Friday Fever

May 10, 2024

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves

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The defending champs are trailing by two games in a series for the first time since 2022. The Nuggets find themselves down 2-0 to the Timberwolves after losing both of their home games.

Minnesota has won six straight games to start the playoffs and don’t intend to slow down any time soon. They will now be at home, with a 2-0 lead and the Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, will be back after missing Game 2.

Minnesota is currently -600 to win the series. A win in Game 3 would essentially make it a guarantee.

In Game 2, virtually nothing went right for the Nuggets. They scored just 80 points, losing by a total of 26. They shot just 35 percent from the field, had 16 turnovers and got absolutely outworked on the defensive end to the point where star point guard Jamal Murray was throwing towels at officials.

It was a total disaster from the start. A Game 3 turnaround is a necessity if they want any sort of shot at winning this series and they certainly have the capability to do so.

Denver’s entire starting lineup remains the same after last year’s title run and they now have a three-time MVP on their team in Nikola Jokic. Whether the Nuggets win or lose will ultimately come down to if Murray and Jokic can get back to playing like they usually do in the playoffs. Murray is shooting just 37% from the field and 28% from three, while Jokic has averaged just 24.0 PPG in the series with Minnesota.

But no matter how good Murray and Jokic play, winning a game against the Timberwolves is no easy task. In their first-round series against the Suns, Minnesota cruised to a sweep. Other than Game 4, they won by double digits every time out.

Their culture is built around defense and it shows. Not only do they have the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, but they also have three guys who have the possibility of making the all-defensive team. They pride themselves with their play on the defensive end but also have tremendous talent on the offensive side.

Anthony Edwards is 22 years old, but he is rapidly becoming a superstar and has the potential to be the face of the league in years to come. He and the Timberwolves have made an impressive run thus far and look to continue it on Friday night.

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Denver ML (+150) 

This series just doesn’t feel like one that will be over after the first three games. The Denver Nuggets are still the Denver Nuggets. They are still a team nobody wants to face and have the constructs of a championship-caliber team. Losing twice at home to start a playoff series is less than ideal, but the Nuggets don’t seem dead just yet. A win in Game 3 makes this series very intriguing, but they will need Nikola Jokic in a big way in order to do that. Lucky for Denver, though, he may have the motivation to do it. Everyone is counting them out and he is being criticized for not being a “worthy” recipient of another MVP. Jokic and the Nuggets have the chance to do something truly special by coming back in this series and it starts Friday night.


NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks

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The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks produced one of the best games in the playoffs thus far. The Canucks came back from down 4-1 to win 5-4 in Game 1. It was a huge comeback win for the Canucks as they avoided being down 1-0 in the series at home.

Vancouver scored three goals in the third period to pull it off. They ended up out-shooting the Oilers as a whole 24-18.

The Canucks earned themselves the No. 2 seed in the West after a 50-23-9 record in the regular season in which they totaled 109 points. In their first-round series against the No. 7-seeded Nashville Predators, they won in six games, four of which were decided by just one goal.

Goalie Arturs Silovs has been good in clutch moments, but he struggled overall in Game 1 against Edmonton. Letting in four goals on just 18 shot attempts isn’t going to get it done most nights.

The Oilers are a very balanced team. They can play the slow-paced defensive game and win 1-0, or they can win 7-4, as they did in their first game of the playoffs this season against the L.A. Kings.

But they haven’t been able to find an answer for the Canucks this season. They got swept 4-0 in the regular season, getting outscored 21-7 in those games.

In the first period and the beginning of the second of the series opener, however, it seemed like they had finally gotten over the hump. But once again, the Canucks ended up on top. Despite their lack of success against Vancouver this season, the Oilers are favored heading into Game 2.

Why? The Oilers have five players that eclipsed the 60-point mark this season. One of whom is of course Connor McDavid, a three-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and now a six-time finalist for the award.

McDavid is consistently at the top of player rankings throughout the year and is undoubtedly one of the best players in the game today. He was third in points this season, trailing just Nathan Mackinnon and Nikita Kucherov, the other two finalists for the Hart.

Despite his successes, though, McDavid has never won a Stanley Cup. The 27-year-old superstar has played nine seasons and is already headed for the Hall of Fame. A championship would only solidify it.

On the other hand, the Canucks also have a very balanced team, with four players above 60 points. In Game 1 against the Oilers, five different players scored Vancouver’s goals and eight different players recorded assists. They know how to play well together and have had the Oilers number all year long.

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Edmonton ML (-120)

Streaks often come to an end in the playoffs. It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a row, let alone six times in a row. McDavid and the Oilers nearly got the win in

Game 1 and it took an unreal four unanswered goals Vancouver to claw back. Expect the Oilers to finally get it done in Game 2 and tie the series up 1-1 on Friday night.

And Keep An Eye On…

NBA: New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers (Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET)

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The Pacers weren’t happy with the whistles in the first two games of this series, to put it mildly. While they may have a point, as New York definitely got some home cooking at Madison Square Garden, Indiana needs to stop the bellyaching and get down to business. Trailing 0-2 in the series, Game 3 is pivotal. If they win on their homecourt, it’s still a series. If they lose, the Pacers will be packing for Cancun by the end of the weekend.


NHL: Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET)

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The Mavericks are sneaky good. They have two superstars, with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving falling into that category, which makes them a threat in any series. Dallas was able to upend the Clippers in the opening round, winning a pair of games in Los Angeles. Now, they find themselves in the driver’s seat against the Thunder after getting a road win in Game 2. Oklahoma City is good, but the top seed in the West might not be ready for the rigors of the playoffs just yet.


NBA: Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins (Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET)

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There hasn’t been a compelling game in this series. Yet. Boston wrestled home-ice advantage away from Florida from the jump, rolling to a 5-1 victory in Game 1. The Panthers responded, however, trouncing the Bruins by a 6-1 count in Game 2. That’s when things got interesting, as fisticuffs were the storyline late in the blowout. Will the bad blood carry over? Can Florida get home-ice back? It’ll be an interesting night at TD Garden.