Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

Cavs go for the kill
By Brian Edwards

Cleveland will be looking to land the kill shot tonight when it plays host to the Wizards in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. The Cavs took a 3-1 advantage by virtue of a 100-97 Game 4 win at Washington as 4½-point underdogs.

Mike Brown’s team hooked up money-line backers with a payout in the plus 165 range (risk $100 to win $165). The victory has Cleveland (48-38 straight up, 40-46 against the spread) on the cusp of eliminating Washington for the third straight season.

With that in mind, I really want the Cavs to put a fork in this chafe squad of Eddie Jordan’s. Seriously, just send these guys into vacation. Get ‘em off my television screen and out of the news.

The Wizards talk too much. Brendan Haywood was the latest, implying LeBron James is always crying. Before the series, Gilbert Arenas indicated his team wanted to play the Cavs.

Memo to Gilbert: Careful what you wish for, especially with LeBron. You see, there’s only one LeBron. There’s only one Oscar. Only one Magic, one Larry. There’s plenty of Gilberts out there.

And how about DeShawn Stevenson, who called LeBron “overrated.” DeShawn who?

The Cavs took Game 4 thanks to Delonte West’s 3-pointer from the corner with five seconds left. LeBron, who finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, drew the defense with dribble penetration before dishing to West for the game winner.

Washington (44-42 SU, 47-39 ATS) failed to cover the number all three of its games at Cleveland this year, including Games 1 and 2 of this series. However, the Wizards were money makers on the road this season, cashing tickets at a 24-19 ATS clip.

Cleveland owns a 29-14 SU record at home, but the Cavs have disappointed their backers with a 17-26 ATS mark at Quicken Loans Arena.

The ‘under’ has cashed in eight of Cleveland’s last 10 games. Also, the ‘under’ is on a 16-5 run in the Cavs’ last 21 home games.

The ‘over’ is 46-40 overall for the Wizards, 23-20 in their road games.

Most spots have installed Cleveland as a 4 ½-point favorite with a total of 192. Gamblers can take the Wizards to win outright for a plus 180 return.

TNT will provide television coverage at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. That’s no typo, either. Six o’clock, so get your bets in early.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Tough loss for bettors who backed New Orleans in its series-clinching Game 5 win over Dallas last night. The Hornets led by double digits for a decent chunk of the game, but they allowed Dallas to go on a late run that gave Mavs’ backers a winner as seven-point underdogs in the 99-94 loss. The total (195) had a wild finish, too. Bettors on the ‘under’ were looking golden until Dallas scored 31 points in the final stanza. With 5.7 seconds left, Dallas used its final timeout with the combined points sitting at 193. Out of the t.o., the Mavs got a good look at a 3-pointer that would’ve allowed ‘over’ backers to cash, but the shot was off the mark and Dallas didn’t immediately foul when the Hornets rebounded with a few ticks remaining.

--How sick is this stat line from Chris Paul last night: 24 points, 15 assists, 11 rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers.

--Detroit covered the spread in last night’s 98-81 home win over Philadelphia in Game 5 of their first-round showdown. The Pistons took the cash as 9 ½-point favorites. Wagers on the total made out for a nail-biter, with the 179 combined points barely slipping ‘over’ the 178-point tally.

--There was no overnight line for Detroit’s trip back to Philly for Game 6 on Thursday. I’m guessing the Pistons will be 5 ½-point favorites with a total of 177 ½.

--No overnight line for Friday’s Game 6 between Houston and Utah back in Salt Lake City, either. I give the Rockets a decent shot (outright) in this game. I like how they’ve played the last three games. I’ll back ‘em if they’re catching seven points or more.

--If the Suns fire Mike D'Antoni, they will be making a bad move. And he wouldn't be out of work long.

--During his intro as the new coach of the Bobcats yesterday, Larry Brown said he realized how much he missed coaching in his two seasons away from the sidelines. As for me, after watching clips of his introduction, I realized just how I much I didn't miss Brown during his absence. Seriously, folks, if you can locate an 'over/under' prop for the length of his tenure in Charlotte, please let me know. Anything in the 15-18 month range has 'under' written all over it.

--As for Pat Riley, just go away. Please. Just work on your tan and do hair gel commercials so you can get free 'product.'

--Here's my UPDATED top five chafes/goats in sports:
1-Kobe Bryant
2-Roger Clemens
3-Alex Rodriguez
4-Stephon Marbury
5-Isiah Thomas

Honorable Mention: Larry Brown, Geno the UConn women's coach, Mike Gundy and Mark Madsen. 

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Re: Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

Back to Boston
Brian Edwards

ATLANTA -- I’ll admit it. I felt a tad silly by making reference to the epic seven-game series between the Hawks and Celtics in the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals when I was writing the preview of this year’s clash between the East’s No. 1 and No. 8 seeds.

There was no comparison between then and now. This Atlanta team was making its first post-season appearance in nine years, while Boston had just completed a 66-win regular season.

Doc Rivers was no longer the Hawks point guard. In fact, he was now the head coach of the Celtics, the team he said he “hated” during the ’88 showdown. Mike Fratello was no longer the Hawks coach. Instead, he was the color analyst for TNT.

The only similarity between ’88 and ’08 was the fact that this was Atlanta and Boston.

But as it turns out, this series has a lot in common with the one that went the distance in ’88. Back then, the Celtics won the first two games at Boston Garden, and then the Hawks countered with back-to-back wins at The Omni. Twenty years later, Boston and Atlanta are once again knotted at 2-2 after the Hawks shockingly took Games 3 and 4 at Philips Arena.

Joe Johnson erupted for 20 of his game-high 35 points in the fourth quarter of Monday’s Game 4, rallying his team from a 10-point deficit to capture a 97-92 win as a 9 ½-point underdog. Bettors backing the Hawks on the money line collected monster plus 400 payouts.

Johnson was unstoppable at crunch time, abusing Ray Allen off the dribble with a variety of floaters and step-back jumpers. When Johnson wasn’t doing the damage, Josh Smith was. Smith finished with 28 points, seven blocked shots and six rebounds.

For gamblers that backed Boston (68-18 straight up, 54-30-2 against the spread) thinking it would bounce back from the Game 3 defeat, things looked good early. Allen and Paul Pierce both drained a pair of 3-balls as the Celtics jumped out to a 16-3 lead in the first four minutes.

But Atlanta (39-47 SU, 39-46-1 ATS) wasn’t about to go away. Trailing 21-9, Johnson hit a leaner in the paint. On the next possession, Mike Bibby buried a trey and the crowd was back into it. By the time the quarter ended, Mike Woodson’s team had a 29-24 lead thanks to an 18-3 run to close the stanza.

There was a heated exchange between Pierce and Al Horford late in Game 3, and tensions flared once again midway through the second quarter. Zaza Pachulia was called for a foul on Kevin Garnett, but KG responded with a flagrant elbow to Pachulia’s chest.

Pachulia wasn’t happy, immediately jumping into Garnett’s face as the duo went forehead to forehead and exchanged pleasantries. While trying to separate the two, Johnson and Sam Cassell got into a heated discussion.

As the officials restored order, Pachulia and Horford sent the crowd into a frenzy by clapping, smiling and staring down the Boston bench. Translation: Yeah, things are getting testy and we like it. We’re completely fine with it.

The Hawks went to intermission with a 51-48 advantage. Most spots tabbed Boston as an eight-point favorite in the second half, equating to a five-point ‘chalk’ situation considering the three-point deficit.

Again, for bettors backing Boston (either for the game or with a second-half wager), things looked good early in the third quarter. Another 3-pointer from Pierce at the 9:20 mark gave Boston a 55-53 lead. The advantage would balloon to double digits when Rajon Rondo made a lay-up for a 75-65 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Going into the final stanza, the Celtics appeared poised to close the deal and take a 3-1 series lead. But Johnson and Smith wouldn’t allow it. Johnson buried a trifecta from the left wing for starters, and then Smith nailed a jumper. Just like that, the deficit was trimmed to five.

At the 5:19 mark, Atlanta recaptured the lead on Smith’s jumper from the right wing. The Hawks wouldn’t trail again.

Most books closed the total at 188. The ‘under’ appeared to be a casher in the waning moments, but James Posey knocked down a 3-pointer with five seconds left to make it 95-92. Next, the Celtics fouled Smith with two seconds remaining, and his two free throws allowed the 189 combined points to slip ‘over’ the number.

The ‘under’ cashed in the first five head-to-head meetings between these squads this season, but the ‘over’ has now hit in back-to-back contests.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Boston as a 14-point favorite for Game 5. The number was either 13 or 13 1/2 at most spots Tuesday afternoon, but as of early this morning, most books were back to 14. The total started at 189, but the number was quickly adjusted to 187 ½. Gamblers can earn an outrageous plus 1100 (risk $100 to win $1,100) return by backing Atlanta to win outright.

The Hawks have been money burners as double-digit underdogs this year, compiling just a 3-5 spread record in such spots. On the flip side, Boston has covered the number in eight consecutive double-digit ‘chalk’ situations. Also, the Celtics have taken the cash in eight straight home outings.

The NBA announced Tuesday that there would be no suspensions for Game 5. There was speculation that Kendrick Perkins and Marvin Williams might be in danger of getting disciplined for stepping onto the court when the altercation occurred. Also, Garnett got a pass even though he aggressively separated himself from an official while trying to get at Pachulia.

Tip-off for Wednesday’s Game 5 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The ‘over’ is on a 14-7 run for the Hawks. The ‘over’ is 44-42 overall for Atlanta, but the ‘under’ is 24-19 in its road games.

--Boston has seen the ‘under’ go 47-38 overall, 25-17 in its home assignments.

--In the ’88 Boston-Atlanta series, the Hawks went to Boston Garden and snapped a 13-game losing streak at that venue with a 112-104 Game 5 victory. However, the Celtics responded by winning Game 6 when Cliff Levingston’s left-handed runner in the lane was off the mark. Of course, that set up Game 7 in which Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins went toe to toe in the fourth quarter, with Boston eventually capturing a 118-116 win. In defeat, Wilkins had 47 points on an incredible 19-of-24 shooting from the floor. Rivers had 16 points and 18 assists in the deciding contest.

--In an interview with TNT this week, Rivers said of the epic Game 7. “I’ve never watched the film and I never will.”

--During a Tuesday morning interview with Atlanta sports radio station 790 The Zone, Wilkins commented on the Game 6 loss to the Celtics in ’88. “The play was called for me to get the ball and make something happen, but somehow Cliff Levingston got the ball. I don’t know how or why he got the ball, but I know I was really pissed off about it.”

--Game 6 will be Friday night at Philips Arena.

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Re: Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

Cavs favored; LeBron confident heading to Game 5
ASSOCIATED PRESS

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) -LeBron James whistled an unrecognizable tune - no, it wasn't one of Jay-Z's - as he practiced free throws. He seemed blissfully serene.

Staying that way will be tough. He's got to go at least one more round with the Washington Wizards.

A target of taunts and physical abuse almost since the opening tip in Game 1, James and the Cavaliers can eliminate the Wizards from the playoffs for the third straight season Wednesday night.

James, who has enhanced his professional resume by dispatching the Wizards on early summer vacations, knows it won't be easy to end this first-round series. The Wizards are in a bind, even desperate.

''They ain't go no choice but to be desperate,'' said James, who is averaging 29.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in four games. ''They're down 3-1. We need to put them away.''

Oddsmakers think the Cavs will do it, too. Cleveland is listed as a 4 1/2-point favorite and the total is set at 191.

On Tuesday, James wouldn't comment on the latest insult from Wizards center Brendan Haywood, who a day earlier mocked Cleveland's All-Star by saying, ''Awww, they're trying to hurt me'' in a whiny voice in response to James' assertion following Game 4 that the Wizards are out to get him.

But James stood by his remark: He doesn't think the Wizards can come back to win the series.

''I just have confidence in our team,'' he said. ''It has nothing to do with the Wizards. They're a very good team, but they've got to beat us three straight games and I can't see that happening.''

The Wizards haven't been eliminated on the road since 1988, when they were knocked out in the first round at Detroit. To avoid a similar fate in Game 5, they'll need to do a better job on James, hit the boards and make their shots.

It might help, too, if they quit the trash talking, which seems to have boomeranged. Most of what the Wizards have said, has come back to bite them. Throw in some rap stars, a few flagrant fouls and it's become quite a series.

''I've never seen a series like this where you have music involved, you have trash talk involved, everything,'' said Cavaliers forward Joe Smith, a 13-year veteran. ''I guess that's the way the sport has grown and when you have a rivalry like this, there's no telling what you might find.''

A quick rewind on the Washington vs Cleveland feud:

Wizards forward DeShawn Stevenson called James ''overrated.'' James dismissed it, saying a response would be like hip-hop mogul Jay-Z dignifying something said by rapper Soulja Boy. Stevenson fired back by giving Soulja Boy courtside seats for Game 3, a 36-point Washington win. Jay-Z, a close friend of James', countered with a song dissing Stevenson that was played at a D.C. club last weekend.

On the floor, Haywood shoved James and got ejected in Game 2. Stevenson swiped at James' head and got a technical in Game 4. Haywood makes fun of James, Stevenson gets fined $25,000 for making a throat-slashing gesture in Game 4.

This is basketball?

And despite being down, the Wizards haven't stopped yapping.

''You'd think after a while it would kind of calm down a little bit,'' said Smith, who has never been beyond the first round in his career. ''It's real surprising that they're still vocal. They're still kind of trying, I guess, to get in our heads a little bit. But it hasn't worked thus far in this series and I don't think it will work at all.''

Stevenson, Haywood and Gilbert Arenas did not speak to the media before the Wizards left for Cleveland. Antawn Jamison, though, had an interesting take on his teammates' oratorical outbursts.

''All this talking throughout the media, about this and that, is really beneath me,'' he said. ''And I'm kind of disappointed that my team has kind of bought into it. But it's just about going out there and playing the game. They've been doing that, they're up 3-1, so they can say what they want to say.''

When the blathering first began, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan backed his player's comments. His reasoning was simple: They said it, now they have to back it up.

''We can't go into the series being split on anything,'' Jordan said. ''It didn't matter what I think, I wanted to support my players, and I said, 'Look, since this is how we've approached it, this is what you said, these are the things we have to do to be successful in this series.

''You want to talk the talk, well, these are the things you have to walk the walk with. And we've come up short so far, but we're still talking and still walking. We'll see if we can get to the finish line.''

The Cavaliers can see the end. Last year, leading 3-1 against New Jersey, they lost at home to the Nets before finally ending that series on the road. They're determined not to let Washington back in it.

''They're going to bring it,'' Cavs guard Daniel Gibson said, ''by any means necessary.''

James hasn't been pounded like this since he was a kid in Akron's playgrounds. He laughed when told about an online fans' poll that said he would win a fight against Haywood.

''I don't fight,'' he said. ''I stopped fighting. That's so grade school. I don't need to fight anymore.''

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Re: Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

NBA PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(5) Washington (44-42, 47-39 ATS) at (4) Cleveland (48-38, 40-46 ATS)


The Cavaliers look to end this best-of-7 series in five games – and eliminate the Wizards from the playoffs for the third straight season – when the two teams return to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Cleveland hung on for a 100-97 victory Sunday, cashing as a five-point underdog to bounce back from Thursday’s 108-72 Game 3 thrashing – the worst playoff loss in team history. LeBron James contributed 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the win, with his final assist being converted into a game-winning three-pointer by Delonte West. Despite its 3-1 lead in this series, Cleveland is still a middling 8-8 SU in its last 16 games overall, going 6-10 ATS in that span.

Washington is 1-4 SU and ATS in its last five overall and is just 1-8 in its last nine playoff games (2-7 ATS) – all against the Cavaliers, who have knocked out the Wizards in each of the last two postseasons. This season, the home team is on a 7-1 SU run in this rivalry (5-3 ATS), and the favorite is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 clashes (playoffs included).

The Wizards are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games played on two days’ rest, but the team’s pointspread trends all spiral downward from there, including 0-4 on the road, 0-5 on the road against teams with a winning home record, 0-4 as a playoff ‘dog (all against Cleveland), 2-6 after a SU loss, 3-8 on Wednesday and 2-5 catching less than five points.

The Cavaliers are 3-6 ATS in their last nine against teams with a winning record and 5-16 ATS in their last 21 after a spread-cover, but they are on positive pointspread runs of 5-1 in first-round playoff games – all against Washington – 4-0 as a playoff chalk and 5-0 ATS as a playoff favorite of less than five points.

For Washington, the over is on streaks of 9-6 overall, 23-9 against the Eastern Conference and 7-4 in the playoffs (again, all against Cleveland), but the under is 4-1 in its last five on the highway and 4-1 in its last five as a playoff pup of less than five points. For Cleveland, the under is on tears of 8-2 overall, 5-1 as a favorite, 4-1 after a SU win, 12-3 as a home chalk and 16-5 at home. But the over is 22-10-1 in the Cavaliers’ last 33 when laying less than five points.

Finally, in this rivalry, the over-under has alternated in the last seven games – with the total clearing the 190-point posted price in Game 4 – and the under is 15-7 in the last 22 clashes in Cleveland.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CLEVELAND and UNDER


(8) Atlanta (39-47, 39-46-1 ATS) at (1) Boston (68-18, 54-30-2 ATS)

Having suffered stunning upset losses in Games 3 and 4 in Atlanta, the Celtics suddenly find themselves in must-win mode as they return to TD Banknorth Garden for Game 5 against the spunky Hawks.

Boston carried a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter Monday night, but resilient Atlanta outscored the Celts 32-17 in the final frame to post a 97-92 win as a nine-point home underdog. Joe Johnson went off for 20 of his 35 points in the fourth to help seal the upset, which followed a 102-93 home victory as an eight-point ‘dog in Game 3. Prior to the two wins, Atlanta was on an 0-5 SU and ATS skid, and the Hawks are still just 4-7 SU and ATS in their last 11 starts.

Boston, meanwhile, had its six-game SU and ATS winning streak halted with the two setbacks. However, the Celtics are still 5-2 against Atlanta this year (4-3 ATS), with all five wins coming by double digits, including 23- and 19-point blowouts in Games 1 and 2, respectively, both as a 15-point chalk.

The home team in this series is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings, the underdog is 9-5 ATS in the last 14 clashes and Boston is 4-1 ATS in its last five home starts against Atlanta.

Their current two-game winning streak notwithstanding, the Hawks are still on ATS slides of 1-4 on the road, 11-24 on the highway against teams with a winning home record, 3-7 after a SU win and 2-6 after a spread-cover. Also, the straight-up winner has cashed in each of the Hawks’ last 12 games overall.

The Celtics are still 13-3 SU (12-4 ATS) in their last 16 games going back to the regular season, and they carry further positive ATS trends of 21-7 overall, 8-0 overall at the Garden, 6-0 at home against teams with a losing road mark, 7-1 on one day of rest, 13-6 after a SU loss and 41-19-2 against teams with a losing overall record.

After the first two contests in this series in Boston stayed under the total, the over was the paly in both games in Atlanta– with Saturday’s contest narrowly clearing the 188-point posted price – and the over for Atlanta is now on runs of 8-0 on one day of rest, 10-3 after a SU win and 11-5 overall. On the flip side, the under for Boston is on streaks of 5-1 at home, 8-1 at home versus teams with a losing road record, 9-3 in first-round playoff games and 12-5 against the East. Finally, the four head-to-head meetings in Boston this year have all stayed under the total.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON

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You could take LeBron -- and the points

Cavaliers' James has been a scoring machine in playoffs, so bettors might favor him to be the highest-scoring player in Wednesday's games.

With LeBron James leading the way, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold a commanding 3-1 lead over the Washington Wizards in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

James, who led the NBA in scoring during the regular season, has been a point-producing machine against the Wizards. He scored 32 points in Game 1, 30 in Game 2, then 22 in Game 3 and 34 in Game 4, for a playoff average of 29.5 points heading into tonight's Game 5 at Quicken Loans Arena.

But will James be the NBA's highest scorer today? That's a wager available at sportsbook.com, which lists daily playoff odds on the total points scored by individual players.

For Boston's Game 5 against Atlanta tonight, the Celtics' Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are expected to have strong odds, as well as the Hawks' Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby and Josh Smith.

James will even get competition for today's points title from his own game.

Washington's high-scoring trio of Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas are expected to be in the mix, along with Cleveland's Daniel Gibson and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Today's scoring wager would have been even tougher if the Lakers had not completed a sweep over Denver on Monday.

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who last week scored 49 points in a playoff game, would have been a heavy favorite with the Nuggets' Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony also getting great odds.

------

Atlanta may have evened its series against the Celtics at 2-2, but that hasn't changed the Hawks' numbers when it comes to winning the Eastern Conference title, according to oddsmakers.

The Hawks have the worst odds at 90-1, according to Bodoglife.com.

Boston is still listed as the favorite at 4-9, followed by the Detroit Pistons at 3-1. The Orlando Magic and the Cavaliers are next at 13-2.

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Re: Wednesday's NBA Tip Sheet

Wednesday's best NBA bets
COVERS.com

Washington at Cleveland -4½, 191½

The Wizards tried to play tough with LeBron James and he responded by averaging 29.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game as the Cavs jumped out to a big 3-1 series lead. Now it looks like the writing is on the wall for the Wizards. They covered the number in their one decent showing of the series, a 108-72 laugher as 5 ½-point favorites in Game 3, but dropped the cash in the other three games.

"We expect to win the series, and we expect to win [tomorrow]," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan continued. "And coming back here, we're going to play as well as we've played all year in Game 6. And then Game 7, I have no prediction. But by then, I think we'll have the momentum."

Pick: Cavs


Atlanta at Boston -13, 187½

Home court seems to mean everything in this crazy series with Boston and Atlanta both winning and covering on home turf. That’s why oddsmakers have the Celtics set as big 13-point favorites for Game 5 after they covered a pair of 15-point numbers on their home floor to start the series.

But everything’s different now that the Hawks have clawed back into the series. They’ve already managed to get under Kevin Garnett’s skin and held Boston to just 185 points since the club got on the plane after Game 2. Whether it’s a pipedream or not, those two wins made the Hawks believe they can play with the Celtics.

Pick: Hawks

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