Good afternoon everyone, it’s Chris Bengel back with you on this beautiful Tuesday. We’re officially in one of the best times of the year with the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing in addition to the Major League Baseball season chugging along.
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I found myself agonizing about the Philadelphia 76ers last night in their Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat. Joel Embiid was extremely missed and it furthered my belief that he should be crowned league MVP following the postseason. Despite still having talented players like James Harden, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey in the fold, the loss of Embiid completely caused the Sixers to look overmatched on the glass and stagnant on the offensive end at times. Spare me with your Nikola Jokic analytical arguments.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: The Bucks are 7-1 ATS in their last eight road games
- The Pick: Bucks +5 (-110)
Even without Khris Middleton, the Bucks still managed to easily hand the Celtics a 101-89 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. During the regular season, the two teams split the season series. However, the Bucks have proved to have the upper hand as of late with wins in the final two regular season meetings and Sunday’s contest.
As should come as no surprise, the Celtics simply had no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo — especially when defensive stopper Marcus Smart left the game due to a quad injury. Antetokounmpo dominated the Celtics to the tune of 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists and that’s something I expect to continue. In terms of post presence, Boston doesn’t have a ton to fluster Antetokounmpo in that department. After all, Al Horford isn’t quite the defender that he once was.
This is also a Bucks team that averaged 115.5 points-per-game during the regular season, which was good for third across the league. It also doesn’t hurt that the Bucks are 5-1 ATS over their last six road contests against a team with a home winning record. The Celtics could certainly do enough to win, but I’m expecting a close game. If you’re getting five points from the defending champions, that’s the side I’m taking all day long.
One more NBA pick
Warriors at Grizzlies, 9:30 p.m. | TV: TNT
The Pick: Jordan Poole Over 19.5 points (-105): — It’s been somewhat of a strange postseason for the Warriors. Throughout the team’s opening round series against the Nuggets, head coach Steve Kerr elected to bring All-Star guard Stephen Curry off the bench as he worked his way back to full strength from a foot injury. It certainly didn’t seem to bother Curry much because he was his usual lethal self throughout that series.
With Curry in a reserve role during the series, Jordan Poole was in the starting lineup, but that changed in Game 1 against the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semifinals. Poole came off the bench for the Warriors, but remained extremely efficient in a 117-116 victory. The former first round pick scored a team-high 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including drilling five of his 10 attempts from three. In addition, Poole has topped the 20-point mark in five of his last seven games, including three of the five contests during the Nuggets series.
Considering that we’re getting Poole’s points prop at -105 odds, this is definitely the play when it comes to this game. In what I expect to be a very close contest, Poole’s three-point shooting acumen could end up being the difference in the outcome.
Key Trend: Poole has scored at least 20 points in five of his last seven games
Penguins at Rangers, 7 p.m. | TV: ESPN
Latest Odds: New York Rangers -145
The Pick: Rangers (-135) — The Stanley Cup Playoffs got underway on Monday and the underdogs had their day. Both the Blues and Kings record Game 1 wins in their respective First Round series. Yet, I’m more than happy to ride with the favorite in this particular matchup.
First and foremost, the Penguins are going to be without top goaltender Tristan Jarry for at least Games 1 and 2 as he deals with a foot injury. In Jarry’s place, the Penguins turn to backup Casey DeSmith. Throughout the regular season, DeSmith registered a 11-6-5 record to go along with a 2.79 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage. DeSmith briefly faced the Rangers in a 5-1 loss to the Rangers back on March 25 and stopped all three shots that he faced in 4:19 of game action. Over DeSmith’s final two starts of the regular season, he surrendered seven total goals. I just don’t believe that DeSmith will be able to keep a Rangers’ dangerous offense at bay.
In addition, the Rangers have had the Penguins’ number all year. New York was victorious in three of the four regular season matchups and Vezina Trophy frontrunner Igor Shesterkin was nothing short of flawless in those games. He recorded a 1.01 goals-against-average against the Penguins and surrendered a grand total of three goals in those contests. Two of those starts resulted in shutouts for the Rangers netminder. With the Rangers having the better goalie in this series, I’m rolling with the favorite to open the series with a win.
Key Trend: The Rangers won three of the four matchups against the Penguins during the 2021-22 regular season