LBJ’s season was ended last year by the Celtics, as his Cavs lost embarrassingly at home in Game 5 by a score of 120-88 and then went meekly in Game 6 with a 94-85 loss. Amid much fanfare, King James “took his talents to South Beach” over the summer, joining Chris Bosh (a Toronto refugee) and Dwayne Wade (already in the Miami fold) to create the team to beat (and hate) for the 2010-11 season. The Heat won Game 4 of this series at Boston in OT (ending 11 straight regular-season and playoff losses in Boston for Miami) and then last night, blitzed the Celtics with a 16-0 closing run over the game’s final 4:15 to beat the Celtics 97-87 and take their Eastern Conference semifinal series in five games.
James scored Miami’s (and the game's) final 10 points, ending with 33-7-4. Wade had a game-high 34 points (10 rebounds and five assists) while Bosh had 14 & 11. The team's other two starters (Anthony and Bibby) combined for only four points with the Miami bench adding just 12 points. That means the “Big 3” accounted for 81 of Miami’s 97 points (83.5 percent), one game after accounting for 83 of the team's 98 points, or 84.7 percent, in Game 4. At least up until now, it looks as if the Heat can win this year’s NBA title with basically a three-man team. Then again, let me note that the Heat became just the fifth team to oust the Celtics in a playoff series while holding them under 100 points in each game. Miami held Boston to an average of just 91.0 PPG in the five games and it’s fair to say that three guys can’t guard five, so the rest of the Heat are contributing in ways other than scoring points.
Heading into last night’s Game 5 of the Memphis/Oklahoma City series, the teams were tied at two-all with the previous two games having gone to single and triple overtime. In total points scored, Memphis led Oklahoma City 440-to-438. Durant (30.9-7.7) was the leading scorer in the postseason and his '’partner in crime” Russell Westbrook, was averaging 26.1-5.7-6.7. For Memphis, the frontcourt duo of Zach Randolph (23.3-11.1) and Marc Gasol (16.0-12.5) had been nearly unstoppable against first San Antonio and then Oklahoma City. A quick check of last night’s box score reveals more than a few surprises. Durant had just 19 points (his first sub-20 point effort of the 2011 postseason) and Westbrook added just 11 points (three rebounds and six assists), his lowest scoring game of the postseason as well. Randolph took just nine shots for Memphis (made just three), ending with nine points (his postseason low) and seven rebounds while Gasol was the lone double-digit score for the Grizzlies, scoring 15 points but grabbing just five rebounds. Randolph was averaging 26 & 14 in the series coming in and Gasol, 18.8 & 12.8.
Oklahoma City came up empty on its first seven possessions and turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter but Memphis could do no better than a 17-17 tie at the end of the quarter. It was all Oklahoma City after that, as the Thunder bench contributed 53 points, led by Cook (18) and Mohammed (10 & 6). The Thunder dominated the boards (50-33) and both teams cleared their benches down the stretch as Oklahoma City won Game 5, 99-72. Both home teams won and covered, giving them 12-7 SU and ATS records in the second round, after going 32-11 SU but just 17-23-3 ATS in the first round. Home favorites are now 22-25-2 ATS this postseason and home dogs 7-5-1, meaning all favorites are 27-32-3 ATS through 62 games. Under bettors went 26-17 (60.5 percent) in the first round but over bettors have held the upper hand in the second round, as after a split last night, there have been 13 overs and six unders in the second round. Those following the Zig-Zag Theory lost with both Boston and Memphis last night, dropping to 22-25-3 ATS (minus-5.5 net games) this postseason with a play tonight on Atlanta.
The lone game on tonight’s schedule is Chicago in Atlanta at 8:05 ET on TNT. The Hawks snapped a 15-game second-round losing streak in Game 1 of this series with a 103-95 win in Chicago. Atlanta also ended a nine-game home losing streak in the second round in Game 4 of this series with a 100-88 victory. However, the Hawks lost Games 2, 3 and 5 of this series by 13, 17 and 12 points, respectively. Atlanta has averaged a woeful 79.3 PPG in those three losses while shooting a pathetic 5-of-31 (16.1 percent) from behind the three-point line. Which team shows up here? The Bulls have blown ‘hot and cold’ this postseason and haven’t come close to looking like the team which went 24-4 after the All Star break with wins in 13 of its final 14. Boozer’s had trouble scoring all postseason (is it his turf toe?), Noah’s scored just eight points the last three games and it hardly went without notice that head coach Tom Thibodeau stuck with second-teamers Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer with Game 5 on the line in the 4th quarter on Tuesday. The Bulls are favored by 3 1/2 points and the total is 178 1/2.