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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 4, 2018 at 12:00 AM



So much for the "getting even" in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoff picture!

Right, TNT's Charles Barkley "guaranteed" wins by both the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers last night and ole "Chuckster" fell flat on his chubby face with both guarantees - okay, so everyone had a good laugh about that - but wake up this morning and "We The North" and "Trust The Process" are two catch phrases that are being mocked after Thursday night setbacks by both the Raptors and the 76ers.

Can they - will they - recover in time to make their best-of-seven series interesting or are we headed for short-and-sweet deals in the East?

All we can say regarding Cleveland's 128-110 win at 6.5-point favorite Toronto is that LeBron James now officially "owns" the North of the Border crew after pouring in 43 points with some hellacious fallaway jumpers tossed into the mix and it sure helped matters that The King's sidekick - F Kevin Love (31 points / 11 rebounds) -- came alive following a no-show effort in Game 1. Here we are now with the Cavs - up two-zip - and heading home and Toronto has lost its last five games in a row at Cleveland the past two post-seasons and lemme tell 'ya the Cavs are 18-1 all-time when winning the first game of a playoff series. When they win the first two games of a playoff series, well, don't ask, Toronto!

In Thursday's nightcap, the 3.5-point underdog Celtics stormed back from a 22-point, second-quarter deficit as Boston's electric 108-103 home win puts Philly (a 4-to-1 betting favorite at the start of this series) in a major hole even if the 76ers are heading home for Game 3 and Game 4 in their building. Afterwards, much was made of the fact the Celtics had five players register double-digit points - led by rookie Jayson Tatum's 21 points and Terry Rozier's 20 points - but how about the defensive effort against Philly as Ben Simmons scored one single point and only attempted four field goals ... ugh. This series - so far - has been a major sideline mismatch between Boston's Brad Stevens and Philadelphia's Brett Brown - just like you would have thought!

Heck, if you thought the Raptors and 76ers were playing in "must-win games" last night, what do you call their games on Saturday?

Note that Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to rock with NBA Playoff and MLB winners, so make sure you cash in big right here online or 1-800-323-4453.

On Friday, it's ...
GOLDEN STATE at NEW ORLEANS - Warriors lead series 2-0; 8 p.m. ETESPN

Two down, two to go ... the Golden State Warriors are on schedule when it comes to making this a short-and-sweet series just as they did in Round One with that four-games-to-one win against San Antonio and do keep in mind G-State won the first three games in that set.

So, the real question here is can Steve Kerr's club take a serious stranglehold on this series with a Game 3 win here? The Warriors are a 4.5-point (and growing) betting favorites here for Game 3 and gotta believe G Stephen Curry (28 points in 27 minutes in his return in Game 2) will come off the bench to be an energizer of sorts but if teammate Klay Thompson (4-of-20 FGs in Game 2) doesn't hit a hot stretch here than maybe the home dog Pelicans can steal one. Yes, Anthony Davis (25 points / 15 rebounds / 5 assists) in Game 2 was spending way too much time tangling with loud-mouth Draymond Green but what say N'Orleans bench shows up here after shooting a collective 5-of-13 from the field in the last game.

Here's the 2018 playoff head-to-head matchups between the Warriors and the Pelicans (all home teams in CAPS):

4-28GOLDEN ST- 7New Orleans123-101
5-1GOLDEN ST- 11New Orleans121-116

HOUSTON at UTAH - Series tied 1-1; approximately 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

A quickie reminder that when we started this best-of-seven series between the West's top-seeded Houston Rockets versus the #5 seed Utah Jazz, the Las Vegas/offshore folks posted Houston as a - 4000 betting favorite ... do those guys/gals that plunked down a few bob on the Rockets have reason to fret following Utah's 116-108 major upset in Game 2?

Hey, we listened to the TNT panel after the Jazz rallied with a 16-2 fourth-quarter scoring spree to take charge of that final frame and the likes of Mister Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal seemed to believe that the Rockets didn't take Utah seriously. Wait a minute ... didn't Houston race back from a 19-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead the other night? So, we're not on board with that type thinking but simply believe that Utah's blue-chip rookie G Donovan Mitchell (17 points / 11 assists and a + 13) remains the second-most dangerous player on this floor behind Houston's James Harden (32 points / 11 assists in Game 2) and if he gets unguarded in the open floor here, then the 3.5-point home dog Jazz could well be the ones in the driver's seat here.

Here's the 2018 playoff head-to-head matchups between the Rockets and the Jazz (all home teams in CAPS):

4-29HOUSTON- 11.5Utah110-96
5-2Utah+ 11HOUSTON116-108



It's the weekend's only Interleague series - and it happens to be the best weekend set of 'em as the defending World Series champion Houston Astros (20-13) battle the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks (21-10): The 'Stros skid into this series having lost the last three games in a row to the New York Yankees (Houston won the opener of that four-game set) and Houston was blanked twice this week and wondering when DH Evan Gattis (one home run in 26 games) is gonna get jump-started while that Astros' bullpen remains a shaky part of this team with closer Ken Giles getting publicity this week for punching himself in the face following a three-run dinger by Yankees' C/DH Gary Sanchez. Nice! The D-Backs, meanwhile, rank first in the NL in team ERA (2.90) and fourth in home runs (36) and is anybody hotter than OF A.J. Pollock (10 home runs including four this past week)? Make sure you check in with us all weekend long for MLB winners!

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff and MLB action in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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