference Finals (note all home teams are in CAPS below):
Now, listen up to this important reminder …
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It’s been a monster post-season on the NBA hardwood for Jim’s clients — and there is still a whole lot of winnin’ straight ahead! Make sure you’re wwith us right through the NBA Finals!
NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS —
SAN ANTONIO at OKLAHOMA CITY — Spurs lead series 2-1; Game 4 is Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Hope the Spurs don’t think that they were the victim of some “Jim Sez jinx” as we heaped praise on the West’s top seed in a weekend column in which we pointed out San Antonio went from 0-and-6 spreadwise to 8-8 ATS (against the spread) while heading into the Game 3 tussle against Oklahoma City … whether you wish to call it a case of “law of averages” or whatever, the Spurs sure shrunk in Sunday night’s game at blue-clad OKC after covering seven of its prior eight post-season games.
Uhhh, gotta feeling that’s not gonna happen again here in Game 4.
Hey, we’re that forecasting anything here — we will have the Side & Totals winner on game-day afternoon when you do check in with Jim Hurley’s Network — but it’s safe to say that San Antonio’s starters will play with a bit more gusto after combining to shoot 20-of-56 from the floor and just so y’all know we were not “picking” on Mister Parker above, note that Tim Duncan (7-of-17 FG shooting), Danny Green (3-of-12 FG shooting) and Kawhi Leonard (4-of-11 from the floor) were far from accurate in that latest outing and maybe all of the above were shaken up to a degree by Ibaka’s early shot blocks as note the Thunder swatted away 10 San Ant shots in all with backup C Steve Adams contributing 4 rejections to go with his nine rebounds.
If San Antonio knows what is good for ‘em here, the Spurs will stop moaning about the free-throw discrepancy in Game 3 — Okie City nailed 26-of-31 foul shots while the Spurs canned 15-of-16 FTs — and instead concentrate on getting Green some open triple tries while demanding Parker plays with more reckless abandon on his drives to the hoop — or hadn’t you noticed the “Flying Frenchman” had just 4 assists to go along with his paltry sum of 9 points in 28 oft-invisible minutes in Game 4.
Ask us right now who’s gonna be the all-important “third scorer” for the Thunder to team with MVP Kevin Durant (25 points in Game 3) and PG Russell Westbrook (a Game 4-high 26 points including 8-of-8 at the foul line) and we’ll nominate reserve G Jeremy Lamb of UConn fame — hope you heard the comment by TNT game analyst Reggie Miller who opined that Lamb should get as many or more minutes (17) in this next game as he had in Game 3.
One final note as the Thunder look to get even here:
Now that Brooks made his lineup change of inserting quicksilver PG Reggie Jackson (15 points and 5 assists in Game 3) into the starting lineup, it might be time for Popovich to match that script and get G Manu Ginobili on the floor from the start after his dandy 23-point performance in Game 3 (note 6-of-9 trifecta makes in that game).
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BTW, nobody has to remind the Spurs that they’ve now lost their last eight consecutive games at Oklahoma City including playoff and regular-season action.
|5-19||SAN ANTONIO||- 6||Okla City||122-105|
|5-21||SAN ANTONIO||- 5||Okla City||112-77|
|5-25||OKLA CITY||- 2½||San Antonio||106-97|
THE BASEBALL REPORT
Three cheers for Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Josh Beckett for throwing his first-ever big-league no-hitter in Sunday’s 6-0 win in Philadelphia.
Beckett — who walked three batters and fanned six in the first no-hitter of this 2014 MLB season — still figures to list this accomplishment below his 2003 World Series clincher win against the New York Yankees and afterwards he told reporters, “You don’t think at this point of your career that you’re going to do that (throw a no-hitter).”
Still, Beckett (3-1) was not MLB’s only starting pitcher to throw a brilliant game this Memorial Day Weekend:
Houston LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.55 ERA) was masterful in a 4-1 win at Seattle on Sunday afternoon as the Astros’ ace tossed a complete-game four-hitter while allowing no earned runs and not walking a single batter. P.S., you could have had Keuchel and the ‘Stros at + 130 late or + 150 if you wagered on him after the opening-line prices were posted in Las Vegas …
And, on Saturday, the day’s lone shutout was thrown by Cleveland Indians RHP Corey Kluber who struck out nine batters while going seven innings as he allowed five hits and just two walks — Kluber (5-3, 3.10 ERA) has been one of only a few bright spots so far this season for Terry Francona’s club and right now we’re putting both Keuchel and Kluber on this year’s American League All-Star Game roster .. for now!
NOTE: NBA Previews plus more MLB Notes in the next Jim Sez plus stay alert for all upcoming NFL and College Football News/Notes in the days and weeks ahead!