Ness notes from April 10, 2006

The NBA is in its final countdown as there are only 10 days left in the regular season (it ends April 19). The Pistons split two games over the weekend and at 62-15 they now lead the Spurs (59-18) by three games for the best overall record in the league with just five games remaining. The Spurs lost a big game at home to Dallas on Friday night (92-86), but came back to beat the Grizzlies 83-81 last night, even without Ginobili.

My bye game for Monday is the Orlando Magic over the Atl Hawks in the NBA at 7:05 ET. Speaking of the NBA, I cashed in my 22* last night on the Lakers (100-83 over the Clippers), taking my record from 22* to 3-0 since halftime. Tonight, I’m looking to continue my recent 11-4 73.3% NBA streak (since March 28) with a rare Las Vegas Insider Play in tonight’s action. In MLB, it’s my first “Technical Insider” of the young season, featuring a five-year pitching trend of 70% plus my latest 15* “Best of the Best.”

Going into these final 10 days of the regular season, the Spurs lead the Mavs (58-19) by just one game for the best record in the Southwest Division, as well as the best record in the West. However, there is much more at stake for these two teams than just the Southwest Division crown and the best record in the West. The ‘loser’ of this all-important race will not get the second seed in the West.

Instead, the team that falls short will fall to the No. 4 seed in the West, as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the conference will go to the winners of the Pacific (Suns) and Northwest (Nuggets) divisions. . What this means is that if Dallas can’t catch San Antonio, the Mavs will be forced to play the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs, and San Antonio will have home court advantage!

The Clippers (44-32) lost twice over the weekend to the Kings (for the 13th straight!) and the Lakers, but still hold a half-game lead over the Grizzlies (44-33), who won to the Bucks on Friday. before losing to the Spurs last night. This ‘race’ is very interesting, as the ‘winner’ (ie the team that finishes in fifth place) gets either Dallas or San Antonio in the first round, while the ‘loser’ (ie the sixth seed ) gets the Nuggets. . Which team would you rather face?

The Kings went 2-0 over the weekend while the Lakers split two games, leaving those teams tied 41-37 for the final two playoff positions. Time is quickly running out for both the Hornets and Jazz (both are 37-39), as they are three games out of that final playoff spot with just six games remaining.

Returning to the East, the Nets saw their 14-game winning streak (the longest in the NBA this year) end on Saturday, when the Cavs (winners 10 of 11) defeated them at the Meadowlands, 108-102. LeBron scored 37 points in the win, giving him at least 35 points (he averaged 38.6 points per game and shot 52.9 percent) in nine straight games. Since 1970, only MJ (in 1986-87) and Kobe (in 2002-03) have accomplished that feat. Not bad company!

The Heat won in Washington on Saturday (16th straight victory over the Wizards) and then lost at home to Orlando on Sunday. Miami, at 50-26, leads the Nets by 2 1/2 games for the second-best record in the East with five games remaining (the Nets have six left). The Cavs have clinched the fourth seed, followed by Washington (39-37), Milwaukee (37-40) and Indiana (36-40). The Bulls and 76ers are tied for the final spot at 35-41 after Philadelphia won at Chicago on Saturday 89-75.

The Magic, winners of eight of their last nine (including wins over the Pistons and Heat this weekend), are three games out of the East’s final playoff spot, while the Celtics are 3 1/2 games out. distance. Tonight’s NBA schedule features seven games, with each game containing some playoff significance.

The 2006 MLB season begins its second week with no team escaping the first week without a blemish or any team without a win. However, four teams tried!

The Tigers, a team that has averaged 100.4 losses per season for the past five years, won their first five games before losing to the Rangers on Sunday, 5-3. The Brewers, whose last winning season was 1992 (they went 81-81 last year, close but no cigars!), also opened 2006 by winning their first five but also lost Sunday, 7-0 to the Diamondbacks.

Coming out of the gate slowly in the National League were both the Phillies and the Pirates. Philadelphia opened with four straight losses to start the year but won the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader with the Dodgers, 6-3. On cue, the Phils lost Game 2, 6-2. The Pirates opened with the longest losing streak of the young season, losing their first six games. However, the Pirates won Sunday in Cincinnati, 5-3. Pittsburgh, like Milwaukee, last had a winning season in 1992!

It’s a light seven-game MLB schedule for Monday, with four of the games starting in the afternoon. Tonight on ESPN at 7:05 ET, the Phillies visit Atlanta to take on the Braves.

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

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