Miami Looks for Clincher at Home Tonight in South Beach

James and Wade
James and Wade
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are unbeaten in clinching games at home in Miami.

Here is what is going to give tonight in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals; Miami is 9-0 at home in series clinching games during the days of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Meanwhile the Pacers are 3-0 in road elimination games so far in this year’s playoffs.

Which way do I see this game going tonight? Read on…

Indiana at Miami (-7), Heat Leads Series 3-2 – If you noticed the somewhat laid-back attitude of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the postgame press conference it was likely due to the fact that James had his worst playoff game as a professional yet the Heat still had a chance to defeat the Pacers on their homecourt.

James scored just seven points and played only 22 minutes as he spent much of the in foul trouble. His Miami teams are 0-9 when he scores under 15 points so we shouldn’t be surprised by the outcome.

It was obvious to me that the officiating changed drastically from game four to game five. Of James’ five fouls I would say only one was a legitimate foul. The rest were highly questionable. The “noise” among NBA fans in these situations always banks on conspiracy.

The league obviously wants the Heat in the finals for overwhelmingly logical reasons. This theory is blown out the window if Chris Bosh’s three-pointer connects or does it? Miami would have still gone to the Finals which make the television people happier than pig in slop.

George
Paul George has to keep shooting if his Pacers are to have a chance.

All the loss to Indiana does in the league’s eyes is delay the inevitable. If that’s the way one thinks anyway…Besides the struggles of James, the other story was Paul George who followed his coach’s advice and stayed “green.” George was 15 for 28 for 37 points in game five and essentially willed his team to victory with clutch shots. He has to continue doing this if they are to have any chance at making the comeback in this series.

Roy Hibbert is far too inconsistent to rely on and scoring from anyone else is not steady either. George just needs to keep shooting or in the words of George Costanza, “be a chucker.”

The Heat have to be confident coming home after playing as poorly as they possibly could have yet they nearly won the game. It’s almost the closest thing to a sure thing to pencil in 25 points, seven boards and five assists for James if not more. I expect Wade to be better and don’t be surprised if ‘Birdman’ Andersen returns following a two-game absence.

As you know, I’ve been pretty awful in this series. Each time I think one thing the other happens and yet I’m not giving up. The numbers just don’t add up to anything positive for Indiana. The Heat just don’t lose games in this situation and they aren’t going to this evening either. The trends point to the OVER and I really like Miami to cover as well.

The Heat will enjoy a little extra rest time as the Spurs and Thunder duke it out in the Western Conference.

Keep an eye on… Indiana is 8-17 against the spread in their last 25 games on the road… Miami is 5-0 straight up in its’ last five games at home… Indiana is 2-4 in its’ last six games against Miami… The total has gone OVER in six of Miami’s last seven games at home… The O/U tonight is 183.

Heat Look to Close Out the Pacers Tonight in Indy

Hibbert
Hibbert
Roy Hibbert's hands would be better served by hanging on to the basketball.

The Miami Heat look to become the first team since the mid-1980’s Boston Celtics to earn four straight trips to the NBA Finals when they take the court tonight in Indianapolis. I’ve struggled with this series throughout, I can’t lie about that for a second and I feel just as ‘off’ with tonight’s game as well.

On the surface, this looks like a no-brainer. The Pacers are worried about officiating, whether LeBron James is talking smack and when Roy Hibbert is actually going to show up consistently. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat just keep on trucking. Even without Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen in game four, the Heat still trailed the Pacers by just two points (40-38) in points in the paint.

LeBron and Dwyane Wade continue to dominate the action when it matters and Chirs Bosh, Ray Allen and others keep on showing up when the team needs them to do so.

Can the Pacers stay alive tonight and force a game six back in Miami? I’m not sure I even know at this point!

Miami (-2) at Indiana, Heat Lead Series 3-1 – One of the major talking points coming out of game four was the disparity at the foul line. The Heat went 30 for 34 from the charity stripe while Indiana was just 11 for 17. Pacers’ star Paul George basically said the Heat were getting all the calls and he’s absolutely right about that.

George
Paul George needs to worry less about the officiating and focus more on scoring and defending.

The more aggressive team in this series has gotten the calls and that was Miami on Monday night. Perhaps George has forgotten that in game one his Pacers had an even more discrepant free throw advantage in what was their only win of the series to this point. More to the point of this discussion is that home teams in the playoffs are going to get more calls than visiting teams will.

It’s been that way for some time and we also know that stars are going to get calls more often than the non-stars will. We may not like and may not want to accept it but it’s a fact of life in the National Basketball Association.

As I said prior to game four, Pacers’ Coach Frank Vogel needs to get Luis Scola on the floor more often. By the time Scola played any meaningful minutes Monday night the outcome was basically in hand. Still, Scola pumped in 12 points in just 14 minutes of action and he needs to get his shot with this team’s back against the wall.

Roy Hibbert’s struggles aren’t just centered on the fact he didn’t score again because he also continues to have butter fingers. Game in and game out Hibbert violates nearly every fundamental of big man play by  bringing the ball down where smaller guys can get it. That, plus he can’t seem to get a grip on the ball either.

It’s time for Scola to get his shot because the Heat have struggled to find a guy who can handle him but Scola can’t do things by himself. Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson all need to have their best games tonight if the Pacers are to extend the series. The problem is that my faith in this team is shattered.

Take the Heat to cover and advance. I also like the over tonight too.

 

Keep an eye on… O/U is 184… The total has gone OVER in six of Miami’s last seven games… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games at home… Miami is 2-4 against the spread in its last six games when playing on the road against Indiana… The total has gone OVER in four  of Indiana’s last five games when playing Miami.

Pacers Face Must-Win in Game Four

Allen
Allen
Ray Allen got hot when the Heat needed him most in game three.

The Miami Heat took a 2-1 lead on Saturday night and perhaps more than that, they look like they suddenly have as much control over the Pacers as they have in a long time. Tonight, as we honor America’s veterans, the Heat will look to take a very commanding 3-1 lead. I’m going to touch on game three a bit because it leads into what has to happen for the Pacers to draw even. Let’s get to it.

Indiana at Miami (-6.5), Heat Leads 2-1 – The Miami Heat found themselves in an early hole in game three but turned it around quickly behind the veteran play of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen. Miami trailed by 15 points in the first half before turning it up a notch at both ends of the court. For the Pacers, it was yet another installment of “losing to the Heat when the chips are down.”

The Pacers’ Paul George scored 17 points on 5 for 13 shooting in his return from a concussion suffered in game two. He was the team’s leading scorer as once again the Pacers were outscored in the paint by Miami 40-38. Frankly, this just shouldn’t be happening. Although Roy Hibbert has played better since his disappearing act through the first series and half, he still is not nearly as dominant as he should be.

Vogel has to be better with this in-game adjustments tonight.My other concern for the Pacers now is the fact that Frank Vogel is being outcoached at almost every turn. His team seems to start well but when in-game adjustments are necessary, he is losing the battle to Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra. Arguments could easily be made that the talent Spoelstra is dealing with is better but that isn’t the point here.

Indiana is more than capable of winning this series but the adjustments just aren’t happening. Both Hibbert and David West were -21 in game three which tells me that both, and especially Hibbert were on the floor too long. Vogel has to recognize things sooner. Miami went to an incredibly small line-up which was having success and Vogel waited far too long adapt. Game three was not the first time this happened either.

If you’re looking for an X-factor for Indiana it has to be Luis Scola. The problem is that Frank Vogel has to allow Scola to stay on the court. He was a big factor in the first half of game three but then disappeared in the second half and I don’t necessarily blame him for that. Vogel has to keep the hot-hand on the floor.

I had Indiana winning this series in seven games and while that is still possible, I have lost a tremendous amount faith in their ability to do so. The Heat have shot over 50% in all three games of this series and that’s against a Pacers’ team that arguably is the best defensive team in the NBA. Indiana can ultimately pick things up on the offensive end of the court if they pick up the D first.

This is the ultimatum game for me and Indiana. I expect their best effort this evening so take them getting the points and I also like the UNDER this evening as well.

 

 

Keep an eye on… Indiana is 8-17 against the spread in its last 25 games on the road… Miami is 5-0 straight up in its last 5 games when playing at home against Indiana… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games when playing Miami… The total has gone OVER in seven of Miami’s last nine games when playing at home against Indiana… O/U is 183.5

Key Game Three Set for South Beach

George
George
Paul George has been cleared to play but how many minutes can we expect out of him in game three?

Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals is here so let’s get to it.

Indiana at Miami (-7), Series Tied 1-1 – The first bit of news we need to address from the Eastern Conference Finals is that as of last night, Indiana star Paul George has been cleared to play. If you’ll recall, George took a sot to the back of the head in game two and was diagnosed with a concussion following the Pacers’ loss.

For him to have been cleared, that means he passed all of his post-concussion protocols. Keep in mind that these are not nearly as strenuous as the those in the National Football League but he must have passed them nevertheless. What we must still concern ourselves with in the wagering community however is how much can we expect him to actually play?

I have every reason to believe he’ll be fine and play his normal minutes but unfortunately we won’t really know the answer to that until the game is underway. My advice is proceed as normal as Head Coach Frank Vogel gives an indication on way or another.

Andersen
'Birdman' Andersen was a huge factor in game two. Will that continue tonight?

On any team that has superstars like the Miami Heat do, there are always lesser players who do the dirty work necessary for the superstars and the team to survive. Both the 1990’s Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls had Dennis Rodman and the old showtime Lakers had Kurt Rambis. The Heat have several guys who we could possibly label in the same category but Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen fits better than all of the others.

The tattooed one played 29 minutes in game two off the bench and had just three points but that isn’t the story. He added 12 rebounds (10 defensive), an assist and a block to help LeBron James and Dwyane Wade take the game over late. Perhaps the most impressive number was his +25 while on the court. That number alone speaks volumes of just how important he is to the Heat’s success.

The +25 was a far cry from the +3 Andersen had in game one but even that ranked among the best for all the Heat players. Ultimately, will his play once again dictate whether the Heat win or lose? That’s for you to decide.

Indiana’s advantage going into this series was the size in the paint. Andersen certainly limited that with his rebounding in game two but if the Pacers are truly going to win this series they must have a greater advantage in the front-court. In game two, the Pacers defeated Miami 36-32 in points in the paint.

Shockingly, that was actually an improvement over game one where the Heat outscored the Pacers 54-38. Obviously Indiana still won but as I said, this trend cannot continue. David West has to be better than the 5 for 16 shooting he displayed in game two and Roy Hibbert has to be more of a scoring threat inside as well.

Game three is always a pivotal point in any series and most people love the Heat in this game as they return home with the split they wanted. My thinking is that Paul George will be fine and that, coinciding with the Pacers’ great road record in the playoffs this season has me taking them tonight getting seven huge points.

Take the UNDER tonight as well because I believe the two teams will start deploying tougher defense as the series goes on.

Keep an eye on…. Indiana is 1-7 straight up in its last eight games when playing on the road against Miami… Miami is 5-0 straight up in its last five games at home… Indiana is 8-16 against the spread in its last 24 games on the road… The total has gone OVER in four of Miami’s last five games and tonight’s O/U is 183.

Miami Needs to Even the Series With Indiana

Chalmers
Chalmers
Mario Chalmers needs to bounce back with a better game in game two.

It wasn’t so much that Indiana beat Miami in game one,it was how they did it. Strong defense, efficient shooting and good defense led the Pacers to the big win in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now the question is whether Miami makes the right adjustments or whether Indiana takes a 2-0 lead to Miami.

Miami (-3) at Indiana, Pacers Lead 1-0 – Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade was spotted wearing socks yesterday at practice that may have given an indication of his team needs to play tonight. The socks were red, white and blue and featured players from the ‘Bad Boy’ Era Detroit Pistons on them. So what was the message?

Sounds to me like the Heat feel like they need to ramp up the aggressiveness and physicality in an effort to tie up the series before returning to South Beach for games three and four. It concur that it’s probably a pretty good idea.

It wasn’t that Indiana played dirty in game one or that Miami needs to play that way in game two, the idea for the Heat is turn a couple of serious trends around swiftly. First and foremost, Miami needs to get to the foul line. The Heat attempted just 15 free throws while Indiana went to the charity strip 37 times, making 29 of them.

Spoelstra
Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra needs to make the right adjustments for game two.

That type of disparity cannot happen again if Miami is going to even this series.

Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has to decide if he is going to go big in an effort to limit the Pacers’ rebounding advantage or stay small knowing the team must shoot better. Going big means more minutes for Udonis Haslem but he isn’t much of an offensive threat.

The other potential big man is Greg Oden who was signed specifically to deal with Roy Hibbert. He is still struggling to get on the court and I think his ship may have sailed for this series. Should Spoelstra decide to stick with his usual line-up and rotation then he’ll need more support from his three-point shooters.

As a team, the Heat were 6 of 23 for 26% from beyond the arc. Chris Bosh was 0 for 5, Mario Chalmers was 1 for 4 while LeBron James was 1 for 5. Chances are good that this type of poor outside shooting will not continue but the Heat can’t just expect it to change. They must create solid, open opportunities.

Indiana Head Coach Frank Vogel has been to this rodeo a few times already and he knows the Heat will make adjustments but to what extent he won’t know until the game flows. Vogel cannot overreact here and make rash moves if the Heat suddenly start clicking. He has to have faith in David West, Paul George and company so that they adjust themselves.

Both Wade and James had decent scoring games in game one but they’ll need significant help in order to even the series. The expectation is that Miami will come out blazing and will even this series but I just don’t think it’s going to be that simple.

I love the Pacers getting the three points tonight. Don’t be surprised to see Indiana go to South Beach with a 2-0 lead.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 1-4 against the spread in its last five games when playing on the road against Indiana… Indiana is 5-14 against the spread in its last 19 games at home… Indiana is 5-0 straight up in its last five games when playing at home against Miami… Miami is 8-2 straight up in its last 10 games.

Heat and Pacers Crank Up Another Crucial Series

LeBron George
LeBron George
Paul George and LeBron James hook up in the Eastern Conference Finals

The Eastern Conference Finals get underway today so let’s skip the small talk and get to it.

Miami (-3.5) at Indiana – The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers hook up for the third straight year in the Eastern Conference Playoffs yet this meeting seems so odd compared to the previous two. While the Heat are favored once again, this particular match-up was anticipated all season long following last season’s epic seven game series won by Miami.

All of the luster that was supposed to be on this series now that it is here seems to have disappeared. The Pacers have survived to this point despite a disappearing act by their all-star center Roy Hibbert. Paul George has had some great moments in these playoffs but I don’t think anyone is ready to call him an NBA superstar yet.

The Pacers needed seven games to defeat an under .500 Atlanta Hawks team and then were pushed to six games by the Washington Wizards. While I like David West a lot, and I mean ‘a lot,’ he can’t be the guy that carries you game in and game out. Hibbert cannot disappear against the Heat who will no doubt watch hours of video to see what Atlanta was doing to keep Hibbert a non-factor.

Spoelstra
Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra knows the Pacers will no go as easily as some think.

For Miami, the road back to the Eastern Conference Finals has pretty much gone as predicted. No expected much of a challenge from the Charlotte Bobcats who were limited because of star Al Jefferson’s injury issues. Therefore the sweep was not a shocker in any way.

Then came Brooklyn… The Heat entered the second round against the Nets knowing they hadn’t beaten them all year going 0-4. The Heat also knew the history that was against them too. No team in their situation has ever beaten a team that swept them in the regular season. Obviously, Miami could have cared less about history as they beat the Nets in five games.

So what will this series come down to? The rebounding advantage will be with the Pacers, but this isn’t going to be news to the Heat. They will rely on shooting ad high percentage shots to limit that advantage but don’t dismiss the Heat guards crashing the boards a bit to help out.

What Indiana can ill-afford is poor shooting on a regular basis. They are hitting on just 44% of their shots right now and falling below that will be extremely detrimental to their success. The Pacers also need to limit the Heat’s fast break opportunities. That means maintaining the rebound advantage and getting back on defense.

Miami will need the usual performances from LeBron James but he will be challenged on both ends of the court. Dwyane Wade appears to be healthy which is saying quite a bit for this time of year. Chris Bosh could be the real x-factor in this series if he can extend Roy Hibbert out of the paint. That means he needs to hit outside shots with consistency.

There’s a lot of people that expect this series to go Miami’s way because of the struggles Indiana has had through the playoffs but I’m thinking differently. This is where the Pacers have wanted to be for the last 12 months and I think the Indiana team we’ve expected shows up. I like them to steal game one especially getting the points.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 1-6 straight up in its last seven games when playing on the road against Indiana… Indiana is 17-8 straight up in its last 25 games at home… Indiana is 1-4 against the spread in its last 5 games at home… Miami is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven games when playing on the road against Indiana.

Prediction: Pacers in seven

Weekend Ramblings Include NBA Thoughts as The Conference Finals are Here

Kerr
Kerr
Steve Kerr made the right move in spurning New York for Golden State.

Can any of us really say that we are surprised that Steve Kerr chose the Golden State Warriors’ over the New York Knicks? There was one draw that would have made Kerr come to the Big Apple and that was Phil Jackson. As his former coach and mentor, Jackson would have guided Kerr through the rapids of coaching in the NBA.

Of course that could also be considered one of the drawbacks to the job as well. Would Kerr have been comfortable knowing that every time his Knicks’ went on a four-game losing streak rumors about Jackson taking over would run rampant? That’s just part of it though; Kerr got more years and more money out of the Warriors and he has much more talent and less contractual problems as well on the West Coast.

The bottom line is that Kerr has made the right choice especially considering he is going to be a first-time coach. Maybe success will eventually lead him to New York and reunion with Jackson anyway?

Bryant
Don't bet on Kobe staying quiet throughout the Lakers' coaching search.

Kobe Has No Say in Coaching Hire. Ya Right.

Los Angeles Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak says that while the lines of communication are open with star Kobe Bryant, he won’t be involve in the decision on who to hire as the team’s new head coach.

So if I’m the Lakers, I’m going to pay Bryant this ridiculous amount of money for two years (likely his last) and yet they don’t want him involved in choosing the coach? I really do see Kupchak’s thinking, but is it realistic? Bryant won’t want to make his final years meaningless as the last few have been due to injury and poor coaching.

While the Lakers have been relatively quiet about potential replacements for Mike D’Antoni, Kupchak and the Buss Family have to be thinking long-term. They will have ping-pong balls flopping around in the draft lottery which could give them an excellent player to bring on board for a long time. With some potential cap room as well, the team wants a coach for many years.

Not allowing Bryant to have some say in this is crazy. He isn’t going to play for just anyone.

The Conference Finals Are Set

Regardless of how they got there, the Indiana Pacers have the rematch they’ve desired for the last 12 months staring them in the face. The Pacers will get yet another crack at the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana needed 13 games to dispose of both below .500 Atlanta and youthful Washington.

In the meantime, the Heat needed just nine games to get past Charlotte and Brooklyn. Advantage here would have to go to the Heat. These two have basically played to a draw over the last couple of seasons, but with the bizarre struggles of this Pacers’ team it’s going to be extremely hard to like Indiana winning.

Over in the Western Conference Finals, the top seeded San Antonio Spurs will face second seeded Oklahoma City. These two have represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals the last two seasons with each losing to the Heat.

For the second time this playoff season we are seeing a strange match-up where one team has beaten the other in all four games they played in the regular season. The Thunder went 4-0 against San Antonio this season which is exactly what Brooklyn had done to Miami prior to being dumped in five games in the second round.

Remember, in 25 previous times, a team that swept another in the regular season also went on to beat that team in the playoffs. That happened every time until this week when Miami beat Brooklyn. Is Oklahoma City about to suffer the same fate?

With Sterling Gone for Good, Attention Can Turn Back to the Court

Silver
Silver
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver nailed his first crucial decision when he gave Donald Sterling a lifetime ban.

New National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver wasted no time in putting his stamp on the league. Faced with a growing chorus of players, fans, politicians and common citizens, Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers’ Owner Donald Sterling for life.

Sterling was also fined $2.5 million which in the grand scheme of things is small potatoes considering his worth is nearly $2 billion. It’s widely believed that Sterling will be forced to sell the team but based on his past, he won’t go quietly into the night. I expect a long, drawn-out process in the years to come unless he just decides it isn’t worth it.

Some are speculating that the franchise could fetch as much as $1 billion in a sale.

While I applaud Silver’s forceful action, it isn’t a day to celebrate. Yes, the NBA is ultimately better without Donald Sterling in it, but the damage has been done. Sports were often thought to be safe harbor from this kind of bigotry despite random cases in the past. This situation illustrates that we remain far from where we need to be.

Williams needs an improved performance to get the Nets' a game five win.Brooklyn (+3.5) at Toronto, Series Tied 2-2 – I have to give the Toronto Raptors some credit. I really thought after the game three loss that they were in trouble and would fold under the playoff pressure. The young Toronto team finished off the Nets with a 12-4 to end the game to even the series and take it back home for tonight’s game.

For the Nets to grab game five Deron Williams has to be better than four of twelve shooting. He scored just 10 points in game four and was 0-5 from three-point land. My gut feeling is that he plays significantly better tonight.

While both squads shot almost an identical 41% from the field, the difference ultimately was from the charity stripe. Toronto went 19 of 23 while the Nets were just 19 of 29. I think this is where the veteran leadership in Brooklyn kicks in; take the Nets and the 3.5 points.

Dallas (+6) at San Antonio, Series Tied 2-2 – I just don’t have a feel or this series. Just when I think the Spurs are ready to dominate and move on, the Mavericks come firing back. Even after a 20-point lead in game three, the Spurs still let it slip away but were able to pull out the victory.

Both teams were almost identical in the three-point shooting department in game three as they each hit on just 29% of their long-range shots. Ultimately the difference was better field goal and free throw shooting by San Antonio. If I’m Gregg Popovich, I’m concerned about Tony Parker. Again he struggled from the field and didn’t even attempt a three-point shot.

Parker’s poor shooting was offset by a 46-28 advantage in the paint and that’s something the Spurs must repeat. I like San Antonio to win, but I really like the Mavs getting the six points.

Portland (+5.5) at Houston, Blazers Lead 3-1 – If Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale was fighting for his job when the series was tied 1-1, then what must he be fighting for now? Granted the Rockets have dropped two overtime games, they’ve still lost three games total and one more ends a season that many had figured to be going much longer.

Houston had excellent balance in their scoring and dominated the paint to the tune of 68-30. While Portland didn’t exactly have the balance, they did have LaMarcus Aldridge who has dominated the series.

The Rockets were very good at home this year and they have to ride the crowd to a victory tonight but I really like Blazers getting the 5.5 points.

Three Different Scenarios Tonight in the NBA

James
James
I expect LeBron and D-Wade to sweep the Bobcats tonight in Charlotte.

When you look at odds and lines on a daily basis like I do there are bound to be times when things just don’t go well. Saturday night’s games were a prime example of that as I went just 1-3. Oh sure, I could quit, hang up the keyboard and walk away but the challenge of actually being right is too much to pass up.

Tonight’s games feature three different situations; the Miami Heat are looking to close out the Bobcats, the Pacers and Hawks look for a game five win and in Dallas, the top seeded Spurs are looking to avoid a 3-1 hole.

Let’s get to the games.

Miami (-6.5) at Charlotte, Heat Lead Series 3-0 – Whether LeBron James stared down Michael Jordan during Saturday’s game three win is a topic for another day, but what was clear was that the Heat made a statement to the Bobcats; we are by no means going to let you in this series.

Playoff experience the Bobcats do not have and it was evident towards the end of the half on Saturday when they just couldn’t take care of the ball during a sequence when Miami was turning it on. I have to think that the Heat are taking some solace in the fact that the Pacers and Bulls are struggling right now to advance to the next round.

With that in mind, the Heat would like to finish off Charlotte as soon as possible in order to get the rest they need. I anticipate a strong early effort from Charlotte but I love Miami to cover and get the sweep.

Hibbert
The Pacers pulled out game four despite another poor showing from Roy Hibbert.

Atlanta (+7) at Indiana, Series Tied 2-2 – The back and forth continued this past weekend as the teams split in Atlanta leaving the series tied at two games apiece. Many wondered if Frank Vogel would sit all-star Roy Hibbert but he did not. In a little less than 25 minutes of action, Hibbert finished with six points and three rebounds.

While Indiana proved that they could win without much of an effort from their big man, the question remains as whether they can win the series in the same manner. The Hawks continue to spread the floor to limit Hibbert’s defensive presence but Atlanta really didn’t do themselves any favors down the stretch in game four either.

The Hawks turned the ball over and suffered from poor shot selection before the Pacers’ David West ultimately put the dagger in. Whether the pattern of wins and losses continues in game five I cannot say but I feel very confident taking the Hawks and seven points.

San Antonio (-4) at Dallas, Mavericks Lead 2-1 – If you ask most casual NBA fans about Vince Carter they’d probably say something like, “he had a nice career.” The reminder that Carter sent about his current status resonate like a bomb going off as he hit an off-balance three-pointer to beat the San Antonio Spurs.

The eighth seed Mavericks now hold a surprising 2-1 lead over the Spurs and this lead has been accomplished in large part without a dominant Dirk Nowitzki. Carter and Monta Ellis have been the key players so far in the series for Dallas.

If you asked most experts they’d tell you that Rick Carlisle has outcoached Gregg Popovich to this point in the series. Everything Carlisle does seems to work while Pop’s moves haven’t panned out quite as well.

Tony Parker knocked down 17 points in the first half of game three and then scored nothing in the second half. That cannot and will not happen in game four in my opinion. While I expect another close game, I like the Spurs to cover and even the series.

 

Momentum Swings Likely in Four Key NBA Playoff Games Today

Scola
Scola
Luis Scola has been one of few bright spots for Indiana and he needs more court time.

If you didn’t need to know already, the National Basketball Association likes to ‘stretch’ their seven game series’ out just a bit. The fact that these teams play 82 games in the regular season and many times on back to back nights is apparently lost on the NBA’s front office.

Let’s not be totally naive here because making a seven game series last three weeks is about two things; money and attention. Oh well, nothing is going to change is it? On to the games.

Indiana (-2) at Atlanta, Hawks Lead 2-1 – We’ve known for some time that the game of basketball at the collegiate and professional levels has changed drastically. The game has gone from one dominated by big, talented centers to one driven by guard and forward play. Indiana has tried to stay true to the old way with Roy Hibbert but it isn’t happening.

For a man who stands 7’1″ I’ve never seen a guy like this become the smallest player on the court. Hibbert has been totally ineffective on the offensive end and his defense isn’t any better. He had just two rebounds in the game three loss while the Hawks’ Paul Millsap collected 14 boards.

Frank Vogel is coaching for his job and if he truly realizes this then he’ll go with Luis Scola more often than he does Hibbert. If not for Scola, this would be a three game deficit for the Pacers. Hibbert is not the only problem by far for Indiana and I just don’t have any confidence in this team any longer. Take the Hawks getting the two points.

Parker
Tony Parker and the Spurs must do a better job of taking care of the ball in game three.

San Antonio (-3) at Dallas, Series Tied 1-1 – Surprisingly, we’ve seen this before. The Spurs, who look so dominant during the regular season, suddenly look more pedestrian in the playoffs. Despite sweeping the Mavericks in all four regular season games this season, the Spurs find themselves tied at one and heading into Big D.

The Mavericks forced 24 very uncharacteristic turnovers and held Tim Duncan to just 11 points after he scored 27 in game one. I fully expect a more ‘Spurs-like’ performance in game three. Take the Spurs to cover today.

Miami (-5.5) at Charlotte, Heat Leads 2-0 – The Bobcats may be down 2-0, but they’ve got the Heat focused on things besides winning. LeBron James and the rest of the team are whining about Charlotte fouling too hard and being overly physical. It would appear that James doesn’t recall what Michael Jordan went through when he and the Bulls played the Detroit Pistons.

The physical play is only going to get worse because the Bobcats now know they are in the heads of the Miami Heat. This game sets up perfectly for a Charlotte win because Miami always seems to lay an egg during their earlier playoff series.

Take the Bobcats getting the points and don’t be surprised if they win.

Oklahoma City (-3.5) at Memphis, Grizzlies Lead 2-1 – Is there any team with more intestinal fortitude than the Memphis Grizzlies? They’ve had big leads in both games two and three only to see the Thunder come back. That’s when the Grizzlies persevered though and came away with the wins.

I expect the Thunder to play with some urgency tonight in the hopes of getting out to an early lead but this Memphis team has been one of the better teams in the NBA over the last couple of months. All of the pressure in this series is on the Thunder and already Russell Westbrook is chirping about the media.

That tells me there is some doubt. Take Memphis tonight getting the 3.5 points.