05/04/2004 11:00PM

TV cameras flood the desert


If it isn't the many construction projects in this town that are perpetually rerouting traffic - both vehicular and foot - then it's all the television and movie crews.

VH1's "Divas Las Vegas" show was at the MGM Grand three weeks ago. NBC's "Las Vegas" has been in and out of town all season, and a new NBC show titled "Dr. Vegas" - about a casino doctor played by Rob Lowe - just wrapped up its pilot at Green Valley Ranch. "Will and Grace" had its season finale at Caesars Palace. Fox Sports' "Best Damn Sports Show Period" took over the Palms' pool last week, the World Poker Tour was taping at the Bellagio two weeks ago, and ESPN is gearing up for tons of coverage of the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe. The movie "Miss Congeniality 2" has been at the Venetian and Treasure Island this week, including shutting down the "Sirens of TI" battle show to the public.

And this doesn't include the seemingly endless wave of television magazine shows such as "Extra" and "Entertainment Tonight" that are following around all of the celebrities who take part in these programs.

The next big thing, as they say in the biz, is next week's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" at Paris Las Vegas. Crews have been all over the past few weeks, doing taped interviews with local celebrities and also turning the cameras on tourists for segments such as "Jaywalking" and "Drunk or Not Drunk."

The reserved tickets for all five shows, Monday through Friday at 5 p.m., have already been distributed. An undisclosed number of standby tickets will be available each day for that day's taping. Interested parties are asked to start lining up at the Paris box office at 7 a.m. Numbers will be given at 9 a.m. and those people will come back at 3:30 p.m. to see if they get in. Doors will open at 4 p.m.

Lighter fighters pack big punch

Heavyweight title fights bring out the big crowds in Las Vegas, but it's a shame that the lower weights don't catch the public's fancy unless a name like Oscar De La Hoya is on the marquee.

The past few years, the Cinco de Mayo holiday (which fell on Monday last year, and Sunday, Saturday, and Friday the previous three years) has meant big boxing cards as the hotels have tied in big bouts featuring Mexican fighters. This year, with the holiday falling smack dab in the middle of the week Wednesday, there wasn't as much of a draw, and this weekend's featured bout is WBA and IBF featherweight titleholder Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.

Pacquiao has been between a -130 and -180 favorite around town, which is as close to pick-em as you usually see in a title fight. This won't be like one of those fights in the upper weight classes, where the fighters lean all over each other and throw occasional punches. This will be more like Rock 'em Sock 'em robots. For those who can't make it to the fight, it will be the featured match on HBO's boxing program from 6:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. Pacific.

NHL playoffs down to frozen four

The NHL playoffs might be getting as little coverage as the boxing match. Many of the favorites - and the majority of the public teams or those from major media centers - have been eliminated. No more Red Wings, Avalanche, or the defending champion Devils.

The Lightning (from Tampa Bay, in case you're not sure) are the 9-5 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants. The San Jose Sharks are next at 2-1, with the Philadelphia Flyers at 3-1, and the Calgary Flames at 5-1.

I've been riding the Flames throughout the playoffs and, after knocking off the Red Wings, they can't be taken lightly in their series vs. the Sharks as a slight +120 underdog. The series starts Sunday in San Jose. I have no such feel for the Lightning-Flyers series in which Tampa Bay is a -160 choice.

As we get deeper into the playoffs and teams are expected to play more conservatively and really concentrate on defense, you will see the over/under on games being 4 goals as opposed to the 4 1/2's that were most common in previous rounds.

NBA playoffs crawl along

The NBA continues to drag out its playoffs, and with most second-round series are just getting started.

The Nets and Pistons played the first game of their series on Monday, with the Pistons posting a 78-56 victory as a 5-point favorite. They don't play again until Friday night. Again, the Pistons are favored by 5, but my feeling is that - with all due respect to the Pistons' defense - the Nets can't shoot as badly as they did Monday night and should show the heart of a champion (at least the heart of the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions) and bounce back Friday. I will make a 1-unit bankroll play on the Nets +5, and I will also make a 1-unit play on the over.

In the opener, the total was 171 1/2, but after Monday's snoozefest, oddsmakers have adjusted and made the total just 164. I think that's an overadjustment, and feel the teams will make the necessary adjustments themselves to put the ball in the basket more.

The Kings-Timberwolves series started Tuesday with the Kings winning the opener 104-98 as a 5 1/2-point underdog. The line for Saturday's second game - also after nearly four days' rest - is now 6, and many people expect the No. 1-seeded Wolves to bounce back, but I will take the Kings +6 for another 1-unit play.

For the record, my NBA playoff bankroll plays were 5-9-1 for a net loss of 4.9 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1) heading into Wednesday night's Lakers-Spurs game.