Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 7:02 PM
The Eastern Conference takes center stage today as the Miami Heat try to wrap up a four-game sweep of the New York Knicks…while Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia try to establish some sense of superiority in the other half of the brackets. ONE of those four teams is going to be in the Eastern finals. And, unless Miami has surprising difficulty with Indiana in the second round…one of those four teams will be playing the Heat.
Watching and analyzing today’s games will help you pick winners through the rest of the first round, through the second round, and through the Eastern finals. So, pay attention!
Here are some numbers for you to consider. Games are presented in rotation order…
CHICAGO vs. PHILADELPHIA
Game Four Vegas Line: Philadelphia by 2.5, total of 174
Philadelphia leads 2-1
Philadelphia was a small favorite at first in Game Three…but late money drove Chicago to -1. That turned out to be misspent money, so oddsmakers went back where they had it in the first place. Will the money hit the Bulls again before tipoff? That probably depends on injury news regarding the ankle of Joakim Noah. The total has come down two points from the 176.5 we saw Friday Night. That game landed on 153…and both teams established that they’d be emphasizing defense from this point forward.
GAME THREE SUMMARY
PHILADELPHIA 79, CHICAGO 74
Field Goal Pct: Chicago 37%, Philadelphia 34%
Three-Pointers: Chicago 4/14, Philadelphia 1/14
Free Throws: Chicago 14/23, Philadelphia 26/33
Rebounds: Chicago 49, Philadelphia 43
Turnovers: Chicago 15, Philadelphia 8
Vegas Line: Chicago by 1, total of 177
Talk about emphasizing defense! Neither offense could get within shouting distance of 40$ from the field. The two teams were a combined 5 of 28 from three-point land. The only real offense of the night came from the free throw line. Philadelphia kept attacking the basket and was rewarded for their efforts. Chicago was less aggressive, and less able to make free throws when they marched to the charity stripe. Big edge also for Philly in the turnover category. Frankly, neither team played well enough to win this game. The Sixers survived the wrestling match to take a series lead.
Both teams seem set in their ways in terms of strategies at this point. It’s going to come down to who makes shots in the fourth quarter. Our statheads are working very closely on solving the riddle that will determine who advances.
MIAMI vs. NEW YORK
Game Four Vegas Line: Miami by 8, total of 184
Miami leads 3-0
Miami was only -5 back on Thursday Night, and that was with advance knowledge that Amare Stoudemire would be out. Now, the line is all the way up to -8. That tells you that the market thinks New York is toast…and that Miami is playing like they want to get this series over with in four games. Remember…this isn’t Miami at home by -8…this is Miami on the ROAD by -8. That equates to about -14 as a home court spread. JIM HURLEY will only get involved in this game if his New York sources suggest there’s a reason to.
GAME THREE SUMMARY
MIAMI 87, NEW YORK 70
Field Goal Pct: Miami 43%, New York 32%
Three-Pointers: Miami 11/29, New York 4/20
Free Throws: Miami 18/22, New York 22/29
Rebounds: Miami 49, New York 42
Turnovers: Miami 17, New York 18
Vegas Line: Miami by 5, total of 197
If you watched you know that it was close for three quarters. This was basically a prelude to Chicago-Philadelphia the next night…except that Miami was able to EXPLODE from the field when the game was on the line and slam the door shut on their opponent. They didn’t need free throws to pull away. A hidden key for the Heat so far has been three-point production. During the regular season and in past playoffs, the way to beat Miami was to shoot over them and outscore them from long range. If they’re going to be making this many treys, all that’s left is to beat LeBron James and Dwyane Wade inside the arc. Good luck with that! Miami has been so dominant in this series that it’s hard to see anyone else but the Heat winning the East right now.
BOSTON vs. ATLANTA
Game Four Vegas Line: Boston by 5, total of 172
Boston leads 2-1
Big drop in the line here. Avery Bradley of the Celtics hurt his shoulder, and the team as a whole didn’t look like 8-point favorites even when he was playing. We’d have to consider this a big market correction off earlier misperceptions….influenced some by the injury situation for both teams. The totals dropped from 173.5 down to 172 given that regulation ended at 160. Looks like much of the East needs overtime to reach their Vegas Over/Under expectations this year.
GAME THREE SUMMARY
BOSTON 90, ATLANTA 84 (in overtime)
Field Goal Pct: Atlanta 38%, Boston 41%
Three-Pointers: Atlanta 4/20, Boston 4/13
Free Throws: Atlanta 12/15, Boston 22/25
Rebounds: Atlanta 48, Boston 51
Turnovers: Atlanta 17, Boston 13
Vegas Line: Boston by 8, total of 173.5
A poor shooting game for both teams, but 41% seems like a big number in the East right now. Only Miami and Boston were able to crack that threshold the last time out for teams who are playing today! Atlanta has to be disappointed they couldn’t steal this game. But, with the lineup they had on the floor most of the night, that might have been grand larceny. Ultimately, this was a huge strike against Boston even if they did end up winning the game. This is not at all the team that we saw down the stretch. And, now, one of the keys to the ignition has a bum shoulder. Certain “availability” developments will have us on the dog…but this could end up being a pass if there are too many question marks.
LA LAKERS vs. DENVER
Game Four Vegas Line: Denver by 2, total of 201
Los Angeles leads 2-1
Denver looked great Friday Night…but the market expects a lot of Lakers money in the bounce back here. Many classic handicapping strategies would point to that with the series favorite off a loss. And, the general public in Las Vegas just won’t accept that Kobe Bryant might lose two games in a row! If you believe the Lakers will get the win here, that adjustment won’t matter because they’re still the underdog. If you think Denver has found a key to competing in this series (pushing tempo and wearing down the short Lakers rotation), then -2 is a smaller hurdle to climb than the -4 you saw the other night.
GAME THREE SUMMARY
DENVER 99, LA LAKERS 84
Field Goal Pct: Lakers 37%, Denver 40%
Three-Pointers: Lakers 6/25, Denver 6/16
Free Throws: Lakers 20/25, Denver 19/23
Rebounds: Lakers 44, Denver 54
Turnovers: Lakers 15, Denver 6
Vegas Line: Denver by 4, total of 205
More points than we saw in other Friday games…but only because of the faster tempo. This was ALSO a defensive struggle based on those shooting percentages. Great job by Denver in the areas of rebounding and turnovers. That’s why it was a blowout. And, that’s why they have a chance to make this a series. If hustle and boxing out neutralizes the Lakers size advantage…and the offense can play mistake-free, then the Lakers have to shoot great to make up for that. Kobe shoots great once every 5-6 games. Bynum and Gasol can be dangerous on putbacks…but they have to grab rebounds to get those putbacks. It’s only one game…but it was a game so reminiscent of the Lakers troubles vs. Dallas last year that you have to take the Nuggets seriously as a threat. The market was on top of that story before the mainstream media was given the prices in this series and in Game Three.
JIM HURLEY has something very special on tap for Sunday. He may not play all four games…but his top release grades out as the single biggest play so far in the playoffs. You can get the full Sunday slate (basketball AND baseball) online with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The games start early Sunday so be you take care of business in the morning.
That wraps up Sunday’s previews. Back with you Monday to preview another day of exciting NBA playoff action. Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what’s REALLY happening in the NBA Playoffs. And, link up with JIM HURLEY for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!