Friday Fever

April 26, 2024

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns

© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the regular season. They swept them, posting a 3-0 record, and won every game by an average of nearly 16 points.

But the playoffs have been a different story thus far. Minnesota has taken the first two games of the series. And it hasn’t been close either, as the T-Wolves have won by an average of 18.5 points.

Now, the series heads to Phoenix, where the Suns are hoping to gain some momentum with a couple of wins. The Suns are currently favored by 4.0 points and are -180 on the moneyline.

This series was hyped up from the very start as one of the best the NBA had to offer in the first round. For that to materialize, the Suns have to win Game 3.

The story of the series has been Anthony Edwards. In his fourth year in the league, Edwards is a two-time All-Star and is aiming to add a playoff series win to his already impressive resume.

Through two games, Edwards is averaging 24.0 points, to go along with 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists. He is aided by his big men underneath.

Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert are a dominant duo in the front court that are a matchup nightmare for just about any team they face. Gobert is averaging 16.0 points and 12.5 rebounds in the series, while KAT is putting up 15.5 and 7.5.

The Suns certainly have the pieces to put a streak of wins together, though. The trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal is enough to accumulate for 80+ points on any given night. They are star-studded throughout but just need to put it together on the defensive end.

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Phoenix ML (-215) 

As the series shifts to Phoenix’s home court, it should be easier for the Suns to start cooking and get back to their habit of beating the Timberwolves, just as they have done multiple times this season. Expect this series to get closer and for the Suns to take a close Game 3, igniting hopes of tying the series.


NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche

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The first game of this series between the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche was one of the wilder playoff games in recent history. Five goals were scored in the first period and the Jets ended up winning 7-6, a score that looks much more like a football game from the 1940s than hockey.

In the second game, the Avalanche once again scored a plethora of goals, putting five shots in net, four of which came in the second period. The Jets, however, did not have as great of a night, as they only put two on the board.

The seven-game series will now head to Coloadro, as the Avs will try to win both games at home and take a 3-1 lead over the Jets. The Avalanche are the league’s best home team, which doesn’t bode well for Winnipeg.

Colorado went 31-9-1 at Ball Arena this season, which made up for their only slightly above average road record. At altitude, it’s a tough place to play for any team and it gives Colorado a significant advantage.

Overall, it’s a tough draw for the Jets, who finished this year with 110 points, the fourth-most in the NHL. They face a Colorado team that is not the average No. 4 seed. The Avs took home the Stanley Cup just two seasons ago and the core of their team is very similar.

Nathan Mackinnon is arguably the best player in the league and may take home the Hart Memorial trophy after his 51-goal, 140-point season. Cale Makar is an All-World defenseman who currently has the second-best odds to win the Norris Trophy. Mikko Rantanen has another great season as Mackinnon’s right-hand man, scoring 42 goals and tacking on 62 assists. All in all, it’s a star-studded group that would be a tough draw for just about any team in today’s league.

But the Jets are here for a reason. A 110-point season doesn’t come from nothing. In order to achieve that, a team must be made up of great players on both ends of the ice. Winnipeg fits the bill.

Their roster is extremely balanced. Their highest goal-scorer is Kyle Connor, who netted 34 goals on the season, but they have four players who have scored 20 goals or more.

They also have four players with 60 points or more on the season, including Josh Morrissey, the Jets best defensemen. Morrissey only has 10 goals on the season, but his 59 assists make him a near 70-point defensemen.

In goal for the Jets will be Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck has a 92.1 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. He is the odds-on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goalie and has been a huge part of Winnipeg’s success this season.

On the other side, Alexander Georgiev will be in goal for the Avalanche. Georgiev has an 89.7 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA. But while Hellebuyck is by far the superior goalie, he hasn’t been good this series. He has allowed 10 goals in two games and that was at home. Now, he and the Jets will have to play two games on the road in Colorado, the toughest place to play in all of the NHL.

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Colorado ML (-165)

This series comes down to the goaltenders. Can Hellebuyck stand up against the high-powered Avalanche attack? Can Georgiev be competent enough to keep Colorado in it? Through two games, the answers have been mixed. Despite being the likely Vezina winner, Hellebuyck has been shaky, unable to withstand the Avs constant barrage. Meanwhile, Georgiev was terrible in Game 1, but really good in Game 2. Thus, go with Colorado to take a 2-1 series lead, as they have the better goaltender at the moment.

And Keep an Eye On…

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks (Friday, 8:00 p.m. ET)

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After getting blown out in Game 1, the Mavericks responded to get the split in Los Angeles. Now, Dallas returns to American Airlines Center with home-court advantage. Their key to maintaining it is going to be defense. In the opener, the Mavs had no answer for the Clippers, who scored at will and cruised to a 109-97 win. In Game 2, however, Dallas clamped down, winning 96-93. Can they keep James Harden, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in check? That’ll determine the series.


NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

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Well, that was fun while it lasted. The Pelicans almost pulled a major upset in Game 1, losing a 94-92 heartbreaker. But in the second game of the series, the Thunder showed why they’re the No. 1 seed in the West, rolling to a 124-92 win. As things head back to New Orleans, it’s only a matter of how long the series will last. If OKC wins Game 3, the sweep looks inevitable. If they can manage a victory, they might be able to stretch things out to a fifth game back in Oklahoma City.


NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

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After holding serve in Game 1, the Canucks let their guard down on Tuesday night. Now, they travel to Nashville locked in a 1-1 series, having to win at least one game at Bridgestone Arena in order to win this first-round matchup. And that won’t be easy. Yes, the Predators were a very pedestrian 23-16-2 at home this season, but the building comes alive during the playoffs. Broadway moves inside the arena, which will be rocking on Friday night.