NBA News and Notes May 19

NBA News and Notes May 19

Spurs at Hornets Game 7
By Chris David

The 2008 NBA playoffs have witnessed two Game 7 battles played so far and both outcomes were the same. Boston drilled Atlanta 99-65 in the first round and then stepped up again in the conference semifinals with a 97-92 victory over Cleveland.

The Celtics two decisive wins came at home and it's no surprise that the host has not only dominated in the second round of the playoffs, but also in Game 7's.

San Antonio, the defending champions, will be looking to buck the trend on Monday as the club heads to the Big Easy for a Game 7 matchup against New Orleans.

This Western Conference semifinal contest will be the 100th Game 7 in NBA playoff history. In the first 99 battles, the home team owns an 80-19 (80.8%) record.

Only 19 teams have been able to notch a victory away from home and the last two teams (Utah, Dallas) both came from the Western Conference.

San Antonio owns an all-time 2-2 record in Game 7 contests, beating Detroit in the 2005 NBA Finals was its most recent victory. New Orleans has never won a Game 7 battle since it moved to Louisiana, nor has it ever advanced to the conference finals either. When the franchise was in Charlotte, the Hornets lost to the Bucks in seven games of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Experience definitely sides with the Spurs in Monday's matchup. "Big Shot" Bob Horry owns an eye-opening 6-2 career mark in Game 7's while veteran Michael Finley has gone 3-1 as well. Only one Hornets player, Mike James, has been able to notch a Game 7 victory in his career.

Trends definitely favor the home team based on past history and recent occurrences as well. This best-of-seven battle has lacked drama in every game, with the home team going 6-0 both straight up and against the spread in all six tilts. Plus, all of the triumphs have been by double digits.

Digging into the numbers deeper, the series has been all about the second half.

The Hornets outscored the Spurs by 23, 19 and 25 points in their three home games. Meanwhile, Greg Popovich's team has countered with second-half advantages of 8, 7 and 12 points against New Orleans at home.

It's apparent that momentum has helped both teams at home and hard to argue against it come Monday.

Oddsmakers have taken notice, making the Hornets four-point favorites for Game 7. The total has been lowered to 182 after watching the 'under' cash in three consecutive games.

Total players have watched the 'under' go 3-2-1 in the first six games but 'over' backers have certainly been teased of late. In the previous three games that went 'under' the total, the Hornets and Spurs combined for 97, 91 and 109 points in the first halves.

Unfortunately, possession basketball and poor shooting took over, which resulted in second half performances that saw 83, 89 and very-low output of 70 points in Game 6.

Only the L.A. Lakers and Detroit have been able to win road games in the second round and both teams have enjoyed breaks for the conference finals. The home team stands at 22-2 SU and 16-7-1 ATS after the first 24 battles.

With Game 6 being played on Thursday, both teams have had the luxury to get some rest. The Hornets are 6-2 both SU and ATS on three days rest, while the Spurs own a 5-4 SU and 4-5 ATS ledger in the same situation.

The Hornets' David West (back) is listed as 'probable'.

Tip off for Game 7 is set for 8:35 p.m. EDT, with TNT providing national coverage.

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Hornets' magical season, or Spurs' defense, to end
May 18, 2008

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -Jannero Pargo spun through the air on a one-handed dunk attempt, stuffed himself on the front rim and fell backward onto the court while his New Orleans Hornets teammates buckled over in laughter.

Tyson Chandler, showing no lingering effects from a foot injury last Tuesday, quickly grabbed a ball and mocked the whole sequence - fall included.

If the young Hornets are nervous about Monday night's Game 7 against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, it didn't show after practice on Sunday.

Chandler joked that having three days off after Thursday's Game 6 loss helped his conditioning because he was able to spend more time with his 2-year-old daughter.

``She may be a little tougher to chase around than Tim Duncan,'' Chandler said. ``She's been a handful out there - no disrespect to Tim Duncan. He knows he's my guy.''

No Hornets team has advanced to a conference finals in the 20-year history of the franchise. However, this squad, led by first-year All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, already has led the organization to new heights, including a franchise-record 56 victories in the regular season.

That mark earned the Hornets the second seed in the Western Conference and what seems to be an all-important home advantage in this second-round series. The home team has won every game by double digits. The Hornets have yet to lose in six home playoff games during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

``We knew it was going to be a long series, the type of team we're dealing with,'' said West, whose sore back didn't stop him from scrimmaging on Sunday and apparently won't keep him out of the lineup on Monday night.

``The reason we fought out games throughout the regular season was to be able to have a Game 7 on your home floor. We've been able to do that, so we've got to take advantage of the opportunity we have.''

This is also the first time the Hornets have faced elimination in these playoffs, something the Spurs overcame in Game 6 in San Antonio, when the Spurs blew out the Hornets, led by Manu Ginobili's 25 points.

``You've just got to be very focused, knowing that you can't blink, that you can't let the other team get on a run, get confident on a run,'' said Ginobili, who made six 3-pointers in Game 6. ``It's going to be a really tense game with a lot of adrenaline. Fans are going to be going nuts. So it's going to be a very fun game to play.''

Although the Spurs have won four NBA titles in the previous nine seasons, they've never won two back-to-back. They've also never fought back from a 2-0 playoff series deficit, which they had early on in this series. The Spurs were beaten soundly in their previous three games in New Orleans, but in none of those games was their season on the brink as it is now. Whether added urgency makes San Antonio a better road team remains to be seen.

``We'll see if we thrive on pressure after Monday's game. We still don't know,'' Ginobili said. ``It's a great test for both teams. A lot of pressure, as I said before, and we're going to try to be the ones that respond to that pressure the best way.''

While the Hornets appear loose and jovial, there was a poignant moment Sunday when coach Byron Scott gathered players in a huddle and told them he wasn't ready to close the book on what has been a special season.

There has been a certain magic about the Hornets this season, their first full-time campaign in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

Paul and West both made their All-Star debuts in the same season that New Orleans hosted the popular exhibition of basketball's elite, then led the Hornets to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The team incorporated the city's fleur-de-lis symbol into its logo and backed it up by helping with rebuilding projects all over town while offering performances worth cheering on the court.

The New Orleans Arena, often half-empty back in November and December, has been routinely sold out since midseason. Indeed, a city of world-renown culinary distinction now has an undeniable appetite for pro basketball, if only the Hornets can serve up another round of the playoffs.

``I don't want today to be our last practice,'' Scott said Sunday. ``I don't want tomorrow to be our last shootaround. I just felt I needed to let them know and hopefully they feel the same way.''

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NBA PLAYOFFS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(3) San Antonio (7-4, 5-5-1 ATS) at (2) New Orleans (7-4, 6-5 ATS)


After three days off, this best-of-7 semifinal finally plays the do-or-die Game 7 when the defending champion Spurs head to the Big Easy to take on the upstart Hornets inside New Orleans Arena.

San Antonio forced this decisive contest with Thursday’s 99-80 victory in Game 6, easily cashing as a seven-point home chalk. The Spurs shot 49.4 percent from the floor and Manu Ginobili hit six 3-pointers en route to a 25-point night, while Tim Duncan added 20 points and 15 rebounds.

The home team, just like the semifinals in both conferences, has dominated this series, as each squad is a perfect 3-0 SU and ATS in its building. Not only that, but all six contests have been double-digit routs with an average margin of victory of exactly 18 points per game. In fact, nine of the 10 battles this season have been double-digit blowouts, with the lone exception being San Antonio’s nine-point home win in late February.

The overall season series is now tied 5-5. And since the visitor won the first two clashes in the regular season, the home team has taken the last eight both SU and ATS. Also, the straight-up winner is 14-2 ATS in the last 16 head-to-head contests, including 10-0 ATS this year. Finally, the favorite is 13-4 ATS in the last 17 meetings, with the chalk cashing in all six in this playoff series.

Byron Scott’s Hornets sport a bunch of positive ATS trends, including 44-22-1 overall, 37-15-1 after a SU loss, 20-7-1 as a favorite, 9-0-1 as a favorite of less than five points, 22-7 as a home favorite, 8-1 as a playoff favorite and 6-2 after three or more days off. On the downside, New Orleans is just 4-8 ATS in its last 12 conference semifinal games.

Gregg Popovich’s Spurs really enjoy having some extra rest, going 20-9 ATS in their last 29 after having three or more days off. However, the rest of San Antonio’s ATS numbers are all negative, including: 1-8 on the road, 1-6 as an underdog (all on the road), 0-5 as a playoff underdog of less than five points (0-3 in this series in that role) and 3-14 as an underdog of less than five points.

The over was 2-0-1 in the first three games of this series, but the last three have stayed under the total, including Thursday’s contest falling five points short of the 184-point line. The under is also 10-4-1 in San Antonio’s last 15 as an underdog of less than five points, 18-8-1 in its last 27 against Southwest Division foes and 6-1-1 in the Spurs’ last eight after have three or more days off.

Conversely, for New Orleans, the over is on runs of 8-3-1 in the conference semifinals, 5-2-1 as a favorite, 10-2-1 coming off a double-digit defeat and 18-8-3 as a home favorite. For the Spurs, the over is on streaks 9-4-1 with them as a ‘dog, 7-2 following an ATS win, 11-4-1 as a playoff ‘dog of up to 4½ points, 4-2-1 on the road and 13-7-1 in the conference semifinals.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NEW ORLEANS and OVER

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Rivalry renewed: Pistons-Celtics Part 8
May 18, 2008

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - The Detroit Pistons are not worried about rest making them rusty heading into the Eastern Conference finals.

``We still got that fire under our butt,'' Rasheed Wallace said Sunday night.

The Pistons resumed practicing after taking two days off, starting a workout just as the Boston Celtics were finishing off the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston won an NBA-high 66 games during the regular season and Detroit was second with 59 wins, giving the Celtics home-court advantage starting with Game 1 on Tuesday night.

``I guess it's what everybody wanted,'' said Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, heading into his featured matchup with Paul Pierce, who scored 41 in Game 7 against the Cavs.

The Celtics will also be at home Thursday night before the series shifts to The Palace for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday nights. Detroit did not have home-court advantage the last two times it won the conference finals in 2004 and 2005.

``Before the year people thought it'd be us and Detroit in the Eastern finals,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ``And, we believed that, too.''

Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups said his right hamstring is 100 percent healthy. He was sidelined for the last two-plus games of the second round against the Orlando Magic.

``I'm ready to go,'' Billups said.

Boston and Detroit have met seven times in the playoffs, with the Celtics winning four times, most memorably in 1987 when they made their last NBA finals appearance.

In that matchup, Larry Bird famously stole an inbounds pass from Isiah Thomas and passed to Dennis Johnson for a game-winning layup in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics won Game 7 after Detroit's Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson knocked each other out of the game with on a head-colliding play.

The Celtics and Pistons met five times between 1985 and 1991, with Detroit winning three matchups, advancing to the NBA finals for the first time in 1988 and winning back-to-back titles in 1989-90.

``It's good for the league and the ratings with all the historical battles that took place, but we're trying to make our own legacies,'' Pistons reserve Lindsey Hunter said. ``We're trying to get another title and be considered a dynasty.''

Pistons president Joe Dumars said he wasn't interested in reminiscing about his playing days with the Bad Boys against the Bird-led Celtics because those stories are irrelevant to his players.

``These guys have no history with the Boston Celtics,'' Dumars said. ``For them, it's the team that is standing between us and the NBA finals.''

Boston advanced past Detroit in 2002 en route to its last appearance in the conference finals and Pierce is the only current player who played in that series.

The Pistons played in the next five conference finals, winning the NBA championship four years ago.

``We know what's at stake and they know what's at stake,'' Wallace said. ``The only difference is we've done it before.''

Boston's first regular-season home loss was to the Pistons, but the Celtics won the next two meetings.

Detroit beat the Celtics 87-85 on Dec. 19 as Billups made two free throws with 0.1 seconds left, giving him 12 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter.

Boston drafted Billups No. 3 overall in 1997 and he bounced around the league - including a stop in Minnesota, where he was a teammate of Kevin Garnett - before becoming an All-Star and MVP of the 2004 NBA finals with the Pistons.

``Chauncey's one of the best clutch players in the league,'' Garnett has said.

The Celtics won the rematch 92-85 on Jan. 5 at The Palace. The Celtics extended their winning streak, which started after losing to Detroit at home, to nine games and ended Detroit's run at 11.

Boston and Detroit entered that game with a combined winning percentage of .844, the third highest in the shot clock era after at least 30 games. Rookie Glen Davis scored a career-high 20 points, becoming the first player other than Boston's Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen to lead the team in scoring.

The Celtics beat Detroit 90-78 on March 6 at home, becoming the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason after missing it the previous two years.

``Any time you play another elite team it will be a playoff atmosphere. All three felt like that,'' Billups said after the third and final regular-season matchup. ``It was very physical. That's what we like to do. That's great basketball and all games should be like that.''

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Monday’s best NBA bet
COVERS.com

San Antonio at New Orleans -4, 182

The most important factor for Monday’s game is likely David West’s health. West aggravated a back injury in Game 6 when Robert Horry caught him with a hard backside screen. West left the game and didn’t return as the Spurs rolled to an easy win, forcing a Game 7 back in New Orleans.

Now West’s back is a concern, along with Tyson Chandler’s foot.

"Took a pretty good shot in the back," New Orleans coach Byron Scott told reporters on Saturday. "Maybe it's a good thing that Game 7 is on Monday. It gives him a chance to get some rest - get that back together. Same thing with Tyson (Chandler) and his foot."

Then again, giving an experienced team like the Spurs another chance when you had them on the ropes is never a good idea. So what’s it going to be? Youth and enthusiasm or age and experience?

Pick: San Antonio

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Monday NBA Playoff Gameday

Chris Paul and the Hornets will be looking to finish off the defending-champion Spurs when the two teams meet in Game 7 action on Monday. Here is your playoff gameday:

San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Hornets


How big of an advantage has home court been in this Western Conference second-round series? Well, the road team is a combined 0-6 in this best-of-seven set. New Orleans got things rolling with consecutive wins at home in Games 1 and 2, but San Antonio tied up the series with back-to-back wins on their own court in Games 3 and 4. A 101-79 blowout home win by the Hornets in Game 5 put them back in control of the series, but the Spurs responded with a 99-80 home victory in Game 6 on Thursday night. Manu Ginobili led the way for San Antonio with 25 points in that contest, while Tim Duncan picked up 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Tony Parker chipped in with 15 points. Paul had a team-high 21 points in the loss for New Orleans, while Tyson Chandler had 14 points. David West (sore back) is probable for the Hornets on Monday.

The oddsmakers like New Orleans' chances of knocking out San Antonio on Monday, as they were opened as 3.5-point home favorites. The contest's total opened at 182.5.

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NBA Today

San Antonio at New Orleans (8:30 p.m. EDT). The defending champions play Game 7 on the road, where the Hornets have not lost at home this postseason.

STAR

-Paul Pierce, Celtics, scored 41 points to lead Boston to a 97-92 victory over Cleveland.

CELTIC PRIDE

Paul Pierce scored 41 points, hit two clinching free throws with 7.9 seconds left and Boston beat Cleveland 97-92 on Sunday to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference finals. The conference finals begin Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons in Boston, where the Celtics have won 14 straight games and are 8-0 in the postseason.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

LeBron James scored 45 points on 14-of-29 shooting in Cleveland's 97-92 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.

SPEAKING

``We both tried to will our team to victory and, just like Dominique Wilkins, I ended up on the short end and the Celtics won again. I think the second round of the postseason, Game 7, these fans will finally have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins did and remember what Paul and LeBron did.'' - LeBron James after Cleveland's 97-92 loss to Boston on Sunday on a matchup between Bird and Atlanta's Wilkins 20 years ago. James finished with 45 points and Paul Pierce had 41 to lead the Celtics.

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