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Playoff Journal, May 21

   by Larry Ness - 05/21/2014


The Pacers shot 51.5% as a team in Game 1, placing SIX players in double digits (including all five starters). The result was a surprisingly easy 11-point win (note: Heat were favored between two and three points). The Pacers again saw all five starters reach double digits in Game 2 last night, but the result was quite different.


The home team had won NINE consecutive meetings in this rivalry (including 13 of the last 15) heading into last night's contest but the Pacers shot just 40.0% as a team and scored only 83 points, 24 fewer than in their Game 1 win. Stephenson was superb (25-6-7) but George and West combined to shoot a miserable 9 of 32 from the floor (28.1%), totaling only 24 points. George in particular had a poor game (after getting 24 by himself in Game 1), missing 10 of 11 first-half shots. Hibbert played well (13 & 13) but it was not nearly enough.


The Heat were the NBA's best shooting team during the regular season (50.1%) and while they shot 51.3% in Game 1, they fell 11 points short. LBJ and Wade combined for 52 points on 63.9% shooting in Game 1 and while their production dropped slightly in Game 2 (45 points), they again shot efficiently (55.9% for LBJ and Wade, 50.7% for the team as a whole).


Defense was the key for Miami, as it held Indiana to nine points over a 10-minute stretch in the first half and closed it out by allowing just 10 points over the final 7:19 of the game. Miami has now won 11 consecutive postseason games following a SU playoff loss, going 10-1 ATS. The first nine wins came by an average of 16.0 PPG but while the last two have come by just six and four points (each in 2014), BOTH were ATS wins.


Home teams are now 40-35 SU (.533) this postseason, falling to 29-43-3 ATS, which is 40.3% and a whopping minus-18.3 net games! Last night's game stayed way under but over bettors are still "sitting pretty," with 44 overs and just 31 unders after 75 games (58.7% win rate favoring the over). "Zig-Zaggers" won in their first opportunity of the conference finals last night and remain profitable, at 33-25-3 ATS (plus-5.5 net games).


Game 2 of the Western Conference finals is tonight, with the Thunder taking on the Spurs at 9:00 ET on TNT. The Thunder are definitely undermanned but Durant and Westbrook remain undaunted. The duo never gave up in Game 1, as even when they were down by 15 points in the first half, OKC's "dynamic duo" didn't give in. They used their athleticism and shot-making to get the Thunder back in the game. In fact, Westbook's basket with 5;09 remaining in the third quarter actually gave the Thunder a 76-75. However, the Spurs were back up by seven points entering the 4th quarter and then outscored OKC by 10 points in the 4th, for the 17-point win.


Bottom line in Game 1 was, by the time the fourth quarter came around, the Thunder didn't have anything left. If Durant and Westbrook don't get more help from their supporting cast, this could be an awfully short series. "We turned the ball over a little too much but we've got to continue to trust whether the guys are hitting shots or not," Durant said. "We've got to keep playing within our offense and playing with the pass. We'll be fine. We do a good job of attacking, not just for ourselves, but for our teammates. We've just got to continue to trust."


Durant and Westbrook combined for 19 points in the first seven minutes of the third quarter on Monday night to get the Thunder back into the game but they then scored just NINE total points over the final 17 minutes of the game while the deep and balanced Spurs continued to carve up a defense that was sorely missing Serge Ibaka.


"Look, Serge is not going to be here," Durant said flatly after the game. "He's injured for the rest of the postseason, so we've got to move past that and just keep playing as a team." The NBA playoffs are about making adjustments. Let's see what OKC's Brooks comes up with. After the struggles defensively of the smaller unit he used in Game 1, he may be forced to go to a bigger lineup and also play rookie center Steven Adams more in an effort to make life harder on the Spurs offense.


The Spurs are favored by six points and the total is 210 1/2.


My next journal will be posted by 12 noon ET on Saturday.


Good luck...Larry

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