NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/28

NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/28

Orlando at Cleveland, Game 5
By Brian Edwards

The Cleveland Cavaliers will be staring elimination in the face Thursday when they play host to Orlando in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Mike Brown’s team as an eight-point favorite with a total of 191.

As of early Wednesday night, most sports books had Cleveland (75-19 straight up, 57-36-1 against the spread) as a 7 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total adjusted to 190. Bettors can back the Magic to win outright for a plus-300 return (risk $100 to win $300).

Stan Van Gundy’s squad took a 3-1 series lead thanks to Tuesday’s 116-114 overtime win as a one-point home underdog. Dwight Howard took over in the extra session, scoring 10 of his 27 points. The fifth-year center also pulled down 14 rebounds to go with four assists and three blocked shots.
   
Nevertheless, the Cavs had a chance to win at the buzzer but unlike in Game 2, LeBron James’ 3-pointer at the horn was off the mark. James put forth a valiant effort in defeat, finishing with 44 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. He forced OT by draining a pair of free throws with 0.5 seconds remaining in regulation.

On the ensuing possession, the Magic attempted a lob to Howard who was well defended by Anderson Varejao. The home crowd wanted a whistle on Varejao, but I thought it was an excellent no-call.

Orlando (70-29 SU, 59-39-1 ATS) has now covered the number in nine consecutive head-to-head meetings against the Cavs. Howard and Co. have also taken the cash in six straight games dating back to the Boston series.

Cleveland continues to have all sorts of problems defending Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. Lewis had 17 points in Game 4, while Turkoglu produced 15 points, eight assists and seven boards.

Rafer Alston erupted for 26 points Tuesday, knocking down 6-of-12 attempts from 3-point land. As a team, the Magic hit 17 treys on 44 shots from beyond the arc (44.7%).

Mickael Pietrus was once again Orlando’s unsung hero in Game 4. He had 17 points and made James work for everything. In fact, Pietrus should get much of the credit for forcing James into eight turnovers, several of which came in the final stanza and OT.

Mo Williams ‘guaranteed’ a Cavs’ victory, but he was just 5-for-15 from the floor. Williams had 18 points and just two assists. Delonte West was extremely steady in Game 4, tallying 17 points and seven assists without committing a turnover.

Mike Brown’s team returns home where it has enjoyed a ton of success this year. The Cavs are 44-3 SU and 32-15 ATS at Quicken Loans. As for the Magic, it has compiled a 32-18 SU record and a 31-18-1 spread mark.

The ‘under’ is 52-41-1 overall for the Cavs, 26-20-1 in their home games. The ‘under’ is 56-43 overall for the Magic, 25-25 in its road assignments. However, the ‘over’ has hit at a 3-1 clip in this series and is 4-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings between these clubs.

Tip-off on TNT is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--For gamblers that wagered on Orlando to win the East finals in five games at BoDog, a ticket at 40/1 odds could be cashed if the Magic can prevail in Game 5.

--Dating back to 1947, NBA teams with a 3-1 series lead have prevailed 182 times in 190 chances.

--It remains to be seen what Cleveland will do in the rest of this series. However, if I’m a Cavs’ fan, I like the tone of my leader in the post-game presser after Game 4. James had a look of utter determination and zero fear. He said, "I know I am looking forward to the challenge. I'll be ready." There’s no doubt that with James, Cleveland has the potential to become the ninth team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/28

Game of the day: Orlando at Cleveland
By Matt Fargo

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers (-8, 190)

Series clincher?

Orlando is proving to be the best team in the Eastern Conference after winning Game 4 Tuesday to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The Cavaliers, the league’s best regular season team, now must win three straight games to advance to the NBA Finals.

The good news is that two games will be on their home floor where they are 44-3 this season. However, one of those losses came in Game 1 of this series.

The Cavaliers are in a huge hole but they have the talent and the ability to mount a comeback. Being down three games to one is not impossible to come back from but the odds are not in the Cavaliers’ favor.

Since 1947, there have been 190 series where a team has led 3-1. Of those, 182 were won by the team with the lead. History shows Cleveland to have just over a four percent chance of advancing.

The Magic know the odds but are also aware Cleveland is not going to quit, making this series far from over.

“When you have a guy like him (LeBron James) on the other side of the court, you're a long, long way from it being over,” Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters.

Back to basics

Cleveland needs to start playing defense. The Cavaliers led the NBA this season in scoring defense, allowing just 91.4 ppg and their 43.1 percent shooting defense was tied for first with the Celtics.

In the first series against the Pistons, Cleveland allowed 78 ppg. In the second series against Atlanta, the Cavaliers allowed 78.3 ppg. Through the first four games against Orlando, the Cavaliers have allowed 104.3 ppg. Take away the overtime points and the average is still a gaudy 100.3 ppg.

Cleveland prides itself on defense, just like the Celtics did in their NBA Championship run last season. The Cavaliers cannot win this series by outscoring Orlando in a shootout. The Magic have have too many weapons to knock down shots. Cleveland needs to defend to get back into this series and have any shot of advancing.

“When you have a team that shoots the 3-ball as well as they do and they have a stretch [the floor] big man against our two traditional bigs, it's tough,” Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown told the media. “Plus, you have Dwight Howard.”

Orlando has been held to less than 48 percent shooting only once in this series and it has topped 50 percent twice. In the Cavaliers’ first game in Orlando, they held the Magic to 42.9 percent shooting from the floor including 35.3 percent from long range. They lost that game but that was because of a below average effort on offense, where they shot just 37.2 percent from the floor including a putrid 19.2 percent from behind the arc.

Balancing act

James is a great player but he can’t do it alone and that is visibly a big problem for Cleveland. He is the go-to guy and if not for his clutch 3-pointer in Game 2, Cleveland would be making its summer plans. This series looks as though it is taking its toll on James. He looks fatigued and beat up toward the end of these games.

James committed eight turnovers in Game 4, including six in the fourth quarter and in overtime. It is clear that he needs another player that is capable of making plays and right now the Cavaliers do not have that.

Almost every championship team has had more than one clutch player it could turn to. Looking back at Game 4, Cleveland turned to James only and Orlando had an answer. It was able to defend since the Cavaliers isolated James for one-on-one plays more often than not.

Orlando is proving its balanced roster makes it the better team. It is no fluke that the Magic are a perfect 7-0 ATS against the Cavaliers this season. Cleveland has either won close games (two wins by 2.5 ppg) or the Magic have dominated and won big (five wins by 10.6 ppg). It is hard to overlook the fact that Cleveland is 15-3 (14-4 ATS) following a loss this season, so don’t discount the Cavs quite yet.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/28

NBA PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(3) Orlando (11-6 SU, 9-8 ATS) at (1) Cleveland (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)


The Cavaliers, the No. 1 overall seed, return home to Quicken Loans Arena trying to avoid elimination in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the surprising Magic, who are one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history.

Cleveland rallied from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime in Game 4 Tuesday night, but fell 116-114 as a 1½-point road favorite. The Cavs have now failed to cash in all four games of this series and their last five overall after starting the playoffs 7-0 ATS. LeBron James had a huge night of 44 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, but he also committed eight turnovers and his 30-foot shot at the buzzer in overtime was just offline. Mo Williams scored 18 points but shot just 5-for-15 (0-for-3 from three-point range), and Delonte West (17 points) also missed all three of his three-pointers as Cleveland finished 6 of 22 from long distance (27.3 percent).

On the flip side, Orlando went a superb 17 of 38 (44.7 percent) from beyond the arc, including a 6-for-12 effort from Rafer Alston as he rolled up 26 points. Dwight Howard scored 10 points in overtime and finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Mickael Pietrus and Rashard Lewis (17 points apiece) each drained five shots from long distance, including a Lewis 3-ball in the waning seconds that put the Magic up 100-98, after which James hit two free throws to force overtime.

The Magic are on a 14-1 ATS firestorm in this rivalry, including cashing in seven straight meetings in Cleveland. This year, Orlando is 7-0 ATS (5-2 SU) against the Cavaliers. Also, the underdog is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 clashes in this rivalry.

History is on the Magic’s side heading into this contest, as teams with a 3-1 lead in the NBA playoffs own a staggering 182-8 series record dating to 1947.

Prior to Game 1 of this series, Cleveland had lost just one meaningful home game all season, and the Cavs remain 44-3 SU (32-15 ATS) at Quicken Loans Arena this year, including 5-1 SU (4-2 ATS) in the playoffs. However, the one playoff loss came in Game 1 of this series to the Magic. Orlando is 32-18 SU (31-18-1 ATS) on the road for the season (5-3 SU, 5-4 ATS in the postseason).

The Cavaliers, despite dropping three of four games in this series, are still 32-6 SU in their last 38 starts. They also remain on several positive ATS runs, including 11-5 overall, 37-16 at home, 14-5 as a playoff chalk and 20-6 after a SU loss. However, Mike Brown’s troops are just 6-17 ATS in their last 23 outings against Southeast Division opponents, dropping the last five in a row dating to their second-round series with Atlanta.

The Magic have cashed in their last six games (5-1 SU), going 3-0 ATS on the highway. They are on further ATS upswings of 10-3 overall, 9-1 against the Central Division, 7-2 after a spread-cover and 7-2 following a SU win. Plus, as an underdog, they are on ATS rolls of 37-15-1 overall, 7-2 in playoff action and 6-0 against Cleveland.

The over for Cleveland is on streaks of 6-1 in conference finals, 4-0-1 after a SU loss and 5-2 at home, but the under is on runs of 14-6-1 with the Cavaliers favored at home and 8-2 with the Cavs laying five to 10½ points in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the under for Orlando is on rolls of 23-11 overall, 16-7 against teams with a winning percentage above .600 and 18-8 after a day off, but the Magic also sport “over” trends of 4-1 as a playoff pup of five to 10½ points and 5-2 against the Central Division.

Finally, the total has gone high in three of four games in this series and four of the last five clashes overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE: ORLANDO

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Re: NBA News and Notes Thursday 5/28

NBA Today

SCOREBOARD


Thursday, May 28

Orlando at Cleveland (8:30 p.m. EDT). The Magic can close out the Eastern Conference final by beating the Cavaliers, who trail the series 3-1 after having the best record in the NBA this season. Cleveland swept its first two playoff series.

STARS

Wednesday

— Lamar Odom(notes), Lakers, had 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots despite an aching lower back in Los Angeles’ 103-94 win over Denver in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

— Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes), Lakers. Bryant scored 22 points on just 13 shots and added eight assists, and Gasol added 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to help Los Angeles take a 3-2 lead in series.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Carmelo Anthony(notes) scored 31 points, hitting 12 of 13 free throws, in Denver’s 103-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

STATS

The Lakers and Nuggets were tied after the first, second and third quarters, just the fourth time in NBA playoff history that has occurred. The Lakers were involved in the other three, the last was in 1964 against St. Louis. … The Lakers improved to 20-0 in Game 5s at home when a series is tied 2-2. They haven’t lost a best-of-7 series that was tied 2-2 after winning Game 5 since the 1969 NBA finals against Boston.

NO TECH

Magic center Dwight Howard(notes) had his technical foul from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals rescinded by the NBA. Howard was given his sixth technical of the playoffs for taunting Anderson Varejao(notes) after a layup in the third quarter of the Magic’s 116-114 overtime victory Tuesday night. Cleveland’s forward had draped his arms around Howard in a failed attempt to stop him from scoring. Seven technicals in the playoffs results in a one-game suspension.

SIXERS’ JOB

The 76ers have interviewed Dallas assistant Dwane Casey for a second time about their coaching position. Casey interviewed for the first time last week with Sixers president Ed Stefanski. He led Minnesota to a 33-49 record in 2006-07 and was fired 40 games into the 2007-08 season. The other known candidates are Boston Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau, former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, and Sixers scout Chris Ford. The Sixers informed Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis this week he was no longer a candidate.

SPEAKING

“That place is going to be rocking and rolling. We have to stay focused and poised and try to cut them up. Be cold-blooded, go out there and execute.”— Lakers star Kobe Bryant on going to Denver for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals with a 3-2 lead.

“If it was a $10 fine it would still bother me. Parking tickets still bother me.”—Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the $25,000 fine he was handed for criticizing NBA game officials.

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