Tuesday Teaser

April 30, 2024

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

New York did what it needed to do on Sunday, stealing a game in Philadelphia and taking a commanding 3-1 lead in this series. Jalen Brunson was ridiculous in the 97-92 victory, scoring 47 points on 18-of-34 shooting and having New York in a tizzy and on the verge of round two.

Sixers star Joel Embiid was not happy after the game, saying it was “disappointing” so many Knicks fans invaded the Philly crowd. Reporters on the ground said fans were competing for chants throughout the game, a shock considering Philadelphia is regarded as one of the best sports towns in America.

But New York supporters have been starved for good basketball for so long, it’s no wonder they made the two-hour trip down the road to cheer on their favorite team. The Knicks will face the winner of the Bucks and Pacers series, both teams with their flaws, so they’re thinking the Eastern Conference Finals at a minimum. 

For the 76ers in Game 4, the bench was a problem. They scored just six points and the four players that saw the floor went only 2-of-11 from the field. Cameron Payne had five points, Nicolas Batum had one and that was it. Six lousy points from guys who didn’t start the game.

Embiid was solid with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but he was an inefficient 7-of-19 from the floor. Tyrese Maxey added 23 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. chipped in 19, but the team scoring only 92 in today’s NBA generally isn’t going to get it done.

Head coach Nick Nurse has to be hoping he gets more from his second unit moving forward, but this Sixers team just looks overmatched in a year that was plagued by inconsistency and injuries. They might feel like the refs stole Game 2 from them in Madison Square Garden, but they’ll have to win there in Game 5 to keep the season alive. Embiid not being able to go deep into the postseason will become even more of a talking point if that doesn’t happen. 

On the Knicks side, the supporting cast around Brunson wasn’t anything special on Sunday, but it didn’t matter. The All-Star guard was that good. He added 10 assists to go along with his 47 points and four rebounds. He didn’t shoot it well from three (2-of-8), but Brunson was a respectable 9-of-11 from the free throw line.

OG Anunoby chipped in 16 points, but he was the only starter to get into double-digits along with Brunson. Miles McBride was nice off the bench, putting up 13, including making three three-pointers.

New York played a tight seven-man rotation, clearly intent on getting a big series lead and hopefully not going back to Philadelphia in this series. Don’t ignore Josh Hart hitting the glass hard with 17 rebounds, proving if he’s not scoring, he can do other things to help his team win. This looks like an unselfish bunch, a recipe that has worked in a league recently dominated by stars. 

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: New York ML (-170) 

This isn’t the value of taking the Knicks -4.0, but don’t mess around. Philly has too much pride, and you don’t want to be sweating a free-throw battle in the final moments to see whether or not New York covers. As mentioned, Game 2 really should have gone to the 76ers, as the NBA admitted they botched a couple of key calls in the final few seconds. Still, Philadelphia looks like a broken team, dreading another summer in which they came up woefully short. Brunson is one of the most underrated stars in the NBA, and even though he plays in New York, probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves. The Knicks head to the second round with a dramatic 103-101 win.


NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Winnipeg Jets

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Oh, how a series can change in just a week. That’s what makes the NHL playoffs so fun, and why we keep tuning in year after year.

After Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev got seven goals hung on in him in Game 1, Colorado fans were calling for a change. They had seen enough and wanted one of the team’s backups to man the net the rest of the way. Luckily, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar has a little more patience than the fan base and didn’t budge.

Georgiev has been great ever since, and the Avs offense has put up a ridiculous number of goals to take a chokehold on this series. Colorado is up 3-1 after a 5-1 win on Sunday afternoon, and they even got likely Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck benched in the process.

Sure, it might have only been for the final 20 minutes of Game 4, but the Avalanche are clearly in the goaltender’s head. He’s given up six goals, four goals, five goals and four goals in the four games in his time on the ice in this series. That’s a stunner. 

For the Avs, the production is coming from everyone. Depth plagued them in a shocking round-one exit a year ago, but it hasn’t been a problem in 2024 as they try to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

Valeri Nichushkin had his first career hat trick on Sunday, as he’s been a beast thus far. Nichushkin has six goals through four games, proving people should put him in the same conversations with Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar.

Artturi Lehkonen has four goals, and trade deadline acquisition Casey Mittelstadt has four assists. When Colorado won it all two summers ago, it wasn’t all on their stars. That’s how this team appears to be built, with Georgiev allowing just five goals over his last three games. His confidence has flipped in a heartbeat, and the return to form that saw him lead the NHL in regular season wins has to be encouraging for everyone in the Avalanche organization. 

The fact of the matter is the Jets can’t keep up with the fastest team in the NHL. They don’t have nearly the star power of the Avs, and they managed just three goals in their 120 minutes at Ball Arena. Mark Scheifele is a household name, leading the team in points in the series with five. Kyle Connor has four points, but no one else has more than three.

With Hellebuyck off his game, this isn’t how Winnipeg envisioned these contests playing out. They want to win by scores of 3-2 or 2-1, not get into shootouts with the most explosive team in the league. The crowd up North should be rocking, as the loyal fans wear their white t-shirts and hope a Game 6 can somehow be forced, but one team is full of studs and the other has just a bunch of guys. It could be time for golf on Wednesday for the Jets. 

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Colorado ML (-115)

Colorado doesn’t mess around when it has a chance to close a team out. They went 16-4 in the 2022 playoffs for a reason; the last time the state brought home the best trophy in sports. They didn’t lose on the road all the way until the Stanley Cup Final. Nichushkin missed the final five games in round one a season ago, and the Avalanche were stuck in the mud. Now, he appears to be healthy, both mentally and physically, and this team could go all the way again. The Jets will likely put Hellebuyck back out there, but his confidence has to be shaken. Look for the Colorado stars to show up, as MacKinnon, Rantanen and Makar help the Avs roll on to Round 2 with a 5-2 win.

And Keep an Eye On…

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

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This was billed as a great first-round matchup and it’s living up to the hype. The Mavericks stole home-court advantage by winning Game 2 in Los Angeles, but the Clippers swiped it back with a gutsy victory in Game 4. Now, L.A. will be home for the pivotal fifth game of the best-of-seven series, getting back reinforcements in the process. Kawhi Leonard is expected to be back in the lineup for the Clips, a much-needed boost of firepower and championship mettle.


NHL: Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m. ET)

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Can the Predators bounce back? That’s the question heading into Game 5, as Nashville has to be reeling after letting one slip away on Sunday. The Preds were just seconds away from tying the series at 2-2, but they allowed the game-tying goal with just eight seconds left in the third period. Then, they were bested by Elias Lindholm’s winner just 1:02 into overtime, sending a shell-shocked team out on the road to try and save their season. The Canucks can close things out on their home ice, as Rogers Arena will be rocking.


NBA: Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET)

It’s not hard to figure this one out. If the Bucks are going to have a chance to keep their season alive, they’re going to need their best players to return to the floor. Both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are game-time decisions, making Game 5 a bit of a crapshoot. If they’re back, Milwaukee can get back into this series, with two of the remaining three games at home. If not, it’ll be another disappointing early playoff exit for the Bucks.