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NBA Playoff Journal -- June 1

   by Larry Ness - 06/01/2012

The Thunder learned in losing twice at San Antonio, that in order to beat the the Spurs, passing and sharing the ball would be necessary. The Thunder won Game 3 102-82, despite a modest 22 points (8-of-17 FGs) from Durant and only 10 points from Westbrook, who shot poorly (5-of-15 from the floor). However, Sefolosha had 19 points, six rebounds and six steals (set a career playoff-high in points and steals) while Ibaka added 14 points. Harden had 15 points off the bench (just below his average) but six other Thunder players saw minutes, contributing 18 points. The Spurs were forced into a playoff-high 21 turnovers and this game was over early in the 4th quarter.


Parker had 16 points for San Antonio with Duncan being held to 11 points and only two rebounds. Duncan made just 5-of-15 shots, following his 2-of-11 effort in Game 2. Is this a problem? He averaged 17.6 PPG on 54.0 percent shooting in San Antonio’s two sweeps (Jazz and Clippers) but has averaged only 12.7 PPG in three games vs the Thunder, making only 32.0 percent (13-of-41). There's been high praise for San Antonio’s other three starters this postseason but not last night. Diaw, Green and Leonard combined to take just eight shots, scoring only SIX points.


Ginobili had scored 46 points in this series’ first two games but was a non-factor last night, going 1-of-5 from the floor with eight points. The bench scored 49 points (Jackson led with 16) but it was hardly a good effort, as San Antonio’s starters played so poorly, the reserves got extra minutes and produced well after the outcome was decided. Parker and Duncan didn't play in the final 15 minutes, and coach Popovich ‘pulled the plug’ when the deficit reached 23 points early in the fourth quarter.(86-63 with 9:48 left). San Antonio had averaged 109.4 points during its 20-game streak (had been held to double digits only twice) but last night cored only 82, on 39.5 percent shooting. Another area for concern for San Antonio was it managed only 24 points in the paint, after averaging 47.8 PPG through the playoffs.


The Spurs had already set an NBA record for the longest winning streak carried over from the regular season into the playoffs (20 in a row) but were trying to match the league mark for most wins to start the postseason. However, they fell on game shy of the Lakers’ 11 straight wins to start both the 1989 and 2001 playoffs. Game 4 is set for Saturday at 8:30 ET on TNT. The Thunder are favored by 3 1/2 points with a total of 202 1/2.


Home teams are now 5-0 SU (3-2 ATS) in the conference finals and 47-24 in the playoffs to-date, going 39-31-1 ATS. Last night’s game easily stay under and under bettors have had the best of it through 71 games, with 32 overs and 39 unders. Those following the Zig Zag theory got a win on the Thunder and are now 30-26-1, or plus-1.4 net games this postseason. Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals is set for Friday night in Boston (8:30 ET on ESPN) Celtics favored by 2 1/2 points and a total of 180 1/2.


Rajon Rodo is coming off one the best efforts seen in this or any playoff season (44 points / eight rebounds / 10 assists) and I read where Boston's core of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined to score 96 points in Game 2, the most they've ever scored in a single game together. However, it still wasn't enough, as the Heat were able to win 115-111 in overtime, taking a 2-0 lead. Will the aging Celtics be able to bounce back from that effort after having just one day off again, between games? The Celtics were “out of gas” in Game 1 (after getting past Philly in seven games), losing 93-74. Then came Game 2’s outstanding effort, only to be done in by (among other things) a very poorly officiated game (also remember, Boston was hit with FIVE technical fouls in Game 1) in which the Heat were awarded 47 free throws to Boston’s 29.


Boston suffers from a lack of depth and the recent schedule, (this is Boston’s FOURTH game in seven days!) surely won’t help. KG (19.4-10.5) has been terrific this postseason, regardless of what Wally Szczerbiak tweets (among the stupidest things I’ve read in quite awhile). Rondo’s (17.4-6.9-11.8) play speaks for itself but he has had games in which he’s been a non-factor. Considering Pierce’s knee problems, his playoff averages of 18.9-6.5-3.5 are quite impressive. Bass (11.2-5.2) has been solid but Allen’s ankle issues have really slowed him. The loss of Bradley has been huge, especially on the defensive end, plus the Boston bench is a non-factor, game after game. LBJ (32.8-11.4-6.8) and Wade (28.8-6.2-4.4) have been spectacular in the team’s five-game winning streak, beginning when the Heat fell behind the Pacers 2-1 in the last series.


However, the rest of the team (with Bosh still sidelined), has been erratic. Chalmers has scored 37 in two of those five games but a total of just 25 in the other three. Battier combined for only 18 points and nine rebounds in the last three games of the Indiana series but has bounced back with 19 & 13 in the first two games of this series. Over Miami’s last six games, Haslem’s had double digits in rebounds three times (had 13 & 11 in Game 2 vs Boston) but had a DNP in Game 6 of the Indiana series plus zero points with just five rebounds in two others. The Heat had all sorts of trouble from beyond the three-point arc for most of the Indiana series and after two games vs Boston (both at home), the Heat are connecting on just 29.0 percent of their threes (15-of-51).


That sets the stage. My next journal will be Monday by 2:00 ET.


Good luck...Larry

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