Sticking with the Spurs

With the NBA Finals scheduled to begin next Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs earned themselves some extra time off to rest and heal their injuries. If the Detroit-Miami series goes the seven-game distance, that will become just one more advantage in favor of a Spurs championship.

If San Antonio plays Miami, the Spurs would catch a break with dominant Heat center Shaquille O'Neal limited by a deep thigh bruise. Other than Shaq, the Heat have very little Finals experience, while the Spurs players own numerous rings. San Antonio would much rather face Miami's defense than Detroit's, which was ranked second only to the Spurs'.

If San Antonio plays Detroit, the Spurs would own the upper hand when it comes to depth and maturity. The Pistons at times have gone with only seven players in their rotation, demonstrating that their bench was stronger during last year's championship season. Detroit is also capable of another emotional meltdown like in last Sunday's game, while San Antonio is the classiest and most professional organization the NBA has to offer.

The Spurs have lost only five home games all year, and they proved their versatility by beating Phoenix with its own wide open style. If San Antonio has any weaknesses, it is sometimes at the free throw line, but that is just a matter of concentration.

Predictions: So far the series picks have been solid, with 11 out of 12 winners. Of course, the second round wasn't too difficult, with all four favorites winning in the fairly predictable NBA.

Detroit-Miami: Not knowing who won last night's game makes predicting a bit awkward here, but usually it is important to note that in 7-game series tied at 2-2, the Game 5 winner has advanced 84 percent of the time. In Game 6, the bet will be on Detroit and Over.

Finals - The preseason pick of San Antonio to beat Detroit lives on.

• Tennis' second major, the French Open from Paris' Roland Garros Stadium, concludes this weekend.

If it's Friday and you want to see what clay court tennis is all about, turn on the tube and watch Rafael Nadal take on Roger Federer in one of the men's semi-finals. These two are clearly the best in the world at doing what they do on clay, so it promises to be a great battle.

Federer is ranked No. 1, and needs only the French Open to complete the career grand slam. Nadal is tennis' next huge phenom.

Prediction: My pre-tourney pick of Nadal could be in the stars as he celebrates his 19th birthday today by pulling off the upset.

In the other men's semi, Nikolay Davydenko should prevail with his current 10-match winning streak, and confidence over opponent Mariano Puerta whom he beat last month.

Finals: The Nadal-Federer winner as a big favorite will win easily over either Davydenko or Puerta.

On the women's side, it is clear that pre-tourney pick Justine Henin-Hardenne is back to her old self. After a 7-month layoff due to a blood virus and knee injury, the 2003 champion has dominated the clay court circuit and will win this title favored over 30-year-old 2000 champ Mary Pierce.

• The Arena Football League playoffs began last week in a year marred by the tragic mid-season death of the Los Angeles Avengers' Al Lucas. Lucas broke his neck while trying to make a tackle on a kickoff. It's a blessing this doesn't happen more often or lately in the NFL.

Predictions: Can't say I know much about the AFL, so no predictions here. But just like any sport, if you've been following the AFL enough and kept track of what's been covering the point spreads, you already know what to bet.


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