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Thursday, May 25

   by Larry Ness - 05/25/2006

The home court "disadvantage" once again reared its ugly head last night. The Mavs led the Suns 114-105 with 3:43 to go in regulation but Phoenix outscored Dallas 16-4 down the stretch for a 121-118 win. Boris Diaw nailed the game-winner for the Suns, as he finished with a career-high 34 points. Coming on the heels of Miami's Game 1 win in Detroit on Tuesday, the question is "What's a home court advantage?"

Thursday is a 'light' day in MLB and I will not have a free play. My win on the Suns last night ups my current NBA run to 4-1 since Friday and ups my Las Vegas Insider win streak to SIX straight (3-0 in both the NBA and MLB!). I do not have a Las Vegas Insider tonight but I am featuring my 20* Eastern Conference Finals GOY (4-2 this postseason on 20* plays!). In MLB, don't miss my 15* Mismatch Winner.

Home teams have been struggling in this year's postseason for a number of weeks now. After opening 30-9 SU to start the playoffs, home teams are just 17-17 over the last 34 playoff games, going a 'money-burning' 13-21 ATS! Quite surprisingly, home teams have been a disaster in Game 1 of conference finals for six years now.

Turning the clock back to 2000, the Pacers beat the Knicks in Indiana 102-88, in the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Over in the West, the Lakers took care of the Blazers 109-94 in the opening game of their conference final in LA. Amazingly, the Lakers were the last home team to win a Western Conference Final Game 1!

The Lakers beat the Spurs in San Antonio in Game 1 of the 2001 WC finals 104-90 and the following year won a Game 1 in Sacramento over the Kings, 106-99. In 2003, the Mavericks won Game 1 of the WC Finals in San Antonio 113-110 and the next year, it was the Lakers beating the T-wolves in Minnesota in Game 1, 97-88. Last year, the Spurs opened with a 121-114 win over the Suns in Phoenix.

Doing the math, that makes home teams 0-6 SU and ATS in Game 1 of the WC Finals the last six years. It's been a little better in the Eastern Conference, as three home teams have opened with Game 1 wins these last six years. Overall, home teams are now 3-9 SU and 2-10 ATS in Game 1 of their respective conference finals.

So how do home teams which lost in Game 1 do in Game 2? Do they come back with a vengeance? Not exactly. The seven home teams that lost Game 1 of a conference final at home from 2001-05 have gone a mediocre 4-3 SU and 4-3 ATS in their respective Game 2s. Also of note is that of the three teams to win their Game 1s at home the previous five postseasons, all went out and promptly lost their Game 2s by scores of 72-67, 93-86 and 92-78.

While bettors have struggled to show a profit by playing on the home teams recently, 'over' bettors are having a field day. Last night's easy over (239 points against a closing total of 220 1/2), makes it 27 overs against just 11 unders the last 38 postseason games. That's a net gain of 14.9 units!

The Eastern Conference Finals resume tonight on ESPN (8:00 ET) with the Pistons listed as a 6 1/2-point favorite in Game 2 (total is 185). The Pistons, who were favored by about minus-$2.60 to win this series before Game 1, are now favored at around minus-$1.15. The Suns and Mavs play their Game 2 on Friday night (8:30 ET on TNT), with the Suns listed as an early 7 1/2-point favorite (224 1/2). That series price has dropped from Phoenix minus-$3.50 to about minus-$1.80.

In tonight's game, which Detroit team will show up? The Pistons, who won a league-best 64 games this year, opened this year's postseason by eliminating the Bucks in five games and jumping out to a 2-0 lead against the Cavs in the semifinals. In getting off to that 6-1 start, the Pistons averaged 106.6 PPG.

However, Detroit has gone just 2-4 since, actually falling behind the Cavaliers three games-to-two, before winning the final two games of that series. Detroit has shot just 40.1 percent from the floor over its last six games, while the team's scoring average has dropped all the way to 80.3 PPG! Detroit shot just 37.8 percent as a team in Game 1 and while Hamilton and Billups combined for 41 points, they also made just 15-of-41 FG attempts.

Miami won Game 1 without major contributions from either Wade or Shaq. Both were in foul trouble in the first half, with Wade sitting out the final 7:42 of the second quarter and Shaq missing the final 4:59. Wade did finish with 25 points but he took a playoff-low 11 shots (making nine). As for Shaq, he finished with 14 points (just two in the second half) and eight rebounds. The key to the Miami win was the team opening the game by making 15-of-20 first-quarter shots and 56.3 percent for the game.

The Heat also got excellent play from their 'new' players, as Payton, Walker and Williams combined for 41 points. Walker, who averaged 19.7 PPG over Miami's last three games with New Jersey, had 17-7 while PGs Payton and Williams combined for 24 points (on 11-15 shooting). Williams has 12 assists and just two turnovers in his last four games and backing him up, Payton has made just two turnovers in his last six games.

Game on!

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

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