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Tuesday, May 23

   by Larry Ness - 05/23/2006

The defending champs fought back from a 20-point deficit last night to take a three-point lead with 32 seconds remaining in the game but like USC against Texas in the Rose Bowl, the Spurs couldn't get that last 'first down!' San Antonio, which set a franchise record this year with 63 regular season wins is headed home while Dallas advances to the Western Conference Finals after last night's 119-111 win.

My free play for Tuesday is on the Bos Red Sox over the NY Yankees at 7:05 ET. Coming off a 3-0 sweep on Monday, I'm going for my fifth straight Las Vegas Insider winner (in all sports!) tonight. It's in MLB, where my Las Vegas Insiders have gone 6-1 85% in May! Also in MLB, I'm featuring a 15* Line Value Play (line is off by 30 cents!). In the NBA, I'm following my LEGEND win last night on the Suns (127-107) with a 15* Showdown Play in Game 1 of the Mia/Det series (current 3-0 postseason run since Friday!).

The Mavs opened the game by making 15-of-18 shots in the first quarter and opened a 20-point lead in the second quarter but still needed a "traditional" three-point play from Nowitzki in the game's finals seconds to tie, before surviving a missed shot by Ginobili and a blocked putback attempt by Duncan to get into OT. In the OT, it was all Dallas. Nowitzki was great again with 37-15 and Terry bounced back from his suspension to score 27.

The Dallas win marks the first time the Mavericks have beaten a No. 1 seed (had been 0-of-7) and prevents the Spurs from becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win a seven-game series (165 have tried). Duncan scored a career playoff-high 41 points (plus had 15 rebounds) and while Parker and Ginobili combined for 47, the San Antonio bench accounted for just two points!

Nowitzki had led Dallas to a perfect 3-0 record in three previous Game 7s but all three of those games had been played in Dallas. Last night's win in San Antonio stands as the franchise's biggest win to-date. However, Nowitzki and Dallas have yet to even make an NBA Final no less win one, so let's hold those comparisons to Bill Russell, who won 11 titles in 13 years while going a perfect 10-0 in Game 7s, for just a little while longer.

Dallas' opponent in the Western Conference Finals will be the Phoenix Suns. The Suns won their second consecutive Game 7 of this postseason last night, beating the Clippers 127-107. Nash broke out of his 3-point shooting slump (had made just 21.7 percent in the series), by making 4-of-5 last night. He scored 29 points and added 11 assists while Shawn Marion added 30 points and nine rounds.

Marion, outplayed for most of the Laker series by Lamar Odom, topped the 30-point mark in four of this series' last five game. Only seven Suns played last night but all scored in double digits. The Clippers played well offensively (Brand was excellent again with 36-9), making 52.6 percent of their shots plus 25-of-26 FTs but the Suns shot 60 percent for the game, including 15-of-27 on 3-pointers. The Suns are now 4-0 this postseason when facing elimination.

Closing the book on the NBA's first two rounds shows that of the first 12 series, the Mavericks were the only underdog to win (San Antonio was about a 2-to-1 favorite). The Clippers (the No. 6 seed) beat the Nuggets (the No. 3 seed) in the first round but the Clippers owned home court advantage and were favored to win that series at minus-$1.65.

Home teams went 1-1 last night in the two Game 7s, giving them a mark of 78-18 in 96 postseason Game 7s all-time. Home teams finished the second round at 16-10 SU and 12-14 ATS. 'Over' bettors went 17-9 in the second round as both of last night's games 'flew' over the total. Followers of the "Zig-Zag" theory went 2-0 last night and ended the round 13-9 ATS. The Clippers/Suns series finished a perfect 6-0 for "zig-zaggers."

After 12 series, home teams are now 47-24 SU and 34-35-2 ATS. There have been 39 overs and 32 unders with a heavy lean to the over recently, as 26 of the last 36 playoff games have gone over the total. Followers of the "Zig-Zag" theory are eking out a profit, going 32-25-2 ATS or plus-4.5 units.

In comparison, last year's postseason home teams were just 36-29 SU in the first two rounds. That's a winning percentage of just .544, much lower than this year's .662. However, the ATS records are similar, as home teams went 32-31-2, slightly better than tthis year's mark of 34-35-2.

The conference finals open tonight with Miami visiting Detroit in the East (8:00 ET) on ESPN and then Phoenix going to Dallas tomorrow in the West (8:30 ET) on TNT. The Pistons are favored by 5 1/2 points tonight with a total of 188. Detroit is also about a minus-$2.60 favorite to win the series. The early number on Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is Dallas favored by six points with a total of 221. The Mavs are favored by minus-$3.50 to win the series.

Of note in these two Game 1s are a number of things. Home teams have gone 10-2 SU in Game 1 of a series these last two postseasons (first two rounds) but unlike last year when home teams also went 10-2 ATS in those games, home teams are just 6-6 ATS in Game 1 of a series this year. Last year both visiting teams won the conference final openers (Detroit 90-81 over Miami and San Antonio 121-114 over Phoenix), as each went on to win the series as well.

That's a trend that's held for the last five years, as home teams are just 3-7 SU and 2-8 ATS in the opening game of the conference finals. Combating that trend tonight, is the fact that this group of Pistons (since 2004 when Rasheed joined the team) have gone a perfect 6-0 SU and ATS at home in Game 1s, winning by an average margin of 21.8 PPG.

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

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