Friday , Feb , 16 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

NBA All-Star Weekend – Vegas Style

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The 56th NBA All-Star Game will be played
this Sunday night. The East has won the last two and six of the last 10
overall. Most of these “exhibition style” games go down to the wire and
last season was no exception, as the Eastern Conference returned home with a
122-120 victory.


NBA All-Star Weekend - Vegas Style

The East trailed by 21 in the third quarter but stormed back to take a 117-107
lead with a little less than 3:30 to go. The West then went on a 17-3 run and
tied the game at 120 with 32 seconds left. Dwyane Wade nailed the game-winning
shot, but it was LeBron James who stole the show.

King James, who became the youngest player to win the games MVP Award,
finished with 29 points and gave coach Flip Saunders his second All-Star Game
victory. Unfortunately for Saunders, he wont have the chance for a three-peat
since NBA coaches are not allowed to be behind the bench in consecutive
seasons. Washingtons Eddie Jordan will coach his own Gilbert Arenas and 11
other Eastern stars against Mike DAntoni of Phoenix and 12 superstars from
the West.

The East has 34 wins to the Wests 21, but most of those victories (14) came
during the first 20 years. The Eastern Conference has won eight of the last 15
although the West leads 4-3 in the games played this decade. Regrettably,
there arent too many handicapping angles to delve into in these types of
match-ups. Last season was a bit of an exception, as four Pistons made the
roster and Flip Saunders used them at the same time, especially in the second
half when the famed Pistons defense limited the West to just 50 points.

For the second straight year, the final tally fell under 250. The 242 total
was two points more than the 240 back in 2005. With so many injuries knocking
out key players (Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming) in the West, the East
has to be given the slight edge. One other interesting note, six of the top
nine players favored to win the games MVP Award are from the Eastern
Conference.

Four points or less have decided half of the games the last six years with one
other contest going into double overtime. So it pays to grab the points if one
desires to wager money on this exhibition affair.

Take the East plus the points and the UNDER.

PROP BETS

Speaking of the MVP, Dwyane Wade is the 4-1 favorite to win the award. Miamis
guard played over 30 minutes in last years game and hit 9-of-11 from the
field for 20 points. LeBron James was awarded the honor after posting a team-
high 29 points on 12-21 shooting. James took more shots than anyone on both
rosters except for Tracy McGrady, who hit 15-of-26.

The last time there was a repeat winner was way back in 1958-59 when Bob
Pettit took the honors. Even so, he had to share the award with Elgin Baylor
in 59. Can James stop the trend? If he dominates the court as he did last
year, there is no reason why he cant. In addition, 6-1 is a healthy price.

Go with King James for back-to-back MVP Awards and take a flyer at 8-1 on
Chris Bosh.

Which player will score the most points? Kobe Bryant is the current choice at
2-1, while Gilbert Arenas is close behind at 2.30-1. For some reason, LeBron
isnt getting much credit as hes listed at 7-2. If James is not the leading
scorer, it will be someone from the Western Conference, probably an outside
shooter since Nash and Iverson wont be available. Kobe is tough to take at
the price and Ray Allen is in the Field where theres not much value at 7-2.

The pick: Dirk Nowitzki at the juicy odds of 5.5-1

SATURDAY SHOWDOWNS

What most people care about these days are the events leading up to Sunday
nights contest and thats the Three-Point Shootout and the ever-popular Slam
Dunk Contest.

Nowitzki looks to make it two straight victories in the “bombs away” shootout
as the Mavericks sharpshooter defeated Gilbert Arenas to take the crown.
Surprisingly, neither is favored this season. Miamis Jason Kapono is the 2-1
choice mainly due to his 47% career three-point percentage. However, those
numbers are from just a short sample of attempts since the UCLA product has
been in the league only a few years.

Kapono is the only member of the field to attempt less than 2,000 treys. In
fact, hes put up less than 500. Hell get his props if he continues at that
pace for another five years or so. Still, one cant argue with his success
hitting an amazing 56% this season from beyond the arc!

Nowitzki has stated that its one thing to be able to nail three-pointers, but
its another to do so in a time-controlled setting. Experience plays a big
part in these contests as one can plainly see from the list of previous
winners. The three-point show has been around for 20 years and there has
already been five repeat winners, with the latest coming back in 2002-2003
when Peja Stojakovic won in back-to-back seasons.

Stay away from the Kapono at 2-1 and set your sights and money on Nowitzki at
5-2.

Longshot play: Jason Terry at 6-1.

The Slam Dunk Contest has lost a ton of luster from the days of Michael Jordan
and Dominque Wilkins. The Knicks Nate Robinson became just the second player
under six-feet to win the battle when he defeated Philadelphias Andre
Iguodala last season. (Spud Webb was the first back in 1986.)

Unlike the Three-Point Shootout, the Slam Dunk Contest rarely produces back-
to-back champions. In the previous 21 match-ups, there have been just two
players to win consecutive titles: Jason Richardson and Michael Jordan. Its
safe to say there are no Jordans in this years event.

Robinson is 5-2 to join that twosome but the public has jumped all over Gerald
Green. Bostons first-round pick in 2005 is even money so theres no value
there. Tyrus Thomas will not win it in his first NBA season so that leaves
Dwight Howard. He might be too big to take the crown and history suggests the
Slam Dunk Contest is a guard-swingmans show. However, Larry Nance did win the
inaugural “SDC” back in 1984.

Go with Howard at the huge price of 5-1.