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Wednesday, May 3

   by Larry Ness - 05/03/2006

All four home teams won last night in the NBA playoffs (3-1 ATS), as the Heat, Nets and Spurs took 3-2 leads in their first round series. The Suns' home win allowed them to stay in their series with the Lakers (LA leads 3-2) and after tonight's Wizards/Cavs Game 5, five of the eight first round series will stand at 3-2.

My free play for Wednesday is on the Oak A's over the Cle Indians at 10:05 ET. Tonight in MLB, I'm featuring just my 2nd 22* play (highest star rating!) of the 2006 season (won 1st on the White Sox on 4/15). I'm also featuring a triple 15* MLB Report. Off last night's 2-0 NBA sweep (LEGEND and 20* total winner!), it's my 15* Game 5 Showdown on the Wizards/Cavs (already 2-0 in that series).

Dallas was the only team to sweep a first round series this year (Memphis), while the LA Clippers eliminated Denver in five games and the Pistons will try to do the same to the Bucks tonight in Detroit.

Two teams swept first round playoff series last year (Miami over New Jersey and Phoenix over Memphis), three series lasted five games, one went six (Washington over Chicago) and two went the full seven games (Indiana over Boston and Dallas over Houston). Home teams are now 28-9 SU and 20-15-2 ATS in the first round, after struggling to a 23-20 (20-21-2 ATS) mark last season.

Also of note in this first round is the success of the "Zig-Zag" theory. If a bettor had done nothing but play 'on' the loser of the previous game, he would stand at 19-8-2 ATS or plus-10.2 units, through Tuesday's games. However, this is after the fact handicapping, as the"Zig-Zag" theory has not done very well in recent years.

Two of the four games went 'over' last night (including the Lakers/Suns game for the first time in five tries) but 'under players' are still ahead of the game, cashing 22 of the 37 games played so far (59.5 percent or plus-5.5 units).

Tuesday's recaps

The Nets took a 3-2 lead over the Pacers in their series with a 92-86 win. Despite the fact that Carter had 34 points and 15 rebounds, Jefferson added 24 points, Kidd set a New Jersey playoff record with 15 assists and Krstic added 19 points and 11 rebounds, the Nets couldn't put the Pacers away. Peja sat out for the second straight game for Indiana (Pacers have lost all three games in which he's missed in this series) and center Jeff Foster also missed the game.

Dwayne Wade returned from a hip injury in the mid-third quarter last night and ignited a 21-6 Miami run. That included a 10-0 start to the fourth quarter and when Miami added a late 15-0 run, the Heat had the win (and cover), 92-78. Wade had 28 points (15 after his injury) and Shaq (16-10) again struggled from the FT line (2-of-12 after going 0-of-7 in Games 3 and 4).

For the Bulls, Gordon (was averaging 24.8 PPG) shot 3-of-16 for 10 points and Hinrich (was averaging 22.8 PPG) shot 3-of-13 for 13 points. Only Nocioni, who had 23-10 kept up his fine play (is averaging 22.8 PPG and 9.6 RPG in the series).

The Spurs survived great games by Bonzi Wells (38-12) and Ron Artest (24) to beat the Kings, 109-98. The Spurs outscored the Kings by 37-22 in the third quarter and then held on. Ginobili, who made just 4-of-13 shots and scored 11 points in the two games in Sacramento, had 27 points and nine rebounds. Duncan added 24-9, Parker 21 and Bowen, who had scored just 15 points in the first four games combined, had 16.

However, the Spurs might still be worried, as despite shooting 57.4 percent from the floor and making 24-of-27 FTs (plus outrebounding the Kings 40-30), they had their hands full. Wells, who scored just 12 points in the Game 1 blowout, has averaged 27.5 PPG and 13.8 RPG over the last four games of the series for the Kings.

The Lakers shot 51.4 percent from the floor, Kobe had 29 points before getting ejected with 3:11 remaining and Odom had another outstanding game (18-15-6) but the Suns finally got their offense going last night. Nash had 22 and Marion 21 but the star was Boris Diaw, who had 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Phoenix led by 84-62 in the late third quarter and won, 114-97.

Wednesday's games

The Pistons host the Bucks in Detroit at 6:00 ET and the Cavs host the Wizards in Cleveland at 8:30 ET. Both games will be carried by TNT, with the Pistons favored by 12 points (194 1/2) and the Cavaliers favored by 5 1/2 points (193 1/2).

Redd is averaging 28.2 PPG in the series for Milwaukee (34 PPG and 60.3 percent from the floor over the last three!) and TJ Ford is averaging 13.2-4.2-6.5. However, no other Buck is averaging in double digits. Detroit doesn't need points from Ben Wallace but it does need rebounds. Wallace had 28 rebounds in the series' first two games but in Games 3 and 4 in Milwaukee, accounted for just eight.

Rip Hamilton is shooting just 34.5 percent for Detroit (16.8) but backcourt mate Billups is making up for it, averaging 23.5 PPG. Detroit's other two starters, Rasheed Wallace (16.0) and Prince (15.2) are both playing well, as is sixth-man McDyess (11.5-9.0).

The Cavs/Wizards series has been a showdown between LeBron James (34.3-7.8-5.2) and Gilbert Arenas (31.0-5.8-4.2). Neither team has been able to win consecutive games and it's Cleveland's 'turn' tonight.

However, that's easier said than done. James is getting solid help from Ilgauskas (11.8-6.8) and Gooden (11.7-10.5) but Hughes is shooting just 31.9 percent for the series (10.2). Marshall, so good in the regular season, is shooting just 3-of-17 the last three games.

Arenas is backed by Butler (18.2-8.0) and Jamison (17.0-8.5) and the league's highest scoring trio during the regular season (67.4 PPG) is combining for an average of 66.2 PPG in the series. That accounts for 70 percent of Washington's scoring in the four games, as only six players are getting significant minutes.

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

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