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Tuesday, April 18

   by Larry Ness - 04/18/2006

The Spurs easily handled the Jazz last night 115-82, securing the No. 1 seed in the West, meaning the Mavs will have to settle for the No. 4 seed despite owning a better record than either the Suns or Nuggets. The bottom half of both the Eastern and Western Conference playoff picture (seeds five through eight) will decided over the season's final two days.

My free play for Tuesday is the Min Twins over the LA Angels at 8:10 ET. Tonight in the NBA I'm featuring a Las Vegas Insider, winning my most recent exclusive LV Insider just this past Sunday on the Lakers (by 20 points over the Suns!). I'm also releasing my first Las Vegas Insider in MLB since the season's opening week, as well as a Triple 10* MLB report!

In the East, Chicago, Indiana and Milwaukee all won last night leaving all three of those teams tied at 40-41, while the Wizards (idle last night) stand at 40-41. The Bulls overcame an 11-point halftime deficit at Orlando to win 116-112 in OT, ending the Magic's eight-game winning streak as well as their 12-game home winning streak. The Bulls have now won five straight and nine of their last 10 games.

The Pacers ended a nine-game road losing streak with a 120-95 win over the Raptors in Toronto. Toronto scored the game's first basket but Indiana never trailed after that, leading by as many as 37 points. The Bucks jumped out to a 17-2 lead against the Pistons, who made just one of their first 11 FG attempts. Detroit rested Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton in the 113-93 Milwaukee win. The Bucks own tiebreaker advantages over both the Bulls and Pacers.

Tonight's NBA schedule consists of five games with three of the contests featuring playoff ramifications. Milwaukee is in Washington at 7:05 ET, the Clippers visit the Grizzlies in Memphis at 8:05 ET and the Sonics are in Sacramento to take on the Kings at 10:05 ET.

The Bucks can clinch the fifth seed with a win tonight over the Wizards in Washington, as they own tiebreakers over the Wizards as well as the Bulls and Pacers. However, a Milwaukee loss could possibly drop them to the eighth seed and a first round matchup with the Pistons. How's that for a big game?

The Wizards stopped a five-game slide by beating the Cavs on Sunday, as Caron Butler returned (had missed all five losses) to score 21 points. Washington is 0-2 vs the Bucks this season, having just lost last Wednesday in Milwaukee, 100-97. However, Milwaukee is just 2-7 its last nine road games while Washington has gone 18-7 at home after a 7-7 start. Washington is favored by seven points (205).

In the game that nobody wants to win, the Clippers visit the Grizzlies in Memphis. The Grizzlies lead the Clippers by one game for the fifth seed in the West but while the fifth-place finisher gets a first round date with the Mavericks (60-21), the sixth-place finisher draws the Nuggets (44-37) in the first round, plus gets home court advantage! The Grizzlies enter this game on a 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS run while the Clippers are just 2-4 SU and ATS their last six. Memphis is favored by seven points (184).

The Kings, now 25-14 since acquiring Artest, can still get the seventh seed by beating the Sonics tonight if the Lakers lose tomorrow at home to the Hornets (not likely). Adelman has said his starters may see limited time but the Kings have won 17 of their last 20 home games and have beaten the Sonics in nine of the last 11 meetings at Arco, outscoring them by 13.4 PG. Also, it was the Sonics who knocked the Kings out of last year's playoffs. Sacramento is favored by seven points (206).

The NL-leading Mets and the AL-leading Red Sox both won yesterday. The Mets extended their franchise-best start to 10-2 by edging the Braves, 4-3. It was the first of what will 18 meetings between the two teams this season. Pedro won his 200th career game last night, becoming the seventh active pitcher to have reached that plateau. There are 103 pitchers with at least 200 wins in ML history and Pedro's 84 losses are the fewest of any 200-game winner!

The Red Sox won their annual Patriots Day game in dramatic fashion, as Mark Loretta won the game on a two-out two-run HR in the bottom of the ninth. The 7-6 win over the Mariners gives the Red Sox an AL-best 9-4 mark. In other AL action, The Indians beat the Tigers 10-2, the Orioles beat the Angels 4-2 and the White Sox beat the Royals 9-0.

The Tigers, who last had a winning season in 1993 and have gone 19 years since their last postseason appearance, have now lost six of their last eight after opening 5-0. The Royals, winners of 56 and 58 games the last two seasons, lost for the eight straight time (longest active losing streak of any team), getting just one hit! The Royals own a ML-worst 2-10 mark and are also the only team in the majors without a road win (0-7).

Highlights from yesterday's NL games include Albert Pujols tying a ML record with a homer in his fourth consecutive at-bat and Greg Maddux, who turned 40 last Friday, winning at Los Angeles (good news). The not-so-good news, was the continuing troubles of the Marlins and the Pirates.

Pujols had homered in his final three at-bats on Sunday and his HR in the first inning last night in Pittsburgh, gave him homers in four straight plate appearances. Stan Musial (pretty good company) is the only other cardinal to have accomplished the feat but Albert and Stan the Man are hardly in exclusive company, as 35 players in ML history have homered in four straight at-bats! Maddux (13-15 LY) is coming off his first losing season since 1987 but the 4-1 win gives him his first 3-0 start (1.33 ERA) since 1994.

The Marlins own MLB's youngest lineup and its lowest payroll and the team's 9-1 loss last night in Cincinnati have them off to a 3-9 start. The Pirates, who last posted a winning record in 1992, lost 2-1 to the Cards and are just 4-11. Milwaukee, which like the Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992, lost 8-7 in Houston and now like the Tigers, have gone 2-6 since opening 5-0. While Barry remains homerless this season in 12 games, the Giants' 10-9 win Arizona has them at 8-4 and in first place in the NL West!

All 30 teams are in action tonight in MLB with 15 games scheduled. However, just one can be seen nationally, the Cubs/Dodgers on WGN at 10:10 ET.

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

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