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Playoff Journal - June 4

   by Larry Ness - 06/04/2012

Quite suddenly, the Eastern and Western Conference finals are up for grabs. The Heat and Spurs each won the first two games of their respective series at home and NBA historians were quick to point out that just 14 teams in NBA playoff history have been able to erase a 2-0 deficit and win a best-of-seven series. However, the Celtics beat the Heat Sunday night 93-91 in OT, a day after the Thunder beat the Spurs 109-103 in their Game 4. Both Oklahoma City (102-82 on Thursday) and Boston (101-91 on Friday) also won their respective Game 3s, so now both series are tied at two-all.

Home teams are a PERFECT 8-0 SU in the conference finals, going 6-2 ATS. That makes home teams 50-24 in the playoffs to-date, going 42-31-1 ATS. The most recent three games (since my last journal) have gone over (needed OT do do so last night) but after 74 games, it’s 35 overs and 39 unders. Those following the Zig Zag theory went 1-2 over the Friday-Sunday weekend and now stand at 3-3 in the conference finals and 31-28-1, or plus-0.2 net games this postseason (no way to make a living). Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals is set for Tuesday night in Miami (Heat are minus-8 with a total of 179) and Game 5 of the Western Conference finals goes tonight on TNT at 9:05 ET (Spurs are minus-5 with a total of 202).

East recap: The Celtics used a seven-minute stretch at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second on Friday night (Game 3), outscoring the Heat 15-0 to turn a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Boston would extend the lead to 24 points in the 4th quarter and while a late Miami run cut the score to just 95-87, Boston would win 101-91. KG had 24 & 11, Pierce 23 and Rondo 21 and 10 assists. LBJ had 34-8-5 but Miami’s other four starters combined for only 35 points, with Wade adding 18 of those (Battier played 38 scoreless minutes!). Seven Boston reserves saw court time and contributed 19 points (a big deal for this group).

In Sunday night’s Game 4, Boston opened a 21-6 lead and led 34-23 after one quarter. It was 61-47 at the half but Miami used a 21-12 third quarter and 21-16 4th, to send the game into OT. However, unlike the OT period in Game 2 when Miami outscored Boston 16-12, Boston won this OT period by scoring just FOUR points (Miami had only two!). Pierce led Boston with 23, KG had 17 & 14 (12th double-double in 17 playoff games) plus Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists (13th double-digit assist total in 16 games). LBJ had 29-6-3 but SEVEN turnovers with Wade adding 20-7-6 but shooting just 7-of-22 (missed what would have been the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer in OT). Chalmers had 12 points but on 5-of-13 shooting while Haslme had a HUGE game, scoring 12 points with 17 rebounds.

West recap: The Thunder returned home for Games 3 and 4 (team was 5-0 SU at home during the postseason heading into those games) but it was also very noteworthy that the San Antonio wins in the first two games of this series made the Spurs 10-2 vs the Thunder overall, since James Harden had joined Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in 2009. What a difference three days in Oklahoma City would make! The Thunder won Thursday night 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.

After an off day, the Thunder beat the Spurs 109-103 on Saturday, meaning that in the span of just three days, the Thunder had beaten the Spurs as many times as they had in the last three years! Durant scored 36 points with 18 coming in the 4th quarter (a playoff career high), including all 16 of the Thunder's points during a span of just over 5 minutes, after seeing his team's 15-point lead dwindle to just four. Serge Ibaka added a career-high 26 points (made 11-of-11 shots!) and Perkins chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds. San Antonio’s depth gave them a big edge coming into this series but now the Spurs have to wonder what’s up when three typically unheralded offensive players shoot a combined 22-of-25 for 49 points in Game 4, which is exactly what Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison did in Game 4. It was a very rare dose of balance from a team that often counts on its “Big Three” to provide about 70% of its scoring.

The turnaround in this series has been STUNNING. The Spurs had won 20 in a row and with a 10-0 start to open the 2012 playoffs, were one win shy of the Lakers’ all-time record of 11 straight wins to start both the 1989 and 2001 playoffs. Now, they ‘limp’ home tied two-all, just like the Heat. As I said at the start, quite suddenly, the Eastern and Western Conference finals are up for grabs.

Good luck...Larry

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