Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 28, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE NBA CONFERENCE FINALS REPORT - THE KING AND THE CAVALIERS ARE MOVIN' ON (AGAIN) TO ANOTHER NBA FINALS ...PLUS, WE PREVIEW TONIGHT'S GAME 7 OF THE WESTERN FINALS BETWEEN WARRIORS VS. ROCKETS ...
BASEBALL'S MEMORIAL DAY NOTEBOOK: IT'S ASTROS-YANKEES IN CENTER STAGE
Been there, done that?
Heck, as everyone knows, LeBron James has made it his personal rite of spring to play in the NBA Finals and so maybe it doesn't come as any great surprise that "The King" is headed back to a fourth consecutive championship round after going to four straight NBA Finals while wearing the uniform colors of the Miami Heat (see 2011-14).
But this one was different - this trip back to the NBA Finals had its own unique touch:
James piled up the stats with 35 points / 15 rebounds / 9 assists in an action-packed 48 minutes of hoops in Sunday night's 87-79 triumph over the host (and 2.5-point favorite) Boston Celtics but he carried the mail without any help from concussed F Kevin Love and at a venue that had seen the Celtics go 10-0 SU (straight-up) and 10-0 ATS (against the spread) in the post-season prior to this Game 7 bash on the parquet floor.
Okay, so James has his place at the NBA Finals table ... who's gonna join him now as the Golden State Warriors square off with the host Houston Rockets this evening in this win-or-go-home battle in the Space City? The preview's below.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
GOLDEN STATE at HOUSTON - Series tied 3-3; Game 6 is tonight at 9 p.m. ET, TNT
Are we headed for a "Willis Reed" moment this evening inside the Toyota Center?
Okay, so if you have no knowledge of NBA history than maybe you don't remember when the New York Knicks great warbled onto the floor prior to a Game 7 of the NBA Finals back in May of 1970 and merely willed the Knicks (with lots of help from Walt Frazier!) to an NBA crown.
If Paul is gonna shake off his right hamstring injury - he sat out Saturday's 115-86 loss in Oakland - and give the Rockets an emotional lift for the ages than that plus a 40-plus point game from James Harden might then be enough to give Houston a home upset win (right now the Warriors are a 6-point betting favorite which seems to indicate Paul will be a no-go) - otherwise Mike D'Antoni's team needs a monster scoring game from reserve G Eric Gordon and Houston needs someone right from that holy trinity of G-Staters Stephen Curry / Kevin Durant / Klay Thompson (averaging nearly 74 ppg combined in these playoffs) to have an "off" game.
Best bet here? Golden State comes out smoking - something it didn't do in Game 6 - and gives Houston a real sock on the jaw (with or without Paul in the starting lineup) and then it's up to the Rockets' and their rabid fan base to allow Houston a shot late. Hey, the Warriors have lost their poise a couple of times late in games this series and who's to say it can't/won't happen again here?
Here's the 2018 playoff head-to-head matchups between the Warriors and the Rockets (all home teams in CAPS):
|5-14||Golden St||+ 1.5||HOUSTON||119-106|
|5-16||HOUSTON||- 2||Golden St||127-105|
|5-20||GOLDEN ST||- 7.5||Houston||126-85|
|5-22||Houston||+ 8||GOLDEN ST||95-92|
|5-24||HOUSTON||+ 1||Golden St||98-94|
|5-26||GOLDEN ST||- 12.5||Houston||115-86|
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD CHART
(thru games of Saturday, May 27)
Here's the pointspread breakdown this post-season - we've only included the four teams that played or still are playing in these conference finals:
Note: NBA Playoff Betting Favorites are now 43-31-1 ATS (against the spread) for a .581 winning rate with two Pick 'Em games while heading into Game 7 of Warriors at Rockets tonight.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep on smashin' the books with NBA Playoff Sides & Totals winners 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. Make sure you're all aboard this Memorial Day Weekend with lots of hoops and hardball action.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
CLEVELAND 87, BOSTON 79 - Cavaliers win series 4-3
No doubt there was lots of love being shown Mr. James following last night's game in Beantown but here's what almost gets lost in the midst of "The King's" finest hour: While the younger/inexperienced Celtics melted late - see Cleveland's game-ending 15-2 scoring spree - the Cavaliers (and specifically James, of course) perked up with an extra pep in their steps and grabbed every loose ball, every rebound in those final few minutes in Game 7. Yes, former Celtics' star Jeff Green (19 points and 8 rebounds in 41 minutes of play) was that much-needed sidekick for James but did you see the final box score that shows George Hill was a +24 while fellow starters Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith each were plus 14 ... yowie!
The Celtics - as everyone assumes - will be back next year and in years down the line with all this talent going along with injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward but simply can't let coach Brad Stevens and his young players "off the hook" so easily here: Stevens steadfastly refused to double-team James and he allowed the likes of Jaylen Brown (5-of-18 FGs), Terry Rozier (2-of-14 FG shooting) and super-subs Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart (a combined 6-of-24 from the field) carte blanche to bury Boston with forced/rushed shots - and how about Boston shooting 7-of-39 as a team beyond the three-point arc.
A great season for the Celtics? No question. But this Game 7 loss will stick to their ribs for a long time. Trust us!
Here's the just-completed 2018 Eastern Conference Finals head-to-head matchups between the Cavaliers and the Celtics (all home teams in CAPS):
MLB'S MEMORIAL DAY NOTEBOOK
Great to see a full Major-League Baseball schedule on this special holiday - we remember sometimes in recent years when there were a batch of big-league teams "idle" on Memorial Day and that gnawed at us big-time. So, let's look at the marquee matchup series that get jump-started on this holiday:
HOUSTON (34-20) at NEW YORK YANKEES (33-16) - Mon, Tues and Wed
The Astros and Yankees already gave us a jim-dandy four-game series in the Lone Star State back in later April/early May: New York copped three games in that set including a pair of 4-0 wins but Houston bats (third in the league in scoring) is champing at the bit to hit in tiny Yankee Stadium ... did you realize that leadoff hitter OF George Springer already has scored 40 runs while 2B Jose Altuve is batting .321? Game one here sports RHP Justin Verlander (1.08 ERA) against that potent Bombers' attack ... now that's a holiday matinee.
NOTE: Catch our Warriors-Rockets Game 7 post-game report in tomorrow's Jim Sez.