I'll start today with an update from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Washington Capitals were the NHL's best regular-season team (had 54 wins and 121 points) but lost 2-1 in Game 7 last night to the Montreal Canadiens, a team which finished with 39 wins and just 88 points. The Caps blew a 3-1 series lead, losing Games 5 and 7 at home but unlike the NBA, it's not rare for a No. 1 seed to lose to an No. 8. In fact, it happened just last year, and has occurred an amazing (in my view) EIGHT times in the last 32 matchups, since the NHL went to its current playoff format for the 1993-94 season. All FOUR of the East's lower seeds have advanced in this year's first round!
Now consider NBA playoff history. The NBA expanded its playoff field to 16 teams for the 1983-84 season, with first round series being contested over five-games until the 2003 season. Just three No. 8 seeds have upset a No. 1 seed in that span. The first came in 1994, when the 8th-seeded Nuggets overcame an 0-2 deficit to win the final three games of that series against the top-seeded Sonics. In the strike year of 1999, the eighth-seeded Knicks upended the top-seeded Heat, also in five games. The only example of a No. 1 losing to a No. 8 in the seven-game format came in 2007, when the Warriors beat the Mavs in six games.
I mentioned awhile back that when the Hawks opened their series with the Bucks by taking a 2-0 lead, that it marked the first time that this franchise had owned a 2-0 series lead in a seven-game series since 1970. Did I jinx the Hawks? Atlanta went to Milwaukee and lost two games but returned home where it was 55-29 this year (including 2-0 in the playoffs) and owned a 14-game winning streak. Also, the Hawks had gone 8-3 SU and 8-2-1 ATS over the last three postseasons on their home court. Atlanta opened a 13-point lead in the third quarter last night and led 82-73 with just under four minutes to go in the game, but then totally collapsed. The Bucks surged into the lead on the strength of a 14-0 run and won, 91-87!
We know that teams winning Game 5 of a seven-game series tied at two-all have gone on to win that series 83 percent of the time (126-of-151), so all of a sudden, the Hawks look to be in big trouble. Considering that the Hawks are 1-10 SU and ATS the last three years on the playoff road, almost guarantees their fate. However, let's also note that teams which open a seven-game series by going 2-0, entered this postseason having gone on to win 209 of 223 series all-time (93.7 percent). More on this game Friday.
Wednesday's other game saw the Nuggets stave off elimination with a 116-102 win at home over the Jazz. Denver saw six players score in double digits (Anthony led with 26 points), as the Nuggets closed the game on a 22-10 run. The Nuggets snapped an eight-game losing streak when facing playoff elimination, the longest streak in NBA history. As for the Jazz, Boozer had 25 points and 16 rebounds with Williams contributing 34 points and handing out 10 assists. Williams is having an amazing series, averaging 28.2 PPG and 11.6 APG. His Game 5 effort allows him to join Kevin Johnson as the only players with five 20-point, 10-assist games in the same playoff series!
Home teams were 1-1 SU and ATS on Wednesday, giving them a 29-10 (.744) mark this postseason (26-13 ATS). One game went over and one under last night, leaving over bettors 19-16-2 so far. The "Zig Zaggers" also went 1-1 last night, leaving them 17-14 ATS or plus-1.6 net games. Two games are on tap tonight, both on TNT. The Mavs are at San Antonio at 8:05 ET (Spurs are favored by 3 1/2 and the total is 191), as the Mavs try to send this series back to Dallas for a Game 7 with a win. The Suns are in Portland at 10:35 ET (Blazers are minus-1 with a total of 202), as Phoenix tries to close out the Blazers and avoid returning to Phoenix for a Game 7.