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Bad shooting + good D = lots of unders
The cream is rising to the top in the NBA playoffs. All four conference semifinals series stood at 3-1 after Sunday's games with the Lakers, Kings, Nets, and Celtics leading and on the verge of securing berths in the conference finals.
After winning and covering on Friday night, the Lakers got a push Sunday in an 87-85 win over the Spurs as a 2-point favorite. Some Laker bettors who waited until the line got bet up to 2 1/2 ending up holding losing tickets. Of course, Spurs bettors weren't feeling sympathetic since they looked like winners with an 82-72 lead with 6:57 remaining only to watch Tim Duncan & Co. go without a field goal the rest of the way and get outscored 15-3.
Mediocre shooting (or great defense, depending on your point of view) contributed to all three Sunday games going under their posted totals. The Nets, a 3 1/2-point underdog, pulled away from the Hornets 89-79, but the game finished comfortably under the total of 184 1/2. Oddmakers made the total on the Pistons-Celtics game even lower at 177, but that wasn't in danger either as the Celtics won 90-79 as a 5-point favorite.
But none of those games was as much of a stone-cold under as the Celtics' 66-64 win Friday night, the lowest scoring playoff game since the 24-second shot-clock was instituted.
They don't need a shot clock in the Kings-Mavericks series. The total for Saturday's game was 213 and the teams exceeded that in regulation with the score tied 109-109. The Kings went on to a 115-113 overtime win.
But the high-flying Kings and Mavs are the exception this playoff season. The under is a 29-16 (64 percent) with five pushes in NBA playoff games through Sunday.
Underdogs, after going 4-2 Friday through Sunday, are 28-19 (60 percent) with two pushes. Home and away teams are even at 24-24-2.
NHL trend reversal
After only 19 of 47 games went over the total in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the over is 11-5 (69 percent) with five pushes in the conference semifinals through Sunday. Even more impressively, the over is 8-2 in second-round games with a total of 4 1/2.
Favorites, with a record of 42-26 through Sunday, continue to win at about a 2-1 clip, but that's to be expected as you generally have to lay 1-2 to get the fave. The Red Wings rolled to a 4-1 series win over the Blues and await the winner of the Sharks and defending champion Avalanche. Those teams were to meet Monday night with a decisive Game 7 if the Avalanche avoid elimination.
The Eastern Conference finals will also be set by Wednesday night as the Hurricanes and Canadiens were to meet Monday, with the 'Canes leading 3-2 and a potential Game 7 on Wednesday night, and the Senators and Maple Leafs to play a Game 7 on Tuesday.
Know when to hold'em
The World Series of Poker has been going on for the past 3 1/2 weeks, but the action is really starting to heat up at Binion's Horseshoe as the bigger-money tournaments take place leading up to the championship event next Monday through Friday.
Even if you're not playing, the WSOP is a great place to people-watch. All of the top poker players in the world are here, as well as celebrities trying their hand at their favorite games. And the railbirds are just as colorful as the participants themselves.
Gabe Kaplan of "Welcome Back, Kotter" fame, was among the 113 entrants in the $5,000 buy-in Limit Hold'em tournament Saturday and Sunday. Kaplan, who is in Vegas to buy a comedy club and try to restart his stand-up career, finished tied for 10th place. Las Vegas's Jennifer Harmon Traniello could have played in the women's championship, but took on the boys instead, and took home $212,440.
Illustrating that this is a true "world" event, the seven-card stud title was won by Afghanistan's Morad Qushqar, who collected $172,960. Also at the final table were players from England and Norway.
This week's schedule includes Omaha hi/lo split (Wednesday-Thursday), no-limit hold'em (Thursday-Friday), half hold'em, half stud (Friday-Saturday), no-limit deuce to seven low draw (Saturday-Sunday), and the seniors championship (Saturday-Sunday).
Last year, more than 5,300 participants contributed to a total prize pool of $17.75 million at the WSOP. The championship event, with a $10,000 buy-in, drew 600 entrants and had a purse of $5.95 million with $1.5 million going to the winner.
A WSOP live webcast and full results can be accessed at www.binions.com.
In a neighborhood not so far away
It's very common for cities to name streets after presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy). Most visitors to Vegas notice that some streets are named after casinos (Sahara, Desert Inn, Flamingo, Tropicana) and entertainers (Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Siegfried & Roy), and even race horses (Seabiscuit, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew).
But it's another thing altogether for streets to be named after fictional characters.
"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" hits theatres Thursday, and you'll probably be surprised to know that a subdivision on the east side of town has a bunch of streets named in honor of the classic sci-fi movie series. There are: Skywalker Avenue (named for Luke Skywalker), Leia Street (Princess Leia), Vader Avenue (Darth Vader, Luke's father who went over to the dark side), Lucas Avenue (director George Lucas), Tarkin Avenue (villain Grand Moff Tarkin), and Kinobe Street (Luke's mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, though the street name is misspelled).
The neighborhood, just north of Russell Road and between Sandhill and Palm, was built in 1978, right after the original "Star Wars" movie, which we now know is fourth in the series and was a blockbuster in 1977.
Sometimes art imitates life (especially in Las Vegas, which is big on replicas), and other times life imitates art, so none of this should be too surprising in the Las Vegas Valley.
Case in point: Nearby Henderson, Nev., was the site of a real-life replica of "The Simpsons" cartoon house in 1997 (www.lasvegassun.com/dossier/misc/simpsons/plans.html).