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Tuesday, May 21 -- NBA Playoff Journal

   by Larry Ness - 05/21/2013

The West Finals began Sunday, as the Grizzlies were in San Antonio to take on the Spurs. However, let me first ‘clean up’ the second round. The Knicks/Pacers series lagged a little behind the others, as it was the last to wrap up in the second round. Game 6 was Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and was the most entertaining of the series. The Pacers finally subdued the Knicks 106-99, taking the series 4-2. The victory sends the Pacers to their first Eastern Conference final since 2004 and gives them a rematch with the Miami Heat, who beat the Pacers in last year’s second round. I’ll have much more to say about that series in tomorrow’s journal (series begins Wednesday).

Before moving on, a final comment on the Knicks. Anthony scored 35 points in the first three quarters of Game 6 but had “nothing left” in the 4th quarter, scoring only four points on 2-of-7 shooting, along with two turnovers. New York’s 99-point effort was the team’s best scoring output this postseason on the road (had scored 71 & 82 points in Games 3 & 4 at Indiana) but in the end, it wasn't enough. The Knicks shot better from three-point range (13-30) and were 18-of-18 from the free-throw line but outside of ‘Melo’s 39 points, only Shumpert (19) and J.R. Smith (15) reached double digits. Smith was again putrid from the floor (4-of-15).

Smith averaged 13.5 PPG against Indiana, connecting on only 28.9 percent , including 23.1 percent on threes. The NBA’s Sixth Man-of-the Year shot 29.1 percent (26.0 percent on threes) in eight games after being suspended in Game 4 of the Boston series. As for ‘Melo, he won his first NBA scoring title this season, averaging 28.7 PPG, on 44.9 percent shooting (37.9 percent on threes). He averaged 28.8 PPG in the postseason but shot only 40.6 percent from the floor, including 29.8 percent on threes. It was another sad postseason ending for Anthony. He’s now played 10 NBA seasons and has been eliminated in the first round EIGHT times. Now let me note that in FIVE of those eight first-round losses, his team was seeded either 7th or 8th.

However, ‘Melo views himself as an elite player and the fact that only in 2009 with Denver (Nuggets made the West Finals as the No. 2 seed where they lost 4-2 to the top-seeded Lakers) and this year with the Knicks (New York lost in the second round as a No. 2 seed to the third-seeded Pacers), have his teams advanced past the first round. His teams are 3-10 all-time in playoff series (23.1%) and 22-44 (.333) in overall games. As the ESPN show says, Numbers Never Lie.

Home teams were 13-9 SU and 10-12 ATS record in the second round. There were 9 overs, 12 unders and a push, while those following the Zig Zag theory went 11-7 ATS. Through the 2013 postseason’s first two rounds, home teams are 42-25 SU (.627) but just 32-35 ATS (47.8%), or minus-6.5 net games. There have been 30 overs, 35 unders and two pushes, while those following the Zig Zag theory have gone 27-28 or minus-3.8 net games, as the 2013 playoffs moved into the conference finals.

The Spurs jumped out to a 31-14 first quarter lead against the Grizzlies on Sunday and NEVER looked back. Both teams pulled their starters with about five minutes left in the game, with the Spurs up by 21 points. San Antonio won 105-83, moving to 3-0 in Game 1s this postseason, while the Grizzlies fell to 0-3 this postseason in their Game 1s. Memphis was the NBA’s top defensive team during the regular season but the Spurs shot 52.6 percent in Game 1 and made a franchise playoff-high 14 three-pointers (on 29 attempts).

Parker had 20 points and nine assists for the Spurs, Leonard had 18 and Green 16. Duncan scored a modest six points (had 10 rebounds) but as so often happens, the Spurs saw someone on their bench “step up.” in this case it was Bonner with 12 points and Neal with 11. Pondexter led the Grizzlies with 17 points but the team’s “Big 3” was relatively quiet. Gasol had 15 & 7, and Conley 14-4-8 but Randolph (off a superb Game 5 vs OKC in which he had 28 & 14) had only two points (1-of-8 FGs) with seven rebounds.

Game 2 of the West finals goes tonight at 9:05 ET (ESPN) from San Antonio. The Spurs are favored by five points and the total is 182. Home teams are currently 43-25 SU (.632) but just 33-35 ATS (48.5%), or minus-5.5 net games. There have been 31 overs, 35 unders and two pushes, while those following the Zig Zag theory have gone 27-28 or minus-3.8 net games. The East finals open on Wednesday from Miami and I’ll tackle that series along with a recap of Game 2 of the West in tomorrow’s journal.

Good luck...Larry

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