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NBA Playoff Journal, May 22

   by Larry Ness - 05/22/2016

Playoff Journal (May 22)

Toronto reminded all Saturday night what Dorothy told us way back in 1939 and that is, “There’s No Place Like Home!” The Raptors were outplayed and outclassed in losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals in Cleveland, getting beat by 31 and 19 points, while the Cavs averaged 111.5 PPG in shooting 50.6 percent in Game 1 and 50 percent in Game 2. However, a return to ‘Kansas’ or in this case, Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, was seemingly all the Raptors needed for a complete makeover. Toronto’s defense was superb, holding the Cavs to 38.5 percent shooting and only 84 points (note: this marked the first time this postseason that Cleveland has NOT reached 100 points!). Meanwhile, DeRozan, after averaging a very ‘quiet’ 20.0 PPG in the first two games, scored a team high 32 points (31 in the first three quarters). Backcourt mate Lowry, just 8 of 28 (including 1 of 15 on threes) in the first two games, added 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting (4 of 8 on threes). Then there was Biyombo, who set a Toronto single-game playoff record with 26 rebounds plus scored SIX of his seven points on three consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter when the Cavs had cut the lead to eight points.

The 99-84 final ended Cleveland’s run of 10 straight wins to open the 2016 postseason (fell one game shy of the Lakers’ all-time record of 11 straight wins to open both the ‘89 and ‘01 postseasons), as Tyronn Lue lost for the first time as a head coach in the playoffs (he broke Pat Riley’s record of beginning his postseason coaching career with nine straight wins, back in 1982). LBJ had 24-8-5, although like DeRozan in Games 1 and 2, his contributions seemed quiet. The ‘killer’ for Cleveland was the play of Irving and Love. Irving entered the game leading the Cavs in playoff scoring at 24.8 PPG, while shooting 50.0 percent from the floor, while Love was averaging 18.4 & 10.9 plus was connecting on 44.9 percent of his threes. However, both were just plain AWFUL, as Irving made just 3 of 19 shots (1 of 7 on threes), while Love had three points (1 of 9 shooting, including 1 of 4 on threes) and only four rebounds. Game 4 (on Monday) will tell us if the Raptors are really back in the series or if Saturday’s effort was the exception, not the rule.

Home teams are now 4-1 SU and ATS in these conference finals with FOUR of the five games staying under (“Zig-Zaggers” are 2-1 ATS). Checking in on the postseason numbers to-date, home teams are 48-23 SU (.676) and 42-29 ATS (59.2%). Forty-four of the 71 games have stayed under (62.0%) and those following the Zig-Zag theory are 30-27 or plus-0.3 net games. Game 3 of the Western Conference finals is tonight in OKC (8:00 ET on TNT), with the Warriors and Thunder tied at one game-all. Typically it’s the “Splash Brothers” who lead the way for Golden St but in this series against the Thunder, the NBA’s best rebounding team during the regular season and now again in the postseason, it may be Golden St’s frontcourt starters and reserves who will determine the outcome. The Warriors are favored by three points.

Monday's journal will be available by 12 noon ET.

Good luck...Larry

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