NBA News and Notes May 8

NBA News and Notes May 8

Cleveland at Boston, Game 2
By Josh Jacobs

It wasn’t the best of nights for Cleveland’s LeBron James. The Cavaliers’ superstar and center piece of the team shot a deplorable 2-of-18 from the field (0-of-6 from three point territory), scoring just 12 points in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinal.

For the Celtics, home court advantage and an inspiring display by Kevin Garnett helped secure the ‘W’ in Game 1. Even with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen non-existent on offense (Pierce logged four points in 29 minutes of action, while Allen failed to score one bucket - the first time in his playoff career), Boston turned to Rajon Rondo (15 points) and veteran Sam Cassell (13 points) to help fill the void in the box score.

Cleveland wasn’t without Zydrunas Ilgauskas attempting to keep the team in the game. The Russian born center was regulated to cleanup duties on the board, grabbing 12 rebounds. Ilgauskas was the high scorer for the Cavs, finishing the losing effort with 22 points (8-of-18 from the field).

With the Celtics taking the 76-72 win, the Cavs were still able to clear the 10-point spread. The depleted total of 148 points registered as an ‘under’ play, well below the set 181 ½ points

Most books have now opened Boston as a nine-point favorite in Game 2. Given the low scoring effort by both teams on Tuesday, a total of 177 has been adjusted for this contest. In their last 10 meetings together, the installed total has never dipped below the 181 ½ mark.

The Celtics are now 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread at home during the playoffs, while the ‘under’ has paid out nicely with a 4-1 frequency. This ‘under’ trend is now on a three-game run when playing in Boston.

Speaking of home court advantage, the Celtics set a new record on Tuesday by allowing opponents an average of 76 PPG in the first five home contests during the playoffs. But this is a double-edge sword. The Celtics are only averaging 97 PPG inside “The Garden” during the postseason (ranked 10 of 16 playoff contenders). But Boston need not worry as a +21-point difference has been astronomical in playoff action.

Even with Cleveland’s lack of offensive production (96.4 PPG during the season – 24th worst in the NBA), it’s easy to overlook this squad’s tough defensive mentality. In the first round win over Washington, the Cavaliers suffocated the Wizards, allowing just 92.2 PPG.

Cleveland salvaged two wins out of five in head-to-head matches with Boston during the regular season, but was able to reimburse gamblers with a 4-1 ATS record.

The Cavaliers where responsible for shooting 40.2 percent from the field versus the Celtics during the same five-game stretch. What backers should realize is that Cleveland was much worse at hitting baskets in Boston, averaging 34 percent from the field. The Celtics on the other hand where a tad more reliable, draining 46.6 percent of their shots.

The Cavs’ last win against the Celtics came on Feb. 5 in a close 114-113 shootout. Two good reason for the win; Boston’s Garnett was in the midst of recovering from an injury that left him out for a total of nine games and five of Cleveland’s personal recorded double-digit scoring figures (James finished with 33 points and 12 assists). This was the only contest during the regular season that books had installed the Celtics as underdogs versus Cleveland (Boston was labeled a ‘dog only 14 times this season).

Boston enters Thursday’s contest, exceeding a total score of 175 points at home 72 percent of the time. It’s not until the total reaches 200 points that the Celtics have struggled to hit the ‘over’ at a rate of 24 percent.

Boston has held opponents to scoring just 86.6 PPG at home this season with a field goal percentage sitting at 40.8 percent.

Overtime Tips

-- The Cavaliers are 27-9-1 ATS in their last 37 road games versus a team with a home winning percentage greater then .600 and are 35-7 ATS in their last 52 games as a road underdog.

-- The Celtics are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games as a home favorite and are 23-9 ATS in their last 32 overall games.

-- Cleveland’s LeBron James and Boston’s Paul Pierce combined to shoot 4-for-32 from the field. A total of 38 turnovers where committed by both teams. James lost the handle 10 times in Game 1, while Pierce was credited for coughing up the rock six times.

-- The underdog is 7-0-1 ATS in the last eight head-to-head contests and the road team is 4-0 ATS in the last four.

-- The ‘under’ is 12-3 in the Cavs last 15 after scoring less then 75 points in their previous game.

-- The Celts are 32-19 SU coming off one day of rest versus the Cavs’ 21-23 SU record.

-- Boston's Ray Allen failed to score a bucket, breaking a streak of 852 games that the guard has scored at least one point.

-- Bodog.com has listed Boston as a 3/2 favorite to take the NBA Championship, while Cleveland is catching heft odds at 22/1.

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Re: NBA News and Notes May 8

Spurs look to bounce back
By Chris David

In the first round of the postseason, San Antonio looked and played like the defending champions against Phoenix. The Spurs won close games, made clutch shots and their offense received great efforts from the trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Unfortunately for San Antonio backers, the club has failed to carry over its effort to the second round and faces a tough 2-0 deficit to New Orleans in the conference semifinals.

The last time the Spurs faced a 0-2 hole was in the 2000-01 postseason when the club dropped two straight to the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. San Antonio could never regroup and was eventually embarrassed and swept by the Purple and Gold, losing Game 3 (39) and Game 4 (29) by double digits.

Fast forward six seasons and three championships later and the Spurs are in the exact same position, except they have a better chance to save face playing at home in the next two battles.

The one knock on Greg Popovich and the Spurs’ dynasty is that the franchise has never been able to capture back-to-back titles. The club has been eliminated in the conference semifinals in each of the two seasons following their championship runs. After watching the first two games against New Orleans, it appears that trend may continue.

Despite losing by 18 and 19 points, the Spurs are now laying 6 ½-points in Game 3.

VegasInsider.com’s top basketball expert Mark Fox (+3,265) believes the Hornets are still getting no respect. Fox said, “The line itself is rather insulting if you look at the last couple home games for the Spurs. San Antonio was laying less at home to Phoenix in the first round and the Hornets have already proven that they’re a tougher matchup.”

The Spurs were laying 4½-points in Game 1 to the Suns and failed to cover in a 117-115 overtime win and then managed to capture a 102-96 victory in Game 2 as 1½-point home favorites. In Game 5’s closeout, San Antonio finished off Phoenix with a 92-87 win but managed a push as a five-point favorite.

Fox added, “A large part of the Hornets’ success this year has been their ability to win outside the Big Easy. They split a pair of games against Dallas in the first round of the playoffs and the only reason they dropped one to the Mavericks was because of a horrible shooting night.”

New Orleans shot a playoff-low 38 percent from the floor in its only postseason loss to Dallas, 97-87.

San Antonio owns a 37-7 straight up and 24-18 against the spread record at home this year, which includes a 3-0 SU and 1-1-1 ATS mark versus Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs.

New Orleans was one of the lucky opponents to escape San Antonio with a win and wound up humbling the Spurs with a 24-point (102-78) road victory. The Hornets have gone 27-16 SU and 26-17 away from home this year.

So how do you handicap Thursday’s showdown from AT&T Center?

San Antonio has lost back-to-back games on six different occasions this year. In the very next game, the Spurs have gone 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS. So while it’s possible they drop three in a row, stats have shown that they have bounced back this season.

If the Spurs want to make a comeback, then they better find an answer for the Hornets’ Chris Paul. The young point guard has combined for 47 points and 15 assists in the first two games, while shooting 50 percent (18-of-36) from the floor.

While Paul has been outstanding, the duo of Duncan (12.5 PPG) and Parker (17 PPG) have been held in check. The Spurs’ offense as a whole has gone missing, posting 82 and 84 points in the first two games.

The Hornets have outscored the Spurs in the second half by 23 points (56-33) in Game 1 and 19 points (60-41) in Game 2. San Antonio did trail at the break in two of its three home games versus the Suns and wound up winning both of those battles.

Game 2 was on Monday, which leaves a two-day break for both clubs and a nice advantage for the Hornets. New Orleans owns an incredible 10-3 both SU and ATS mark on two days rest this year.

The total for Game 3 is listed at 183, which is the same number as the first two games. The combined 186 points in the second battle barley slipped ‘over’ the closing number.

Both teams have been averaging 78 shots per game, which is low compared to league averages. Also, the referees have allowed both clubs to play in the series, with only 43 and 36 free throws attempted in the first two contests.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the series, New Orleans is listed as a minus-400 price to capture the best-of-seven battle. Gamblers looking to back the Spurs to win four of five games can purchase them at 3/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $300).

Tip-off is slated for 9:35 p.m. EDT, with ESPN providing national coverage.

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Re: NBA News and Notes May 8

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(4) Cleveland (4-3, 5-2 ATS) at (1) Boston (5-3, 4-4 ATS)


The Celtics, who escaped with a Game 1 win in a horrible offensive display from both teams, look to maintain home-court advantage in Game 2 against the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers at TD Banknorth Garden.

On Tuesday night, Boston eked out a 76-72 home win but never threatened to cover as a heavy 10-point chalk, continuing its five-game trend of alternating ATS wins and losses. Kevin Garnett was the story for the Celts, scoring 28 points, but Ray Allen was held scoreless and Paul Pierce had just four points, with the duo missing 18 of its 20 shot attempts. Also, Cleveland’s LeBron James had just 12 points and shot 2-for-18 from the floor.

The Celtics had covered the spread in 10 consecutive home games prior to Tuesday’s contest, while Cleveland has now cashed in five of its last seven on the highway (4-3 SU).

Boston is now 3-2 in five meetings this year against Cleveland, but the Cavaliers are 4-1 ATS in those contests (3-0 ATS in Boston). The home team is on a 6-0 SU run, but the road team is 4-0 ATS in the last four, and Cleveland is 8-3-2 ATS in the last 12 clashes, including 5-1-2 ATS in its last seven games in Boston. Finally, in this Eastern Conference rivalry, the underdog is on a 7-0-1 ATS streak.

The Cavaliers are 35-17 ATS in their last 52 games as an underdog, and they have additional positive ATS trends of 4-1 on the road, 4-1 as a playoff underdog, 4-1 after a SU loss and 9-4 in conference semifinal games. On the flip side, Cleveland is 6-14 ATS in its last 20 after scoring less than 75 points, 5-16 ATS in its last 21 after a spread-cover and 1-5 ATS in its past six Thursday games.

The Celtics, despite Tuesday’s effort, are still on a bevy of positive ATS runs, including 23-9 overall, 13-3 at home, 10-3 against the Central Division, 9-3 on one day of rest, 18-7 following a SU win, 16-7 against the East and 18-8 as a favorite. But Boston is in an 0-4 ATS funk in conference semifinal games and is 0-5 ATS in its last five as a playoff chalk of five to 10½ points.

The “under” trends run deep for the Cavaliers, including 10-3 overall, 15-5 as a playoff underdog, 5-0 against the Atlantic Division and 11-1 in conference semifinal playoff games. Meanwhile, the under is 7-2 in Boston’s last nine home games, 5-1 in its last six against the Central Division and 3-0 in three home meetings against Cleveland this year. But the over is 10-4 with Boston as a home chalk of five to 10½.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON and UNDER


WESTERN CONFERENCE

(2) New Orleans (6-1, 5-2 ATS) at (3) San Antonio (4-3, 2-4-1 ATS)

The Hornets, who continued to show that they are no fluke in routing San Antonio in Games 1 and 2 at home, hit the road for Game 3 at the AT&T Center against the Spurs, who quickly find themselves in a must-win situation in this best-of-7 series.

New Orleans followed its 101-82 Game 1 rout with a 102-84 beat-down in Game 2 on Monday, covering as a three-point favorite in both contests. On the day he learned that he finished second to Kobe Bryant in MVP voting, point guard Chris Paul went out and had 30 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in their last four starts. Conversely, the Spurs are in the midst of a 1-3 SU and 0-3-1 ATS slump.

The Hornets now lead the season series 4-2 SU and ATS, winning and covering the last three, with the smallest margin of victory during this stretch coming in the 19-point blowout in Game 1 of this series. New Orleans is 4-1 ATS in the last five clashes, but the home team is on a 4-0 ATS run and the favorite is 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings. Finally, the straight-up winner is 10-2 ATS in the last 12 head-to-head contests.

Byron Scott’s Hornets are in ATS funks of 1-6 as road ‘pups of five to 10½ points, 1-9 on Thursday and 3-7-1 after a spread-cover, but they sport positive ATS trends of 5-2 against the Southwest, 23-10 after a double-digit SU win, 43-20-1 overall, 36-17-1 on two days’ rest and 21-10 catching points.

The Spurs are a middling 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 starts and are on additional pointspread slides of 2-8-1 after a SU loss, 3-7 on two days’ rest, 6-14-1 against Southwest Division rivals and 5-11-1 after a non-cover. But San Antonio is on a 7-0-1 ATS spree as a playoff chalk of five to 10½ points, 14-3-2 ATS as a playoff favorite of any price, 6-2-1 ATS at home and 17-7-1 ATS laying five to 10½ points at home.

For New Orleans, the over is on runs of 7-1-1 in the conference semifinals, 5-1 on Thursday, 26-9 on two days’ rest and 7-3 as a road pup, but the under is 5-0-1 in the Hornets’ last six as a playoff ‘dog and 4-1 in their last five on the road. For San Antonio, the over is on streaks of 7-2-1 overall, 4-1 as a favorite, 12-5-1 in conference semifinal games and 13-6 as a playoff chalk of five to 10½ points, but the under is 16-7-1 in San Antonio’s last 24 against the Southwest Division and 38-17 in its last 55 after a SU loss.

ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN ANTONIO

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Re: NBA News and Notes May 8

Thursday’s best NBA bets
COVERS.com

Cleveland at Boston -9, 177

So Game 1 didn’t exactly turn into the superstar showcase that everybody expected. LeBron James was held to just 12 points on 2-for-18 shooting, while Boston’s Paul Pierce had only four points and Ray Allen was held off the score sheet completely.

It was a weird one, but James still had a chance to tie the game in the final minute and the Cavs easily covered the number. LeBron will bounce back strong in Game 2 and this one should be close down the wire again.

Pick: Cleveland


New Orleans at San Antonio -6½, 183

This series is quickly turning into the Chris Paul Show. The New Orleans point guard followed up a solid Game 1 with a spectacular Game 2, dropping 30 points to go along with 12 helpers.

Numbers like that make Hornets coach Byron Scott’s life a lot easier.

"He runs an 'organized playground'," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters of Scott. "Byron is going to call plays for certain guys to get certain looks, and they do a great job with it, but a good portion of the time, Chris [Paul] takes control with the basketball, and he makes a decision."

Pick: New Orleans

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Re: NBA News and Notes May 8

NBA Today

New Orleans at San Antonio (9:30 p.m. EDT). The Hornets are 5-0 at home this postseason, 1-1 on the road.

STAR

-Rashard Lewis, Magic, scored a career playoff-high 33 points to lead Orlando to a 111-86 win over Detroit.

-Kobe Bryant, Lakers, had 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists in Los Angeles' 120-110 victory over Utah.

SNAPPED

Orlando beat Detroit 111-86 on Wednesday night, ending a nine game playoff losing streak to the Pistons. The streak is tied for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history and dates back to 2003, when Detroit rallied from a 3-1 deficit to advance, and included a 4-0 sweep in the first round last season.

ROLLING

The Los Angeles Lakers beat Utah 120-110 Wednesday to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals and remain the NBA's only unbeaten team in the postseason. The series shifts to Utah for Games 3 and 4 on Friday night and Sunday. The Jazz had an NBA-best 37-4 home record this season, but one of the losses was by 11 points to the Lakers on March 20.

GOOD KNIGHT

Billy Knight will resign as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks in July, despite leading the team to its first playoff appearance in nine years. Knight said Wednesday it was time to ``take a break'' following a season when his authority appeared to be weakened by unsuccessful lobbying with owners to fire coach Mike Woodson.

BASKETBALL WITHOUT BORDERS

The NBA will stage an event in India for the first time this summer, conducting one of its Basketball without Borders camps in New Delhi. The league also announced Wednesday it will return to Turkey and South Africa to run camps, which the league began in 2001. The programs bring together top young players for instruction and competition, along with discussions on HIV/AIDS prevention.

SPEAKING

``I'm at a loss for words, I don't know what to say. I love you guys so much. We're going to play until June. Let's get this party started.'' - Kobe Bryant after leading the Lakers to a 120-110 victory against Utah in game two of the Western Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night. Bryant, who received his Most Valuable Player trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern in a brief ceremony before the game, finished with 34 points.

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