Tuesday Teaser

May 7, 2024

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

You normally don’t see this kind of spread in an NBA playoff game when there are only eight teams left. But that’s what you get when the championship favorite Celtics (+115) are taking on the longest shot in the field Cavaliers (+8000).

Cleveland was terrible on the road in round one against Orlando, and the Magic are nowhere near on the same level as Boston. The Cavs went 0-3 away from home and lost by 38, 23 and seven points. That’s an average margin of 22.67 points per defeat. The 11.5-point line might actually be low in the grand scheme of things. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics dispatched of the Heat 4-1, but did have a bizarre slip up at home in Game 2. Still, if you throw that out, their victories came by 20, 20, 14 and 34 points. That’s good for an average margin of 22.0 points per win.

Boston appears to be a on a mission this year after shockingly losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and having another season with championship dreams come up short. They had three players in the average at least 20 points per game in the first round, as Jaylen Brown led the way with 22.8, Derrick White had 22.4 and Jayson Tatum chipped in 21.8.

That’s a remarkable trio. They should be able to cruise through this series even with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined with a calf injury for a few weeks. They’ll need the big man back at some point, but for now should be fine. 

The problem with the Cavaliers is they got a lot from Donovan Mitchell in round one (28.7 points per game), but after that not much. Jarrett Allen only played in four of the seven contests as he battled a rib injury; he missed a pivotal Game 7 against the Magic. Cleveland still won, but to avoid a sweep against the Celtics they’ll need Allen back out there. He’s probably their second-best player right now when healthy. The Cavs will also need to get more out of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Max Strus to have any shot of making this series competitive.

The Cleveland fans chanted “We Want Boston!” after taking out Orlando. We’ll see if they soon regret that. LeBron James isn’t walking through that door. 

Jason Schlefsky’s Pick: Boston -12.5 (-110) 

In the regular season, the Celtics went 2-1 against the Cavaliers, taking two home games by seven points and nine points back in December, then dropping a road contest by one point in March. You can go ahead and throw all those out the window. Not only did Boston run away with the East, but they finished a ridiculous 16 games better than Cleveland who earned the No. 4 seed. Second place was the Knicks, who were 14 games back of the Celtics. They’re simply the best team in their conference and frankly the top team in the NBA. A speed bump might come at some point, but it won’t be in this series. Boston keeps rolling with a statement 126-95 win and easily covers this double-digit number.


NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars

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So what’s more important in the NHL playoffs, momentum or rest? Game 1 of this series between Colorado and Dallas should give us a pretty good indication.

The Avalanche have been off for a week, after dispatching the Jets in five games in the first round and waiting for their next opponent. The Stars went seven games with Vegas, not closing them out until late Sunday night; they have to turn around and play 48 hours later against Colorado.

It’ll be fascinating to see if the freshness of the Avs makes a difference, or if the great comeback by the Stars can propel them. They were down 2-0 to the Golden Knights in that series, shockingly losing both on home ice to kick things off. But then they won four of the next five and find themselves back in the Western Conference semis for a fourth time in six years. 

The Avalanche were a machine against Winnipeg to start off a postseason run in which they’re looking for a second Stanley Cup in three years. They scored 28 goals in five games, befuddling Jets star goalie Connor Hellebuyck and sending the likely Vezina Trophy winner home way earlier than he would’ve liked.

Valeri Nichushkin found the back of the net seven times, including a hat-trick in Game 4. Artturi Lehkonen added five goals, and Colorado had six other players score at least twice.

That included stars Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, which is actually a good sign. Depth scoring (or the lack thereof) doomed the Avalanche in a shocking first-round exit to Seattle a year ago; that once again appears to be a strength for this team. The rest of the league better watch out. 

For Dallas, they won games with scores they’re comfortable playing, not wild hockey. Their four victories came by margins of 3-1, 4-2, 3-2 and 2-1. Even the losses weren’t bad, dropping by tallies of 4-3, 3-1 and 2-0.

Netminder Jake Oettinger was very solid, playing in all seven games and walking away with a .925 save percentage and giving up just 1.95 goals against average. And you better believe the Stars saw what the Jets did to Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev in Game 1, hanging seven goals on him.

Georgiev was much better the rest of the series, but still gave up 3.03 goals per game with a .900 save percentage. Dallas has the edge in net, there’s no question about it, they’ll just need to slow the Colorado high-flying offense down. That’s a task that’s much easier said than done. 

Norm LaChatlier’s Pick: Colorado ML (+110)

The Stars showed they can be vulnerable at home, losing the first two games against Vegas. Plus, it’s exhausting to play a grinder of a seven-game series and then turn around to do it again at a high level two days later. The Avalanche will be chomping at the bit to get back out there, and could steal one in Dallas before this series shifts back to Denver. Their likely best chance is in Game 1, catching the Stars off guard with fresher legs. This is a rematch of a series in the 2020 COVID bubble in which Dallas took it in seven games. Colorado will have revenge on its mind and get at least a small slice of it with a 5-3 victory to start this thing off on Tuesday night.

And Keep An Eye On…

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET)

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These are two teams playing extremely well. The top-seeded Thunder easily sent the Pelicans on vacation, sweeping New Orleans in the first round. Meanwhile, the Mavericks won four out of five games to get past the Clippers in six. Two of the league’s best scorers power these teams, with Luka Doncic averaging 33.9 points per game this season, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 30.1. There’s a reason they’re both MVP finalists. This should be a sneaky good series.


NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. ET)

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These two teams are very, very similar. During the season, New York averaged 3.39 goals per game, while Carolina put 3.38 in net each night. That leads to an even matchup, something that was on display in Game 1, when the Rangers won 4-3. In order to avoid an 0-2 hole in the series, the Hurricanes have to get off to a better start. They were down 3-1 at the end of the first period in the opener, a deficit from which they couldn’t recover.


NBA: Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET)

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A couple of questionable calls went New York’s way in the series opener, helping the Knicks to a 121-117 victory. Indiana came in as a big underdog, but didn’t seemed overwhelmed by the big stage. In a lot of ways, they were the better team in Game 1, only unraveling in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter, when two bad calls sent Jalen Brunson to the free-throw line. The guard iced the game, finishing with 43 points to continue his magic carpet ride through the postseason.