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NBA Conference Finals Update

   by Al McMordie - 05/26/2006

If you are a dog player, you must love the 2006 NBA playoffs! There have been tons of tight games, wild finishes and upsets galore. The last two rounds of the playoffs the underdog is 20-9 against the spread. The dog covered every game but one in the Spurs/Mavericks series, while the dog went 5-2 ATS in the Cavaliers/Pistons clash.

That trend continued this week in the conference finals, with the dogs covering the first three games, including Detroit’s win over Miami in Game 2. What’s clear with the Miami Heat is that they are a two-man show, with Shaq and Dwyane Wade having to carry the load. In Game 1, the Heat's surrounding cast came through while its superstars were in foul trouble, as Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and Jason Williams combined for 41 points.

However, that hasn’t been the norm this season, and in Game 2, that trio contributed just 25 points as the Pistons won. A hot start has been key: Miami led 11-0 in the series opener in its first game in a week, while Detroit missed its first six shots playing two days after being pushed to seven games by the Cavaliers. Game 2 provided a stark contrast, with the Pistons seeming to have much more energy.

Handicappers need to keep in mind that a team off a thrilling 7th-game win might not be emotionally and mentally 100% the next game. That clearly was the case in the Suns/Mavericks series, as Dallas won an emotional Game 7 overtime thriller at San Antonio, the biggest win in franchise history. Their defense was flat in Game 1 as the Suns upset them at home.

When the Pistons put their minds to playing great defense, they can do it, and they held Miami to 42% shooting in Game 2. That was impressive, as Miami was the best team in the East in field goal percentage. The scene shifts to Miami this weekend for Games 3 and 4, and note that the Pistons are 29-17 SU, 19-26 ATS on the road. However, Miami has been overvalued at home all season, going 36-11 SU at home but 18-29 ATS. Also keep in mind that the Pistons played great in two games at Miami this season, and they should have won both. Detroit won at Miami, 95-82 in the last meeting there, and should have won the other game, losing 100-98 despite leading most of the game. Only a wild fourth quarter comeback gave the Heat the win. And Detroit went 3-1 SU/ATS against Miami during the regular season.

Detroit Coach Flip Saunders said he's going to go to his bench more this series, and it was very interesting that he did in Game 2 with Carlos Delfino (9 minutes), Antonio McDyess (13 minutes), Dale Davis (7 minutes) and Lindsey Hunter (14) all getting in. Also keep in mind that the UNDER is 2-0 in this series and 4-2 in 6 meetings this season. Did you notice the Pistons are an underdog in Game 3? They are 2-4 SU/ATS as a dog this season.

Out West, there was no defense in Game 1, as both the Mavs and Suns shot over 50%. Phoenix led the NBA in scoring (108 ppg) and three point shooting (39%) and the Mavericks allowed them to run in Game 1. That is a strategy Dallas coach Avery Johnson will likely try to change. Johnson was outstanding in the Spurs series, making all kinds of strategic changes over the course of several games. Slowing down the Phoenix break, however, is one heck of a test for the young, bright coach. The Suns have now won three straight over Dallas, 115-107, 117-104 and 121-118. Keep a close tab on injuries, too, as Phoenix defender Raja Bell suffered a left calf strain and he won’t play in Game 2. The Suns bench is already thin, too. On the other side, Dallas will be without Josh Howard, a dependable scorer and its best perimeter defender. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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