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There’s only one hockey game tonight. However, I can’t gamble on just one playoff game, so I need to look at the NBA as well. The playoffs have been great in both sports so far. There have been great overtime games, series going deep, and very close games in the NHL. The NBA’s first round, of course, has had disappointing series and blowouts. The Jazz, Hawks, 76ers are all looking to end their series in five games. There have been great series with the Lakers and Suns, Clippers and Mavericks, and the Trailblazers and Nuggets. Let’s make the series more entertaining by throwing some money on some teams, checking in on what the public is doing, and deciding if we should fade or follow them.
Lightning (-108) vs. Hurricanes (-108) 7:40 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay is looking to go up 2-0 tonight. The Lightning won Game One 2-1 in a thriller that went down to the 3rd period. These are two great teams battling it out, and the public believes that the Lightning is the better team, as 55% of bets are on Tampa Bay.
Both Carolina and Tampa Bay won their first-round series in six games. Tampa Bay beat the Florida Panthers, and Carolina won against the Nashville Predators. The Hurricanes won all of their home games, and it looked like the series was going to go seven games since Carolina couldn’t win on the road. It took overtime in Game Six for them to finally win on the road. The Hurricanes have been great at home all season, going 23-9. It wasn’t only at home they were great, however. Carolina finished 1st in the Central with 80 points.
Tampa Bay is looking to extend their success after winning the Stanley Cup last year. They finished 3rd in the Central Division with 75 points, but that was without Kucherov. Kucherov returned at the beginning of the playoffs and has dominated. In seven playoff games, he has 12 points and is averaging 1.7 points per game. The Lightning is a different team with Kucherov playing.
For the regular season, the Lightning finished with a 0.53 SRS, 3.21 goals per game, allowed 2.59 goals a game, scored on 22.35% of their power plays, and was able to stop 84.15% of their power killing opportunities. On the other hand, Carolina finished with a 0.67 SRS, 3.13 goals per game, allowed 2.39 goals a game, converted on 25.61% of their power plays, and successfully stopped 85.23% of their power killing opportunities.
A huge reason the Lightning won Game One was because of their incredible goaltending. Vasilevskiy was between the pipes in Game One and allowed only one goal, stopped 38 shots, and had a .974 save percentage. The Lightning will need him to stand on his head again if they want to win back in Carolina. For Carolina, it wasn’t like they had bad goaltending. Nedeljkovic started and only allowed 2 goals, saved 28 shots, and had a .933 save percentage.
This is a series between two great teams, and I see this series going deep; and for that to happen, Carolina will need to win this game. Carolina has been one of the most dominant teams this season at home, and this is why I’m fading the public with my pick.
The pick: Hurricanes -108
Lakers (+5.5) vs. Suns (-5.5) 10:10 p.m. ET
This series has been one of the best first-round matchups. Regardless of how you feel about LeBron (I’m a LeBron hater), having him be the 7th seed and the underdog against a great young Suns team has been exciting. Chris Paul has helped turn this young Suns team into a contender. On Sunday, Phoenix was able to tie the series 2-2 with a 100-92 win, and they will look to take the lead tonight. The public believes that the Lakers will either win this game or keep it close, as 64% of picks are on the Lakers’ spread.
The Suns won Game One of this series 99-90, and it looked like the Lakers’ hopes of going back-to-back were over. Then LeBron and Anthony Davis reminded people of how great they are; they won Game Two 109-102 and Game Three 109-95.
The success of the Lakers largely depends on how great Anthony Davis plays. Davis might be considered a top 10 player, but he is extremely injury-prone. He is unlikely to play in Game Five because of a knee and groin injury. In the two games that the Lakers won, Davis scored 68 points, shot 18-37 from the field, and 30-35 from the free throw line. In the two times that Los Angeles lost, Davis scored only 19 points and shot just 7-25 from the field. Without him, it’ll be an uphill battle for the Lakers.
In Game One, Chris Paul got hurt by a freak accident, which isn’t new for Chris Paul in the playoffs. His entire playoff career, he has had to deal with injuries, and they may be the reason he has never made the Finals. In Game Two and Three, Chris Paul didn’t look like his All-Star self. He played only 23 minutes in Game Two, scored 6 points, 5 assists, and shot 2-5 from the field. He played only 27 minutes in Game Three, scored 7 points, 6 assists, and shot 3-8 from the field. In Game Four, he looked perfectly healthy and wasn’t dealing with any shoulder pain. He scored 18 points, 9 assists, shot 7-15 from the field and finished with a +9.
Paul wasn’t the only player to bounce back; Jae Crowder looked like a basketball player again. Crowder shot 2-20 from behind the arc; for the season, he averaged 38.93%, and in Game Four, he finished with 17 points and shot 3-8 from three.
With Anthony Davis more than likely out, Chris Paul healthy again, Crowder looking like he remembers how to shoot a basketball, and Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton playing out of their minds this playoff, I’m fading the public with my pick.
The pick: Suns -5.5