Ness Notes (May 16)

The Pistons’ new-found offense under Flip Saunders has blown a gasket these last two games in Cleveland while the Spurs’ once-suffocating defense has been shredded by the Dallas Mavericks in three consecutive games. The 2004 champs (Pistons) and the 2005 champs (Spurs) both lost last night on the road.

Detroit now finds itself in a 2-all tie with Cleveland after winning the first two games, while San Antonio finds itself in a 3-1 hole.

My free play for Tuesday is on the Hou Astros over the SF Giants at 8:05 ET. I lost a tough one in OT last night with the Spurs, ending my four-game playoff winning streak. I start a new streak tonight with my 15* Game 5 Showdown Play on the Clippers/Suns. In MLB, join me for another of my exclusive Las Vegas Insider Plays (4-0 start in May 4) plus a Triple 15* Report.

The Pistons lost last night 74-72, despite a “Guaran-Sheed” from Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons averaged just 74.5 PPG in their two-game stay in Cleveland, while shooting 36.3 percent from the floor. Detroit scored 35 points in the second half of their Game 3 loss (86-77) and then 34 points in the second half last night. Detroit was outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and last night they scored just 13 points in the final period (Cavs had 21).

The Spurs once again couldn’t stop the Mavs from scoring, as Dallas survived in OT, 123-118. Dallas has now averaged 113.3 PPG in three straight wins, getting to the free throw line an amazing 125 times (have made 102 for a .816 percentage). Devin Harris has been a meaningful for the Mavs, as he was inserted into the starting lineup in Game 2. Harris has averaged 20.7 PPG (58.3 percent shooting) these last three games, after scoring a total of just 20 points in Dallas’ first five playoff games this year.

Duncan continued his fine play for the Spurs with 31 points and 13 rebounds plus Parker and Ginobili combined for 59 points but the Spurs nevertheless lost. Since Duncan joined the team in 1997, the Spurs are 0-5 when trailing this late in a series.

The Spurs now join the Nets in this second round (also down 3-1 to the Heat) , as teams facing a huge uphill battle. Just eight teams in NBA playoff history (163 series) have conquer 3-1 deficits to win a best-of-seven series. However, both teams need look no further back than this year’s first round, when the Suns did just that in beating the Lakers.

With all four series having now completed four games, home teams are 10-6 SU (7-9 ATS) in this second round with 11 of the 16 games going ‘over’ the total. Followers of the “Zig-Zag” theory got shut out last night (0-2 ATS), after opening the second round 8-2. Home teams went 31-14 SU (22-21-2 ATS) in the first round with 22 of the 45 games going over. “Zig-zaggers” went 19-16-2 ATS in the first round.

Tuesday’s games

The Heat great number the Nets at 8:00 ET on TNT with the Clippers/Suns game following at 10:35 ET. Miami is favored by 6 1/2 points (192 1/2) and the Suns are favored by five points (216). The Heat lost Game 1 in Miami (100-88) but have since won three straight games, scoring an average of 105.3 PPG while allowing just 91 PPG. Wade has topped 30 points in all three wins (30.7 PPG) and Miami has shown decent balance.

Shaq has scored between 16 and 21 points in all four games, averaging 19.0 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Walker averaged 18.0 PPG in the two wins in New Jersey, while Haslem has averaged 12.5 PPG for the series. Balance and thoroughness are two things the Nets don’t have. Carter, Jefferson, Kidd and Krstic are combining for just under 78 PPG of New Jersey’s average of 93.1 PPG in the series (that’s just under 84 percent of the team’s points!).

The Clippers and Suns are tied at 2-all in their series and meet tonight in that all-important fifth game. Winners of Game 5, in a seven-game series tied at 2-all, have gone on to capture the series 85 percent of the time in NBA history. That fact has been in evidence already this year, as all four of this postseason’s first round series that were tied at 2-2 (Bulls/Heat, Kings/Spurs, Pacers/Nets and Wizards/Cavs), were won by the Game 5 winner.

Brand has been principal for the Clippers in this series (29.3 PPG), while veteran guards Cassell and Mobley have combined to average 32 PPG. In its two wins, LA has dominated the boards, outrebounding Phoenix 57-26 in Game 2 and 55-37 in Game 4 (already without Kaman). Kaman missed Game 4 with a sore shoulder and could miss again tonight.

The Suns shot poorly in both games in LA (already though they won Game 3), averaging 41.3 percent from the floor, including just 27 percent from the three-point arc. The team’s 114-107 loss on Sunday marked the first time Phoenix had lost a game in this year’s playoffs when scoring 100 or more points (5-1). Many thought the Clippers couldn’t win at the Suns’ speed but that hasn’t been the case.

Two-time MVP Steve Nash was just 6-of-20 in Games 3 and 4 (0-6 on threes!) and the Suns are down to a seven-man rotation. Can Phoenix make the proper adjustments (as LA did in Game 4)? No team has been able to win two straight in this series.

Ness Notes is obtainable Monday by Friday by 1:00 ET.

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