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NBA Playoff Journal -- May 21

   by Larry Ness - 05/21/2012

The Eastern Conference semis played just two games over the weekend (Friday-Sunday), as the Celtics and 76ers played their Game 4 on Friday and the Heat/Pacers theirs on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Western Conference schedule-makers was very busy at Staples Center. The Lakers hosted the Thunder in Games 3 & 4 Friday and Saturday night, while the Clippers hosted the Spurs in Game 3 on Saturday afternoon and Game 4 on Sunday night (LA Kings 'snuck' in a Game 4 as well, Sunday afternoon at Staples Center).

The Celtics looked as if Game 4 was going to be a repeat of their 107-91 Game 3 win, taking a 46-31 lead at the half. However, the Sixers fought back with a 61-37 second half, ending the game by scoring its last NINE points. The key? Philly's bench outscored Boston's, 44-12! In Sunday's Game 4 between Miami and Indiana, the Pacers led 54-46 at the break but the Heat outscored them 30-16 in the third quarter, with LBJ and Wade scoring 28 of the team's 30 points (had a run of 38 consecutive Miami points, spanning the 2nd & 3rd quarters).

LBJ finished with 40-18-9 and Wade (off a 2-of-13 shooting performance in Game 3), added 30-9-6. Indiana's big men were contained plus the team's four guards had a rough time. Collison (6-of-7 for 16 points) was the only one to play well, as Barbosa, George and Hill combined to shoot 9-of-30 (30%), scoring 29 points. Could both series be headed for seven games?

The Lakers canned 41-of-42 FTs and overcame a 92-87 deficit with just under three minutes to go Friday night, winning 99-96 in Game 3. LA then led 56-46 at the half Saturday night (in Game 4) and by NINE points, entering the 4th quarter. However, Bynum and Gasol combined to attempt just two FGs in the final period, as the 'dynamic duo' (pun intended) contributed two points and one rebound in the quarter. Westbrook led the Thunder with 37 and Durant had 31, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 13 seconds left. The Thunder lead the series 3-1 and Game 5 is set for tonight (see below).

There will be no Game 5 in the Spurs/Clippers series. LA led 33-11 after the first quarter of Game 3 (led 40-16 with a 8 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter), yet still found a way to lose that game by 10 points! San Antonio cut the lead to 10 points by half and then outscored LA 26-8 in the third quarter, including a 24-0 run. The Clippers did put up a competitive effort in Game 4 but San Antonio escaped with a 102-99 win. The Spurs are now 8-0 SU and 6-2 ATS this postseason (both non-covers coming in their Game 4 clinchers) and own an 18-game winning streak going back to the regular season.

Is there any stopping the Spurs. Here's a historical note which says, just maybe. The Spurs became just the fourth team to sweep their way through the first two rounds of the postseason under the current NBA playoff format (since 1st round series were expanded to seven games in 2003). However, each of the previous three teams to do so (the 2005 Heat, the 2009 Cavs and the 2010 Magic) have all lost in their respective conference finals, failing to even advance to the NBA Finals.

Home teams were 2-4 SU and 3-3 ATS from Friday-Sunday, leaving them 9-7 SU and 8-8 ATS in the second round (were 29-15 SU but just 23-20-1 ATS in the 1st round). Over bettors had a big weekend, winning FIVE of six plays, making it nine overs and seven unders this round (27 of 44 games went under in the first round). "Zig Zaggers" were 4-0 ATS to open the second round but lost both Thursday plays. However, it was a good weekend for "Zig Zaggers," as they went 5-1. That's now 9-3 ATS in the second round, after finishing the first round at 16-19-1 (had opened 5-1). Remember, they opened 5-1 in the first round but finished 16-19-1 ATS. The current postseason record stands at 25-22-1 ATS, or plus-0.8 net games (Monday's plays are on the Celtics and the Lakers).

TNT has a doubleheader of Game 5s tonight with Philly/Boston up first (7:05 ET) and the LA Lakers/Okla City to follow at 9:35 ET. Boston is favored by 5 1/2 points (total is 173) and Oklahoma City by 7 1/2 points (total is 192).

Good luck...Larry

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