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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 1:55 AM

THE NBA PLAYOFF UPDATE: CAVS GET EVEN WITH THE PACERS PLUS, THERE'S MORE WILD STUFF FROM 'ROUND THE EASTERN CONFERENCE ...

NFL DRAFT NOTEBOOK: TRACKING THE TOP D-BACKS

Let us ask you this important NBA Playoffs-related question:

Are you beginning to see a pattern developing in three of the four Eastern Conference first-round playoff sets where we'll head to Game 5's with series tied at two games apiece? It has to do with getting out to big leads in these games - and whether or not clubs can hang on right to the finish line.

Naturally, the most spell-binding of them all continues to be this Cleveland Cavaliers versus Indiana Pacers showdown - which now heads to Wednesday's game in Ohio with the Cavaliers suddenly sporting the momentum in one of the series knotted at two apiece - as LeBron James filled up the Game 4 stat sheet with 32 points / 13 rebounds /7 assists in a hang-on-for-dear-life 104-100 win/cover against Indiana.

The Cavaliers charged out to a big lead in that gotta-have-it Game 4 and then barely held off the Pacers as Cleveland's Kyle Korver (18 points) drained some big late-game triples. Yes, we'd like to know where Pacers' G Victor Oladipo went down the stretch in that one!

Earlier in the evening on Sunday, there were the Toronto Raptors building up a double-digit halftime lead in Game 4 against Washington only to sag badly en route to the Wizards' 106-98 win as 1.5-point home dogs. Again, a big lead at the break but the D.C. gang - starring guards Bradley Beal (who fouled out with nearly five minutes left) and John Wall combined for 58 points - managed to charge right past the Raptors who have never/ever had a three-games-to-one series lead in their post-season history.

Finally, in Milwaukee's 104-102 non-cover win against 6-point dog Boston Game 4 of that now-even set, there were the Bucks actually blowing a 20-point lead before all-everything/all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo (27 points /7 rebs) tipped in a missed shot to put the Bucks over the top.

Again, the momentum has swung back to the Bucks as they head to Beantown for Game 5.

Can anyone here hold on to monster-sized leads?

The Cavaliers did and now they hold the home-court edge heading into that Game 5; the Raptors could not and now may have to "hold serve" in Game 5 and Game 7 just to survive and advance into Round II; and the Bucks have new life after almost losing a Game 4 they had in the bag for much of the time.

Wild, wild West? Forget it, the wild stuff's comin' from the East as we roll into another playoff week ahead.
  

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are continuing to rock-n-roll these NBA Playoffs and so make sure you cash in big with all our pro hoops winners plus there's load of Major-League Baseball on the daily docket too. Check it all out right here online or 1-800-323-4453 and keep piling up the profits this spring!


NFL DRAFT

It's our annual position-by-position look at the top players as we close in on the NFL Draft set for this Thursday, April 26. We continue our coverage with the top Cornerbacks and Safeties ... And next up will be the top Quarterbacks and note our always-popular/always-insightful NFL Mock Draft will appear in Thursday's column, so don't miss out:

DERWIN JAMES, SS, Florida State - The folks at cbssports.com have ranked this 6-foot-3, 215-pounder as the second-best overall prospect in this man's draft even though he played just a year-plus in college (tore up his knee just two games into his freshman campaign). James showed major versatility in Tallahassee as he often lined up as a linebacker/pass rushing defensive end. Okay, so James probably won't go #2 in this draft but he'll get gobbled up in the top 10.

MINKAH FITZPATRICK, FS/CB, Alabama - Generally regarded as the country's numero uno defensive back last year (Fitzpatrick appeared on our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy top five list for a batch of weeks, remember) and a probable top 10 pick even though many pro scouts are not quite sure if he'll line up at CB or one of the safety spots. Great leader who nabbed both the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards last year.

DENZEL WARD, CB, Ohio State - This former Buckeyes' star is quickly moving up the draft boards despite his smallish statue (he's listed at 5-feet-10) as positive reports state Ward sports blazing speed and is considered a sure-fire lockdown corner for the next 10-to-12 years.

JOSH JACKSON, CB, Iowa - Great ball skills and truly one of the headiest players in the land last year when he intercepted eight passes and returned two of 'em for touchdowns (plus Jackson collected 18 passes broken up). At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, Jackson's agile and can gobble up real estate in a hurry.

JAIRE ALEXANDER, CB, Louisville - Listed as 5-feet-11, scouts say this Charlotte native is ultra-quick to attack the ball but beware: A sprained knee cost him a handful of games for the U of L Cardinals last year and then a different knee injury cost 'em some late-season action. Probably will drop to the lower-third of Round One because of all the 2017 health concerns.

NOTE: More NBA Playoff analysis in the next Jim Sez plus our final position-by-position look at NFL

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