Friday Fever

March 1, 2024

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Minnesota Timberwolves

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If the playoffs started today, these two teams would face off against one another in the first round. And it’d be a doozy.

At 42-17, the Minnesota Timberwolves are currently the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They are on a three-game win streak and have a home record of 22-6. That near 80 percent home win percentage will be put to the test when they play the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.

The Kings are 33-25 and are currently the eighth seed in the West. However, they are just one game back of the fifth-place Phoenix Suns in a tight race.

The T-Wolves are not an offensive powerhouse. In fact, their 113.6 points per game is 19th in the Association. For a team that is second in overall record, that is more than surprising.

So how are they 42-17? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they have the best defense in the league. By far.

Minnesota gives up just 106.3 PPG. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the second-best defense, giving up just 109.7. The difference that separates the top two teams in terms of defense, is the same difference that separates the second from the 12th.

Despite having the 19th-ranked offense, Minnesota is still third when it comes to average scoring margin, winning by an average of 7.3 PPG. They are one of the toughest teams to beat right now.

They can score when they need to, but defense is their key to victory. Having two seven-footers in Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, along with an All-Star guard in Anthony Edwards, certainly helps with that.

The Kings, however, have had a pretty good season themselves. They aren’t quite in the same position they were last year (Sacramento finished third in the West during the 2022-23 season), but they have still shown signs of progress.

De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis have continued to fill up the stat sheets every night. Fox is one of the league’s best scorers with 26.9 PPG, while Sabonis leads the league in triple doubles with 21. In addition to their big two, sophomore Keegan Murray has contributed 15.1 PPG and sixth-year player Malik Monk tacks on another 15.0 PPG.

The Kings have lost two in a row entering this game, however, and hope to steal a win against a formidable opponent in the West. They are currently 6.0-point underdogs.

Pick: Minnesota ML (-250)

Both teams have had a day of rest and are in need of wins as the season nears its close. The Kings will be on the road with a two-game losing streak, while the Timberwolves will be at home for the fifth-straight game and are currently on a three-game win streak. Take the hot hand and pick the Timberwolves to get the W.


NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals

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The Metropolitan Division is currently a two-team race for first with everyone else competing for the third spot. The Rangers and Hurricanes are way ahead of the field.

The team currently in possession of the next spot, however, is the Philadelphia Flyers. With 69 points they are five points above fourth, but nine points behind second. They can essentially control their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs, but need to avoid falling apart near the end of the year. They’re clutching to the No. 8 seed at the moment.

The Washington Capitals are one of the teams that are right on their tail. With 63 points, the Capitals are a sneaky team to watch. A win in a game like this would inch them closer to the final spot. The Flyers and Capitals have faced off just once this season, with the Flyers taking the win 3-4 in a game that was decided by a shootout. This time around, though, the Capitals will be at home and will be looking for a much different result.

The line is currently in favor of Philadelphia. But barely. All in all, though, it’s fairly even and an interesting bet either way.

The Flyers are coming off a 6-2 victory against the Lightning on Tuesday and will be looking to build off of it and extend their lead over the other squads fighting for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Capitals are coming off of a brutal 8-3 loss in Detroit. They will be looking to bounce back at home where they are 15-9-5.

The Flyers have a similar road record of 16-9-5. Charlie Lindgren will be in goal for the Capitals. Lindgren is 12-9-5 with a goals-allowed-average of 2.85. In goal for the Flyers will be Samuel Ersson, who is 17-11-4 with a 2.55 GAA.

Pick: Washington ML (+125)

The Capitals are the underdog in this one, but things seem to be in their favor. The goalies and respective home and away records are incredibly similar, and the Capitals need this win in order to keep fighting for the playoffs. A plus number is good odds for a home team. Look for the Capitals to get the job done at home.

And Keep an Eye On…

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

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A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals sees the Nuggets travel to Tinsel Town to take on the Lakers. Denver is red-hot since the All-Star break, winning its last five games, including an impressive victory at Golden State last weekend. Los Angeles is playing well, too, having won three out of its last four, including an overtime win over the Wizards on Thursday night. The Nuggets are vying for the top seed in the West, however, while the Lakers are jostling for position in the play-in tournament. Look for Denver to beat the team they swept out of the playoffs a year ago.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

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Boston is the best team in the NBA, by quite a wide margin. The Celtics are staggering 8.0 games ahead of the nearest competitor in the East, while also sitting 4.5 games ahead of Minnesota for the No. 1 overall seed. Meanwhile, Golden State is sitting as the final play-in team in the West. It looks like a mismatch, but it’s not. The Warriors are starting to round into shape, having won eight of their last 10 games. They have a tall order in front of them, however, as the Celtics have won nine in a row and are 27-3 at home this season.

NCAAB: (5) Marquette at (12) Creighton (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET)

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Looking for a sneaky team to pick as a national title when the brackets come out in a couple of weeks? Either one of these schools would be a savvy choice. They’re both really, really good, able to beat anyone on any given night. The head-to-head matchup will be fun to watch, as both teams can fill it up. Creighton averages 80.9 points per game, while Marquette isn’t far behind at 79.5. Both teams have won four of their last five games, with Creighton’s upset win over UConn being the biggest highlight in that mix. They’ll be tough to beat at home.