Friday Fever

May 3, 2024

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

When the 2024 NBA playoffs officially started on April 20, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic series was by far the one that people were talking about the least. That didn’t change much early in the postseason.

The first two games were won by Cleveland, each by more than 10 points. In Games 3 and 4, the Magic completely flipped the script, winning both of their home games by an average of nearly 31 points in each game.

But while the games were often blowouts, the series was still tied 2-2. It was interesting, at least on paper.

On Tuesday, the Cavs-Magic matchup finally began to feel like a true playoff series. The Cavaliers were desperately trying to hold home court in a pivotal Game 5.

Paolo Banchero was certainly making it tough on Cleveland. Orlando’s star player ended up scoring 39 points in the contest, but he was unable to come away with the victory.

A clutch Evan Mobley block helped the Cavs secure their third win of the series. Now, they have a chance to close the series out as they head to Orlando.

The line for this game is currently set at -4.0 in favor of the Magic. Their young squad will need to come away with a win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Orlando’s starters have an average age of just 23.8 years old. They are the youngest team in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the second-youngest team remaining, behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But thus far, their age hasn’t seemed to affect them all that much. Despite being down 3-2, the Magic have a point differential this season of +36.

Both teams have brought their best this series, with each team’s stars showing out. Banchero has been fantastic, averaging 24.8 PPG and being the leading scorer for the Magic four out of five times. Donovan Mitchell has averaged 22.4 PPG for Cleveland and his supporting cast of Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Darius Garland have been consistent contributors as well.

Allen did not play in game 5 due to a ribs injury and is officially questionable for Game 6. His status will be one to monitor as he plays a pivotal role on defense and as a dunker.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Orlando ML (-160) 

This series was never one to watch from the start. But now, it has the chance to go to seven games and be one of the most-exciting stories in basketball. Can the No. 1 overall pick from 2022 lead his team to a playoff series win just two years later? Or will the Cavaliers finally get it done and test their luck against Boston? That answer will be determined on Sunday during Game 7, because the Magic are winning this one. Take Orlando on the money line.


NHL: Dallas Stars at Vegas Golden Knights

The Dallas Stars finished atop the Central Division with a record of 52-21-9. They finished with the second-most points in the NHL with 113, largely due to their offense. They have six players that eclipsed the 60-point mark this season.

Yet, they find themselves on the verge of hosting a Game 7 in round one. And it’s not shocking.

The Vegas Golden Knights were last season’s Stanley Cup Champions. The Knights were part of an NHL expansion and became a team in 2016. After seven years, they got it done. They’re a very good hockey team.

This year, they once again find themselves in the playoffs, but in a much worse scenario. They are the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and drew one of the toughest teams in hockey in the first round. But they haven’t been a pushover.

Despite being on the road for both of the first 2 games, the Knights were able to come away with two early victories in the series and were well poised for an upset as they were to host the next two games in Las Vegas. However, the Stars returned the favor and won both of their road games to even the series 2-2.

Now, the Knights find themselves in a 3-2 hole as they will look to get their first home win of the playoffs. They’re season is on the line.

The goal differential of this series is shockingly close. The Stars have scored 14 times, while the Knights have scored 13. Every game this series has been decided by two goals or less, with three of them being decided by just one goal.

These two teams are extremely even. And the moneyline reflects that. Game 6 is essentially a pick ‘em. The line for both teams is currently set at -110.

The Stars plan to make it four wins in a row. Meanwhile, the Knights look to get their first win since Game 2 of this series.

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Dallas ML (-112)

The Dallas Stars opened this series with a poor start. But they are the No. 1 seed for a reason and have shown it in the last three games. They have tons of talent and have the ability to win close games. Their stellar defense keeps it close no matter what and in order to have any sort of chance against the Colorado Avalanche in round two, they will need all the rest they can get. Expect the Stars to come away with the win in Game 6, knock off the defending champs and advance.


And Keep An Eye On…

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks (Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET)

© Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

These teams have taken turns stealing home-court advantage in the series. The Mavericks won Game 2 in Los Angeles, but the Clippers got revenge with a Game 4 win in Dallas. At that point, it appeared as though some order had been restored. Nope. The Mavericks went on the road and won the always-pivotal Game 5 by 30 points. Luka Doncic poured in 35 points, while L.A.’s stars disappeared. Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook were a combined 8-of-36 from the field in the beatdown. They better show up in Game 6 or their season will be finished.


NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET)

© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Game 7. At the Garden. What could be better? Well, for Boston, it would to not be in this position. After getting bounced in the first round last year by Florida, the Bruins are on the brink of seeing their season end early once again. A week ago, they held a 3-1 lead and seemed to have total control of the series. But the Maple Leafs put together a pair of gutty 2-1 victories in both Games 5 and 6 to force the decider. All the pressure is on Boston, as they try to avoid another Game 7 collapse at home.


NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET)

© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

During their run to the NBA title last season, the Timberwolves were arguably the Nuggets toughest opponent. Yes, Denver won their opening-round series in five games, but three of their four wins were nail-biters in the fourth quarter. This time around, Minnesota is an even better team. Anthony Edwards is arguably the best player in the league. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns provide size. If anyone is going to knock off the Nuggets, the T-Wolves have the best chance. This series kicks off in Denver and should be a doozy.