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Friday, June 9

   by Larry Ness - 06/09/2006

Last night's game featured two teams playing in their first-ever NBA Finals and one could argue it showed. While Miami opened the game making 14 of its first 20 shots (70 percent) and scoring 31 first-quarter points, the Heat went 20-of-58 (34.5 percent) the rest of the way, scoring a total of 49 points.

The Heat went 5-of-19 in the 2nd quarter (13 points) and 5-of-20 in the 4th quarter (12 points). Over the game's final 5:13, Miami was held to just two free throws!

My free play for Friday is on the LA Dodgers over the Col Rockies at 9:05 ET. Despite a full card on Friday, I'm featuring just one MLB play. It's one of my excluisve Las Vegas Insiders, as I look to improve on my 12-3 80% run since May 1. Don't miss it!

Dallas took Game 1, despite 16 points from Nowitzki (4-of-14 FGs) and 10 points from Josh Howard (3-of-14 FGs). Jason Terry was the star for the Mavs, scoring 32 points for the game, including 20 in the first half and 12 in the fourth quarter. His fourth quarter scoring was a key, as the Mavs went seven minutes between fourth-quarter FGs at one stretch.

Wade scored 28 points for the Heat (11-of-25) while Shaq had 17 points and seven rebounds. While Shaq made 8-of-11 FGs, he was 1-of-9 on FTs, as Miami shot just 7-of-19 as a team. Walker added 17 and Williams 12 for the Heat but of the other four players who played, they combined to score just six points.

The Mavs used 10 players and got 13 points from Stackhouse (although he made just 4-of-11) plus eight points and seven rebounds from Errick Dampier. Dampier, who did not play in four of the final five games against the Suns, could be a key for the Mavs in this series in trying to slow down Shaq.

Neither team played very well but Dallas must like the fact it won despite a combined 7-of-28 shooting from Nowitzki and Howard. Also, the Mavs were outrebounded by the Heat (45-43), the first time that's happened this postseason. Dallas' run of 17 straight games of outrebounding an opponent was an NBA record.

Game 1 winners of an NBA Final have gone on to capture the title 73 percent of the time, so Maverick fans/bettors should be smiling. Also, Shaq-led teams are 26-0 all-time when taking a 1-0 lead in a series, so Dallas "dodged another bullet" there, as well.

The win by Dallas makes home teams 56-28 SU in this year's postseason and evens their ATS mark at 41-41-2. The 'under' brings NBA totals in the playoffs to 41 overs and 43 unders, with a decided under leaning as of late. During the conference finals, 10 of the 12 games went under and last night's 'dead' under (game fell 24 points below the closing total), makes it 11 unders over the last 13 playoff games, after a run that saw 26 of the previous 36 games go over.

Game 2 is slated for Sunday night (9:00 ET on ABC) in Dallas, with the early line listing the Mavericks as 4 1/2-point favorites with a total of 189. The adjusted series price has Dallas about minus-$2.75.

NBA Finals musings

A lot has been mentioned regarding Alonzo Mourning making his first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals, giving this 13-year vet a chance to finally win a title. Considering he's survived a life-threatening kidney disease which forced a temporary retirement and eventually a transplant, it's well-deserved. However, Gary Payton (Mourning's teammate), has without much fanfare, steadily climbed an interesting list this postseason.

The list he's now fourth all-time on, is a list no player wants to be on, no less near the top. Payton, in his 16th-year and 14th playoff season, has now played in 147 career playoff games (counting last night), without winning an NBA title. He began this year's postseason tied for 11th on the all-time list but by playing in all 18 playoff games for the Heat so far, he's moved ahead of some legendary NBA names. The list includes Elgin Baylor (134), Patrick Ewing (139) and Reggie Miller (144).

The only players Payton hasn't caught are Sam Perkins (167), John Stockton (182) and the all-time leader, Karl Malone (193). Payton can only play in six more games this series, meaning his total could only reach 153. So the stage is set for Gary to either get off the list altogether, if the Heat were to win the title, or to end the year title-less once again, fourth in all-time playoff games played without having won a championship.

While Payton has yet to win an NBA Finals (he lost in 1996 with Seattle and in 2003 with the Lakers), Shaq and Payton's head coach Pat Riley, have been there and done that! Shaq lost his first trip to the Finals, getting swept by Hakeem and the Rockets in 1995 while with the Magic. However, Shaq led the Lakers to three consecutive titles from 2000-02, winning the Finals MVP all three times. He lost with the Lakers back in 2003, so this makes his sixth trip.

Heading into this year's Finals, Shaq's left an impressive legacy. Only Rick Barry (36.3 PPG) and Jordan (33.6 PPG) have higher scoring averages (Shaq's was 32.6 PPG before last night) among players with at least 10 games played. Shaq's three MVP awards, ties him with Duncan (99, 03 and 05) and Magic (80, 82 and 87) for the second-most all-time, behind Jordan's six.

Actually, the Finals' MVP award has been dominated by just four players (with one exception), the last 15 years. Beginning in 19991, MJ's won six times (91-93 / 96-98), Duncan three times, Shaq three times and Hakeem twice (94-95). The lone interloper has been Chauncey Billups of Detroit in 2003. Jason Terry could be this year's Billups but let's not count out Shaq just yet, or for that matter, Nowitzki or Wade.

As mentioned a number of times before, Pat Riley won four NBA titles as coach of the Lakers (82, 85, 87 and 88) and is trying to win his fifth NBA title here with the Heat (he also won one as a player with the 1972 Lakers). A Heat win would move Riley into a tie with John Kundla with five titles, short of only Phil and Red's nine titles.

However, he would join Phil Jackson (Bulls and Lakers) and Alex Hannum as the only NBA coaches to have won titles with two different teams (Hannum won with the StL Hawks in 1958 and the Phi 76ers in 1967). A Heat win would not only allow Riley to join Hannum and Jackson but he would stand alone as the head coach with the longest span between titles. Riley's final title with the Lakers came in 1988, 18 years ago!

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

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