Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 10:10 AM
Memo to the Oklahoma City Thunder ... you can't win 'em all!
Maybe Okie City knows that all too well after watching the Los Angeles Lakers - and mainly Kobe Bryant (see game-high 36 points) - spend the better part of Friday night nailing free throw-after-free throw.
The Lakers received more than a few favorable fourth-quarter whistles last night inside the Staples Center but how about the fact the purple-and-gold guys drained an incredible 41-of-42 foul shots en route to the 99-96 win in Game 3 that now gives this Western Conference best-of-seven series a whole new life tonight.
Let's just say there's now NBA Playoffs drama from coast-to-coast this fine May weekend:
On the East Coast, the best-of-seven series between Boston and Philadelphia really has heated up big-time with the 76ers' raucous 92-83 win in Game 4 on Friday night now evening that set at two games apiece - bet you didn't think you would be saying that after the Celtics charged out of the Game 4 starting gates up 14-0!
In the Midwest, there's major drama unfolding in the heartland as the Indiana Pacers look to go up three games-to-one versus the suddenly dysfunctional Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon - we shall have lots to say about that Game 4 tilt in tomorrow's Jim Sez -- and out West it's a doozy of a weekend in Los Angeles where the aforementioned Staples Center is busier than Grand Central Station at rush hour these days - we cannot remember an NBA Playoff day/night where there were two scheduled games and both of 'em were being played inside the same building but as everyone knows the Clippers host the matinee tilt on this third Saturday in May while the Lakers get the night-time treatment and so be sure you won't be hearing any "Beat LA" chants at all here!
Now, here's the up-to-date NBA Playoff Pointspread Standings and note we've only listed the eight still-alive teams in the "tournament":
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD STANDINGS (thru Friday, May 18)
Today at 3:30 p.m. ET, it's ... SAN ANTONIO at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - Spurs lead series 2-0
It's 16 wins in a row ... and counting? The San Antonio Spurs laughed off the fact that point guard Tony Parker was "getting old" when he turned 30 this past Thursday and whatta way to celebrate the "big 3-0" by positing a 22-point, 5-assist, 5-rebound game while easily winning the one-on-one battle against an achy Chris Paul (see 10 points and 8 turnovers).
In reality, while everyone these days asks what's wrong with Miami megastar Dwyane Wade the fact of the matter is Paul has been a major bust in the first two games of this set: Yes, we're all well aware of the fact he's suffering through some nagging injuries (the groin injury really appears to be limiting his every on-court movement) but now Vinny Del Negro's club needs Paul to put up a big stat line here or else the Spurs will be a delicious 7-and-oh SU (straightup) in this here-and-now post-season.
Two things to watch closely here aside from the Paul problems in this afternoon battle:
Clippers forward Blake Griffin - who has his own hip injury to deal with - simply isn't a factor in the half-court game and despite that 20-point showing in the 105-88 loss in Game 2 of this series, Griffin is reluctant to go at the hoop against bigger bodies and so he must get his points off the fast break and on follow-ups, alley-oops, etc.
Next, keep a close eye on this Spurs bench that is deep and well-rounded:
In Game 2, San Antonio reserves poured in 31 points (or nearly one-third the team total) and two-guard Gary Neal (three triples in 13 minutes in Game 2) is showing that he can score the ball just as well as fellow subs Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and Matt Bonner:
Gut feeling here is that the Spurs' bench needs to score 25-or-more points to nail down a third straight win in this series.
Here's how the Spurs-Clippers Western Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-15||SAN ANTONIO||- 11.5||LA Clippers||SAN ANTONIO 108-92|
|5-17||SAN ANTONIO||- 10.5||LA Clippers||SAN ANTONIO 105-88|
Tonight at 10:35 p.m. ET, it's ...OKLAHOMA CITY at LOS ANGELES LAKERS - Thunder leads series 2-1
The back-to-backers inside Staples Center pitting the Thunder and Lakers last night in Game 3 and then this evening in Game 4 figured to hurt the older LA gang coming in here to this series but now you have to wonder if last night's 30-point fourth quarter is gonna give Mike Brown's club a little needed momentum.
Okay, so as stated above most of the points came via the free-throw line but don't ignore the fact that Bryant went strong at the hoop and told ESPN's Lisa Salters after Game 3 that "there's still plenty left in the tank" while it's worth mentioning Lakers' point guards Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake were wonderful on Friday with a combined 24 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists and both guys were aggressive.
Safe to say the Thunder won't be happy reviewing the tapes on this short turnaround as we're not sure James Harden ever committed more than a single foul (they whistled him for five!) en route to his solid 21-point game. Word to the wise here for Okie City - we don't want to be seeing defensive-minded big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins taking another combined 15 FG tries here, okay?
It's high time three-time NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant - who scored 31 points on 12-of-23 FG shooting (he also was a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line) - takes 30-plus FG attempts in a game this series or else the Lakers are gonna knot this sucker up and really make the Thunder sweat.
Here's how the Thunder-Lakers 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|
NOTE: Lots to say about Game 4 of Miami Heat at Indiana Pacers in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez plus stay with us right through the NBA Finals in late June too!