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NBA Playoff Journal, May 24

   by Larry Ness - 05/24/2014

NBA Playoff Journal (May 24)

My last update was prior to Game 2 of the OKC/SA series. The Thunder entered tat game knowing they were undermanned without Ibaka but talked as if they were undaunted and undeterred. OKC led 26-24 after the first quarter and was up 36-33 in the second when the Spurs blitzed them with a 43-14 run spanning the second and third quarters! San Antonio would win the second quarter 34-18 and the third 33-18, on the way to a second consecutive dominating win, 112-77!

Durant and Westbrook each only had 15 points, shooting a combined 13 of 40 from the floor (32.5%), including 1 of 9 on threes. OKC's remaining three starters were again BRUTAL, combining for four points (2 of 9 shooting), while the Thunder connected on only TWO of 20 three-pointers as a team. The 77 points tied the Thunder's fewest-ever in a playoff game since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 (also scored 77 points in 2012 vs the Lakers).

San Antonio's starting guards, Parker (22) and Green (21) led the way, as Green made SEVEN, three-pointers
Big men Duncan (14 & 12) and Splitter (9 & 10) had solid games while Leonard, who has had a terrific postseason, was able to have a rare quiet game (played just 16 minutes, scoring four points), with no damage. The Spurs are now 7-1 SU and ATS since their Game 7 blowout of the Mavs, winning those seven games by an average margin of 21.9 PPG.

Thursday and Friday were days off in both series, with Game 3s in each series being played Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Home teams are now 41-35 SU (.539) this postseason but just 30-43-3 ATS, which is 41.1% and a whopping minus-17.3 net games! After both Game 1s of the conference finals went over, both Game 2s stayed under. However, over bettors are still "sitting pretty," with 44 overs and just 32 unders after 76 games (57.9% win rate favoring the over). "Zig-Zaggers" are 1-1 in the conference finals and remain profitable, at 33-26-3 ATS (plus-4.4 net games).

The Pacers and Heat resume play tonight a8:30 ET on ESPN, with the series tied at one-all. The home team had won NINE consecutive meetings in this rivalry (including 13 of the last 15) heading into Game 2 but the Pacers shot just 40.0% as a team and scored only 83 points, 24 fewer than in their Game 1 win, when they shot 51.5%. 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). However, 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.

The series' next two games are in Miami and the Pacers announced Friday night that George has been cleared "to return to normal basketball activity," a decision made three days after he was concussed in Game 2. "Barring any unforeseen complications, he will play" on Saturday in Miami, the Pacers said. That's one lineup issue settled.

The Heat also have a lineup decision to make. Greg Oden, whose last postseason appearance was April 30, 2009, may be inserted into the Heat rotation after showing Miami's coaches in recent days that back issues that slowed him down for weeks may finally be a thing of the past. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra suggested that Oden "could" get some minutes, which would almost certainly come against Indiana center Roy Hibbert. "If coach needs me, I'm ready to play," Oden said. "I'm definitely ready whenever he needs me."

Miami is 5-0 at home in the postseason, winning by an average of 10.0 PPG, while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. Going back to last season, the Heat have won EIGHT straight playoff games in their own building and since LBJ joined the club they're 35-7 SU at home during the postseason.

However, among those seven losses since the arrival of LBJ, TWO are Indiana wins in both 2012 and 2013. "Both teams can win on each other's floor. We've proven that the last couple years," James said. "We have to protect our home, but we can't go out there saying that just because we're back home we get automatic wins. We've got to play."

Let me also add that the Pacers have won FIVE straight road playoff games (they are 5-1 on the road this postseason compared to just 4-5 at home) but then again, winning in Atlanta and Washington is one thing, while winning in Miami is quite another matter.

I'll be back with a Playoff Journal at 12 noon ET on Sunday.

Good luck...Larry

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