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NBA Playoff Journal, Apr. 25

   by Larry Ness - 04/25/2016

Playoff Journal (April 25)

The 2016 NBA postseason tipped off back on April 16 with eight opening round series (2-2-1-1-1 format). The first 16 games were all contested with the higher-seed team owning the home court edge and in SIX of the eight series, the the higher seed swept both home games. The two exceptions being the East’s No. 2 seed (Toronto) losing Game 1 at home to the 7th-seed Pacers, before bouncing back to take Game 2. Over the the West, its No. 3 seed (OKC Thunder) blew out the sixth-seeded Mavs in Game 1 by the score of 108-70, only to lose Game 2, 85-84.

Home teams went 14-2 and 11-5 ATS in that set of games, with 12 of the 16 games staying under the closing number. The series then switched venues for two games in a row on the home court of the lower-seeded teams. NBA playoff history tells us that in best-of-seven series, only 16 of 270 previous teams to fall behind 0-2 in a series have come back to eventually win that series. That’s a miniscule 5.9% and in last 55 series to see one team go up 2-0, just TWO of those 55 series saw the team in an 0-2 ‘hole’ come back and win (3.6 percent). The “second set of 16 games” won’t be complete until tonight. However, with the switch in venues and the team with the worst record now owning the home court edge, home teams have gone a more modest 7-7 SU and 8-6 ATS. Unders continue to out-number overs, with NINE of the 14 staying under the total.

Two of the eight opening round series have ended in four-games sweeps, as the East’s No. 1 seed (Cleveland) swept the Detroit Pistons (but just 2-2 ATS), as LBJ is now 11-0 in first round playoff series in his career (his teams have gone 44-7 in individual games). The West’s No. 2 seed (San Antonio) took out the injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies in a sweep as well, also going 2-2 ATS. Tim Duncan is no longer “the straw that stirs the drink” for the Spurs but with the completion of that series, he has passed Robert Horry for No. 2 in all-time postseason games played with 245 (Horry played in 244). Derek Fisher sits No. 1 all-time at 259. Duncan has now played in 155 winning postseason games, tying him with Horry and placing him second all-time to Fisher (161).

Six series remain and three will be contested tonight, with Miami at Charlotte (7:05 ET) and the LA Clippers at Portland (10:35 ET) playing Game 4s. The Hornets and Blazers both fell behind 0-2 but were able to win their Games 3s at home and both will have a chance to even their respective series at two-all in tonight’s contests. Boston was able to even its series at two-all by winning both home games against Atlanta over the weekend (Friday and Sunday), while the Rockets failed to win Sunday’s Game 4, after a controversial one-point win over the Warriors in Game 3 (last Thursday).

The Warriors won handily 121-94 on Sunday (taking a 3-1 series led) but of course, the biggest news coming out of the Golden St/Houston game was another injury to Steph Curry. He slipped while guarding Trevor Ariza at the first-half buzzer and banged his right knee on the floor. The reigning league MVP (almost assuredly this season’s MVP, as well) grabbed the knee and limped off to the locker room. Curry returned to the court after halftime and moved laterally to test the joint but he stopped and shook his head toward the bench. Shortly thereafter, he headed back to the locker room and was ruled out just after the second half began. He will undergo an MRI on Monday. NBA fans are “holding their collective breath!”

Up first on Monday is the Heat at the Hornets. Miami shot 57.6 and 57.9 percent in Games 1 and 2 at home, taking a 2-0 lead while scoring 123 and 115 points. However, the Heat shot just 34.2 percent (7 of 22 on threes) in Game 3, while scoring only 80 points, as the Hornets used an 18-0 third quarter run to win by 16 points. The victory ended a 12-game franchise postseason losing streak (last playoff victory had come back in 2002), as SIX Charlotte players scored in double digits. The Heat have largely dominated this series over the last seven seasons, winning 26 of the last 31 games but FOUR of the Hornets' five wins have come in the last five meetings in Charlotte. The Hornets are favored by 2 1/2 points in Game 4.

The second half of tonight’s TNT doubleheader will be the Clippers at the Blazers, a contest which will end that second set of 16 games I talked about earlier. Portland’s Lillard and McCollum both came up big in Game 3, as each shot 50 percent from the floor, scoring 32 and 27 points, respectively. The duo had combined to shoot 22 of 67 (32.8%) in the first two games at Staples Center, including 6 of 26 (23.1%) on threes. Despite Lillard’s and McCollum’s efforts, the Clippers led 85-81 in Game 3 with 3:35 remaining. However, as has so often been the case in the postseason for this franchise, closing a team out has been a HUGE issue. The Blazers outscored the Clippers 15-3 down the stretch to win 96-88 and can now even the series with a victory tonight. LA is favored by 3 1/2 points.

The first game of TNT’s doubleheader tonight is the Mavs at the Thunder (8:05 ET). OKC’s first two wins in this series came by 32 points (Game 1) and 29 points (Game 3), while Dallas eked out an 85-84 win in Game 2. Saturday, it was OKC’s turn to win a squeaker, 119-118. That victory gave the Thunder a commanding 3-1 series lead. OKC is favored by 14 1/2 points tonight, with a chance to close out the Mavs.

A quick check of the postseason records to-date. Home teams are 21-9 SU and 19-11 ATS, with 21 unders in the 30 games (70%) played so far. Those following the Zig-Zag theory are 13-9 ATS or plus-3.1 net games (a 4-0 Saturday sweep, sure helped!).

Tuesday’s journal by 12 noon ET.

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