Notes from a gambler’s scorecard:
—The San Antonio Spurs won their last 10 games of the regular season and their first 10 games of the 2012 NBA postseason, covering the number in 16 of the 20 games with three pointspread losses and a push. Fourteen of San Antonio’s victories during its 20-game winning streak featured double-digit margins. The Spurs were installed as an underdog only one time during their incredible run. San Antonio was a 3-point underdog in Phoenix against the Suns in a game that featured San Antonio’s back-up players after Gregg Popovich decided to rest his veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Popovich himself missed the game but the Spurs still won, 110-106.
—Popovich, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, is a natural choice to replace Mike Krzyzewski as the head coach of the USA men’s national team. The Spurs play like an international team where the pass is more important than the dribble.
—Kawhi Leonard, age 20, is the perfect Spur. He’s smart, selfless, offensively-skilled and dedicated to defense.
—David Glisan, my radio partner on The EOG Sports Hour, believes the Spurs are a live underdog (+3.5) tonight in Oklahoma City. ESPN loudmouth Stephen A. Smith likes OKC to win Game 3. One stat favoring the blowhard: the Thunder are 15-4 following a loss this season.
—Here’s a betting strategy I’ll employ moving forward in the NBA postseason: Bet the Spurs following any loss. Also consider betting the Spurs in the first quarter and first half in the game following a defeat. If you appreciate the mindset and preparation of the smartest team in the NBA, then it follows they’ll be a focused group after suffering their first defeat since April 11.
—Manu Ginobili is fresh and rested after missing 32 of the team’s 66 regular-season games with a variety of injuries. Ginobili is not as talented as Kevin Durant or LeBron James but his competitive heart overcomes any deficiency in raw ability.
—Paul Pierce passed the torch as the Celtics’ leader to Rajon Rondo last night in Miami. As Pierce was headed to the locker room prior to the final buzzer, Rondo was still trying hard in a 4-point overtime loss to the Heat. Rondo scored a career-high 44 points in 53 minutes in one of the best individual efforts from a losing player in NBA postseason history.
—NBA playoff teams owning a 2-0 series lead in a Best-of-7 series are 226-14 (94%) in closing out the series.
—If the Spurs and Heat meet in the NBA Finals, the series price should be a Pick ’em. The Spurs own homecourt advantage but the Heat possess the star power in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Coaching edge goes to Popovich over Erik Spoelstra. I lean to San Antonio.
THURSDAY’S BEST BET…..Play 602 Atlanta Dream -6 over the Phoenix Mercury. Diana Taurasi is recovering from a hip injury and she’s only 70% effective, according to Phoenix head coach Corey Gaines. Atlanta exits a 16-point home loss to Indiana last Sunday. Look for the Dream to bounce back against one of the weakest defensive teams in the league after playing arguably the stingiest defense in the WNBA. I don’t mind laying points in a game where points will be plentiful (total is 185.5).
COMING FRIDAY…..A look at MLB action through a gambler’s eyes.
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