NBA News and Notes Friday 5/29

NBA News and Notes Friday 5/29

Los Angeles at Denver, Game 6
By Brad Young

The NBA Western Conference Finals enters the sixth game of this physical series, with Los Angeles holding a 3-2 advantage. The Lakers have never lost a best-of-seven series that was tied at 2-2 after winning a Game 5 since dropping the 1969 NBA Finals against Boston. But Game 6 is another matter entirely.
   
The Los Angeles-Denver series can almost be broken down into ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ between the top-two seeded teams in the Western Conference.

Top-seeded Los Angeles (76-23 straight up, 51-48 against the spread) is a star-studded franchise that has the second-most NBA championships (14), and leads in NBA Finals appearances (29). The Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals last season before ultimately falling to the Boston Celtics. Los Angeles hasn’t been able to raise a banner at Staples Center since winning three championships in a row from 2000-2002.

Denver, the second-seeded team, has never advanced to the NBA Finals since joining the league in 1976. The Nuggets advanced to the NBA Playoffs last year as an eighth-seed before getting swept by the Lakers in the first round. Denver’s fortunes for this season improved dramatically when they traded controversial guard Allen Iverson for veteran point guard Chauncey Billups.

The Nuggets (64-33 SU, 58-38 ATS) equaled the most wins in franchise history this season, marking the first time in franchise history that they recorded back-to-back 50-win seasons. This was the first year that Denver enjoyed home-court advantage in a playoff series since 1988, and is now playing in its first Western Conference Finals since 1985.

Caesars Palace installed Denver as a five-point ‘chalk’ in Friday’s Game 6, with the total listed at 209. ESPN will provide coverage of this contest beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET from Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

Los Angeles and Denver have alternated SU wins and losses in this series after the Lakers prevailed in Wednesday’s Game 5 as a six-point home favorite, 103-94. The combined 197 points failed to eclipse the 209 ½-point closing total, helping the ‘under’ improve to 4-1 in this series. Los Angeles has covered two of the past three games in this series, but Denver covered the first two matachups.

The Lakers used a fourth-quarter surge to prevail, improving to 12-3 SU their last 15 games against the Nuggets. The game was tied after each of the first three quarters before Los Angeles went on a 21-3 surge spanning the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.

Coach Phil Jackson’s team was outrebounded by Denver, 43-42, but prevailed by shooting a solid 49 percent (37-of-76) from the field. Shooting guard Kobe Bryant paced the offense with 22 points and eight assists, while power forward Lamar Odom added 19 and 14 rebounds.

Denver connected at a 39-percent clip (32-of-83) from the field, and 29 percent (7-of-24) from behind the arc. Small forward Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 31 points on 9-of-23 shooting, while Billups contributed 12 and five assists.

Los Angeles is 32-16 SU and 26-22 ATS away from home, with the ‘under’ going 25-22. The Lakers have been winning their road endeavors this season by an average score of 104-100. Los Angeles took Game 3 of this series Saturday as a 3 ½-point road underdog, 103-97, while the combined 200 points failed to eclipse the 212 ½-point closing total.

Denver maintains a stellar 40-9 SU and 31-17 ATS home ledger, with the ‘over’ going 27-21. The Nuggets have been winning their games at Pepsi Center this season by an average score of 108-100. Denver throttled the Lakers in Game 4 of this series Monday as a 4 ½-point home ‘chalk,’ 120-101, while the combined 221 points went ‘over’ the 209-point closing total.

Neither team is reporting any players as ‘questionable’ or ‘doubtful’ for this contest.

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Re: NBA News and Notes Friday 5/29

Game of the day: L.A. Lakers at Denver Nuggets
By David Chan

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets (-5, 208.5)

The betting line

The Nuggets opened as 6-point favorites, but that line was quickly adjusted to -5. It's the most that Denver has been favored by in this series after laying 4.5 points in Game 4.

The total continues to fluctuate between 208 and 209 points. Four of the first five games in this series have played under and the oddsmakers have adjusted accordingly. Game 1 featured a posted total of 214.

Early money has come in on the Lakers and the over. That's been a constant trend throughout this series.

A little help from his friends

Kobe Bryant didn't have to carry his team to victory in Game 5. His supporting cast finally showed up, with four other players scoring in double figures. Kobe himself scored only 22, his lowest total of the series, but also dished out a series high eight assists.

Kobe said after the game it was all a part of his plan.

“It was a big gamble for me coming in, but I wanted to change my approach this game and be more of a decoy,” Bryant said. “The past couple games they really were loading to my side and I figured I could be a decoy and try to give chances to my teammates.”
Whether it was his call or not, the gameplan worked. Although to the Nuggets’ credit, they were tied entering the fourth quarter.

Bouncing back

The Nuggets have been an excellent bounce-back team in these playoffs, posting a perfect 4-0 record (both straight-up and against the number) after a loss.

Going back to the end of the regular season, they've won and covered in eight consecutive games following a loss.

Carmelo Anthony is confident that his team can keep that streak intact and force a seventh and deciding game.

“We’re excited about this. We’re going home. We got a chance to win at home and see what happens in Game 7.”

Foul trouble

The officials have been major players in the direction of this series - which is nothing new when it comes to the NBA.

Nuggets head coach George Karl wasn't happy with the way Game 5 was called, this one game after Lakers boss Phil Jackson was fined for speaking out about the Game 4 officiating.

“Every player in my locker room is frustrated, from guards to big guys. Gasol goes after at least 20 jump shots, 20 shots to the rim and gets one foul; our big guys have 16. Nene has six fouls, three or four of them don’t exist.”

It remains to be seen whether Karl's comments will have any effect, but the Nuggets certainly can't afford to have Chauncey Billups and Nene in early foul trouble again on Friday.

Facing elimination

The Lakers failed to close out the Rockets on the road in Game 6 last round.

Road teams are just 4-5 straight up in series clinchers prior to Game 7 in the playoffs to date.

Throw in the fact that the Nuggets are 40-9 SU at home this season, including 7-1 in the playoffs, and you have to like their chances of forcing a seventh game.

The question is - can they cover the number?

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Re: NBA News and Notes Friday 5/29

NBA PLAYOFFS

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) L.A. Lakers (11-6 SU, 9-8 ATS) at (2) Denver (10-5 SU, 13-2 ATS)


The Lakers, on the brink of their second straight trip to the NBA Finals, travel to the Pepsi Center for Game 6 of their best-of-7 series against the Nuggets, who must hold home court to stay alive.

Los Angeles scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter in Game 5 Wednesday, breaking a 76-76 tie en route to a 103-94 win as a six-point chalk and taking a 3-2 series lead in the process. Kobe Bryant had 22 points and eight assists, Lamar Odom (19 points, 14 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (14 points, 10 rebounds) notched double-doubles, and the Lakers outshot the Nuggets by 10 percentage points (48.7-38.6).

Carmelo Anthony paced the Nuggets with 31 points, but no other Denver play scored more than 12, and streaky guard J.R. Smith (seven points) went just 3 of 13 from the floor, including 1 of 10 from three-point range, after scoring 24 points in a Game 4 victory at home Monday.

Los Angeles, which swept the Nuggets out of the playoffs in the first round last year, is 13-2 SU in its last 15 postseason games against Denver. The Lakers are also now 6-3 SU (5-4 ATS) against the Nuggets this season, and going back further, Los Angeles is 12-5 ATS in the last 17 clashes in this rivalry.

Denver is 40-9 SU (30-18-1 ATS) on the year at home, including a 7-1 SU and ATS mark in the playoffs, the only blemish being a six-point loss to the Lakers in Game 3. Los Angeles is 32-16 SU (26-22 ATS) on the highway this season, but just 3-4 SU and ATS in the playoffs.

The Lakers have cashed in eight of their last 11 as an underdog and sport additional positive ATS streaks of 21-8-2 as a road pup and 6-1-1 when catching five to 10½ points. However, they are on pointspread plunges of 0-4 after a spread-cover and 0-5 coming off a SU win.

The Nuggets are on a 24-8 SU tear dating to the regular season, and along with their 13-2 ATS playoff mark, they carry positive pointspread streaks of 21-6 overall, 7-0 after a SU loss, 5-1 after a non-cover, 7-1 as a playoff chalk and 11-4 against the Pacific Division.

The under has hit in four of five games in this series and is 10-2 in the last 12 clashes between these squads, including 6-1 in the last seven meetings in Denver.

Los Angeles has stayed low in eight of its last nine contests and the “under” is on additional surges for the Lakers of 12-3 overall, 9-1 in the conference finals and 11-4 on the highway. Finally, the under is 5-1 in Denver’s last six against Pacific Division teams, but the over is 11-5 in its last 16 home games (all as a favorite).

ATS ADVANTAGE: DENVER and UNDER

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Re: NBA News and Notes Friday 5/29

NBA Today

SCOREBOARD


Friday, May 29

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver (9 p.m. EDT). Kobe Bryant(notes) and the Lakers can reach the NBA finals for the second straight year—they lost to Boston in 2008 — by beating the Nuggets on their home floor in Game 6.

STARS

Thursday

— LeBron James(notes), Cavaliers, had 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in Cleveland’s 112-102 victory over Orlando in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. He became the first player with at least 37-14-12 in a playoff game since Oscar Robertson in 1963.

— Mo Williams(notes), Cavaliers, scored 24 points, making six 3-pointers, in his best game of the conference finals.

FANTASTIC FOURTH

LeBron James scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and had a hand in 29 of Cleveland’s 34 points in the last 12 minutes of the Cavaliers’ 112-102 victory in Game 5. Orlando took a 79-78 lead into the final period before James, who also had four rebounds and four assists in the period, took control.

HELPING HAND

After struggling for most of the series, Cleveland’s role players gave LeBron James good support in Game 5. Besides Mo Williams’ 24 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) had 16, Delonte West(notes) 13 and reserve Daniel Gibson(notes) 11, including two huge 3-pointers in the fourth.

SLOW STARTS

Orlando, which overcame 16- and 23-point deficits, respectively, in Games 1 and 2, fell behind 32-10 in the first quarter of Game 5 against Cleveland. The Magic made that up and led 79-78 heading into the fourth quarter before falling 112-102.

STATUS

Cleveland guard Delonte West suffered a hip pointer with 3:33 remaining in the Cavs’ 112-102 victory over Orlando in Game 5. The team said his status will be updated Friday.

SPEAKING

“I was attacking anyone in the way, no matter who it was. There’s always a sense of urgency when you are on the brink of elimination.”—LeBron James, after finishing with 37 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in Cleveland’s 112-102 victory over Orlando in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.

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