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NBA Playoff Journal

   by Larry Ness - 04/30/2012

The 2012 NBA postseason opened with the Bulls beating the 76ers 103-91 but with just over 1 1/2 minutes left in that contest, Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the year. The Heat followed by destroying the Knicks 100-67, the franchise’s second-largest margin of victory in team playoff history. Meanwhile, New York’s 67 points matched a franchise playoff low. The game was decided when the Heat went on a 34-2 run, spanning the end of the second quarter and into the third. To add insult to injury, the Knicks (with Lin already sidelined with a knee injury) saw rookie Iman Shumpert tear a ligament in his left knee, losing him for for up to eight months. LBJ scored 32 points (has scored 30 or more points in 41 of his 93 career playoff games) and according to Elias, joins Allen Iverson as the only player to single-handedly outscore the opposing starters combined, in a playoff game, since the NBA began tracking starters in the 1970-71 season. Iverson did it back in 2001 vs the Raptors scoring 52 points but James did so Saturday with a more modest 32, as New York’s starters combined for a WOEFUL 30 points.

Saturday night, the Pacers led the Howard-less Magic 77-70 with 4:05 remaining but went 0-for-9 from the floor and 0-of-2 from the FT line to get outscored 11-0, as the Magic ‘stole’ Game 1, 81-77. Indiana’s frontcourt played well without Howard in there but the team's four guards (Barbosa, Collison, George and Hill) combined to shoot 8-of-29 from the floor (27.6%). The Thunder then rallied from seven points down with 2 1/2 minutes left to edge the defending champs (Dallas) in Saturday’s lone Western Conference tilt, 99-98. Durant was just 10-of-27 from the floor but did hit the game-winner with 1.5 seconds left. He had 25 points, Westbrook added 28, Ibaka had 22 & 6 plus five blocks and Harden 19. However, of the other five Thunder players seeing action, only Sefolosha scored (five points). Collison, Cook, Fisher and Perkins combined for 67 scoreless minutes.

The West’s top-seed is the Spurs, who took care of the Jazz, 106-91 in Sunday's first game. San Antonio ended the regular season with 10 straight wins (went 24-3 its last 27) but had lost SIX straight Game 1s, going back to the 2008 postseason. Parker had 28 points and eight assists while Duncan added 17 points and 11 rebounds. What's scary about the Spurs though, is that the bench added 44 points. This team is D-E-E-P! The Lakers entered this postseason looking vulnerable but didn’t look so in Game 1 on Sunday vs the Nuggets. Kobe had 31, Gasol 13-8-8, Sessions 14 points and five assists and Ebanks (starting for Artest) had 12 & 5. Then there was Bynum, who gave LA its first playoff triple-double since Magic did so in the 1991 Finals. Bynum had 10 points and 13 rebounds plus tied a single-game playoff record with 10 blocks. Denver entered the game as the league’s top scoring team and with its third-best FG percentage but scored just 88 points (about 15 below its average) while shooting 35.6%. Afflalo and Lawson each made just 3-of-11 shots, scoring nine and seven points, respectively.

In the lone Eastern Conference game on Sunday, the Hawks held on to beat the Celtics, 83-74. Atlanta led 49-35 at the half but the lead was down to just four with 41 seconds left when Rondo was given a technical and then ejected, after bumping an official. Smith had 22 & 18 for Atlanta but Johnson had just 11, on 3-of-15 shooting (0-of-9 on threes). Rondo had 20 points and 11 assists and KG added 20 & 12 but Boston’s bench was outscored, 17-4. The Hawks played the Celtics four times in the NBA Finals when located in St Louis (1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961), winning only in 1958. The teams have met six times in the postseason since, with Boston winning each time. Boston was the only team without the home court edge to be favored in a first round series (2-to-1) this year but now Rondo could be suspended for Game 2 and the price on the series stands at Atlanta minus-$1.25 as of Monday morning.

It’s difficult to put into words what happened in the LAC/Memphis game Sunday night, particularly since I had the Grizz. Memphis led by as many as 27 points in this game and entered the fourth quarter up 21. Memphis led 95-71 with eight minute left in the contest but lost 99-98, as the Clippers outscored the Grizzlies 28-3! I can only add that the Clippers, a team with one playoff series win since moving West from Buffalo after the 1977-78 season, just tied the 2002 Celtics (against the Nets), for the largest playoff comeback-ever, at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Memphis was a 2-to-1 favorite in this series but Monday’s new price is the Clippers minus-$1.35.

Monday’s schedule features three games, including a TNT doubleheader. The first game (7:05 ET) features the Knicks at Miami with the Heat a 9 1/2-point favorite (total is 185). The second game is the Mavs at Oklahoma City (9:35 ET), with the Thunder favored by 6 1/2-points (total is 193 1/2). The NBA network has Orlando at Indiana (7:35 ET), with the desperate Pacers favored by 9 1/2 (total is 188). The Pacers were nine or 10-to-1 favorites vs the Howard-less Magic but as of Monday morning, are down to 4-to-1. Home teams are 6-2 SU (5-3 ATS) so far, with three overs and five unders. The infamous Zig Zag theory begins Monday (playing ‘on’ the SU loser of the previous game) but as I’ve noted over the years, it just hasn’t been a winning proposition. It was 31-32-3 in last year’s postseason and the last 15 years, is 483-448-25. Figuring in juice (something we all must bear), the 15-year tally comes out to minus minus-9.8 net games.

Good luck...Larry

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