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Tuesday, June 6
by Larry Ness - 06/06/2006
While I don't offer much commentary regarding the NHL, the Stanley Cup playoffs have always been a great 'ride.' Last night's Game 1 of the Finals was everything a fan could ask for and more. My early Christmas wish is for a great NBA Finals. Coverage begins tomorrow.
My free play for Tuesday is on the Oak A's over the Cle Indians at 7:05 ET. Last night's win on the Mil Brewers, upped my current MLB run to 8-2 80% since May 30 and my record with Las Vegas Insiders in MLB to 10-3 77% since May 1! I'm featuring another exclsuive Las Vegas Insider tonight, as well as a rare MLB 20* play (first this month). Get them BOTH, right now!
Three teams entered last night's games with four-game winning streaks and two of the three extended those winning streaks to five. The Nats and Reds both won, while the D'backs lost. Brandon Webb couldn't hold a 3-0 lead for Arizona but he wasn't around to take the loss, which would have been his first of the year.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Brewers ended the majors' longest active losing streak at eight, by beating the Padres 5-2. That leaves the Rockies with the longest active streak (six straight losses and 11 of 13), with the Braves and Astros (each have lost five straight) just a game behind.
All 30 teams are in action tonight with more than a few games of interest. The Red Sox and Yankees opened their four-game series at Yankee Stadium last night (NY won 13-5) and continue tonight with Pauley vs Wang at 7:05 ET. Last year's defending champs, the Chicago White Sox, open a three-game series tonight with 2006's biggest surprise team, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers own MLB's best road record (20-7), while the White Sox own the best home mark (20-8).
There's quite a pitching matchup on hand tonight in LA, as Pedro Martinez (Mets) faces off against Derek Lowe (Dodgers). While Martinez has not won since April 28, a span of six of six starts, it's hardly due to poor pitching. Pedro has pitched 42 innings over his last six outings, allowing just 10 ERs, for an ERA of 2.14. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 55-6.
Over his last three starts, he's allowed 14 hits and just two ERs (22 innings), for an ERA of 0.82 with a 26-1 ratio. However, the Mets have scored just 10 runs in those six starts, giving Pedro a 0-1 record with the Mets going 2-4.
As for Derek Lowe, he's allowed two ERs or less in 10 of his 12 starts this year but despite an ERA of 2.68, he's just 4-3 on the year and the Dodgers are just 7-5 in his starts. Lowe, like Pedro, has been almost unhittable in his last three starts. He's allowed 13 hits and just one ER in 20 innings, for an ERA of 0.45. Seems like a 'dead-nuts over', doesn't it?
Bye-Bye Birdie (Detroit)
What happened to the team that opened the season by winning its first eight games, was 22-3 after an 85-70 Christmas Day win over the Spurs, 36-9 on Feb 3 and 47-9 (.839) at the end of February? The Pistons finished the season 64-18, the most wins since the Lakers won 67 in 1999-2000. They were a league-best 37-4 at home and had a 27-14 road record (2nd-best to San Antonio's 29-12 mark) but maybe we should have seen this coming?
Hindsight is always 20-20 but why didn't many notice that Detroit was just 17-9 (.654) after going 47-9 (.839) through February, including an ATS mark of only 8-17-1? Of even more concern was Detroit's play on the road down the stretch. Starting with a Jan 31 loss in the Meadowlands to Nets (91-84), Detroit finished the regular season 10-11 SU and a pathetic 5-15-1 ATS over its final 21 road games! How come 'bells' didn't go off?
Well maybe it was the way Detroit opened the playoffs? Detroit easily took care of Milwaukee (4-1) and then routed the Cavs in Game 1 of the second round, 113-86. Yes, the Pistons won Game 2 just 97-91, but that game was well in hand, with the final score not indicative of Detroit's domination. At that point in time, the Pistons stood 6-1 through seven games, averaging 106.6 PPG. They were off to Cleveland, leading the series 2-0.
What happened then was, the Pistons got 'hit' and NEVER recovered! Cleveland won Game 3, 86-77 and despite a "Guaran-Sheed", lost Game 4, 74-72. The Cavs even won Game 5 in Detroit, 86-84 but when Detroit staved off elimination in Game 6 (won 84-82) and won convincingly in Game 7 (79-61), many thought everything was going to be OK. It wasn't.
The Pistons were dominated by the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, as they had no answer for Dwayne Wade and no one big enough to stop Shaq. They lost all three games in Miami by 15, 11 and 17 points, averaging a paltry 79.7 PPG while allowing the Heat to make about 55 percent of their shots.
A final tally shows that Detroit averaged just 82.3 PPG over its final 11 playoff games, going 4-7 SU and 2-9 ATS. That includes a 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS mark on the road. All 11 games went 'under' the total. Again, maybe we should have seen this coming? Flip Saunders' "new offense" had the team in the top-10 in offense through the end of January but by year's end, Detroit ranked just 19th.
The Pistons, a team acclaimed for unselfishness and team play was once again together in the end. They were united in blaming it on head coach Flip Saunders! Chauncey Billups, when asked earlier this year by Sports Illustrated to rank this Piston team among the great teams in NBA history, he modestly replied, "I gotta rate us up there in the top-five all-time." Here's hoping Chauncey and his teammates enjoy watching Miami/Dallas.
Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET.