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NBA News and Notes

NBA News and Notes

NBA FINALS

(1) L.A. Lakers (12-4, 10-5-1 ATS) at (1) Boston (13-8, 9-12 ATS)


The Lakers will try to draw even while the Celtics look to take a 2-0 lead when Game 2 of the NBA Finals tips off inside TD Banknorth Garden.

Boston took Game 1 98-88 on Thursday, getting the cash as a three-point home chalk. The Celtics’ defense held Los Angeles to just 15 fourth-quarter points and 41.6 percent shooting from the floor for the game, including 3-of-14 shooting from beyond the 3-point line, and outrebounded the Lakers 46-33. The Celtics got 24 points and 13 rebounds from superstar forward Kevin Garnett and an inspirational 22 points from Paul Pierce who had to be carried from the court in the third quarter only to return and hit momentum-turning 3-pointers later in the quarter.

The Lakers are 12-5-1 ATS in their last 18 starts overall dating to the regular season, but a mediocre 4-3 ATS in their last seven. Meanwhile, even with Thursday’s win and cover, the Celtics have struggled at the betting window throughout the playoffs and are just 4-8 ATS in their last 12 games.

Doc Rivers’ squad has won all three matchups (SU and ATS) between these two rivals this season, with each being a double-digit victory. In addition to the Game 1 triumph, the Celtics won 107-94 at home in November laying eight points and 110-91 on Dec. 30 catching three points in L.A.

Prior to this season, the Lakers had won three in a row and six of eight head-to-head clashes dating to 2003, and despite the three non-covers this year, L.A. is still 7-4 ATS in the last 11 meetings. Also, Phil Jackson’s squad has cashed in five of the last seven battles in Boston, and the road team is 5-3 ATS in the last eight contests.

The Lakers have four road victories in the 2008 playoffs (4-0 ATS), while the Celtics have just one home loss in 12 postseason games. However, since cashing in all four home games of its first-round series against Atlanta, Boston is 2-6 ATS in its last eight on its own floor.

The Celtics, who have 16 NBA championships, and the Lakers, who have 14 titles, have met 10 times previously in the NBA Finals. However, this is their first Finals matchup since 1987, when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson carried the banner for the league. Boston holds a commanding 8-2 edge in championship series, winning the first eight clashes before Los Angeles – behind Johnson during its “Showtime” era – broke through with titles in 1985 and 1987.

The Lakers are 0-5-1 ATS in their last six NBA Finals games. But even with Thursday’s defeat, the recent pointspread trends are nothing but positive from there for L.A., including 36-17-2 overall, 6-1 after an ATS loss and 10-5 against the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics are 6-1 ATS in their last seven against the Western Conference, 8-2 ATS in their last 10 at home against teams with a winning road record, 8-3 ATS in their last 11 on Sunday and 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the Pacific Division. However, Boston is mired in pointspread funks of 1-6 after a spread-cover and 4-7 after a SU win.

Game 1 stayed under the 191½-point total, making the under 6-0 in Los Angeles’ last six games overall, 7-2 in its last nine on the highway, 7-1 in its last eight as a road underdog and 5-1 in its last six as a playoff pup. However, the over is still 5-2 in the Lakers’ last seven against Atlantic Division foes. For Boston, the over is 4-2 in its last six at the Garden, but the under is on runs of 4-1 on Sundays, 5-1 after a SU win and 5-1 when laying less than five points.

Finally, the under is 4-1 in the last five head-to-head matchups in Boston.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

Gametimepicks.com

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Re: NBA News and Notes

Lakers at Celtics Game 2
By Brad Young

This marks the 11th NBA Finals meeting between Boston and Los Angeles, but the first since 1987. This highly anticipated matchup between the two top seeds didn’t disappoint in Thursday’s Game 1, but it will be interesting to see how costly the victory was for the Celtics.

Boston was bitten by the injury bug, with starting forward Paul Pierce (knee) and center Kendrick Perkins (ankle) listed as ‘questionable’ for Game 2. Pierce suffered his injury midway through the third quarter, but returned to action to score 11 points the rest of the way to end up with 22 overall.

The Las Vegas Hilton currently lists Game 2 as a ‘pick,’ with the total set at 190. Boston opened as a slight one-point favorite, with the total listed at 190 ½. The series price is also a coin flip, with both teams listed at -110 to win this series. ABC Sports will provide coverage of Sunday’s Game 2 beginning at 9:05 p.m. ET.

The Celtics took Thursday’s Game 1 as a three-point home ‘chalk,’ 98-88, while the combined 186 points went ‘under’ the 191½-point closing total. The ‘under’ has now cashed in the Lakers’ last five games overall, while the ‘under’ is 4-1 the previous five games for Boston.

Los Angeles had won the first two games of its previous three postseason series until Thursday’s setback. The Lakers can still take control of this series with a victory in Game 2, especially considering the 2-3-2 format of the NBA Finals.

Los Angeles jumped out to a five-point halftime advantage after outscoring the Celtics in the second period (30-23). However, it was all Boston in the second half by outscoring the Lakers in the third (31-22) and fourth quarters (21-15). The Celtics wrapped up the victory by outrebounding Los Angeles, 46-33. The Lakers connected at a 42-percent clip (32-of-77) from the field, and 21 percent (3-of-14) from 3-point land.

Kobe Bryant paced the offense with 24 points and six assists, but was limited to just 9-of-26 shooting from the field including 0-for-3 from behind the arc. Point guard Derek Fisher contributed 15 and six, while forward Pau Gasol added 15 and eight rebounds in the setback.

Boston shot 42 percent (32-of-76) from the field, and 32 percent (6-of-19) from behind the arc. Forward Kevin Garnett stepped up with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting guard Ray Allen added 19, eight and five assists. Veteran Sam Cassell contributed with eight points on 4-of-9 shooting off the bench.

Los Angeles is now 31-18 straight up and 31-16 against the spread on the road, with the ‘under’ going 28-20. The Lakers have dropped their last two games SU and ATS at Boston, but did defeat the Celtics January 31, 2007 as an eight-point road underdog, 111-98. Los Angeles has been winning its road games this year by an average score of 106-101.

Boston sports a robust 46-7 SU and 32-20 ATS home ledger, with the ‘under’ going 30-21. The Celtics have been winning their home endeavors by an average score of 99-87. This marks the first stretch of this postseason that Boston has won three games in a row SU.

vegasinsider.com.

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Re: NBA News and Notes

Game 2 expert betting analysis
By TED SEVRANSKY

The Game 2 lines are set for the NBA Finals, with the Celtics currently sitting as 1 or 1 ½-point favorites (down from -2 ½ or 3 in Game 1).

The total, too, has been adjusted downward. Game 1 saw the total open at 194 and get bet down to 191 ½. For Game 2, as I write this on Friday, we’re looking at a total of 190 ½.

Boston and L.A. played something well short of a classic in Game 1, in large part thanks to an ugly fourth quarter from the Lakers. L.A. appeared to be in excellent position at halftime – Kobe had been a non-factor, but his team still led by five at the break, shooting better than 50 percent from the floor with a 16-4 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Celtics, as a team, blew numerous defensive assignments, leaving L.A. opportunities to drive and dish to open shooters, and the Lakers’ role players – Derek Fisher in particular – were taking advantage of those chances.

The second half was a completely different story. Boston started to hit shots, with Paul Pierce rebounding from his scary looking knee injury to pour in 18 second-half points, allowing the Celtics to withstand a rough shooting half from Kevin Garnett. More importantly, the Celtics played championship level defense: the Lakers’ 16-4 assist-to-turnover ratio in the first half was reduced to a 5-4 assist-to-turnover ratio in the final 24 minutes.

After a mini-run from the L.A. reserves with Kobe on the bench, cutting the Celtics lead to four with about six minutes remaining, the Lakers missed contested shot after contested shot, unable to get untracked offensively.

Boston dominated the glass, finishing with a +13 rebounding differential despite a virtual no-show from starting center Kendrick Perkins, preventing L.A. from getting any second chance opportunities. When Garnett snapped an 0-9 shooting slump from the floor with a resounding putback slam to put Boston up by 10 with less than two minutes remaining, it was clear that the Lakers weren’t going to pull a Game 1 road upset.

The Celtics’ matchup advantages were on center stage throughout the second half. Boston’s home court has been incredibly strong all year long: 35-6 during the regular season, 11-1 here in the playoffs, and the crowd was most assuredly a factor in the Lakers’ second-half meltdown. L.A. struggled to contain Garnett and they were beaten badly on the glass.

But the Lakers enjoyed some matchup edges of their own – edges that weren’t reflected in the final score. Derek Fisher dominated at the point, the Lakers transition defense prevented the Celtics from getting any easy fast break buckets, and Boston, despite their size edge in the paint, spent much of the game taking perimeter jump shots.

In Game 2, we’ll have to see how Paul Pierce is able to respond to that knee injury. Pierce was, without a doubt, the Celtics’ hero on Thursday night, carrying the team on his back, playing with the type of adrenaline rush that made the pain from his knee injury tolerable for the final 17 minutes of the game. But Pierce was seen heavily bandaged, hobbling out of the arena after the game, and his quote tells us something about how this injury might affect him on Sunday:

“I thought I tore something -- that's the way I felt at the time. Usually when I go down, I'm getting right back up, but it was an instance where I turned my knee and it popped, and I was just in pain where I couldn't move.”

L.A. is going to have to make some major adjustments, regardless of Pierce’s health. Since acquiring Pau Gasol in February, the Lakers averaged more than nine made three pointers per game, hitting at a 38.6 percent clip.

In Game 1, L.A. managed only three trifectas for 21 percent. Particularly in the second half, Phil Jackson’s squad was unable to penetrate, failing to create the drive and dish opportunities that set up those three point shots.

Three point specialist Sasha Vujacic: “We’ve just got to play smarter. They played good (defense); their rotation was there at all times.”

The X-factor for Game 2 is most assuredly Kobe Bryant. The reigning MVP was ice cold in the fourth quarter of Game 1, scoring only four of his 24 points in the final stanza.

The last time Kobe played in the NBA Finals, against the Pistons in 2004, he struggled against Detroit’s stellar defense, hitting only 38 percent for the entire five-game series. On Thursday, he connected at a 35 percent clip, unable to break down Boston’s defense off the dribble, settling for contested jump shots repeatedly down the stretch.

Boston was the single best team in the NBA in terms of defensive field goal percentage allowed, and three-point shooting percentage allowed; they were second in the league in terms of points allowed. Here in the postseason, Boston still ranks No. 1 defensively, holding foes to 87 points per game on 42 percent shooting.

The Celtics faced two “superstar” players in the first two rounds of the playoffs – Joe Johnson of the Hawks in the first round and LeBron James of the Cavs in the second round. In each series, the Celtics did a tremendous job of containing those superstars.

Johnson was held to 40 percent shooting against Boston, held under his season average in five of the seven games. LeBron hit only 55 of his 155 shot attempts (35 percent) in seven playoff games against the Celtics. If the Celtics can shut down Kobe again here, the Lakers will be hard-pressed to steal a road victory.

But superstar players are capable of having superstar games, particularly with their backs against the wall, like LeBron did in Game 7 at Boston, or Joe Johnson did in Games 3 and 4 against the Celtics. If Kobe enjoys a “wow” game and Pierce is hobbled, it’ll be the Celtics who are hard-pressed to keep that home-court advantage intact as the series shifts to L.A. for Games 3, 4 and 5.

Totals-wise, the Lakers have been an “under” machine in recent weeks: 6-0 to the under since the start of the Western Conference finals; 11-5 to the under here in the playoffs.

Boston was a particularly strong under team at home during the regular season thanks to their tremendous defensive prowess, and they went 5-1 to the under in their first six playoff games at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Since that time, however, the Celtics are 4-2 to the over at home, scoring at least 96 points in five of those games while allowing more than 94 points per game.

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Re: NBA News and Notes

Despite loss, Lakers are a slight favorite

The gambling response to Boston's 10-point victory over the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals has been mixed.

Although the Celtics won Thursday's game, 98-88, and opened as a one-to-two point favorite to win tonight's Game 2, strong support for the Lakers has forced the line to move.

As of late Saturday afternoon, the Lakers were a one-point favorite, according to the Las Vegas Mirage sportsbook.

Boston, which covered a three-point spread in Game 1, held only a 53% edge in bets against the spread at VegasInsider.com. Wagerline.com’s totals were nearly the same, with the Celtics receiving 51.84% of the picks.

In comparison, action for over-under combined points has been one-sided.

The total of 190 -- higher than Game 1's total of 186 -- has attracted a great deal of bets on the over.

InsideVegas.com’s betting trend has support for the over hovering between 70% and 75% since the line was released.

Bettors should be aware of a couple of trends.

In the playoffs, the Lakers scored 95 or more points in their first five road games but have averaged only 88.3 over their last three away from Staples Center.

Also, the under is 6-0 in the Lakers last six games overall and the under is 4-1 in the last five games between the teams in Boston.

------

In Game 1, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 24 points but needed 26 shots and six points from the free-throw line.

A proposition bet at Sportsbook.com for tonight's game has the over-under total for Bryant's free-throw attempts at 8.5 with the over at (-105) and under at (-125).

Here are several other prop bets connected to Game 2 -- Bryant's total combined points and rebounds: over 34.5 (-115) or under 34.5 (-115); Lakers' Lamar Odom total points: over 14 (-105) or under 14 (-125); and will Boston's Ray Allen miss a free throw? Yes (+220) or No (-300).

latimes.com

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Re: NBA News and Notes

NBA Finals Gameday

The Celtics made a triumphant return to the NBA Finals on Thursday night, and they'll be looking for continued success when they take on the Lakers once again on Sunday.

Boston handled Los Angeles in Game 1 of the championship series 98-88 on Thursday, but the topsy-turvy contest looked like it might go the other way at the break. The Lakers outscored the Celtics 30-23 in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 51-46 advantage. However, Boston had regained the lead by the end of the third quarter, and they held Los Angeles to only 15 fourth-quarter points en route to a 1-0 lead in the set.

Each of Boston's Big Three turned in solid performances in their Game 1 win. Kevin Garnett scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Ray Allen contributed 19 points to go along with eight boards and five assists. Paul Pierce picked up 22 points for Boston in the win despite briefly leaving the contest with a knee injury.

Rajon Rondo went just 4-of-10 from the field for the Celtics on Thursday, but he was still good for 15 points and seven assists in the game. Kendrick Perkins had just one point.

Kobe Bryant poured in 24 points to lead the way for the Lakers, but he went just 9-for-26 from the field (and 0-for-3 from three-point range). Bryant also dished out six assists on the night. Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol each tossed in 15 points in the defeat (with Gasol grabbing a team-high eight rebounds), while Lamar Odom contributed 14 points.

The Lakers will now be looking to crack the tough Celtics defense and grab a road victory in Game 2 on Sunday night (tip-off is 9:00pm ET) to even up the series at 1-1. The oddsmakers, though, think the Celtics will have the advantage once again, as they opened as 2-point home favorites for Sunday. The game's total opened at 190. Boston opened as a +141 underdog to win the series, but that will improve if they win Game 2.

The Celtics are now actually 3-0 against the Lakers this year - they also beat Los Angeles twice during the regular season. In fact, the Lakers have been held under 95 points in all three of their matchups with the Celtics - Boston won 107-94 and 110-91 back in November and December. Betting on Boston against Los Angeles has also been lucrative - the Celtics are 3-0 ATS against the Lakers (with the OU record at 1-2).

The last time the Lakers beat the Celtics in Boston was back on January 31, 2007, when they scored a 111-98 road victory. Los Angeles beat Boston in both of their meetings during the 06/07 campaign, but of course Kevin Garnett was not on the team.

Celtics guard Tony Allen returned from his achilles injury in Game 1, but he didn't see any time on the floor. Perkins sprained his ankle on Thursday and missed the fourth quarter. The bigger concern, though, is Pierce, who suffered a sprained knee. Pierce was able to return and finish Thursday's game, but he could be limited on Sunday night.

Game 3 of this best-of-seven series will be played in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, with Games 4 and 5 also on the west coast (on Thursday and Sunday). Boston would then get to host Games 6 and 7 if necessary (with those games set for the following Tuesday and Thursday). All games in the NBA Finals will get underway at 9:00pm ET.

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