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ADVANTAGE: NON-EXPERTS
Posted by By Jon Loomer on May 18, 2006 10:56 a.m. ET

UPSETS DEAL EXPERTS A BLOW

Before I get to yesterday's action, a little tip for you folks. We are giving away Sony PSP's. You heard me. The person who scores the most points in the Drive to the Finals playoff fantasy game over a given week (see Rules) wins a PSP.

What does that mean to you? It means that if you haven't started playing yet, this is a better time than any to play. Why? Because everyone else who has been hammering this thing out for weeks has used up many of their best players. You start playing now, and you have a clean slate and a clear advantage for the weekly prize. My apologies to those of you busting it out every week in hopes of taking home a new game system. Always here to help the people.

Now... WHOA! What is going on around here? Cavs beat the Pistons to move ahead three games to two. First time all season that the Pistons lost three games in a row. And the third loss came at home, with the Cavs essentially dominating for the duration of the game. Unbelievable.

Strangely, I actually picked the Cavs to beat the Pistons in our Pick 'n Roll game. Now, I'm not going to sit here and pat myself on the back too hard. Like when you're filling out a March Madness bracket, you don't just pick the top seeds. You search for an upset. I liked LeBron and the Cavs in the underdog role, and thought it would be cool to see them advance. Did I actually think this would happen -- particularly after the way the first two games went? Absolutely not.

It's no secret that deep down I thought the Cavs would be eliminated this round, and quickly. I've been using Cavs like a maniac, and it hasn't helped me out. Now, using these Cavs could cause even greater problems with the Pistons facing elimination. You've gotta keep the Pistons as a slight favorite to win out and advance, but the odds are about even at this point. What does that mean for Drive to the Finals?

The Experts are in trouble. Our advantage was that we were using a strategy. Use the best players on the underdog teams so that we have a full slate of players to choose from in future rounds. In the East, we were sitting pretty. We have yet to use a member of the Miami Heat or Detroit Pistons. If the Pistons advance, we will be able to pick all studs while some of the current leaders in this game are digging in the scrap heap.

If the Cavs advance, we have trouble. One game per day, and with the Heat the new favorites, we would be forced to pick whatever Cavs we have left or start picking Heat players. If we do that, they won't be available to us for the Finals, assuming they advance.

Out West, upsets are upsetting our plan as well. The Suns found themselves down 3-1 to the Lakers in Round 1, so we began picking off Shawn Marion and Steve Nash, expecting that they were toast. They advanced. We then used Boris Diaw, and Phoenix suddenly finds themselves up 3-2. We're a little better off with the Mavs-Spurs as we've only picked Josh Howard from the Mavs. With the Spurs down 3-2, we've reacted quickly by picking both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. If the Mavs advance here, we're ok. Otherwise, we have scrap from the Spurs.

My point? Upsets and momentum shifts are evening the playing field for Drive to the Finals. Our advantage was supposed to be having all players available to us for the next two rounds so that we could pass everyone in the standings who picked players early without regard to their teams. While we still have that advantage with the Heat, everyone will otherwise be picking from a similar scrap heap.

And how will my picks change now that the Cavs are up 3-2? Oh, I'm picking Pistons. Billups for Game 6 and Hamilton for Game 7, assuming it gets that far. Even if the Pistons advance, they are deep enough for me to absorb losing their top two players.