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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at 1:14 PM


Let's get right to it with a look at the NBA Playoffs first-round series that begin on Sunday:


#8 DETROIT (44-38) vs. #1 CLEVELAND (57-25) - 3 p.m. ET, ABC
In case you missed it, the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers are a 7-to-1 betting favorite to cop this best-of-seven series against the Pistons even though the Motowners snagged three-of-four wins in regular-season play. Okay, so forget about those four showdowns - the last of which occurred this past Wednesday night with Detroit swiping an overtime triumph - and instead ask yourself whether or not the Cavs will have anyone aiding/assisting LeBron James (25.3 ppg) here one year after "The King" pretty much drove the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals all on his own!
The Pistons are keeping fingers crossed that guard Reggie Jackson (abdomen) will be A-OK after he sat out the team's final two regular-season games and that C Andre Drummond (16.2 ppg and 14.8 rpg) can fare better than 35.5 percent from the free-throw line ... please let's not have a series where Hack-an-Andre is the storyline!

(Note all home teams below in charts are in CAPS):

11-17DETROIT+ 4.5Cleveland104-99
1-29Cleveland- 4DETROIT114-106
2-22Detroit+ 9CLEVELAND96-88
4-13     Detroit+ 3.5     CLEVELAND 112-110 (ot)


#6 CHARLOTTE (48-34) at #3 MIAMI (48-34) - 5:35 p.m. ET, TNT
Strange-but-true how four teams in the East finished with identical 48-and-34 records this year - please don't ask us about the tie-breakers that decided what seeds were what, ok? - were all bunched up between third- and sixth-place in the standings. Still, it's the Heat that will enjoy the home-court advantage and thus the Las Vegas smart guys/gals have 'em as a solid 2-to-1 betting favorite - did anyone say overpriced?
No doubt Charlotte has a well-balanced crew with six double-digit per-game scorers starring G Kemba Walker (20.9 ppg) but it's small forward Nicolas Batum (14.9 ppg and 5.8 apg) that may indeed hold the key here 'cause he's been battling ankle woes lately and coach Steve Clifford needs 38-plus minutes per game from this underrated star while the flip side says Miami is banking on G Dwyane Wade (19 ppg) giving the Heat 35-plus minutes per outing and we say watch rookie Justise Winslow be a real X-factor with his board work and ability to finish on the fast break as real keys.
Hey, if Miami's Joe Johnson can be a 15-to-18 ppg guy here, it could get the Heat over the top in a long series.

10-28MIAMI- 6.5Charlotte104-94
12-9CHARLOTTE+ 1Miami99-81
2-5Miami+ 4CHARLOTTE98-95
3-17Charlotte+ 4.5MIAMI109-106



#7 MEMPHIS (42-40) vs. #2 SAN ANTONIO (67-15) - 8:05 p.m. ET, TNT
Hey, for you hoops folks simply wishing to fast-forward your way to a Golden State versus San Antonio showdown in the NBA Western Finals, hang tight! The likelihood is we're all gonna get there sometime next month but the Spurs (and Warriors) have some clean-up jobs to do before then and not all that many folks believe the banged-up Grizzlies are even going to grab one game in this best-of-seven series. As you can see by the accompanying chart, the Spurs swept the Grizz four straight in regular-season play with Gregg Popovich's gang covering three of the four tilts with F LaMarcus Aldridge going for 32 and 31 points in those last two wins against Memphis.
Both Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard (team-leading 21.2 ppg) remain the modern-day offensive stars of this iconic franchise that still needs productivity from the likes of G Tony Parker, F Tim Duncan and reserve G Manu Ginobili but only way Memphis makes this a competitive series is if Zach Randolph (team-best 15.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg) can "have his way" in the low box and keep these games in the low-to-mid 90s. Good luck!

11-21SAN ANTONIO- 8Memphis92-82
12-3San Antonio- 3.5MEMPHIS103-83
3-25SAN ANTONIO- 13Memphis110-104
3-28San Antonio- 5.5MEMPHIS101-87


#5 PORTLAND (44-38) at #4 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (53-29) - 10:35 p.m. ET, TNT
No kidding, we were all set to deliver a little sermon about how the Clippers must present a balanced attack here in order to hold off a dangerous Trail Blazers team and then we checked out the boxscores of the three games LA won in this regular-season rivalry and noticed that three different players led the Clips in scoring in those "W's" - Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford.
Remember Griffin's played five games - though not more than 30 minutes in any single game - since missing 45 games with various injuries/suspensions and he needs to get his game fine-tuned in a hurry while Paul must show he's not gonna play second fiddle to that fantastic Portland backcourt starring Damian Lillard (25.1 ppg) and C.J. McCollum (20.8 ppg). Hey, best chance the Blazers have of pulling off this series upset is to get 50 ppg from Lillard/McCollum and then light it up from downtown with three-point shooters Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard needed to get hot in a hurry.

11-20PORTLAND+ 4.5Clippers102-91
11-30CLIPPERS- 7Portland102-87
1-6Clippers- 3.5PORTLAND109-98
3-24CLIPPERS- 5.5Portland96-94

NOTE: More NBA Playoff News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez plus NFL Draft and MLB Notes too ... have a great sports weekend!

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