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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, May 11, 2015 at 4:00 PM

We’ve already talked a lot in recent weeks about how to handicap NBA Playoff basketball. What’s become clear in recent days is that teams who are over-reliant on the three-pointer are in deep trouble in playoff basketball when those treys aren’t falling. We already knew that of course. But, this year was supposed to be different because many of the “trey-heavy” teams had shown some semblance of balance during the regular season.

I’m talking mostly about:

Golden State

Atlanta

Houston

Those were the three teams that supposedly were revolutionizing basketball with their ability to pass the ball around to create open looks on treys. That’s the two #1 seeds in each conference, plus the #2 seed in the West. Those teams represented “the future” of pro basketball because they were making the most of three-pointers while also doing other things well.

 

Defensive Efficiency

Golden State #1 in the NBA

Houston #6 in the NBA

Atlanta #7 in the NBA

During the regular season, all three of those teams were playing “elite” defense on a per-possession basis. They (allegedly) weren’t one-trick ponies who had to do their trick to win. Golden State beat you with defense, and ran up the score with treys. Houston held you in check on one end while James Harden beat you on the other. (Interesting how silly the MVP debate regarding Steph Curry and James Harden looks at the current moment!). Atlanta had hired a Spurs assistant coach who taught the team how to play at a championship level.

Yet, here in the playoffs…Houston looks absolutely PATHETIC on defense, Golden State has been surprisingly outmatched, and Atlanta has been a disappointment in the weaker of the two conferences. (The Hawks have a 5-4 record against Brooklyn and Washington!) Now…all of that’s okay if the three-pointers are falling.

Golden State is 12 of 52 the last two games (6 of 26 twice in a row!)

Atlanta is 30 of 90 in the series…well below their norm

For Houston, their defense has actually been so bad that no amount of three-pointers could make up for it. They lost by 16 points at home, and then 25 and 33 points on the road!

I have no hope for Houston. We had a big 50-unit winner on the Clippers in that Sunday night blowout. Golden State and Atlanta still have time to regain their #1 form if they start making treys and playing with more intensity on defense. Championships aren’t given out based on what you did in the regular season.

The problem with expecting three-point teams to thrive late in the playoffs are:

*It’s harder to make treys in high pressure situations

*It’s harder to make treys when your legs are tired

*It’s harder to make treys when you’re battling a nagging injury

*Shooters are playing more high pressure minutes now than in the regular season

This isn’t a day at the park. As I said last week, the playoffs are DIFFERENT! What worked in the regular season against a bunch of opponents in cruise control (plus some who are tanking) may not work against elite rivals when a championship is on the line. MEMPHIS IS GOING TO GUARD YOU! Living (and thriving) by the trey during the regular season can lead to death by the missed trey once everything gets tougher. Trophies aren’t given out based on how much you ran up the score on disinterested, inferior opponents in the regular season.

Your homework this week in my Advanced College of Sports Betting and Handicapping is to study minute counts for all the main three-point shooters remaining in the brackets. See if you can determine who’s shooting “tired” right now. Continue to monitor this angle through the postseason. Be sure you read every boxscore so you know the minute counts. And, watch with a sharp eye so you can see when shooters start to get tired. Frankly, it’s very hard to miss for some of these guys. With LeBron James, you can see it when he lifts up to shoot. I could tell you the exact moment when each Steph Curry and Klay Thompson lost their poise in the two losses to Memphis based on their three-point shooting form.

If you’d like some help finding the BEST BETS on the board, you can purchase my personal NBA Playoff selections (and baseball) right here at this very website. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Call during normal business hours Monday through Friday. I won both of my 50-stars this past weekend…and even bigger releases are coming up soon!

Thanks for your attendance. We’ll be back again early next week to talk about specific handicapping tips for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates all the work you’ve been putting in so far in the playoffs. It will continue to pay off through the league Finals. In Las Vegas, hard work is rewarded!

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