Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 7:00 PM
It became pretty clear in the first two games of the second round series matching the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers that LeBron James needs to wear his Superman cape if he wants to lead his team to the next round. A relatively “chill mode” effort in the series opener cost the Cavs home court advantage in the series (temporarily at least). A huge performance in Game Two evened the series at one game apiece.
Both teams probably bring confidence to Friday night’s third game as the series shifts to Chicago. The Bulls know they have the deeper team, and can advance simply by winning their home games from this point forward. The Cavs know that LeBron can win anywhere when he’s playing like that…and he only has to do that three more times to push Cleveland into the Eastern finals.
That makes Game Three HUGE! Cleveland either wins on the road to grab back home court advantage…or Chicago wins at home to further solidify their position in the matchup. Let’s quickly run through what happened in Cleveland…
GAME ONE STATS
Chicago 99, Cleveland 92
Shooting Pct: Chicago 50%, Cleveland 42%
Three-Pointers: Chicago 10/18, Cleveland 7/26
Free Throws: Chicago 9/16, Cleveland 17/19
Rebounds: Chicago 42, Cleveland 39
Turnovers: Chicago 10, Cleveland 9
Vegas Line: Cleveland by 4.5, total of 195
The Bulls grabbed the game by the throat early…and played solid basketball all the way to seal the victory. Of course…it never hurts when you go 10 of 18 on three-pointers! But, you could see that Chicago is intent on winning this series based on how they defended LeBron and battled on the boards. It was a relatively “easy” win because of the treys. Make that 8 of 18 from behind the arc, and it’s still a Chicago victory. Defense and rebounding wins championships. Chicago needs to have three more games just like this to have a show at the Eastern crown.
GAME TWO STATS
Cleveland 106, Chicago 91
Shooting Pct: Chicago 41%, Cleveland 45%
Three-Pointers: Chicago 7/22, Cleveland 12/26
Free Throws: Chicago 20/25, Cleveland 20/29
Rebounds: Chicago 37, Cleveland 45
Turnovers: Chicago 12, Cleveland 8
Vegas Line: Cleveland by 5.5, total of 194.5
Cleveland announced in the opening minutes that this was going to be their night. It’s hard to know for sure what to make of the stats because Chicago relaxed a bit having already earned a road split. That’s most clear in the rebounding category, which swung dramatically Cleveland’s way. Note also that three-point shooting swung toward the Cavs as well. It will be interesting to see if that’s the deciding factor in a matchup where things maybe relatively even inside the arc. Both teams have ways to attack the basket. Cleveland has LeBron on the one hand, but the softer of the two defenses on the other. The Cavs “held” Chicago to 41% from the floor…but they haven’t established this season that they can do stuff like that on command.
Friday’s Vegas Line: Chicago by 2, total of 196
The market has made Chicago a small home favorite even though J.R. Smith is returning from suspension. Interesting that we have the Bulls “bounce back” bringing in some money, while “Cleveland will be better with Smith” is also looming over proceedings. Since home court is usually worth about 3 points in the playoffs (often more), we can assume that the market still sees the Cavs as the slightly better team.
The key to picking Game Three is figuring out how much Chicago was relaxing in Game Two with their series lead. If LeBron (and Cleveland’s 3-point shooting) ignited because the Bulls took their foot off the gas defensively, then the Bulls are in great shape to win and cover tonight on their way to what could be a series victory. But, if Chicago didn’t lose a step…and just flat got beat when LeBron kicked things up a notch…then this is still Cleveland’s series to win. The Cavs are hoping to establish that tonight.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his full team of experts. His SCOUTS and SOURCES are reporting in from the Windy City. His computer programmers have tweaked the simulations to account for the return of Smith (but the continued absence of Kevin Love). His Wise Guy connections are letting him know what the smart money has been doing offshore and in Las Vegas. If there’s an edge to be found here…NETWORK clients are going to play it!
You can purchase the final word for Friday right here at the website with your credit card (the best bets from this game, Houston/LA Clippers, and a busy baseball schedule). If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.
NBA Playoff coverage continues tomorrow. Here’s what’s coming up the next few days in the NOTEBOOK…
Saturday: Golden State at Memphis Game Three Preview (off a shocking split!)
Sunday: Houston at LA Clippers Game Four Preview
Monday: Atlanta at Washington Game Four Preview
Tuesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Chicago/Cleveland and LAC/Houston
Wednesday: Most pivotal Game Five of Washington/Atlanta and Memphis/GS
From that point on we’ll obviously pick the best Game Six and Game Seven preview options. Odds are we’ll be checking back in on this Bulls/Cavs series on Tuesday. Great to have all four matchups start out 1-1! That should set the stage for some very dramatic basketball in the days ahead.
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