Tuesday Teaser

April 23, 2024

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota looked completely dominant in their Game 1 win over Phoenix, running the Suns out of the building. The Timberwolves won by a final score of 120-95, trailing the Suns by a point after the first quarter and then pulling away. Minnesota won the second quarter by 11 points, the third by 10 and the fourth by five.

Anthony Edwards was awesome in the win, putting up 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in 19 points, while Rudy Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker was awesome off the bench, drilling four three-pointers and totaling 18 points. He played 29 minutes, showing he’s going to be a big part of their postseason plan moving forward. Alexander-Walker was +28 during his time on the floor, proving he can help Minnesota dominate with him in the mix. 

Meanwhile, Phoenix has to get more out of Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, as they finished with just 18 and 16 points, respectively. Booker only made five of 16 shot attempts and Beal launched the basketball just 10 times.

The Suns assembled a “three-headed monster” during the offseason, only to watch it come up woefully short in Game 1. Veteran Kevin Durant did his part, pouring in 31 points on a 11-of-17 shooting.

Grayson Allen, who had a great regular season from three, added just four points. He sprained his ankle, but x-rays were negative and the Suns are definitely hoping he can go in Game 2.

They’ll also need more out of their bench, as Royce O’Neale scored 14, but no one else had more than two points. It’s too much pressure to put on the stars when the reserves aren’t delivering. 

But don’t forget that Phoenix swept Minnesota during the regular season, including winning twice down the stretch. The Suns beat the Wolves by 18 back in November, then by 10 in April and also 19 in the regular season finale. They know what it takes to beat these guys, so one hiccup shouldn’t be cause for alarm bells.

Minnesota is extremely talented, but Durant has championship experience and is the best player on the floor. Edwards is still really, really good, but Jusuf Nurkic was specifically brought in to contain big men like Towns and Gobert. Phoenix can easily hit the reset button after a poor Game 1 and send this thing back to the desert all tied up.

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Phoenix ML (+125) 

Going into this series, the Suns were favorites and for good reason. Minnesota is relatively new to playoff basketball, losing in five to the eventual-champion Nuggets last year in Round 1. They also blew a shot at the No. 1 seed in their Western Conference by losing two of their last three games to Denver and Phoenix, falling all the way to the No. 3 spot. Many expected the Suns to be in the play-in, but they crawled to No. 6 by going 6-2 overall over their last eight games. This is way too early for Durant, Booker and Beal to go away, and they’ll get this thing tied up with a 118-115 victory.


NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets

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Game 1 between Colorado and Winnipeg was crazy, as the two teams combined to put an absolutely insane 13 goals on the board. Ultimately, Winnipeg took it by a final score of 7-6, in one of the most fun playoff hockey games you will ever see.

The Avalanche outshot the Jets 46-23, but Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev was terrible. He gave up seven goals and made just 16 saves, something that could derail the Avs from winning their second Stanley Cup in three years.

Backup Justus Annunen was sick, so he didn’t even take the ice for pregame warmups. Head coach Jared Bednar has to be hoping he feels better soon, likely desperate to switch to him in Game 2.

Annunen was a respectable 8-4-1 in the regular season, giving up 2.25 goals per game and posting a .928 save percentage. Georgiev was much worse with an .895 save percentage and allowing 3.16 goals per game. The Avalanche have to make a goalie switch before this one, provided Annunen feels good enough to go. 

Meanwhile, Winnipeg got two goals each from Adam Lowry and Kyle Connor, proving they can win a high-scoring game even when Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t have his best night. The top goalie in the world gave up six goals, and the Jets still marched to a 1-0 series lead.

They were up 7-4 in the middle of the third period and held on for a 7-6 win as the Avalanche scored with 29 seconds left to make it interesting and never had another good chance. Stars Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Valeri Nichushkin all found the back of the net, and they have to skate off feeling frustrated.

Six goals should be enough to win a playoff game, so Colorado has to be wondering if they’ve blown another shot at a title by not having a competent netminder. MacKinnon, Makar and Mikko Rantanen aren’t getting any younger, and they’ve made it out of the second-round just once. That was the year they won it all in 2022.

Don’t forget, Winnipeg dominated this matchup in the regular season. Not only did they go 3-0-0 against the Avs, but they outscored them 17-4 in those three games. That included a 7-0 beatdown at Ball Arena just 10 days ago to essentially lock up home-ice advantage in the first round. They have Colorado’s number this year, improving to 4-0 with the Game 1 win.

Bednar was non-committal about his goalie situation moving forward, but the Jets will be licking their chops if they get another shot at Georgiev. It just feels like their year in this matchup, while the Avalanche desperately search for answers after the front office didn’t address the poor goaltending at the trade deadline.

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Winnipeg ML (+106)

The “white out” looked amazing on television on Sunday, as the city of Winnipeg had the whole crowd in matching t-shirts, desperate for their first hockey championship. The environment was electric, honoring a tradition that goes back nearly 40 years. No matter who plays goalie for Colorado, they’ll face an uphill battle. Even if it’s Annunen, he started the season as the team’s fourth-string goalie with their AHL affiliate. Home-ice is going to be huge in this series, something g the Jets took advantage of in Game 1. They’ll do it again to take a commanding lead and start sensing round two with a 5-4 victory.

And Keep an Eye On…

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m. ET)

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Many were looking forward to this first-round matchup, touting it as the best the NBA had to offer early in the playoffs. Game 1 didn’t live up to the hype, however, as the Clippers cruised to a 109-97 win that wasn’t as close as that score would indicate. Dallas got big contributions from their stars, as Luka Doncic scored 33 points and Kyrie Irving added 31, but they got little from anyone else. That’ll have to change if the Mavericks hope to avoid falling down 0-2 in the series.


NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. ET)

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This matchup between NBA upstarts was worth watching in Game 1. Oklahoma City held off New Orleans, winning 94-92 on their home court. But it wasn’t easy. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an MVP finalist this season and the Thunder star showed why, breaking a 90-90 tie with 32.1 seconds to go in the game with a three-point play. The win helped the No. 1 seed in the West avoid giving up home-court advantage in their first playoff game. Now, the Pelicans will try to steal Game 2 before heading back to the Big Easy.


NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

During the regular season, the big difference between these teams was on the defensive end of the ice. Florida gave up just 2.42 goals per game, while Tampa Bay surrendered 3.26. Not surprisingly, Game 1 ended with the Panthers getting a victory, skating off with a 3-2 win. Expect more of the same in this one; it might be even lower scoring. Remember, the first game featured an empty-netter with 2:05 to play and a meaningless goal with just 10 seconds left on the clock.