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Playoff Journal - June 5

   by Larry Ness - 06/05/2012

NBA Playoff Journal (Tuesday, June 5)

Home teams were a PERFECT 8-0 SU in the conference finals (6-2 ATS) going into last night’s Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. However, the Thunder changed all that, with a 108-103 win in San Antonio over the Spurs. San Antonio’s 20-game winning streak, the fourth-longest in NBA history, is now ancient history. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 27 points (22 in the second half!) while Russell Westbrook, who had made only 7-of 25 (28.0 percent) shots in the two games in OKC (scoring a total of just 17 points), scored 23 points and added 12 assists (he still didn’t shoot all that well, making 9-of-24). The third part of the team’s “Big 3,” James Harden, added 20 points.

The trio of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, who combined to shoot 22-of-25 for 49 points in Game 4, combined for a much more modest total of 19 points last night (on an excellent 8-of-13 from the floor). However, Cook scored eight points off the bench in just FOUR minutes, while Fisher added six, to give the OKC bench 40 points. Popovich inserted Ginobili into San Antonio's starting lineup (he scored 34), so without him coming off the bench, the San Antonio reserves had just 22 points. Parker had 20 points for the Spurs (just 5-of14 on FGs but made 10-of-12 FTs) plus Duncan bounced back from two poor games with 18 & 12, but it wasn’t enough.

Last night’s game marks the first time the Spurs have lost three in a row all season and now, after remaining unbeaten for 50 days before arriving in Oklahoma City, San Antonio has lost three games in just FIVE days. "Championship teams win on the road," Popovich said. "Oklahoma City just did that." The Spurs must now win at OKC Wednesday night, or go home. The early line has the Thunder favored by five points (total is 201 1/2). OKC’s road win last night makes home teams 50-25 in the playoffs to-date, going 42-32-1 ATS. The most recent four games have gone over but after 75 games, it’s 36 overs and 39 unders. Those following the Zig Zag theory lost again (1-3 since Friday) and now stand at 3-4 in the conference finals and 31-29-1, or minus-0.9 net games this postseason (no way to make a living). Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals is set for tonight at 8:30 ET on ET in Miami on ESPN. The Heat are minus-eight or 7 1/2 with a total of 179.

All of a sudden, like in the West, this series is a ‘dog fight.’ Last night, the Thunder made it THREE straight wins over the Spurs and will get to return home to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, with a chance to close out that series. Can we expect the same dramatic turnaround in this series, tonight? Chris Bosh has been telling the Miami Heat that he's ready to play and rumors are that the Heat may be ready to listen. Bosh's status was upgraded to "day-to-day" by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday, a marked change after saying his absence was indefinite because of a strained lower abdominal muscle since he was first sidelined in Game 2 of the Indiana series. "He'll get a vote," Spoelstra said of how much Bosh's input will matter in determining when he takes the floor. "Again, everything is heightened right now. These are extreme circumstances. Everybody will be involved in the decision, if and when it happens. But you always have to take the player's opinion with a grain of salt. They all say they're ready. ... He said he was ready 10 days ago."

Clearly, Bosh’s inside presence has been greatly missed. The Pacers had a chance to take advantage of him not being around but played “stupidly” (a universal opinion) while LBJ and Wade James soared to new heights in their “two-man game” over the final three games of that Eastern Conference semifinal series. James scored 98 points, grabbed 34 rebounds and handed out 24 assists while Wade had 99 points, 22 rebounds and 11 assists. LBJ has been just fine in the Boston series (32.3-9.3-4.5) but Wade’s surely not held up his end in the two games in Boston. Wade’s 16-of-42 (38.1 percent) from the floor in Games 3 & 4, averaging 19.0 PPG. That’s nowhere near enough, with Miami counting on its dynamic duo to carry the offensive load. The fact that the Heat led for exactly SIX minutes of the 101 minutes of game time during the two games played in Boston, is quite remarkable.

One can’t count on Bosh returning to the court or if he does, to be effective. Will LBJ and Wade bring their “A games?” How about Miami’s ‘D,’ which allowed just 85.5 PPG in the first two rounds? Boston has scored 53 points in the first half in Game 2, 55 points in Game 3 and a whopping 61 points in Game 4. How about those aging Celtics? This marks the team’s SIXTH game in 11 days! The stage is set.

Good luck...Larry

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