NBA Conference Finals Are Set

Don't you just love when folks talk about the "bounce of the ball" in terms of hoops luck? Well, the real bounce of the ball - to be exact, four bounces off the rim before going in - is all that separated the Eastern Conference Finals-bound Toronto Raptors from the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night that capped off a wild Mother's Day in the NBA.

Say what you will about Toronto megastar Kawhi Leonard hoisting up a grand total of 39 field-goal attempts - he canned 16 of 'em - as Leonard's game-winner set off a wild celebration North of the Border ... but it also delighted the underdog players in this Game 7 tilt as Philadelphia (+ 6) backers didn't have to sweat out any overtime.

Meanwhile, when the dust finally settled on the second round - a/k/a, the conference semifinals - the dogs were barking up a storm with a 16-9-0 ATS (against the spread) mark for a nifty .640 winning rate and that featured five underdog winners in the seven games played between the Sixers and Raptors.

So, that means entering this week's NBA Conference Finals, playoff betting favorites are a collective 34-31-1 ATS (that's a .523 winning percentage) overall - and remember once upon a time the chalk sides were as many as 11 games above .500 at 23-12-1.

Get your hoops week started right on Tuesday night with Game 1 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals between the Portland Trail Blazers at the Golden State Warriors and then on Wednesday it's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors at the Milwaukee Bucks.

On Sunday, it was ...

EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO 92, PHILADELPHIA 90
- Raptors win series 4-3

If there's anything that's gonna be "staying" with the 76ers off that loss it'll be the haunting reminder of Leonard's buzzer-beating shot - believe it or not, the first-ever buzzer-beater in an NBA playoff Game 7 -- but it might as well be those three late-game possessions that Philly botched up badly including one 24-second violation while coming out of a time out. The rudderless 76ers - who finished this Game 7 with just 9-of-27 makes from downtown and 15 turnovers against 16 assists - were absolutely lost in space in a handful of late-game offensive possessions and Ben Simmons' lack of leadership at the point hurt badly (see 5 assists / 5 turnovers).

On the flip side, Toronto's offensive game was pretty ugly too - how about the 7-of-30 shooting from deep? - and we agree with TNT folks Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal that nobody outside of Leonard really wanted to shoot it late (scared?) although hats off to key Raptors' reserve Serge Ibaka who wound up a plus 22, thanks in large part his key stat line of 17 points / 8 rebounds / 3 assists.

Now, it's the Raptors movin' on and the Sixers that are thinking "what if".

Here's the game-by-game playoff series results between the 76ers and Raptors. Note home teams are in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-27TORONTO- 6.5Philadelphia108-95
4-29Philadelphia+ 7TORONTO94-89
5-2PHILADELPHIA+ 1.5Toronto116-95
5-5Toronto+ 2PHILADELPHIA101-96
5-7TORONTO- 6Philadelphia125-89
5-9PHILADELPHIA+ 1Toronto112-101
5-12TORONTO- 6Philadelphia92-90

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PORTLAND 100, DENVER 96
- Trail Blazers win series 4-3

It happened ... again. For the second time in these playoffs the Portland Trail Blazers were the only NBA team to advance to the next round off an upset: The T-Blazers were + 125 (note that Denver was - 145) in this series after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games at the generous price of + 150 (OKC was priced at - 180 in that first-round set).

Obviously, the $64,000 question now will be whether the West's #3 seed can pull off the ultimate upset and KO the two-time defending champion / three-times-in-the-past-four-years champ Golden State Warriors ... but we'll study that one in tomorrow's Jim Sez, okay?

If you hit the rewind button on Game 7 here, there's little question that both teams were gassed - Portland shot just 38-of-93 from the floor and if not for guard CJ McCollum (37 points in 45 minutes) the Blazers were dead meat but Denver shot just 33-of-89 from the field and the bench that needed to shine instead wound up a collective minus 19. Ugh! Don't blame this Nuggets' defeat on big man Nikola Jokic who missed seven shots in the final quarter ... where was his help?

Here's the game-by-game playoff series results between the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. Note home teams are in CAPS below:

DATE WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
4-29DENVER- 4Portland121-113
5-1Portland+ 4DENVER97-90
5-3 PORTLAND- 5Denver140-137 (4 ot)
5-5Denver+ 3PORTLAND116-112
5-7DENVER- 5.5Portland124-98
5-9PORTLAND- 4Denver119-108
5-12Portland+ 5.5DENVER100-96

 

THE BASEBALL REPORT

Here's a few names that exited the weekend with gold stars next to their names ...

Chicago White Sox RHP Luis Giolito allowed just one run over seven innings to snag his second straight start in a 5-1 win in Toronto on Mother's Day and Giolito (4-1, 3.55 ERA) could be blossoming into a top-flight hurler after some bumpy times a year ago. P.S., the White Sox now are 17-5 overall when scoring four runs or more ...

Philadelphia Phillies LHP Cole Irvin threw seven innings and allowed just one run, five hits and one walk en route to a 6-1 win at Kansas City. Might the 25-year-old Irvin be "missing piece" for a Phillies team that's been searching for more quality arms in this starting rotation? The Phils were a Pick 'Em winner here but gotta believe Las Vegas will "catch up" with Irvin by his next start this weekend versus Colorado ...

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell has been around for a couple of years but he could be headed for a monster year: On Sunday, the lefty-swinging Bell went 4-for-4 with a homer, 5 RBI and 3 runs scored in a 10-6 road win in St. Louis. Don't look now but Bell has 10 home runs, 13 doubles and 34 ribbies for a Buccos team that ranks 29th in the bigs in runs scored and 28th in home runs. In this win, Pittsburgh (+ 170) cashed for a third straight time in the four-game set in St. Loo.