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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 10:29 AM




Hope that you've marked your calendars: This year Wednesday, April 15th isn't just "Tax Day" but it also so happens to be the final night of this 2014-15 NBA regular season and there's a whole lot to be settled between now and then ... so let's check out some newsmakers:

Okay, so not everyone has been playing at a "peak performance" when attempting to track down the final three playoff berths in this conference as only the Brooklyn Nets (36-41) have shown any real life in recent games as six different teams battle for the #6, 7 and 8 seeds. The Nets entered last night's home game against Atlanta having won eight of their last 10 games overall and how about the fact that Lionel Hollins' crew - which couldn't buy a home win for much of this current campaign - had posted five straight wins while heading into that tilt.

No doubt that C Brook Lopez - the object of Hollins' ire for much of the first part of this season - has been a superstar in recent weeks as he just wrapped up a second consecutive Eastern Conference Player of the Week award and did you realize that Lopez has scored 30-or-more points in six of his last 11 games?

Throw into the mix the re-birth of PG Deron Williams who is averaging close to 23 ppg in his last four outings and the Nets remain on track to snag a post-season berth but remember Brooklyn's hardly "in the clear" with just a 1.5-game lead over ninth-place Miami at press time.

So, what is home court really gonna mean for those teams that clinch the #1-thru-#4 seeds in the upcoming Western Conference playoffs?

Well, gotta admit everybody will be shocked if Golden State (35-2 while heading into tonight's game against visiting Portland) loses any first-round playoff home games to either New Orleans or Oklahoma City but we're particularly interested in the other battles as San Antonio and aforementioned Portland both entered Wednesday's action as the next-best home teams at 31-8 apiece and so no wonder both are putting the full-court press on getting into the top four.

The Spurs - the five-time champs who have won eight in a row and nine of their last 10 games while heading into the home game against Houston last night - have cranked up the power with F Kawhi Leonard apparently back on track after scoring 26 points in Tuesday's 113-88 win at 6-point underdog Oklahoma City. If Leonard - who drained all four of his three-ball shots against the Thunder - stays on this recent tear then you could actually see San Antonio charge up to the #2 seed behind the G-State Warriors and who thought that was possible just a couple of weeks ago?

In other NBA News & Notes ...
As we stated a couple of weeks back, all this MVP talk has been fun but why no serious mention of New Orleans F Anthony Davis who is scorching-hot? In Tuesday's electric 103-100 Pelicans' home win versus 4.5-point fav Golden State, Davis poured in 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds as the Pels squeezed (temporarily, at least) into that eighth and final playoff berth in the West. Davis - who scored 23 of his points after intermission in that tilt - also blocked four shots and snagged a pair of steals and note the former Kentucky one-and-done champ now has scored 19-or-mre points in 10 straight games.

Finally, we flip back to the Eastern Conference and check in on the Chicago Bulls who entered last night's game in Orlando having lost two of their last three games after a nifty 5-1 SU (straight-up) streak that featured F Nikola Mirotic's three games of 24-or-more points - all the talk in Chitown centers around the return of PG Derrick Rose who has played in just 46 regular-season games this year but it's Mirotic and Pau Gasol that have held this Bulls' bunch together in recent weeks. Right now Chicago's in third place in the Eastern Conference with everyone in the league (and we mean ESPN and ABC, of course) keeping fingers crossed we get a Cleveland Cavaliers versus Chicago Bulls second-round showdown in this year's playoffs.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers/Bloggers finally have put a capper on the College Basketball Season and so now it's time to cash in big with the NBA and Major-League Baseball each and every day. Just go online right here or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Remember: The NBA Playoffs will begin on Saturday, April 18th.

THE NFL DRAFT REPORT: Here begins our NFL Draft position-by-position look at who we see as the top players for the upcoming (April 30th) draft:


AMARI COOPER, Alabama - Generally considered a top-five pick in this year's NFL Draft, the 6-foot-1, 212-pounder from Miami has great speed and shows top-notch hand/eye coordination but there are some scouts whispering that he drops too many balls and often disappears for plays at a time. Cooper - who last year registered an eye-popping 124 receptions for 1,727 yards with 16 TDs (and 31 career TDs) -- has been the focal point of the 'Bama offense for the past couple of years and there's a thought he will be an even better pro with all the pass-happy rules in place. Should get the nod at first wide out selected and right now he's a make-sense pick at #4 with the Oakland Raiders but we might see a powerhouse team (say Indianapolis) trade up into the top five to get 'em.

KEVIN WHITE, West Virginia - This 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from New Jersey is more physical than Cooper and was a workout demon, so that pepped up his stock and likely puts the former Mountaineer star somewhere in the top 6 or 7 picks in this draft. However, White played in a totally pass-friendly offense at WVU with 109 receptions with 10 TDs and there's a fear he may be your prototypical pouty wide receiver if he doesn't get the ball a lot on this level. Could see the likes of Indianapolis or maybe New Orleans trade up in the first round to get 'em, but we'll stick to our guns and say Cooper goes before White here in Round I.

DeVANTE PARKER, Louisville - Here's a borderline top 10 pick that could zoom up a peg or two should both Cooper and White be gone by the fifth or sixth overall draft choice. Parker - who stands at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and hails from right there in Louisville - only played in six games last year because of injuries and wound up with 43 receptions for 855 yards and 5 TDs. Lots of talk that the Minnesota Vikings at #11 want Parker to be catching passes for a long time from college buddy QB Teddy Bridgewater but could see St. Louis at #10 steal 'em away.

JAELEN STRONG, Arizona State - Most draft boards list this 6-foot-3, 217-pounder as a borderline top 20 pick but, again, if there's a "run" on wide receivers with Cooper/White/Parker going in the top 10 then you might well see this Philadelphia native getting scooped up right outside the top 10 ... like maybe with that just-mentioned pick by Minnesota at #11. Strong snagged 82 balls worth 1,165 yards with 10 TDs in the 2014 season but critics claim he's takes plays off and seemingly is haunted by nagging ailments. Projection here is #11 to the Vikes or a slide down to the Houston Texans at pick #16.

BRESHAD PERRIMAN, UCF - This 6-foot-2, 212-pound native of Georgia has NFL bloodlines as his dad Brett played for the Detroit Lions and this kid is a natural with good hands, good strength and a real desire to make catches in traffic. Last year Perriman caught 50 passes for 1,044 yards with 9 TDs and he's likely worked his way up into the top 20 picks with Kansas City at #18 a distinct possibility.


Here's a question we'd like to pose to the Minnesota Twins and their new manager Paul Molitor: Do you plan on scoring any runs this year?

The Twins have opened up this 2015 season getting shut out in back-to-back games in Detroit and in Wednesday's 11-0 loss in Motown "featured" three singles and a CF Jordan Schaefer double but that's it. In fact, the Twins have never started a season since moving to Minnesota without a run over a two-game span - note the original Washington Senators that turned into the Minnesota Twins were shut out for 19 innings to start off the 1940 season - and you gotta wonder how low will it go for these now-punchless Twins.

P.S., we'll give a shout-out to the two Tigers' starters who strung together those season-starting shutouts as first LHP David Price went 8.2 innings for the opening day win and then yesterday it was RHP Anibal Sanchez who delivered 6.2 innings of scoreless ball before the bullpen took command with 2.1 innings of one-hit ball.

Note: More NFL Draft coverage goodies in the next few editions of Jim Sez.

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