NBA News and Notes Monday 5/25

NBA News and Notes Monday 5/25

Game 4, Lakers-Nuggets
By Chris David

Just when the betting public believed Los Angeles was ripe for the taking in the Western Conference Finals, Kobe Bryant aka The Black Mamba silenced the Denver crowd on Saturday for a 103-97 Lakers’ victory.

Bryant drilled a clutch 3-pointer late in the game and the Lakers took advantage of Denver’s miscues en route to the win. Kobe finished with 41 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter and sealed the triumph with four free throws in the final 22 ticks.

The Lakers covered as a 3 ½-point underdogs and cashed money-line tickets at a plus-145 (Bet $100 to win $145) price.
   
The Nuggets looked like they were going to pull away in the second-half but they fell apart down the stretch, getting outscored 32-18 by the Lakers in the fourth quarter. Prior to Kobe’s closing free throws, Denver had a chance to tie or take the lead but it coughed up the inbound pass for the second time in three games.

Trevor Ariza was the beneficiary in both Game 1 and Game 3. "It was kind of funny," Ariza of his two big steals. "It was pretty much the same thing."

Another thing that has become comical in this series is head coach George Karl’s game-planning down the stretch for Denver. As quickly as people wrote off the Lakers in this series, they shouldn’t forget that coach Phil Jackson owns an all-time record of 42-0 in a best-of-seven series when his team wins Game 1.

While Bryant supplied all the heroics for the Lakers, the Nuggets’ superstars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups failed to step up in Game 3. The duo were a combined 9-of-28 (32%) from the field and 3-of-14 (21%) from beyond the arc. Anthony finished with 21 points but he was averaging 35 points in his previous five games. Billups closed with 18.

Denver shot only 39 percent from the field as a team but did receive 29 points from its bench, including a 15-point effort from Chris Andersen on 10-of-15 shots. The Birdman was great, but J.R. Smith was off the mark, connecting on just 4-of-15 attempts, including 2-of-10 from downtown. If you take away Andersen’s output, the team shot 33 percent from the field.

The Lakers hit 45 percent of their shots and were also treated to 45 free throw attempts. Once again, Phil Jackson’s team was below par from the stripe, hitting 69 percent of their chances. The Nuggets got to the free throw line 33 times.

With the win on Saturday, Los Angeles improved its record as a road underdog to 8-2 this year. The loss for Denver snapped a 16-game home winning streak for the club. In the playoffs, Denver was 6-0 both SU and ATS against New Orleans and Dallas, winning by an average of 17.5 PPG. One good note for the Nuggets, they haven’t suffered back-to-back losses at home all year.

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas are certainly expecting a sense of urgency on Monday, as they opened Denver as a 4 ½-point home favorite in Game 4.

Total players are shaking their heads in this series and Monday’s number opened as high as 211 at some offshore outfits, but it’s hovering between 208 ½ and 210.

The tempo hasn’t been as fast as most expected and the shooting is certainly off. The Lakers and Nuggets have both been cold with neither team shooting over 50 percent in any of the three contests. And the free throw misses (16, 16, 19) in each game hasn’t helped either.

The ‘under’ stands at 9-1 in the last 10 head-to-head meetings, including a 3-0 mark in this series. The Lakers have watched the ‘under’ go 11-5 in the postseason, which includes seven straight winning tickets.

Gamblers still believing that the Nuggets can rally and win the series can back the squad from Colorado on an adjusted series price of plus-290 (Bet $100 to win $290).

Monday’s contest will tip at 9:05 p.m. EDT, with ESPN providing national coverage.

Game 5 between the Nuggets and Lakers will be at Staples Center on Wednesday.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Monday 5/25

NBA PLAYOFFS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) L.A. Lakers (10-5 SU, 8-7 ATS) at (2) Denver (9-4 SU, 12-1 ATS)


The Lakers, who quickly restored the home-court advantage they lost in Los Angeles with Game 3 victory in Denver, look to take command of this best-of-7 Western Conference Finals series when they face the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Los Angeles trailed throughout much of Game 3 Saturday, but a key Trevor Ariza steal and 41 points from Kobe Bryant helped the Lakers nab a 103-97 victory as a 3½-point road underdog, snapping Denver’s 16-game home win streak. Pau Gasol (20 points, 11 rebounds) had yet another double-double, and Ariza finished with 16 points. L.A. enjoyed a huge edge at the free-throw line, making 31 of 45 attempts (68.9 percent); Denver’s percentage was much higher (83.9), but the Nuggets only had 31 attempts, making 26.

Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 21 points, but only three of those came in the second half as he fell well short of his 28 ppg playoff average, after scoring 39 and 34 points, respectively, in Games 1 and 2. Anthony went 4 of 13 from the floor, and Chauncey Billups (18 points, seven assists) was just 5 of 15, and Denver shot a dismal 5-for-27 from three-point range (18.5 percent).

Los Angeles is 12-1 SU in its last 13 playoff games against Denver and has won seven straight postseason tilts in the Mile High City. The Lakers have won five of seven clashes this season, going 4-3 ATS, and they are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 meetings with the Nuggets. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five contests, including all three games in this series.

Denver is 39-9 SU (29-18-1 ATS) on the year at home, including a 6-1 SU and ATS mark in the playoffs. Los Angeles is 32-15 SU (26-21 ATS) on the highway this season, including 3-3 SU and ATS in the playoffs.

The Nuggets’ perfect playoff ATS mark went out the window Saturday. However, they are still 23-7 SU in their last 30 overall, and they remain on spread-covering sprees of 22-7 overall, 10-2 as favorite, 6-1 as a playoff chalk, 7-2 against the Pacific Division and 21-5 against the West.

The Lakers are on ATS upswings of 21-7-2 as a road pup, 6-2 catching less than five points on the road and 5-2 as a playoff pup of the same price, but they carry negative ATS streaks of 0-4 after a SU win and 1-5 after a spread-cover.

For Los Angeles, the under has hit in seven straight games and is on surges of 11-2 overall, 5-1 on the road and 8-0 in the conference finals. The over is 10-5 in Denver’s last 15 games at home, but the under is 6-2 in its last eight as a favorite of less than five points.

Finally, with the first three games of this series staying low, the under is now 9-1 in the last 10 clashes between these two teams, and the last six meetings in Denver have stayed under the posted price.

ATS ADVANTAGE: DENVER and UNDER

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NBA Today

SCOREBOARD

Monday, May 25

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver (9 p.m. EDT). The Nuggets try to bounce back from their first home loss since March 9 and even the Western Conference finals at two games apiece. Los Angeles regained the home-court advantage with its 103-97 victory in Game 3.

STARS

Sunday

— Dwight Howard(notes), Magic, went 14-of-19 from the line and scored 24 points as Orlando beat Cleveland 99-89 to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

— Rafer Alston(notes), Magic, scored 18 points in outplaying Cleveland All-Star point guard Mo Williams(notes).

— Mickael Pietrus(notes), Magic, came off the bench to score 16 points and play strong defense as Orlando forced LeBron James(notes) to shoot 11-of-28.

HELP WANTED

LeBron James had 41 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but had little help from his teammates in Cleveland’s 99-89 Game 3 loss to Orlando. Guards Mo Williams and Delonte West(notes) were a combined 10-for-27 from the field and the Cavaliers shot 37 percent from the floor.

NO MO

Mo Williams had another poor night—and a painful one—in Cleveland’s 99-89 loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. The All-Star point guard had only five of his 15 points after halftime and was just 5-for-16 shooting, falling to 18-for-56 for the series. He also briefly left the game after taking an elbow from Orlando’s Anthony Johnson(notes) above and below the left eye midway through the second quarter. Williams required four stitches to seal the lacerations and said Johnson’s elbow was “most definitely” a cheap shot.

MAVERICK TRADING

The Dallas Mavericks are out of the NBA playoffs, and the spotlight is now following the team’s controversial owner, Mark Cuban, to a different venue— federal court. The insider trading suit filed against Cuban by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year is scheduled to receive its first hearing Tuesday when attorneys present oral arguments on a motion by the billionaire owner to have the case dismissed.

CAVALIERS & CHINA

The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed an agreement with an investment group from China to become minority owners of the NBA franchise and its arena. The Asian conglomerate, which includes JianHua Huang, a Chinese businessman who has brokered sponsorship deals with the New York Yankees and other sports franchises in the U.S., could acquire up to 15 percent of Cavaliers Operating Company, the entity that owns the team and operates Quicken Loans Arena. If approved, the deal would provide marketing opportunities for the Cavaliers and James, who is already popular in China.

SPEAKING

“We just need to man up. Orlando is a very, very good team.”—LeBron James, after the Magic’s 99-89 victory gave them a 2-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.

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