The Bulls led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter but actually trailed 70-69 early in the fourth last night, before a 9-0 run allowed them to take control. Chicago would outscore Atlanta 26-15 in the quarter and win, 95-83. As I pointed out in Tuesday’s journal, of the previous 159 series tied at two-all in NBA playoff history, the Game 5 winner has gone on to win just under 84 percent of those best-of-seven series, including Dallas (over Portland) and the LA Lakers (over New Orleans) in this year’s first round. The Grizzlies and Thunder play a Game 5 tonight, with that series tied at two-all.
Once again, the Hawks couldn’t contain Derrick Rose, who entered the game averaging 31.9 PPG in the first four games of the series. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 33 for the game, as well as handing out nine assists. The regular season MVP (25.0-4.1-7.7) is now averaging 29.8-4.5-7.7 in 10 postseason games. Deng bounced back from a poor Game 3 by scoring 23 points and remains the only other Bull to average more than 11 points this postseason (Deng is averaging 17.1). Noah was scoreless in 27 minutes, after scoring just eight points in the previous two games. Of more concern was the fact that he pulled down only six rebounds, after totaling 26 the previous two games.
The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague’s 21 points. He can’t handle Rose defensively but the second-year player from Wake Forest has played 40-plus minutes in each of the five games since Hinrich went down with an injury, averaging 17.0 PPG and 4.4 APG. Joe Johnson scored 15 points but made just 1-of-5 three-pointers, while Crawford scored only two points on 1-of-9 shooting (including 0-of-4 on threes). The Hawks return to Atlanta Thursday night for Game 6, where the Bulls are favored by 3 1/2 points and the total is 179.
The win and cover by Chicago gives home teams 10-7 SU and ATS records in the second round, after going 32-11 SU and just 17-23-3 ATS in the first round. Home favorites are now 20-25-2 ATS this postseason and home dogs 7-5-1, meaning all favorites are 25-32-3 ATS through 60 games. Under bettors went 26-17 (60.5 percent) in the first round but over bettors have had an excellent second round. Last night’s game just barely stayed under but there have been 12 overs and just five unders in this year’s conference semifinals. Those following the Zig-Zag Theory won with the Bulls last night, moving closer to “the Mendoza line” at 22-23-3 ATS (minus-3.3 net games) this postseason with plays tonight on Boston and Memphis.
Wednesday’s games: It’s a TNT doubleheader tonight with Boston at Miami in the first game at 7:05 ET and Memphis at Oklahoma City at 9:35 ET. The Heat lead three games to one and are one win away from the team’s first appearance in an Eastern Conference final since the 2006 championship season. Miami’s “Big 3” accounted for 83 of the team's 98 points (84.7 percent) in Game 4 and may need a similar effort to close out Boston here. The again, maybe not. Rondo’s far from 100 percent and Boston’s “Big 3” has been inconsistent. As for Shaq, who played 12 minutes with just two points and zero rebounds in Games 3 and 4, one more Boston loss and his career is more than likely over. The Heat are favored by 7 1/2 points with a total of 181.
It can’t much closer than the Memphis/Oklahoma City series. The teams are tied at two-all with the last two games going to single and triple overtime. In total points scored, Memphis leads Oklahoma City 440-to-438. Durant (30.9-7.7) is the leading scorer in the postseason but it would be easy to argue that Zach Randolph (23.3-11.1) has been the postseason’s MVP up to this point. Marc Gasol’s (16.0-12.5) postseason has put his brother’s to shame while starting guards Conley (15.9-6.1 APG) and Allen (8.2) plus Mayo (11.2) off the bench, have been a ‘deadly’ trio for the Grizzlies. Westbrook’s (26.1-5.7-6.7) stats have been great for the Thunder but his shot selection and accuracy (40.2%, including 31.2 on threes), have been a MAJOR issue. The Thunder are favored by 6 1/2 points and the total is 197 1/2.