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NBA Playoff Journal - May 9

   by Larry Ness - 05/09/2012

All four contests on Tuesday night featured series in which one team held 3-1 leads and NBA playoff history tells us that only EIGHT teams have ever come back to win a best-of-seven series after falling in a 3-1 ‘hole.’ However, only the Pacers were able to close out their series last night, as the Hawks and Bulls won their respective Game 5s at home plus the Nuggets were able to win their Game 5 in LA, against the Lakers. The Howard-less Magic were ‘ripe for the taking’ this postseason and the Pacers, after losing Game 1 at home 81-77 (got outscored 11-0 over that game’s final 4:05), ripped off four straight wins over Orlando. Indiana won Game 2 at home by 15 points, Game 3 in Orlando by 23 and then survived a 4th-quarter ‘meltdown,’ and an OT period to win Game 4, 101-99. Last night’s Game 5 was a ‘walk in the park,’ as Indiana advanced to the second round for the first time since 2005, with a 105-87 win.

No player on Indiana's roster had won a playoff series while playing for the Pacers and the team’s lading scorer, Danny Granger (21.4 PPG vs the magic), had to be the happiest of all (waited seven years for a playoff series win).This is a well-balanced team as four of its five starters averaged double digits in the series, with only George (12.1 PPG during the regular season but just 9.4 vs the Magic) falling just short. PG Collison, who started 56 games during the regular season but has since lost his job to George Hill, scored 19 points while adding six assists last night. Granger led the way with 25 but Collison’s effort was impressive. He scored two points in Game 1 and played just 12 minutes (while scoring just two points again) in Game 2. However, he averaged 13.3 PPG and 5.7 APG over Indiana’s last three wins.Throw in Barbosa (6.4) and Hansbrough (3.3-3.8), who played excellent defense all series, and this Indicia team is eight-deep! Watch out Miami.

The Hawks and Bulls both ‘stayed alive’ last night with home wins. Atlanta saw Al Horford make his first start since January 11 and he scored 19 points while adding 11 rebounds in 41 minutes. Marvin Williams got his first start of the series, playing 35 minutes while scoring 15 points (note: he had scored a total of 16 points in the first four games, coming off the bench). All five starters scored in double digits and only Williams failed to play sat least 41 minutes. Josh Smith had 13 & 16 and has averaged 16.5-14.8 this series, although he missed Game 3 with a knee problem (note: Hawks lost that one in OT. How big was that?). Boston is now 9-13 in “close out” games under Rivers, including 2-10 on the road. With that kind of history, the Celtics best hope they win Game 6 in Boston.

The Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the rest of the year in the final minute of Game 1 and then Joakim Noah sprained his ankle in a Game 3 loss. Noah sat out Game 4 and again last night but the Bulls used a smothering defense (which was helped by Philly’s poor shooting), to win 77-69. The 69 points represent the second-lowest point total for a playoff game in 76ers history (shot-clock era). Chicago’s Deng had 24, matching the total amount of points he had scored in games 2-4, while Boozer had his third straight triple-double (19 & 13). Philadelphia connected on 59.0 percent of its shots in the team's 109-92 Game 2 win but has been held to 39.8% in a Game 1 loss, plus 34.2% in Game 3 and 39.2% in Game 4 (both Philly wins!).Last night, the 76ers shot 32.1 percent, including 2-of-11 on threes). Can Chicago’s ‘D’ bring them back in this series? To be continued...

Let’s hear it for the Nuggets.This postseason appearance marks the team's ninth straight, tying a franchise record. Denver has been to the postseason in 13 of the the last 24 years (going back to 1988-89) but heading into this year’s series with the Lakers, had been eliminated in the first round, 10 of 12 times (SIX of seven times under Karl). LA never trailed in winning Games 1 and 2 at home in this series and then won Game 4 Sunday night in Denver, to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Note that LA opened this series 34-2 all-time when owning the home court edge in a first-round series and after winning Games 1 and 2, were aware of the fact that in Laker history, the team was 42-1all-time after taking a 2-0 lead in any playoff series (11-0 with Kobe). However, it was the Denver reserves delivering the ‘knockout punch’ last night, as Miller (24 points) and McGee (21 & 14), led a Denver bench which outscored its LA counterparts, 50-19. Kobe had a series-high 43 but LA’s late comeback fell short, in a 102-99 Denver win.

Two more 3-1 series are on tap tonight, in a TNT doubleheader. Miami failed to close out the Knicks this past Sunday (New York ended its NBA record, 13-game playoff losing streak) but looks to “get it right” this time, at 8:05 ET (Miami is favored by 11 with a a total of 183. The Clippers are on the verge of something special and very rare for this long-suffering franchise. The Clippers beat Denver in the first round in 2006 but one more win clinches only the team’s SECOND playoff series since the Buffalo Braves relocated to California to begin the 1978-79 season. LA’s won two, one-point contest plus an OT game, to take a a 3-1 lead. The Grizzlies return home to Memphis, somewhat battered and more than a little stunned but I will note that Memphis has done little wrong over its last 20 home games. The Grizzlies are 17-3, losing two OT games and the team’s record-tying fourth-quarter collapse against the Clippers in Game 1 of this series. Memphis is favored by six points and the total is 182 1/2. in a game expected to tip at 10:35 ET.Your move!

Home teams are 23-13 SU so far, going a much less impressive, 19-17 ATS. There have been 15 overs and 21 unders after 36 games and those following the Zig Zag theory are right at “the Mendoza line” (14-14, after a 5-1 start).

Good luck...Larry

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