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Monday, April 17

   by Larry Ness - 04/17/2006

All 16 NBA playoff berths were secured over the weekend. However, over the season's final three days, playoff positions will be determined. Eliminated from the postseason this past weekend were Orlando and Philadelphia in the East plus New Orleans and Utah in the West. The Magic made a great late-season run (have won eight straight and 12 of 13) but a 2-18 stretch between Jan 26 and Mar 6 sealed the team's fate.

My free play for Monday is on the Mil Bucks over the Det Pistons at 8:05 ET. My Sunday 'magic' continued in the NBA yesterday, as I won easily with the Lakers (20-pt win) over the Suns. That's SIX winners in my last seven "featured plays" on Sunday. Tonight I'm looking for a little "Monday magic" with my 20* NBA Game of the Year. Don't sit this one out, as I've gone 8-3 or 73% ATS since the All Star break with my 20* NBA plays or higher! In MLB, it's a 15* "Best of the Best" play.

The Pistons won their 64th game of the season on Sunday, giving them a new single-season franchise record for wins. The Heat will be the East's No. 2, New Jersey its third-seed and Cleveland the fourth-seed. Washington (40-40) plus three teams all at 39-41 (Chicago, Indiana and Milwaukee) will battle it out for the final four playoff positions.

San Antonio's 103-90 win at Minnesota on Sunday means the Spurs need to win one of their remaining two games (home to Utah tonight or at Houston on Wednesday) or have the Mavs lose at home to the Clippers on Wednesday, to clinch the West's top-seed. Dallas, despite a better record than both Phoenix (Pacific winner) and Denver (Northwest winner), likely enters the playoffs as the fourth seed.

The Grizzlies own a one game lead over the Clippers for the fifth seed and the teams meet Tuesday night in Memphis. The team that claims the fifth seed will open the playoffs against the fourth seed (likely Dallas), while the team that the falls (not exactly an apt description!) to the sixth seed will get Denver, plus own the home court edge! Doesn't quite make sense, does it?

The Lakers routed the Suns by 20 points on Sunday (no Nash or Bell for Phoenix) and with 10 wins in their last 13 games are at 44-37. The Kings beat the disinterested Hornets last night and are now 25-14 since acquiring Artest. The Kings sit at 43-38 but can claim the West's seventh seed by beating the Sonics in Sacramento on Tuesday, if the Lakers lose at home on Wednesday to the Hornets. The seventh seed draws the Suns in the first round with the eighth seed getting the Spurs. Pick your poison.

Four of tonight's nine NBA games hold playoff implications. The Bulls are in Orlando to take on the red-hot Magic at 7:05 ET, the Pacers are in Toronto to face the Raptors (7:05 ET), the Bucks host the Pistons at 8:05 ET and the Jazz are in San Antonio (8:35 ET).

The Bulls/Magic features two teams playing outstanding ball. Chicago has won four straight and eight of nine to clinch the team's second straight playoff berth, while the Magic enter with the league's longest active winning streak and also own a 12-game home winning streak. Orlando is favored by six points (195).

The Pacers play one of the East's worst teams in the Raptors, who just ended a 10-game losing streak Friday night against the Pistons. However, the Pacers are an improbable 6-13 against the East's five-worst teams this year (Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, New York and Toronto), clubs which have a combined winning percentage of .327. Also, the Pacers enter on a nine-game road losing streak (1-8 ATS). Indiana is favored by two points (198).

The Pistons have little to play for tonight in Milwaukee and the line reflects that, as Milwaukee is listed as a four point favorite (193) and climbing (?) . The Spurs can clinch the West's top seed with a win tonight over Utah. They are 33-7 at home this year (have lost three of their last five at home!) but just 18-22 ATS. However, the Spurs have won 12 straight home games vs the Jazz. San Antonio is favored by 9 1/2 points (182 1/2).

MLB has now completed two full weeks and the Mets own the NL's and MLB's best record at 9-2. In marks the team's best start in franchise history. Even better news for Met fans is that no other NL East team has made it through the first two weeks with a winning record. The 4-9 Nationals are MLB's lone winless home team (0-3) and the Marlins are off to a 3-8 start, the team's worst start since their last "payroll purge" in 1998 (opened 1-10).

Houston leads the Central at 8-4, a division in which six of the seven teams own winning records. Only the Pirates, who have opened at 4-10, own a losing record. Pittsburgh's 7.25 ERA is a league-high as the team seems well on its way to another losing season. Pittsburgh's last winning year came in 1992! The Giants (7-4) are a half-game up on the Rockies in the NL West while last year's division winner, the Padres (at just 82-80), have opened 4-7.

The Red Sox own the Al's best mark (8-4), riding the pitching of Beckett (3-0 1.29) and Schilling (3-0 1.64). Tampa Bay (7-6) is off to its second-best start of all time and currently owns MLB's longest active winning streak (three straight!). The Yanks are just 6-6 but are off to a better start than last year, when "George's Boys" opened 11-19.

It's a three-way tie at the top of the Central with Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit all at 7-5. The Twins opened by losing five of six the first week (all on the road) but rebounded by going 5-1 at home this past week. The Royals own MLB's longest active losing streak at seven straight, as well as MLB's worst record (2-9). KC is MLB's lone winless road team at 0-6 and seems well on its way to challenging its 56 wins last year or its 58 wins from 2004!

The 6-6 Angels sit atop the AL West, trailed by the A's and Mariners (both 6-7) and the Rangers (5-8). Monday's 11-game MLB schedule features two day games (Mariners/Red Sox at 11:05 ET and Indians/Tigers at 1:05 ET) plus a 7:05 ET start tonight on ESPN, when the Mets host the Braves.

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

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