Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 1:08 AM
Sometimes, when TV schedules are set weeks in advance, we’re stuck with lemons on the airwaves. That’s not the case at all tonight, as four of the hottest teams in the NBA square off in TNT’s doubleheader.
Game one is Boston at New York, two teams you’ve seen on TV quite a bit of late. Game two is San Antonio at the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s a rematch of a meeting by the Alamo last week where Andrew Bynum snared 30 rebounds. It might also be a playoff preview because those teams are currently slotted in the #2 and #3 spots in the Eastern brackets.
Let’s take a look at what all four of these teams have been doing in recent days…
Nobody’s been playing better basketball than Boston since the All-Star Break, particularly when you focus on the games where they’re going all out to win. Avery Bradley has become a force on both sides of the ball because he has fresh legs and plenty of smarts. Ray Allen missed some time with a bad ankle. When he returned, he was moved to a sixth man position that’s proved to be quite lethal.
*Boston has won six of its last seven games, even though three of those came on consecutive days, and two came on the road against playoff teams who are currently projected to be seeded ahead of them.
*Boston is 11-3 its last 14 games, meaning they’ve been playing at a very high level for a long longer than seven games.
*Boston is 21-8 since the All-Star Break, meaning they were 10-5 even before that 11-3 run. You have to keep in mind that it’s easier to post a great record over a small sample right now because so many bad teams are tanking to improve their draft position. Boston’s been taking care of business against the non-tankers…this is a level of play they’ve been able to sustain for a meaningful duration. With Bradley in the lineup…and the offense working for open jumpers, Boston IS this good. That may not be enough to win a championship, but it’s enough to be in the discussion.
Replacing Mike Dantoni with Mike Woodson was exactly the right decision. Woodson was able to emphasize defense with a lineup that respected what he had to say. For a variety of reasons, many of the Knicks had tuned out Dantoni at various stages of the season. The players were once again all on the same page. And, the injury to Jeremy Lin allowed the offense to run through Carmelo Anthony with hardly a peep from critics.
*New York is 8-4 its last 12 games, with three of the losses coming on the road vs. playoff teams, and the fourth coming at home against championship contender Miami.
*New York is 13-5 under Woodson, meaning they’re beating most everyone they face outside of the toughest challenges. Tonight’s game with Boston will provide a great measuring stick for BOTH teams. If Boston’s truly championship material, they’ll win this game in the Garden. If New York is to be taken seriously as anything more than an improving team who can’t win on the road in the playoffs, they’ll really need to impress here. You can’t upset Chicago or Miami in a first round best-of-seven if you can’t take care of business at home against Boston.
The Spurs have stayed off the radar for much of the second half of the season. They haven’t been on TV much. They’re more in the news for occasionally resting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker than they are for beating people when those guys are in uniform. Yes, the home loss to Los Angeles last week was a fairly ugly blemish. But, look at the highlights.
*San Antonio is 13-2 their last 15 games, with one of the losses being the disappointment against the Lakers, and the other being a tank job in Utah where the big three didn’t play on night two of a back-to-back. THAT’S what you’ve been missing by not paying attention to the Spurs! Thank goodness TNT put them in a telecast so everyone can get caught up. Maybe the Spurs don’t match up well with all of their possible playoff opponents. Nobody’s playing better ball lately than this team.
*San Antonio is 30-7 their last 37 games! Are you kidding? If Miami had done that, everyone would be comparing them to the best Michael Jordan teams in Chicago. If the Lakers had done that, Kobe would be saying he was better than Jordan. The Spurs do it, and ESPN’s too busy arguing about how much Skip Bayless played in high school to even talk about it!
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Things were looking pretty bleak there for the Lakers in terms of championship potential. Yes, they were winning games…but they were going down to the wire time after time against lousy teams who shouldn’t have stayed within 10 points of them. Kobe was taking way too many shots. Nobody else was finding much flow on offense because the ball didn’t move.
That changed when Kobe was pulled because of a shin injury. Suddenly, the ball started moving around, and the Lakers started playing with passion again. They’re 4-1 without Bryant on the floor, including wins over San Antonio and Dallas within the past week.
*Los Angeles is 11-4 its last 15 games even counting the sluggishness with Kobe. It is a good sign that they kept finding ways to win before the injury. If Kobe learns anything from their success without him, then the team does have a chance to go the distance in the Western Conference.
*Los Angeles is 16-6 its last 22 games, a reminder that they were in line to earn home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs even if a replay of last year’s early exit may have been in the offing. At least now, you can see Bynum becoming a force inside in the playoffs, and a few role players finding a way to contribute by doing more than just standing around and hoping they got to touch the ball.
JIM HURLEY always steps up big for the biggest TV games. Check the ad boxes on the home page today to see we have a major TV bombshell or a TV parlay in these two games. We’re also checking with our sources in Philadelphia for the Pacers-Sixers game tonight. That could be a playoff preview depending on how the bracket work themselves out (don’t sleep on the Pacers in the playoffs!).
Highlighted games Tuesday Night in Major League Baseball
Philadelphia at San Francisco
Cincinnati at St. Louis
NY Mets at Atlanta
Texas at Boston
Tampa Bay at Toronto
You can always purchase game day releases right here at the website with your credit card. There are no day games on the schedule Tuesday, so you have all afternoon to take care of business at your convenience. If you have any questions about seasonal service, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back with you tomorrow to talk more Las Vegas sports betting. There’s a whopping 14-game schedule in the NBA, and everyone is in action in the bases too. We do our best to cover what’s important here in the NOTEBOOK. The best way to take full advantage of JIM HURLEY’S expertise is get on the board the gravy train!
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