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Thursday, June 8

   by Larry Ness - 06/08/2006

The Heat take on the Mavericks tonight in Dallas, in Game 1 of the 2006 NBA Finals. There's a question surrounding the health of Miami's Dwayne Wade, who was less than 100 percent during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit (had only 14 points) and has missed a number of practices recently, battling a sinus infection.

The Mavs are favored by 5 1/2 points (192 1/2) in Game 1 and are about minus-$1.60 to win the series.

My free play for Thursday is the Chi White Sox over the Det Tigers at 8:05 ET. Early risers can grab my 15* AL Getaway Total of the Month, following my 15* NL Getaway Day Game of the Month winner yesterday on Colorado (16-9). While I did lose a big play on the Cards yesterday, my MLB run since May 30 is still 10-4. Tonight, it's one of my exclusive Las Vegas Insiders (11-3 78.6% since May 1) in MLB and a LEGEND Play (4-2 in the postseason) in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Recent history has seen the West capture six of the seven NBA titles since MJ completed his second of two "Three-Peats" for the Bulls in 1998. During that span, the Spurs have won three championships ('99, '03 and '05) and the Lakers won three straight years ('00-'02) from the West, while the East's lone win came when the Pistons beat the Lakers 4-1 in 2004.

Looking at Miami's success (or rather its lack of success) this year vs the West's top-three teams, makes one skeptical that the Heat can compete vs the Mavericks. The Mavs beat the Heat 103-90 in Miami (without Shaq) and 112-76 in Dallas (with Shaq). Against the Spurs, the Heat lost at home 101-94 and in San Antonio, 98-84. Against the Suns, the Heat lost 107-98 at home and 111-93 in Phoenix.

That being said, one also has to wonder how Dampier and Diop, will have any chance of containing Shaq. Shaq owns a 29.3 PPG average in 36 career games against the Mavs, his highest scoring average vs any team. In this year's postseason, Shaq's looked very good when not in foul trouble. Miami fans will point out that the Heat are 11-1 this year (4-0 in the playoffs) when Shaq's scored at least 25 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds in the same game.

While Shaq may be "unguardable" by Dallas, how will Miami guard Nowitzki? Nowitzki is averaging 28.4 PPG and 11.9 RPG in the postseason, including leading Dallas in scoring in all 12 of its playoff wins, while averaging 30.8 PPG. Josh Howard is averaging 17.4-7.2 in the postseason for Dallas and as you most likely know, the Mavs are 25-0 this year when he scores 20 or more points. Also, the quickness of Dallas guards Terry and Harris could be a key.

Wade (26.2-5.2-6.4) must be healthy for the Heat to win plus Riley's "new guys" must contribute. Much was made of Payton, Walker and Williams combining for 41 points (12-of-27 FGs) in Game 1 vs Detroit and also of Williams' brilliant Game 6 vs Detroit (10-of 12 FGs for 21 points). However, Walker averaged just 10.0 PPG (36.2 percent) and Payton just 4.6 PPG (23.1 percent) in Games 2-6, while Williams averaged only 5.0 PPG (34.8 percent) in Games 2-5!

While the Mavs have five players averaging double digits in the playoffs (Terry at 17.8. Stackhouse at 14.0 and Harris at 10.1 join Nowitzki and Howard), only Walker (13.2) joins Wade and Shaq (20.1-9.6) in scoring double digits for the Heat. Haslem (9.4-7.8) will likely get first shot at trying to guard Nowitzki (good luck as he's four inches shorter) but Riley may try another one of his "new guys?". How about defensive-ace Posey(7.2-5.6)?

The Mavs and Heat are both 12-5 in this year's playoffs, with Dallas going 12-5 ATS and 'covering' in 11 of its 12 SU wins. Miami has gone 10-6-1 ATS in the playoffs. However, it should be pointed out that Miami opened the playoffs 0-3-1 ATS, before going on a 10-3-1 run its last 14 games.

Here's a stat many may find interesting. The Heat will obviously be underdogs in both Games 1 and 2 in Dallas. During the regular season, Miami was just 1-15 SU as a road underdog (lone win was at Sacramento on December 2, beating the Kings 98-87 as a four-point dog) and 5-11 ATS.

However, Heat fans can point to the team's improved play in the postseason, where the Heat went 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS as road underdogs in games against New Jersey and Detroit. Then again, are the Nets and Pistons good barometers? It's time to put up or shut up.

Tomorrow's notes will recap Game 1 plus offer some historical insights on Riles, Shaq and Payton (?).

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

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