NBA News and Notes June 15

NBA News and Notes June 15

Celtics-Lakers, Game 5
By Brian Edwards

For the first time since 1986, Boston (81-25 straight up, 64-40 against the spread) is on the cusp of capturing an NBA title. To do so, it will have to beat Los Angeles on Sunday night at the Staples Center.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the Lakers as six-point favorites with a total of 190. As of Saturday night, most books had L.A. listed as a seven-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 191. Gamblers can back the Celtics to win outright for a plus 260 return (risk $100 to win $260).

Doc Rivers’ team has covered the number in all four games in the NBA Finals. In fact, the Celtics have taken the cash in all six head-to-head meetings against the Lakers this season.

Boston took a 3-1 series lead thanks to Thursday’s thrilling comeback win by a 97-91 count. The Celtics, who pulled off the biggest rally in Finals history after trailing by as much as 24 in the first half, hooked up their backers as 7 ½-point underdogs. Even better, they produced a plus 280 payout for money-line players.

Boston’s road woes from early in the playoffs are a thing of the past. After losing all six road assignments to Atlanta and Cleveland in Rounds 1 and 2, the Celtics have won three of their last five road games, posting a 4-1 spread record in the process.

The only negative for the C’s right now is their health, but the extra day of rest between Games 4 and 5 should help their cause. Rajon Rondo sprained his ankle in Game 3 and was limited to 17 minutes of play in Game 4. Kendrick Perkins left Game 4 with a shoulder injury, and his status for Sunday remains in question.

Los Angeles (70-31 SU, 57-41 ATS) is healthy from a physical standpoint, but you have to wonder about the team’s mental frame of mind following Thursday’s improbable outcome. The Lakers played their best basketball in the first half, leading by 21 at the end of the first quarter and by 18 at intermission.

Lamar Odom, who had been struggling throughout the series, was setting the tone with ferocious play on both ends of the floor. Hell, the Lakers even got a running 3-pointer from Jordan Farmer to bank home off the glass to beat the buzzer before halftime.

This series had 2-2 written all over it with the Lakers seemingly in control of momentum. However, Boston decided not to mail it in. Rivers made a defensive adjustment, putting Paul Pierce on Kobe Bryant in the second half.

A pair of reserves – Eddie House (11 points) and James Posey (18 points and tenacious defensive play – came up huge in the second half. House’s 18-foot jumper with 4:05 left gave the Celtics their first lead of the game.

At crunch time, Kevin Garnett took Pau Gasol off the dribble for a huge bucket at the 2:11 mark. Posey and Ray Allen inserted the dagger with a 3-pointer from the left wing and a sweet lefty layup, respectively.

The 188 combined points in Game 4 slipped ‘under’ the 191½-point total. The ‘under’ is now 3-1 in the Finals.

The ‘under’ is on a 12-6 run for the Celtics in their last 18 games. They have watched the ‘under’ go 59-46 overall this year, 29-23 in their road outings. As for the Lakers, they have watched the ‘under’ hit at a 54-46 overall clip, 26-24 in their home games.

Phil Jackson’s squad had won 15 in a row at home before Thursday’s defeat. Nevertheless, the Lakers are 39-12 SU and 26-24 ATS at home for the season.

Tip-off for Game 5 is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Boston owns a 34-18 SU record and a 31-20 spread mark on the road this year.

--Most books have had Posey and Sasha Vujacic matched up in prop wagers involving points scored. In each game, Vujacic has been a short ‘chalk’ in the 2-3 point range. Gamblers won prop bets on Vujacic in Game 1 (8-5) and Game 3, when the Slovenian product erupted for 20 points. But Posey was the play in Games 2 and 4, so this prop has been a split so far. Most books had yet to release prop numbers as of Saturday night.

--Ray Allen endured the worst shooting slump of his career during the early stages of these playoffs. The UConn product was taking criticism galore, not only for his shooting woes but his defense (or lack thereof). Remember, the Hawks’ Joe Johnson was abusing Allen in the first round, especially at winning time in Atlanta’s three home wins.

But the shooting slump has been put to bed, as has the criticism of his defense. Allen has been sensational in the Finals, scoring a team-high 20 points per game while also crashing the boards for six rebounds per contest. Most importantly, as Bryant’s primary defender, he’s limited Kobe to 26.8 PPG and a mediocre 43.2 field-goal percentage. Both of those numbers for Bryant are well below his season averages.

--Please check back Sunday for more nuggets about Game 5 props. Also, bettors can check out my Game 5 pick pack by clicking here. I have a 4-1 record in the Finals and have cashed tickets at an 8-4 clip since May 22, leading "dime players" to $4,500 of profit thanks to a couple of money-line winners on underdogs.

vegasinsider.com.

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NBA FINALS

(1) Boston (15-9, 12-12 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (13-6, 10-8-1 ATS)


Just one win away from their 17th NBA championship – and first in 21 years – the Celtics look to close out the Lakers when the two meet for Game 5 of their best-of-seven championship series at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Boston fell behind by 21 points at the end of the first quarter of Game 4 Thursday and found itself down by as many as 24 before mounting a furious second-half rally en route to a 97-91 road win as 7½-point underdogs. The Celtics, now up 3-1 in the series, outscored the Lakers 57-33 in the second half to get the victory. No team in NBA history has rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the crown.

Five Celtics scored in double figures Thursday, led by Paul Pierce’s 20 points, but the 29 combined points from reserves James Posey and Eddie House proved to be the key as they shot 6-for-12 from beyond the 3-point line. In defeat, Los Angeles saw all five starts score in double figures, but start Kobe Bryant had just 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting.

Boston is perfect at the betting window in the Finals (4-0 ATS) and has cashed in five straight games and six of its last eight dating to the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit. Los Angeles, conversely, is 0-4 ATS in the Finals and has followed an 8-1-1 ATS run by going just 4-6 ATS in its last 10.

The Celtics are now 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS against the Lakers this season (3-0 ATS at Staples). Prior to covering the spread in the last six battles, Boston had gone 1-7 ATS against Los Angeles.

Even with Thursday’s win and cover, Doc Rivers’ Celtics are still just 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS on the highway in the playoffs. But they are on positive pointspread runs of 6-0 against the Pacific Division, 13-2 against the Western Conference (6-0 last six), 4-1 on Sunday and a lengthy 26-11-1 in their last 38 games following a spread-cover. Boston is also 10-2 ATS this year as an underdog of three points or more.

The Lakers, who had won 15 consecutive home games before Thursday’s loss, are 9-1 SU and 6-4 ATS in playoff games at Staples this year. They are also 8-4 ATS in their last 12 at home dating to the regular season. On the flip side, Los Angeles is mired in pointspread funks of 0-8-1 in the NBA Finals, 0-7 against the Eastern Conference, 0-5 against the Atlantic Division and 1-7 at home against teams with a winning road record.

Game 4’s 188-point total fell just short of the 191½-point line, making the under now 3-1 in the Finals (2-0 in L.A.). Meanwhile, the under is on streaks for Boston of 6-2 overall and 7-0 on the highway. For Los Angeles, the under streaks include 8-1 overall and 5-0 at home. However, the over is still 11-6 in the Lakers’ last 17 battles against Atlantic Division foes.

ATS ADVANTAGE: BOSTON

GAMETIMEPICKS.COM

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NBA Finals, Game 5
Covers.com

Boston at Los Angeles Lakers - 7 190½

What do you do when you blow the largest lead in NBA Finals history? Well, after you’re done drowning your sorrows, you have to figure out how to fix what broke down.

So what exactly is the problem they need to fix?

Nobody in Los Angeles seems to know … which could be a problem in itself.

"I'm sorry, I have no explanation for what happened tonight," Vladimir Radmanovic said after the game.

Phil Jackson apparently had no explanation either since he decided to cancel Friday’s workout and allow his players to physically and emotionally recover from the humiliating collapse.

Anyone who watched the game knows that the only fix for the Lakers’ problem is if they somehow grow a set before Sunday’s tip-off. There is no excuse for a team, in that situation, with the NBA Finals on the line, to go soft and simply quit playing long before the game is over.

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom took heat early in the series about being (as ESPN commentator/preacher Stephen A. Smith put it) “soft as tissue paper.” They had almost managed to shed the label with strong performances in the first half, but when they combined for six points in the crucial fourth quarter, they proved their detractors right.

Sasha Vujacic, whose defensive play had been praised throughout the playoffs, also melted in the second half and he looked more like a bull fighter than a bullish defender as he olay-ed Ray Allen and gave him a free lane to the hoop for a crucial basket.

"He got me," Vujacic said. "He just beat me to the basket. I was afraid to foul him. He just got me."

The Celtics, on the other hand, showed that they are fighters. They refused to buckle under the weight of a 24-point deficit in an unfriendly building. They rallied behind stout defense and aggressive offense and now they will be able to ride that momentum into Game 5 while the Lakers continue to lick their wounds.

Pick: Celtics

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NBA Finals Gameday

The Los Angeles Lakers couldn't hold on to a huge lead on Thursday night, and as a result the Boston Celtics will get a chance to claim the championship on Sunday night.

Los Angeles entered Thursday's Game 4 with a chance to tie up the best-of-seven NBA Finals at two games piece. The Lakers had forced their way back into the set with an 87-81 home win in Game 3 on Tuesday night. Kobe Bryant was finally a force in that contest, scoring a game-high 36 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the big victory.

That made the Lakers big favorites to get a second straight home win in Game 4, and they certainly played like the better team in the first quarter. Led by a strong opening frame from maligned forward Lamar Odom, the Lakers got out to a quick 35-14 lead before many of the Los Angeles fans even had a chance to settle into their pricey seats.

From there, though, it was all downhill for Bryant and company. The Celtics played their opponents almost even in the second quarter, and then outscored them 31-15 in the third frame. That still had Los Angeles in the lead heading into the fourth quarter, but the Lakers could not hold back the Celtics' offense and eventually fell by a score of 97-91.

Paul Pierce poured in a game-high 20 points in the win for Boston, while also picking up seven assists. Ray Allen was good for 19 points and nine boards on the night, while Kevin Garnett tossed in 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Celtics in the victory

James Posey picked up 18 points off the bench for Boston, while Rajon Rondo was held to just five points in 17 minutes of action - Rondo had been questionable to play in the contest because of a sore ankle. Kendrick Perkins had just two points in 13 minutes on the floor - he had to leave the game in the third quarter because of a strained shoulder.

Bryant was held to just 17 points and 10 assists in the loss, while Pau Gasol picked up 17 points and 10 rebounds. Odom had a team-high 19 points on the night, but 15 of those points came in the first half. Derek Fisher chipped in with 13 points in the defeat.

So now Boston has a commanding 3-1 lead in the series heading into Game 5 on Sunday night (with the tip-off once again set for 9:00pm ET). Still, the oddsmakers think the Lakers have at least a little bit of life left in them, as they were opened as 7-point home favorites to force a Game 6. The total for the contest was opened at 190.5 points.

If the Lakers manage to pull out a victory at home in Game 5 on Sunday the two teams will go back to Boston for Game 6 on Tuesday night. A deciding Game 7, should it come to that, would be played on Thursday night. Los Angeles would make history if they mounted a huge comeback - a 3-1 deficit has never been overcome in the NBA Finals.

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BEHIND THE LINES

Still plenty of proposition bets on NBA Finals


Betting on the Lakers at this point could be a real gamble.

Individual proposition bets connected to this year's NBA Finals have provided numerous opportunities for gamblers willing to look deep into the player matchups between the Lakers and Boston Celtics.

Just check out some of the prop bets sitting on the table for Game 5 at Staples Center.

* Can the Lakers' Lamar Odom repeat his Game 4 performance when he scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Boston's 97-91 victory?

At Sportsbook.com, the combined points and rebounds line on Odom for tonight's game is 22 1/2 with the over and under both at -115.

* Will Boston's Ray Allen, shooting 81.8% from the free-throw line in the Finals, miss a free throw? Yes (+220) or No (-300).

* How many times will the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who attempted 19 free throws in Game 4, get to the free-throw line? Over 10 (even) or Under 10 (-130).

* Will the Lakers' Sasha Vujacic, who had 20 points in Game 3 but only three in Game 4, be a factor?

The over/under total points scored on Vujacic is 8 1/2 with the over "even" and the under at -120.

------

For tonight's Game 5, the Celtics will be going for their fifth consecutive victory against the point spread in the Finals.

In Game 1, Boston was favored by three points and defeated the Lakers, 98-88. In Game 2, the Celtics covered the line as a 1 1/2 -point favorite in a 108-102 victory.

The Lakers won Game 3, 87-81, but Boston covered as a 9 1/2 -point underdog, and in Game 4, the Celtics won by six points after being 7 1/2 -point underdogs.

The Lakers are now 0-6 against the point spread in six games against Boston this season, and the Lakers are 0-8 against the point spread in their last eight NBA Finals games.

With Boston leading 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, the chances of the Lakers bouncing back to win the NBA Finals are not strong.

In updated exact series odds listed at Bodoglife.com, the Lakers are at 5-1 to win the Finals in seven games. The Celtics are at 9-4 to win in five, 6-5 to win in six and 7-2 to win in seven.

In the bet for most valuable player of the Finals, Boston has the top three favorites with Paul Pierce the front-runner with 1-4 odds, followed by Kevin Garnett at 2-1 and Allen at 7-2. Bryant is next with 11-2 odds.

latimes.com

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