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NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/21

NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/21

Nuggets-Lakers, Game 2
By Brian Edwards

If Game 1 of the Western Conference finals was any indication of the sort of series we’re going to see, then bettors and basketball fans alike are loving life. In the series lid-lifter, Denver led for most of the game only to get outplayed at crunch time as the Lakers rallied for a 105-103 victory.

However, the Nuggets hooked up their backers as 6 ½-point underdogs. Gamblers who backed George Karl’s team on the money line narrowly missed out on collecting a plus-250 payout (paid $250 on $100 wagers). The 208 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 214-point total even though the game was seemingly on an ‘over’ pace for most of the night.

With the game tied at 99-99 with 30 seconds remaining, Kenyon Martin committed a silly foul against Kobe Bryant on the floor, but the Lakers were in the penalty already. Bryant drained both attempts from the charity stripe to put his team ahead.

After Karl burned a timeout to give the Nuggets the ball at halfcourt, Trevor Ariza intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass from Anthony Carter to Chauncey Billups. With 10 seconds left, Bryant buried two more free throws to give the Lakers a four-point cushion.
Billups answered by knocking down a 3-pointer from the corner, but Bryant hit two more free throws after Denver quickly fouled. With a three-point lead, L.A. didn’t give the Nuggets a chance to tie, instead fouling J.R. Smith on the floor. Smith hit the first free throw and deliberately missed the second, but the Lakers secured the rebound for the victory.

Bryant finished with a game-high 40 points on 13-of-28 shooting from the field. Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol added 13 points apiece. Fisher’s points were crucial, especially his go-ahead triple with 2:37 left in the final stanza. Fisher also nailed a go-ahead 3-ball at the halftime buzzer.

Carmelo Anthony was nothing short of sensational in the losing effort. Anthony had 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting from the field. Billups finished with 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds and only one turnover.

Denver failed to put the Lakers away due to inept free-throw shooting. The Nuggets missed 12 attempts from the charity stripe and Smith was 2-of-6 from the line (although one miss was on purpose).

For Game 2, Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Los Angeles (74-21 straight up, 49-46 against the spread) as a 5 ½-point favorite with a total of 213 ½. As of late Wednesday afternoon, most books were listing the Lakers as 5 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total in the 210-211 range.

Denver (62-31 SU, 55-37-1 ATS) is available on the money line for a plus-200 return (risk $100 to win $200). The Nuggets have been dynamic money makers in the playoffs, posting an incredible 10-0-1 spread record. For the season, they own a 16-12-1 ATS mark as underdogs.

The Lakers have only lost outright six times in 49 home games this year. They are 24-25 versus the number at Staples. L.A. has watched the ‘over’ go 25-24 in its home games.

Denver is 23-23 SU on the road but it has brought home a profit with a 26-20 ATS ledger when it leaves the Mile High City. The ‘under’ is 25-21 in the Nuggets’ road assignments.

The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the last eight head-to-head meetings between these squads. The ‘under’ has also cashed in five consecutive games for the Lakers (regardless of venue).

Tip-off for Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday night at 9:05 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

Smith suffered a knee injury on the final play of the game after trying to rebound his own missed free throw. He was diagnosed with a moderate sprain and is listed as “probable” for Game 2.

L.A. center Andrew Bynum was a non-factor due to foul trouble mostly. He had six points and six rebounds in just 16 minutes of play.

According to LVSC, the adjusted series price has the Lakers as minus-400 favorites. The Nuggets are plus-300 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $300).

The Lakers have won seven of their eight home games in the playoffs so far.

All three Denver losses in the playoffs have come by two points apiece.

Although Martin committed a bad foul as mentioned previously, he played well for the most part in Game 1. The veteran forward had 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

Bryant scored 15 of the Lakers' last 23 points in Game 1.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/21

Game of the day: Nuggets at Lakers
By Matt Fargo

Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers (-5.5, 210.5)

Down and out?

The Nuggets had Game 1 in their grasp and could have drawn first blood in the Western Conference Finals. Instead the Lakers held serve on their home floor thanks to another heroic effort from Kobe Bryant. The good news for Denver fans is that their team looked like the better side.

“We missed out on a great opportunity to steal this game,” said point guard Chauncey Billups. “We're going to continue to fight.”

The Nuggets are behind for the first time in the postseason, but aren’t lacking confidence. Poor free-throw shooting was the difference with Denver shooting 23-35 (65.7 percent) from the stripe. The steal near the end of the game sealed it, but was hardly the main cause for the setback.

All three of the Nuggets playoff losses have been by two points while their eight wins have been by 19.3 points per game. Denver will be back.

Trendy history lesson

The Lakers’ victory in Game 1 made it 11 straight playoff wins over Denver, which is the fourth longest streak in NBA history. I consider this one of those stats that the media loves to throw out there and make too much of a big deal. Past history means nothing in the playoffs, especially considering the Nuggets are far from the same team that was swept by Los Angeles last season.

Trends like this are often eaten up by bettors and that shouldn’t be the case. This is similar to the trend from the Eastern Conference semifinals showing that Boston was 32-0 in its history when leading a playoff series 3-2.

Make that 32-1 now.

I was on the Celtics in that final game but it was certainly not backed by that historical record.

History tells us the Lakers will sweep this series. Does anyone really believe that will be the case? Here is another meaningless trend. Phil Jackson coached teams that won Game 1 have a 42-0 series record. Denver might as well just pack it in now then.

ESPN can be a great source for your fantasy stats and NFL breakdowns, but it is not good for these meaningless numbers it throws out.

Disappearing act

In order for the Nuggets to win this series, they need to get the ball in the hands of the right player. Chauncey Billups is the veteran point guard leading this team but the player being revered is Carmelo Anthony. He had an incredible opening game but disappeared when the team needed him most.

Kobe Bryant took over in the fourth quarter for the Lakers and Anthony needs that type of timely effort to become part of Kobe’s company. He led the Nuggets with 39 points on 14-20 shooting including 4-5 from long range while hitting 7-8 from the free throw line. Yet while Bryant was taking the game over, Anthony did not score in the remaining 3:25 of the game and Denver leading 96-92.

“I could have been a little bit more selfish,” Anthony said after the game, “but I don't think it came down to that.”

Yes it did Melo. All night long he took advantage of what the Lakers defense was allowing him to do but in the clutch, he stayed back in closing minutes.

The NBA wants to see a Bryant versus LeBron NBA Finals. I for one would not mind seeing a LeBron vs. Melo Finals – a matchup the first and third overall picks from the 2003 draft. Either way, Anthony will need to continue scoring and do so late in order for Denver to be able to advance.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/21



(2) Denver (8-3 SU, 11-0 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS)

The Lakers, who eked out a Game 1 victory in the Western Conference finals, look to maintain home-court advantage and stay on track for a second straight NBA Finals berth when they face the Nuggets in Game 2 at Staples Center.

Los Angeles trailed much of the night Tuesday in the best-of-7 series opener, then rallied to post a 105-103 victory, though it failed to cover as a healthy 6½-point chalk. Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, including 15 in the final 6:48, capped by six free throws in the last 30 seconds to ice the game. Only two other Lakers reached double digits in scoring, with Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol (14 rebounds) each netting 13 points.

Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 39 points in Game 1, and Chauncey Billups had 18 points and eight assists for the Nuggets, who led by double digits early and were up by as many as seven in the fourth quarter. Denver could have sealed the deal with better free-throw shooting, as they got 35 trips to the line – 11 more than the Lakers – but made just 23, while L.A. hit 20 of 24 from the charity stripe. Denver also got beat on the boards 46-37 and had just seven offensive rebounds, while the Lakers nabbed 17.

The Nuggets’ three playoff losses have come by a combined six points – all two-point setbacks on the road from the underdog role, but Denver cashed in all three and remains perfect against the number in the postseason.

The Lakers have won 11 straight playoff games in this rivalry, and they are 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS) against the Nuggets this year. Despite failing to cash in Game 1, Los Angeles is on ATS rolls against Denver of 10-3 overall and 13-4 at Staples Center. Tuesday’s contest marked the first time this season that the home team hasn’t covered.

Los Angeles is 43-6 SU (24-25 ATS) at home this season, including 7-1 (4-4 ATS) in the postseason. Denver is 23-23 SU (26-20 ATS) on the highway (2-3 SU and 5-0 ATS in the playoffs).

The Lakers are on ATS upticks of 7-4 at home and 4-1 after a non-cover, but they also carry negative pointspread streaks of 1-7 after a SU win, 1-4 against the Northwest Division and 2-7 laying five to 10½ points in the playoffs.

The Nuggets are still 22-6 SU in their last 28 games, and they remain on several spread-covering sprees, including 21-6 overall, 5-0 after a SU loss, 5-0 as a playoff pup (all this year, all on the road), 19-7 following an ATS win and 6-1 against the Pacific Division. That said, Denver is on ATS skids of 16-35-1 overall as an underdog of five to 10½ points and 1-4 as a playoff pup of the same price.

The under for Los Angeles is on surges of 9-2 overall (5-0 in the last five), 6-0 in the conference finals, 6-1 after a SU win, 5-1 at home and 25-9 with the Lakers laying points. Likewise, the under for Denver is on stretches of 8-3 on the road, 12-4 as an underdog, 18-5 as a playoff pup and 10-1 with catching five to 10½ points in the postseason.

Finally, with Game 1 staying under the total, the under is now 7-1 in the last eight head-to-head clashes overall and 10-4 in the last 14 battles in L.A.


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