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Tuesday, April 25

   by Larry Ness - 04/25/2006

Both home teams won last night in the NBA playoffs. The Heat saw a 20-point third quarter lead cut to four points with just 1:15 remaining in the game but despite getting outscored 32-20 in the fourth quarter, held on to beat the Bulls, 115-108.

The Clippers led 32-13 after one quarter last night in LA, as the Nuggets made just six of 24 FG attempts in the opening period, including 0-for-6 on three-pointers. LA never looked back in a 98-87 win.

My free play for Tuesday is on the Tor Blue Jays over the Bal Orioles at 7:05 ET. Tonight in the NBA, I'm releasing one of my exclusive LEGEND Plays, games previously available to only my personal clients. Don't miss out! Check back after 1:00 ET for my MLB plays.

Home teams are now 9-1 through the first 10 games of the playoffs, going 5-4-1 ATS. Home teams went just 23-20 SU and 20-21-2 ATS in last year's opening round, on their way to an all-time low 46-38 SU record in the postseason (since the 16-team playoff field was adopted in 1984).

The Heat and Clippers now lead their series 2-0, putting themselves in a strong position historically. Teams taking 2-0 leads in the NBA playoffs have won 176 times in 186 opportunities -- 94.6 percent!

The Bulls had allowed 111 points or more just four times during the regular season but have allowed 111 and 115 points in losing the first two games in Miami. All five Miami starters were in double-digits, while Nocioni (30 point on 13-of-15 FGs) and Hinrich (29) led the way for Chicago. Nocioni had 18 points and 16 rebounds in the first game and is continuing his excellent play that saw him average 18.7 PPG and 10.7 RPG over Chicago's final 12 regular season games.

The Clippers have won just one postseason series in the franchise's 36-year history (in Buffalo as the Braves in 1976) and this year's team saw seven of its 12 active players make their postseason debuts in this series. This is a franchise that is making just its seventh postseason appearance (36 seasons) and is playing in just its eighth playoff series. It also marks the first time the team has owned the home court advantage!

Tonight's playoff schedule consists of three games, with TNT televising a doubleheader beginning at 7:05 ET. The Wizards and Cavs start things off on TNT, with Cleveland favored by 4 1/2 points (193). At 9:35 ET, the Spurs host the Kings, where they are favored by 11 points (183 1/2). The Pacers are in New Jersey to take on the Nets at 8:05 ET and the Nets are favored by 7 1/2 points (177).

The Pacers were the only visiting team to win a Game 1 and through 10 games, remain the only road team to win in this year's postseason. The Game 1 loss drops the Nets all-time record in Game 1's to just 3-12 and they certainly face a "must-win" situation here. During the regular season, the Nets posted the year's longest winning streak at 14 straight (10-3-1 ATS) from Mar 12 through April 6 but that means little now.

New Jersey shot just 1-of-15 from three-point range in Game 1, as Carter (31 points but on 12-of-33 shooting) and Kidd (2-of-11 and just five points) were well off their games. The Pacers weren't great but they were good enough to escape with a 90-88 win. The Pacers won five of their final six regular season games to sneak into the playoffs but were also just 2-11 ATS over their final 13 games in the regular season

The Cavs beat the Wizards in Game 1, 97-86, a LeBron (32-11-11) became the third player in NBA history to post a triple-double in his first postseason game (Magic was the last to do it in 1980). Arenas had 26 for Washington but Jamison and Butler (38.1 PPG combined in the regular season) totaled just 22 points. As a team, the Wizards shot just 3-of-22 on three pointers.

The Cavs, who have won 12 straight at home (8-4 ATS), are in their first postseason since 1998 and the franchise has advanced past the first round in just three of its previous 13 playoff seasons. The Wizards, in just their third postseason in the 18 years, face the fact that they've won just one of their last nine playoff series after losing a Game 1. However, optimists will point out that the lone win came last year, when they lost the first two games in Chicago, before winning the final four games of that first round series.

The Kings entered their series with the Spurs full of hope, having gone 26-14 since acquiring Artest, allowing 94.3 PPG! That hope didn't last for long though, as the Spurs exploded for a 73-point first half, on their way to a 112-88 win. It marked the Kings' worst-ever playoff loss and to add insult to injury, the ever-volatile Artest (that's a nice way to put it, huh?) has been suspended for this game after hitting Ginobili in the head in Game 1.

Seven Spurs scored in double-digits in Game 1, with 10 players getting at least six points. Duncan had just 11 points, while playing just 24 minutes. That's worthy of mention, as it's just the second time in 106 career playoff games in which he's played 24 minutes or less. Could there still be hope for the Kings? Maybe, as the Spurs were just 19-22 ATS at home during the regular season this year.

MLB notes

The White Sox and Astros entered Monday's action with the best records in MLB (13-5) but both lost. Chicago saw its ML-leading eight-game winning streak snapped with a 4-3 loss in 11 innings at Seattle, while the Astros lost 6-2 at home to the Dodgers, when LA exploded for a five-run ninth inning. Nomar, who had missed the season's first 17 games with rib problems, hit a grand slam off Brad Lidge, who blew his first save of the year (was 7-of-7).

Albert Pujols hit his 12th HR of the year in the Cardinals' 7-2 win over the Pirates, moving the St Louis slugger to within one HR of the ML record for HRs in April. Ken Griffey Jr (1997) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) own the record with 13 April HRs. Pujols, who also leads the majors in RBI with 28, has six games left to tie or break the mark. As for the Pirates, they have now lost five straight (outscored 24-6) and are 5-16 (.238). Only the Royals, at 4-13 (.235), have a worse winning percentage.

While Barry Bonds continues to be ineffective (he's hitting .194 with just one HR), the Giants moved to 11-8 with a 6-2 win over the Mets last night. Alou had a HR and five RBI,as the Giants improved to 9-2 in games in which both Alou and Bonds have been in the stating lineup.

Things have seemingly gone 'south' quickly in the nation's capital and I'm not talking about George Bush. The Nationals, who last year thrilled the Washington, D.C. fans by posting an 81-81 mark, dropped to 1-5 at home to open the 2006 season, losing 4-2 to the Reds (who by the way, are off to their best 20-game start at 13-7 since 1994). If that's not bad enough, the announced attendance was just under 20,000, the smallest crowd since MLB returned to the nation's capital last year!

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

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