Tuesday Teaser

April 16, 2024

NBA: (8) Los Angeles Lakers at (7) New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT)

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The NBA play-in tournament kicks off with an exciting matchup. It’s also a rematch from Sunday that swung the standings in a big way.

New Orleans needed to beat the Lakers at home to avoid this situation, but they couldn’t get it done. Instead of being the No. 6 seed and having a first-round date with the Timberwolves, they lost 124-108 and slipped behind Phoenix thanks to losing the tiebreaker.

It was a golden opportunity for the Pelicans, but they came up short. Now, they’ll have to beat L.A. to earn the No. 7 seed. The problem with that? The defending champion Nuggets await the winner of this game, not an ideal opponent to draw in round one.

Still, the loser of this game will be just one away from elimination, so there should be plenty of motivation on both sides.

On the other side of the coin, the Lakers were able to snag the No. 8 seed and avoid having to win two games to make the dance. One victory and they’ll get a rematch with Denver, something they desperately want after getting swept last year in the playoffs and during this regular season, as well.

On Sunday, the stars shined for Los Angeles. Anthony Davis had 30 points and 11 rebounds and despite an injury late, vowed to play on Tuesday. LeBron James notched a ridiculous triple-double, posting 28 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds. The King wanted to take care of business, and they did it in blowout fashion.

The Lakers finished the season series against the Pelicans with a 3-1 record, including wins by 41 points, 17 points and 18 points. They feel good about this matchup. 

For New Orleans, they have a bunch of very good players, but are perhaps still missing a true “star.” Zion Williamson paced them this year with 22.9 points per game, while Brandon Ingram averaged 20.8 points a night and C.J. McCollum chipped in exactly 20 a game.

The Pelicans are definitely building something that could be good in the future, but it’s hard to see them making much noise in the playoffs even if they win one of their next two games in the play-in tournament. They finished the year just 4-5 in their last nine games, including losing five in a row at home.

It actually doesn’t appear to be an advantage this game is in NOLA, as the Pelicans have struggled badly at the Smoothie King Center in the month of April. The crowd will be loud, but it’s up to the guys on the team to hold up their end of the bargain. 

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Los Angeles ML (EV) 

Look, the NBA loves a good story, and a Nuggets/Lakers rematch would be the highlight of the first round. James and Davis are way too competitive to “dodge” Denver in a postseason series, and they want to prove they can beat Nikola Jokic and company. Los Angeles finished the season 11-3 over its last final 14 games and is playing some of the best basketball of the season. They just won a huge game on Sunday and have the mindset they can absolutely do it again. In the playoffs, bet on the stars, and that’s what the Lakers have. They take this game and advance into the real dance by a final score of 126-115.


NBA: (10) Golden State Warriors at (9) Sacramento Kings (10 p.m. ET, TNT)

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Is this the last of the Warriors as we know them? They’ve been a dynasty over the last decade, but it feels like it might be the beginning of the end.

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green aren’t getting any younger. And being the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference wasn’t the expectation when the season began.

If they lose just one game to the Kings, they’ll be on a beach by the end of the week. There’s that much on the line for one of the greatest teams we’ve seen in NBA history. Yet, if they win this game and then the next one in the play-in tournament, who says they can’t beat the No. 1 seed Thunder in the first round?

Oklahoma City is very good, but they’re also very young. It’s not hard to envision Golden State pulling the “upset” in that series. There’s a lot on the line not only this season, but for the future, as well. The Warriors will be ready to go. 

Meanwhile, the Kings have been hit hard with injuries in what many thought could be the year they make a deep playoff run or go all the way to the NBA Finals. Malik Monk is still out, while Kevin Huerter is done for the year.

De’Aaron Fox (26.6 points per game) and Domantas Sabonis (19.4 points, 13.7 rebounds and 8.2 assists) are still excellent, but the dynamic duo really doesn’t have much help around them. They’ll have to be special to pull this win out, even though the game is in Sacramento.

They lost a Game 7 to the Warriors at the Golden 1 Center last season, and you better believe those memories are still fresh. This is yet another elimination game, one the team and their fans will be ready for. It might take all-world efforts from Fox and Sabonis, but they’re capable of pulling this one out if they both play out of their minds. 

In four matchups this year, the two teams were evenly matched. Golden State won the first two games early in the season, before Sacramento took the last two. Three of the four games were decided by a single point, which is a remarkable coincidence and shows just how evenly matched these two teams are.

Still, health could be a factor and there’s no doubt the Warriors are in better shape in that department entering the game. Curry did Curry things this season, averaging 26.4 points per game. Thompson chipped in 17.9 a night, while Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins also averaged in double figures.

There are enough scorers to go around that points shouldn’t be an issue. The problem is one bad shooting night could end a season. That’s a lot of pressure, but they tend to shine when the lights are the brightest. 

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Golden State ML (-135)

It’d be tempting to take Golden State -2.5, but considering these two teams play such close games, the moneyline is a safer play. One team is used to this kind of stage, while the other is beat up and not having the kind of season they expected. If the Warriors lose, this could truly be it, and Steve Kerr’s bunch isn’t ready for that to happen quite yet. Great dynasties don’t just die in the play-in tournament with everything on the line. The Warriors will shoot the ball well in an arena they won two playoff games last season and march on by a final score of 120-119.

And Keep an Eye On…

NBA: (8) Miami Heat at (7) Philadelphia 76ers (Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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This is familiar territory for one team, while an unexpected extra stop for the other. Miami was the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference last season, but wound up advancing all the way to the NBA Finals. So they’re not deterred by the road ahead. Meanwhile, Philadelphia was expecting to be competing for home-court advantage all season. An injury to Joel Embiid, who returned at the end of the season, derailed those plans, however. Now, the 76ers have a much tougher path to reaching the mountaintop.


NBA: (10) Atlanta Hawks at (9) Chicago Bulls (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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The Hawks are in the play-in game? What else is new? For the third-straight season, Atlanta will have to work their way into a seven-game, first-round matchup. The last two years, they were able to do it, but they were the No. 9 and No. 8 seeds, respectively. This time around, they’ll have to make it as a No. 10. That’s a much tougher path, with potentially two games on the road. They’ll start in Chicago, where the Bulls are looking to make just their second playoff appearance in eight years. Two sub-.500 teams in this one, with the winner drawing the Sixers-Heat loser.


NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets (Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET)

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There are three teams bunched together near the top of the Western Conference standings, all with more than 100 points on the season. Vancouver (107 points) sits atop the Pacific Division, boasting the second-best record in the West. They’ll host Winnipeg (106), the current No. 2 team in the Central. Meanwhile, Colorado (105) will be in Edmonton (104), trying to get a win, so they can root for a Jets loss and leapfrog them in the standings. It’s a big final regular-season night in the NHL.