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NBA Journal, Monday, April 18

   by Larry Ness - 04/18/2016

Playoff Journal (Monday, April 18)

The 2016 NBA postseason began over the weekend and SEVEN of the eight home teams (favorites) won, the exception being Toronto losing at home to Indiana. However, that hardly qualifies as too much of a surprise, as the Raptors are now 0-8 in the first game of an opening-round playoff series since the team joined the NBA beginning with the 1995-96 season. The Raptors own just ONE playoff series win in team history, that coming over the NY Knicks back in 2011. Saturday’s loss was the team’s SEVENTH straight playoff defeat for the Raptors, who were swept out of the first round last year by the Wizards, after losing the final two games of a seven-game loss to the Nets the year before.

The Warriors, Spurs, Cavs and Thunder all came into the weekend as prohibitive favorite in their respective series against the Rockets, Grizzlies, Pistons and Mavs. All but the Cavs won “going away,” with Golden St winning 104-78, San Antonio 106-74 and Oklahoma city 108-70. The Cavs, who lost THREE of four to the Pistons during the regular season, had real trouble ‘shaking’ Detroit on Sunday, as well. The Pistons shot 50.7 percent for the game (15 of 29 on threes) and Cleveland needed a 30-18 run over the game’s final 10:52 to earn a five-point win. However, the good news for Cleveland was that Irving (31) and Love (28 & 13) had excellent games, actually out-producing LBJ (22-11-6).

The two most competive series (according to the moneyline prices) saw disparate results. The Hawks came in as a –160 favorite over the Celtics for the series but while Atlanta led by as much as 19 points in the first half and held a 51-34 lead at the break, Atlanta needed to hold off Boston, 102-101. Muck like Atlanta, Miami was a modest favorite in its series with Charlotte (-150) but unlike the Hawks, the Heat had little trouble with Hornets, winning 123-91. The Heat shot 57.6 percent, led by Deng’s 31 points and Whiteside’s double-double (21 & 11), playing in his first-ever playoff game. Miami set a franchise record for points scored in a postseason game, as well..

As noted at the top, home teams were 7-1 SU but a more modest 5-3 ATS. All four Saturday games went under but on Sunday it was a 2-2 split, as the Blazers and Clippers just barely snuck under the closing number (more than a few “over players” may have cashed). As all series move to a second game over these next few days, I will again mention the infamous “Zig-Zag” theory. The theory is simple. Wager on the losing team of a playoff series in its ensuing game of that series. Back-to-back games between the same teams are rare in the regular season but obviously, teams face each other back-to-back-to-back until each series is decided during the playoffs.

“In theory,” the Zig Zag meshes well with postseason mentality, as the losing team, generally speaking, will be more likely to attempt adjustments for its upcoming game plus is more likely to play with a little more determination in the following game. That’s the theory but a check of the record book does not support that premise. Going back to 2000 (that’s a 16-year history), the best two, one-postseason records for those following the Zig Zag theory came in 2000 (33-25-2 or plus-5.8 net games) and in 2014 (41-32-1 or plus-5.7 net games). However, after “Zig-Zaggers” went 34-32 (minus-1.2 net games) last year, the 16-year record sits at 543-503-24 or minus-10.3 net games. Choose wisely here in 2016.

Three games are slated for Monday with the Pacers and the Raptors up first at 7:05 ET from Toronto. Obviously, this is a “must-win” for the Raptors who will need DeRozan and Lowry (a combined 8 of 32, including 1 of 10 on threes, in Game 1) to play MUCH better. Can the Raptors end a seven-game postseason slide? Oddsmakers say yes, as Toronto is favored by seven points. TNT features a Monday doubleheader, with the Mavs taking on the Thunder in OKC at 8:05 ET in the first game. The Mavs were AWFUL in Game 1, shooting 29.8 percent while scoring only 70 points (a franchise playoff-low). The Thunder will need more contributions from players NOT named Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka in the next round (almost assuredly will face the Spurs) but it’s hard to see them having too much trouble with Dallas. OKC is 5-0 vs Dallas this season, averaging 111.6 PPG. OKC is favored by 13 1/2 points.

Monday’s final game features the Warriors hosting the Rockets at 10:35 ET on TNT. Golden St jumped all over Houston in Game 1 (Warriors held a 60-33 advantage at the half, led by Curry’s 24 points) but Curry tweaked his ankle and the team plans on being VERY cautious with the likely MVP, as he is expected to be held out of this one. Curry or not, the Warriors remain a 13-point choice in Game 2 (Warriors closed as a 13-point favorite in Game 2).

Tuesday’s journal available by 12 noon ET.

Good luck...Larry

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