Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE NBA PLAYOFFS: CAN ROCKETS BOUNCE BACK TO EVEN SERIES WITH THE DUBS? ... PLUS, WE RE-CAP BOSTON'S 107-94 GAME 2 WIN OVER CLEVELAND ... PLUS NBA LOTTERY NEWS ...
THE BASEBALL REPORT: IS HISTORY ON THE YANKEES' SIDE IN 2018?
Hey Houston, you do have a problem.
The NBA's best regular-season team in the 2017-18 season - 65 wins in all - kissed away (at least for now) the home-court advantage in this best-of-seven set against the defending champion Golden State Warriors with a 119-106 loss in Game 1. Safe to say if the Rockets - a 1.5-point betting favorite here in Game 2 - cannot square the series here than it's quite possible the "Dubs" will wrap things in Oakland.
Okay, so maybe TNT analyst/funnyman Charles Barkley was just having some fun following Monday's Western Conference Finals opener, but he teased Rockets' fans by saying Golden State would win this series "in three games" and we get Sir Charles' gist ... leave the likes of Kevin Durant (37 points in Game 1), Klay Thompson (28 points) and a relatively quiet Stephen Curry (18 points) all alone on the perimeter here in Game 2 and you can probably close down the tent in H-town.
NBA WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
GOLDEN STATE at HOUSTON - Warriors lead series 1-0; Game 2, Wednesday at 9:05 p.m. ET, TNT
The point was made often in Monday's twin-figure win by Golden State that the Warriors didn't have to "work as hard" for its points compared with Houston - heck, the Rockets had three separate 24-shot clock violations in the first half alone and often frittered away shot clock time so that James Harden (41 points including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc) was often found with the ball and no place to go with just two or three seconds on the 24. So, a bit better ball movement is required here for Harden and Company and better believe supporting cast guys Trevor Ariza and P.J. Tucker (a combined 3-of-11 from the floor) must make some noise ... or else.
As far as Golden State goes, well, the Warriors drilled triples with hands in their faces and when left all alone - the 13-of-33 success rate on trifectas didn't look particularly great but Durant (3-of-6 treys) and Thompson (6-of-15 from deep) seemed to hit 'em at key junctures of Game 1 and don't forget reserve Nick Young got into the mix with three made triples including a pair of first-half makes that settled down Steve Kerr's club.
Simply put, Golden State has more weapons, plays better defense and does not get rattled when things get a bit hairy: If Curry (8 assists and 6 rebounds) can get perked up from three-land, it could be over-and-out for Mike D'Antoni's crew.
Now, here's the 2018 head-to-head playoff matchups between the Warriors and the Rockets (all home teams in CAPS):
|5-14||Golden St||+ 1.5||HOUSTON||119-106|
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to smash the books with NBA Playoffs Side & Totals winners like Boston and the UNDER on Sunday, and we're banging out a bunch of daily MLB winners too, so make sure you cash in big every day right here online or 1-800-323-4453. Get all the NBA Conference Finals winners Just $65 gets the rest of the playoffs, and FREE Baseball during that time. Get all the NBA Western Conference Finals winners with Golden State at Houston in a Game 2 tonight and make sure you're all aboard winning in with the NBA Eastern Conference Finals too as it's Boston at Cleveland in Game 3 on Saturday.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
BOSTON 107, CLEVELAND 94 - Celtics lead series 2-0; Game 2 is Saturday Tuesday at 8:35 p.m. ET on ESPN
Say this for the Boston Celtics: They took Cleveland's best punch (from the Cavaliers' best puncher) and still wound up winning by a landslide. Okay, so if we had told you prior to Game 2 that the Cavs' LeBron James would score 21 points in the first quarter alone, odds are Cleveland was gonna even this best-of-seven series at a game apiece but instead the gritty/grimy Celtics turned a 61-52 deficit into a 74-71 third-quarter lead and thus Cleveland now needs to win four of the next five games in these Eastern Conference Finals or it's sayonara time for James and Company.
On a night when Cleveland guard J.R. Smith cheap-shotted Boston's Al Horford (15 points / 10 rebounds and a plus 14 while on the floor) and when team speed told the tale - the Celtics dashed past the Cavs a whole lot in a 59-39 second half - here's Brad Stevens' club really thinking it is something special and a major "hats off" to key reserve Marcus Smart who filled up the stat sheet (11 points / 5 rebs / 9 assists and a game-best + 21) and looked to mix it up with wise guy Smith after that above-mentioned pushing incident. Bully for him!
Here's the 2018 playoff head-to-head matchups between the Cavaliers and the Celtics (all home teams in CAPS):
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
(thru games of May 15)
Here's the pointspread breakdown this post-season - note we've only included the four teams that are playing in these conference finals:
Note: NBA Playoff Betting Favorites are 36-28-1 ATS (against the spread) for a .563 winning rate with two Pick 'Em games while heading into Game 2 of Warriors-Rockets tonight.
NBA DRAFT LOTTERY
Let's cut right to the chase and tell you - as of this very moment - how the top handful-or-so picks will look like next month:
ATLANTA - (with a projected trade with Phoenix) - Deandre Ayton, C, Arizona: The Hawks own three of this year's top 30 draft picks and we say they'll be dealing #3 and #19 to move up to this numero uno selection.
SACRAMENTO - Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid: The Kings were big-time draft lottery winners and they'll cash with one of the best international players we've seen in the last 10-to-15 years.
PHOENIX - (via the trade with Atlanta) - Marvin Bagley III, F, Duke: The Suns are confident they'll get one of the three players listed at the top of this man's draft after trading down and this one-and-done Dookie is a gem.
MEMPHIS - Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova: The Grizzlies "tanked" the season and then were punked in the lottery process by falling to this fourth pick.
DALLAS - Trae Young, G, Oklahoma: Mark Cuban's crew goes for star power here and takes Long Star State "neighbor".
ORLANDO - Mohamed Bamba, F, Texas: The Magic will be thrilled if this seven-footer is still on the big board.
CHICAGO - Jaren Jackson, F, Michigan State: The Bulls are building a solid foundation but maybe they'll look to trade up here if they can land Mr. Young.
THE BASEBALL REPORT
Let's go 'round the bigs with some news/notes ... If you're "into" numbers then check this out: The New York Yankees won World Series championship in 1938, 1958, 1978 and 1998 - so, we wonder, if this quirky 20-year fact will happen again here in 2018. One thing to keep in mind is the Yankees have managed to post baseball's best record (28-12) without the first baseman (Greg Bird) and third baseman (Brandon Drury) they were supposed to be playing with right out of spring training ...
No big surprise that the Miami Marlins have the worst run differential in all of MLB (see - 76 runs) but 1B Justin Bour (team-leading 8 HRs, 21 RBI and .387 on-base percentage) could net the Fish a big haul near the trade deadline. Could be that Bour would be an excellent fit in Cleveland where the Yonder Alonso "experiment" has been underwhelming ...
Finally, if the up-and-coming Atlanta Braves don't win the National League East this year, losing in extra innings could be the culprit. The Braves have lost five-of-six games in extra frames and that's the worst in the NL.
NOTE: Get up to date with all the NBA Playoff action plus there's MLB News/Notes and the NFL too in upcoming editions of Jim Sez ... so don't miss out!