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Thursday, May 18
by Larry Ness - 05/18/2006
Wednesday offered another pair of nail-biters in the NBA playoffs. So what else is new? Monday it was Cleveland squaring its series with Detroit at 2-all with a 74-72 win and the Mavs beating the Spurs in OT (123-118) to take a 3-1 lead on the defending champs. Tuesday night, the Heat eliminated the Nets (4-1) with a 106-105 win, while the Suns took a 3-2 lead over the Clippers with a double-OT win (123-118).
My free play for Thursday is on the Tor Blue Jays over the LA Angels at 10:05 ET. Early risers were able to get my 15* NL Getaway Day Total of the Month, coming off my 2-0 MLB sweep yesterday (including my 15* Totals Shocker on Tex/NYY Under). Wednesday was not good news in the NBA, as I "crashed and burned", going 0-2. However, I'm ready to bounce back with a 15* Game 6 Showdown Play on the Suns/Clippers, a series in which I'm a perfect 3-0. Also, as a free bonus, I'm including my over/under selection in the game.
So Wednesday's results shouldn't have come as much of a surprise, right? That's probably not true. Detroit had averaged 106.6 PPG and shot 48 percent in its previous five home playoff games, so most felt a return home after two poor efforts in Cleveland would see a return of the "real" Pistons. Not so!
Cleveland's two starting guards (Murray and Snow) combined for just eight points on 2-of-15 shooting, LeBron scored 32 but made just 13-of-30 shots (4-of-13 in the 2nd half) and as a team, the Cavs shot just 38.3 percent. However, Marshall, Jones and Varejao combined for 28 points, Ilgauskas bounced back with 14 pts and 10 rebs plus Gooden, despite scoring just four points in 14 minutes, made the game-winner with 27 seconds remaining.
As for the Pistons, who knows? These guys like to rate themselves among the best NBA teams of all time but they just may want to review the tapes of the last three games of this series. After being held to 35 and 34 points in the second halves of Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, the Pistons hardly did much better last night, getting 39 points in the second half.
Ben Wallace, who can sometimes make Shaq look like Calvin Murphy at the free throw line, missed two FTs with 40 seconds left, which would have given the Pistons the lead. He finished the game 0-for-7 from the line, likely costing Detroit the series lead. However, there was plenty of blame to go around, as the rest of the starters hardly excelled and only McDyess (11 pts / 11 rebs) contributed off the bench. It's now on to Cleveland this Friday.
The Spurs, like the Pistons, also trail their series with the Mavs 3-2. However, unlike the Pistons, the Spurs are happy about it! The Spurs edged the Mavs 98-97 last night, surviving an elimination game for the first time in six tries since Duncan arrived in the 1997-98 season. However, it should be noted that the Spurs did win Game 7 of last year's Finals to win their third title since 1999.
Duncan tied an NBA postseason record by making his first 12 shots and finished with 36 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio. The Spurs also got 27 points from Parker and 18 from Ginobili but just 17 from the rest of the team. While the Spurs were never able to put the Mavs away, they did stop Dallas' steady parade to the free throw line. Dallas had made 102-of-125 FTs in winning three straight games but last night took just 19 (made 16).
Home teams started the playoffs in dominating fashion going 30-9 SU. However, they finished the first round on a 1-5 SU and ATS run and are struggling somewhat in this second round also, going 13-7 SU and 8-12 ATS. Combining their late slide in the first round with their second round results, home teams are now 14-12 SU the last 26 games, while going just 9-17 ATS!
There is only one game on the playoff NBA playoff schedule tonight, as the Clippers host the Suns at 10:00 ET on ESPN. So far no team in this series has been able to win consecutive games with the Suns winning Games 1, 3 and 5 and the Clippers taking Games 2 and 4. Each SU winner has also been the ATS winner and followers of the "Zig-Zag" theory are a perfect 4-0 ATS in this series.
I've reported that Game 5 winners of seven-game series tied at 2-all have gone on to win 85.5 percent all-time in NBA history. The actual numbers show 165 of 183 times. Breaking those numbers down further reveals that teams that have won Game 5 at home (like the Suns did) are 118-10 or 92.2 percent.
That fact has been in evidence already this year, as all four of this postseason's first round series that were tied at 2-2 (Bulls/Heat, Kings/Spurs, Pacers/Nets and Wizards/Cavs) were won by the Game 5 winner. Even more relevant to the Suns/Clippers Game 6, is the fact the Game 5 winner closed out the series in Game 6 each time. The scores were the Heat 113-96 over the Bulls, the Spurs 105-83 over the Kings, the Nets 96-90 over the Pacers and the Cavs 114-113 (OT) over the Wizards.
So the $64,00 question is, will the Suns close out the Clippers or does the series continue its 'see-saw' trend? Tuesday night's 2-OT game saw three Clippers play 50 minutes or more (Brand, Cassell and Mobley), while Bell and Marion did so for the Suns (Nash played 49). Both teams must be exhausted. The Clippers are favored by five points (213 1/2) in Game 6.
There are 11 games on Thursday's MLB schedule with nine of the games being played in the day, including all five in the NL. The Tigers own MLB's longest active winning streak (six games) after beating the Twins last night, 2-0. Detroit's Justin Verlander outdueled Minnesota's Johan Santana in that game and the Tigers will go for the three-game sweep of the Twins today in Detroit at 1:05 ET.
For those of you not familiar with Verlander's minor league numbers last year, here they are. He made 20 starts in A and AA, allowing just 81 hits and 17 ERs in 118.2 innings for an ERA of 1.29. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 136-26. Keep an eye on this kid!
Another young pitcher of note is Philadelphia's Cole Hamels. Hamels goes for the Phils today at Milwaukee (1:05 ET). Hamels' minor league numbers look like this. He made 28 starts, allowing 88 hits and 26 ERs in 152 innings for an ERA of 1.54. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 208-62! He made his ML debut last Friday vs the Reds, going five innings while allowing just one hit and no ERs in an 8-4 Philly win. He struck out seven but walked five!
Speaking of the Reds, they are in Pittsburgh today at 12:35 ET, trying to end MLB's longest active losing streak at five games.
Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET.