Home teams (the higher seeds and favorites at this stage) continued to struggle on Tuesday night. Chauncey Billups sat out Game 2 between the Knicks and Celtics with a strained left knee and Stoudemire didn’t play in the second half due to back spasms, yet the Knicks had a great chance to beat the Celtics for the second consecutive game. However, once again the New Yorkers failed during crunch time. Carmelo Anthony matched his career playoff high for points (42) and set a new high with 17 rebounds but in the end it was Boston pulling out the 96-93 win. Kevin Garnett sank the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left and then stole the ball with four seconds remaining to secure the win. Rondo led the Celtics with a career playoff-high 30 points (four rebounds and seven assists) as Boston takes a 2-0 lead to New York.
In Orlando, the Magic overcame a 10-point first-half deficit en route to an 88-82 win that evened the series with the Hawks at 1-1. A 10-1 run to close the third quarter allowed the Magic to take an 11-point lead into the fourth and they then held on for the six-point win. Dwight Howard was again a ‘monster,’ scoring 33 points and grabbing 19 rebounds but again, the Magic struggled as a team from the floor. Orlando made just 34.6 percent of its shots, including a poor 5-of-23 on threes. However, unlike in Game 1 in which the Magic allowed the Hawks to shoot 51.4 percent and score 103 points, Orlando's defense tightened up, holding Atlanta to 39.5 percent and a modest 82 points. Getting back to “Superman,” he’s been all of that in the first two games, scoring 79 points and grabbing 38 rebounds. He joins Shaq (2000 and 2001) and Hakeem (1988), as the only players to amass at least 75 points and at least 35 rebounds in the first two games of any NBA playoffs series since 1988. Not bad company.
Dirk led the Mavericks with 33 points but it was “old-timers” Stojakovic and Kidd who ‘killed’ Portland’s chances of evening its series with Dallas last night. Peja tied his career playoff best with five three-pointers (scored 21 points) while Kidd followed his Game 1 effort (tied a playoff career-best with six three-pointers while scoring 24 points) with 18 points. The Mavs will head to Portland up 2-0. Home teams (synonymous with favorites at this time) went 3-0 SU last night but only Dallas covered, giving home teams a 9-4 SU mark to open the 2011 postseason but just a 3-10 ATS mark (Mavs own two of the three ATS wins). Over/under players saw all three games go under and after the over cashed five of eight times on opening weekend, it’s now been five consecutive unders Monday and Tuesday (five overs and eight unders Y-T-D).
TNT features another doubleheader on Wednesday with the Nuggets in Oklahoma City to face the Thunder at 8:05 ET, followed by the Hornets in LA to face the Lakers at 10:35 ET. The NBA Network has the Grizzlies at the Spurs at 8:35 ET. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 72 points in Oklahoma City's Game 1 victory over Denver but the ‘dagger’ was Perkins’ controversial tip-in (it was clearly goal-tending!) with just over a minute to go in that game. The Thunder are favored by five points and the total is 205 1/2. As I mentioned in Monday’s journal, this is the first time a conference has seen its No. 1 and 2 seeds both lose their first games in the same postseason since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1983-84. That’s the storyline tonight in both San Antonio and LA.
Memphis is in uncharted territory. The franchise entered Sunday’s game 0-12 SU and 2-10 ATS in three previous playoff series, having gone 0-6 SU and 1-5 ATS on the road, while getting outscored on average, 100.7-to-87.0 PPG. There is little doubt that this is a much different (and better) group but after all, the Spurs did win 61 games this year plus the Duncan and Popovich connection has led the team to four titles since 1999 (Parker and Ginobili have been part of the last three). No. 8 seeds have won just THREE of the previous 54 series vs No. 1 seeds in NBA history but can the Spurs stop Randolph and Gasol inside? They didn’t in Game 1, as the duo combined for 49 points and 23 rebounds. Ginobili is expected to play. The Spurs are favored by 8 1/2 points and the total is 196.
The Lakers went 17-1 after returning from the All Star break but then lost five straight games from April 3 through 10th. They ‘salvaged’ the No. 2 seed with a home win over the Spurs and an overtime win on the final day of the regular season at Sacramento. However, LA looked just awful in Game 1 vs the Hornets on Sunday (Gasol never got involved in the game), losing 109-100. It marked the first time a Phil Jackson-coached team had lost a Game 1 at home. Chris Paul had 33 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists for New Orleans and his backup Jarrett Jack added 15-4-5. Paul became just the fourth player in the past 20 seasons to record at least 33 points and 14 assists in a playoff game. New Orleans is already without David West (18.9-7.6) and Aaron Gray, who scored a season-high 12 points in Game 1, still doesn't know whether he'll be able to play with his sprained right ankle. The Lakers are favored by 11 1/2 points and the total is 187 1/2.
Those following the Zig-Zag theory went 2-1 last night (3-2 Y-T-D) and would have Denver, San Antonio and LA tonight.