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Playoff Journal, May 25

   by Larry Ness - 05/25/2016

Playoff Journal (May 25)

W-O-W!!! Golden State’s 73-win regular season seems ‘light years’ away at the moment and its hopes for a second straight NBA title are officially on ‘life support’ after the Warriors were outplayed in every possible aspect for a second straight game in OKC by the Thunder last night. All five OKC starters scored in double digits in the 118-94 win, led by Westbrook’s first triple-double of the playoffs (36-11-11), Durant’s 26 & 11 and Roberson’s career-high 17 points, along with 12 rebounds. OKC is the NBA’s best rebounding team and the Thunder dominated again in Game 4, winning the rebounding ‘battle’ 56-40 and seemingly coming up with EVERY loose ball. OKC also outscored Golden St from the FT line, 31-19 (40 attempts to 29).

Green did not get suspended for Golden St but one would hardly have known he was on the court for 38 minutes last night, as he followed a six-point (1 of 9 shooting) effort in Game 3 by scoring just six points again, on 1 of 7 shooting, while committing SIX turnovers. His Game 3 plus/minus was minus-43 and his Game 4 number wasn’t all that much better (minus-30). Curry has been exposed as a major defensive liability and looked uninspired offensively, soring 19 points on 6 of 20 shooting (2 of 10 on threes), while matching Green with six turnovers. Thompson was in fouled trouble in the first half (only scored four points) and while he did score 19 points in a seven-minute stretch of the third quarter, his 26 points were hollow. The Warriors shot 48.7 percent from the floor (41.4 percent on threes) while averaging 114.9 PPG during the regular season but in Game 4 shot 41.3 percent, including 30.0 percent on threes ( 9 of 30), while scoring 94 points.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens." Curry added this after the Thunder rolled to a 118-94 rout at Chesapeake Energy Arena, "The series isn't over. We've got to believe in ourselves. There's obviously frustration. It's a terrible feeling once again not stepping up and being ourselves and playing our game. But I think we're a special team. This isn't how we're going to go out!” Early number has the Warriors favored by 7 1/2 points in Game 5.

Home teams continue to dominate play in the conference finals, going 7-1 SU and ATS (seven straights wins and covers by the home team since OKC won Game 1 in Oakland vs Golden St). FIVE of the eight games have stayed under and “Zig-Zaggers” are 3-3 this round. Checking in on the postseason numbers to-date, home teams are 51-23 SU (.689) and 45-29 ATS (60.8%). Forty-five of the 74 games have stayed under (60.8%) and those following the Zig-Zag theory are 31-29 or minus-0.9 net games. Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals goes tonight at 8:35 ET on ESPN, as the Raptors and Cavs meet in Cleveland.

The series is tied at two-all and as noted here often, history says the winner in Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that is tied two-all is highly likely to go on and win that series. This marks the seventh playoff series this postseason to reach a Game 5 tied at two-all. FIVE of the six previous Game 5 winners have gone on to take that series (the Heat overcoming a 3-2 deficit against the Hornets in the opening round being the lone exception). A quick check of the NBA’s playoff history book reveals that Game 5 winners of a best-of-seven series (when tied two-all) are now 152-34 or 81.7 percent all-time!

DeRozan and Lowry combined for 52 points in Game 3 and then 67 points in Game 4 (highest point total for Toronto’s guard duo in ANY game this season), as the Raptors evened the series at two-all. It’s also being reported that Jonas Valanciunas has recovered enough from his sprained right ankle (sustained in Game 3 against the Heat) to get back on the court for this one. Then again, what to do with Biyombo, who just provided 40 rebounds and seven blocks in the Raptors’ two wins? It’s now back to Cleveland where the Raptors lost Games 1 and 2 by a combined 50 points plus lost their only regular season meeting in Cleveland by 22 points. The Raptors are 2-6 SU and ATS on the playoff road this postseason, getting outscored on average, 103.5-to-86.2 PPG in those six losses. The Cavs have yet to lose at home this postseason, going 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS, outscoring opponents on average, 110.5-to-92.5 PPG.

Those numbers sure favor the Cavs but won’t Irving (just 4 of 15 on threes in Games 3 & 4) and Love (5 of 23 from the floor while averaging just 6.5 PPG in Toronto) both have to play MUCH better? LBJ has scored 20 points or more in all 12 of Cleveland's postseason games this year (24.0-8.7-7.0) and just maybe he’ll have to put this team on his ‘back!’ The Cavs are favored by 10 1/2 points.

Thursday’s journal by 12 noon ET.

Good luck...Larry

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