Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 21, 2012 at 10:37 AM
Go ahead, South Beach, take a great big sigh of relief! At least for a day.
The under-siege Miami Heat - maybe the single-most scrutinized pro sports franchise in America today - played the single-most important second half in this year's NBA Playoffs on Sunday as Erik Spolestra's club rallied from down 54-46 at the halftime break to win going away 101-93 and you shouldn't be at all surprised that MVP LeBron James threw in 40 points, Dwayne Wade regained his "mojo" and finished with 30 points and the Heat battened down the defensive hatches when necessary (note that Indiana shot 33-of-79 from the floor for just 41.8 percent).
What caught you - and everyone else in the pro hoops world, for that matter - by surprise is that the Chris Bosh-less Heat was "saved" by an old hand named Udonis Haslem who came off the bench to register 14 points in 25 minutes of action and talk about playing a modern-day "Rocky":
Haslem returned from a cut over the right eye that needed bandaging to bang home wing jumper after wing jumper for the desperate Heat and so no wonder James was quick to give the veteran Haslem a hug following this emotional affair.
Okay, so maybe you believe the return-to-life play by Wade was the major storyline here 'cause his sideline gum flap with Spoelstra was only replayed about a gazillion times on TV the past three or four days but know this:
The Heat is like anyone else in NBA land and that means they need contributions from other parts and Sunday afternoon there was somebody - that everyone had forgotten about - that stepped to the front like a star.
Hats off, Mr. Haslem!
The Heat-Pacers series resumes Tuesday night in Miami but we've already had one NBA team move on to the conference finals as Sunday night the San Antonio Spurs gritted out a 102-99 win at the 7 ½-point underdog Los Angeles Clippers as back-to-back late-game stops against Clips PG Chris Paul allowed San Ant to bang out its second straight series sweep ... only problem is the four other teams in recent NBA history to cop back-to-back series sweeps in the first two rounds all lost in conference finals action. We'll soon see if history repeats!
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are rock-n-rolling through this year's NBA Playoffs and we will continue to bang out the post-season winners right through the end of June plus get all the 2012 Major-League Baseball Winners too. So sign up today and get it all as that's plenty of Hoops and Baseball action every day and night! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.
Here's our up-to-date NBA Playoff Pointspread Standings as we list all eight teams that played - or are still playing - in conference semifinal round action:
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD STANDINGS (thru Sunday, May 20)
Tonight at 7 p.m. ET, it's ... PHILADELPHIA at BOSTON - Series tied 2-2
No doubt that this past weekend was all about comebacks in the NBA Playoffs and it really all started with the Philly 76ers charging back from 18 points down to defeat the Celtics 92-83 last Friday night. Obviously, much of the post-game praise was heaped upon Sixers' G Andre Iguodala who scored five gigantic points in the game's final 90 seconds but there were some underrated parts of that Game 4 win by Doug Collins' squad namely rebounding (Philly won the board battle 52-to-38) and bench play as the 76ers watched their reserves pour in 44 points led by "Sweet" Lou Williams' 15 points in 29 minutes.
Why do we bring this up here right before Game 5 tonight?
Well, you tell us here-and-now that the 76ers will win the rebounding battle by a convincing margin (say by 8-or-more boards) and that Williams or some other bench cohort will have a major impact on things and the 5 ½-point road underdogs have a legit shot at winning in Beantown for a second time in this series.
One major under-the-radar key for the Celtics who do figure to have fresher legs after having Saturday/Sunday off:
Go straight at the hoop a la the Heat in its aforementioned Game 4 win when James and Wade went on the attack all throughout the second half. If PG Rajon Rondo (see 15 points and 15 assists in Game 4) gets his usual numbers and Paul Pierce (24 points in Game 4) takes it hard at Philly's in-the-paint defenders than the C's should "hold serve" here.
Here's how the 76ers-Celtics Eastern Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-12||BOSTON||- 5.5||Philadelphia||BOSTON 92-91|
|5-14||BOSTON||- 4.5||Philadelphia||Philadelphia 82-81|
|5-16||PHILADELPHIA||- 2||Boston||Boston 107-91|
|5-18||PHILADELPHIA||- 2||Boston||PHILADELPHIA 92-83|
On Tuesday night, it's ... INDIANA at MIAMI - Series tied 2-2
Say this for the Heat: They didn't exactly wilt with the bright lights on 'em in Game 4 as Miami scored 55 second-half points and did all the "little things" such as collect 14 big offensive rebounds (six of them by James) and blocked nine shots too (three of 'em by back-up C Joel Anthony). No doubt those "little things" are key here for this pivotal Game 5 affair where some folks are wondering aloud as to whether or not the Pacers - who've played with a major chip on their shoulders this series - may have angered Miami with this tough-guy persona. James has done his best to ignore the physical/psychological slights while Wade was very much under control in Game 4 while Indy didn't get all that man clean looks from beyond the three-point arc (the Pacers connected on 7-of-22 triple tries in game 4) and played porous paint defense that must call into question the real "toughness" of folks such as C Roy Hibbert (3 blocks in Game 4 but he should have been way more active as a defender).
Look for Indiana head coach Frank Vogel - who joked with ABC's Heather Cox following the third quarter of Game 4 that he would "play zone for the whole fourth quarter" after getting scorched by James and Wade in the third stanza - to preach improved defensive aggressiveness here.
Gut feeling is if Miami cracks 90 points - as it has done in Game 1 and Game 4 wins - than the 7-point favorite Heat will finally string together back-to-back wins in this series.
Here's how the Pacers-Heat Eastern Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-13||MIAMI||- 8.5||Indiana||MIAMI 95-86|
|5-15||MIAMI||- 6.5||Indiana||Indiana 78-75|
|5-17||Miami||- 2.5||INDIANA||INDIANA 94-75|
|5-20||Miami||- 1.5||INDIANA||Miami 101-93|
Tonight at 9:35 p.m. ET, it's ... LOS ANGELES LAKERS at OKLAHOMA CITY - Thunder leads series 3-1
This best-of-seven set has had plenty of "heroes" and "villains" but it's safe to say nobody's had a more heroic moment than Okie State megastar Kevin Durant who drilled that top-of-the-key triple with 13.7 seconds left in Saturday night's 103-100 win at Staples Center - it marked the second time this set that the Lakers had let one "slip away" (pardon the pun after all the slipping at Staples Center in Game 4 and so much for that building being able to handle six pro sports events in four calendar days!).
Now, it's time for the Lakers to throw caution to the wind while down to their last strike here and so maybe Pau Gasol will decided to show up: One of the Lakers' "villains" finished Game 4 with just 10 points and 5 rebounds in 39 minutes of game action and you can talk about that missed corner three-ball by G Steve Blake at the end of Game 2 or the fact that Durant (31 points and 13 rebs in Game 4) and Thunder PG Russell Westbrook (team-high 37 points and 5 assists this past Saturday night) were simply spectacular in the last game of this series but Gasol's been a goat for the purple-and-gold guys and another no-show performance here means another early summer for the Lakers.
P.S., we know that Lakers' G Kobe Bryant rammed home a Game 4-high 38 points the other night but can we see some ball movement from the visiting side here tonight - especially come the fourth quarter?
Here's how the Lakers-Thunder Western Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-14||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 8||LA Lakers||OKLAHOMA CITY 119-90|
|5-16||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 8||LA Lakers||OKLAHOMA CITY 77-75|
|5-18||LA LAKERS||- 3||Oklahoma City||LA LAKERS 99-96|
|5-19||Oklahoma City||- 2||LA LAKERS||Oklahoma City 103-100|
NOTE: Get all our NBA News & Notes plus the NFL and MLB too in coming editions of Jim Sez all week long!