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Playoff Journal - May 16

   by Larry Ness - 05/16/2013

NBA Playoff Journal (Thursday, May 16)

Both Miami and Memphis (up 3-1) took to the court last night in hopes of closing out their respective series and each accomplished just that, although both games came down to the final seconds. The Bulls gave the Heat all they wanted in this series and Game 5 was no different. Miami led early by 18 points but entered the 4th quarter, trailing by eight points. However, Miami would win the final period 25-14 and escape with a 94-91 win, surviving a pair of Chicago desperation threes in the game’s final 15 seconds.

Boozer had 26 & 14, Robinson 21, Butler 19 and the long-forgotten Rip Hamilton 15 points, for the Bulls. LBJ led the Heat with 23-7-8 but the real good news for Heat fans was that Wade finally looked healthy enough to contribute significantly last night, adding 18-5-6. The Heat will move on to the Eastern Conference finals, winners of 45 of their last 48 games, with two of those losses coming at the hand of the Bulls.

In last night’s late game, Memphis advanced to the franchise's first-ever conference finals, by beating the Thunder for the fourth consecutive time, 88-84. OKC won Game 1 93-91 but could not win again. OKC didn’t give up last night, as the Thunder were down 12 with about three minutes left but Durant had a 16-footer to tie the game with six seconds left, but missed. The ‘heavy load’ of playing without Westbrook took its toll on Durant, who finished 5-of-21 last night (3rd-worst shooting performance of his playoff career). Durant, a career 47.5 percent shooter (shot 51.0% this regular season), was just 15-of-48 from the floor (31.3%) the last two games of this series.

Memphis was led by Randolph’s 28 points and 14 rebounds plus PG Conley’s 13 points and 11 assists. Many thought that Memphis had “packed in its season” when Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto (Gay was the team's leading scorer) but the exact opposite turned out to be the truth. Memphis has become a much better team without Gay and will await the winner of the San Antonio/Golden St series, as winners of its last 10 playoff games ATS (almost unheard of!).

Home teams went 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS last night and now sit at 40-24 SU (.625) this postseason but just 30-34 ATS (46.9%), or minus-7.4 net games (11-8 SU and 8-11 ATS in the 2nd round). There have been eight overs, 10 unders and a push in the 2nd round (1-1 last night), making it 29 overs, 33 unders and two pushes this postseason. Those following the Zig Zag theory have gone 9-6 in the 2nd round (1-1 last night), leaving them 25-27 or minus-4.7 net games for the 2013 playoffs. TNT airs another doubleheader tonight with Indiana and San Antonio hoping to join Miami and Memphis, respectively, in the conference finals.

The Pacers visit the Knicks in Madison Square Garden at 8:00 ET, leading three games to one. History tells us that just EIGHT teams have come back to win a best-of-seven NBA playoff series when trailing 3-1, so the Knicks are clearly facing an uphill climb. It’s made worse by the fact that New York is averaging just 88.3 PPG in this series, while shooting only 41.2 percent. New York went 16-2 after moving Prigioni into the starting lineup late in the regular season but not only did he not start for the first time in the series Tuesday, but he played only 3 1/2 minutes off the bench. With Kidd 0 for 7 and scoreless in the series, part of a 0-for-16 skid that began with Game 3 against Boston in the first round, and J.R. Smith shooting 18 of 64 (28. 1%) in the series, one wonders what Woodson is thinking? Tune in tonight to find out. The Knicks are favored by five points and the total is 179.

It wasn’t long ago that many were writing San Antonio’s playoff ‘obituary.’ However, the Spurs won Game 3 in Oakland to win back the home court edge and after “letting Game 4 slip away,” shut down any thoughts the Warriors had of a late-game comeback in Game 5, dominating the second half 55-40 and pulling away for a 109-91 win. San Antonio has won 11 of 12 best-of-seven series when leading 3-2 and Tuesday’s win has the Spurs up 3-2 in this series. Let’s also point out that that the record book tells us that teams which have won Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that was tied two-all have gone on to win the series 88 out of 99 times! The Warriors have gotten to this point by playing with a ‘ton’ of energy, plus by some incredible shooting performances from Curry and Thompson. Neither of those factors applied in Game 5 but we are back in Oracle tonight. Will it make a difference? The Spurs are favored by 1 1/2 points (total is 195).

Good luck...Larry

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