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Playoff Journal, May 29

   by Larry Ness - 05/29/2014

There have been 222 teams in NBA history to have fallen behind 3-1 in a best-of-seven series with just EIGHT of those teams (a 'whopping' 3.6%) coming back to win. The Pacers were well aware of that stat and probably also knew that in the LBJ/Wade/Bosh era (since 2011), the Heat were a PERFECT 7-0 in Game 5s when holding a 3-1 lead.

Indiana got off to a good start, leading 22-16 after the first quarter but then scored only 11 points in the second quarter, while the Heat scored 26 to take a 42-33 halftime lead. It was 50-41 Miami with 6:56 left in the third quarter when the Pacers used an 11-0 run to take the lead. A 31-15 third quarter edge gave Indiana a 64-57 lead entering the 4th quarter.

The Pacers extended that lead to 77-66 but Miami responded with a 9-0 spurt to close within 77-75. It was tied at 81-all with 3:51 left but behind Paul George's 37-point effort (21 of those coming in the fourth quarter), the Pacers were able to edge the Heat 93-90, which will send this series back to Miami for a Game 6 on Friday.

George had six rebounds and six steals to go along with his 37 points plus also made just three turnovers. His frontcourt partners, West and Hibbert, also were very good. West added 19 & 9 and Hibbert, after playing 22 scoreless minutes in Game 4 (his FOURTH scoreless game of the 2-14 postseason!), added 10 points and 13 rebounds. At this point, how can anyone make any sense out of Hibbert's game?

LBJ was in big foul trouble early on and finished with just SEVEN points (on 2 of 10 shooting), the lowest scoring game of his entire playoff career. Bosh had 20 & 10, while Wade and Lewis (?) each chipped in 18. Lewis made SIX of nine three-pointers in a head-scratching performance. This one-time star averaged 2.0 PPG vs Charlotte, 2.6 PPG against Brooklyn and in this series, didn't play at all in the first two games, then went scoreless (0 of 7 from t floor) in Games 3 and 4, BEFORE last night. Go figure?

The win and cover by the home team last night makes them 8-1 SU and ATS (89%) in this year's conference finals, after home teams had just barely won 50 percent of their games SU the first two rounds (38-34 or .528). Home teams were a woeful 27-43-3 ATS (that's 39.1%!) those first two rounds but have fought back to stand 46-35 (.568) for the postseason to-date, going 35-43-3 ATS (44.9% or minus-12.3 net games)

Over players have had the best of it so far but last night, under bettors caught a break, cashing by a half-point. Still, the tally since the start of the 2014 playoffs is 46 overs and 35 unders, a 56.8% edge favoring over bettors. "Zig-Zaggers" won with the Pacers last night and remain a "small winner" since the beginning, at 35-29-3 ATS (plus-3.1 net games).

It's Game 5 of the Western Conference finals tonight at 9:00 ET (TNT), when the Thunder visit San Antonio to take on the Spurs. The Spurs connected on 57.5 percent in Game 1 and 50.0 percent in Game 2, averaging 117.0 PPG. However, after shooting 39.6 percent in Game 3 (scored 97 points), the Spurs again shot poorly in Game 4 (39.8%) and scored even fewer points (92). The series is now tied at two-all.

The Spurs have seen this 'nightmare' before. San Antonio won the first two games of the 2012 Western Conference finals against the Thunder, giving them an NBA record 20th consecutive victory bridging the regular season and the playoffs (16-3-1 ATS). That wasn't all, as with that series shifting to OKC, the Spurs
had won an amazing 37 of their previous 40 games, overall. However, the Thunder would win the next FOUR games, eliminating a San Antonio team which had looked nearly unbeatable!

Is this "deja vu all over again?" The Spurs were cruising in the West finals in 2014 as well but that was before Thunder defensive wiz Serge Ibaka unexpectedly came back from a left calf strain. With renewed confidence and energy, Oklahoma City's youngsters have rolled past their veteran counterparts the last two games and the Spurs again face a VERY uncomfortable scenario. They host Game 5 on Thursday in danger of falling behind 3-2. If they lose, they'll travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday where they've lost NINE straight games, facing elimination.

Oklahoma City looks like a new team. The Thunder lost the first two games of this year's series by a combined 52 points, and a 112-77 loss in Game 2 left them embarrassed. Now, the Thunder appear to have things figured out. OKC played a more physical defensive style in Games 3 and 4 and used their length and athletic ability to disrupt the Spurs' normally precise offense.

That sets the stage and the Spurs are favored by five points tonight (total is 206 1/2).

Good luck...Larry

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