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Wednesday, April 26

   by Larry Ness - 04/26/2006

Both the Clippers and Heat were able to win on Monday night and take 2-0 leads in their first round series. However, only the Spurs were able to take a 2-0 lead in the three series that resumed play last night and they needed a miracle 3-pointer at the end of regulation plus OT to do it!.

My free play for Wednesday is the Hou Astros over the LA Dodgers at 8:05 ET. Coming off a 2-0 NBA/MLB sweep on Tuesday (Nets/White Sox), I'm going for it again on Wednesday. In the NBA, it's my 15* TV Playoff Game of the Month while in MLB, it's my 20* AL Game of the Month (one of what will be just two MLB 20*s in April).

Brent Barry's three-point attempt hit the rim twice, went high, caught some backboard and the fell through the net with four seconds left in last night's Game 2. That shot sent the game into OT, where the Spurs prevailed, 128-119.

Playing without Artest, the Kings almost won even with Bibby shooting 1-of-13 during regulation, as Bonzi Wells had 28-12, Rahim had 27-9 and Kevin Martin scored 26. The Spurs, who won by 34 points in Game 1, were led by Ginobili's 32 while Barry and Parker both chipped in 22. The Spurs join the Clippers and the Heat as teams owning 2-0 leads in the first round.

The Pacers were the only visiting team to win a Game 1 over the weekend but couldn't come close to pulling off the "road sweep." The Nets took a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter last night and won, 90-75. Peja didn't play because a sore knee for Indiana, while O'Neal made just 3-of-12 FGs scoring 12 points and Jackson scored just 10 points, on 4-of-14 shooting.

Vince Carter, who scored 31 points in Game 1 but shot just 12-of-33, made 12-of-20 shots while scoring 33 last night. Kidd had another poor shooting night going 3-of-10 (was 2-of-11 in Game 1 with five points) and while he scored just six points, he did have 11 rebounds and 13 assists. The 7-0 Krstic followed his 22-6 performance in Game 1 with 20 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2. The series moves to Indiana on Thursday, tied at one-all.

The Wizards joined the Pacers as just the second visiting team to win on the playoff road this year, ending Cleveland's 12-game home winning streak last night with an 89-84 victory over the Cavs. LeBron, who became just the third player in NBA history to post a triple-double in his first playoff game last Saturday (32-11-11), scored 26 points but made just 7-of-25 shots and had 10 turnovers. The Cavs shot just 36.1 percent as a team, including 3-of-13 on three-pointers.

The Wizards didn't shot much better (39.7 percent) but they did improve their three-point shooting, canning 8-of-20 after making just 3-of-22 in Game 1. Arenas (30), Butler (21-9) and Jamison (21-7) combined for 72 of Washington's 89 points. During the regular season the trio averaged 67.4 PPG but combined for just 48 points in Game 1, including a total of just 22 points by Butler and Jamison. The series resumes Friday in Washington tied one-all.

Home teams are now 11-2 SU in the postseason but just 6-6-1 ATS. The final three Game 2s of the first round will be played tonight with the Grizzlies at the Mavs (8:05 ET) and the Lakers at the Suns (10:35 ET) airing on TNT. Also, the Bucks are at the Pistons (7:35 ET). Early lines show the Pistons favored by 12 points (186), the Mavs favored by seven points (181) and the Suns favored by 5 1/2 points (213 1/2).

The Pistons held the Bucks to a season-low 74 points as well as a season-low 35.6 percent from the floor in their 18-point Game 1 win. Redd was held to a season-low 11 points (4-of-15 shooting), after averaging 30 PPG on 55 percent shooting vs Detroit in the regular season. The Pistons have lost three straight Game 2s and four of their last five, going back to the 2004 NBA Finals. However, the Bucks have won just three of 25 playoff series, after losing a Game 1.

The Grizzlies are still looking for their first-ever playoff win, after a 10-point loss at Dallas in Game 1. Memphis, the league's stingiest defensive team during the regular season (88.5 PPG), allowed 103 points to Dallas in Game 1 and despite shooting 53.2 percent as a team, still lost by 10. Gasol, still bothered by foot problems, had 24 points but the fact remains the Grizzlies are now 0-9 SU and 2-7 ATS in the postseason these last three years.

The Mavs were led by Nowitzki's 31 points but the real surprise came from the bench, as Dampier, Daniels and Stackhouse combined for 39 points (Dampier also had 12 rebounds). Howard, who averaged 15.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG in the regular season, was held to just eight points and one rebound.

The Suns held Kobe to just 22 points on Sunday (averaged 35.4 PPG on the year, including 42.5 PPG in four games vs the Suns) but for just the fourth time all season, all five Laker starters scored in double digits! While Nash had 20-10 and Marion 19-7, the real star on Sunday for Phoenix was Tim Thomas (22 points and 15 rebounds). The loss was Jackson's first-ever in a Game 1 of a first round series and Phil has never lost a first round series in 14 previous seasons!

MLB notes

MLB's top-two teams in the early going both won last night, as the White Sox and Astros both upped their records to 14-6. The White Sox hit five HRs in a 13-3 win at Seattle (Mariners have been outhomered at home this year 21-9), giving the defending champs 12 wins in their last 14 games. The Astros survived a second straight blown save by closer Brad Lidge and edged the Dodgers in Houston, 4-3 (14 inn). Houston's 14-6 mark, is the best 20-game start in team history.

From the "what's going on here?" department, the Tigers won again on the road, 5-2 in Anaheim. The team's 13-8 start gives them their most April wins since April of 1993 and the team's 11-3 road mark is a ML-best in 2006. The Rockies, just 395-628 (.386) on the road over their first 13 seasons, won at Philly last night, 7-6. The win has the Rockies tied for first in the NL West at 11-9 (with the Giants), on the strength of their 6-2 road mark!

Speaking of the Giants, they lost last night to the Mets (4-1) but Barry hit his second HR of the year (he's batting just .205!) and the 710th of his career. More HR news comes from Texas, where Kevin Mench homered for the fifth consecutive game, becoming just the fourth Ranger in team history to do so. The Rangers won 6-5 last night, despite their bullpen blowing its sixth save in nine opportunities.

At the other end of that food chain, resides Red Sox rookie Jonathan Papelbon. He got the save last night in Boston's 8-6 win over the Indians, his ninth in nine opportunities this year. With five days remaining in the month, he's already tied the ML record for most saves by a rookie in April, set by Kansas City's Mike MacDougal in 2003.

Speaking of the Royals, their 2-1 loss last night at home to the Twins (who are just 2-8 on the road!), gives them a ML-worst 4-14 mark. Also contending for that 'honor' these days are the Pirates (5-17), who dropped to 1-11 on the road last night with their 6-3 loss in St Louis. The Pirates have lost six straight (longest active losing streak), having been outscored 30-9!

Speaking of streaks, the Yankees ended an eight-game night losing streak, by beating the Devil Rays 9-1 in Yankee Stadium last night. The Yanks' 6-1 home mark is the best in MLB, although the Astros (11-4) and White Sox (9-3) both own more home wins. Dontrelle Willis took the loss last night when the Cubs beat the Marlins, 3-1. In 14 previous April starts, he had been 9-0 with a 2.20 ERA.

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

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