Lakers will still win in six

Give credit where credit is due. By winning Game 1 of the NBA Finals and handing Los Angeles its first home playoff loss, the Detroit Pistons already exceeded most peoples' expectations for the series.

Detroit continues to win games with its defense. During the regular season the Pistons led the league in points allowed, holding 11 teams and five consecutive under 70 points, and giving up the third lowest average ever since the advent of the shot clock. In the playoffs, Detroit's defense has again been the best, and was the main reason for the Lakers' low 75-point Game 1 output.

However, Detroit missed a golden opportunity to take control of the series in Game 2. Losing by six with less than 40 seconds left, the Lakers were on the verge of having to do what no team had ever done before - win the Finals after losing the first two games at home. After a silly foul on a Shaquille O'Neal basket and his subsequent free throw, and then a Detroit miss, the Lakers used their final time out to set up a three-point shot. When the inbounds pass went to O'Neal, one of the worst free throw shooters in history, the Pistons inexplicably failed to foul him, and allowed Kobe Bryant to hit the well-publicized three that sent the game to overtime. Devastated with that result, Detroit never recovered and managed a playoff record low two points in OT.

While Los Angeles rookie Luke Walton's three-for-three shooting and eight assists were the spark the Lakers needed, without question Detroit coach Larry Brown's negligence in instructing his players to foul O'Neal could end up being the difference in the series. Seven of the last eight times the Finals have reached 1-1, the team that was just at home went on to eventually win the championship.

Not knowing what happened last night in Game 3 handcuffs a handicapper such as myself, but my guess is the Lakers with or without injured forward Karl Malone carried the momentum of that thrilling victory into Detroit. While Los Angeles players slept at home in their beds Tuesday night, the Pistons took a long flight home until 7 a.m., thinking about the one that just got away. If Detroit recouped enough to win Game 3, my hat's off to them, but the Game 2 result should continue to weigh on their minds. I expect Los Angeles to win two out of three at Detroit and close out the series home in Game 6.

• If you can't get enough basketball, odds are also available for the Women's NBA. Although I don't follow the WNBA, I know at least one gentleman who wagers on it on a day-to-day basis and finds it to be much more consistent, money-making and predictable than the men's game.

One thing I've noticed is that you never have to worry about the effort level in women's team sports. Women always scratch and claw to the bitter end while sometimes, for whatever reason, men fail to give the full effort. Maybe that could help explain why the women's game is more consistent.

• Handicappers have until Wednesday evening to wager on golf's second major, the U.S. Open, at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. If I saw the statistic correctly, a streak of six straight majors have been captured by first-time major winners, which has never happened before in 144 years of competitive golf. That seems hard to believe, but if so, that doesn't bode well for multi-champion Tiger Woods. Also, by his standards, Woods is in a major slump, and his recent inaccuracy off the tee foretells of problems with the U.S. Open's thick rough.

As far as predicting a winner goes, that is next to impossible in a professional golf tournament, but one would have to lean towards an American who will keep his ball consistently in the fairway. Rather than wager on the champion, I will wait to bet on player vs. player match-ups in order to try to win money.

• The playoffs began last week and wagering is available for the 18th season in the Arena Football League. I can't say that I've watched much Arena ball this year, but one thing caught my eye. New York won its division, yet failed to reach the postseason. Why even have divisions if the winners aren't guaranteed playoff berths?

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.

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