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NBA News and Notes Sunday 5/24

NBA News and Notes Sunday 5/24

Game 3, Cavs at Magic
By Chris David

The 2008-09 NBA Playoffs have had its share of dramatics and it continued on Friday in Cleveland, when the Cavaliers edged the Magic, 96-95, as LeBron James drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The victory not only tied the Eastern Conference Finals at 1-1 but it more than likely salvaged the best-of-seven series and season for the Cavs.

The last-second play was designed to be a lob to the basket but Orlando defended well and James improvised. The catch-and-shoot will go down as one of the biggest shots in NBA history and easily the biggest ever for the Cleveland franchise.

James led the team with 35 points for the second straight game after dropping 49 in Game 1’s loss on Wednesday. Even though the Cavs knotted up the series, some pundits believe that the Magic are the better team, including handicapper Matt Moore.

He said, “There is no doubt that LeBron is arguably the most talented player in the league but his supporting cast is average and they’re showing their true colors in this series, which makes LeBron look even better. The bench and the coaching are starting to look like weaknesses as well.”
For the second straight game, the Cavaliers were outscored in the second-half by 11 after leading by as many as 23 points in the first two quarters. In Game 1, the Magic outscored the Cavs by 16 in the second-half, helping gamblers cover the number in both contests.

The Magic outscored the Cavs’ bench 26-14 in Game 2 and 25-5 in Game 1. Mickeal Pietrus has been a big boost for Stan Van Gundy’s team, posting 23 points in the first two games.

While Cleveland has relied on LeBron, the Magic have three legit players in Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu that can fill it up on a nightly basis. Turkoglu finished with 21 points in Game 2 and was almost the hero after his last bucket gave the Cavs a 95-93 lead before James’ big-shot.

Van Gundy shouldered the blame for the late bucket, the second time he’s done so this postseason. Moore explained, “As much heat as Shaq and others have given Stan Van Gundy, its not deserving at all. The guy can flat out coach just like his brother Jeff. What you have to love about this team is they don’t give up and his adjustments at the break have outclassed Mike Brown.”

After going 7-1 against the spread and winning every contest by double digits in its first eight playoff games, Cleveland has failed to cover in its last two. The oddsmakers and the betting public have taken notice and for the first time in a long time, the Cavs have been made underdogs.

Orlando opened as a 1 ½-point favorite for Game 3, while the total is sitting at 190 points. Is the line fair or too big of an adjustment?

“The Magic have been favored in every home playoff game so I’m not surprised to see the short price plus they’ve shown the public that King James’ crew is suspect. And, the Cavs lost both regular season trips to the Magic Kingdom, one time by 29 points,” added Moore.

Cleveland dominated the Pistons and Hawks in the first two playoff rounds on the road, which produced a 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS record, only failing to cover Game 4 in Atlanta by a point.

Orlando has gone 4-2 both SU and ATS at home in the playoffs, losing both games on buzzer beaters courtesy of the 76ers’ Andre Iguodala and the Celtics’ Big Baby Davis. Put simply, when the Magic win they cover too.

Cleveland owns a record of 4-6 ATS as a road underdog this year, while Orlando is 10-4 ATS as a home favorite of six points or less.

The first two games went ‘over’ in this series, plus the first quarter and the first half have been solid ‘over’ winners too. The number could be a tad inflated and bettors should note that the ‘under’ has gone 4-2 in Orlando’s home playoff games. The Cavs have watched the 'under' go 3-1 in their four road playoff tilts.

The series price still has Cleveland listed as a favorite (-330) albeit much smaller than the opening series price (-600). Gamblers who are looking to back Orlando in what’s now become a best-of-five can find a price of plus-250 (Bet $100 to win $250) odds.

TNT will continue its coverage of the Eastern Conference Finals, airing Game 3 at 8:35 p.m. EDT.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Sunday 5/24

NBA on ABC: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic (-1.5, 190)

Do you believe in Magic?

The Magic proved they are a championship-caliber contender by winning Game 7 in Boston last round, taking Game 1 in Cleveland earlier in the week, and coming within a second of holding a 2-0 lead against the Cavaliers. Orlando is a team learning how good it can be. It is 11-9 in its last 20 games ATS, but 7-3 ATS in the past 10.

Be careful against picking the favorite, though. They are 0-4 ATS in the third round and just 2-2 SU. Last round, however, the favorites were 3-1 ATS in Game 3’s

Defense or Offense?

The first two games between Orlando and Cleveland make it very difficult to predict if these teams will try to outscore or stop each other.

Game 1 featured 213 total points, smashing the total of 184. The second game, however, was much more defense oriented. The teams combined for just 191 points, but it still was more than enough to push it past the total of 188.5.

With both team’s preferring to play lower-scoring games – Cleveland is 4-6 O/U and Orlando is 6-9 O/U – defense figures to eventually become a focus of the series.

And look for the teams to settle into that defensive mode Sunday. The under has hit in Cleveland’s past four road games and Orlando has gone under the total in 26 of its past 36 home games as a home favorite. The over, however, is 11-5-1 in the team’s past 17 games in Orlando.

Matchups matter

So nothing gets older than hearing Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Chris Webber on TNT continually harp on matchups being the deciding factor in playoff series.

But they are right.

Cleveland still is favored to reach the NBA Finals, but the Magic give the Cavs fits. Cleveland is 1-12 ATS against the Magic in the team’s past 13 meetings and 1-5 ATS in its past six trips to the Sunshine State. In two games in Orlando this season, the Magic covered as five-point favorites in a 99-88 win early in the year and again as 3.5-point favorites in a 116-87 blowout last month.

The biggest issue for Cleveland appears to be its inability to find a way to guard Dwight Howard (20.6 ppg, 13.8 rpg), or at least keep him away from the basket. Orlando also is doing a great job at forcing the rest of the Cavaliers to make difficult, contested jump shots.

The LeBron Rules

So how do teams stop LeBron James?

“The Chosen One” averaged 28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 7.2 apg as the Cavaliers were streaking through the postseason prior to their loss in Game 1. In the loss, all LeBron did was score 49 points, grab six rebounds and hand out eight assists. Following the game, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted he had “no idea” how to guard James.

That showed at the end of Game 2, when he took Mickael Pietrus off of James and allowed Hedo Turkoglu to guard him with a second left.

The result:  A game-winning 3-pointer by The King and lots of second guessing. Pietrus appeared to be causing trouble for James, holding the league’s MVP to just four fourth-quarter points prior to the game winner. If Van Gundy doesn’t figure out how to stop or at least slow down James, who had 35 points on Friday night, the series could be over quickly.

"The way they were celebrating, it was good, man,” Turkoglu told reporters. “They win and they celebrate, and it means we're in their heads. So it's all on us now, and how we play in front of our fans.”

Other key numbers:

- Magic are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 Sunday games
- The Magic are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games following an ATS win
- The under is 16-7 in the Cavaliers last 23 playoff games as an underdog
- The underdog is 10-3 ATS in the team’s past 13 games

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Re: NBA News and Notes Sunday 5/24



(1) Cleveland (9-1 SU, 8-2 ATS) at (3) Orlando (9-6 SU, 7-8 ATS)

The Cavaliers, who had to battle to earn a home split in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, make the trip to Amway Arena for Game 3 against the Magic, who are coming off a stunning Game 2 loss.

Cleveland beat Orlando 96-95 Friday night, winning on LeBron James’ highlight reel catch-and-shoot 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with just one second left on the clock, but the Cavaliers failed to cover as a heavy nine-point home chalk. James finished with 35 points and five assists, though he also committed six turnovers as Cleveland blew all of a 23-point first-half lead before eking out the victory. Mo Williams scored 19 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a double-double of 12 points and 15 rebounds.

The Cavs were yielding just 78.1 ppg in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but have now given up 107 and 95 points, respectively, to the Magic.

Rashard Lewis paced Orlando with 23 points, hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and Hedo Turkoglu had 21 points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 93 and a 12-foot jumper in the lane that gave the Magic a 95-93 lead with one second remaining. Dwight Howard had just 10 points but grabbed 18 rebounds.

The Magic are on a 12-1 ATS tear in this rivalry, including cashing in five of the last six meetings in Orlando. This year, Orlando is 3-2 SU and 5-0 ATS against the Cavaliers. The underdog is now 10-3 ATS in the last 11 clashes, and the road team is on an 8-3 ATS roll.

Cleveland is 31-14 SU (25-20 ATS) on the road this year, including 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) in the playoffs. Orlando is 36-11 SU (26-21 ATS) at home, including 4-2 SU (3-3 ATS) in the postseason.

The Cavaliers are 31-5 SU in their last 36 starts and remain on virtually nothing but positive ATS runs, including 11-3 overall, 6-2 in the Eastern Conference finals, 40-20 after a non-cover, 5-1 on the road, and 10-2 after a SU win. However, Mike Brown’s troops are just 6-15 ATS in their last 21 starts against Southeast Division squads.

The Magic are on ATS upticks of 8-3 overall (4-0 in their last four), 7-1 against the Central Division, 5-2 after a spread-cover and a lengthy 50-21-1 following a SU loss, but they are just 5-15 ATS as a home chalk of less than five points.

The first two games of this series cleared the posted price, and the over for Cleveland is on rolls of 5-0 in the conference finals and 5-1 with the Cavs an underdog. But the Cavs remain on “under” streaks of 4-0 on the road, 6-2 after a SU win and 16-7 as a playoff pup. Likewise, the under for Orlando is on runs 22-10 overall, 4-1 at home, 6-1 with the Magic a playoff chalk and 26-10 overall with the Magic laying points at home.

Finally, in this rivalry, the total has gone high in 11 of the last 17 meetings in Orlando (11-5-1).



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Re: NBA News and Notes Sunday 5/24

Orlando even, but will they recover mentally?
Doug Upstone

People who don't watch sports will never get it. There are those moments in sports that transcend meaning; it goes to a different level, otherworldly. LeBron James gave the city of Cleveland something it hasn't had much of, hope. By now you have seen James' shot a couple of hundred times and it is as marvelous and unbelievable as was live the first time. No nickname has really stuck with LeBron, be in King James and a few others, but on the number he's picked for himself (23), the "Chosen One" might well be the best of all.

His Game 2 winning shot will take on greater meaning if Cleveland can find a way to at least win the Eastern Conference, which is far less a sure thing than it was Wednesday night before the series opener.
I've been scratching my head wondering why everyone in Orlando is blaming themselves for James making shot. Coach Stan Van Gundy took the blame, but never said exactly why. Mickael Pietrus joined in the blame-game and was equally unclear what he did wrong, since he wasn't assigned to guard James in the first place. If anybody is to be blamed it's Hedu Turkoglu, not for not guarding LeBron tighter, since he and teammates has already taken away dunk opportunity, but for not taking more time off the clock with what SEEMED like game winning shot with a second to go.

Sometimes you can do everything right and the ball just goes in the cylinder.

The Orlando bench and players were visibly shaken, but this isn't their first jolt in the playoffs. Coach Van Gundy only needs to remind his squad; they absorbed haymakers from Andre Iguodala and Ray Allen and still came out on top in two prior series. The Magic have proven the Cavaliers are not superior to them by any stretch and Turkoglu was defiant after heart-breaking loss.

"They make a last-second shot and seeing them celebrating, it means we are in their heads," he said. "I guarantee it's going to be a ballgame difference when we go back to Orlando in front of our home-court fans." The Magic return home 12-2 ATS after playing three consecutive road games.

The last seven minutes of Game 2, likely set the table for this contest and rest assured neither Mickey nor Minny Mouse will want any part of this action in downtown Orlando. In the closing minutes, it looked like RAW from the WWE, with bodies flying everywhere, accept this wasn't scripted. With the intensity rising minute by minute, the Magic are 16-5 ATS after playing a game as a road underdog and they will be laying in wait.

Cleveland is on 11-2-1 ATS run, however are just 2-10 ATS vs. teams having won 70 percent or more of their games. The Cavaliers are finding out what TNT analyst Doug Collins said to be true about Orlando, "Leads of 15 points for or against Orlando don't mean much, with how they shoot the three." Cleveland's defense has been exposed when they can't pack it in, with the Magic having quickness edges at different spots in open space.

When the series began, it did not appear Orlando would be a favorite, but after two impressive contests, has them as 1.5-point choice with total of 189.5. Based on the past, this could work in Cleveland's favor, since they are 22-9 ATS as road underdogs of less than five points. Conversely, the Magic have been not be magical in this spot, sporting 5-15 ATS record when favored by less than five points at Amway Arena.

This swing game will start at 8:35 Eastern on TNT, with Orlando 12-1 ATS in last 13 meeting with Cavs, including 5-1 against the spread on home floor.

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