The NBA Western Conference best of seven final series starts tonight in the Lone Star State when the San Antonio Spurs the No. 2 seed in the conference host the Memphis Grizzlies the No. 5 seed in the conference.
San Antonio overcame a feisty Golden State team in the semifinals to reach the finals, while Memphis defeated the defending conference champions the Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the conference final.
Memphis is on their best run in the playoffs in their franchise history reaching the conference final for just the first time. San Antonio is looking to win one more time with its group of veterans who do not have many more years left to play. The Spurs have been very successful in the playoffs, but have not won an NBA title since 2007.
The Grizzlies have one of the toughest defenses in the league and are led by power forward and team high scorer Zach Randolph, center Marc Gasol and guards Mike Conley and Tony Allen. The Memphis defense held opponents during the regular season to an NBA low 89.3 points per game.
The Spurs are led by three veterans Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The three veterans have all played their entire careers in the NBA with the Spurs and have very talented players like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw that have helped the team throughout the season.
Both teams play in the Southwest Division, with San Antonio dominating with four NBA titles. No player and coach have more playoff games together than the Spurs’ veteran center Duncan and Gregg Popovich the team’s head coach. The two have been together for 200 playoff games over a period of 16 seasons.
During the regular season, the teams split their four head-to-head games, with each team winning on their home court. During the regular season, the Spurs were 35-6 at home.
The keys to the series will be the matchup between Conley and Parker. Conley is scoring at a rate of 17 points per game while averaging 7.6 assist. Parker is averaging a team high 22.4 points for the Spurs in the playoffs.
The line currently has San Antonio favored by 4 ½ with the total sitting on 182 ½. Smart money takes the Spurs and the OVER.
Just one semifinal series in the two conferences remains. The Indiana Pacers were beaten by the New York Knicks on Thursday night to tighten the series to 3-2 in favor of the Pacers, with game 6 tonight in Indiana.
All three other semifinal series have been determined and the Miami Heat awaits the winners of this series to play for the NBA Eastern Conference title, while the San Antonio Spurs will meet the Memphis Grizzlies to determine the Western Conference champion.
In Game 5, turnovers were the deciding factor for the Pacers. Indiana had 19 turnovers in the game compared to only 10 for New York. Add that to the Pacers poor shooting for the game at 36% and it is not surprising they scored only 75 points and find themselves playing game 6 tonight.
George Hill the team’s point guard missed game 5 due to injury and has been listed by the Pacers as doubtful for tonight’s game 6.
Down low, the Pacers have a huge advantage over the Knicks. With David West’s strong play and the emergence of big man Roy Hibbert this postseason, the Pacers easily dominate the paint against the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler and company.
If Indiana goes inside early, and gets easy hoops from both West and Hibbert, it will make the Knicks defense sag and give open shots outside to Lance Stephenson and Indiana’s top scorer Paul George.
New York’s offense needs to be more efficient and that starts with high scorer Carmelo Anthony. The small forward for New York has been taking 24 shots to reach his series average of 26 points. He needs to score large chunks of points for the Knicks but in fewer shots.
In Anthony’s defense, he has looked to shoot first this series because his teammates such as J.R. Smith have shot so poorly from the field.
The Pacers will feed of the emotion of the home crowd in this contest and would prefer to end the series tonight and not have to return to New York for a final game 7.
The current line has the Pacers favored by 4 ½ points with the total points for the over under resting on 177 ½. Smart money is taking Indiana to cover and the UNDER to pay off.
The Atlanta Braves return home after a long road trip to host the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three game series starting Friday May 17 at Turner Field. The Braves enter the game with an overall record of 22-18 good enough for first place in the National League East by a game over the Washington Nationals. However, with the way they have been playing they do not look like a first place team. The Braves are 4-6 over the past 10 games played and have lost two straight.
Los Angeles comes into the game with an overall record of 17-22 and are in dead last in the NL West 5 ½ games behind the first place San Francisco Giants. However, the Dodgers have won two straight after losing 6 of 8.
The Braves hope to have Jason Heyward back in the lineup. Heyward should return from the DL after having an emergency appendectomy on April 23, for the first game of the series. However, over his career, he has hit just .111 against the Dodgers, his lowest batting average against any team in the league.
Atlanta hit 25 home runs when they opened the season 12-1, but since then have gone 10-17 with just 27 homers in 27 games with a team batting average of just .234 over that stretch. The Braves ended their 10-game trip on the road with a loss to Arizona 5-3, losing their fifth game in six games.
Los Angeles has hit .303 during a streak of 4 wins in their last 5 games following a losing streak of 8 games. On Wednesday, the Dodgers defeated the Nationals 3-1.Matt Kemp has finally started to hit as he had two hits in the game. Kemp has extended his hitting streak to 14 games and is hitting .328 during that stretch.
The Dodgers will have Hyun-Jin Ryu on the mound. The rookie from South Korea is 4-2 with an ERA of 3.40. He will face Atlanta’s Paul Maholm who is 4-4 with an ERA of 3.94.
The line currently has Atlanta favored at -140 with the Dodgers on +130. The total runs for over under is 7 1/2. Smart money takes the Dodgers behind the arm of rookies Ryu, while the total cash out to those taking the OVER.
Tonight the San Antonio Spurs can move on to the Western Conference finals with a win. The Spurs lead the Golden State Warriors 3-2 in their best of seven semifinal series with game 6 being played on the Warriors home court tonight. This series had been back and forth to say the least. In the first five games, no team has managed to win back-to-back games.
The Spurs won game 5 in San Antonio but will face a Golden State team that lost its first home game in the playoffs in the first round against Denver and has won 4 consecutive games since then. This series has seen the savvy of the Spurs veteran team led by center Tim Duncan, forward Manu Ginobili and point guard Tony Parker, wear down a Warriors teams maligned by injuries.
In Tuesday night’s game 5 victory, Duncan and Parker led the attack and the Spurs waltzed to a 109-91 victory. The Warriors have lived and died with their backcourt in the playoffs since David Lee their second leading scorer and top rebounder was injured. On Tuesday night, Stephen Curry and backcourt teammate Klay Thompson scored just 13 points between them hitting only 6 of their combined 22 shots.
Curry has been slowed by an ankle sprain since game 3, but refuses to use that as an excuse for his poor shooting. Thompson was not even able to attempt a three point shot in the game, something that did not happen the entire regular season. Since he scored 34 points in the Warriors game 2 victory, the Spurs have shut him down on offense.
The odds do not favor Golden State. Teams that were victorious in game 5 of a series that was tied 2-2 have ended up winning the best of seven series 88 of 99 times. However, in game 6, those same teams are just 50-49.
San Antonio is 11-1 in best of seven series when they lead 3-2. The Warriors have not returned from a deficit of 3-2 to win a series since 1975 when they did so against the Chicago Bulls in the Western Conference finals. That was the year, the franchise won it one and only title in the NBA.
Odds makers have San Antonio as the favorite by 1 point with the over under point total on 195 ½. Smart money takes the Spurs and the OVER.
The Oklahoma City Thunder has their back to the wall in tonight’s game 5 of their best of seven semifinal series against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder started the series with a win but have been beaten in three consecutive games and is on the brink of elimination when they meet the Grizzlies tonight at home in the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Memphis has played well over the last three games, has been able to finish each game for the win, and now is looking to finish off the series to move to the finals of the Western Conference to take on either the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors.
Game 4 went to overtime with the Grizzlies pulling out the win 103-97, while the other two wins in the series for Memphis were decided in the last two minutes of play.
Oklahoma City knows they can win as they eliminated the Grizzlies two seasons ago in the semifinals. However, this season they have had to play this series without Russell Westbrook their point guard who injured a knee and was lost for the playoffs during the first round with Houston.
Kevin Durant will be the focal point for the Thunder offense as he has been the entire season and playoffs. Durant is just 1-3 in games when facing elimination. The only victory came against Memphis in a game 7 two seasons ago to reach the Western Conference finals.
Durant has carried the load for the team in this series averaging 31 points, 11 boards and nearly 7 assists per game. However, Memphis owns the top defense in the league and when the game is on the line late in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies have been able to lock up Durant and make him miss his shots. Over the past two games, Durant is just 3 for 17 during the fourth quarter and game 4’s overtime, with only seven points.
Serge Ibaka came through with a strong game in Game 4 for the Thunder with 17 points and 14 boards, while he also guarded Memphis center Marc Gasol and kept him in check.
The line by odds makers has the Thunder favored by 4 with the total sitting on 185 for the over under. Smart money is taking the Thunder and the OVER.
Game 4 of the best of seven semifinal series in the NBAs Eastern Conference takes place in Indianapolis tonight when the Indiana Pacers host the New York Knicks. The Pacers lead the series 2-1 and can take a commanding lead in the series with a win tonight.
The Pacers opened the series with an impressive win in New York in game 1 and then lost game 2 to the Knicks before returning home for games 3 and 4. In game 3, the Pacer defeated the Knicks by 11 points and with a win tonight could put the Knicks in a 3-1 hole.
Only Indiana and Memphis have won all their home game during the playoffs in the NBA in this postseason. The Pacers have won four straight at home during the playoffs by an average of more than 16 points. The Knicks have not won in three tries this season in Indiana, losing twice during the regular season and in game 3 in this series.
Second chance points and rebounds have hurt the Knicks in this series. In both the games the Pacers won, they out rebounded the Knicks on both ends of the court and in game 3, outscored the Knicks 20-10 in second chance points.
Offensively the Knicks have disappointed in the series. Sixth man of the year, JR Reid is shooting better in the series, but was hit with a high fever before the game on Saturday and missed practices both Sunday and Monday. He will be ready to play, but how effective remains to be seen. Kenyon Martin, who has had the task of guarding the Pacers’ big men, took ill Sunday, missed both the Knicks practices and is questionable for the game.
Carmelo Anthony, the league leader in scoring this season, and teammate Smith have shot just 40 for 112 against the Pacers in the series. Anthony scored just 2 points in the fourth quarter of the Knicks loss in game 3. Part of Anthony’s problem is the Pacers own one of the best defenses in the NBA against scoring and give up very little to any opponent on their defensive end.
The odds makers have the Pacers as the favorite by 5 ½ points and the point total for the over under on 179 ½. Smart money takes the Knicks plus the points and the OVER.