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NBA Playoff Journal, April 22

   by Larry Ness - 04/22/2016

Playoff Journal (April 22)

OKC and Toronto were not able to ‘hold serve’ at home in their respective series but both walked away with convincing Game 3 victories to earn back the home court edge in their series on Thursday. The Thunder steadily pulled away from the Mavs last night in Dallas, winning in a rout, 131-102. Durant bounced back from an awful shooting performance in Game 2 (7 of 33) to score 34 points (his 30th postseason game of 30-plus points) while Westbrook added 26 points and 15 assists. OKC also got big games from reserves Kanter (21 & 8) and Waiters (19 points). OKC shot 57.7 percent (15 of 27 on threes), after making 33.7 percent (7 of 32 threes) in Game 2. Dirk Nowitzki put it best, "The way we won Game 2 (85-84) was it was a slower-paced game for us, kind of grind it out. It's going to be tough for us to win a game if they score 131 points. I don't think we can score 131 right now with the team we roll out there, the injuries."

Toronto’s DeRozan (7 of 19) and Lowry (8 of 21) didn’t ‘light it up’ but the guard duo did each score 21 points, as the Raptors took a 2-1 lead in their series against the Pacers with a 101-85 win. A key may have been DeMarre Carroll’s 17-point, five-rebound effort, after the team’s top FA acquisition this year scored a total of just eight points and grabbed only four rebounds in the first two games. The Pacers can’t win this series one-on-five but it’s hard NOT to note that Paul George (28.7 PPG in the series) just doesn’t get much help. Only Ellis (12.3 PPG) and Turner (11.7 PPG, after a 17-point effort in Game 3), join him in double digits this series.

In the final game of the night, the Rockets knocked off the Curry-less Warriors, 97-96. Houston seemingly handed the game to Golden St with a bad late turnover (Livingston converted the go-ahead layup) but Harden bailed out the Rockets, nailing the game-winner with 2.7 seconds remaining. Harden finished with 35 points and for the first time this series, Howard (13 & 13) had a positive plus/minus rating in a game (plus-6). The Rockets had been minus-38 points with Howard on the court in Games 1 and 2. The Warriors shot 43.0 percent, including 6 of 25 from three-point range. Golden St starters were even worse, making just 39.2 percent, including 1 of 12 on three pointers. Will we see Curry in Game 4? Stay tuned.

Home teams went 1-2 SU and ATS, leaving them 15-4 SU and 12-7 ATS through 19 games. Under bettors continue to cash, as 14 of the 19 games so far, have stayed under. The Zig Zag theory is “all over the place.” It was a perfect 3-0 ATS on Monday, then went 0-5 ATS Tuesday and Wednesday, before winning two of three last night. Doing the math, it’s 5-6 or minus-1.6 net games, so far. Three more games are set for Friday, as ESPN or ESPN 2 covers all the action.

The Cavs are in Detroit at 7:05 ET on ESPN, holding a 2-0 lead. Cleveland has dominated the second half in each of the first two contests, outscoring Detroit by a margin of 105-80. The “Big 3” has been just that for the Cavs, with Irving averaging 26.5 PPG, LBJ 24.5-6.0-7.0 and Love 22.0 & 11.5. This is the last chance for the Pistons to make it a series and they are currently a 4 1/2-point home dog. ESPN2 covers Game 3 of the Atlanta/Boston series at 8:05 ET, one in which the Hawks lead 2-0. Bradley, the team's second-leading scorer and best perimeter defender, is out for the series plus Kelly Olynk may also sit out Game 3. The Hawks are an outstanding defensive team and Boston was held to 86.5 PPG on 34.2 percent shooting (25.4 % on threes) in the first two games. However, only the Spurs, Warriors and Raptors have a better home record than the Celtics’ 19-3 mark since Jan 13. Can Boston end it’s seven-game playoff skid tonight? The Celtics are favored by 2 1/2 points.

ESPN has the final game of the night, San Antonio at Memphis (9:35 ET). Memphis was held under 75 points in losing the first two games of this series, the first time that’s happened in back-to-back playoff games to any team since 2010. Memphis enters the contest having lost 12 of its last 13 games overall and will try to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Spurs in this one. Good luck, as so far, San Antonio reserves have outscored Memphis starters the first two games by an average of 50-34 points per contest. The Spurs are favored by 11 /12 points.

Note that my next journal is not until Monday (available by 12 ET).

Good luck...Larry

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