NBA News and Notes Tuesday 5/26

NBA News and Notes Tuesday 5/26

Game 4, Cavs-Magic
By Chris David

Cleveland was listed as the odds-on favorite to win the NBA Finals and few could argue against the club considering it looked unstoppable through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Mike Brown’s team posted a perfect 8-0 ledger and won every game by double digits albeit against the hapless Pistons and erratic Hawks.

Prior to Cleveland’s battle against Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals, most pundits weren’t asking if the Cavs would win rather how many games would it take them to finish off the Magic.

According to Bodog.com, the shortest Exact Series Finish odds for the Cavs were set for five games and if you’ve followed this series, then you’ll know that outcome is finished.

Orlando captured a 99-89 victory over Cleveland on Sunday giving the club a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-seven battle. Dwight Howard scored 24 points, 14 from the free throw line, and the Magic bounced back from LeBron James’ game-winning shot in Game 2.

James finished with 41 points in the Game 3’s loss but neither him (1-of-8) or his teammates (4-of-18) could buy a shot from 3-point land. The supporting cast for the Cavs continues to get criticized and deservingly so.

The Cavs’ Mo Williams finished Game 3 with a dismal performance from the field, going 5-of-16. In this series, Williams is shooting 32 percent and is just 6-of-24 (25%) from 3-point land. To add insult to his rough play, the first-year All-Star caught a vicious elbow from Orlando’s Anthony Johnson that left him bloody.

Not only has Williams been missing, but Cleveland backers are searching for Zydrunas Ilguaskas, who averaging 10.3 PPG while shooting 38 percent (13-of-34) through the first three games. The Cavs were hoping his outside game could open the paint but that hasn’t been the case so far.

Fortunately, the Cavs’ offense was helped with 35 trips to the charity stripe, which made up for a dismal shooting percentage (37%).

While we hate to waste time on conspiracy theories, it’s fair to say that the public and the NBA want to see the Lakers and Cavaliers meet in the NBA Finals regardless of what commissioner David Stern says.

With that being said, the fouls in Game 3 were questionable and you could make a fair argument that the refs were leaning towards the LeBron and the Cavs, especially late in the game. The officials called 58 fouls, which resulted in 86 free throws in 48 minutes. Some of the fouls were real questionable, including a phantom call on Howard’s block on James 3-point attempt in the final minute.

The ‘over/under’ closed at 189 in Game 3 and gamblers backing the ‘under’ surprisingly had to sweat it out. After watching 81 total points scored in the first 24 minutes, ‘under’ players had 108 points to play with in the second-half. The second-half total was 94 at most outfits and the two clubs combined for 107 points in the last two quarters, 45 coming from the free-throw line.

In the six meetings this year, Cleveland is averaging 93.8 PPG and only shooting 42.8 percent during the stretch. Mike Brown’s team is in dire need of offense outside of LeBron yet he hasn’t called on sharpshooters Wally Szczerbiak or Daniel Gibson off the bench. The only other true outside threat on the pine is Sasha Pavlovic, who scored nine points in Game 2’s victory.
   
Even though the Cavs have lost four of six and failed to cover the number in eight straight meetings against the Magic, they’ve still been tabbed as favorites for Game 4.

The game opened at a pick but Cleveland is now a short one-point road favorite. The total is sitting on 188. The ‘over’ has gone 2-1 in the series.

Not only have the Magic covered eight straight, but they’re 13-1 ATS in the last 14 meetings. Orlando has lost two games at home in the playoffs, both coming in buzzer-beater fashion to Philadelphia and Boston. If you look at the Magic’s six losses this postseason, five have come by four points or less.

One trend favoring Cleveland is how the team responds off a loss. This year, the Cavs have gone 14-2 SU and 13-3 ATS after a defeat and that includes Game 2’s comeback win at home against Orlando in this series.

It’s fair to say that Orlando hasn’t played a complete game in this series yet, which means the top-seeded Cavaliers will have to be perfect here on out, something they haven’t been since the first two rounds.

TNT will provide national coverage of this tip at 8:35 p.m. EDT.

After this battle, the two teams will head to Cleveland for Game 5 on Thursday.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Tuesday 5/26

Game of the day: Cavaliers at Magic
By The Prez

Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic (+1, 188)

The series

Hard to believe oddsmakers have so little faith in Orlando, which has covered in each game of this series. But when the Magic had back-to-back home games in the first two rounds, they weren’t able to sweep both against either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers. Ninety points is clearly the magic number for this team, no pun intended, as Orlando is 8-0 this postseason when holding the opposition to 90 or fewer points.

Orlando got off to a good start in Game 3 and built its lead in the fourth quarter. In the first two games of the series, the Magic had been outscored 63-35 in the first quarter by the Cavaliers. In Game 3, Orlando led 24-17 after the first 12 minutes.

Orlando has won 10 of its past 14 meetings with Cleveland and six of the past seven at home. The Cavs haven’t lost four games in a row against the spread since mid-March (and they won all those straight up).

Let’s get physical

It will be interesting to see if the referees take control of Tuesday’s game early in the wake of the Game 3 foul-fest. Fifty-eight personal fouls were called and Cleveland’s Mo Williams had his eye bashed in by an Anthony Johnson elbow.

Both Williams and James called it a cheap shot, although an original Flagrant 2 foul call was downgraded to a Flagrant 1 and Johnson stayed in the game.

"You see Mo's face and it's not a pretty sight. It's not called for in this game," James said.

Dwight Howard also got a technical in Game 3, and two more means an automatic suspension for the following game.

Howard played just 28 minutes in Game 3 because of fouls, but he made the Cavs pay for all the fouls on him, hitting 14-for-19 from the line. His free-throw shooting percentage is 10 points higher in this series than it was in the regular season, although he had just 10 total attempts in the first two games in Cleveland.

The Cleveland media is calling the strategy “Slap a Superman” and both Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao fouled out in Game 3 while hacking Howard.

“That was a great strategy until he started making them," Williams said to reporters. "If he's clanging them off the backboard it'll work to perfection. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for them, he made them."

One-man show

James has been stellar in this series, averaging 41.7 points per game. Problem is, that’s about 43 percent of his team’s total output. Guards Williams and Delonte West are shooting a combined 28 percent in the series, yet Cleveland coach Mike Brown has pretty much kept Daniel Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak - two guys who can get hot from outside - tied to the bench.

Williams is shooting just 32.1 percent from the field in this series and 25 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers in the regular season were 46.7 percent and 43.6 percent, respectively. Pretty much all his numbers are down this postseason.

"If I do make a shot, I can hear Stan (Van Gundy) screaming at them, 'Get up closer, get up closer' so they're trying to make an effort to not give me open looks," Williams said to reporters.

No Cavalier managed more than 15 points in Game 3 outside of James, and the bench had just eight total. That simply won’t get it done. The Cavs’ perceived edge in this series was definitely in the backcourt, but West (13-for-31 in the series) and Williams (18-for-55) are being outplayed.

That’s in large part to Orlando’s big swingmen like Rashard Lewis (6-foot-10), Mickael Pietrus (6-6) and Hedo Turkoglu (6-10) closing fast on defense. And really it’s those three guys who are giving the Cavs the most problems on offense and defense.

"They create a lot of matchup problems," James said. "The way Rashard spaces the floor, our bigs are not used to it.

It's also like the Cavs have forgotten who they are, as they have attempted 73 3-pointers in this series (making just 18), which is 10 more attempts than the Magic, who led the NBA in 3s during the regular season.

“They have to keep shooting,” Brown said.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Tuesday 5/26

NBA PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Cleveland (9-2 SU, 8-3 ATS) at (3) Orlando (10-6 SU, 8-8 ATS)


The Magic, looking to take full command of the Eastern Conference finals, host the suddenly struggling Cavaliers in Game 4 at Amway Arena.

Orlando kept Cleveland at arm’s length much of the night Sunday en route to a 99-89 Game 3 victory as a 1½-point home chalk, taking a 2-1 lead in this series and moving to 3-0 ATS. Dwight Howard put up 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and four of his teammates reached double figures in scoring, with Rafer Alston netting 18 and Hedo Turkoglu notching 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

LeBron James led the Cavs with 41 points in Game 3, and he also had nine assists and seven rebounds, but only two others reached double digits – Mo Williams (15 points) and Delonte West (12). In a game featuring 86 free throws, Cleveland got killed at the charity stripe, making 26 of 35 while Orlando hit 39 of 51. In their playoff sweeps of Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds, the Cavaliers were giving up just 78.1 points per game, but they’re allowing 100.3 ppg to Orlando.

The Magic are on a 13-1 ATS tear in this rivalry, including cashing in six of the last seven meetings in Orlando. This year, Orlando is 4-2 SU and 6-0 ATS against the Cavaliers. Also, the underdog is 10-4 ATS in the last 14 clashes.

Cleveland is 31-15 SU (25-21 ATS) on the road this year, including 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS) in the playoffs. Orlando is 37-11 SU (27-21 ATS) at home, including 5-2 SU (4-3 ATS) in the postseason.

The Magic are on ATS upswings of 9-3 overall (5-0 in their last five), 8-1 against the Central Division, 6-2 after a spread-cover and 6-2 following a SU win, and as an underdog, they are on ATS rolls of 6-2 in playoff action and 36-15-1 overall.

The Cavaliers are 32-5 SU in their last 37 starts and remain on several positive ATS runs, including 11-4 overall, 10-3 as a chalk, 40-21 after a non-cover and 5-2 on the road. However, Mike Brown’s troops are just 6-16 ATS in their last 22 starts against Southeast Division squads.

The under for Orlando is on rolls of 23-10 overall, 27-11 at home (5-1 in the last six) and 16-6 against teams with a winning percentage above .600. The under for Cleveland is on stretches of 7-3 overall, 5-0 on the highway and 4-0 with the Cavs a road chalk, but the over is 5-1 in the Cavs’ last six conference finals games.

Finally, in this rivalry, the total has stayed low in five of the last seven meetings in Orlando, including Game 3, which ended just a tick below the 189-point posted price.

ATS ADVANTAGE: ORLANDO

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Re: NBA News and Notes Tuesday 5/26

NBA Today

SCOREBOARD

Tuesday, May 26

Cleveland at Orlando (8:30 p.m. EDT). The Magic look to take a 3-1 lead over the team that had the NBA’s best record in the regular season. After beating Cleveland two out of three in the regular season, Orlando has won two of three to open the Eastern Conference finals.

STARS

Monday

— Chauncey Billups(notes), Nuggets, scored 24 points and made all nine free throws in Denver’s 120-101 victory over the Lakers that evened the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.

— J.R. Smith(notes), Nuggets, came off the bench to score 24 points, making four 3-pointers and sparking a strong effort from Denver’s reserves.

DENVER’S DOUBLE-DOUBLES

Kenyon Martin(notes) had 13 points and 15 rebounds, while Nene added 14 points and 13 boards in the Nuggets’ 120-101 victory over the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. They helped Denver finish with a 58-40 rebounding advantage. Reserve Chris Andersen(notes) grabbed 14 boards.

DIRTY DAHNTAY?

Lakers coach Phil Jackson accused Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones(notes) of playing “unsportsmanlike basketball” by intentionally tripping Kobe Bryant(notes) during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. “There’s another situation out there tonight that was unacceptable by Dahntay Jones,” Jackson said. “Just unacceptable defense, tripping guys and playing unsportsmanlike basketball.” Hornets coach Byron Scott also criticized Jones for dirty play in the first round.

AILING ANTHONY

Hobbled by a sprained ankle and slowed by a stomach virus, Carmelo Anthony(notes) was limited to 15 points on 3-of-16 shooting in Denver’s 120-101 victory over the Lakers in Game 4. It was his second straight game below 30 points after he hit that mark in five consecutive games.

SPEAKING

“They whooped us, period. They whooped us on the glass. They whooped us to loose balls.”—Kobe Bryant after the Lakers’ 120-101 Game 4 loss to Denver that evened the Western Conference finals at two games apiece.

“Guarantee we’re going to win the series? Yeah, yeah. We are down 2-1. But there is nobody on this team and definitely not myself that says we are not going to win this series. Yeah, it is going to be tough. We know that. We get this game tomorrow, go home, still got home-court advantage. We don’t see ourselves losing two out of three at home.”—Cleveland guard Mo Williams(notes), calling his Cavaliers “the best team in basketball.”

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