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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 12:08 PM

THE NBA PLAYOFF REPORT - CHECKIN' OUT SOME GAME 2 TILTS (CAN CAVS, JAZZ, T-WOLVES GET EVEN?) ...

PLUS, WE JUMP-START OUR NFL DRAFT '18 COVERAGE WITH A LOOK AT THE TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

You know the deal: NBA road teams are always happy "just to get a split" when playing the first two games of a playoff series and so both the Utah Jazz (at Oklahoma City) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (at West's #1 seed Houston) will be going all-out to snag Wednesday night's Game 2 affairs in an attempt to "get even" in their respective best-of-seven series.

As far as the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, well, they're looking for a split too but only after flopping face-first at home in Sunday's Game 1:

Yes, Cleveland's 98-80 loss in Game 1 versus 7.5-point underdog Indiana marked the first time ever that a LeBron James team dropped an opening-series Game 1 (after 12 straight wins) but "The King" basically told folks not to fret even though he was the Cavaliers' lone starter to register double-digit points in that Game 1 embarrassment. James' 24-point showing was a tad below par for him but Kevin Love / Rodney Hood / George Hill / Jeff Green somehow managed to score a combined 25 points on 10-of-30 FG shooting and they better step it up here or else the Pacers (a + 475 underdog at the start of this series) will be well on their way to shocking the pro hoops world.

The NBA Playoffs are always a major money-making time of the year for Jim Hurley's Network ... So, make sure you cash in big with all our pro hoops winners plus there's load of Major-League Baseball winners too. check it all out right here online or 1-800-323-4453 and keep piling up the profits this spring!

In other NBA Playoff action on this Wednesday night ...

The Utah Jazz never could stop the bleeding when it came to Oklahoma City raining down "3's" in last Sunday's 116-108 win/cover as 4-point home favorites. True, OKC's Paul George - who dubbed himself "Playoff P" though he's never even played in an NBA Finals! - poured in 36 points on 8-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc and let's remember that Utah didn't exactly snuff out PG Russell Westbrook who finished with 29 points and played with mucho energy.

Key for the Jazz here: Get F Derrick Favors (7 points in 30 minutes) involved with some pick-n-rolls and take the Thunder's Stephen Adams out from underneath the hoop.

Finally, here's the Minny Timberwolves looking to crack the code in how to beat the Houston Rockets ... good luck, right! Well, truth be told the T-Wolves might have had their best shot right there in Game 1 when they snagged the pointspread win but lost 104-101 as 11.5-point pups. Don't ask why Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns attempted only nine shots from the floor while finishing with 8 points in 40 minutes though a positive sign for Minnesota was the bench brigade as Derrick Rose and Jamal Crawford teamed up for 31 points and really gave Tom Thibodeau's club a much-needed jolt of energy. If Houston's James Harden is gonna go off for another 44-point showing - wow, was he dead-on with 15-of-26 FG shooting - then Minnesota has zero-to-next-to-no hope of capturing the split here but we could well see a different PG Chris Paul here after he wallowed away with a bunch of turnovers (six in all) in Game 1.


NFL DRAFT
It's our annual position-by-position look at the top players as we close in on the NFL Draft set for April 26-28. We begin our coverage with the top Defensive Linemen:

BRADLEY CHUBB, DE, N.C. State - This 6-foot-4, 260-pound speed pass rusher is the clear-cut top defensive player on the board and many draftniks believe he's the top overall talent in this man's draft. Chubb registered 10 sacks in his senior season and recorded 26 tackles for losses despite sitting out the Wolfpack's Sun Bowl win against Arizona State. Chubb could be gone by the draft's third or fourth pick.

MAURICE HURST, DT, Michigan - Some folks considered him a late bloomer with the maize-and-blue but the fifth-year player wound up with 60 total tackles (five sacks) in his final year in Ann Arbor. Hurst sports long arms, a quick first step and a never-ending motor. Likely top 10 pick.

TAVEN BRYAN, DT, Florida - Great hands and surprising speed for this 6-foot-4, 290-pounder but many in-the-know NFL folks wish he played with more consistency prior to the 2017 campaign. Maybe Bryan's best characteristic is he's just as effective in a 4-3 scheme as he is in a 3-4. Probably gets gobbled up between picks 15-to-20.

VITA VEA, DT, Washington - Super-strong dude who weighs in at nearly 350 pounds, this former Husky star was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and was a rare bright spot in Washington's Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State.

MARCUS DAVENPORT, DE, UTSA - At 6-feet-6, 260 pounds, this lean-and-mean really upgraded his stock with a special showing in the Senior Bowl. Conventional wisdom says Davenport falls to the #20-thru-25 pick range but he might be top 15.
     
DA'RON PAYNE, DT, Alabama - One of the Crimson Tide's most important players in its Sugar Bowl win against Clemson and National Championship overtime triumph over Georgia, the 6-foot-2 / 312-pounder even caught a touchdown pass against Clemson while being named Defensive MVP in both post-season games. A sure first-rounder who may fall to the #25-thru-30 slots.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff analysis in the next Jim Sez.

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