Thursday's two games followed long term NBA playoff trends. The first trend was that teams jumping out to 3-1 leads in their respective series had closed out their opponents in 181 of 189 previous series all-time (95.8 percent), heading into this postseason. Then there was the fact that the Game 5 winner of a seven-game series tied at two-all had gone on to win that series 126 of 151 previous times (83.4 percent). The Cavs, Celtics, Jazz and Spurs all found themselves up 3-1 in their first round series in the 2010 postseason. The Cavs and Celtics had already finished off the Bulls and Heat in five games, with the Spurs joining that group last night by eliminating the Mavs.
San Antonio jumped out to a 22-8 lead at the end of the first quarter and led 47-34 at the half. The Spurs then survived a Dallas comeback, led by Nowitzki's 25 second-half points. San Antonio held on to win 97-87. Ginobili led the way with 26 points and George Hill added 21 points (Hill averaged 22.3 PPG in the Spurs' three home games). Nowitzki played an awful first half (eight points and four mostly silly fouls), pretty much mitigating his second-half brilliance. Butler chipped in 25 points but the other three Dallas starters totaled a combined 11 points. Terry, the team's valuable sixth-man, was 1-of-7 from the floor for just two points.
The Spurs became just the fifth No. 7 seed to beat a No. 2 seed, since the NBA expanded its playoff field to 16 teams for the 1983-84 postseason. It marked the first time a No. 7 seed had won since the league upped its first round series to seven games for the 2003 postseason. For Dallas, it seems like old times. The Mavs topped 50 wins (57) for the 10th straight season, yet during that span, have advanced to the NBA finals just once (blew a 2-0 lead that year to the Heat, losing four straight). The league's best road team during the regular season (Mavs were 27-14 SU and 25-16 ATS), went 0-3 SU and ATS in San Antonio. And so it goes for Mark Cuban's team...
The Suns and Blazers were tied two-all entering Monday's game in Phoenix. The Suns won that game 107-88, putting themselves in the favorable category of Game 5 winners in a series tied two-all. The Suns "took care of business" last night in Portland, beating the Blazers 99-90. Richardson was the game's leading scorer with 28 points (led the Suns in scoring this series at 23.5 PPG) with Stoudemire adding 22 (20.5 PPG for the series). The Phoenix bench contributed 55 points in the team's Game 5 win and while it wasn't quite that good in Game 6, its 34 points were still pretty helpful.
Portland's Brandon Roy made a surprising return to the floor in Game 4 and was credited with giving the Blazers an emotional lift, as Portland tied the series at two-all with their 96-87 Game 4 win. However, Roy was unable to help at all (in fact he hurt the team) in Games 5 and 6, making just 6-of-23 FG attempts, including 1-of-10 on three-pointers. The Blazers lost in the first round of the playoffs for the sixth consecutive time, the longest current streak of first-round exits in the league. Home teams were 1-1 SU and ATS last night but are still an impressive 30-11 (.732), going 27-14 (65.9%) ATS. Both Thursday games went under, leaving the Y-T-D numbers at 19 overs, 18 unders and two pushes. "Zig-Zaggers" were also 1-1 last night and stand 18-15 or plus-1.5 net games this postseason.
Three Game 6's are on the NBA board tonight. It's Atlanta at Milwaukee (7:05 ET) in the first game of the ESPN doubleheader. This game offer two conflicting long term playoff trends. The Hawks took a 2-0 series lead and entering this postseason, teams which had opened a seven-game series by going 2-0 had gone on to win 209 of 223 series all-time (93.7 percent). On the other hand, Milwaukee won Game 5 of this series on Wednesday, when it was tied at two-all. Adding in the Suns' win last night over the Blazers and Game 5 winners of a series tied at two-all are now 127-25 all-time in those series. One must also note that the Hawks are 1-10 SU and ATS the last three postseasons on the road. Still, the Hawks are favored by two with a total of 189 1/2.
The second half of the ESPN doubleheader is the Lakers at the Thunder (9:35 ET). The Lakers led 2-0 in this series and also won Game 5, when the series was tied at two-all. Those are two huge historical edges and that doesn't even take into account that the Lakers are the defending champs, while the Thunder are just one season removed from a 23-win season. However, Oklahoma City is favored by one and the total is 216 1/2. ESPN2 carries the Nuggets at the Jazz (10:05 ET). The Jazz are favored by 5 1/2-points (total is 216 1/2), as they try to join the Cavs, Celtics and Spurs, as teams to have won their series this year after going up 3-1. Meanwhile, the Nuggets look to send the series back to Denver for a Game 7 on Sunday, in hopes of becong just the 9th team in NBA history to come back and win a seven-games series in which it trailed 3-1.
My Playoff Journal resumes on Monday at 2:00 ET.