Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Tuesday’s schedule saw four games where one team carried a three-games-to-one lead into action. Wednesday brings two more, as Miami is a very heavy favorite to wrap up its first round Eastern Conference series against New York, while the LA Clippers are medium-sized underdogs to finish off Memphis.
Having just two games will give us a little more time to go in-depth, meaning we can talk about what’s ahead for each of these series winners in the next round.
MIAMI vs. NEW YORK
Game Five Vegas Line: Miami by 11, total of 183
Miami leads 3-1
This is the highest line of the series, as the Heat were -9 and -10 in the first two games. Clearly the market expects Miami to finish things off with authority this evening. The totals are down a bit from the 188 and 185.5 we saw in the first two games in Miami. It’s taken awhile for oddsmakers to recognize this is a slow series where both teams prefer to attack out of the halfcourt. Scoreboard totals have landed on 167, 198, 157, and 176. One game had great shooting, the other three didn’t get very close to the Vegas expectations. It could turn out that tonight’s play from NETWORK is on the total of this game.
GAME FOUR SUMMARY
NEW YORK 89, MIAMI 87
Field Goal Pct: Miami 41%, New York 43%
Three-Pointers: Miami 3/19, New York 5/22
Free Throws: Miami 24/35, New York 20/29
Rebounds: Miami 40, New York 43
Turnovers: Miami 14, New York 17
Vegas Line: Miami by 7.5, total of 184
It’s telling that Miami played just about its worst game imaginable, but was still in position to win straight up in the final moments. The Heat shot poorly, couldn’t throw a three-pointer in the ocean, missed way too many free throws, got outrebounded, and was sloppy with the ball. Clearly they came out flat with a big series lead. But, they also clearly aren’t as invincible as they were starting to look. This had the look of some of last year’s games vs. Dallas where the Heat got frustrated and lost their team component. Did you see the look on LeBron’s face when Dwyane Wade did so little with his game-tying/game-winning opportunity at the very end? You put THAT look on their faces, and you have a chance to beat the Heat.
Of course, New York isn’t likely to get lucky two games in a row. It’s not like they set the world on fire themselves in that Sunday victory. Poor shooting. Sloppy play. But, a couple of more three’s and the Knicks stole a win. Tonight Baron Davis is out, and New York must go with a make-shift lineup against a great team with a chip on their shoulder. We don’t envy them.
JIM HURLEY is working closely with his New York sources to determine if the players are taking this game seriously. Miami won the first three games by 33, 10, and 17 points. That’s an average of 20 points per win, and a 2-1 success rate against a line as high as -11 or -12 if the public drives it higher. This is Miami’s game to win and cover unless the Knicks are going to get serious about moving the ball around to get good looks from behind the arc.
Regarding Miami’s hopes to win the East and the whole league…it’s hard to see who’s going to stop them. They’re capable of stopping themselves. Miami-Indiana could get interesting if Miami loses a step and the high energy Pacers can h it some crunch time shots. Miami-Boston has a chance to be a tough series if the Celtics squad we saw vs. Atlanta this past Sunday is a sign of things to come in later rounds. We’re talking “if’s” in both cases. Miami’s clearly the Eastern favorite barring injuries.
MEMHIPS vs. LA CLIPPERS
Game Five Vegas Line: Memphis by 6, total of 183.5
Clippers lead 3-1
Three of the four games have gone right down to the wire, with the LA Clippers managing to win all three of those thrillers. That’s a tribute to what Chris Paul can do shooting or passing when a game is on the line. And, it’s a strike against Memphis because they should be no worse than 2-2 right now, and could easily be up 3-1 themselves with another couple of made shots. Should the trailing team be favored by THIS much in a backs-to-the-wall situation? Well, Memphis led by 27 in Game One, won Game Two by more than this spread, and led Game Three by a respectful margin in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies are capable of covering this number, even if three of the first four games have been nailbiters.
GAME FOUR SUMMARY
LA CLIPPERS 101, MEMPHIS 97 (in overtime)
Field Goal Pct: Memphis 43%, Clippers 45%
Three-Pointers: Memphis 4/13, Clippers 5/16
Free Throws: Memphis 21/27, Clippers 28/40
Rebounds: Memphis 47, Clippers 36
Turnovers: Memphis 16, Clippers 9
Vegas Line: LA Clippers by 2, total of 183.5
The Clippers victories have landed on 1, 1, and 0 at the end of regulation. Talk about cutting it close! They had their first good turnover game of the series here, which speaks well of their chances to finish things off in one of the next three games. Free throws continue to be a problem. Not earning trips to the line, but converting as many as they should. Hey, 28 of 40 is better than 13 of 30…but there’s a scoreboard edge there that’s waiting to be exploited to its fullest.
Can Memphis come back? It’s weird to be so close every game yet so far in a series. It’s like one of those tennis matches where one guy keeps losing the tie-breaker. Close, but still a mountain to climb. Memphis definitely has the horses to cover a game like this when the Clippers might relax with hopes of wrapping things up at home. To us, the whole game comes down to the LA mindset. If they’re focused and ready, then +6 is probably too high for these competitive teams. If they take the night off to be ready for Game Six, then Memphis goes up big and DOESN’T blow the lead. JIM HURLEY will be working closely with his sources to get the right information. NETWORK’S West Coast guys could be very busy in the second round with the Lakers and the Clippers in separate series (and the Dodgers still lead the NL West while the Angels are finally getting things going!).
Wednesday’s NBA PARLAY will be posted several hours before tipoff here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit cards handy. Consider day baseball for some bankroll building Wednesday afternoon. Games we’re looking at in early Wednesday starts include: Cincinnati at Milwaukee, Atlanta at the Chicago Cubs, and Toronto at Oakland. Evening highlights in the bases include St. Louis at Arizona, San Francisco at the LA Dodgers, Texas at Baltimore, and Tampa Bay at the New York Yankees. Big day in the bases!
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That wraps up Wednesday’s previews. Back with you Thursday for more news and notes from the world of sports. We’re hoping to have a chance to squeeze in some baseball coverage here in the NOTEBOOK these next few days depending on how the NBA Playoff schedule works itself out.
Every day brings new handicapping challenges…challenges that JIM HURLEY has been meeting and beating for 25 years!