Starting the week, two of the four second round NBA playoff series were each tied at two games apiece (Orlando vs. Boston and Houston vs. the Los Angeles Lakers).
There are two more on the verge of four-game sweeps with Cleveland leading Atlanta 3-0 and Denver also up 3-0 on Dallas. Both of those sweeps may well have happened by the time you read this. Both Atlanta and Dallas played at home this past Monday attempting to fight off elimination.
Of the eight teams still playing, Cleveland has by far been the most impressive – winning and covering all seven games played to date. Each of the victories has been by at least 11 points.
LA Lakers 2, Houston 2
Perhaps the most bizarre development in any of the 59 playoff games through Sunday occurred in Game 4 between the Lakers and Houston.
Injured in game 3, Houston center Yao Ming was declared out for the remainder of the playoffs. That news saw the Game 4 line adjusted from the Lakers -3½ to the Lakers -7½. In many Sports Books, the Lakers were bet up to -8.
But this was never a contest from the opening tip as Houston spurted out to an early lead, eventually opening up a 29-point margin before the Lakers made a run in the fourth quarter to cut the final deficit to a more respectable 12.
After sweeping the four-game regular season series from Houston, the Lakers have now split their four playoff games. So now it’s down to a best of three series. Los Angeles is favored by a solid 12 points in Tuesday’s Game 5.
Los Angeles should take the court with plenty of emotion and would make for a good first half play, laying about 7. The Lakers have had a tendency to relax in the fourth quarter of games, making the covering of a dozen points somewhat risky despite what is sure to be a surly mindset.
Still, the advantages the Lakers enjoy with the absence of Yao in the Houston lineup suggests that they should be able to win by at least 12 points as they’ve done in 4 of their 6 wins over Houston this season – three coming at Staples Center.
The Lakers would be a better play for the full game back in Houston for Game 6, whether they are looking to wrap up the series or (if the unthinkable happened in Game 5) looking to tie the series at 3-3.
A potential Game 7 back in Los Angeles would have the Lakers as perhaps the biggest favorite line of the series. Yet by this time the loss of Yao should be too much for Houston to overcome and the Lakers would be the play.
Cleveland 3, Atlanta 0
The Cavs have been keyed by their defense, not allowing more than 85 points in any game. Consequently, 5 of their 7 games have stayed under the total which has been in the high 170’s to low 180’s.
Should the Cavs not have finished off Atlanta in Monday’s Game 4, they should take care of business back home in Game 5. But rather than laying the double digit spread, the better play may again be to play under.
Denver 3, Dallas 0:
Dallas may well have survived a four game sweep with a win Monday night as they figured to have played with attitude following the ending to their Game 3 loss to Denver. The NBA acknowledged shortly after that game ended that the Mavs, who had a foul to give while nursing a 2 point lead, should have been called for a foul in the closing seconds.
The foul was not called and the continuation of the play enabled Denver’s Carmelo Anthony to sink the game winning three pointer in Dallas’ 106-105 victory. Most unsettling to the Mavs was the fact that there were 61 fouls whistled during the game and the teams combined to take 81 free throws. Yet in the most obvious of foul situations the officials’ whistles remained silent.
Should Dallas have won on Monday to force a Game 5 look for Denver to end the series back home. After all, the Nuggets had defeated Dallas in their first 7 meetings (albeit four of the wins were by 3 or less).
The Nuggets should be primed for a maximum effort in Game 5 as a loss could put them in jeopardy of needing to win a seventh game since they’d have to be back in Dallas for a Game 6. Denver should be favored by about the same 7 points that they were in first two games of the series and would make for a play at a similar impost in Game 5.
Should the Mavs pull the upset they’d have gained the momentum in the series and would be the play back at home in Game 6.
Orlando 2, Boston 2:
Boston avoided falling behind 1-3 to Orlando when Glen "Big Baby" Davis hit a 20-footer at the buzzer Sunday to eke out a one point win. This has now become a best of three series with Game 5 in Boston on Tuesday.
Orlando had some key edges heading into the series but they’ve failed to capitalize on those edges. The Magic nearly blew a huge lead in Game 1 and failed to hold onto the lead in Game 4. Boston is a rather modest 2-point favorite back home in Game 5.
The Celts would figure to take advantage of the favorable situation with a win and cover to take a 3-2 lead back to Orlando for Game 6. The Magic would likely be about a 5-point favorite as they were in games 3 and 4.
That’s a fair number and the preference would be to play Boston if the line climbed to +6 or more and to back Orlando should the line be bet down to -4 or less. A Game 7 in Boston would find the Celtics favored by about 4.
Boston eliminated Chicago in a first round game 7, winning at home by 10. The preference would be to back the Celtics in a seventh game if laying 5 or less.
Next week: A look at what remains of Round 2 or more likely a preview of the third round – the Conference Finals.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe