NBA News and Notes Thursday 4/30

NBA News and Notes Thursday 4/30

Magic at 76ers (Game 6)
By Brian Edwards

If Orlando is going to close out the 76ers in Thursday’s Game 6 at Philadelphia, it will have to do so without its perennial All-Star center Dwight Howard. The Magic’s 23-year-old leader was suspended Wednesday for a flagrant elbow that landed on Samuel Dalembert’s forehead.

Also, Orlando rookie guard Courtney Lee is “out” for Game 6 after sustaining a fractured sinus on an inadverdent elbow from Howard. Lee’s status for the rest of the playoffs is a question mark.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the Magic’s 91-78 victory as an 8 ½-point favorite Tuesday was bittersweet. On the bright side, Stan Van Gundy’s bunch covered the number for the first time in the series, while the 169 points stayed well ‘under’ the 188-point total.
   
Howard had a monster game, finishing with 24 points and 24 rebounds. Rashard Lewis had his best game of the postseason with 24 points.

In the losing effort, Andre Iguodala continued his stellar play with 26 points, five rebounds and four assists. Andre Miller had 17 points, six assists and four steals. Willie Green was also in double figures for the 76ers with 16 points.

For Game 6, Las Vegas Sports Consultants was prepared to open Orlando (62-25 straight up, 50-36-1 against the spread) as a 3 ½-point favorite with Howard in the lineup. With him out, LVSC sent out the 76ers as two-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 184. This will be the first time in the series that Philadelphia (43-44 SU, 40-45-2 ATS) has been favored.

Don’t be surprised if things get testy as the 76ers face elimination at Wachovia Center. In the aftermath of Game 5, Philadelphia head coach Tony DiLeo complained that Howard “lives” in the three-second lane on both offense and defense.

Van Gundy wasn’t pleased with DiLeo’s remarks. He implied that DiLeo was simply “lobbying for calls.”

These teams split Games 3 and 4 in the City of Brotherly Love, but the 76ers covered the spread in both spots. The ‘under’ cashed in both games. In fact, the ‘under’ is 4-1 in this series with the lone ‘over’ appearing in Game 1.

Orlando has been a steady money maker on the road all year long. The Magic are 28-15 SU and 26-16-1 ATS when they leave O-town. As for the Sixers, they own a 25-18 SU record and a 20-21-2 ATS ledger at home.

With Lee out of the lineup, J.J. Redick will see increased playing time. The former Duke star averages 5.9 points per game and had six points, two assists and two steals in 29 minutes of playing time in Game 5. He was only 1-for-5 from the floor, however. Nevertheless, his 3-point shooting must be heavily respected as he can stroke it from long range with the best of them.

The ‘under’ is 43-40-4 overall for Philly, 25-16-2 in its home assignments. Meanwhile, the Magic have watched the ‘under’ go 50-37 overall, 22-21 in its road outings.

NBA-TV will have the telecast at 7:35 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Howard is averaging 24 points and 15.8 rebounds in Orlando’s first-round series against the 76ers. After his suspension, Howard told the Associated Press, “I have complete faith in my teammates that they will come out and get the job done [Thursday] night."

--Philadelphia is 7-5 ATS in 12 games as a home underdog this season.

--Boston’s Rajon Rondo was not fined or suspended by the league for his hard foul on Brad Miller in the final second of the Celtics’ overtime win Tuesday in Game 5.

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Thursday's TNT Tip Sheet
By Josh Jacobs

Right off the bat, how much better can a series get then what’s transpired between Chicago and Boston? Not only is this first round matchup, hands down, the most exciting to take place in the 2008-09 playoffs so far but gamblers have enjoyed several avenues of money making trends.

A 4-1 record on the ‘over’ in the five playoff appearances has backed an even stronger 6-1 ‘over’ performance in the last seven head-to-head meetings. And despite losing an emotional Game 5, 106-104 in overtime, the Bulls have been responsible for covering four of the last six meetings with the Celtics.

Returning to Chicago on Thursday, books like Bodog.com have decided to return the home town Bulls as three-point favorites. That’s the exact number that was attached to Chi-Town back in Game 4, ultimately resulting in a 'push' as the final score of 121-118 indicated.

What has changed drastically is the total being lowered to 195 ½. The lowest number published throughout this series was 197 in Game 2. The result of that contest had Chicago’s Ben Gordon draining 42 points and Ray Allen leading his Celtics with 30. The ‘over’ once again was the name of the game as a final score of 118-115 in favor Boston had the final say in this matter.
   
Chicago finds itself on the brink of ending the season while Boston is looking to take a load off for just a moment before it plans on advancing to the conference semifinals.

If there’s indication or evidence of a “sure bet” it must be linked to the three overtime games that have already been produced in the series. The three OTs (a new NBA playoff record) have seen the total score between both clubs averaging a sky high, 219 points. And that’s worked in favor of bettors willing to ride the trend until it crests, even though the total set by books has broken the 200-point mark twice already in the playoffs?

Can we anticipate the ‘over’ to come calling again? It’s tough to go against the grain given the Celtics’ 10-2 record on the ‘over’ during the month of April, and the Bulls’ untouchable 6-0 performance on the ‘over’ when installed as a home favorite of three points or less.

We can’t overlook the fact that Boston has also been able to score triple-digit points in seven straight head-to-head matches against Chicago (the Bulls have scored triple-digits in six of seven head-to-head games). This is a Celtics’ team responsible for 114.1 PPG despite a just above average, 4-3 straight up record in this matchup.

Both squads have has success when the total has been installed between 195 and 199 ½ this season. In this spot, the Bulls are now 9-5 on the ‘over’ while the Celts have flourished with a 15-9 record on the same ‘over’ bet.

Would things have been different if the foul on Chicago’s Brad Miller would have resulted in a technical? But more realistically, would the Bulls be sitting pretty with the 3-2 lead if Miller could have sunk both free throws? As we all know there’s no woulda, coulda, shoulda in sports and gambling anyway. A moot point indeed

Some factors which were tough to predict in Game 5 included Chicago’s inaccurate medical report on whether or not Ben Gordon (hamstring) would play (big surprise as injury reports are a joke anyway), Boston’s Paul Pierce scoring six of his 26 points in overtime and Ray Allen being tossed from the game after picking up foul No. six.

Portland at Houston (-4 ½, 179 ½) – 9:30 p.m. ET

It’s been a tough series for Portland, but backers have been more then happy to collect three straight ATS wins in the last three. Returning back to Houston down 3-2 in the best of seven format, the Trail Blazers will be looking for a huge road victory as 4 ½-point ‘dogs.

For Portland to get this first round matchup at even-steven the team must break a 17-10 SU record in the last 27 games played in Houston. Over the short term, the Blazers are a winless, 0-5 SU (3-2 ATS) in the same venue as the road team.

If we can isolate a winning formula for how Portland can even this series up then look no further then to Game 5’s 88-77 victory. Thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge and team leader, Brandon Roy coming together for 50 points (making up 57% of the team’s scoring production), the Trail Blazers were able to outscore their opponent, 25-15 in the fourth quarter. But the real hero was a defensive unit which held Houston under 20 points in three of the four quarters played. This effort also coincided with the third straight ‘under’ play.

From the Rockets’ standpoint, it should be business as usual in-front of the home crowd. Despite averaging 94.3 PPG in the past three victories, Houston has been able to shift the balance of power by allowing Portland to score a deplorable, 84 PPG. However, we can flip the script and say that the Blazers have held the Rockets in check during the last three games, allowing a coincidental, 84 PPG. The by-product has been the three-game ‘under’ run.

Entering Thursday’s contest, the ‘under’ is a hot 6-2 in the last eight meetings in Houston. And despite the horrible luck when playing in Houston, Texas, Portland has actually faired quite well at the window by rewarding backers with a 6-2 ATS record.

If Portland wants redemption then Steve Blake must continue averaging 11.4 PPG and 6.4 APG while Travis Outlaw will be looked upon to continue averaging double-digit scoring numbers as the last two games are testament to (24 points and nine rebounds combined in the last two games).

The 4 ½-points that have been set for this contest are the lowest so far in the series. Books have been consistent in setting spreads from a low, five points to a high of six. What really strikes a cord is the total set at a bottom low, 179 1/2. The last time a total was set close to this value was back in April of 2008. Houston ended up taking the contest, 95-86 as the 'over' came cashing in on the 178 1/2-point total. 

TNT will be providing coverage of both contests, beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT.

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Game of the day: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls
By Matt Fargo

Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls (-3, 195.5)

No Blood, No Foul


The end of Game 5 was all the talk at the company water cooler Wednesday morning. Bulls big man Brad Miller drove to the hoop and got a rake to the face from Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.

Miller was awarded his two shots at the line, but Rondo’s Ric Flair maneuver wasn’t categorized as a flagrant. The harsher sentence would have given the Bulls the ball back and a chance to take the lead in the final seconds.

Unsurprisingly, Boston coach Doc Rivers thought the refs called the foul right.

“We always talk about playoff basketball and no layups,” he told reporters. “Rondo did it on the very last play.”

His coaching counterpart objected to the aggressive foul.

“You have to go for the ball, and he didn’t come near the ball,” Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He came right across his face. I thought it was a flagrant. I agree it is a playoff foul, but you still have to call it. I’m sure they’ll take a look at it.”

A Star Is Born

It’s undeniable now. Rajon Rondo, the throwaway draft pick of the Phoenix Suns, the one offensive liability of last season’s championship team, is now the Celtics’ most important player.

The former Kentucky Wildcat is averaging a triple double in the Boston’s first round series against the Bulls. While he’s always been a lightning-quick point guard with strong defensive skills, his newfound shooting touch is carrying the C’s.

He finished Game 5 with 28 points and over half the total came in the fourth quarter and overtime period.

“I think I’m just focusing in more especially knowing that guys are going to be out and just trying to elevate my game in all aspects of it,” Rondo said after the OT win. “I’m still one of the role players on the team, but I think I have a greater focus this postseason.”

Rookie Mistake

It’s hard to criticize a first-year player who’s having as much success as Derrick Rose is in his first postseason. Nonetheless his dicey decision making the past two games have hurt Chicago. After turning over the ball seven times in Games 1 and 2, Rose has mucked up 20 Bulls possessions in the past three contests.

Look for Del Negro to pass over the ball handling duties to veteran guard Kirk Hinrich in the late stages, especially if Chicago is trying to protect a lead.

Against the Numbers

The Celtics have been giving money away since the end of February, going 11-17-1 in their last 29 games. Boston owns a 9-4-1 ATS record when it gets points including a 4-1-1 record in its last six games.

Boston is 3-10-1 ATS in its last 14 games against teams with a losing record. The question is should be Celtics be receiving points from a losing team?

The Bulls have nearly identical records at home and on the road when it comes to the spread so that tells us they have been better suited in the role of underdog. They are 17-20-1 as a favorite but most of that damage has come when pegged as a big favorite (they are just 2-8 ATS when favored by eight points or more).

Chicago is 13-4-1 ATS in its last 18 games following a loss, so this could once again be a good spot.

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NBA Today

SCOREBOARD


Thursday, April 30

Boston at Chicago (7 p.m. EDT). The Celtics can close out what has turned into a classic series that has already featured three overtime games. If the Bulls win, Boston would have to win a Game 7 in the first round for the second straight year.

STARS

Wednesday

— Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets, had a career playoff-high 34 points to carry Denver past New Orleans 107-86 and into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

— J.R. Smith, Nuggets, scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to fuel Denver, which put away New Orleans with a strong final two quarters.

— Joe Johnson, Hawks, scored 25 points in his first big game of the series, lifting Atlanta to a 3-2 series lead over Miami with a 106-91 victory.

— Flip Murray, Hawks, added 23 points coming off Atlanta’s bench, which has taken on an increasingly important role in the postseason.

MOVING ON

Denver won a seven-game series for the first time in 24 years, beating New Orleans in five games, finishing off the Hornets 107-86. The Nuggets face the Dallas Mavericks in the next round. Denver won all four meetings this season. … The Los Angeles Lakers will play the winner of the Houston-Portland series in the other Western Conference semifinal.

STRONG IN VICTORY

The average margin of victory in Denver’s four wins over New Orleans was 37.5 points. The Nuggets’ previous best average in a playoff series was 20 in their 3-2 win over San Antonio in the first round in 1984-85.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

David West led the Hornets with 24 points in their 107-86 loss at Denver that knocked them out of the playoffs. West also had nine rebounds and two steals. … Dwyane Wade had 29 points in Miami’s 106-91 loss in Game 5 at Atlanta.

SIDELINED

Hornets center Tyson Chandler sat out the Game 5 loss at Denver with an ankle injury. … Atlanta was already without one injured starter (Marvin Williams, sprained right wrist) and lost another when Al Horford hobbled off the court with a sprained right ankle.

SPEAKING

“Chauncey is the best thing that happened to Denver. The mind-set that he’s given this team right now is something that will fuel them in the next round.” — Hornets point guard Chris Paul on what Chauncey Billups has done for the Nuggets since being acquired from Detroit early this season.

“Now we’ve played five games against each other. I don’t think anybody on either side likes each other anymore.”—Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after a Game 5 loss to Atlanta.

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BOSTON (65 - 22) at CHICAGO (43 - 44)
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
BOSTON is 8-6 against the spread versus CHICAGO over the last 3 seasons
BOSTON is 9-6 straight up against CHICAGO over the last 3 seasons
8 of 14 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons


ORLANDO (62 - 25) at PHILADELPHIA (43 - 44)
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
PHILADELPHIA is 8-7 against the spread versus ORLANDO over the last 3 seasons
ORLANDO is 11-4 straight up against PHILADELPHIA over the last 3 seasons
7 of 14 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons


PORTLAND (56 - 31) at HOUSTON (56 - 31)
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
PORTLAND is 9-7 against the spread versus HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons
HOUSTON is 11-5 straight up against PORTLAND over the last 3 seasons
9 of 16 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons 

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ORLANDO vs. PHILADELPHIA
Orlando is 0-5 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
Orlando is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Philadelphia is 3-11 SU in its last 14 games when playing Orlando
Philadelphia is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games at home

BOSTON vs. CHICAGO
Boston is 15-4 SU in its last 19 games
Boston is 6-1-1 ATS in its last 8 games on the road
Chicago is 3-9 SU in its last 12 games when playing Boston
Chicago is 1-4-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against Boston

PORTLAND vs. HOUSTON
Portland is 3-10 SU in its last 13 games when playing Houston
Portland is 12-4 SU in its last 16 games
Houston is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games at home
Houston is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home

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Boston at Chicago

Boston:

23-12 ATS as road underdog
10-2 Over in April

Chicago:
31-47 ATS off ATS win
6-0 Over as a home favorite of 3 pts or less


Orlando at Philadelphia

Orlando:

4-10 ATS in April
11-3 Under in April

Philadelphia:
9-1 ATS off road loss where they scored 80 pts or less
28-17 ATS off DD road loss


Portland at Houston

Portland:

15-5 ATS off DD home win
7-0 Over after allowing 80 points or less

Houston:
6-15 ATS if road underdog last game
43-17 Over after scoring 90 points or less 3 straight games

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NBA Playoffs

Three of five Boston-Chicago games went to overtime, with both wins by Bulls in OT; road team led at halftime in all four series games, with only one of the five decided by more than three points. Perkins blocked seven shots in Game 5. Boston tried 21-23 treys in splitting two games at United Center- they've taken 16 treys in all three games in Boston. .

Howard is suspended for Game 6, result of correct interpretation of the dumbest rule in the NBA; hard to imagine Magic will win without him, seeing how they held 76ers to 87-81-78 points in their series wins, while Sixers scored 100-96 points in their wins. Philly covered first four games in series, but were -12 on boards, just 4-18 from arc in Game 5 loss.

Portland has 17 blocked shots in its last two games, Houston only two; Blazers averaged 25 fouls shots a game at home, but took just 10-17 in two games here, losing both by total of four points. Underdog is 4-1 vs spread in series, with last three staying under total, after first two went over. Portland is 17-38 from arc in series in Houston, 12-36 in the three games at home. Three of last four games were decided by 4 or less pts.

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Tips and Trends

Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets


Trail Blazers: The Blazers have mostly defended Yao by putting either Joel Przybilla or Greg Oden in front of him and then double-teaming whenever he touches the ball. The Blazers have lost 12 of their last 13 games at the Toyota Center and 10 of their last 11 road playoff games overall. "Hopefully we put the pressure back on them," said Brandon Roy, averaging 27.6 points in the series. "We have another chance to play with our backs against the wall. We're going to go out there and play loose and hopefully we can play like we did (on Tuesday)."

The Trail Blazers are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games overall.
The Trail Blazers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 playoff games as an underdog.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 85


Rockets (-5, O/U 179.5): With Yao constantly surrounded, Luis Scola is the Rockets' leading scorer in the series, averaging 17.6 points per game. Portland's defense on Yao has opened up mid-range jumpers for Scola, who is shooting 58.5 percent from the field. After topping 100 points in the first two games, Houston has averaged only 84 points in the last three. "I'm not concerned. We'll play better at home," Rockets' forward Shane Battier said after Game 5. "We're excited. It's not a pressure situation." The Rockets have won eight straight home games, but are still trying to advance out of the first round for the first time since 1997.

The Rockets are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 playoff games as a favorite.

Key Injuries - G Tracy McGrady (knee) is OUT for the season

PROJECTED SCORE: 94 (Side Play of the Day)

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