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NBA Playoff Journal, April 29

   by Larry Ness - 04/29/2016

Playoff Journal (April 29)

The Hawks eliminated the Celtics last night with a 104-92 victory in Game 6 at Boston. Atlanta led 41-33 at the half, then blew the game open with a 39-point third quarter (shot 74 percent), which gave them a 21-point lead to open the final period. All five Atlanta starters scored in double digits (Millsap led the way with 17) plus Schroeder added 12 off the bench. The Hawks connected on 51.4% as a team. Meanwhile, the Celtics shot 36.2 percent (7 of 32 on threes), as guards Thomas, Turner and Smart combined to go 17 of 52 (32.7%), including a WOEFUL 1 of 14 on threes!

The Hawks exorcised a number of playoff 'demons' from the past with last night's win. The victory ended a string of 10 consecutive road playoff losses in Boston (going back to 1988) and more importantly, the series win marks the Hawks' first since the then-St Louis Hawks bested the Boston Celtics in the 1958 NBA Finals. The Hawks had lost NINE playoff series in a row to the Celtics since that win in 1958, until last night! Home teams are now 26-13 (.667) in the 2016 playoffs and 23-16 ATS (59.0%). Twenty-seven of 39 games have gone under (69.2%) and "Zig-Zaggers" are 15-16 or minus-2.6 net games.

Friday features three Game 6s, as Miami, Indiana and the LA Clippers all face elimination. The Pacers are the lone team of that group to get a home game. In SIX of the eight opening round series, the higher seeded team jumped out to a 2-0 lead. I noted then that in NBA playoff history, teams falling into an 0-2 'hole' were able to come back and win just 16 times in 270 best-of-seven series (only 5.9%).

So far in the 2016 postseason, the Cavs and Spurs completed 4-0 sweeps plus the Warriors (4-1) and Hawks (4-2) were able to finish off their respective opponents after going up 2-0. That makes it 258 teams having gone on to win a best-of-seven series in 274 tries, after going up 2-0 (that's 94.1%!). A more recent sample size points out that just TWO of the last 59 teams to fall behind 0-2 in a best-of-seven series have been able to rebound a win (only 3.4%). However, that could change tonight, as the ESPN doubleheader features Charlotte hosting Miami (8:05 ET), followed by Portland hosting the LA Clippers (10:35 ET). Both the Hornets and Blazers fell behind 0-2 in their respective series but both have rebounded to win THREE in a row. Now each team has a chance to close out their opponents tonight, at home.

The Hornets lost Games 1 and 2 at Miami by a combined 44 points but despite shooting just 40.7 percent for the series, have won three straight games. Credit Charlotte's defense, which after allowing Miami to average 119.0 points on 57.8% shooting in Games 1 and 2, the Hornets have held the Heat to 84.3 points on 38.6% shooting, since. The Hornets can claim their first playoff series win since 2002 by winning tonight. Charlotte is a modest two point favorite.

The Blazers lost Games 1 and 2 in LA but in Portland's Game 4 win (which tied the series at two-all), the Clippers lost both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs due to injury. The Clippers have shot just 39.5% (25.4% on threes) in three straight losses and if Game 5 is any indication, don't have the 'firepower' to compete with Portland. Portland guards McCollum and Lillard have averaged 24.3 and 22.0 points, respectively, in the Blazers' three straight wins. Plus, center Mason Plumlee has been a HUGE surprsie, averaging 16.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists, as Portland has taken a 3-2 lead. After the Blazers lost Game 1, it was pointed out that the Blazers were just 3-26 all-time, when losing Game 1 of a playoff series. Now, the Blazers are favored by 10 points in tonight's Game 6, with a chance to advance and play the Warriors.

The Pacers can stave off elimination tonight at home (NBA TV at 7:35 ET), when they host the Raptors. Can they overcome their Game 5 meltdown, one in which they were outscored 25-9 in the 4th quarter of a 102-99 loss in Toronto? The Raptors are hoping to claim the franchise's first-ever seven-game series win. Toronto is just 1-7 all-time in postseason series, with its lone win coming over the Knicks back in 2001. The Pacers are favored by two points.

My next journal will be Monday, May 2 (available by 12 noon ET).

Good luck...Larry

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