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Monday, April 24

   by Larry Ness - 04/24/2006

The NBA's opening round got underway this weekend and the only road team to break through was the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers beat the Nets 90-88 win in the Meadowlands on Sunday, leaving New Jersey as the only home team to fall behind in a first round series. Home teams went 7-1 SU and 4-4 ATS over the weekend, as SU winners went 5-3 ATS.

My free play for Monday is on the Houston Astros over the LA Dodgers at 8:05 ET. In Monday's MLB, I'm offering a rare triple 15* report and it's my Triple Play of the Month. I'm looking to bounce back off a poor NBA Sunday with a STANDOUT 15* play in tonight's playoff action.

I bring this up because a quick check of last year's playoff results shows two interesting trends. Home teams went just 46-38 in last year's postseason, posting a winning percentage of .5476. That's the worst-ever winning percentage by home teams since the NBA adopted its 16-team playoff format in 1984.

The previous low came in 1990, when home teams went a collective 40-33, or .5479. In 1989, home teams were 34-28 (.5438). Home teams have won more than 70 percent of all postseason games played in seven of the previous 22 playoff years since 1984. That happened most recently in 2004 when home teams went 59-23 (.720), with the best mark for home teams in a playoff year coming in 1990, when they went 54-18 (.750).

The other point of interest from last year's postseason was the fact that the SU winners and ATS winners of playoff games were basically one in the same. Of the 43 games played in the first round, 36 of the 43 SU winners also covered the spread. In the second round, 19 of the 22 SU winners were also winners ATS! Moving on to the conference finals, SU winners were a perfect 12-0 ATS and the NBA Finals followed with the SU winner going 7-0 ATS!

Doing the math of the 84 postseason games played last year, the SU winner was also the ATS winner, 74 times (two games were considered a 'push'). That means 90.3 percent of the postseason games played last year saw the SU winner also be the ATS winner. That was clearly not the case over the weekend, as the Clippers, Heat and Suns all won but did not cover!

An interesting note for over/under players was this fact. While five of the eight games went 'under' the total, the games with the three-lowest posted totals (using a consensus closing line), all went 'over!'. Indiana/New Jersey closed 175 with a 90-88 final. Memphis/Dallas closed 178 1/2 and saw Dallas win, 103-93. The Sacramento/San Antonio game (179 1/2) ended as the weekend's highest scoring game, with a final of 122-88.

Following a similar theme, the highest total of any game this weekend was the Lakers/Suns game, which closed at 215 1/2. Naturally, the game went 'under', as Phoenix beat LA, 107-102. Two series resume tonight, with the Bulls in Miami to take on the Heat at 8:05 ET and the Nuggets in LA where they face the Clippers at 10:35 ET (both games are on TNT). The Heat are favored by 7 1/2 points (195 1/2) in the first game and the Clippers are favored by 3 1/2 points (192) in the nightcap.

The Heat won Game 1 by the score of 111-105, despite Chicago making 13-of-26 three-pointers. However, when a team bombs away from the perimeter, it also has to deal with these kind of numbers. Miami made 32-of-39 FTs in the game, compared to the Bulls getting to the line just 17 times (made 13). Saturday's loss ended Chicago's six-game winning streak but while the Bulls have gone 10-2 ATS over their last 12 games, the Heat are just 9-21 ATS since the All Star break!

The Clippers' win on Saturday, was just the franchise's first postseason win since 1993. In the 36-year history of the franchise, this team has won just one postseason series (back in 1976 as the Buffalo Braves). LA owned a 16-point third quarter lead in Game 1 and almost blew a 10-point lead with just over four minutes remaining too. While the Clippers saw four of five starters play well in Game 1, only Andre Miller (25) played well for the Nuggets.

MLB notes from the weekend

Break up the Royals! KC lost on Friday night to the Indians, extending their losing streak to 11 straight games. During that streak, the Royals were outscored 78-32, hitting just .232 with their pitchers posting an ERA of 6.70. However, KC beat Cleveland 11-5 on Saturday and then again on Sunday (5-1). In Sunday's win, Jeff Affeldt became the first KC starter to post a win since September 26 of last year. KC starters had opened 2006 by going 0-9 with an ERA of 6.25!

The Tigers, a team which has averaged 100.4 losses the last five seasons, swept the Mariners in Seattle over the weekend, as their starters allowed just 10 hits and one run in 20 innings. Detroit is now 10-2 on the road, the team's best start away from home since the 1984 team (World Series champs) opened that year 17-0 on the road! What's going on?

Speaking of World Series champs, the White Sox own MLB's longest active winning streak, having won eight straight games. The White Sox have rebounded from a 1-4 start to win 12 of their last 13 games. The newly acquired Jim Thome opened the 2006 season by scoring a run in each of his first 17 games (the streak ended yesterday), the longest consecutive streak to ever open a season!

Another surprise team in the AL is the Texas Rangers. Texas opened 2-7, averaging just 3.7 runs per game. However, after sweeping the Devil Rays in a three-game series over the weekend (scored 27 runs on 38 hits), the Rangers have won eight of 10 games (averaging seven runs per game) and moved into a fist-place tie with the Angels (both 10-9) in the AL West.

The Astros swept the Pirates over the weekend and own the NL's best record at 13-5 (same as the White Sox). Morgan Ensberg tied a franchise record on Friday night with a homer in his 6th consecutive game. He was homerless in the team's 3-0 win on Saturday but was back at it Sunday, with a two-run shot!

Speaking of home runs, the ever-popular Barry Bonds finally got his first homer of 2006, over the weekend. It came in his 14th game and in his 31st official at-bat. Back in 1998, Barry didn't get his first HR until his 55th at-bat in his 13th game.

The anti-Barry, St Louis' Albert Pujols, made his 11th HR of the season on Friday night, the 1,00oth hit of his career. It came in his 3,003rd at-bat, tying him with Todd Helton, as the second-fastest active player to reach 1,000 hits. Ichiro got his 1,000th ML hit in 26 fewer at-bats.

Mariano Soriano of the Washington Nationals hit three HRs in the Nats' 7-3 win on Friday night . He became the first Expos/National to accomplish the feat since Tim Wallach did it in 1987 for Montreal. The win marked Washington's first home victory of the season, as the Nationals became the last of MLB's 30 teams to win a home game in 2006. After getting rained out on Saturday, the Nats lost 3-1 to the Braves last nigh (on ESPN), dropping to 1-4 at home in '06.

We close with a note from the "you can't make this up" department. Saturday, Milwaukee became just the fifth team in ML history to hit five HRs in one inning, when the Brewers got five HR's in a seven-run fourth inning, as they beat the Reds 11-0. Then on Sunday, the Brewers got just five hits and got shut out by Cincinnati's Aaron Harang. Harang entered the game with an ERA of 6.35 and was pitching on just three days rest. The final of course was, 11-0!

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

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