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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 12:00 AM

THE NBA PLAYOFF PICTURE - ROCKETS, WARRIORS ARE BIG-TIME BETTING FAVORITES IN CLOSE-OUT GAME 5'S TONIGHT PLUS, A LOOK BACK AT CAVS' SIXERS' STAY-ALIVE WIN ...

MLB NOTEBOOK: THE BEST THREE STARTING PITCHERS THAT MEDIA FOLKS AIN'T TALKIN' ABOUT!

It will come as absolutely no surprise at all when - not if - the Houston Rockets (the NBA's top seed in the Western Conference) squares off with the #2 seed Golden State Warriors after those two superpowers get past their second-round playoff foes.

And - in case you had not noticed - at last check both the Rockets and the Warriors were priced as 12-point betting favorites for their Game 5 tilts this evening.
Now here's a couple of quickie Game 5 previews ...

Tonight, it's ...
UTAH at HOUSTON - Rockets lead series 3-1; 8:05 p.m. ET, TNT
Truth is the Rockets didn't exactly shoot lights-out from beyond the three-point arc in Sunday's 100-87 win/cover at 6-point underdog Utah - but PG Chris Paul's mid-range jumpers kept falling and C Clint Capela kept boarding (15 rebounds) and blocking shots (6 of 'em in all) and so here's Houston looking to put the bow on this series and the Jazz must be thinking superstar rookie G Donovan Mitchell (8-of-24 FG shooting in Game 4) could be running on fumes. Note that Houston's covered three of the first four in this series (see chart below).

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

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-29HOUSTON - 11.5Utah110-96
5-2Utah+ 11 HOUSTON116-108
5-4Houston- 4.5UTAH113-92
5-6Houston- 6UTAH100-87

 

NEW ORLEANS at GOLDEN STATE - Warriors lead series 3-1; 10:35 p.m. ET, TNT
Maybe it was that 4 a.m. voice mail that an angry Draymond Green left for teammate Kevin Durant that spurred last year's NBA Finals MVP - 'cause Durant poured in 38 points in only 36 minutes (and was a + 23) in Sunday's easy-as-pie 118-92 win at N'Orleans and now we'll see if G-State has the hunger to slam shut this series tonight. A major key: Keep Pelicans plucky PG Rajon Rondo (just 6 assists in Game 4 after getting 21 "dimes" in Game 3) from driving to the rim and make 'em take some jumpers instead. P.S., Golden State bench could be ripe for big game here especially if Pels play their starters 40-plus minutes.

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

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-28GOLDEN ST- 7 New Orleans 123-101
5-1GOLDEN ST- 11New Orleans121-116
5-4NEW ORLEANS+ 4.5Golden St119-100
5-6 Golden St- 5.5NEW ORLEANS118-92

 

 

On Wednesday, it's ...
PHILADELPHIA at BOSTON - Celtics lead series 3-1; 8:05 p.m. ET, TNT
Not quite sure why the 76ers were getting so darn yakky in Monday's stay-alive/double-digit win against the Celtics ... usually you don't talk trash when you are playing in a Game 4 and you're already down three-games-to-none! Still, maybe that brashness illustrated by C Joel Embiid (15 points / 13 rebounds and a + 22 in Game 4) and Ben Simmons (19 points / 13 rebounds / 5 assists) will help the Sixers here as they attempt to prolong this best-of-seven set against a Celtics team that must do better than 11-of-32 from downtown. P.S., shoulder injury to Boston's reserve PG Shane Larkin could hurt Celtics more than you think!

Here's the 2018 playoff head-to-head matchups between the 76ers and the Celtics (all home teams in CAPS):

DATE WINNER SPREADLOSER SCORE
4-30BOSTON + 5Philadelphia117-101
5-3BOSTON + 3.5Philadelphia108-103
5-5Boston+ 9.5PHILADELPHIA101-98 (ot)
5-7PHILAD'PHIA- 7Boston103-92

CLEVELAND at TORONTO - Cavaliers win series 4-0
Game, set, match ... next!
The Cleveland Cavaliers not only "broomed" the heartless Toronto Raptors on Monday night with a 35-point beatdown, but LeBron James (29 points / 8 rebs / 11 assists) and Company merely humiliated the North-of-the-Border crew that may be in line for a real shakeup ... that's for another day but we think we've seen the last of guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry playing together. In any event, Cleveland gets some much-needed down time now after sweeping Toronto and can we give a shout-out to starters Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith who combined for 31 points on 12-of-14 FG shooting in Game 4 - magnificent stuff!

 

MLB NOTEBOOK

Okay, so we're getting close to the "quarter-pole" in this here-and-now 2018 Major-League Baseball season and there's some starting pitchers simply not getting enough love, so let's throw some bouquets their way:

BLAKE SNELL, LHP, Tampa Bay - The Rays have been a better-than-you-thought team thus far and one major reason is because this southpaw slinger is sitting there at 4-1 with a tidy 2,55 ERA (and a delicious 0.94 WHIP). Snell - who has allowed only 28 base hits in 42.1 innings - gets the start tonight against Atlanta.

CHAD BETTIS, RHP, Colorado - Through his first seven starts, this Rockies' righthander is 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA (with a WHIP of 1.05) and he's fresh off last Saturday's 2-0 win at Citi Field against the sagging New York Mets. In fact, Bettis (32 hits allowed in last 44 innings) - who threw seven scoreless frames against the Mets - gets his next start Thursday against visiting Milwaukee.

AARON NOLA, RHP, Philadelphia - The Phillies (now 19-15 following Monday's 11-0 home win against San Francisco) have "co-aces" these days with free agent RHP Jake Arrieta off-and-rollin' with a 3-1 mark but it's the underrated Nola (4-1, 2.17 ERA and 0.92 WHIP) who has stepped it up big-time for the NL East crew. Nola bested Miami 6-0 in his last start and he gets to twirl tonight at home against SF Giants.

 

NOTE: Catch more NBA Playoff and MLB action in the next edition of Jim Sez and catch up with all the game-day winners at 1-800-323-4453.
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