The Milwaukee/Atlanta series was the lone first round series to go the full seven games (Magic were the only team to sweep an opening round series) and seven-game series have become "old hat" for the Hawks. The team broke an eight-year playoff drought back in 2008, qualifying for the postseason despite a 37-45 record, but extended the Celtics (the eventual NBA champs) to seven games in their first-round series. The Hawks would lose that Game 7 in Boston by 34 points but last year's team was able to earn a 13-point win in a home Game 7 against the Heat and yesterday, this year's team routed the Bucks in Atlanta, 95-74.
So what else is new? Home teams are now 84-19 (.816) all-time in Game 7s. Crawford, the NBA's sixth-man-of-the-year this season, struggled in the first five games of this series (13.0 PPG) but scored 24 points in Game 6 and 22 in Sunday's clincher. Horford, a first-time All Star this year, followed his 15-15 performance in Game 6 with 16 points and 15 rebounds yesterday. The Bucks were just awful Friday night at home in Game 6 (with a chance to close the Hawks out), shooting 32.6 percent (including 4-of-19 on threes) while scoring 69 points. They were no better yesterday, making just 32.9 percent (7-of-26 threes) while scoring 74 points.
The first round is now complete with home teams going 32-13 (.711) and an impressive 29-16 ATS (64.4 percent). There were 20 overs, 21 unders and two pushes for those playing totals. The Zig Zag theory has again proven to be "much ado about nothing," as followers finished the first round 19-18 ATS or minus-0.8 net games!
Note the following trends that held up in the first round. Teams taking 2-0 series' leads (all four teams in the East plus the Lakers in the West) went on to win those series, making teams that go up 2-0 in a seven-game series 214-14 all-time in NBA history (94.9 percent). Teams up 3-1 in a series (this year it was the Cavs, Celtics, Jazz and Spurs doing that) all went on to win, meaning just EIGHT of 193 teams down 3-1 in a seven-games series have been able to come back and win that series (4.1 percent). Three series were tied at two-all and just one of the three Game 5 winners (Bucks) failed to go on and win that series (Lakers and Suns both won their series in six games). The Bucks became just the 26th Game 5 winner of a seven-game series tied at two-all to not go on and win that series out of 154 opportunities (Game 5 winners have won their series 83.1 percent of the time in NBA playoff history).
The second round began Saturday night, when the Cavs overcame a 54-43 halftime deficit to beat the Celtics, 101-93 in Cleveland. The Cavs used a 21-9 run to close the third quarter, led by Williams (14 of his 20 points came in that quarter). James elbow seemed just fine (35-7-7) and the Cavs' bench outscored Boston's, 25-12. Rondo finished with 27-6-12 for Boston but after being unstoppable in the first half, was held to just two FG attempts by Parker in the second half. It sure didn't help the Celtics that their "Big Three" shot a combined 8-of-27 (29.7%) in the second half. The Cavs opened at minus-525 to win the series but were bet down to minus-450 by the start of Game 1. Game 2 is tonight (more later).
The Lakers hosted the Jazz yesterday afternoon in LA, in Game 1 of their semifinal series. It's the third straight season in which the two teams have met in the postseason. LA jumped out early but a 12-1 Utah run in the 4th quarter had the Jazz up 93-89. However, LA held Utah with a FG the final 3:51 of the game. Kobe scored 11 of his 31 points during the game's last four minutes while Gasol (25-12) continued his excellent play. The Lakers have now won 15 straight over the Jazz at Staples Center, including seven playoff games these last three years. Phil Jackson coached teams are 45-0 all-time in series after winning Game 1, including 21-0 with the Lakers. Game 2 is Tuesday.
The second round has seen home teams open 2-0 SU (1-1 ATS) with both games going over (now 22-21-2 in the playoffs to-date). Two games are scheduled for Monday, the Celtics/Cavs at 8:05 ET in a Game 2 and then San Antonio at Phoenix at 10:35 ET (both on TNT) in Game 1 of their series. The Cavs are favored by six points with a total of 192 1/2. The Suns are favored by 3 1/2 points in Game 1 (Phoenix is anywhere from minus-125 to minus-140 to win the series) and the total is 203 1/2. The Spurs/Suns series should be interesting. Phoenix is 16-3 SU (14-1-1 ATS) at home since the break (including TY's postseason), while the Spurs have eliminated the Suns FOUR times in the postseason since 2003 (also '05, '07 and '08).
The final semifinal series opens on Tuesday, with the Magic hosting the Hawks. Orlando opened minus-1300 to win this series but has quickly been bet down to around minus-750. The early number for Game 1 has the Magic favored by 8 1/2 with a total of 192.
Closing thought: In watching the first half of Atlanta/Milwaukee Game 6 (as 'ugly' a game as I've seen in awhile), I heard it mentioned that the date marked the 39th anniversary of Milwaukee's lone NBA title. That caught my attention because it was only April 30th. Think about that. The first round of the 2010 playoffs wasn't over until yesterday (May 2), yet the 1971 NBA Finals were over on April 30th. How times have changed. Quoting Margaret Mitchell, it's a time "Gone with the Wind." A check of the record book reveled that the last time the NBA Finals were over before June came back in 1983, when Moses Malone and Dr J finished off the Lakers 4-0 on May 31. Philly went 12-1 that playoff season and missed by one game, a 100-94 Game 4 loss at Milwaukee in the Eastern Conf finals, of fulfilling Moses Malone's now-famous prediction of "Fo', Fo' Fo." The NBA expanded to a 16-team playoff field for the 1983-84 season, with the NBA postseason lasting well into June since.