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Playoff Journal -- June 6

   by Larry Ness - 06/06/2012

Home teams were a PERFECT 8-0 SU in the conference finals (6-2 ATS) going into a pair of Game 5s in both the Western and Eastern Conference finals. However, both the Thunder (Monday) and Celtics (94-90 last night) won as visitors in those contests and all of a sudden, Oklahoma City and Boston have an opportunity to join a select group of 14 teams which have overcome 0-2 deficits to win a best of seven series, in NBA playoff history. Both teams will get two chances if they need it, with the “first chance” coming on the teams respective home courts (more on that, shortly).

Boston had scored 53 points in the first half of Game 2, 55 points in Game 3 and a whopping 61 points in Game 5, so when the Heat led 42-20 at the half (with Bosh getting some minutes and looking fairly good), Miami was in decent shape. However, the Celtics scored 54 points in the second half and won, 94-90. The Celtics won despite starting guards Allen and Rondo shooting a combined 5-of-24 (20.8 percent) from the floor. I will note that Rondo added 13 assists and now has 14 double digit assist games in 17 postseason contests (was suspended for Game 2 of the Atlanta series). KG had another double-double with 26 & 11 (13 in 18 playoff games) and Pierce 19. Pietrus chipped in 13 off the bench, which was huge, as Boston’s other three reserves accounted for six points.

Miami knows what it’s like to not get much help from its complementary players. LBJ had 30 &13 and Wade 27 & 6 last night. However, the other three starters (Battier, Chalmers and Haslem) combined to shoot 6-of-16 with 17 points. Bosh got 14 minutes off the bench (had 9 & 7) but the other three reserves made just 2-of-11 FGs. LBJ looked ‘gassed’ by the 4th quarter and after scoring seven points in the first 4:22 of the game, Wade didn't score again in the first half. He now has just 29 points in five, first halves against Boston in this series (5.8 points per). The ‘noose’ is tightening on the Heat, who are favored by 1 1/2 points in Thursday’s Game 6 (total is 179 1/2).

Home teams are now 50-26 (42-33-1 ATS) in the postseason (8-2 SU and 6-4 ATS in the conference finals). FIVE straight games have gone over and it’s now pretty close after 76 games, with 37 overs and 39 unders. Those following the Zig Zag theory are 1-4 since Friday, 3-5 in the conference finals and 31-30-1 ATS this postseason (minus-2.0 net games). Game 6 of the Western Conference finals is set for 9:05 ET on TNT, with OKC favored by five points (total is 202 1/2).

Game 5 marked 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. I noted back on May 21 (see my playoff journal) after the Spurs eliminated the Clippers, that San Antonio had become just the fourth team to sweep its 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, historical ‘danger’ was lurking, as each of the previous three teams to do so (the 2005 Heat, the 2009 Cavs and the 2010 Magic) had all lost in their respective conference finals, failing to even advance to the NBA Finals.

Will the Spurs suffer a similar fate? One more loss will do it. “Down and almost out” less than a week ago, the Thunder are now riding a HUGE wave of momentum, having shifted the conversation from how could anyone stop the Spurs' record-setting 20-game winning streak to how many NBA titles will the trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden collect during their stay in OKC? The stage is set.

Good luck...Larry

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