NBA home teams worth your wager in Game 3

I’m still trying to process how a 38-year-old fighter can be one punch away from possibly scoring one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history to five minutes later looking like a 78-year-old grandfather who needs help getting out of his chair. If I can equate it to another profession, it would be like being on the verge of winning American Idol and then—midway through the final performance—going from crooning like Frank Sinatra to shrilling like Bob Dylan.

If you didn’t see it live, by now you’ve heard that Shane Mosley had Floyd Mayweather legitimately hurt midway through the second round of their 12-round fight at the MGM Grand Garden on May 1. At one point, Mosley landed a right hand square on Mayweather’s jaw and Floyd’s left knee buckled. One more shot, and the undefeated Mayweather probably was going down. Well, Mosley didn’t land the big blow. In fact, almost immediately after staggering Mayweather, Mosley started fighting scared. By the end of the fourth round, his tank was emptier than Mike Tyson’s wallet after a night at Cheetah’s.

I’m not saying Mayweather would have stayed down if Mosley had thrown one more haymaker. But it would have been nice to at least see Mosley keep the pressure on—or if nothing else, not be gasping for air after four rounds like I do after four minutes on the treadmill.

Throw in a first-round playoff exit by the Dallas Mavericks (on the eve of the playoffs, I backed the Mavs with a $75 play at 8-to-1 odds to get to the NBA Finals) and it wasn’t exactly a banner week for me, losing $200, to put my bankroll at $5,255. Still, my pick on the Orlando Magic to win it all is still in play. Speaking of hoops, no official action in this week’s column, but rather some strong playoff wagering tips that should put some beer money in your pocket.

NBA Slam Dunks: The second round of the postseason is in full swing, and my best piece of betting advice revolves around how to play the all-important Game 3. This is when the best-of-7 series switch venues, and the home teams—even if trailing 0-2 in the series—generally have a huge emotional and psychological advantage.

In the first round, five of the eight teams returning home picked up Game 3 victories (and one of the teams that didn’t was the Trail Blazers, who split their first two games in Phoenix, making Game 3 less crucial).

For the conference semifinals, focus on those teams that lose the first two games on the road, and look to bet those squads in Game 3 (barring key injuries, of course). All four teams that started on the road in this round—Boston, Atlanta, Utah and San Antonio—are strong at home, with Boston (three days) and Utah (three days) having added rest between Games 2 and 3.

A few facts to keep in mind:

  1. The Lakers and Jazz have met in each of the last two postseasons. Both times, the Lakers had home-court advantage and posted wins in Games 1 and 2, only to travel to Salt Lake City and lose Game 3. In fact, over the past three postseasons, the Lakers are 0-4 when playing a Game 3 on the road after winning the first two at home. So if Utah (35-9 at home this season) is down 0-2, a play on the Jazz is good value.
  2. After Phoenix’s win in Game 1, the home team has won five straight in the Suns-Spurs rivalry, including all four this season. Also, Phoenix and San Antonio met in the playoffs four times from 2003 to 2008. Not only did the Spurs win all four series, they won and covered in all four Game 3s (two at home, two on the road).
  3. Finally, home court has held serve in Game 3 in six of the Cavaliers’ last nine postseason series. That includes Cleveland’s loss to the Bulls in the opening round this year. Meanwhile, this is the first time since Boston returned to the playoffs in 2007-08 that it hasn’t had home-court advantage (and thus the first time the Celtics get a Game 3 at home).

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