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Thursday, April 13

   by Larry Ness - 04/13/2006

The Pistons easily took care of the Cavs last night (96-73) and are now just one win away from securing the home court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs. The team's 63rd win of the year also ties a franchise record for most wins in a single season, matching the win total of the 1988-89 club.

My free play for Thursday is the Orl Magic over the SA Spurs at 8:35 ET. Early birds can catch my NL Getaway Day Game of the Month in MLB and all can get my "Technical Insider." Tonight's Technical Insider (off to a 2-0 start in 2006), features negative team trends of 27% and 35% on one side plus a positive 74% team trend on the other. Get it NOW!

While the top-half of the East's playoff picture is pretty clear, the bottom-half remains very crowded. The Wizards (39-39) are still holding on to the fifth seed despite losing their fourth straight game last night, 100-97 in Milwaukee. The Bucks are now 38-40 and tied with the Pacers, who beat the Celtics last night, 117-112.

The Bulls won in Atlanta last night (96-90), while the 76ers crushed the Nets in the Meadowlands, 116-96. It was Philly's third straight win (after losing 10 of 13) and it keeps them tied with the Bulls for the East's final playoff spot at 37-41. However, Chicago holds the tiebreaker edge, owning the better conference record.

The Magic won their sixth straight game last night (have won 10 of 11), beating the Raptors 103-96. However, it's most likely too little too late for Orlando, as the Magic are three games back of Chicago and Philly with just four games left. As for the Raptors, the loss marked the team's 10th straight loss, the NBA's longest-active losing streak.

If the Mavs never catch the Spurs for the West's best record, they'll have the Warriors to blame. Dallas lost in Oakland last night, 114-102. The Warriors had entered the game tied with the Raptors for the league's longest active losing streak (nine games) but had already beaten the Mavs twice this year in Dallas. Last night's loss drops the Mavs to 59-20, 1 1/2 games behind the 60-18 Spurs. It sure looks now as if the Mavs will have to settle for the West's fourth seed.

Both the Jazz and Hornets won last night but like the Magic in the East, time and games are running out on these two clubs. The Jazz are now 39-39 on the year with the Hornets sitting at 38-40. The Kings currently own the West's 8th-best record at 41-38, 1 1/2 games better than Utah and 2 1/2 games better than New Orleans. The Clippers beat the Blazers last night 97-93 and moved with a half-game of Memphis for the West's fifth seed.

While Minnesota's 82-79 win in Houston had no effect on the playoff picture in the Western Conference, it's worthy of note because the win ended the T-wolves 14-game road losing streak. Playing without Garnett and Ricky Davis for the third straight game, Minnesota outscored the Rockets 21-10 in the fourth quarter for just the team's fourth win in their last 31 away games!

Tonight's NBA schedule features just three games, with TNT airing a doubleheader beginning at 8:05 ET with the Knicks visiting the Cavs and concluding at 10:35 ET with the Mavs at the Suns. LeBron is not expected to play for the Cavs, who are favored by 6 1/2 points (186 1/2). In the nightcap, the Suns are favored by 2 1/2 points with a total of 217 1/2. A loss by Dallas almost guarantees the Mavs will have to live with the West's No. 4 seed despite a better record than both Phoenix and Denver.

The Spurs will host the red-hot Magic in the only other game on tonight's schedule, at 8:35 ET. Orlando comes in having won 10 of 11 but the team's late run will probably still leave them shy of a playoff spot in the East. The Spurs can all but clinch the West's best record with a win but Ginobili is listed as questionable (has missed two straight), while Duncan and Parker are both recovering from the flu. San Antonio is favored by eight points with a total of 217 1/2.

MLB's schedule is full of afternoon games on this "getaway day" Thursday. Nine of the 15 games scheduled (including the first game of the Hou/SF doubleheader), have afternoon starting times. WGN telecasts the Reds/Cubs from Wrigley at 2:20 ET and ESPN2 airs the Phillies/Braves game tonight at 7:35 ET.

Wednesday MLB notes

The Royals lost on Wednesday in Yankee Stadium for the 13th straight time, 12-5. It marks the Yankees' longest home winning streak over a single team since they beat the Indians 19 straight times in the Bronx, from 1960 to 1962.

The defending champs (White Sox) got back to .500 yesterday with a 4-3 win at Detroit. Thome hit his 5th HR of the season and the 435th of his career, moving him into a 6th-place tie with Manny Ramirez among active players.

Ichiro broke out of an 0-for-18 slump last night by going 3-for-4 in Seattle's 11-9 win over the Indians in Cleveland. For the Mariners, it ended their four-game losing streak, while ending the Indians' six-game winning streak.

The Rangers had lost nine straight games in Anaheim to the Angels, but won last night 11-3!

The Marlins have the majors youngest team and own its lowest payroll. It's showing, as yesterday's 7-2 loss to the Padres drops their record to 1-6.

Greg Maddux picked up his second win of the young season and the 320th of his career yesterday, by beating the Reds 4-1. Maddux will turn 40 on Friday.

The Pirates hit just 139 HRs last year but have hit four in each of their last two games against the Dodgers. They beat LA 9-5 last night, coming back from a three-run deficit for the second consecutive game.

The Brewers last posted a winning record in 1992, when they played in the AL. Milwaukee opened the '06 season by winning its first five games, scoring 23 runs on 44 hits while allowing just 14 runs in the five games. However, Milwaukee dropped its third straight game last night (lost 8-3 in St Louis) and has now scored just seven runs on 23 hits while allowing 21 runs in its last three games!

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

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