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NBA News and Notes Friday 5/8

NBA News and Notes Friday 5/8

Game 3, Celtics at Magic
By Chris David

The best-of-seven battle between Orlando and Boston was expected to be a back and forth battle prior to the series and the first two games have played out that way. Stan Van Gundy and the Magic were listed as short $1.40 favorites (Bet $140 to win $100) over the Celtics in this matchup, despite not having homecourt advantage.

After holding off the Celtics in Game 1 with a 95-90 decision despite almost blowing a 28-point lead late, the betting public assumed the Magic were content with going back home with a split and they were right.

Boston opened up as a three-point favorite and closed as a four-point ‘chalk’ in Game 2. The Celtics built a 15-point lead (61-46) lead after 24 minutes and then poured it on in the second-half even more for a 112-94 wire-to-wire victory.

Rajon Rondo led Boston with 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds, helping the former Kentucky Wildcat standout notch his third triple-double of the playoffs. Eddie House added a career-high 31 points of the bench, which made up for a three-point performance from All-Star Paul Pierce.

Rashard Lewis and Mickeal Pietrus both posted 17 points for Orlando in a losing effort. The Magic shot 44 percent from the field and just 64.9 percent (24-of-37) from the charity stripe.

The Las Vegas Hilton opened Orlando as a 4 ½-point favorite for Game 3. The Magic haven’t been invincible in the Sunshine State, but they do boast a solid 34-10 straight up and 24-20 ledger against the spread. The club went 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS at home against Philadelphia in the first-round.

The Celtics were one of seven teams in the NBA this year to have winning records on the road. Unfortunately, it hasn’t carried over to the postseason for Doc Rivers’ troops even though the sample size is only three. Boston went 1-2 both SU and ATS against the Bulls in the Windy City, but the two setbacks came in overtime.

During the regular season, Boston posted a 90-80 on Jan. 22 but Orlando avenged that loss with an 84-82 triumph on Mar. 25. The ‘under’ cashed in both contests. Prior to this year’s meeting in Florida, the Celtics were 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS in their last three visits to the Magic Kingdom.

Even the two teams combined for 206 points and eclipsed the ‘over’ in Game 2 the oddsmakers didn’t adjust the number too much for the third installment. Actually, they dropped it by a couple points to 189.

Should bettors expect a tighter affair or will the scoreboard get lit up? handicapper Matt Moore, who specializes in totals, believes that there is only one way to play totals with Boston in this year’s playoffs and it’s pretty obvious.

He said, “Last year, the Celtics’ success to their championship season was directly attributed to KG (Kevin Garnett). He won the Defensive Player of the Year honors and pushed a defense-first attitude in Boston. This season, the mindset is still there but you just can’t replace a talent like him in the middle.”

“The numbers don’t lie and if you’ve been playing the ‘over’ in Boston’s games without KG, you’d be ahead not by a little, but a lot. I respect the oddsmakers and their numbers but I’m a little surprised the numbers haven’t jumped at all. ”

Garnett has missed 33 games this year. The ‘over’ has gone 24-9 (72.7%) in those instances, which includes a 7-2 run currently in this year’s playoffs.

If you look at last year’s numbers during Boston’s title run, Moore’s comments become even stronger. The Celtics saw the ‘under’ go 46-35 in the regular season last year and then 14-12 in the playoffs. In its 26 playoff encounters, Boston only allowed 90-plus points on 12 occasions and surrendered 100-plus points just seven times. In the nine playoff battles this year, the Celtics have given up 90-plus points eight times and opponents have busted the century mark five times.

Wednesday’s loss was the first time in four games that the Magic lost to the Celtics when Garnett wasn’t in the lineup.

Tip-off for Game 3 is slated for 7:05 p.m. EDT, with ESPN providing national coverage.

After this contest, the two teams will get a day off before meeting in Game 4 in a Sunday Night showdown at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

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Game 3, Lakers at Rockets
By Josh Jacobs

It’s been tough measuring what books have on their minds when setting the spread in head-to-head games between Houston and the L.A. Lakers. The recent pool of games we can rely on for examination has had the Rockets installed anywhere from 6 ½-point favorites to four-point underdogs all at home. And now as this piece is being penned, Las Vegas Sports Consultants has just released the opening line in favor of the visiting Lakers by 2 ½-points. How do we make sense of this value?

The first order of business is to clarify that Houston has been installed as a home underdog just twice during the regular season. It was no coincidence that one of these two games involved playing the Lakers at home on Jan. 13. At that time, the Rockets entered that tip-off as four-point home ‘dogs. But maybe the most glaring of similarities between then and now is injured Tracy McGrady. In that January 105-100 loss, Houston found itself running end-to-end without T-Mac.

But despite the SU and ATS loss for the Rockets in that regular season contest, 50 points scored in the paint by both squads, both teams shooting over 50 percent and a very close contest heading into the fourth quarter (82-78 lead for Houston at this point) had bettors sitting on the edge of their seats.
We talked about Kobe Bryant taking too many shots in Game 1, 31 to be exact. That figure equated to dropping 14 regular seasons games when L.A.’s perennial all-star attempted 20-plus shots in any given contest. That leads us to the Lakers bucking that trend in the Jan. 13 win when Bryant tossed up 32 attempts (draining 13 of them for 33 points). Wednesday’s theatrics was a follow up to this scenario as Bryant was responsible for hitting 16-of-27 shots for 40 points. Just another example of how the 20-plus shots worked in the Lakers favor versus the opposite reaction for much of the season.

It must be taken into consideration that the four-point spread could also be attributed to Ron Artest being MIA, recovering from a sprained right ankle. Home court advantage was surely nullified, credited to two of the Rockets biggest stars sitting in street cloths.

Game 3 won’t have McGrady stepping back onto the court as we all know, but roll player, Artest will be on the hardwood (given that the NBA doesn’t hand down any disciplinary action). His futile, 8-for-18 effort resulting in 25 points with five assists and two steals was overshadowed by an ejection on Wednesday after a confrontation materialized with Bryant. Talking about Game 2, 20 turnovers committed by Houston was just one of many reasons why the Lake Show took its first home game win in this series, 111-98.

Some other problems that the Rockets couldn’t overcome on Wednesday was allowing L.A. to tab 44 points inside the paint (10 more then Houston could muster up), granting the opposition to shoot 50 percent from the field all while getting picked off on 11 steels. It’s not hard to figure out why the 10-point spread in favor of the home team was money in the bank (not to mention outscoring Houston, 54-41 in the second half).

Contemplate this question; can Houston apply the same pressure that we witnessed in Game 1 of this best of seven or will the Lakers come out guns blazing? handicapper Doc’s Sports, who’s amongst the best in money leaders at +3289 on the year, explained, “The Lakers missed a ton of threes in Game 1, but the Rockets will have to play better overall defense if they hope to extend this series. But we think the Lakers will play some 'D' as well, and there could be some value in the totals as we go along.” He added, “The Lakers really have the personnel to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, and they show this at times. But with all the offensive weapons they have why not just outscore opponents from night to night?”

Before even contemplating which direction to take before punching out tickets any news on possible league actions from Game 2 must be taken seriously. The NBA must assess Kobe Bryant’s high elbow swing, Ron Artest’s ejection and Derek Fisher’s flagrant-2 foul against Houston’s Luis Scola. There’s no doubt that point movement could very well go in any direction based on these ramifications.

Some of the cold hard facts leading up to this Western Conference clash include the Lakers’ strong hold when playing the Rockets in Houston as indicated by an 8-2 ATS tally in the last 10 meetings. In the last two games played in “Space City”, L.A. has emerged with the two straight SU and ATS wins, outscoring its opponent by the average score of 103.5 to 98 PPG. And just for added interest, the Rockets are 18-14 ATS at home without Tracy McGrady in the lineup.

Overall, the Lakers have had the most success at the counter, turning a 7-2 ATS record in their last nine matchups against Houston into bonafide winners. That 3-0 ‘under’ record that was so graciously emphasized in the Game 2 preview was broken on Wednesday, going ‘over’ the set 193 mark. Books have come out of the gate by labeling this contest’s total at the 195 mark.

What we can carry over from the last two playoff games is that neither team will be bowing out of this series easily. If Game 2 is any indication of what we can expect down the stretch that fasten your seat belts because the ride has just started.

Game time is set for 9:30 p.m. EST. ESPN will be handling televised duties.

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Game of the day: Lakers at Rockets
By David Chan

Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets (+1, 195)

The line

Even though the Rockets stole a game in Los Angeles, and own a stellar 36-8 straight-up record in Houston, the betting markets still dictate that the Lakers should be favored in Game 3.

The Lakers opened as 1.5-point favorites, but that line has since been bet down to a flat 'one'.

Most consensus reports still indicate that Los Angeles is getting the majority of public love, so it appears the sharps are leaning heavily on Houston.

The total has held steady since opening at 195, two points higher than what we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Series recap

The common thinking was that the Lakers would breeze to a 2-0 series lead before the series shifted to Houston for Game 3.

Think again.

The Rockets played a near perfect series opener to steal home court advantage and cast some doubt in the minds of Lakers backers everywhere.

They weren't able to complete the L.A. sweep in Game 2, but certainly didn't back down. A late game Artest-Kobe altercation has all eyes on this series heading into Friday's Game 3.

Yao Ming was proud of his team's effort, even though they fell short on the scoreboard.

"We fight back," Yao said. "Everybody played very physical and tried to control the tempo."

Defense anyone?

Since the second half of Game 1, we haven't seen near the level of defensive intensity that was expected in this series.

Five of six quarters played since then have produced at least 49 points, topping out at 64 points in the first quarter on Wednesday night.

We did see the physicality pick up late in Game 2, something that should carry over into Friday's pivotal game.

Kobe Bryant echoed those sentiments.

"We are playing basketball, there is a lot of contact taking place," Bryant said. "If you are going to be physical you have to expect to get physical back."

Disappearing act

The absence of Andrew Bynum was a huge talking point during last year's playoffs. Most believed that he would have been the difference-maker for the Lakers.

A year later and Bynum is in the lineup, but he's a non-factor.

Phil Jackson kept him out of the starting five in Game 2, replacing him with veteran Lamar Odom. Bynum played only eight minutes, didn't score a single point, and grabbed only one rebound.

It was a curious move after Bynum contributed 10 points and three boards in 15 minutes in Game 1. Odom played more than 31 minutes that night, and scored only 10 points to go along with five rebounds.

Bynum's tendency to get into early foul trouble is a big reason why Phil Jackson has lost faith in his young center. I'm starting to think that Bynum is losing faith in himself as well.

Road warriors

The Lakers should be comfortable heading out on the road, where they've gone 30-13 straight-up and 24-19 against the number this season.

They won twice in Houston during the regular season, once as 4-point favorites and once as 3.5-point underdogs. They've actually taken the cash in eight of their last 10 trips to the Toyota Center.

While the Rockets have lost only eight times as hosts this season, they're not doing their backers any favors, posting a 21-22-1 ATS record.

Houston was 3-0 SU, but just 1-2 ATS in three home games against Portland during the opening round.

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Magic's Alston, Lakers' Fisher suspended by NBA

NEW YORK (AP) -The Los Angeles Lakers won't have Derek Fisher for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series, but Kobe Bryant will be in the lineup because the elbow he threw at Ron Artest landed just low enough.

Fisher and Orlando's Rafer Alston were both suspended one game by the NBA on Thursday for separate incidents in playoff games the previous night. The league also assessed Bryant a flagrant foul one penalty for elbowing Artest during the second half of the Lakers' testy victory over the Houston Rockets.

However, Bryant was not suspended because the league ruled he elbowed Artest in the chest area. Had it been above the shoulders - and Artest said it was his neck - the Lakers All-Star likely would have been banned from the arena Friday.

''It's clear in our rules that we treat elbow contact above the shoulder area differently than we do other parts of the body,'' NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said on a conference call.

Contact above the shoulders wouldn't have guaranteed a suspension, but would have caused Jackson to take a closer look at the review to determine if the elbow was deliberate.

''It's not cut and dry because certainly there have been players that have been hit in the head with elbows that we haven't necessarily suspended those players because we felt it was inadvertent or part of a basketball play that in some cases was unavoidable,'' Jackson said. ''Certainly in this case, had he made contact in his head area, certainly we'd be evaluating it on a different level.''

The two suspensions Jackson did hand out were both easy calls.

In the Magic's 112-94 loss on Wednesday night, Boston's Eddie House was celebrating after making a shot when Alston reached out and slapped him in the back of the head. Each received a technical foul after standing face-to-face for a few seconds before referees intervened.

Jackson said Alston would have been ejected if the referees had seen the slap.

Later Wednesday night, Fisher was called for a flagrant foul when struck the Rockets' Luis Scola, who was setting a pick, with his shoulder and head as the Rockets brought the ball up the court. He was ejected.

Both players will miss games on Friday. The Magic are at home, tied 1-1 with Boston, while the Lakers will be in Houston in a series that is also tied 1-1. … y-nba.html

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Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Eddie House dropped 31 points to lead the Celtics to a 112-94 victory over the Magic in Game 2 on Wednesday and even the best-of-seven series.

That game's combined score made it OVER the posted total of 190.

Ray Allen netted 22 points, while Rajon Rondo collected a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 18 assists for the Celtics.

Rashard Lewis collected 17 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double in the loss for the Magic.

Team records:
Boston: 62-20 SU, 43-39 ATS
Orlando: 59-23 SU, 49-32-1 ATS

Boston most recently:
When playing on Friday are 7-3
Before playing Orlando are 8-2
After playing Orlando are 8-2
After a win are 5-5

Orlando most recently:
When playing on Friday are 5-5
Before playing Boston are 8-2
After playing Boston are 7-3
After a loss are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Boston's last 7 games when playing on the road against Orlando
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Boston's last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Boston's last 5 games when playing Orlando
Boston is 7-1-1 ATS in its last 9 games on the road
Orlando is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games when playing at home against Boston
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Orlando's last 7 games when playing at home against Boston
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Orlando's last 6 games at home
Orlando is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games

Next up:
Boston at Orlando, Sunday, May 10
Orlando home to Boston, Sunday, May 10

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Houston Rockets

Kobe Bryant dropped a game-high 40 points in leading the Lakers over the Rockets 111-98 in Game 2 on Wednesday night and tying up the series 1-1.

The Lakers managed to cover the 10-point spread, and the combined score made it OVER the posted total of 194.

Bryant shot 16-for-27 from the field with six rebounds, while Pau Gasol added a double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Ron Artest led the Rockets with 25 points and dished out five assists.

Team records:
Los Angeles: 65-17 SU, 42-39-1 ATS
Houston: 53-29 SU, 40-41-1 ATS

Los Angeles most recently:
When playing on Friday are 5-5
Before playing Houston are 4-6
After playing Houston are 9-1
After a win are 7-3

Houston most recently:
When playing on Friday are 8-2
Before playing LA Lakers are 8-2
After playing LA Lakers are 6-4
After a loss are 9-1

A few trends to consider:
LA Lakers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games when playing Houston
LA Lakers are 5-1 SU in their last 6 games when playing Houston
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of the LA Lakers last 5 games
LA Lakers are 12-3 SU in their last 15 games
Houston is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Houston's last 5 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Houston's last 6 games
Houston is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games at home

Next up:
LA Lakers at Houston, Sunday, May 10

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BOSTON (67 - 24) at ORLANDO (64 - 26)
Top Trends for this game.
ORLANDO is 53-37 ATS (+12.3 Units) in all games this season.
ORLANDO is 76-54 ATS (+16.6 Units) as a favorite over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 51-37 ATS (+10.3 Units) in home games over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 44-20 ATS (+22.0 Units) revenging a loss vs opponent over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 29-10 ATS (+18.0 Units) after allowing 105 points or more over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 9-1 ATS (+7.9 Units) in home games after a loss by 10 points or more over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 11-2 ATS (+8.8 Units) after playing 3 consecutive road games over the last 2 seasons.
ORLANDO is 24-15 ATS (+7.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
ORLANDO is 24-11 ATS (+11.9 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 99+ points/game this season.
BOSTON is 114-83 ATS (+22.7 Units) in all games over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 26-11 ATS (+13.9 Units) as an underdog over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 57-39 ATS (+14.1 Units) in road games over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 14-6 ATS (+7.4 Units) on Friday nights this season.
BOSTON is 53-35 ATS (+14.5 Units) after a win by 10 points or more over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 41-28 ATS (+10.2 Units) after scoring 105 points or more over the last 2 seasons.
BOSTON is 56-42 ATS (+9.8 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons.

Head-to-Head Series History
BOSTON is 7-6 against the spread versus ORLANDO over the last 3 seasons
ORLANDO is 8-5 straight up against BOSTON over the last 3 seasons
8 of 13 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

LA LAKERS (70 - 19) at HOUSTON (58 - 32)
Top Trends for this game.
HOUSTON is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) after a loss by 10 points or more this season.
HOUSTON is 52-39 ATS (+9.1 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons.
LA LAKERS are 102-87 ATS (+6.3 Units) in all games over the last 2 seasons.
LA LAKERS are 54-37 ATS (+13.3 Units) in road games over the last 2 seasons.
LA LAKERS are 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) in road games against Southwest division opponents this season.
LA LAKERS are 47-30 ATS (+14.0 Units) in road games after scoring 105 points or more over the last 3 seasons.
HOUSTON is 62-97 ATS (-44.7 Units) in home games against Pacific division opponents since 1996.

Head-to-Head Series History
LA LAKERS is 9-4 against the spread versus HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons
LA LAKERS is 8-5 straight up against HOUSTON over the last 3 seasons
6 of 12 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons 

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Boston is 17-6 SU in its last 23 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Boston's last 6 games
Orlando is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Boston
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Orlando's last 5 games when playing Boston

LA Lakers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games when playing Houston
LA Lakers are 5-1 SU in their last 6 games when playing Houston
Houston is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
Houston is 10-4 SU in its last 14 games

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NBA Playoffs

Magic better get Lee (head injuries) back here, because Alston is out for this game (suspension) and Redick gets exposed if he plays too long in stretches-- how else to explain Eddie House scoring 31 points in 27:25 on court in Game 2? Celtics made 51.2% from the floor in Game 2, after a 38.5% shooting night in opener- they had 36 points at half in Game 1, 61 at half in Game 2. Bigger game for Orlando than the Celtics.

Houston is 1-5 against Lakers this season; they held Bryant to 14-31 in Game 1 win, bu the had 40 in Game 2 (16-27) and he got away with the elbow to Artest's throat that got Artest a technical foul. Someone needs to tell Houston guards Yao Ming, the big Chinese dude, is on their team- he was 3-4 from floor in Game 2. The 7-4 guys are supposed to take lot more shots, espcially when they have skills. Lakers are just 8-35 beyond arc in this series. Derek Fisher is suspended for this game.

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(2) Boston (5-4, 4-4-1 ATS) at (3) Orlando (5-2 SU, 3-4 ATS)

After stealing the home-court advantage in Boston, the Magic return home to Amway Arena tonight looking to go up 2-1 on the Celtics when this best-of 7 Eastern Conference semifinal series resumes.

Orlando got Game 1 in Boston on Monday 95-90 as a 1½-point underdog, then got crushed in Game 2 on Wednesday, falling 112-94 as a four-point pup. In the Game 2 rout, the Celtics got 31 points from reserve Eddie House who shot 11-for-14 from the field, including 4-for-4 from behind the three-point line. Boston shot 51.2 percent from the floor and also got 22 points from Ray Allen, winning easily despite superstar Paul Pierce managing just three points on 1 of 4 shooting.

Despite Wednesday’s setback, the Magic have won four of their last five (3-2 ATS) and six of their last nine (4-5 ATS) overall. They won two of their first three home playoff games in the opening round against the 76ers, including a big Game 5 win 91-78 as 8½-point favorites in their most recent home contest. On the opposite side, Boston has alternated wins and losses in its last seven outings (4-2-1 ATS), but it did manage to steal Game 3 in its opening-round series against the Bulls in Chicago, winning 107-86 as a 3½-point ‘dog.

Orlando has still won three of the last four (2-2 ATS) against the Celtics this season, but failed to cover both regular season meetings in Florida, losing 90-80 on Jan. 22 as a 4½-point home chalk followed by an 84-82 victory as a 3½-point favorite on March 25. The host has won nine of the last 12 in this series and covered the number in 22 of the last 32, even though the road team is currently on a 4-1 ATS run. Finally, Boston has gotten the cash in seven of the last 11 overall.

The Celtics are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven conference semifinal games and 2-5-1 ATS in their last 13 after a spread-cover, but they are on positive streaks of 44-17-1 ATS as road ‘dogs, 7-1-1 on the road, 4-0 on Fridays and 7-0-1 as a playoff pup. Orlando is on ATS slides of 4-10 overall, 3-11 against the Atlantic Division, 1-4 as a favorite and 5-15 as a home chalk of up to 4 1/2-points, but the Magic are 48-20-1 ATS following a straight-up loss.

Wednesday’s game soared over the posted total, but the under is 4-1 in the last five series clashes and 6-1 in the last seven meetings in Florida.

Boston has stayed under the total in 15 of 22 as a road ‘dog and  four of five against teams with winning records, but it is on “over” streaks of 13-3 overall, 37-18 against Eastern Conference teams, 5-1 on Fridays and 6-1 after getting one day off. Orlando is on a plethora of “under” streaks that include 11-4 overall, 24-9 as a home favorite, 5-1 at home, 3-0 as a chalk, 11-4 against the Atlantic Division, 6-2 after getting a day off and 4-0 after a straight-up loss.



(1) L.A. Lakers (5-2, 3-4 ATS) at (5) Houston (5-2 SU, 4-3 ATS)

After knotting up their best-of-7 Western Conference semifinal series in a physical Game 2, the Lakers travel to the Toyota Center in Houston for Game 3 against the Rockets.

Los Angeles dominated the second half of Game 2 on Wednesday and pulled away for a 111-98 victory, covering as a 10-point favorite. Only three Lakers reached double-digits in scoring and one of those was Derek Fisher, who was ejected from the game for a flagrant foul on the Rockets Luis Scola, with Fisher subsequently being suspended for this contest. Kobe Bryant scored 40 points and Pau Gasol added 22 for Los Angeles, who shot 50 percent from the floor as a team. Houston’s Ron Artest scored 25 points before being tossed in the fourth quarter after getting two technical fouls when he got tangled up with Bryant on a rebound.

Houston has won 10 of its last 14 overall (8-6 ATS) while the Lakers have won 12 of their last 15 (8-7 ATS).

The Rockets are 36-8 at home this season and won all three first-round playoff home games over Portland (1-2 ATS) at the Toyota Center, including a series-clinching 92-76 rout on April 30 as a five-point favorite. Los Angeles is 30-13 on the road (24-19 ATS) and took Game 4 in Utah in its opening-round series, winning 108-94 as a five-point chalk.

The Lakers have won five of six against Houston this season and they are 2-0 SU and ATS in Houston, winning 102-96 on March 11 as 3½-point pups and winning 105-100 on Jan. 13 as four-point favorites. Los Angeles is 8-4 ATS in the last 12 meetings with the Rockets and 8-2 ATS in its last 10 visits to Houston.

Phil Jackson’s squad is on ATS slides of 2-5 on the road, 3-8 as a playoff favorite, 1-5 on the road against teams with winning home records and 0-4 following a straight-up win, but it is 8-3-1 ATS in conference semifinal action and 5-2 against the Southwest Division. Rick Adelman’s Rockets are on ATS slumps of 4-10 against Pacific Division teams, 7-16 as a home ‘dog, 3-9 on Fridays and 1-4 after playing after one day off, but they are on positive ATS runs of 39-19-1 after a non-cover, 6-2 at home and 14-6 as a ‘dog of up to 4 ½-points.

Wednesday’s Game 2 went well over the total after Game 1 barely stayed below the posted number. The under is 3-1 in the last four clashes.

The Lakers have topped the total in five of six after a spread-cover and four of their last five conference semifinal games, but they are on “under” runs of 8-2 on the road, 20-8 as a favorite, 4-1 on Fridays, 4-1 overall and 14-6 after getting a days off. It’s all “unders” for the Rockets, including 5-1 overall, 5-0 at home, 9-3 on Fridays, 10-4 following a straight-up loss, 5-1 against Western Conference teams, 7-2 as a home ‘dog and 6-0 at home against teams with winning road marks.


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Boston at Orlando


15-4 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points
12-2 ATS off a home win scoring 110+

14-5 UNDER after BB games
13-5 UNDER after playing a game as an underdog

LA Lakers at Houston

LA Lakers:

26-15 ATS AWAY after one or more consecutive overs
8-1 ATS AWAY against Southwest division opponents

13-23 ATS when the total is between 190 and 199.5
7-16 ATS if road underdog last game

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Friday Playoffs Preview
by Matt Severance

Both Game 3s on Friday night have one thing common, other than being knotted at one game apiece: A starting point guard in each will not be on the floor due to a suspension. Also note that ESPN takes over from TNT for a night.

Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, Game 3 (ESPN)

The bounce-back game that nearly everyone expected from Boston came to fruition on Wednesday night with the Celtics evening this series with a 112-94 win and only their second home cover of the playoffs. It ended Orlando's three-game winning streak against Boston and three-game playoff winning streak overall.

What I'm fairly sure about is that no one expected Boston would be led by Eddie House's 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting. The points were his most ever in a playoff game, and the 27 minutes were House's most in the postseason since 2001. It helped make up for the fact that Paul Pierce was a non-factor with foul trouble.

House also clearly got into the head of Magic starting point guard Rafer Alston, who slapped House in the back of the head in clear view of everyone in the third period. Alston claimed House had elbowed him while celebrating another of his baskets, but it was a dumb move for a veteran. It only cost him a technical during the game, but the NBA suspended Alston for Game 3. He was averaging 7.5 points and 6.0 assists this series but shooting a dismal 27.3 percent.

Thus the Magic will start journeyman Anthony Johnson at point guard and dust off Tyronn Lue to back him up, although small forward Hedo Turkoglu probably will handle the ball a lot.

Orlando, a 4.5-point favorite on BetUS, is hoping to get back starting shooting guard Courtney Lee for Game 3. Out since Game 5 of the Sixers series with a fractured sinus cavity, Lee returned to the team Wednesday after last week's surgery but hasn't yet been activated. Lee said he is getting used to the protective mask he must wear but will be listed as a game-time decision. Even if Lee plays, backup J.J. Redick has definitely earned more playing time, as he is averaging 13.5 points in this series and shooting 60 percent from the 3-point line.

But that thin Magic backcourt was thoroughly dominated in Game 2, so look for big games against from Boston's Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo (a triple-double on Wednesday) and, yes, even House. The Celtics also love being a playoff dog, having covered seven of the past eight occurrences.

Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets, Game 3 (ESPN)

The Lakers will have a suspended player for Friday night's Game 3 in Houston, but that's actually good news for L.A.: It could have been two suspended players.

Point guard Derek Fisher (10.5 ppg, 2.5 apg in this series), who dropped his shoulder and drove into Houston's Luis Scola on a screen in Game 2, won't play against the Rockets. The veteran claimed that Houston's big men, including Scola, had been setting tougher-than-usual screens in a very physical game.

"He, Yao [Ming] and [Carl] Landry . . . for some reason they get to tee off on the little guys up there when they're coming to set screens," Fisher said to reporters. "I knew he was coming. I was going to give a good, hard foul, with no intent to harm or injure anyone."

Either Jordan Farmar or Shannon Brown will start at the point, but Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant both figure to handle the ball most of the time. L.A. has opened as a 1-point road favorite on BetUS and has covered in eight of its past 10 trips to Houston.

Speaking of Kobe, his elbow to Ron Artest in Game 2 won't cost him a game. Kobe wasn't even called for a foul on the play - in fact, humorously, Artest was. But the NBA has given Bryant a Flagrant One foul for the elbow. Bryant would have to get two more of those, or a Flagrant Two, in order to miss a game. Kobe had 40 points in Game 2.

So while Bryant was back to normal on Wednesday, the Lakers' worries again center on their center, Andrew Bynum. After a terrible series against the Jazz, in which Bynum was replaced in the starting lineup by Odom, he was equally ineffective in Game 1 against Houston's Yao Ming. So Odom started in Game 2, and Bynum played less than nine minutes, missing his only two shots to go with one rebound, one assist and three fouls.

"It's mental," Bynum said of his recent slump. "It's not really physical."

But Houston couldn't capitalize on Bynum this time, as Yao picked up two fouls in the first quarter and another before halftime. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes but a team-worst (by far) plus/minus rating of -29.

The Rockets, by the way, haven't been a home dog this season since Feb. 26 against Cleveland, a game they won. Houston was 3-0 at home in the first round, covering just once.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Friday 5/8

Tips and Trends

Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets

Lakers (-1, O/U 194): The NBA suspended Derek Fisher for Game 3 after he decked Luis Scola with a shoulder block as the Rockets forward set a pick in Game 2. "They're going to be physical, we're going to have to meet that," coach Phil Jackson said. "I don't think we have to retaliate, but we certainly have to be able to contest." "I think it's good for us," Kobe Bryant said. "It elevates our play, it makes the game extremely emotional and kind of raises it to a fever pitch, which brings out the best in a lot of players." The Lakers compiled the league's best road record (29-12) this season, including two wins in Houston.

The Lakers are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Houston.
The Under is 8-1 in the Lakers' last 9 games as a road favorite.

Key Injuries - G Derek Fisher (suspension) is OUT.

PROJECTED SCORE: 95 (UNDER - Total Play of the Day)

Rockets: Shane Battier, who has guarded Kobe Bryant for most of the series, expects both teams to tone down the unnecessary roughness, because the referees will try to take immediate control. "They'll call a tight game, a lot tighter game than we've seen to this point," Battier said. Coach Rick Adelman said, "We were really stagnant (Wednesday), we stood a lot. We're turning the ball over because they're very aggressive. They're one of the best teams at guarding isolations, guarding post-ups. We have to get them out of their comfort level defensively." Houston went 33-8 at home during the regular season.

The Under is 5-0 in the Rockets' last 5 home games.

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


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