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Friday, May 5

   by Larry Ness - 05/05/2006

All three visiting teams won last night, with the Heat and Nets closing out their first round series with wins, while the Suns' OT win in LA over the Lakers sends that series back to Phoenix for a deciding Game 7 on Saturday night.

How quickly things can change. NBA home teams had gone 30-9 SU (21-16-2 ATS) through Wednesday's action but went 0-3 SU and ATS last night.

My free play for Friday is on the Hou Astros over the Col Rockies at 9:05 ET. I'm releasing a rare 15* total play in MLB for Friday (64% winners LY with MLB totals) plus follow my Las Vegas Insider winner in MLB on Thursday (Arizona), with another one on Friday. In the NBA, I'm following last night's 15* Game 6 Showdown win on the Suns with another 15* Game 6 Showdown play tonight on the Spurs/Kings series (current 3-1 NBA run).

All three games also went 'over' the total and coupled with both of Tuesday's games going over, the last five playoff games have now gone over. That brings the over/under count to 20-22. It was also pointed the other day that the "Zig-Zag" theory was doing well, having gone 19-8-2 ATS through Tuesday's games. Ooooops! Wednesday and Thursday it went 0-5 ATS, bringing its overall playoff record to 19-13-2.

Thursday recap

The Pacers were forced to go with only eight healthy players for the second straight game and it was asking too much. Led by Jefferson's 30 points (averaged 23.5 PPG in the series), Carter's 24 (averaged 29.2 PPG) plus Kidd's 12 rebounds and 11 assists, the Nets closed out the series with 96-90 win. Anthony Johnson, who averaged a career-high 9.2 PPG in this his ninth NBA season this year, scored 40 points for the Pacers.

However, without Peja (missed four of the six games with the Pacers losing all four in which he missed), Tinsley (missed five of the six games) and Foster, Indiana just didn't have enough firepower. The Nets, who lost Game 1 at home and trailed 2-1 in the series after losing Game 3 in Indiana, won the final three games to take the series 4-2. The Pacers are now 0-7 all-time in playoff series, after falling behind 3-2.

Shaq broke out of a three-game slump with a 30-point 20-rebound game in Miami's 113-96 win last night. Shaq had averaged just 13.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG over the previous three games (also had made just two-of 19 FTs!) but he was his "old-self" last night. So were the Heat, as after averaging just 88.5 PPG on 41.6 percent shooting in the first two games in Chicago, they scored 113 points last night, while shooting 49.4 percent.

The Bulls had been 9-0 all-time versus the Heat in Chicago during the playoffs (with a little help from MJ!) but these "young Bulls" were outclassed. They opened the game by missing 11 of their first 12 shots and fell behind 29-19 after the first quarter. They never recovered, shooting just 34.7 percent for the game.

In LA, Tim Thomas nailed a three-pointer with just 6.3 seconds left in regulation and after Kobe's game-winning attempt was partially blocked at the buzzer, the Suns dominated the Lakers in overtime. While Kobe scored 12 of LA's 13 OT points, the Suns scored 21 points in the extra-session, for a 126-118 win. Nash had his best game of the series for the Suns (32 points / 13 assists) and Barbosa, filling in for the suspended Bell, added 22.

Kobe had entered the game averaging just 24.2 PPG in the series but went for 50 points last night. However it wasn't enough, even though Odom continued his great play with 22-11-9. The Lakers and Suns will now play a Game 7 Saturday night in Phoenix. The Suns have never won a series in which they've trailed 3-1, while the Lakers are a perfect 27-0 all-time, after taking a 3-1 series lead.

Friday's games

Two games are on tonight's playoff schedule and both are televised by ESPN. The Cavs are in Washington to take on the Wizards at 8:05 ET (Washington is favored by five points with a total of 195) and the Spurs are in Sacramento to take on the Kings at 10:35 ET (San Antonio is favored by 2 1/2 points with a total of 188 1/2).

Both the Cavs and Spurs own 3-2 leads, after winning their respective Game 5s at home. As noted before, teams that win Game 5 of a seven-game series when the series was tied at 2-all, have gone on to capture the series 84 percent of the time!

The Cleveland/Washington series has been highlighted by the play of LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas. James is averaging 36.4-7.6-5.4 and Arenas, 33.6-5.6-4.2. Washington has some depth issues ,as only six players are contributing. In Game 5, Arenas, Butler and Jamison accounted for 80 percent of the team's points (96 of 120).

Cleveland has had some shaky contributions from both Hughes and Marshall in this series. Hughes, hurt most of the year, had averaged just 10.3 PPG in the series before getting 24 points in Game 5. Marshall, a key player during the regular season, has totaled just 16 points (on 5-of-20 shooting), after tallying 19 points in Game 1. Cleveland won Game 3 in Washington but in 17 previous playoff series for this franchise, the Cavs have never won more than one game on the road.

The Spurs have had few problems scoring at home against the Kings (119.7 PPG in three wins) but averaged just 88.5 PPG in losing Games 3 and 4 at Arco. Ginobili made just 4-of-13 shots in Games 3 and 4, while averaging just 5.5 PPG but rebounded with 27 points in Game 5 in San Antonio. Duncan has played well and Parker has outplayed Bibby so far (20.4 PPG on 50 percent shooting to 16.2 PPG on 34 percent shooting) but the Kings haven't backed off.

Wells has averaged 27.5-13.8 the last four games and Artest has averaged 20 PPG the last three (after sitting out Game 2 with a suspension). The Spurs were the league's best road team during the regular season (29-12) and are the defending champs but the Kings hardly seem impressed. Sacramento has won 17 of 20 home games since acquiring Artest.

MLB notes

Heading into the fifth weekend of the 2006 season, the White Sox (20-8) own the AL's best record and the Reds (20-9) own the NL's top mark. However, at plus-$1,330, the Reds have shown the best return on your investment (based on $100 per game). The White Sox stand at plus-$890. The Yankees (15-11) are the only division leader losing money (minus-$55), while the 8-22 Pirates (minus-$1,305), the 6-20 Royals (minus-$1,064) and the 9-20 Nationals (Minus-$1,051) are costing their backers the most.

Speaking of the Royals, despite leaving 11 men on base last night, they edged the Twins, 1-0. It was the team's first road win of the season, after opening the year with 12 straight losses. The MLB record for most road losses to open a season is 13, held by the 1969 Astros and 1988 Orioles. Other early-season poor starts belong to the Marlins (2-9 at home), the Nationals (1-9 at home) and the Pirates (2-15 on the road).

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

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