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Tuesday, May 30

   by Larry Ness - 05/30/2006

While home teams are collectively just 21-18 SU and 15-34 ATS the last 39 playoff games, the Heat had little trouble beating the Pistons twice this weekend in Miami. The Heat won Game 3 98-83 and took Game 4 last night, 89-78. Miami is now just one win away from its first-ever trip to the NBA Finals while Detroit, winner of 64 games this year and an NBA finalist the last two seasons, will face playoff elimination come Wednesday.

My free play for Tuesday is on the Bal Orioles over the TB Devil Rays at 7:05 ET. There's not much to say other than it was a DISASTROUS weekend (some holiday!). That being said, it's bounce back time tonight with a 15* TV Classic in MLB (W Sox/Indians) and a 15* Game 4 Showdown in the NBA on the Mavs/Suns.

The Pistons made a strong run in the third quarter to overtake the Heat but in the end, just couldn't handle either Wade or Shaq. Both Miami superstars were in foul trouble in Game 1 of this series but over the last three games, Wade is averaging 32.7-7.0-4.7 and Shaq 23.0-11.0.

Miami's domination of this series can also be explained in the two teams' shooting percentages. Detroit outshot Miami in its lone win (Game 2) by 44.0-to-42.5 percent but in the other three games, Miami's shot a blistering 56.6 percent from the floor while Detroit has connected on only 39.5 percent of its FG attempts.

The Pistons are 10-2 when facing elimination in the postseason since 2003 but now face the challenge of becoming just the ninth team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after falling behind 3-1. To say the least, history is not on their side. Teams taking 3-1 leads in the conference finals have prevailed 40 times in 43 previous opportunities and each of the last 16 teams with a 3-1 cushion have gone on to reach the NBA Finals.

The Western Conference Finals resume tonight with the Suns hosting the Mavericks at 9:00 ET on TNT. The Mavs lead the series 2-1 and the home team has yet to cover a game in this series. Phoenix won Game 1 in Dallas and while the Mavs took Game 2 at home, they didn't cover. In Game 3, the Suns (playing without Raja Bell) were looking pretty good until a 15-2 Dallas run spanning the second and third quarters, led to a 95-88 Maverick win.

Bell has been ruled out for Game 4 (targeted for a Game 5 return) and the early line is pick'em with a total of 214. An interesting note on the over/under is that Game 1 of this series, a 211-118 Phoenix win, is the only game of the first seven to be played in this conference final round to go over the total. Over bettors had been on quite a roll heading into this round of the playoffs, as 26 of the previous 36 games had gone over the total.

Followers of the 'Zig-Zag" theory are 1-4 ATS in the conference finals and if not for a perfect 6-0 mark in the Clippers/Suns semifinal series, would be 'buried' since the late first round. By playing 'on' the SU loser of the previous game, "zig-zaggers" opened the postseason 19-8-2 ATS. However, followers ended the first round on an 0-8 pointspread slide and are now 14-21 ATS the last 35 games, including the previously mentioned 6-0 run in the Clippers/Suns series.

MLB notes

Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been a "check-point" in the 162-game MLB season. A quick look at the standings as of this morning shows that the St Louis Cardinals (NL Central) are the only one of last year's six division winners to be in first place this season, after the completion of Memorial Day action. The Cardinals own the NL's best record at 33-18 and lead the Reds by five games.

The Atlanta Braves, who have won 14 straight division crowns, trail the surprising NY Mets by 4 1/2 games in the NL East. Over in the West, the SD Padres (who won last year's division with an 82-80 record) find themselves in fourth place this morning, 3 1/2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (who finished second last year at 77-85).

The Yankees won a tie-breaker in the AL East last year with the Red Sox (both won 95 games) to claim the division title and begin the day one game behind their hated rivals in second place. In the West, the Angels (won the West with a 95-67 record in 2005) are just 22-29, five games behind the Texas Rangers (79-83 last year).

The White Sox, who ended an 88-year drought by winning the 2005 World Series, are playing well (33-17) but find themselves looking up at the Detroit Tigers, who own MLB's best record at 35-16. The Tigers, who haven't posted a winning record since 1993 (and lost 119 games as a recently as 2003), had won 15 of 16 games from May 10 through May 27 before being shut out the last two days by the Indians (9-0) and the Yankees (4-0).

While the Dodgers have also been hot lately (winners of 17 of their last 22), no team starts today's play with an active winning streak of more than three games (Mets and Yankees). The Cubs own the longest active losing streak at six games and are 6-21 in May. The Mariners enter the day's action on a five-game losing streak and the Devil Rays own a four-game losing streak.

However, when it comes to losing, the Royals 'lead' the pack in 2006. The team's 3-22 start on the road, matched MLB's worst-ever 25-game start. They are currently 12-37, having suffered losing streaks of 11 and 13 games this year. Also making a case as MLB's worst team, are the Marlins (16-33) and the Pirates (17-34).

Bettors would agree, as wagering $100/game, one would be minus-$1,567 on the Marlins, minus-$1,417 on the Royals and minus-$1,409 on the Pirates. Conversely, the Tigers have been the best investment at plus-$1,859 with the Diamondbacks a distant second at plus-$1,078.

Closing thought

Barry moved past the Babe over the weekend and now has 715 career home runs. However, a much more likeable player, the Cards' Albert Pujols, could wind up being this year's biggest "record-breaker." Pujols has 25 HRs and 64 RBI through his team's first 49 games. Assuming he plays in all 162 games, that puts him on pace to hit 82 HRs with 211 RBI!

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

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