No lack for drama in second rounders

May 16, 2006 6:21 AM

The second round of the NBA Playoffs is more than half complete as we go to press and all four series have intriguing story lines that will be played out by next weekend.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the round has been New Jersey dropping three straight games to Miami after routing the Heat in the series opener at Miami. The Heat responded with an expected strong effort in Game 2 to even the series. Nets’ star Richard Jefferson has played through a severe foot injury that occurred in Game 1, but his perseverance was offset by the substance abuse violation suspension of key reserve Clifford Robinson.

Nets vs Heat

Both games in New Jersey came down to the fourth quarter. In Games 3 and 4, Miami made the key plays and was able to pull away for a 3-1 advantage returning home. The Nets are now a solid underdog to in a series that figured to conclude Tuesday night. New Jersey should give an inspired effort, but its mental state will be called into question in the fourth quarter.

Should New Jersey rally and win Game 5, then the Nets are worthy of a play back home in Game 6, likely as a 4-to-6 point favorite. If they force a Game 7, New Jersey would have to be at least a 7-point underdog to be playable. Home teams do well historically when hosting a seventh game. Although the Nets and Heat are comparable in overall talent, the end game is often tightly contested resulting in a final score not indicative of how close the game was played. If favored by 4 or less, Miami would be the Game 7 play.

Pistons vs Cavs

In the other Eastern Conference semi finals series, Detroit played in Cleveland on Monday night looking to return home with a 3-1 lead. This series is unfolding for Detroit, much as its first series did against Milwaukee. After solid wins in the first two games, Detroit fell to Cleveland in Game 3

If Detroit wins Game 4 as expected, look for the Pistons to wrap up the series at home in Game 5. The Pistons will likely be favored by 10 to 11 points, but elimination games can often be one sided when the gap in talent is as great as in this matchup.

Cleveland’s LeBron James has been outstanding in this series. The Cavs should be second only to Detroit to win the Eastern Conference next season. Should this series go to a Game 6 back in Cleveland, the Pistons become a strong play to wrap it up on the road.

Spurs vs Mavs

Monday’s Game 4 in Dallas is critical to San Antonio’s chances of advancing in the playoffs. Down 2-1 in the series, a loss in Dallas would make things very difficult for the Spurs. The Mavericks have not been intimidated in the least by the defending champions. In a Game 3 situation that greatly favored the Spurs, Dallas sprinted out to a double digit lead before holding on for a one point win.

Should the Spurs have successfully evened the series at 2-2, they may be played as favorites of four or less in Game 5. If successful, they would be playable as an underdog to wrap up the series in Game 6 back in Dallas.

Should the Mavericks host a Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, Dallas becomes playable to end San Antonio’s reign if laying less than 3. In a Game 7, the Spurs would have enough of an experience edge to lay five or less.

Suns vs Clippers

These teams have played eight games this season and each has won four, including twice in the Playoffs. The winning team has also covered the spread in each game and only one of the eight contests has been decided by less than 7. Six of the games have gone OVER the total and each produced at least 214 points.

The teams have alternated wins in this series, making the zig zag theory a perfect 3-0 heading into Tuesday’s Game 5 in Phoenix. Look for this pattern to continue, with Phoenix the play in Game 5 and the Clippers the choice in Game 6.

If there is a Game 7, Phoenix has an edge in playoff experience. That should be the deciding factor, so again look to lay four or less, or take seven or more. The Clippers are comfortable running the court with the Suns and the OVER remains the preferred play, especially at Totals of 212 or less.

Next week, we’ll preview the conference finals, which should be set.