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Friday, May 12

   by Larry Ness - 05/12/2006

I'm not sure who his setting the NBA schedule but it would seem logical that the Cleveland/Detroit and Dallas/San Antonio series, which played their Game 2s on Tuesday, would be the ones playing tonight. However, that is not the case. Rather, it's the Miami/New Jersey and Phoenix/Los Angeles series (that's Clippers not Lakers!) listed on Friday's 'board' as well as tonight's TV schedule (TNT).

My free play for Friday is on the Cle Indians over the Det Tigers at 7:05 ET. My high-end NBA releases (20 and 22*s plus LEGENDs) have gone 7-3 during the playoffs and tonight I'm featuring a 2nd Round 20* Total that you WON'T want to miss. My Las Vegas Insiders have opened May 3-0 in MLB and tonight you have another opportunity to get on the "inside" and win with one of these exclusive plays. DON'T miss it!

The Nets host the Heat at 8:00 ET and are favored by 2 1/2 points (188), while the Clippers host the Suns at 10:35 ET as three-point favorites (215 1/2). Saturday's schedule shows Detroit at Cleveland (5:00 ET on ESPN) and San Antonio at Dallas (8:00 ET on ABC). The Pistons are favored by four points (186 1/2) and the Mavs are favored by three points (186 1/2). Sunday's schedule has the Heat/Nets at 3:30 ET on ABC and Suns/Clippers at 8:05 ET on TNT, in two Game 4s.

Five of the eight second round games have been decided by 12 points or more (four by at least 22 points!) with six of the eight games going "over' the total. That continues an over trend that's seen 15 of the last 18 playoff games soar over the total. Home teams are 5-3 to open the second round (3-5 ATS) and "zig-zaggers" are now a perfect 4-0 in the second round after closing the first round on an 0-8 ATS run.

Three of the four series are tied at 1-all after two games with only the Pistons owning a 2-0 lead (over the Cavs). Oddsmakers had Detroit as about a 20-to-1 favorite to win its series over Cleveland while Miami, Phoenix and San Antonio all opened as around 2-to-1 favorites over New Jersey, the LA Clippers and Dallas, respectively. If you want Detroit over Cleveland now, all you have to do is lay about 70-to-1. The 'take-back' on Cleveland is about 35-to-1.

While the Nets have 'stolen' the home court edge from the Heat, Miami is still a favorite in the series, at about minus-$1.45. However, that's not the case in the two Western Conference series. The Clippers are now favored to win their series over the Suns (approximately minus-$1.25) and the Mavs are now favored to beat the defending champs in their series, by about minus-$1.45.

MLB notes

Three of Thursday's 11 games were rained out and a fourth, the Mets/Phillies game was shortened to five innings. However, the Phillies got the win in that game 2-0, bouncing right back from the 13-4 loss Wednesday night that ended the team's nine-game losing streak. The Cubs, who had ended an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday (8-1 over the Giants), returned to form with a 9-3 loss in San Francisco.

MLB's longest active winning streak and its longest active losing streak both came to an end yesterday, as the Astros beat the Dodgers 4-2 in LA. The Astros' win ended their six-game losing streak, while ending the Dodgers' five-game winning streak.

Thursday's most exciting game was Washington at Cincinnati, where the Nationals tied the game at 1-1 in the ninth and then took a 4-1 lead in the 11th. However, Ken Griffey Jr. hit a three-run HR (the 539th of his career) in the bottom of the 11th to cap a four-run 11th, giving the Reds a 5-4 win. It was Griffey's first game in a month (knee) and he had been just 1-for-5 prior to the game-winning HR.

Weekend highlights include a four-game series between the White Sox and Twins in Minnesota. The Twins had won three straight AL Central titles before the White Sox won the Central last year on their way to the team's first World Series win in 88 years. The White Sox (23-10) own MLB's best record so far, while The Twins are just 15-19. Also in the AL Central, the Tigers (21-13) visit the Indians (17-18) for a three-game series.

The weekend kicks off this afternoon in Wrigley Field (2:20 ET) when the Cubs host the Padres. Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions! The Padres have won 11 of their last 12 while the Cubs have lost 11 of 13, scoring just 24 runs in the 13 games. The NL's two worst teams meet in Pittsburgh for a three-game series starting tonight, as the 9-23 Marlins take on the 10-25 Pirates.

The Dodgers/Giants rivalry is one of MLB's best but the two teams head into this weekend's three-game series with identical 17-18 marks. Of course the "Barry watch" is still on, as the ever-lovable slugger 'sits' at 713 and counting. The Phillies, who have won 10 of 11, are in Cincinnati to play the Reds for three games. Cincy owns the NL's best record at 23-12 and have been in first place (NL Central) for the last 14 days.

Two pitchers to watch tonight are Philadelphia rookie Cole Hamels who will be making his first ML start in Cincinnati and veteran Jose Lima, who goes for the Mets tonight in Milwaukee. Here's why.

The left-handed Hamels posted a 1.54 ERA in three previous minor league seasons heading into 2006. In three starts this year (Triple-A), he's allowed just 10 hits and one ER in 23 innings (0.39 ERA) with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36-1!

As for Lima, the man who once went 16-8 and 21-10 in back-to-back seasons for the Astros (1998-99), tonight will be his second start of 2006. Lima followed his 21-win year of 1999 by going 7-16 (6.65) in 2000 and 17-34 (6.40) from 2000 through 2002 (team went 26-46 in his starts). He then went 8-3 for the Royals in 2003 which got him a deal with the Dodgers in 2004.

In 2004, Lima went 13-5 for LA in the regular season, making 36 appearances, including 24 starts (team was 17-7). He also won a memorable game in the NLDS that year, a complete game five-hit shut out of the Cardinals (4-0) . He returned to the Royals last year and went 5-16 with a 6.99 ERA, as the Royals went 8-24 in his 32 starts.

In his first start this year for the Mets (last Sunday at Shea against the Braves), Lima allowed seven hits and five ERs in five innings of a 13-3. So why pay attention tonight? Here's why. In 14 career appearances against the Milwaukee Brewers, Lima is 10-0 with an ERA of 1.92!

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

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