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Friday, April 14

   by Larry Ness - 04/14/2006

First the Spurs lost at home to the Magic (92-80) on Thursday night (Orlando has now won 11 of 12!) when they scored just 30 second-half points, including an 11-point 4th quarter in which they made just 3-of-16 FGs. Then, the Mavs lost in Phoenix 117-104, missing an opportunity to move within a half-game of San Antonio. The Spurs are now 60-19, the Mavs are 59-21 and time's running out on Dallas.

My free play is on the Fla Marlins over the Was Nationals at 7:35 ET. In MLB I'm featuring my NL Mismatch of the Month plus a Technical Insider which is backed by an 88% pitching trend. On a busy NBA night, I'm releasing a huge Triple 15* Report. Don't miss out, as I'm a perfect 4-0 in three-game NBA reports since the break, going 9-3 or 75% on individual games!

Meanwhile, San Antonio's loss clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs for the idle Pistons. In Cleveland, the LeBron-less Cavs won their 10th straight home game, edging the Knicks 91-87. Cleveland's 48 wins this year is the most since the team won 54 games in 1992-93. Tonight's NBA schedule features 11 games with ESPN airing a doubleheader, Wizards/Bulls at 8:05 ET and Suns/Warriors at 10:35 ET.

The Suns/Warriors game has little interest as Phoenix has secured the West's No. 2 seed while the Warriors will be sitting out this year's playoffs for the 12th straight year (longest active streak). The Suns are favored by three points (224). However, the Wizards/Bulls contest holds plenty of playoff significance, as do a number of other Friday night games.

The Bulls have gone 8-2 SU and ATS their last 10 games despite numerous injuries and enter this game tied with the 76ers for the East's final playoff spot. As the for the Wizards, they've lost four straight games (1-3 ATS) by an average of 9.2 PPG, while shooting just 40.3 percent. Caron Butler has missed all four games while Arenas has averaged 32 PPG. Washington (39-39) still owns the fifth-seed but is just one game up on the Bucks and Pacers Mil (both 38-40). Chicago is favored by four points (198 1/2) .

Speaking of Milwaukee and Indiana, the Bucks are at the Knicks (7:35 ET) where they are favored by seven points (198) and the Pacers host the T-wolves (8:05 ET) and are favored by 13 points (173). Milwaukee owns the tiebreaker edge over both Washington and Indiana.

The 76ers, who are tied with the Bulls, visit Miami (7:35 ET) to play the Heat. The Heat (favored by four points with a total of 202 1/2) need a win or a New Jersey loss (Nets are in Boston at 7:35 ET) to secure the East's No. 2 seed. The 76ers have won three straight (3-0 ATS) after losing 13 of 17. Miami is 18-7 its last 25 games but just 7-18 ATS! The Nets have followed their 14-game winning streak by losing three of their last four SU and ATS. New Jersey is favored by one point (195 1/2).

Games of importance in the West are Utah vs New Orleans (in Okla City at 8:05 ET), Portland at the LA Lakers (10:35 ET) and the LA Clippers at Seattle (10:35 ET). The Jazz trail the Kings (who play at Denver on Saturday) by 1 1/2 games and the Hornets trail them by 2 1/2, for the West's final playoff spot. Both teams are likely going end the year on the outside looking in! This game is listed as a 'pick' with a total of 182.

The Lakers lead the Kings for the seventh spot by one game and have won eight of their last 11. Portland's 6-33 road record is an NBA-worst, so it's no surprise the Lakers are favored by 14 points (194 1/2). The Clippers trail the Grizzlies by a half-game for the West's fifth-seed but one wonders if either team really wants that 5th-seed? The fifth-seed gets Dallas (most likely) in the first round, while the sixth-seed gets Denver! Seattle is favored by two points (209). Memphis plays at Houston tomorrow.

The MLB season opened on Sunday, April 2 but the Houston Astros didn't played their first road game of the season until yesterday. The Astros opened with a seven-game homestand (5-2) but saw their Tuesday and Wednesday games with the Giants in San Francisco rained out. For the record, the last time the Giants had back-to-back games canceled due to rain was 45 years ago!

Anyway, Houston became the final MLB team to play a road game this year in yesterday's doubleheader at Pac Bell Park. SF won the first game 5-3 and the Astros won the second, 8-0. The total in that first game was 8 1/2 and the total in the second game was 8 or 7 1/2. We mention this because there were 13 other games yesterday in MLB and 12 of those 13 games went 'over' the total, including all six in the AL. The only game to stay 'under' was Milwaukee's 4-3 (11 inning) win at St Louis (total was 9).

Entering the second weekend of the 2006 season, the Mets own the NL's (and MLB's) best record at 7-1. The Nationals own the NL's worst record at 2-8 (went 81-81 last year), with Pirates close behind at 3-8. The Pirates play in the NL Central and the other six teams in that division all own winning records. Not a good early-season sign for a team that last posted a winning record in 1992!

Colorado leads the NL West at 6-3 but the NL's biggest series this weekend is the Giants visiting the Dodgers. LA leads the majors with 118 hits through Thursday but the Giants (5-3) lead the Dodgers (5-5) in the standings, despite's Barry Bonds' 3-for-16 (.188) start. Bonds has yet to homer and has just one RBI. The series concludes Sunday night with the ESPN game at 8:05 ET.

Over in the AL, no team is better than 6-3 (Indians and Red Sox), while only the 3-7 Rangers and 2-6 Royals are playing below .400. The White Sox and Yankees have both rebounded from 1-4 starts to win four straight and will take their winning streaks into the weekend. The White Sox will host the Blue Jays, while the Yankees visit the Twins in Minnesota.

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

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