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Playoff Journal, May 26

   by Larry Ness - 05/26/2016

Playoff Journal (May 26)

A return to Cleveland was all the Cavs needed to ‘right the ship.’ Wednesday’s Game 5 was a ‘laugher,’ as the Cavs opened a 65-34 halftime lead and rolled to a 116-78 win. Cleveland’s “Big 3” was just that, as Love rebounded from two awful performances in Toronto to lead the way with 25 points on EIGHT of 10 shooting plus Irving added 23. Despite not playing at all in the 4th quarter, LBJ topped 20 points for the 13th time in 13 games this postseason, finishing with 23-6-8. The Cavs shot 57.1 percent as a team, including 10 of 21 from three-point range. That’s after taking 41 three-point attempts in each of the two games in Toronto, connecting on only 32.9 percent.

The Raptors were non-competitive from the outset and ended the game shooting 39.1 percent, including a woeful 3 of 17 on threes. DeRozan scored 32 points in each of the two games in Toronto but made just 2 of 8 shots last night, while scoring 14 points. Lowry’s shooting woes returned, as the PG was 5 of 12 (1 of 4 on threes), for just 13 points. Adding insult to injury, the Raptors also made only 21 of 35 FT attempts. About the only bright spot was the return to the court of Jonas Valanciunas, who scored nine points in 18 minutes. The Raptors fell to 2-7 on the road during the playoffs and have now lost all four games played in Cleveland this season, by a combined 110 points. The Cavs are 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS at home this postseason, winning by an average margin of 20.9 PPG

I noted in yesterday’s journal that teams winning Game 5 of a best of seven series tied at two-all have gone on to win 152 of 176 series (or 81.7 percent all-time)! As for LBJ, last night’s contest was his 13th Game 5 in a series tied at two-all and the win makes him a modest 7-6 in those contests. James also played in his 191st playoff game, moving ahead of Magic for 12th on the all-time list. Home teams continue to just dominate play in the conference finals, going 8-1 SU and ATS (eight straights wins and covers by the home team since OKC won Game 1 in Oakland vs Golden St). SIX of the nine games have stayed under and “Zig-Zaggers” are 4-3 this round. Checking in on the postseason numbers to-date, home teams are 52-23 SU (.693) and 46-29 ATS (61.3%). Forty-six of the 75 games have stayed under (61.3%) and those following the Zig-Zag theory are 32-29 or plus-0.1 net games. Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals goes tonight at 9:00 ET on TNT, as the Thunder and Warriors meet in Oakland.

I detailed Golden St’s woes in this series in Wednesday’s journal and the Warriors now must win THREE straight games to keep their season alive. Only NINE teams in NBA playoff history have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to capture a series, the first being the 1968 Celtics (over the 76ers) and the most recent being the 2015 Rockets, who did so vs the Clippers. Durant (28.5 & 8.8) leads the Thunder in scoring this series but few would argue against the statement that Westbrook has been the series MVP, so far. OKC’s point guard is averaging 27.3-6.5-11.8 and coming off his first triple-double of the playoffs. He had a league-high 18 in the regular season and no one will be surprised to learn that the Thunder are 19-0 when he records a triple-double.

However, it hasn’t just been Durant and Westbrook this series for OKC, as the team's other three starters (Adams, Ibaka and Roberson), have combined to average 32.8 PPG and 23.5 RPG in this series (those three averaged a more modest 25.4 PPG during bteh regular season). Also note that Waiters is averaging 10.0 PPG and Kanter 6.3 & 5.5. The bottom line is, the Thunder have been more aggressive and much better at executing on both ends of the floor. Is OKC just too athletic, too ‘long’ and too fast for the Warriors? Curry averaged 30.1 in the regular season on 50.4 percent shooting, including 45.4 percent on threes. However, he’s averaged 24.3 PPG this series, shooting 41.9 percent, including 37.2 percent on threes. Thompson shot 42.5 percent on threes during the regular season but has averaged just 31.4 percent this series. Last but hardly least, is the poor play of Green, who the last two games has made 2 of 16 shots, totaling 12 points. He had almost as many TOs (10) as points and his plu/minus is a HORRIFIC minus-73 in Games 3 and 4.

The Warriors are favored by 7 1/2 points in Game 5 and a Golden St win sends the series back to OKC, where the Thunder would have a chance to end Golden St’s record-setting season. Then again, maybe the Thunder won’t wait until Game 6?

My Friday journal will be available by 12 noon ET.

Good luck...Larry

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