NBA News and Notes Wednesday 5/27

NBA News and Notes Wednesday 5/27

Game of the day: Denver Nuggets at L.A. Lakers
By Ted Sevransky

Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers (-6, 209.5)

Series So Far

In many ways this series has been almost as competitive as the ultra-hyped Celtics-Bulls first round tilt - minus all the overtimes. Three of the first four games have been decided in the final minute of regulation.

In Game 4, the Nuggets finally earned the first comfortable victory for either team. They also notched the first pointspread cover by a favorite after the underdog had cashed in each of the first three games.

Latest from the trainers' room

Denver was able to win and cover Game 4 despite a subpar showing from Carmelo Anthony. He was suffering from a stomach bug and reportedly was power puking into a garbage can in the locker room 15 minutes before game time. He shot only 3-for-16 from the floor and snared just three rebounds, by far his weakest game of the postseason.

Anthony should be back to full strength on Wednesday against Los Angeles. J.R. Smith and Renaldo Balkman have also battled minor injuries in this series, but both should be at or near 100 percent in Game 5.

The Lakers injury woes continue to mount. Lamar Odom’s bad back is flaring up and remains problematic heading home. Odom has been a non-factor for most of the series and his Game 4 performance was rather ugly, with as many fouls (five) as points scored.

Lakers starting point guard Derek Fisher is ailing as well. The oldest player in either team’s rotation has shot just 5-22 from the floor in the previous three games while dishing out only six assists.

Trevor Ariza is suffering from lingering hip and groin injuries. In Game 4, Ariza was awful, notching only three points, one rebound and one assist in 26 minutes of nearly invisible playing time.

Bench Press

Ariza spent a good portion of the regular season as an energy guy coming off the bench. But Ariza moved into the starting lineup when Andrew Bynum got hurt and has stayed in Phil Jackson’s top five ever since. Right now the Lakers could certainly use some of Ariza’s energy to provide spark off the bench.

Denver’s bench quartet of Smith, Chris Andersen, Anthony Carter and Linas Klieza outscored the Lakers bench 29-15 in Game 3 and followed that up by outscoring L.A.’s bench 42-24 in Game 4. During the regular season, the Purple and Gold consistently saw its role players step up, but that hasn’t happened yet in this series.

Energy and aggression

Look at these two postgame quotes from the Lakers superstars for a classic example of a team that knows they didn’t play well in their last outing.

Kobe Bryant: “They whupped us, period. They whupped us on the glass, they whupped us to loose balls.”

Pau Gasol: “You could sense more their sense of desperation tonight. Their game plan was attack, attack the paint, penetrate, everybody go to the boards. We didn't have quite that aggressiveness that they did.”

Battle of the boards

The Lakers won the rebounding battle by nine in Game 1, nabbing 17 offensive rebounds in the process. In Games 2 and 3 the two teams were virtually even on the glass. But in
Game 4 the Nuggets controlled the glass with a 58-40 rebounding edge that included a whopping 20 offensive boards.

Birdman had a career high 14 rebounds coming off the bench, while Kenyon Martin and Nene grabbed 28 boards between them. That trio outrebounded the Lakers entire team.

It was the first playoff game since Utah’s double overtime loss to Denver in 1994 where three different players on one team got 13 rebounds or more in the same game.

Foul fest

This has been an extremely physical series and the refs haven’t been shy about blowing their whistles. The Nuggets went to the free throw line 49 times in Game 4, leading Phil Jackson to begin his annual ‘whining about the zebras’ postgame tirade.

The Zen-Master was not a happy camper, claiming “not equal refereeing” and “unsportsmanlike basketball” when the Nuggets finished with 14 more free throw attempts than the Lakers on Monday. Funny, Jackson wasn’t complaining when the Lakers got 45 foul shots compared to Denver’s 31 in Game 3.

Both teams have taken at least 31 free throw attempts in each of the last three games. The straight up and against the spread winner in each of those three games was the team that got to the free throw line more often. We can expect whichever team is more aggressive taking the ball to the basket to get more than its fair share of foul calls once again in Game 5.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Wednesday 5/27

Denver at L.A., Game 5
By Brian Edwards

After four games, the Lakers and Nuggets have settled nothing. With the series tied at 2-2, the Western Conference finals head back to Tinseltown for Wednesday’s Game 5 at Staples Center.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Los Angeles (75-23 straight up, 50-48 against the spread) as a six-point favorite with a total of 210 ½. As of Tuesday night, most books were listing the Lakers as six-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 209 ½. Bettors can back Denver (64-32 SU, 57-38-1 ATS) on the money line for a plus-220 return (paid $220 on $100 wagers).

George Karl’s team evened the series Monday night by capturing a 120-101 win as a 4 ½-point home favorite. Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith led seven players in double figures with 24 points apiece. Smith drained 4-of-9 shots from 3-point land.

Carmelo Anthony wasn’t on his A-Game with a sprained ankle and a stomach virus slowing him for much of the night. Anthony had 15 points and five assists, but he was just 3-of-16 from the field.
   
The Nuggets’ big men came up huge. Nene had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, while Kenyon Martin finished with 13 points, 15 boards, two blocked shots and zero turnovers. Chris “The Bird Man” Andersen produced six points, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocks with high-energy play off the bench.

Chauncey Billups bounced back from a shaky Game 3 performance to score 16 points and not commit a turnover in 42 minutes of play. Billups, the only Nugget who owns an NBA championship ring, made all nine of his attempts from the charity stripe.

Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 34 points in the losing effort. Bryant, who was 10-for-26 from the floor, had seven rebounds, five assists and only one turnover. Paul Gasol finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Andrew Bynum had 14 points and five boards in 23 minutes of playing time.

I take a lot of shots at Bryant and stand by all of ‘em. However, I will give him credit for showing a ton of restraint in Game 4. Bryant has five technical fouls in these playoffs, so two more would lead to a one-game suspension.

On at least two occasions, Bryant was the victim of dirty plays by Dahntay Jones. Bryant was in mid-air on a drive to the basket when Jones blatantly pushed him from behind. In fairness to Jones, this is the playoffs and the shove (that he pulled up on somewhat) did prevent a three-point play because Kobe missed before going to the free-throw line.

The other play, tripping a cutting Bryant, is all on Jones. Although it wasn’t called a flagrant foul at the time, the NBA upgraded it as such on Tuesday. With three flagrant fouls in the playoffs, another would result in a one-game suspension for Jones.

Bryant had to be tempted to at least have some words with Jones after both plays, but he kept his cool and didn’t engage in anything to put himself at risk of a technical. After the game, he told the media that Jones was playing “good defense.”

L.A. head coach Phil Jackson had a different view, calling Jones’ play “unacceptable” and “unsportsmanlike.” Gasol made similar remarks. Jones said he “didn’t remember.”

The ‘under’ is 50-47-1 overall for the Lakers, 25-25 in their home assignments. The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the Lakers’ last eight games regardless of venue.

The ‘over’ is 49-47 overall for the Nuggets, but the ‘under’ is 26-21 in their road games.

ESPN will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Denver killed the Lakers on the boards 58-40 in Game 4.

--According to LVSC, the adjusted series price is L.A. minus-200, while the Nuggets are plus-170 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $170 if Denver advances to the NBA Finals).

--The ‘under’ is 3-1 in this series, 9-2 in the last 11 head-to-head meetings between these Western Conference adversaries.

--When playing on one day of rest, these teams have performed much differently. The Nuggets are 33-18-1 ATS in such spots, while the Lakers are just 24-34 versus the number.

--The Nuggets are 12-1-1 ATS in these playoffs.

--Orlando took a 3-1 series lead in the East finals thanks to last night's thrilling 116-114 overtime win as a one-point home underdog. For Game 5 back in Cleveland, LVSC opened the Cavs as eight-point favorites with a total of 191.

vegasinsider.com

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Re: NBA News and Notes Wednesday 5/27

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(2) Denver (10-4 SU, 13-1 ATS) at (1) L.A. Lakers (10-6 SU, 8-8 ATS)


With their best-of-7 Western Conference Finals series tied at 2-2, the Lakers and Nuggets return to Staples Center for the pivotal Game 5, with the winner moving to the brink of reaching the NBA Finals.

Denver led for all but 74 seconds Monday and turned Game 4 into a rout over the final few minutes, posting a 120-101 victory as a 4½-point home chalk. Carmelo Anthony (15 points, five assists) was dealing with illness and a bum leg and went just 3 of 16 from the field, but he hit 9 of 11 from the foul line, including several key fourth-quarter free throws. Along with Anthony, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith led seven players in double figures with 24 points apiece, while Kenyon Martin (13 points, 15 rebounds) and Nene (14 points, 13 rebounds) each notched a double-double.

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points to pace Los Angeles, and Pau Gasol added 21 points and 10 boards, but the Lakers got killed on the glass 58-40, including 20-9 on the offensive end. L.A. also hit just 24 of its 35 free throws, while Denver went to the charity stripe 49 times and made 37. The Game 4 result marked the first time in this series that the favorite won and covered and the first time that the favorite cashed.

Despite losing two of the last three in this series, Los Angeles is still 12-2 SU in its last 14 playoff games against Denver. The Lakers are 5-3 SU against the Nuggets this season, though the two teams have split the cash, and Los Angeles is 11-5 ATS in the last 16 clashes in this rivalry and 11-3 ATS in the last 14 meetings in Hollywood.

Los Angeles is 43-7 SU (24-26 ATS) at home this season, including 7-2 (4-5 ATS) in the postseason. Denver is 24-23 SU (27-20 ATS) on the highway, including 3-3 SU and a perfect 6-0 ATS in the playoffs.

The Lakers are on ATS upswings of 6-0 after a SU loss and 4-1 after a non-cover, but the pointspread trends turn downward from there, including 2-8 as a playoff chalk of five to 10½ points (0-2 in this series), 1-4 after one day off, 1-4 against the Northwest Division and 2-8 after scoring 100 or more points.

The Nuggets are on a 24-7 SU tear dating to the regular season, and along with their 13-1 ATS playoff mark, they sport positive pointspread streaks of 23-7 overall, 8-2 against the Pacific Division, 22-5 against the West and a perfect 6-0 on the road (all in the playoffs, all as an underdog). That said, Denver is on ATS skids of 17-35-1 as a road pup of 5 to 10½ points and 3-7 as a playoff pup of the same price.

Denver and L.A. combined for 78 fourth-quarter points in Game 4 Monday to send the contest soaring over the posted total after the first three games in this series stayed low. The under is still 9-2 in the last 11 clashes between these squads, including 4-1 in the last five in Los Angeles.

For Los Angeles, the under has hit in seven of its last eight and is on addition surges of 11-3 overall, 8-1 in the conference finals and 6-0 as a playoff chalk. Likewise, for Denver, the under is on tears of 9-3 on the highway, 13-4 with the Nuggets an underdog and 20-6 when catching points in the playoffs.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

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