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Thursday's NBA playoff action: What bettors need to know

Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks (+7.5, 194)

Miami leads series 2-0.

The Milwaukee Bucks put in a better effort in Game 2 but could not figure out a way around the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter. The Bucks will be looking to avoid a 3-0 hole when the series shifts to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Thursday. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have gotten plenty of help from the likes of Chris Andersen and Ray Allen in winning the first two games and the Heat have shown no signs that they are ready to lose a game.

Milwaukee leaned on Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings for production while neglecting the frontcourt in getting blown out during Game 1. The Bucks switched tactics in Game 2 and went inside to Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders during the first three quarters, keeping Miami off balance and keeping the game close. The Heat’s big run at the start of the fourth caused Milwaukee to abandon that strategy, and Miami had no trouble pulling away. The Heat have won 10 straight going back to the regular season and need 14 more wins to lock up their second straight championship.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sun Sports (Miami), Fox SportsNet Wisconsin (Milwaukee), TNT

ABOUT THE HEAT: Miami was clinging to a three-point lead entering the fourth quarter of Game 2 and coach Erik Spoelstra decided to switch things up, sending James out with four reserves to start the fourth. James usually sits out the first couple minutes of the fourth quarter but instead combined with Andersen and Norris Cole on a 12-0 burst that put the Heat in control and allowed them to cruise to the end. James went 9-for-11 from the field in Game 1 before “slumping” to 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting in Game 2, ending a streak of 22 straight postseason games with at least 20 points. But he made his impact during the decisive run with a layup, a pair of rebounds and an assist on Cole’s 3-pointer that capped the burst. “We held court,” Spoelstra said. “We protected (home court) for two games. We did what we were supposed to do, and that’s it.”

ABOUT THE BUCKS: Milwaukee’s big advantage on paper is in the frontcourt with Ilyasova, Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels off the bench. But the Bucks have been outrebounded in each of the first two games and abandoned any offense from the frontcourt in favor of tough shots off the dribble from Jennings and Ellis in Game 1. The second game was a different story, with Ilyasova and Sanders combining for 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting, but the struggles of Ellis and Jennings kept the offense from getting into a flow. The backcourt duo combined to shoot 5-for-22, including 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the loss. Jennings had predicted a Milwaukee series win in six games.

TRENDS:

* Under is 4-0-1 in the last five meetings.
* Over is 15-6 in the last 21 meetings in Milwaukee.
* Bucks are 6-14 ATS in their last 20 home games.
* Heat are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 road games.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. Sanders and Heat F Shane Battier collided in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and hit the ground hard. Battier required stitches on his chin and Sanders injured his ankle. Both are expected to play Thursday.

2. Milwaukee beat Miami at home 104-85 on Dec. 29 despite James and Wade combining for 50 points.

3. Allen (315) needs five 3-pointers to match Reggie Miller’s postseason career record.

Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls (-3.5, 181)


Series tied 1-1.

The Chicago Bulls have wrestled home-court advantage away from Brooklyn and look to take a 2-1 lead in the series when they host the Nets when the first-round Eastern Conference matchup resumes on Thursday. Chicago notched a 90-82 victory in Monday’s Game 2 after suffering a 17-point loss in the opener. The Bulls clamped down on Nets star Deron Williams and had three different players record double-doubles while evening the series.

Chicago managed quite a turnaround in the second game in Brooklyn. Now the quest becomes matching that stellar effort. “After a win in the playoffs, you’re sky high and feeling good about yourself,” Bulls center Joakim Noah told reporters. “You’ve got to stay focused and know a lot of basketball is left. Anything can happen. Sometimes you play well, sometimes not.” Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo dissected the game tape closely on Tuesday and that only confirmed his postgame sentiments that it was a combination of poor play from his squad and a solid performance by the Bulls. “I think our guys all feel we let ourselves down and we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing,” Carlesimo said. Brooklyn guard Joe Johnson is questionable with a foot injury.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, WWOR (Brooklyn), Comcast SportsNet Chicago, NBATV

ABOUT THE NETS: Williams had only eight points on 1-of-9 shooting in Game 2 after scoring 22 points in the opener. He was harassed by Chicago point guard Kirk Hinrich and never found his shooting rhythm. Williams vowed that things will be much different in Game 3. “I’m not going to play like this again,” Williams said. “They did some different things and they tried to keep me on one side of the court. They definitely stayed with me longer on pick-and-rolls and tried to trap me a little bit. I’ll look at the film and see where I can improve. I didn’t go to the basket enough.”

ABOUT THE BULLS: Frontcourt performers Luol Deng (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (13 points, 12 rebounds) had solid Game 2 performances but the catalyst was Noah, who is playing through a bout of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He struggled mightily in the opener but was strong down the stretch in Game 2 while finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds and sideswiping the pain. “I thought Jo was very rusty in the first game but willed it, and I thought he willed it again and we needed every bit of it,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said afterward. “To me, it’s obvious we’re a much better team with him on the floor.”

TRENDS:


* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in Chicago.
* Underdog is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
* Road team is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
* Nets are 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:

 
1. The Nets set a franchise mark with a 23-18 road mark in the regular season.

2. Boozer is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds in the series.

3. Brooklyn C Brook Lopez had 21 points, five rebounds and three blocks in each of the first two games.

Los Angeles Clippers at Memphis Grizzlies (-4.5, 179.5)


Los Angeles leads series 2-0.


The Memphis Grizzlies have no margin for error entering Thursday’s Game 3 of their first-round Western Conference series with the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. Memphis is in an 0-2 hole and has lost its last three home contests against the Clippers. The Grizzlies won a franchise-record 32 home games but Los Angeles is streaking with nine consecutive victories after recording a 93-91 victory in Monday’s Game 2 on Chris Paul’s driving bank shot with one-tenth of a second remaining.

The Clippers ousted the Grizzlies from last season’s playoffs and can close in on doing so again with a third straight win in the series. “We’ve had success in Memphis,” Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We’re going there with the right mindset but we have to execute better than we did (Monday), especially on the defensive end.” The Grizzlies are taking the position that the series can be evened up now that the scene has shifted to Memphis. “We’ve got to come here and take care of business,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “We have two games at home. We almost got one out in L.A. but it wasn’t to be. We have to come home and try to win two and hold court.”

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), SportSouth (Memphis)

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS: Paul is in the running for Most Valuable Player honors and he again displayed why with his Game 2 heroics. He was able to shed defensive standout Tony Allen to sink the game-winning hoop and cap a 24-point effort. “Not all great players are clutch,” Los Angeles guard Chauncey Billups said. “But Chris has proven to be one of the best clutch players in the game. Anytime we get in those positions, he’s our closer.” Paul is averaging 23.5 points, eight assists and shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Forward Blake Griffin bounced back with 21 points in Game 2 after struggling to 10 points in the opener.

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES:
Center Marc Gasol was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. The 7-foot-1 Gasol averaged 1.7 blocks and one steal during the regular season as Memphis allowed a league-low 88.7 points per game. The Grizzlies are allowing 102.5 through two games against the Clippers and are aiming to reduce that figure. Gasol is averaging 16.5 points but just 4.5 rebounds in the series. Point guard Mike Conley had 28 points and nine assists in Game 2 and is averaging 20 points and seven assists. Power forward Zach Randolph is averaging 13 points and six rebounds and has been a relative non-factor.

TRENDS:


* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Memphis.
* Clippers are 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings in Memphis.
* Clippers are 5-2-1 ATS in the last eight meetings.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Road team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS:
 
1. Los Angeles has won six of its last seven games against Memphis, counting the regular season and postseason.

2. The Grizzlies are 7-for-23 from 3-point range in the series.

3. Clippers backup PG Eric Bledsoe is averaging 11.5 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the series.

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