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NBA Journal, May 25

   by Larry Ness - 05/25/2014

NBA Playoff Journal (May 25)

The Heat opened Game 3 just 2 of 10 from the floor and at the 3:00 minute-mark of the 1st quarter, trailed the Pacers 17-4. The Pacers led 37-22 mid-way through the second quarter and it sure looked as if the back-and-forth trend in this rivalry was destined to continue. The teams had alternated wins and losses in the previous 13 meetings but after falling behind by 15 points, the Heat would outscore the Pacers 77-50, the rest of the way!

LBJ and Wade combined for 49 points and Ray Allen added 16, connecting of four three-pointers in the 4th quarter. The Pacers had won FIVE straight playoff road games coming in but this loss could very well come back to haunt them. The bottom line seems to be that Indiana's vaunted defense (Pacers allowed an NBA-low 42.0% on opponents FGs during the regular season), just can't slow down the Miami offense.

The Heat have now shot over 50 percent in each of this series' first three games, connecting on 51.3 in Game 1, 50.7 in Game 2 and 54.4 in Game 3. LBJ and Wade have each totaled 73 points in the series (24.3 per game), while connecting on 60 of 100 shots (that's 60.0 percent!). If Indiana can't do something about that SOON, the famous line from Donnie Brasco would seem appropriate, "Forget About It!"

Game 3 of the Western Conference finals will be played tonight at 8:30 ET on TNT, as OKC hosts San Antonio. Home teams are 42-35 SU (.545) this postseason, going a woeful 31-43-3 ATS (41.9% or minus-16.3 net games). "Under players" were sure "looking good" at the half last night but a 106-point 2nd half sent the game over, as over players continue to rule this postseason with 45 overs and 32 unders (58.4% in favor of the over).

"Zig-Zaggers" lost with the Pacers last night and are 33-27-3 ATS this postseason (plus-3.3 net games). They'll be on OKC tonight, as the Thunder attempt to dig themselves out of an 0-2 'hole.' On the eve of Game 3, we've seen two dominating San Antonio wins, by an average of 26.0 PPG. However, the veteran Spurs are hardly willing to rest on their laurels, despite the consecutive blowouts. Let's NOT forget that Oklahoma City also dug itself a 0-2 'hole' in the 2012 Western Conference finals against the Spurs, before rallying to win the next four games.

The storylines are everywhere. Can Durant and Westbrook "do it alone" or will somehow, Collison, Perkins and Sefolosha finally contribute? They CAN'T play worse, right? How about players like Butler, Fisher and Jackson (listed in alphabetical order), each one of whom is capable of contributing a 15-point game (right?). That said, we now also have some intrigue regarding Serge Ibaka.

Earlier this week, OKC head coach Scott Brooks made it clear Serge Ibaka wasn’t going to return during the series but the situation quickly changed with the Thunder landing in a dire situation. OKC has been caught in a severe mismatch against Duncan without Ibaka’s presence. Out of nowhere, the Thunder have upgraded Ibaka (calf) from out, to day-to-day.

General manager Sam Presti cautioned that the announcement doesn’t mean Ibaka is playing in Game 3. “I think it’s important, when you look at this, to recognize that we’re not saying that he’s playing but what we’re really trying to indicate is that the information is telling us that we can’t rule him out,” Presti told reporters on Friday. “He’s still out,” Brooks told reporters. “We’re still focusing on trying to beat the Spurs without him playing, and that has not changed. I know he’s listed as day-to-day but, still, he is out until I’m told differently. All of our attentions and game planning is to focus on ways to play much better than we did last game.”

So what does it all mean? Will Ibaka make a "Willis Reed-like" return? How many of you out there actually remember the 1970 NBA Finals? OKC is favored by 2 1/2 points and the total is 208 1/2.

Good luck...Larry

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