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Friday, June 16

   by Larry Ness - 06/16/2006

The Heat left no doubt they are back in the Finals last night, routing the Mavericks 98-74. Once again, the Mavericks had a 'nightmare' fourth quarter in South Beach. The Mavs were outscored 22-7 over the final 6:34 of Game 3 and last night, managed just seven points the entire quarter, setting a new NBA Finals-low for points scored (or rather not scored!) in a fourth quarter. There seems little doubt now that Miami's star is Dwayne Wade, not Shaq.

My free play for Friday is on the Fla Marlins at 7:35 ET. Interleague play will dominate until July 2 and I'm opening this weekend's action with not one but TWO, Technical Insiders. One is backed by a 74% pitching trend since 2000 and the other by a 79% 75-game team IL trend. Both come with my usual detailed analysis.

While Shaq played well for a second straight game (17-13), it was Wade, battling through a knee injury, who scored 36 points. The Miami bench also came through last night, outscoring its Dallas counterparts 23-22. That may not seem like a big deal but the Mavs' bench had outscored the Heat reserves, 92-30 through the first three games. Jerome Posey, who had scored just 13 points in the first three games, had 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

Nowitzki made just 2-of-14 FGs for Dallas and wound up with 16 points due to making 11-of-13 FTs. Howard was just 1-of-8 from the floor (three points) and Erick Dampier, who had been averaging 9.3-9.7 through the first games, played 18 minutes without scoring (four rebounds). The Mavs shot a pathetic 25-of-79 (31.6 percent), including 3-of-22 on threes. Miami shot 51.5 percent and won the rebounding battle (48-36) for the second straight game by double digits.

The series doesn't resume until Sunday (9:00 ET on ABC) and it certainly has a different feel. Home teams are now a perfect 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) in the Finals, upping their current run to 10-2 SU and 9-3 ATS. Game 4 was a solid 'under' (fell 18 points short of the closing number), giving under bettors a winning run of 13-3 since the beginning of the conference finals.

In fact, a home team and under parlay would have been 'golden' in three of the Finals' four games so far. Followers of the "Zig-Zag" theory have "gone broke' in the Finals, as the SU loser of the previous game has yet to cover a pointspread in the Finals (0-3). The early line for Game 5 has the Heat favored by 1 1/2 points with a total of 188 1/2.

The adjusted series price has Dallas favored by about minus-$2.25. Dallas was about minus-$1.60 prior to the start of the series and after winning Games 1 and 2, the Mavericks were at least a five-to-one favorite. However, remember that just one team (the 2004 Pistons) has been able to win all three home games in the middle of the current 2-3-2 format.

MLB notes

Interleague action takes center stage starting tonight in MLB and will dominate the schedule through July 2. The Rockies are in St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in the lone NL series this weekend. The Mets take MLB's longest active winning streak (eight) into their weekend series with the Orioles at Shea, as well as MLB's best overall record (42-23). The A's have won seven straight (are 11-2 in June), MLB's second-best winning streak.

The longest active losing streak is four, held by Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. The Braves just concluded a seven-game road trip by going 1-6 and have now lost 14 of 17 overall, falling 13 games back of the Mets in the NL East. While the D'backs have lost just two straight, they have lost nine of their last 10, to fall out of first place in the NL West.

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

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