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Apr 25, 2006 6:03 AM

The NBA Playoffs began this past weekend with a similar pattern to past seasons — home teams winning Game 1.

The visitors were just 1-7 and are just 3-2 straight up over the past three seasons in Game 1 of opening round series. However, pointspread results are a different story.

After back-to-back 6-2 ATS marks the past two seasons, home teams were 4-4 this past weekend. The OVER / UNDER was even at 4-4.

A popular handicapping theory employed by handicappers over the years is one known as the ”˜zig zag’ theory. Credited to the late Mort Olshan, founder of the Gold Sheet, the theory suggests you play the straight up loser in its next outing. Obviously this means you wait until the second game of a series before making plays.

In effect, your play in Game 2 is the loser of Game 1. The play in Game 3 is the loser of Game 2, etc.

The theory makes great sense. Normally a winning team will continue to what led to their success in their next game. A losing team is more apt to both make adjustments and play with a greater sense of urgency to avoid falling further behind. Historical results have shown the ”˜zig zag’ theory to be profitable, although the level of success has not been as great as a decade ago.

Such is often the case when an effective handicapping tool receives widespread exposure. After all, linesmakers can read and research too!

Still, the "zig zag" theory is worth considering. Of course with any broad based approach, individual game analysis must always take precedence. Sometimes the matchups show that one team may be so inferior that even the linesmaker cannot compensate for the talent gap. Four-game sweeps are not that uncommon.

Of the 15 NBA playoff series last season, three resulted in 4-0 sweeps. Another four were decided in 5. That’s nearly half of the series resulting in one sided routs.

WEST

Kings vs. Spurs: San Antonio is playoff-ready after a 34-point demolition in Game 1. The Kings were without suspended star Ron Artest for Game 2 and likely to fall behind 2-0 when the series moves to Sacramento for Game 3. Getting +4 would make Sacramento an attractive play in Game 3. If the Kings should win, then San Antonio becomes a solid play in Game 4. Should the Spurs go 3-0, look for a sweep. At worst, San Antonio in 5.

Grizzlies vs Mavs: Dallas is up 1-0 and likely to lead 2-0 when the series shifts to Memphis. If the series is tied, Dallas would be a solid play in Game 3. Memphis could be attractive as an underdog in Game 4 if not facing elimination. Down 2-1 the Grizz will be playing to even the series. Up 2-1, they will be playing with great confidence to gain home court edge returning to Dallas. The call is Dallas in 6.

Lakers vs Suns: Phoenix got a test in Game 1 and that suspect defense makes the Suns vulnerable. The Lakers have already gotten support in Game 2 with the line dropping from Phoenix -7 to -6. Expect this series tied 2-2 heading back to Phoenix for Game 5. If it goes 7, Kobe Bryant could be the difference for the Lakers.

Nuggets vs Clips: The Clippers nearly let a late double digit lead slip away into defeat after Denver rallied to tie Game 1, but recovered for the win. Monday’s result will set the tone for the series. A Denver win could undo the Clippers. If the Clips take a 2-0 lead into Denver, the Nuggets are the play in Game 3. L.A. would then be the play in Game 4. If tied 1-1, Denver might well win both games at home. On talent and balance the Clippers are better behind the experienced backcourt of Cutino Mobley and Sam Cassell. Clips to win the series in 6.

EAST

Bucks vs. Pistons: Detroit is the class of the Conference. If Milwaukee is to win and cover down 2-0, it could be Game 3. Should the Bucks win Game 3, that will get Detroit’s attention for a big effort in Game 4. Should the Pistons go up 3-0, they will be worth backing at -6 to complete the sweep. Detroit in 4 or 5.

Bulls vs. Heat: Chicago rallied in the opener to make it close game and get the cover. Should Miami go up 2-0 heading to the Windy City, the Bulls are playable as an underdog, even if small. Miami would be attractive in Game 4 either looking to complete the sweep or trying to avoid a 2-2 tie. The price should be cheap enough in either scenario. The Heat did sweep two series last season before falling to Detroit in the Eastern finals. Series favors Heat.

Pacers vs. Nets: New Jersey was the only home team to lose a Game 1. A better effort can be expected in Tuesday’s Game 2 with the Nets looking to avoid an 0-3 deficit heading to Indiana. New Jersey would be the play in Game 3 whether down 0-2 or tied 1-1. If the Nets are down 0-3, Indiana would be the play to win Game 4 and complete the sweep. If down just 2-1 or up 2-1 the Nets would be the play. Look for Jersey in 6.

Wizards vs Cavs: Other than San Antonio, Cleveland was the most impressive Game 1 winner led by a triple double from LeBron James in his playoffs debut. The ease of the win was surprising given that the Cavs lost three of four to the Wizards in the regular season. This series could zig zag heading to a Game 7 in Cleveland. Better defense and LeBron the difference. Cavs likely to advance in 7.

LOOKING AHEAD

It has been almost preordained that Detroit and San Antonio will meet for the NBA title. Detroit is no longer coached by Larry Brown and could be the deciding factor. New coach Flip Saunders has proven capable in leading the Pistons, but his lack of success coaching Minnesota suggests an edge to Greg Popovich. Two titles in the past three seasons tilt the preference towards the Spurs to successfully defend.

NBA LINE SPECIAL

The Plaza Race and Sports Book has lowered the vigs on NBA lines from -110 to -105 throughout the playoffs.

"We’re the only ones in town to do this," said Mike Colbert, the maverick sports book supervisor at The Plaza under respected big boss Lou D’Amico.