Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE NBA DRAFT LOTTERY –
THE T-WOLVES NAB THE TOP CHOICE
WHILE LUCKY LAKERS GRAB THE #2 PICK …
PLUS OUR EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS PREVIEW
AS CAVS-HAWKS COLLIDE WITH GAME 1 TONIGHT …
AND WE HIT THE REWIND BUTTON
ON G-STATE’S 110-106 NON-COVER WIN
VERSUS HOUSTON IN WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS OPENER
They were celebrating in the Twin Cities and in the City of Angels too – not so much in New York and Philadelphia, however.
The 31st Annual NBA Draft Lottery was chock full of fun if you happen to root, root, root for the perennially-poor Minnesota Timberwolves who – with a team-high 25 percent chance to land the top pick – did so while the Los Angeles Lakers not only dodged a bullet (as in losing their lottery pick to Philly 76ers) and instead wound up parlaying an 11 percent chance to grab the numero uno pick and at least got to pop into the #2 pick.
Guess we know what two players are going #1-#2 in some order but right now the early-bird chatter is Minnesota will grab Kentucky C Karl-Anthony Towns while the Lakers will snap up Duke C Jahlil Okafor.
Not a bad way to start the June 25th NBA Draft, right?
Well, Philadelphia – which could have had as many as three lottery picks had the ping-pong balls fallen just right (theirs, the Lakers and the Miami Heat) – instead will slot into the third spot in this draft and word is PG Emmanuel Mudiay (who snubbed SMU and took his talents to China last year) will be their man.
Then the New York Knicks – who seemingly have not caught a break since that first-ever lottery 31 years ago … hello, Patrick Ewing! … likely snatch up Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell but you better believe the Big Apple is bummin’ big-time right now with neither Towns nor Okafor heading into midtown Manhattan anytime soon. Hey, that’s what you get for winning some of those late-season “meaningless” games.
And we’ll round out the top six picks with Orlando likely taking Arizona F Stanley Johnson before Sacramento likely chooses Duke swingman Justise Winslow … just like we wrote it up in Monday’s edition of Jim Sez!
The rest of the lottery includes picks by Denver, Detroit, Charlotte, Miami, Utah, Indiana, Phoenix and Oklahoma City but we won’t at all be surprised if a couple of “powerhouse teams” – see San Antonio and/or Cleveland – attempts to trade up somewhere in the top 10 picks as this is considered a deep/rich draft.
If you’re looking for some names that more than likely will fill out picks #7 through #14 then try these on for size:
Kentucky F Willie Cauley-Stein, Latvian star and PF Kristaps Prozingis, Texas C Myles Turner, Croatian two-guard Mario Hezonja, Kansas F Kelly Oubre, Jr., Kentucky SG Devin Booker and Wisconsin F/C Frank Kaminsky.
Want a dark horse player to move into the lottery?
Then check out Georgia State shooting star R.J. Hunter.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#2 CLEVELAND at #1 ATLANTA – Game 1; 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT
The all-knowing Las Vegas oddsmakers have posted the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers as a better-than-two-to-one betting favorites (- 225/+ 185) in this Eastern Conference Finals series over the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks even though Atlanta copped three-of-four wins against the Cavs in the 2014-15 regular season (and seven of the last eight head-to-head matchups if you care to go back to the 2013-14 regular-season campaign).
What, you’re surprised?
Hey, the Cavaliers have plenty of things in their favor in this best-of-seven series beginning with – of course – the NBA’s third-place finisher in this year’s Most Valuable Player award and four-time MVP LeBron James who shot just 40 percent from the field in that six-game series win against the Chicago Bulls.
James averaged a robust 26.2 points per game to go along with 11 rebounds per outing and 8.8 assists a game versus the Bulls and he and the somewhat banged-up Cavs have nee off the extra day after wrapping up that set last Thursday as opposed to Atlanta’s six-game series survival win against Washington that concluded last Friday night in D.C.
We’d expect James to play 42-to-45 minutes per game in this series especially considering those injuries to teammates that include PG Kyrie Irving’s foot/knee woes suffered against the Bulls and – lest we forget – F Kevin Love will be out the rest of this post-season with that separated shoulder that occurred back on April 26th in Boston.
No doubt the “supporting cast” contributions from the likes of J.R. Smith and Tristan Thomas – among others – likely will make-or-break Cleveland here so (if you’re asking) this could be a case of James being the ultimate stat-sheet stuffer but still losing if the #3-thru-#7 players on the Cavs don’t do enough.
On the flip side, the Hawks – who featured four players in this past year’s NBA All-Star Game – needed the lone starting five non-All Star to play a brilliant series-clinching win against the Wizards last Friday as SF DeMarre Carroll scored a career playoff-high 25 points (including a pair of late-game layups off feeds from PG Jeff Teague) in that Game 6 win last weekend we believe Carroll must be a 20-ppg type scorer to get the Hawks over the hump here.
Naturally, both the aforementioned Teague (20 points in that close-out win against Washington) and fellow All-Stars Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver must play to their numbers – something Korver didn’t do in Game 6 versus the Wizards as he shot a wobbly 1-of-8 from the floor for just two points.
And we say the Hawks need at least one of their bench brigade guys need to “heat up” whether that’s backup point guard Dennis Schroder or new sensation Mike Muscala who had a couple of sweet-shooting games against the Wizards last round.
Here’s the regular-season head-to-head meetings between the Cavaliers and the Hawks (note all home teams are in CAPS below):
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
GOLDEN STATE 110, HOUSTON 106 – Warriors lead series 1-0
Hey, what’s with all these wild “mood swings” in these NBA Playoffs?
In last night’s Western Conference Finals opener, there were the plucky Houston Rockets the ones blowing a major lead (up 16 points in the second quarter) as the G-State Warriors “went small” and held off the Rockets who played 22 minutes without C Dwight Howard – like ‘em or not, Howard had 13 rebounds in his 26 minutes of game time and not having him on the floor late ‘cause of a knee injury was a killer when you witnessed alley-oop passes go awry and when Houston plain and simple needed a few boards.
Okay, so league MVP Stephen Curry of the Warriors hit an array of out-of-this-world triples en route to his Game 1-high 34 points and key reserve Shaun Livingstone (18 points and 6 rebounds) – whom ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy raved about from beginning-to-end – was spectacular as it was a pair of Warrior runs (21-4 to close out the first half and 9-0 late before Houston surged to get the pointspread “W”) that really told the tale here but keep this in mind too:
The Rockets wound up with 14 offensive rebounds (just where head coach Kevin McHale believes they need to win here) but missed 10 free throws and can someone tell us why it took Houston’s James Harden (28 points) so darn long to get heated up in Game 1?
Now, let’s get you the up-to-date NBA Playoffs Pointspread Breakdown chart with the still-alive teams listed below:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to rake in the profits in this year’s NBA Playoffs and we’ll continue to rock-n-roll through the post-season all week long.
Go online right here at www.jimhurley.com or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 each/every day and cash in with all the NBA Playoffs and remember there’s Major-League Baseball on tap every day too!
NOTE: More NBA Playoff coverage in the next Jim Sez.