Season on the line for Bulls in Game 5 vs. Heat
We could have the NBA Finals matchup set by around 11:15 p.m. tonight (barring another overtime) as the Miami Heat take a 3-1 series lead into Chicago and look for the clincher. A win gets the Heat a May 31 home date with the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals. If the Bulls win to force a Game 6, and they are 3-point favorites on WagerWeb.com, then the NBA Finals start next Thursday at the East champ.
There is one key injury to be aware of tonight: Bulls backup center Omer Asik won’t play as he has a fractured tibia. He tried to play through the injury in Game 4 but lasted only a few minutes before LeBron James fell on the leg. Asik is done for the playoffs no matter what happens.
If there is one storyline to this series it’s how the Heat are defending Bulls star point guard and NBA MVP Derrick Rose, especially in the fourth quarter. Rose has been double-teamed every time he gets the ball for the most part – and for sure off a pick-and roll. And then the Heat usually put LeBron James on him in clutch time. Rose may be faster than James but he gives up six inches and about 70 pounds so Rose has had trouble. For example, Rose was 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter and 0-for-3 in overtime of Game 4’s overtime, finishing 8-of-27 for 23 points and seven turnovers in nearly 49 minutes. He also missed two key shots, including at the end of regulation, settling for jumpers over the bigger James instead of getting into the lane. In the Bulls’ past three games, Rose has shot a combined 2-for-13 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Rose is shooting just 36.3 percent overall in the series.
Chicago’s wing players aren’t helping much because they can’t hit from long range and open up the lane for Rose. Since hitting 10 3-pointers in Game 1, the Bulls have hit just 14 of 57 shots from long range (24.6 percent). Kyle Korver, particularly, has been invisible and shooting is his only job – he is a liability on defense. In addition, the Bulls committed 22 turnovers that the Heat converted into 26 points in Game 4.
Only three teams in NBA history have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Chicago never has, and Miami has never allowed a team to when it was up by that margin.
Bulls face almost a must-win in Game 4 vs. Heat
The Chicago Bulls probably aren’t going to beat the Miami Heat three straight times – although they did during the regular season – so that means Chicago better win tonight’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals or Chicago will be down 3-1 and with no wiggle room left. Plus a win tonight steals back home-court advantage. However, the Bulls are 5-point underdogs on WagerWeb.com.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they may be without key reserve center Omer Asik tonight. He is being called iffy tonight because of a muscle strain in his left leg, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“It’s day-to-day,” Thibodeau said after he and his players watched game film of Sunday’s 96-85 loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. “He’ll get treatment, and then [the team’s medical staff] will check on him [today].”
Asik (7-foot, 255 pounds) has averaged 1.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 14 playoff games. He received 15:21 of playing time in Game 3 but sat out in the fourth quarter because of his injury. But his activity and just post presence go beyond his actual stats. If Asik is unable to play, Thibodeau said, veteran Kurt Thomas likely would be called upon. Thomas (6-9, 230) has dressed for each of the first three games of the series but has not played.
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has struggled in this series as the Heat double team him just about every time he gets the ball. Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history, is averaging 23 points and 6.3 assists in the series. But he’s shooting just 39.1 percent and scored a combined four points in the fourth quarters of Games 2 and 3. That included a mere two field-goal attempts in the 9 minutes, 58 seconds Rose logged in the final period on Sunday night. The NBA MVP says he will be much more aggressive going to the basket tonight.
“I’m thinking too much, trying to get the ball out of my hands so that my teammates can make plays. … I have to change my mindset right now. Usually when I come out, I see how the defense is playing me. They’ve been double-teaming me the whole time, especially in pick-and-roll. The big (man) stays up until I get the ball out of my hands,” Rose said. “Starting (Tuesday), from beginning to end, I have to be way more aggressive. I have to find a way. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. But I have to search out the opportunity and go for it.”
In the fourth quarters of Games 2 and 3, the Bulls shot 32.4 percent. Rose shot just 1-of-6. And in Game 3, the Heat shot 56.3 percent and scored 28 points in the final quarter after leading by just three entering it. Chicago hasn’t lost three games in a row all season. Miami is unbeaten at home in the playoffs, while the Bulls are 3-3 on the road.
Bulls ready for different Heat in Game 2
The Chicago Bulls played about as well as they could have in the second half in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night against the Miami Heat. The game was tied at 48 at halftime before Chicago, spurred by a halftime speech from MVP Derrick Rose, dominated in the second half on the way to a shockingly easy 103-82 victory. But the Bulls now the Heat will come out with a lot more intensity and perhaps a different look or two tonight in Game 2. Chicago is a 2-point favorite on WagerWeb.com.
The ways in which the Bulls dominated in Game 1 was nothing short of stunning, although perhaps we should remind people that Chicago did sweep the Heat in the three-game series during the regular season (only by a total of eight points, however, and LeBron James missed one game).
The Tom Thibodeau defense clearly didn’t mind letting Chris Bosh get his shots – he played well with 30 points – but wasn’t going to let LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get to the rim. Those two superstars combined for just 33 points and 12-for-32 shooting and had eight turnovers and only eight free-throw attempts.
Another major problem for Miami has been on the boards. Thanks largely to Joakim Noah (14 rebounds, eight offensively), Chicago outrebounded Miami 45-33. That seems to be a constant, as it’s the fourth time in four games Chicago has outrebounded the Heat. It’s thought that Miami might activate either Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Erick Dampier for Game 2 to add some size because starting center Joel Anthony, at 6-foot-9, is being dominated on the boards. Heat power forward Udonis Haslem, who has played all of seven minutes in two playoff games since returning from an early regular-season injury, also could play more. And LeBron might be asked to hit the boards as well, although that limits the Heat’s transition game and that’s where they are at their best.
James was outplayed by Luol Deng in Game 1. Deng outscored James 21-15 and played textbook positional defense on James in Game 1, and the wall of defenders the Bulls formed to surround the paint turned James into a jump shooter. But Chicago expects a different LeBron tonight.
“He poses so many different problems with his size, strength, quickness and vision,” Thibodeau said. “He can hurt you with his scoring. But he can hurt you just as badly with his playmaking. He has great vision and he sees everybody that’s open. So he’s going to make you pay for any mistakes you make. That’s what makes him so dangerous.”
In Game 1, the Bulls outscored the Heat 28-15 in bench points. Miami also got only a combined four points and eight rebounds from starters Mike Bibby and Anthony at point guard and center. Sporadic production from those areas didn’t haunt the Heat in the first round of the playoffs against an inexperienced Philadelphia team or in the second round against a battered and bruised Boston squad. But it clearly did in Game 1 and probably will the rest of this series.
Heat seem likely to finish off Celtics in Game 5
The end of the Boston Celtics’ run since team president brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007 to form the Big 3 could be at an end tonight when the Celtics travel to Miami down 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals and with the Heat as 7-point favorites for Game 5 on WagerWeb.com.
It seems rather unlikely that Boston can beat Miami three times in a row – and the Heat already beat the Celtics twice in South Florida in Games 1 and 2, covering rather easily both times (back then it was a 5-point spread).
Boston simply has to do a better job on Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In Game 4’s 98-90 win in Boston in overtime, that trio had 83 of Miami’s 98 points and 35 of its 45 rebounds. They scored all 12 of Miami’s points in overtime; Bosh and Wade had five apiece after James’ fallaway jumper on the Heat’s first possession of the extra period gave them the lead for good. This season when those three combine for at least 80 points, Miami is 14-1 (including 2-0 in this series). The Big 3 scored the final 31 points for the team and took final 20s shot for the team, including all seven in overtime. No other Heat player scored in the 4th quarter or OT for Miami
Paul Pierce scored 27, Ray Allen had 17 and Kevin Garnett had seven points and 10 rebounds for Boston. But Pierce missed a potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, Allen missed a few key 3-pointers and Garnett was a sad 1-for-10 from the field. Rajon Rondo, who dislocated his left elbow Saturday night in Game 3, played 39 minutes with a padded sleeve covering what appeared to be a brace on his left arm, scoring 10 with five assists. But Rondo avoided contact wherever possible and missed a layup that would have give Boston a lead with just over a minute left in regulation. And he was put on the bench for overtime in favor of Delonte West, who is dealing with his own injury problems.
And Boston was pounded on the glass in Game 4 and apparently won’t have Shaquille O’Neal tonight. He only played three minutes the other night as his body obviously has given up – don’t expect Shaq to ever play another minute in the NBA. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said O’Neal is doubtful for Game 5 due to lingering soreness in his right Achilles and calf and sounded pessimistic for his chances to get back on the court moving forward. O’Neal played only 3½ minutes in the first half of Monday’s Game 4 loss and did not return to the court.
Panic button time in Beantown and Okla. City?
Hi Greene’s Corner Fans,
Well the NBA Playoffs gave us two shockers last night as both the Bulls and the Lakers lost Game 1′s to make both Series very interesting. I wrote yesterday that I felt the Hawks and the Mavs matched up well and both showed it in Game 1. Tonight we have two teams really in tough situations in the Celtics and the Thunder. I feel the tougher spot is with the Thunder as they are still a very young team overall and with the Celtics, this is a veteran team who has been in this (0-1 ) situation 4x the past 3 postseason’s combined. The C’s have responded well in that situation winning all 4 games when down 0-1 in the Series.
Let’s go first to Miami where the Heat won Game 1 with a huge game from star Wade and a very surprising gigantic game from James Jones. These two teams have now met 5x with the Celts winning the first 3 and the Heat now winning the last 2. The final score of Game 1 looks like the Heat won easily. But they both had 39 rebounds and overall the game was much closer then the final score. Boston started slow missing 20 of it’s first 26 shots, and Rondo got two quick fouls. The Heat were able to get easy buckets in transition and of course Jones hit one big 3 after another to help build a nice lead the Heat never relinquished. Game 1 was very physical on both sides, yet Miami ended with a huge edge at the FT line (32-18). You can be sure there won’t be that much of a difference in this second game. These teams both have superstars and you’d think scoring would be easy. It’s clearly not, as even though the Heat has 3 studs who can score 25+ any night, they have only scored over 100 points one time in their last 10 games. The Celtics may suit up Shaq tonight and if so, that’s good for 6 more hard fouls inside and he clearly makes for much tougher baskets in the paint. Lebron James has enjoyed early success in past Series vs. Boston having 1-0 and 2-1 leads, to then only lose both Series in 6 games. This game should be very physical again as Boston knows it has to be tougher in the paint to win in Miami. Pierce was ejected with over 7 minutes left in Game 1, but let’s face it, the Heat were dominating that game for the most part and that ejection is NOT the reason Boston lost. They simply played a poor game in all facets and the layoff from the early sweep over NY also showed rust with the outside shooting. We had Miami in G1 as our only NBA Playoff pick the past 2 nights and we’ll take part in this game tonight too. Does Boston fall 0-2? Is Miami finally the team we all expected when James and Bosh signed this past offseason?
Ok let’s now head to Oklahoma City in what is clearly a “Must Win” spot for the Thunder. In Game 1 the Thunder got two awful performances from Hardin and Westbrook (7 turnovers) and of course Zach Randolph played fantastic on both ends and hit everything from inside and even long distance. The Griz shoot the least amount of 3′s in the Playoffs, so expect the Thunder to pack it in much tighter tonight and not allow the easier 3-8footers Gasol and Randolph hit on them all night in Game 1. Strangely the Griz were a terrible (16-25) on the Road this season, but they have now beaten the Thunder 4 of it’s 5 meetings this year. The only time they lost they hit only (1-15) from 3-land. The Thunder got K. Perkins to give them a huge force “in the paint” where the Griz lead the NBA with 52PPG. Perkins was a no show in Game 1 and will have to play much better for the Thunder to win Game 2. The Thunder may have the best Home Court advantage in the NBA and their (30-11) home record is evident of that. The Griz though now have a “expect to win” swagger after disposing of #1 San Antonio and right now Randolph is the best Player in the Playoffs. I expect Westbrook to bounce back and avoid the costly turnovers and I also sense Durant having a 40 point night as he did get plenty of very open and easy looks in Game 1. The Thunder will definitely play “inspired” ball tonight, but it will have to cover a slightly inflated Pointspread to cash a ticket for the bettors with the line now (-6 1/2).
NHL Notes: Very big Game 3 tonight for the #1 seed Washington Capitols, who are shockingly down 2-0 in their Series with Tampa Bay. This is clearly a Must Win for the Caps, but this TB team is very capable of pretty much ending this series with a home win tonight. The reason teams get “Red Hot” in the NHL is clearly due to Goaltending. Right now TB has been lights out on Defense and in the Net. In fact it’s been their off the charts Power Play success that has advanced them this far. Washington is (0-11) on the Power Play in this Series so far and in it’s last Series the Lightning held powerful Pittsburgh to an unfathomable (1-35). Washington has outshot the Lightning in these fist two games and they need to continue to force pressure for a full 60 minutes. This is basically win or go home for the Caps, but asking them to win against a Goalie this HOT isn’t quite the same as other sports winning a “Must Win” game.
FREE PICK FOR TUESDAY MAY 3: (TOTAL) ANAHEIM ANGELS/BOSTON RED SOX – “UNDER 7 RUNS” – low scoring Well we dropped our Free Play last night on the Flyers (-$1.35) as they lost a tough one in OT. Our Free pick record here is now (24-6) and (+17.15 units). Tonight we will be treated to one of the best Pitching Duels of the season as both Haren and Lester are in the zone and very tough to hit. Haren has actually been dominant from day 1 and he’s been nearly unhittable. He’s only allowed 6 earned runs all YEAR, with 38k’s and just 7 walks. He’s needed to be near perfect each night as both big boppers (Wells .172, Hunter .237) have really struggled at the plate. Lester started the season a little shaky, but his last 3 starts he’s been totally dominant the way everyone talked about before season started. His 1.35ERA his last 3 starts have helped Boston immensely as they have struggled as a Starting staff most of this year. Top Pitchers feed off facing another elite Pitcher and this game will surely be very low scoring as both Pitchers are totally zoned in. I look for this one to finish 2-1 with both Pitchers dominating and hopefully both going deep as well.
Have a great evening and enjoy the games and if you aren’t winning right now and want to get your very first NBA Playoff winner, ABSOLUTELY FREE, call me at my office right now at (1-800-587-2583). I am 9-5 in the Playoffs so far and hopefully will continue to make a nice profit overall. Be sure to check here everyday for a preview of the night’s biggest matchups and for the most part, from a “betting perspective”.
gary greene - www.bluebooksports.com
Note: Gary is the Publisher of the Bluebook Football Betting Magazine and the Host and
main Sports Handicapper of the longest running Sports Radio Show (22 years) in Las Vegas.
Celtics’ Shaquille O’Neal doubtful for Game 2 vs. Heat (video)
It looks like Shaquille O’Neal’s playoff debut as a Boston Celtic will have to wait as it appears Shaq won’t be able to play in Game 2 on Tuesday night against the Miami Heat, who are 5.5-point favorites on WagerWeb.com to take a 2-0 series lead.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said ailing center Shaquille O’Neal “looked terrific” going through an entire practice Monday, but soreness makes him doubtful for tonight.
“He looked great [Monday], went through the whole practice,” said Rivers. “He was phenomenal, actually… But by the end of practice, he was struggling walking, so we’ll see. I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, we’re not sure yet, but I doubt it.”
Rivers said O’Neal participated in his first scrimmage work since aggravating the right calf/Achilles injury while playing 5½ minutes against the Detroit Pistons on April 3. It’s the only game action he’s logged since Feb. 1.
The Celtics have the benefit of three full offdays between Tuesday’s Game 2 in Miami and Saturday’s Game 3 in Boston, which would allow the 39-year-old center more time to heal. But Rivers stressed again that, as soon as O’Neal is ready, he’s going to put him on the floor and believes he’ll be an impact player.
In other injury news, Heat forward Udonis Haslem will remain inactive. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Haslem is “not ready” to return from early season foot surgery. Haslem tore ligaments in his left foot in November.
As for the prospect of going down 2-0 in this series, something that has never happened in the Big 3 era, Kevin Garnett said that the Celtics were not thinking that way.
“You take one game at a time,” Garnett said. “Each game you learn something from it and you try to apply what you’ve learned to the next game. Obviously [1-1] is always good but you go 0-2 against a great team it’s very hard.”
Boston needs much more from KG and Rajon Rondo as those two were held to a combined 14 points – 11 less than Heat reserve James Jones torched Boston for in Game 1. The Celtics say they must guard the 3-point line better — Jones was 5-for-7 from there.
NBA playoffs: Heat look poised to sweep 76ers on Sunday
The Miami Heat look scary good right now, and there’s really no reason to believe they won’t sweep away the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday and likely await the Boston Celtics for an epic Eastern Conference quarterfinals matchup. Bet on Heat-Sixers at WagerWeb.com.
The Heat are now 6-0 against Philly this season after Game 3’s 100-94 victory in Philadelphia. Dwyane Wade was rid of his migraines and had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, and LeBron James finished with 24 points and 15 boards for Miami, which has now won 17 of 20. Wade hadn’t totaled 32 points in the first two games while dealing with the headaches. He is the 6th player in the last 20 seasons to go for at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in a road playoff game. Miami is the first NBA team to win the first three games its opening series of the playoffs with a different outright leading scorer in each game since the Heat did it against the Nets in 2005.
Miami isn’t typically a great rebounding team but had 20 offensive rebounds in Game 3, their most in a game this season. The Heat earned 24 points off of their offensive boards. During the regular season, Miami averaged just 9.6 offensive rebounds per game which ranked 27th in the NBA. The difference at the free throw line also has been huge. The Heat have made 78 free throws in the series while the Sixers have attempted just 54.
One thing to keep an eye on for Game 4 and going forward for Miami is whether it uses a traditional point guard. At crunch time in Game 3 the Heat did not. But Mike Bibby’s and Mario Chalmers’ complete ineffectiveness on Thursday night warranted the unconventional move. The two point guards combined for three points, three assists and two turnovers on 1-for-8 shooting in 44 minutes of action.
Sixers coach Doug Collins said his team would approach Sunday’s game with one goal: to get a win and return to Miami. No team in NBA history has rallied from a 0-3 deficit, and that’s not about to change here.
Dwyane Wade won’t miss Game 2 vs. 76ers
Despite sitting out practice on Sunday due to migraines, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade will play on Monday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami is a 9.5-point favorite on WagerWeb.com.
Wade reported to shootaround Monday saying he felt better than he did Sunday. But he is likely to wear tinted goggles tonight, to protect his eyes from the light, so he doesn’t have a recurrence of the migraine symptoms. His status for Monday night’s game is probable but there is still a chance he could be forced to miss the game or play a significantly reduced role.
“He is feeling better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was wearing the shades and the guys were calling him ‘Blade’ but hopefully he’ll be ready to go. He’s feeling significantly better than yesterday.”
Wade wore the goggles against the Knicks earlier this season while recovering from a migraine. He said he wasn’t very comfortable in them but still scored 34 in that game. Wade missed a game Jan.22 against Toronto due to a migraine and needed several days to recover. If Wade is not available, Heat forward James Jones could receive his first start in a playoff game since 2009.
The 76ers expected Wade to play, and coach Doug Collins even had some comedy ready for the news that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP was back at practice.
“I have a set of cymbals that every time he runs by the bench, I’m slashing them,” Collins said. “And I went out and bought the brightest flashlight I could find, and every time I get eye contact I’m shooting it at him. He’s going to be great. He always is. He’s a lot like [Michael Jordan]. I think his mental capacity to fight through these things is off the charts and we expect him to be terrific.”
Going back to the regular season, the Heat have now won 16 of their last 19 games. The 76ers have now lost six of their last seven games. After going 7-0 in sweeping the regular-season series in each of the past two years, the Heat have now won eight in a row from the 76ers . The Heat have won seven of their last 10 playoff rounds when winning a series opener.