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NBA Journal - May 5

   by Larry Ness - 05/05/2013

NBA Playoff Journal (Sunday, May 5)

The Chicago Bulls ended Brooklyn’s bid to become just the NINTH team in NBA history to come back a win a seven-game series, after falling behind 3-1. The Bulls won game 7 at the Barclays Center Saturday night, 99-93. it was really quite an accomplishment for Tom Thibodeau and his team. Derrick Rose has been out all season and Joakim Noah was a hobbled all series because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Then Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised left calf) sat out the last two and three games of this series, respectively However, Noah logged 41 minutes and made shot 12 of 17 shots while scoring 24 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking six shots (Marco Belinelli also scored 24 points).

Chicago/Brooklyn was the lone first round series to go a full seven games. Since the NBA expanded its first round series to seven games for the 2003 playoffs, this marks the 14th series to “go the distance. There have never been more than two of eight series go seven in any one playoff year and only ONCE (in 2011), did we have a first round in which no series were extended to seven games. Chicago became just the THIRD visiting team to win a Game 7, joining the Clippers, who won a Game 7 in Memphis last year and the Pacers, who won a Game 7 at Boston in 2005.

At the other end of the spectrum to a seven-game series is a four-game sweep and we had two of those this year. The Heat took care of the Bucks, winning each game by double digits and only failing to cover Game 2, when the Bucks scored the final seven points of the game, to ‘sneak’ under the number. The Spurs swept the Lakers as well, winning by 12 and 11 points at home and then ‘toying’ with LA’s injury-ravaged lineup in Games3 and 4, winning by 31 and 21 points, respectively (Spurs were 4-0 ATS). That makes 17, four-game sweeps since 2003 (an average of just over 1 1/2 per), with zero sweeps occurring in 2003 (only time) and three sweeps occurring in 2004 and 2007 (never had more than three in a playoff year).

Six series went six games with the Warriors (No. 6 seed) beating the Nuggets (No. 3 seed), being the biggest upset (a lower seed beating a higher one). Golden State’s win, continued Denver’s horrible postseason record of having lost in the first round in NINE of the last 10 postseasons (team’s 10-year run is the second-longest active one, to San Antonio’s 16 straight playoff appearances). The Warriors also went a PERFECT 6-0 ATS in their series win, something that rarely happens. We also saw the Grizzlies (No. 5 seed) take down the Clippers in six games, after losing the first two games in LA. Memphis becomes just the 10th team to win four games in a row after falling in an 0-2 ‘hole,’ and the FIRST to win all four games by double digits (Grizzlies were 5-1 ATS vs the Clippers).

Joining the Warriors and Grizzlies as “upset winners” were the Bulls (No. 5 seed to Brooklyn’s No. 4 seed), giving TY’s first round three upsets. That comes to 19 upsets since 2003, with this year’s three tying 2007 for the most in one year. Back in 2007, the No. 8 Warriors beat the top-seeded Mavs, the 6th-seeded Nets beat the 3rd-seeded Raptors and the 5th-seeded Bulls beat the 4th-seeded Heat. The other three series completed in six games in TY’s first round were OKC (1) over Houston (8), New York (2) over Boston (7) and Indiana (3) over Atlanta (6).

Home teams finished the first round 29-16 SU (.644) but under .500 ATS at 22-23! Under bettors had a slight edge with the totals, as there have been 21 overs, 23 unders and one push. Those following the Zig Zag theory are 16-21 ATS or minus-7.1 net games. Two of the four second round series begin Sunday. ABC has a doubleheader, with Memphis visiting Oklahoma City at 1:05 ET, in a rematch of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. Oklahoma City prevailed in seven games two years ago when Memphis was making an unexpected playoff run as a No. 8 seed. Now, the Grizzlies are a No. 5 seed and clearly a much more confident bunch. OKC is without Westbrook (injury) and have traded Harden, while the Grizzlies no longer have Rudy Gay (trade), although may be a good thing. OKC is favored by three points in Game 1 (total is 186 1/2) plus is minus-$1.30 to win the series.

Indiana is at Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks at 3:35 ET, in the second half of the doubleheader. The Knicks and Pacers each had to work harder than expected to win their first round series. Both needed six games to subdue inferior opponents and each took a different path. The Knicks won the first three games against the Celtics but then lost two in a row, forcing them to win a Game 6 in Boston 88-80, although New York almost let a 26-point fourth quarter lead slip away, As for the Pacers, they won the first two games at home vs the Hawks but then extended the team’s losing drought in Atlanta to 13 straight by falling in Games 3 and 4. The Pacers won Game 5 at home and then finally won a game in Atlanta, 81-73 in a series-clinching Game 6. The Knicks are favored by 5 1/2 points in Game 1 (total is 182 1/2) and are favored by minus-$1.80 to win the series.

I’ll return on Monday (2:00 ET) with a recap of Sunday’s games plus brief previews of Golden St/San Antonio and Chicago/Miami.

Good luck...Larry

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