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Monday. April 10

   by Larry Ness - 04/10/2006

The NBA is in its final countdown, as just 10 days remain in the regular season (ends April 19). The Pistons split two games over the weekend and at 62-15 now lead the Spurs (59-18) by three games for the league's best overall record with just five games remaining. The Spurs lost a huge game at home to Dallas on Friday night (92-86) but rebounded to edge the Grizzlies last night 83-81, even without Ginobili.

My free play for Monday is the Orl Magic over the Atl Hawks in the NBA at 7:05 ET. Speaking of the NBA, I cashed with my 22* last night on the Lakers (100-83 ov the Clippers), upping my 22* record to 3-0 since the break. Tonight, I'm looking to continue my recent 11-4 73.3% NBA run (since Mar 28) with a rare Las Vegas Insider Play in tonight's action. In MLB, it's my 1st "Technical Insider" of the young season, featuring a 70% five-year pitching trend plus my latest 15* "Best of the Best."

Going into these final 10 days of the regular season, the Spurs lead the Mavs (58-19) by just one game for the best record in the Southwest Division, as well as the best record in the West. However, there is a lot more at stake for these two teams than just the Southwest Division crown and the best mark in the West. The 'loser' of this all-important race will not get the West's No. 2 seed.

Instead, the team that comes up short, will fall to the West's No. 4 seed as the conference's No. 2 and No. 3 seeds will go to the winners of the Pacific (Suns) and Northwest (Nuggets) divisions. What this means is, that if Dallas can't catch San Antonio, the Mavs will be forced to play the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs, with San Antonio owning the home court advantage!

The Clippers (44-32) lost twice over the weekend to the Kings (for the 13th straight time!) and to the Lakers but still hold a half-game edge over the Grizzlies (44-33), who beat the Bucks on Friday before losing to the Spurs last night. This 'race' is very interesting, as the 'winner' (meaning the team which finishes in the fifth spot) gets either Dallas or San Antonio in the first round, while the 'loser' (meaning the sixth-seed) gets the Nuggets. Which team would you rather face?

The Kings went 2-0 over the weekend, while the Lakers split two games, leaving those teams tied at 41-37 for the last two playoff positions. Time is running out quickly on both the Hornets and Jazz (both are 37-39), as they are three game out of that final playoff spot with just six games remaining.

Getting back to the East, the Nets saw their 14-game winning streak (longest in the NBA this year) end on Saturday, as the Cavs (winners of 10 of 11) beat them in the Meadowlands, 108-102. LeBron scored 37 points in the win, giving him at least 35 points (he's averaged 38.6 PPG while shooting 52.9 percent) in nine straight games. Since 1970, only MJ (in 1986-87) and Kobe (in 2002-03) have accomplished that feat. Not bad company!

The Heat won at Washington on Saturday (16th straight win over the Wizards) and then lost at home to Orlando on Sunday. Miami, at 50-26, leads the Nets by 2 1/2 games for the East's second-best record with five games left (Nets have six left). The Cavs have secured the fourth-seed, while Washington (39-37), Milwaukee (37-40) and Indiana (36-40) follow. The Bulls and 76ers are tied for the final spot at 35-41, after Philadelphia won in Chicago on Saturday, 89-75.

The Magic, winners of eight of their last nine (including wins over the Pistons and Heat this weekend), are three games out of the East's final playoff spot, while the Celtics are 3 1/2 games back. Tonight's NBA schedule features seven games, with each game containing some playoff significance.

The 2006 MLB season begins its second week with no team escaping the first week without a blemish nor any team going winless. However, four teams gave it a run!

The Tigers, a team that's averaged 100.4 losses per season over the last five years, won their first five games before losing to the Rangers on Sunday, 5-3. The Brewers, whose last winning season was 1992 (they went 81-81 last year, close but no cigar!), also opened '06 by winning their first five but lost on Sunday as well, 7-0 to the Diamondbacks.

Getting out of the gate slowly in the NL were both the Phillies and the Pirates. Philadelphia opened with four straight losses to begin the year but won the first game of yesterday's doubleheader with the Dodgers, 6-3. On cue the Phils dropped the second game, 6-2. The Pirates opened with the longest losing streak of the young season, dropping their first six games. However, the Pirates won on Sunday in Cincinnati, 5-3. Pittsburgh, like Milwaukee, last had a winning season in 1992!

It's a light seven-game schedule in MLB for Monday, with four of the games starting in the afternoon. Tonight on ESPN at 7:05 ET, the Phillies visit Atlanta to take on the Braves.

Ness Notes is availbale Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET.

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