NBA News and Notes June 10

NBA News and Notes June 10

Lakers-Celtics, Game 3
By Chris David

The Celtics did exactly what they were supposed to do in the first two games of the NBA Finals, defend home court and head to Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead. Now Boston must answer the bell again and return home with the lead or the title, both tough feats considering the Lakers haven’t lost a game at Staples Center in the postseason.

Boston came out of the gates slow in Game 2, trailing Los Angeles 22-20 after the opening 12 minutes before erupting in the second and third quarters. The Celtics outscored the Lakers by 24 points (63-39) in the middle stanzas, entering the fourth quarter with a comfortable 22-point lead.

The Lakers fell behind 95-71 with less than 8 minutes left on the clock, but used a 31-9 eye opening run to pull within two points (104-102) with just under 40 ticks remaining. Then, Paul Pierce stopped the bleeding with two clutch free throws before coming up with a big block on Sasha Vujacic’s 3-point attempt. James Posey iced the contest with another pair from the charity stripe.

Even though Boston collapsed mentally in the fourth, the team still dominated every facet of Game 2. Offensively, the team shot a blistering 53 percent from the field, including a 9-of-14 from downtown. Plus it’s hard to ignore 38 trips to the free throw line, compare to just 10 free throw attempts for the Lakers.

Los Angeles’ head coach Phil Jackson certainly didn’t shy away from the disparity. “"I'm more struck at the fact that Leon Powe gets more foul shots in 14 minutes of play than our whole team does," Jackson said. "That's ridiculous."

For the second straight game, the Celtics’ bench got the better of the Lakers and the main reason was Powe. The reserve finished with 21 points in less than 15 minutes, including a 9-of-13 performance from the line.

Pierce led the Celtics with 28 points but it was once again Rajon Rondo who played brilliantly. The speedy point guard dished out 16 assists and continued to boggle the Lakers’ Derek Fisher (3-of-8) on the defensive end. The second-year player has 23 assists and 19 points in his first two games in the finals.

Kobe Bryant paced the Lakers with 30 points and eight assists, while Pau Gasol added 17 points and 10 boards. Missing for L.A. so far has been the duties of Lamar Odom, who has averaged 12 points per game and seven boards in the first two battles, both below his season averages.

The 102 points scored by L.A. was the most given up at home by Boston in the postseason but 41 of them came in the fourth quarter. The combined 210 points jumped ‘over’ the closing total of 192 points.

Surprisingly, the Celtics closed as two-point underdogs in Game 2. After the victory, the club now stands at 3-0 both SU and ATS as home ‘dogs this year.

The Lakers face a must-win situation in Game 3 and the oddsmakers have taken that into account, making them 9½-point favorites for Tuesday. Jackson’s team has gone 8-0 straight up and 6-2 against the spread at home in the playoffs with five of the victories coming by double digits.

Tip-off for Game 3 is slated for 9:05 p.m. EDT, with ABC providing national coverage.

CD’s Bonus Notes:

-- The Lakers have dug themselves into a hole that not many teams have been able to come back from, especially in the NBA Finals. Only three teams have captured the championship after losing the first two games in the finals.

-- Miami became just the third team in NBA history to return from an 0-2 deficit to win the NBA Finals in 2006. The 1969 Celtics beat the Lakers in seven games while the 1977 Trail Blazers won four straight to upset the 76ers in six. The Heat are the only team to pull off the feat since the league switched to a 2-3-2 format in 1985.

-- Despite going 2-1 both straight up and against the spread versus Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics went 0-6 both SU and ATS in the first two rounds versus the Hawks and Cavaliers.

-- The Lakers have seen the ‘under’ go 6-1 in their last seven games.

-- Right now, most would figure that the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award would go to Paul Pierce. The former Kansas standout was listed as a 9/2 choice before the series began.

-- Celtics own a 30-0 all-time record in the playoffs when leading a series 2-0.

-- The Lakers are 0-5 in the NBA Finals after losing the first two games.

-- Gamblers looking to back L.A. on the series can catch a generous price of plus-150 (Bet $100 to win $150) at most books.

-- After watching the total hover between 190 and 192 in the first two games, the total for Game 3 has jumped to 196 at some books. Some might view the move as a bit premature, considering both clubs combined for 19 bombs from downtown. The pace for the Lakers (83 shots) and Celtics (68) wasn’t overly fast, just some good ol’ fashioned shooting.

-- The first quarter has gone ‘under’ in both games. Gamblers are looking at a 48-49 spot for Game 3. The second 12 minutes has been the most consistent for ‘over’ players, watching 53 and 54 points posted in the first two contests.

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NBA Today

Boston at Los Angeles Lakers (9 p.m. EDT). The Celtics have a 2-0 lead in the NBA finals thanks to two home wins.

COACHES

Michael Curry will be the Pistons head coach next season after only one year as an assistant. Curry was set be introduced as Detroit's new coach at a news conference Tuesday, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars told The Associated Press. The Pistons and Curry agreed on a three-year deal worth $2.5 million a season. The team holds an option for a fourth season.

STILL LOOKING

Vinny Del Negro has been offered the Chicago Bulls head coaching job, according to a person within the league who is familiar with the situation. Del Negro, the assistant general manager of the Phoenix Suns who has never been a head coach, would take over a team that went from 49 wins to 49 losses and missed the playoffs after making the second round in 2007. The Bulls have the first pick in the draft later this month.

DISHING

Rajon Rondo's 16 assists in Game 2 of the NBA finals Sunday night were the fourth most in Boston history. Only Bob Cousy, who twice had 19, and Dennis Johnson, with 17, had more in a finals game.

WORK CUT OUT

Only three teams have bounced back to win the NBA finals after losing the first two games: the Celtics against the Lakers in 1969, Portland against Philadelphia in 1977, and Miami against Dallas two years ago. Los Angeles trails Boston 2-0 with Game 3 at home Tuesday night.

ROAD WOES

Boston is just 2-7 on the road this postseason heading into Game 3 of the NBA finals Tuesday night in Los Angeles. The Lakers are 8-0 at home in the playoffs and have won 14 straight at the Staples Center dating to the regular season. The Celtics lead the series 2-0.

SWINGS

Lakers center Pau Gasol scored 25 first-half points in the first two games but just seven second-half points as Los Angeles trails 2-0 in the NBA finals against Boston with Game 3 at home Tuesday night.

VIEWERS

Television ratings for the NBA finals are up big from last season. Game 2 on Sunday drew an 8.5 fast national rating on ABC, the network said Monday, an increase of 52 percent from the 5.6 last year for the Spurs-Cavaliers series. The rating is the percentage watching a program among homes with televisions.

SPEAKING

``I know you all go to the games. But if I see any of you with a Lakers jersey on, I'll know who my real friends are.'' - Boston forward Paul Pierce on returning to his Los Angeles hometown to face the Lakers for Game 3 of the NBA finals Tuesday night. The Celtics lead the series 2-0.

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NBA FINALS

(1) Boston (14-8, 10-12 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (12-5, 10-6-1 ATS)


After coming up empty in the first two games of the NBA Finals in Boston, the Lakers find themselves in a must-win situation when they return home to Staples Center for Game 3.

Los Angeles dug itself a 22-point hole after three quarters Sunday before mounting a furious fourth-quarter rally, only to fall short 108-102 as a 1½-point road favorite. Boston, which shot 53 percent from the field in the victory, got 28 points from a gimpy Paul Pierce, while the team’s other two stars, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, each contributed 17 in leading the Celtics to their fourth straight win (3-1 ATS). Also, reserve Leon Powe chipped in 21 points in 14½ minutes for Boston.

Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 30 points in Game 2, while Pau Gasol (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Vlad Radmanovic (13 points, 10 boards) contributed double-doubles for the Lakers, who shot 49.4 percent from the field, including 47.6 percent from the three-point line (10-for-21). However, Los Angeles was on the wrong end of a huge free-throw disparity, shooting just 10 foul shots (and making all 10) to Boston’s 38 attempts.

The Celtics are now 4-0 SU and ATS against the Lakers this season, including a 110-91 rout at Staples Center as a three-point road underdog on Dec. 30 in the only previous meeting this season in Hollywood. Prior to covering the spread in the last four battles, Boston had gone 1-7 ATS against Los Angeles. Finally, the host is on a 4-1 ATS roll in this rivalry.

The Lakers have lost consecutive games for just the second time in this postseason. They haven’t had a three-game losing skid since falling to the Spurs, Mavericks and Cavaliers in a four-day span in late January – a stretch of 57 contests. Also, Los Angeles has won 14 consecutive home games, going 8-0 SU and 6-2 ATS in the postseason at Staples Center. Going back to the regular season, the Lakers have cashed in eight of their last 10 at home.

Boston is on a 7-2 run, but despite victories at Detroit in Games 3 and 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, Doc Rivers’ squad is just 2-7 SU and ATS on the highway in the playoffs, with the winner covering the spread in each contest.

The Lakers have followed up an 8-1-1 ATS run by going just 4-4 ATS in their last eight. Meanwhile, the Celtics have rebounded from a 2-8 ATS slump with three straight spread-covers – their first three-game ATS winning streak of the playoffs.

The Lakers are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven NBA Finals games and 0-5 ATS in their last five versus the Eastern Conference. After that, however, the recent pointspread trends are nothing but positive for L.A., including 36-18-2 overall, 6-2 after a non-cover, 8-2-1 when playing on one day of rest, 11-3 on Tuesdays and 9-4 as a favorite.

The Celtics are on ATS streaks of 7-1 against the Western Conference (4-0 last four), 4-0 against the Pacific Division, 22-9 as an underdog, 42-18 as a road ‘dog, 7-1 as a ‘dog of five to 10½ points, 11-5 on Tuesdays and 23-11 following a SU win. On the downside, Doc Rivers’ club is just 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games played on one day of rest and 2-6 ATS in its last eight after a spread-cover.

After Game 1 barely stayed under the total, Game 2 flew way over the 191½-point posted price. The total has alternated in each of the last five meetings between these teams, though the over is 6-2 in the past eight clashes at Staples Center.

Meanwhile, the Lakers had a six-game “under” streak snapped on Sunday, but the under is still 5-2 in their last seven at home (3-0 last three) and 4-0 in their last four on one day of rest. For Boston, the under is on streaks of 4-2 overall, 5-0 on the road, 5-1 as an underdog and 4-1 on Tuesday.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE

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NBA Finals Gameday

Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics will be looking to take a stranglehold on the NBA Finals when they travel west for Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

Back in Game 1 last Thursday the Celtics needed a strong defensive effort in the fourth quarter to secure the home victory. Boston held Los Angeles to only 15 points in that frame, tossing in 21 points of their own en route to a 98-88 win and a 1-0 lead in the set.

Sunday's Game 2 was a different story. The Celtics surged ahead in the second and third quarters (outscoring the Lakers 34-20 and 29-19 in those two frames), and then had to hold on in the fourth quarter to get the victory. Los Angeles poured in 41 points in the fourth quarter (compared to Boston's 25), but it wasn't enough in the 108-102 defeat.

Paul Pierce wasn't held back by his sore knee on Sunday - he led the attack for Boston with a team-high 28 points and eight assists. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen each picked up 17 points in the victory, with Garnett grabbing 14 rebounds. Rajon Rondo was good for four points and 16 assists, while Leon Powe surprised with 21 points for the Celtics.

Kobe Bryant improved on his shooting percentage in Game 2 (he went 11-for-23 from the field), and poured in a game-high 30 points in the losing cause. Pau Gasol added 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds, while Vladimir Radmanovic tossed in 13 points and picked up 10 boards. Lamar Odom was held to just 10 points for the Lakers on the night.

The oddsmakers had actually pegged the Celtics as 1-point home underdogs for Game 2, expecting the Lakers to tie up the series on the night. That made it an easy cover for Boston despite their fourth-quarter struggles. The Celtics also covered a 3-point home spread in Game 1, making them 2-0 ATS so far in the Finals. The combined score for Game 2 went OVER the posted total of 190.5 (Game 1 went UNDER the total of 191.5).

Los Angeles opened as a 9.5-point home favorite to get back into this series with a win at home on Tuesday night (tip-off is 9:00pm ET). The total was opened at 195.5 points. Only three teams in league history have managed to win the title after being down 0-2.

Both Pierce (sore knee) and center Kendrick Perkins (sprained ankle) had been listed as questionable to play on Sunday night, but they both still found themselves in the starting lineup. Perkins, though, played just over 13 minutes in the contest, scoring seven points. Celtics reserve guard Sam Cassell sprained his wrist on Sunday, but is likely to still suit up on Tuesday night. The Lakers are missing only center Andrew Bynum, who has had surgery on his knee and won't be back with the team this season.

Games 4 and 5 of this best-of-seven set are also scheduled to be played in Los Angeles - they'll take place on Thursday and Sunday (if necessary). Should the Lakers extend the series Games 6 and 7 would be played back in Boston next Tuesday and Thursday.

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Tuesday’s best NBA bet
By COVERS.com

Boston at L.A. Lakers -9½  195½

Oddsmakers had Los Angeles favored in Boston for Game 2, only to see the Lakers trail by 24 before making a late run with about eight minutes left in the fourth to make the final score respectable.

Now, despite Boston’s dominance for the first part of the series, Los Angeles is set as a big favorite again for Game 3. This time the Lakers have home court on their side, but you have to wonder how much difference that will make if Boston keeps getting great support for its Big Three.

Rajon Rondo and Leon Powe stepped up on Sunday and the Lakers still couldn’t crack the Celtics’ secret on defense. L.A. will get a little more love from the officials now that the series has shifted sites after the Lakers shot just 10 free throws compared to the 38 attempts Boston had in Game 3.

That won’t make much difference if the Lakers don’t start defending better in their end and figure out something to get Kobe Bryant more room at the other end of the floor. Boston is swarming Kobe as soon as he touches the ball to keep him confined to the outside, so L.A.’s frontcourt needs to set better screens for him to see if he can get to the rim and the free throw line.

Of course, that’s easier said than done against Boston’s defense. The Celtics are riding a ton of momentum and have a solid defensive game plan in place to deal with Los Angeles’ big scorers. Unless the Zen Master can scheme up something to drastically change the series now that the Lakers are back on home turf, they could be in serious trouble.

Pick: Celtics

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BEHIND THE LINES

Lakers' rally in Game 2 makes things interesting


L.A. is favored in Game 3 with a line ranging from eight to 9.5 points. However, money has flowed in the direction of the Celtics.

It's difficult to determine the impact of the Lakers' fourth-quarter comeback in Game 2 had on gambling, but it's safe to say it has made things interesting.

Although Boston won, 108-102, the Lakers' ability to rally late in the game from a 24-point deficit has had a major effect on point-spread and money-line bets for tonight's Game 3 of the NBA Finals, which is at Staples Center.

The Lakers opened as favorites with a line ranging from eight to 9.5 points, but money has flowed in the direction of the Celtics.

"We opened with the Lakers at 9.5 and 196 [over/under combined points total], with a money line of Lakers at -700 and the Celtics at +500, which is a little higher than usual due to the circumstances of the Lakers being down 2-0," said Jeff Sherman, the race and sports assistant manager at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"Early money has come in on Boston, which moved the Celtics' moneyline to +450 and the Lakers' to -600."

TheSpread.com's betting chart, a consensus of public wagers made against the point spread for Game 3, had Boston receiving 63% of the bets as of Monday night.

Wagerline.com had the Celtics getting 64% of the picks against the spread.

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