Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 7:00 AM
You can’t get much closer than back to back buzzer-beaters! Though, the fact that both of those games were in Chicago suggests that Cleveland is the slightly better team in their Eastern Conference second round playoff series. Home court is worth something. The composite score through four games favors Cleveland 380-373. That’s seven points over four games split between the cities…suggesting very little difference between the contenders.
Of course…injuries to Pau Gasol (out the last game) and Kyrie Irving (playing, but not contributing) are mucking up the handicapping process even more. This has truly been a battle of attrition, and picking future winners may depend on figuring out which roster is better suited to a six or seven-game war!
Let’s run the numbers from those buzzer beaters…
GAME THREE STATS
Chicago 99, Cleveland 96
Shooting Pct: Cleveland 39%, Chicago 38%
Three-Pointers: Cleveland 14/34, Chicago 6/21
Free Throws: Cleveland 18/19, Chicago 25/29
Rebounds: Cleveland 39, Chicago 54
Turnovers: Cleveland 11, Chicago 7
Vegas Line: Chicago by 2.5, total of 194.5
Neither team could break 40% shooting from the field…even though Cleveland has a mediocre defense, and Chicago’s wasn’t as great at people were thinking during the regular season. The Bulls blew a late lead before Derrick Rose banked in the winner in the final instant. Ugly game, which the Bulls won thanks to big edges in free throw shooting and rebounding. The Cavs were only in it because of an uncharacteristic 14-6 advantage in made three-pointers. You know Cleveland is out of ideas (and energy) if they’re launching 34 treys! Clean game from the Bulls too in the turnover department.
GAME FOUR STATS
Cleveland 86, Chicago 84
Shooting Pct: Cleveland 39%, Chicago 36%
Three-Pointers: Cleveland 5/25, Chicago 9/21
Free Throws: Cleveland 23/24, Chicago 11/12
Rebounds: Cleveland 44, Chicago 40
Turnovers: Cleveland 15, Chicago 8
Vegas Line: Cleveland by 2.5, total of 194
Big bounce back in those important free throw and rebounding categories for the Cavs. Their “energy” stats were better here, though they couldn’t hit a trey to save their lives. Both teams blew what seemed like semi-comfortable leads (in a game where points were scarce except when a trailer was rallying!). In terms of the eye test…you could see that LeBron James was wearing down from carrying the team on his shoulders. Had Chicago won, the series may have been over for all intents and purposes. Now…we’re 2-2…but Cleveland has ONE GUY who has to win it while Chicago can spread the burden out. Will either team shoot 40% again?! If not, it may be those free throw and rebounding categories that rule the series. Chicago won the turnover category again…which may loom larger as we get deeper in the series. Cleveland’s decision-making gets very poor when they run out of gas or start to panic.
Tuesday’s Vegas Line: Cleveland by 5.5, total of 191
The market still respects Cleveland as the superior neutral court team. Plus, the quants seem to place a lot more weight on the injury to Pau Gasol than many other pundits do. That’s a high line for a wrestling match (and a high total if things are going to settle down into replays of Sunday). Interesting that the market doesn’t seem to be giving Chicago much credit for the bounce-back spot.
JIM HURLEY is looking very closely at Game Five playoff histories (and beyond) for both LeBron James….and then the Chicago Bulls. It’s great to have recent track records for how these teams go about things in crunch time. What NETWORK provides with its exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach will put customers ahead of the curve from this point forward. Scouts…sources…statheads…trend historians…computer programmers, and Wise Guy connections leaving no stone unturned!
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NBA Playoff coverage continues in the NOTEBOOK Wednesday. Here’s the current schedule for the next few days...
Wednesday: Game Five of Memphis/Golden State
Thursday: Game Six Preview of Chicago/Cleveland
Friday: Game Six Preview from either Washington/Atlanta or Memphis/GS
Saturday: Early Look at a Sunday Game Seven in Chicago/Cleveland or LAC/Houston
Sunday: Game Seven Preview if any other series go the distance
The league is taking Saturday off. We may have some great Game Seven drama ahead. If not, a rest break for exhausted superstars before the League Finals get underway.
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