NBA News and Notes Saturday 5/9

NBA News and Notes Saturday 5/9

Saturday Game 3 Previews
By Josh Jacobs

Heading into the weekend, both Denver and Cleveland have played to expectations. The downright truth is the favorite in all four individual series has played into backers’ pockets, mustering up a 6-2 ATS billing.

The action continues on Saturday as ESPN will begin coverage at 5:00 p.m. EST. Dallas not only finds itself down 0-2 in the Conference Semifinals but “personal” problems facing Dirk Nowitzki and a defense that’s fallen off the wagon are of concern. But as four-point home favorites, do backers question the legitimacy of the Mavericks shot in Game 3?

It’s been tough going in the books for Dallas when facing Denver on the same court. In just the last 10 games alone, the Mavs have covered the spread just once and are a skimp, 3-10 ATS in the last 13. To say that the Nuggets have a leg up on the competition would be understating the facts.
   
Inside the numbers it’s no wonder why Dallas finds itself not only down in the series but unable to scratch together the smallest of results against this specific opponent. In Sunday’s Game 1 tangle, point guard Jason Kidd thought that passes to the team in white would equal assists. The problem with that logic was that the light colored uniformed players where Denver’s home jerseys. The result was Kidd tossing away eight turnovers. At the end of the contest, the box score had the Mavs totaling 20 turnovers in all.

Defense is another story. Dallas has allowed Denver to shoot 54.8 percent in Game 1 and 50 percent in Game 2. The Nuggets have opened up the floor like an interstate highway, combining for 54 fast break points (versus Dallas’ 13) in both games while bullying their way into the paint for an eye popping 108 points (that’s a whopping 48 percent of the team’s total points scored).

But none of this should come as a surprise. Since December of 2007, Denver has had their way against Dallas, averaging 106.6 PPG. In-fact the Nuggets have found a way to break the century scoring mark six times in the last nine games, all of which have resulted in the ATS win.

It’s no secret that the Mavs turnover problems, scoring woes and inept defense are making it difficult when entering the final stretch of these contests. Turn back to Game 1 and the Nuggets were up by seven points entering the fourth quarter. Outscoring Dallas 27-20 improved that point cushion with a final, 109-95. Game 2 had a similar feel but more pronounced as Denver powered through the final quarter on a 16-2 run. The final score was 117-105. So to say that the Mavs have had a shot at the tail end of these games is inaccurate at best.

With Denver at 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games and 9-1 ATS in their last 10 head-to-head meetings, the four points doesn’t seem like a tough handicap. Maybe the more attractive wager is in the totals department. The Nuggets are not only 4-1 on the ‘under’ in the last five playoff appearances but have dragged down the Mavs into hitting the ‘under’ four times in their last five meetings. Even more convincing is Denver’s 18-7 ‘under’ performance in the last 25 when installed as the underdog and Dallas’ blinding, 62-30 ‘under’ record since 1996 when facing off against a Northwest division opponent (ok, a far stretch but one worth noting none the less). Sportsbook.com has opened the total at 209 ½.

Leaving Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury, the Mavs’ Josh Howard is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s start. Howard has missed a total of 28 games this season (ranging from the nagging ankle to wrist injuries) for which the team has gone 11-17 ATS in his absence.

When installed as a four-point favorite this season, the Mavs are 4-2 ATS versus Denver’s 1-3 ATS as the four-point ‘dog.

As usual, the closing number to think deeply about is 11-30. That’s Dallas’ ATS record when giving up 100-plus points in both the regular and post season. Do the Mavs really have a chance at holding back an amped up Carmelo Anthony (24 PPG and 5 APG in playoffs) and born again center, Nene (13.4 PPG and 7.1 RPG in playoffs) in the hopes of grabbing Game 3?

Cleveland at Atlanta (-8, 180) – 8:00 p.m. EST

Not to sound like an editorial piece but who really believes that Atlanta can even keep just one-game close in this best of seven? As expected, the Cavaliers proceeded to steam roll over the Hawks on Thursday, 105-85. Even after LeBron James logged in a diminished 31-plus minutes of play (a little over 34 minutes in Game 1 after averaging 37 minutes during the season), Cleveland was still able to keep a 20-point cushion at the end of the contest.

That brings us to Game 3, the matter at hand. Since we’re hard pressed not to turn our focus away from the dominant team in this matchup, let’s take a peak at what a struggling Atlanta squad is in store for. Most books have set head coach Mike Woodson’s team as an eight-point home favorite with a total set at 180.

The Hawks may have escaped the Miami series, shooting an average 42.2 percent from the field but hitting only 38.8 percent of their field goals in this series has led to scoring 78.5 PPG. Returning back home for which it went 3-1 SU and ATS versus the Heat, are we looking at a vague probability for the Hawks to cover as eight-point underdogs?

The good news, while not convincing, has Atlanta at 3-2 ATS in its last five against the Cavs. The three ATS wins came as eight and four point underdogs (two home games and one road). The key to these wins at the window was a 44.1 percent success rate shooting from the floor and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc (with the exception of one contest that had Atlanta hitting only 28.6 percent from three land).

Another common number floating around these three ATS head-to-head wins was the Hawks outscoring the Cavaliers in two of the contests in the second half. And what’s been the recurring theme in this current series? Atlanta getting blown out of the water in the second half of Game 1, 50-28 while just squeaking out the edge in Game 2, 50-46 (lucky enough in support of the ‘over’ 181.5). But with Cleveland getting the best of Atlanta, outscoring the squad 59-35 in the first half, the second half result wasn’t pivotal in terms of covering the spread.

It’s going to take a hope and a dream for the Hawks to keep this one close. Maybe looking at a half of solid play is realistic but to get four quarters of positive momentum against a Cavs team that’s playing well above the rim, it might be asking too much at this point.

The favorite is 18-8 ATS in the last 26 head-to-head meetings and Cleveland is a smoking 11-1 ATS in its last 12 overall games.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Saturday 5/9

Game of the day: Cavaliers at Hawks
By Alex Smart

Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks (+8, 180)

M.V.Please


LeBron James is truly performing at a royal level, averaging just over 31 points per contest to go along with 9.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists. It’s a level that has enabled his Cleveland Cavaliers to win its first six games in this year's playoffs by a sizeable margin.

Not since the Indiana Pacers in 2004 has an NBA team won its first six by 10 points or more and Cleveland now has the chance to break the current record Saturday night as the series shifts to Atlanta.

It's too bad Cleveland needs to go through the motions with Atlanta to close out this second round contest. After embarrassing Detroit in Round 1, it'd be nice to throw King James some competition.

Insult to injury

If the Atlanta Hawks have any hope of competing with the Cavs, they'll need to be at full strength. Unfortunately, it seems highly unlikely that the Hawks will soar into battle Saturday night with the availability of every star on the table.

Both Al Horford and Marvin Williams missed Game 2 at the “Q” with injuries, and the Hawks’ leading scorer, Joe Johnson, rolled an ankle in Thursday night's third quarter. Johnson failed to return.

Despite the lack of personnel, Atlanta still had a rough night from the field, shooting just 35 percent.

Anniversary of ‘the shot’

Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena marked the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordan's 1989 series winning shot over Cleveland's Craig Ehlo. ‘The Shot’ is still one of the most recognizable plays in NBA history, let alone the beginning of the Cavs' streak of postseason bad luck.

Twenty years to the day, King James stunned Cleveland with another shot, one that went the Cavs' way this time around. As if a 21-point lead wasn't enough, James pulled up from 36-feet with 5.4 seconds remaining in the first half and sank an unbelievable jumper over Hawks guard, Mario West.

James elevated, sank the shot and stood proud as 20,562 fans jumped to their feet in amazement. "I can say, yes, it was demoralizing because of where I shot the ball," James said. "We carried that momentum into the second half." Now, Cleveland will be carrying that memory for another 20 years of what's possibly turning a streak of luck on Lake Erie.

Don’t fake the funk

Let's make this easy: Take Cleveland. It's that simple.

The Cavs are 7.5-point favorites for Game 3 and are 9-0 ATS (against the spread) after coming off of a win against the odds. Hell, Cleveland is 11-1 against the spread in its last 12 overall.

The Hawks are 8-17 against the number in their last 25 games following a loss of more than 10 points.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Saturday 5/9

NBA PLAYOFFS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(2) Denver (6-1 SU, 7-0 ATS) at (6) Dallas (4-3 SU and ATS)


The Mavericks look to climb out of a 2-0 deficit in this best-of-7 conference semifinal series when they return home to the American Airlines Center for Game 3 against the torrid Nuggets.

For the second straight game, Denver made a fourth-quarter surge to put Dallas away, winning 117-105 Tuesday night as a seven-point home chalk. Center Nene (25 points, eight rebounds) and star forward Carmelo Anthony (25 points, five assists) led the way, and Chauncey Billups had 18 points and eight assists. The Nuggets, shooting a sterling 52.3 percent in the series, are on a 20-4 SU tear (16-8 ATS).

Dirk Nowitzki racked up 35 points and nine rebounds in a losing cause for Dallas in Game 2, but only two other players reached double figures – Jason Terry (21 points) and Antoine Wright (10). Dallas made 23 of 30 free throws, but Denver had 10 more free-throw attempts, making 31 in all. The Mavs, shooting a respectable 48.1 percent against the Nuggets, have lost SU and ATS in both games in this series after entering on a 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS run.

Denver is now 9-1 SU and ATS in its last 10 meetings with Dallas, including 6-0 SU (5-1 ATS) this season. The Nuggets have also cashed on their last four trips to Dallas (3-1 SU).

Dallas is 34-9 SU (21-22 ATS) at home this year, and Denver is 22-21 SU and ATS on the road.

Not only have the Nuggets cashed in every postseason game to this point, but they’re are on additional pointspread sprees of 15-4 overall, 15-3 against the Western Conference, 14-3 against winning teams and 9-0 against the Southwest Division. The Mavericks are on an 8-18 ATS plunge against the Northwest Division, but they are on ATS upswings of 6-1 at home, 17-6 after a non-cover and 13-5 following a SU loss.

The over for Dallas is on streaks of 5-2 overall, 6-2 in second-round playoff games and 14-6 with the Mavs a home chalk, but the under is on rolls of 9-1 when Mavs are a playoff chalk of less than five points and 4-1 for the Mavericks at home. Likewise, the under for Denver is on stretches of 4-1 overall, 7-1 on the highway, 21-8 with the Nuggets catching points and 18-4 with the Nuggets as a playoff pup.

Finally, the under is 15-7 in the last 22 meetings in this rivalry (including 4-1 in the last five), and the total has stayed low in eight of the last 10 clashes in Dallas.

ATS ADVANTAGE: DENVER and UNDER


EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Cleveland (6-0 SU and ATS) at (4) Atlanta (4-5 SU and ATS)


After a pair of blowout home wins, the Cavaliers take their perfect postseason mark on the road to face the desperate Hawks at Philips Arena.

Cleveland pounded Atlanta 105-85 Thursday night as a heavy 12½-point chalk to take a 2-0 series lead, again riding its stifling defense to an easy victory. The Cavs allowed just 35 first-half points, taking a 24-point lead into the break. LeBron James paced the rout with 27 points, five assists and four steals. Cleveland hit 53.5 percent from the floor (38 of 71) while holding Atlanta to just 34.9 percent (29 of 83), and the Cavs have now won all six of their playoff starts by double digits.

The Hawks couldn’t get a single player to 20 points in Game 2, with Maurice Evans managing a team-high 16. Joe Johnson, the squad’s leading scorer this season, had just 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting, leaving late in the third quarter with an ankle injury that could limit him tonight. The SU winner has cashed in each of the Hawks’ nine playoff games, with every one of those contests decided by double digits.

Cleveland, allowing a suffocating 78.2 ppg in the playoffs while scoring 96.3, is now 5-1 SU (3-3 ATS) in the season series with Atlanta. The favorite has cashed in 18 of the last 26 meetings, and the Cavs are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 visits to Philips Arena. However, the home team is 5-1 ATS in the last six clashes.

Cleveland is 29-14 SU (24-19 ATS) on the highway this year, and Atlanta is 34-11 SU (25-19-1 ATS) in the home jerseys.

The Cavaliers are on a bundle of pointspread rolls, including 10-0 overall, 9-0 after a SU win, 7-0 in second-round playoff games, 4-0 on the road and 16-3 as a playoff chalk. The Hawks are on ATS upswings of 14-6-1 at home and 8-2 as a home pup, but they carry negative ATS streaks of 1-8 as an underdog and 1-5 catching points in the playoffs.

The under for Cleveland is on stretches of 4-1 overall, 15-5 in conference semifinal games and 7-1 when favored in the postseason. Likewise, the under for Atlanta is on tears of 8-3 overall, 11-3 against winning teams and 6-0 with the Hawks as a playoff pup.

In this rivalry, though, the over is 5-2 in the last seven meetings (1-1 in this series).

ATS ADVANTAGE: CLEVELAND

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Re: NBA News and Notes Saturday 5/9

NBA Today

SCOREBOARD


Saturday, May 9

Cleveland at Atlanta (8 p.m. EDT). The Cavaliers, who had the league’s best record at 66-16, are 6-0 in the playoffs and up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinal against the undermanned Hawks.

STARS

Friday

— Kobe Bryant(notes), Lakers, scored 33 points in the Lakers’ 108-94 victory in Game 3 on Friday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in the series.

— Dwight Howard(notes), Magic, had 17 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks to lift the Orlando Magic to a 117-96 victory over Boston and a 2-1 series lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal.

WINNING WHILE SHORT-HANDED

In their second game this postseason with a starter suspended, the Magic beat the Celtics 117-96. On Friday, it was Rafer Alston(notes) who was out for slapping Eddie House(notes) in the back of the head in Game 2. Previously, Dwight Howard lost his cool and threw an elbow at Samuel Dalembert’s(notes) head to draw a suspension for Game 6 of their first-round series against Philadelphia—but Orlando still managed to get a blowout win and eliminate the 76ers.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Paul Pierce(notes) broke out of his series slump to score 27 points, six assists and three steals in Boston’s 117-96 loss at Orlando.

FLAGRANTS

Houston’s Ron Artest(notes) was ejected with less than a minute remaining in the 108-94 loss to the Lakers night after a flagrant foul on Pau Gasol(notes). Artest fouled Gasol as he drove near the basket and Gasol crashed to the ground. Officials reviewed the play for a couple of minutes before ejecting Artest from the game. … Boston’s Kendrick Perkins(notes) was called for a flagrant one foul with 10:15 remaining at Orlando for an elbow on Mickael Pietrus(notes). Replays showed Perkins’ elbow hit Pietrus in the chin while the two were battling for position away from the ball, the kind of play the NBA has been reviewing—and sometimes giving out suspensions for—in a postseason that’s only becoming more physical. The Magic won 117-96.

NOT SIDELINED

Guard Courtney Lee(notes) returned for the Magic with a protective mask after missing the first two games of the series with Boston recovering from a fractured sinus. He finished with 11 points in 32 minutes.

SURGERY

Wizards forward Antawn Jamison(notes) had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. Jamison averaged 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds last season, both team highs. The Wizards went 19-63, the second-worst record in the NBA.

SPEAKING

“You give them their inside game and their outside game, then you don’t have a chance,” Boston’s Paul Pierce after the Celtics lost 117-96 to Orlando in Game 3 Friday night, giving the Magic a 2-1 series lead.

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