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NBA Playoff Journal - May 2

   by Larry Ness - 05/02/2013

NBA Playoff Journal (Thursday,May 2)

We knew heading into Wednesday’s three Game 5s that one of the series would have to go at least six games, as the Hawks and Pacers were tied at two-all. However, both the Knicks and Thunder led their respective series 3-1 and had “close-out”” games at home, each favored by around nine points. So much for the home court advantage in those two games. The Pacers routed the Hawks 106-83 last night, as West (24 points) and George (21-10-5) led an Indiana team which shot 50.7 percent from the floor, after averaging 80.0 PPG on 32.7 percent shooting in back-to-back losses in Atlanta. As for the Hawks, they shot 33.3 percent as a team, as their three best players all struggled. Smith (5-of-16) and Horford (5-of-14) each had 14 points and Teague had just seven, on 3-of-16 shooting.

The TNT doubleheader served up two outright underdog winners, the Celtics (who closed as 9 or 9 1/2-point dogs) 92-86 over the Knicks and the Rockets (who closed 8 1/2-point underdogs) 107-100 over the Thunder. JR Smith “guaranteed a win” for the Knicks (can this practice please be outlawed!) but missed his first 10 shots and finished 3-of-14 from the floor while scoring 14 points. ‘Melo may be averaging 30.8 PPG in the series but he had a second consecutive awful shooting performance, going 8-of-24 in scoring 22. He’s now made just 18-of-59 shots (30.5%) the last two games (both NYK losses).

The Celtics started last night’s game in an 0-11 ‘hole’ but would rebound with their best game of the series. KG looked 30-year-old in scoring 16 and grabbing 18 rebounds while Bass scored 17 points, matching his total from the previous four games, combined. Green continued his outstanding series play with 18 points (he’s averaging 20.8 PPG in the five games), while Terry provided a needed ‘spark’ off the bench for the second straight game with 17 points (he had 18 in Game 4, NINE in OT). Boston shot 45.7% for the game, as opposed to the 40.9% it shot in the series’ first four games.

After taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the series, the Thunder have now lost two in a row, after the Rockets won 107-100 last night in OKC. I must admit I’ve never been a HUGE fan of Harden but he sure “came to play” last night, scoring 31 points (made 7-of-9 three-pointers), while fighting off flu-like symptoms. A key for the Rockets may be the injury to Jeremy Lin. He started the first three games all Houston losses, scoring a grand total just 13 points while making 5-of-20 shots (25.0 percent), including 1-of-9 three-pointers. Starting in his place the last two games (both Houston wins), has been Patrick Beverley, who has averaged 15.0 PPG on 47.6 percent (just saying!).

Durant scored 36 points (he’s averaging 38.3 PPG in the three games since Westbrook went down with an injury) and Jackson chipped in 20 points (he's averaged 17.3 PPG in replacing Westbrook) but the Thunder failed a HUGE test last night, with a chance to close out the Rockets at home and earn some rest. Home teams went 1-2 SU and ATS, there were two unders and an over, plus “Zig-Zaggers’ went 1-2. Heading into tonight's two games, home teams stand 27-11 SU and 20-18 ATS this postseason. There have been 18 overs, 19 unders and one push, while those following the Zig Zag theory (wholly), continue to lose money. The record currently stands at 12-18 ATS, or minus-7.8 net games.

Tonight’s TNT doubleheader starts with the Nets at the Bulls (8:05 ET) and follows with the Nuggets at the Warriors (10:35 ET). Both home teams are the lower seeds (Chicago is a 5 to Brooklyn’s 4, while Golden St is a 6 to Denver’s 3) but each lead the series 3-2 and have “close-out” chances on their respective home courts. The Nets are in the postseason for the first time in six years (last was 2007 season) and will need to win here and a Game 7 in Brooklyn to advance. The Nuggets face the same uphill battle as the Nets and are desperately trying to avoid falling in the first round for the NINTH time in the last 10 postseasons.

The Bulls are favored by 1 1/2-points (total is 183 1/2) and would love to erase last year’s ‘bad taste’ of a first-round loss to the eighth-seeded 76ers. Advancing to a second-round matchup with the Heat, despite playing without Rose all season, plus fighting through numerous other injuries to key players (like Noah and Hinrich), would be sweet. As for the Warriors, this mark's just the team's SECOND postseason appearance in the last 19 years but it’s hard to forget the team's only other postseason effort in that span. The Warriors took down the Dallas Mavericks 4-2 back in 2007, winning as an eight-seed over not only the West’s No. 1 seed, but the team with the NBA’s best record that season (Mavs were 67-15). Like the Bulls, the Warriors are 1 1/2-point favorites (total is 211).

Good luck...Larry

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