Monday, February 29, 2016

NBA Recap: Brooklyn Nets (95) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (105) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Brooklyn Nets (95) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (105) - Date: 2/29/2016 Jamal Crawford scored 26 points off the bench, Chris Paul had 23 points and 12 assists and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Brooklyn Nets 105-95 Monday night. J. J. Redick added 19 points for the Clippers, who have won consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 5-8 when they won three in a row on the road. Brook Lopez had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, which was going for its first three-game winning streak of the season. Instead, the Nets lost their fifth straight to the Clippers at Staples Center. Crawford carried the Clippers in the fourth, which began with them clinging to a two-point lead. He helped them open their first double-digit lead of the game on a jumper that made it 97-86. Sports Betting Handicapping. Twice in a row, Paul fed DeAndre Jordan, who converted alley-oops into monster jams. NBA Basketball Handicappers. They teamed up again for the same play on the Clippers' final basket. Jordan had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Free Sports Picks Daily. The Clippers' defense got stops, too, and the Nets twice turned the ball over on offensive fouls. Brooklyn outscored the Clippers 16-4, including seven by Bojan Bogdanovic, to lead by six late in the third. Los Angeles answered by scoring the final eight points to take an 81-79 lead into the fourth after Crawford's pull-up jumper beat the buzzer. Bogdanovic finished with 19 points. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Clippers trailed by eight to start the game and found themselves in a back-and-forth throughout the first half. Neither team led by more than eight, and there were 12 ties and nine lead cha nges. Led by seven points from Paul, the Clippers closed on a 15-6 run to lead 52-46 at the break. Number #1 Sports Handicapping Service. TIP-INSNets: They haven't won three straight road games since March 21-April 1, 2015. ... Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. They are 2-5 in leap day games. Clippers: They swept the season series for the first time since 2007-08. ... They are 22-7 without injured Blake Griffin. ... Reserve G Austin Rivers, out with a left hand fracture, will be re-evaluated Tuesday. He could possibly return the next day. ... Team owner Steve Ballmer introduced a new mascot at halftime named Chuck, a California condor with a pink head, a large blue nose and a gray body. Ballmer promised fans a pair of red Converse sneakers if he dunked, and using a trampoline, the owner successfully did using both hands. ... A fan hit a halfcourt shot in the fourth quarter to win a new Jeep. UP NEXTNets: Visit the Lakers on Tuesday night. The Nets lost the first meeting 104-98 on Nov. 6. Clippers: Host Thunder on Wednesday night. The Clippers lost by one point in the first meeting on Dec. 21.

NHL Recap: Montreal Canadiens (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (6) - 2/29/2016

NHL Recap: Montreal Canadiens (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (6) - Date: 2/29/2016 Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton each had three points to key a dominant performance from San Jose's top line, and the Sharks beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-2 on Monday night for their sixth victory in the past seven meetings between the teams. Pavelski had two goals and one assist, while Thornton scored one goal and assisted on two others to help the Sharks move within two points of second-place Anaheim and four points of leader Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. Brent Burns also had a goal and two assists, and Melker Karlsson and Nick Spaling added goals for San Jose. Martin Jones made 21 saves to earn wins on back-to-back nights for the first time since November. Brendan Gallagher and Torrey Mitchell scored for the Canadiens, who lost in regulation for the first time in five games. Montreal fell seven points behind Pittsburgh in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Mike Condon made 30 saves. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The Sharks' top line controlled the game from the start, generating the first three goals for the team. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The first came in the opening minutes when Pavelski adroitly deflected a shot-pass from Justin Braun right to Thornton at the side of the net. Free Sport Pick. Thornton tucked in the puck for his 15th goal to make it 1-0. After Gallagher tied the game when his bad-angle shot from the corner sneaked past Jones, San Jose's two Joes teamed up again. Free NHL Hockey Picks. This time Thornton fed Pavelski in the slot from the side boards and he beat Condon with a quick one-timer for his 28th goal of the s eason. Gambling Profit. The top line was at it again early in the second when Thornton made a nice entry and fed Burns for a wrister that beat Condon. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The 36-year-old Thornton leads the NHL with 44 points since Dec. 15 and has 60 overall. Pavelski, who added a goal late in the third, has 29 goals on the season and 61 points. San Jose's duo joined Dallas' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only teammates with at least 60 points this season. The Canadiens made a game of it midway through the second when Mitchell batted a puck out of the air past Jones to make it 3-2. Jones kept the score there with a strong pad save late in the second to rob Tomas Plekanec. The Sharks turned it into a laugher in the third when Karlsson batted in a perfect saucer pass from Chris Tierney, and Spaling knocked in a rebound o f Logan Couture's shot for his second goal in four games since joining San Jose. Spaling scored just once in 35 games with Toronto before being acquired last week. NOTES: The Canadiens claimed forward Mike Brown off waivers from the Sharks and immediately played him against his former team. He got a warm ovation after being shown on the video board during the first period. ... Burns got his 400th career point with an assist on Pavelski's first-period goal. ... Phillip Danault registered his first point with Montreal with his assist on Mitchell's goal.

NBA Recap: Oklahoma City Thunder (131) vs. Sacramento Kings (116) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Oklahoma City Thunder (131) vs. Sacramento Kings (116) - Date: 2/29/2016 Russell Westbrook had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 131-116 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night. Kevin Durant finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as Oklahoma City bounced back from a difficult stretch. Profitable Handicappers. The Thunder had dropped four of five, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Golden State on Saturday night. Oklahoma City shot 57 percent (47 for 82) from the field, including a 14-for-34 performance from 3-point range. Enes Kanter scored 23 points on 11-for-11 shooting. Sacramento has lost three in a row heading into a four-game road trip. DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and 12 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo finished with 11 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Rudy Gay, the Ki ngs' second-leading scorer, missed the game after he strained his right shoulder during Friday's loss to the Clippers. Gay and Rondo each had an MRI earlier in the day, and Rondo was listed as doubtful. But Rondo warmed up prior to the game and decided to play despite a sore right thumb that has been bothering him for around two weeks. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The game got physical early in the first quarter, with Cousins called for a backcourt foul after elbowing Steven Adams. A short time later, Sacramento's Quincy Acy was called for a technical foul, resulting in Cousins and Durant getting into a brief shoving match. Sports Handicapping Software. There was no suspense in Westbrook's ninth triple-double this season. It was completed by the midway point in the third quarter, running his total to 28 for his career. A head by seven points, the Thunder put away the win with 10 straight points for a 107-90 lead early in the fourth period. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Kings have dropped 10 of 14 since their season-high five-game win streak following a Jan. 23 victory over Indiana. Best Free Sports Picks. TIP-INSThunder: Westbrook had seven assists and six rebounds in the first quarter and nearly had a triple-double by halftime. ... Serge Ibaka had 12 points and seven rebounds. Kings: Rondo was reluctant to inbound the ball twice with less than a second to play in the first half, resulting in two bizarre delay of game technicals. Durant converted a free throw each time, giving the Thunder a 61-53 lead at the break. ... Cousins was called for his 14th technical of the season late in the third quarter. ... Omri Casspi scored 16 points and Darren Collison had 12. UP NEXTTh under: Road game Wednesday against Clippers. Kings: Visit Memphis on Wednesday.

NBA Recap: Memphis Grizzlies (103) vs. Denver Nuggets (96) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Memphis Grizzlies (103) vs. Denver Nuggets (96) - Date: 2/29/2016 Zach Randolph scored 22 points, including successive baskets during a key fourth quarter sequence, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Denver Nuggets 103-96 on Monday night. Matt Barnes added 16 points and Mario Chalmers 15 for the Grizzlies, and Memphis won its fifth in a row against the Nuggets, including three meetings this season. Kenneth Faried had 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Nuggets, who have lost five of their last six. Gary Harris added 15 points. Newly signed JaKarr Sampson started in place of injured forward Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets' leading scorer who is sidelined indefinitely after severely spraining his right ankle Friday at Dallas. Sampson finished with seven points. Sports Betting Profit. Trailing by one at the half, the Nuggets took a 71-all tie into the fourth quarter when Will Barton connected on a running hook shot in the final seconds of the third. Both teams kept trading baskets through most of the fourth. No more than three points separated the teams until Randolph made consecutive layups to put Memphis up 94-89 with 4:01 remaining. Mike Conley offset a layup by Faried with one of his own and Randolph swished a hook shot following a Denver turnover to stretch Memphis' lead to seven points with 44 seconds remaining. Chris Andersen and Chalmers each converted a pair of free throws in the final moments to help fend off the Nuggets. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Grizzlies took a 48-47 halftime lead on Lance Stephenson's driving layup with 1 second left in the second quarter. Denver kept it close despite committing 11 first-half turnovers leading to 15 Memphis points. Handicappers Watchdog< /a>. The Nuggets finished with 20 turnovers leading to 30 Grizzlies points. NBA Basketball Handicappers. TIP-INSGrizzlies: Both Andersen and JaMychal Green are getting time at center in place of injured Marc Gasol, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken right foot. ... Randolph needs 44 points to supplant Tiny Archibald (16,481 points) for 94th on the NBA's career scoring list. Nuggets: Gallinari was averaging 34.7 minutes and a career-high 19.5 points per game when he suffered the ankle injury Friday at Dallas. ... Faried has had double-doubles in three straight games and 16 on the season. UP NEXTGrizzlies: Host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night. Nuggets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.

NHL Recap: Detroit Red Wings (3) vs. Dallas Stars (2) - 2/29/2016

NHL Recap: Detroit Red Wings (3) vs. Dallas Stars (2) - Date: 2/29/2016 Pavel Datsyuk scored a power-play goal in overtime and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Monday night for their third straight victory. Datsyuk put a rebound past goalie Antti Niemi at 2:33 of overtime while Mattias Janmark was off for hooking. Detroit moved into third place in the Atlantic Division, one point ahead of Boston. Rookie center Andreas Athanasiou scored Detroit's first two goals, and goalie Jimmy Howard won for the first time since Dec. 3. Dallas' Vernon Fiddler put in his own rebound to tie the score with 1:31 to play in the third period. Sports Handicapping Services. The Stars had an extra skater on after pulling Niemi. Fiddler also assisted on Colton Sceviour's second-period goal. Howard made 39 saves, and Niemi had 30.

NHL Recap: Calgary Flames (3) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5) - 2/29/2016

NHL Recap: Calgary Flames (3) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5) - Date: 2/29/2016 Brayden Schenn had his first career hat trick, scoring all three goals in the first two periods and leading the Philadelphia Flyers past the Calgary Flames 5-3 Monday night. Claude Giroux had four assists and Wayne Simmonds scored twice for the Flyers. Sports Illustrated Picks. The Flyers have won three straight and four of five as they remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Flyers held on after nearly wasting a 4-1 lead and remained three points behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot in the East. Sean Monahan, Micheal Ferland and Michael Frolik scored for Calgary. Michael Neuvirth stopped 26 shots and won his 16th game of the season.'' We've got a steep hill for us to climb in order to push back into the playoffs,'' Flyers rookie coach Dave Hakstol said. At least they're not rolling backward. Schenn keyed the latest win with a career game. He had his apparent first goal ruled no good on video review, then beat Jonas Hiller glove side just minutes later in the first to make it 1-all.'' I thought it was in. It sure looked like it went in,'' Schenn said. ''It's one of those tough ones where there was no white ice under the puck. It was hard to tell. Sports Monitor. The puck was kind of caught in his jersey or glove, but it's nice to get rewarded on the same shift with a goal.'' Schenn added two more in the second, his career-high 21st goal enough to make it 4-1 and let fans hurl hats toward the ice in celebration. Not all the cheers inside the Wells Fargo Center were for the Flyers. Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau heard his share when his name was announced for the assist on Monahan's goal. Gaudreau, out of nearby Carneys Point, New Jersey, grew up a huge Flyers fan and even played in the youth hockey games at the arena staged during Flyers intermission - when he wasn't rooting on the orange-and-black from the stands.'' First time I saw him, he was bringing people out of their seats at 15, 16,'' Hakstol said. ''Here he is a few years later, continuing to do it at the NHL level.'' The Flames made the playoffs last season for the first time in six years, losing to Anaheim in the second round. But Calgary is well out of contention this season, even with Gaudreau among the league leaders in points. So the Flames made a pair of deals before the deadline, sending defenseman Kris Russell to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, forward prospect Brett Pollock and a conditional 2016 second-round pick. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Flames also acquired goalie Niklas Backstrom and a sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft in exchange for forward David Jones.'' Nobody laid it on the line as much as Kris Russell did for us,'' Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. Sports Handicapper Scams. The Flyers decided to stand pat, even with forward Jake Voracek sidelined two more weeks with a lower-body injury. While the Flyers did not reveal the nature of the injury, Voracek has a walking boot on his left foot. He will not need surgery. Under Hakstol, the rebuilding Flyers have remained in the hunt for a playoff spot. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Flyers did not make a deadline deal for the first time since 2010.'' We're looking if we can make ourselves better today and not hurt our future, we' ;re all for it. Nothing came today that made sense,'' general manager Ron Hextall said. ''If we wanted to start unloading picks and prospects today, we could have done that and become a better team. Were we going to start letting bodies fly out? No.'' NOTES: The Flyers inducted five-time All-Star defenseman Jim Watson into their Hall of Fame. Watson joined his brother, Joe, inducted in 1996, in the Hall. Watson said he had an emotional phone call with Flyers founder and chairman Ed Snider, who has been battling health issues. ''I know you're a fighter, Eddie. You're going to get there,'' Watson told the crowd. Watson exchanged his blazer for the traditional orange Hall of Fame jacket, and his name was printed on a banner that was raised to the rafters. The Flyers wore No. 20 patches. He became the 25th member of the team's Hall of Fame.

NCAAB Recap: Kansas (86) vs. Texas (56) - 2/29/2016

NCAAB Recap: Kansas (86) vs. Texas (56) - Date: 2/29/2016 Perry Ellis scored 20 points and top-ranked Kansas rolled over No. 23 Texas 86-56 on Monday night, an emphatic exclamation point that clinched the outright Big 12 championship for the Jayhawks. Kansas had already earned at least a share of a 12th straight crown and settled the question of whether they would get to claim it as their own in the opening minutes with a barrage of 3-pointers, a steady diet of points from Ellis and defense that gave Texas nothing easy. MLB Handicappers. The Jayhawks (26-4, 14-3) made 11 3-pointers, led by 24 points by halftime and sent Texas' sellout home crowd headed to the exits early. Ellis finished 9 of 11 from the field. Frank Mason III added 14 points for Kansas. Javan Felix scored 13 points for Texas (19-11, 10-7), which has never beaten a No. 1-ranked oppon ent in nine tries. Kansas, which spent two weeks at No. 1 in early January, looked every bit the part this time. And in a season the Big 12 finally seemed like it could crown a new champion, the Jayhawks stormed through the second half of the league schedule with a nine-game winning streak to take it again. Kansas has won nine of its last 10 against Texas, but came into this one expecting a much tougher fight than the Longhorns put up. With four wins already this season over Top 10 opponents, Texas looked like a team ready to grab another. NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. The Longhorns came in brimming with confidence as the league upstart under first-year coach Shaka Smart. And after its impressive win two days earlier over Oklahoma, Texas turned out its biggest - and rowdiest - crowd of the season. Picks and Parlays. The Jayhawks greeted it with lit tle more than a shrug and a scoring burst at the start that overwhelmed the Longhorns from the opening tip. Devonte' Graham and Mason made three 3-pointers in a 15-0 run as Texas missed its first 14 shots. And Ellis had hardly even gotten started. Free NCAAB College Basketball Picks. The senior forward dominated Texas' front line for 15 points in the first half. His 3-pointer put the Jayhawks up by 21 points with 4 minutes left. Even when Texas started matching shots, that's all the Longhorns could do. Best Sports Handicapping Services. The Jayhawks shot 66 percent in the first half and consecutive 3-pointers by Wayne Selden Jr., and Brannen Greene in the final minutes sent Kansas into halftime with a 47-23 lead. Profitable NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers.&nb sp;The Kansas swagger seemed to get bigger with every basket. Ellis weaved his way to another easy layup, Graham swished two more 3-pointers and two thunderous dunks by Jamari Traylor pushed the Jayhawks' lead to 67-36 with just under 13 minutes to play. TIP-INS:Kansas: The Jayhawks rank fourth nationally in 3-point percentage and have made 10 or more 3-pointers 11 times this season. Texas: The Longhorns' offense stalled mostly because Isaiah Taylor never got started. The point guard has been the catalyst for Texas all season - he's their leading scorer - but started 0-for-8 shooting and missed several open looks. Taylor didn't score until making a steal and a layup with 1:26 left in the first half. WHAT'S NEXTKansas hosts No. 21 Iowa State on SaturdayTexas plays at Oklahoma State on Friday

NBA Recap: Utah Jazz (95) vs. Boston Celtics (100) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Utah Jazz (95) vs. Boston Celtics (100) - Date: 2/29/2016 Jae Crowder had 22 points, and the Boston Celtics extended their home win streak to 11 with a 100-95 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night. Isaiah Thomas added 18 points and nine assists. Avery Bradley also finished with 18 points. Boston trailed for most of the game, but found its footing in the opening minutes of the fourth and used a 9-3 run to take its first lead of the second half. Free Picks for Today. The fourth quarter featured eight more lead changes, but the Celtics went in front for good on a 3-pointer by Crowder with less than a minute to play. Free NBA Basketball Picks. Trey Lyles had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz, who have dropped three in a row. Shelvin Mack added 18 points. Gordon Hayward finished with 1 6. Lyles, a rookie first-round pick, scored a total of 16 points in his previous seven games. But he continually found gaps in the middle of the Celtics' defense. Boston won despite being outrebounded 52-47 for the game. Following Crowder's 3, Hayward missed a 19-footer on the Jazz's next possession, forcing them to foul. Bradley then made a free throw and missed the second, but the Celtics were able to corral the rebound. Bradley was fouled again and made both of his foul shots this time around for a four-point cushion with 12.8 left. Sports Handicapper Leaderboard. The Jazz led by three at halftime, despite shooting just 38 percent (21 for 55) from the field. Boston trailed by 13 before using an 11-0 run to get back in it. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. TIP-INSJazz: F Trevor Booker left the team so he could atten d his grandmother's funeral in South Carolina. He will rejoin the Jazz on Wednesday. Celtics: G/F James Young was inactive with a calf strain. He was recalled Monday after a one-game stint in the NBA Development League with the Maine Red Claws. UP NEXTJazz: Visit Toronto on Wednesday. Celtics: Host Portland on Wednesday.

NBA Recap: Houston Rockets (121) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (128) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Houston Rockets (121) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (128) - Date: 2/29/2016 Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his second career triple-double with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Houston Rockets for a 128-121 win on Monday night. Jabari Parker scored a career-high 36 points for Milwaukee, and Khris Middleton had 30 points. Professional Sports Handicappers. The Bucks led 125-112 with 2:29 to go, but the Rockets responded with a 9-0 run. After forcing a turnover, Houston's Trevor Ariza was whistled for a 5-second violation on inbounds pass with 20 seconds remaining. It was a wild ending to a run and gun-style game that otherwise featured alley-oop dunks, deep 3s and little defense. Dwight Howard had 30 points and 13 rebounds for Houston, while Ariza had 20 points and 11 assists.

NBA Recap: Philadelphia 76ers (108) vs. Washington Wizards (116) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Philadelphia 76ers (108) vs. Washington Wizards (116) - Date: 2/29/2016 John Wall scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, Marcin Gortat added 18 points and a career-high 20 rebounds, and the Washington Wizards rallied for a 116-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. Wall and Gortat combined for 14 points during a 16-0 fourth-quarter run in Washington's sixth victory in eight games since the All-Star break. Markieff Morris had 16 points and 13 rebounds in his first double-double with Washington. It was his first start since joining the Wizards at the trade deadline. Philadelphia played without rookie center Jahlil Okafor, who was sidelined by a right shin bruise. But the 76ers had six players score in double figures, led by Ish Smith's 25 points. Carl Landry added 15 points for the 76ers, who were outrebounded 53-32 in their ninth straight loss. Philadelphia hasn't won on the road since Jan. 20. After leading by 12 points at halftime, the Wizards trailed by seven before making their run midway through the fourth. Wall gave the Wizards the lead when he drove the lane, hit a layup while absorbing Robert Covington's foul, and finished the three-point play to make it 95-93. Wall added a steal and a layup, Gortat converted a three-point play off a driving layup, and Morris hit a pair of free throws to make it 102-93 with 5:43 left. Philadelphia hung around, with Smith's 3-pointer cutting it to 110-107 with 1:09 remaining. But Morris hit a jumper and Wall followed with a fadeaway.3 AND EASYPhiladelphia's Nerlens Noel made his first career 3-pointer in the third quarter on his first career try from beyond the arc. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Todays Free Sports Picks. TECH SUPPORTMorris also received his first technical foul since joining Washington. He was whistled for six with Phoenix before the trade. Free NBA Basketball Picks. TIP-INS76ers: Coach Brett Brown suggested Philadelphia could be looking to acquire a guard to fill the remaining spot on its roster. ''That seems to see the most likely place you should go or would go, and it's hard to argue that,'' Brown said. ... Okafor got hurt during his 26-point performance in Sunday's loss at Orlando. Brown said he thought the 20-year-old rookie would only miss one game. ... Hollis Thompson (upper respiratory infection) also sat out. Wizards: C Nene (body soreness) and G/F Alan Anderson (left ankle) sat out after playing Sunday. ... Gortat and Morris each had 10 rebounds by halftime. UP NEXT76ers: Hosts Charlotte on Wednesday. Wizards: At Minnesota on Wednesday.

NBA Recap: Indiana Pacers (96) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (100) - 2/29/2016

NBA Recap: Indiana Pacers (96) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (100) - Date: 2/29/2016 LeBron James scored 33 points after sitting out a game and Tristan Thompson made two huge plays in the final minute, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 100-96 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night. James was rested on Sunday by coach Tyronn Lue and the Cavs were lethargic in a 113-99 loss at Washington. But with James back on the floor, Cleveland played with much more energy and again looked like a team with NBA championship aspirations. Matthew Dellavedova hit a tying 3-pointer for the Cavs with 1:13 left before Thompson made it 96-94 with a layup. Sports Tipsters. Thompson then blocked a shot by Indiana's George Hill with 18 seconds left.

NHL Recap: Columbus Blue Jackets (1) vs. New York Rangers (2) - 2/29/2016

NHL Recap: Columbus Blue Jackets (1) vs. New York Rangers (2) - Date: 2/29/2016 Derek Stepan's short-handed goal snapped a tie with 2:48 to play and the New York Rangers beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Monday night in Eric Staal's much-anticipated debut. Mats Zuccarello also scored and Antti Raanta made 26 saves in giving the Rangers their 13th win in 18 games (13-4-1). Henrik Lundqvist's backup denied Cam Atkinson on the doorstep with less than a second remaining to preserve the victory. Atkinson scored his 20th goal of the season and Joonas Korpisalo had 22 saves for Columbus, which finished 7-3-3 in February. Stepan gave the Rangers the lead on a partial breakaway while Eric's brother, Marc Staal, was in the penalty box. Raanta made it stand up with a pad save on Atkinson just before the final horn. Columbus put in the rebound but it came after time ran out. Eric Staal was the initial focus of th is game, one day after the Rangers acquired him from Carolina for prospect Aleksi Saarela and two second-round draft picks. Leading Handicappers. The 31-year-old Staal, who the Rangers hope will provide scoring for another Stanley Cup run, was cheered almost every time he touched the puck in the early going. He started out centering the third line and played left wing on the first line in the third period. He had one outstanding scoring chance, a second-period shot from the left circle that Korpisalo hugged to his chest. While Eric Staal had the attention of the Madison Square Garden crowd, the game turned out to be a tight-checking affair in which the goalies were the best players, although Stepan and Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh made the biggest play in the game. After the Rangers totally shut down a Blue Jackets power play, McDonagh chopped the puck out of his zone and Stepan collected it at the Columbus blue l ine. He skated in on Korpisalo, gave him a pump-fake with his leg and then cut across the crease to put the puck in an open net. Raanta nursed a 1-0 lead into the third period until Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi made a horrible cross-ice pass at the point that Atkinson intercepted, giving him a clear run at the net. Raanta stopped the initial shot but Atkinson slammed home the rebound to tie it. Minutes later, Korpisalo denied Kevin Hayes on a breakaway. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Blue Jackets outshot the Rangers 13-8 in the first period and had the better of play, but they trailed 1-0 thanks to Zuccarello. Playing what seemed to be consecutive shifts, he took a pass from Dan Boyle, circled the net and banked in a shot off the skate of Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout for his 21st goal of the season. NOTES: This was the first time the Rangers had brothers in the lineup since Chris and Pe ter Ferraro on March 7, 1997, at Anaheim. ... Columbus captain Nick Foligno played in his 600th NHL game. ... Rangers forward Jesper Fast was out with the flu, so defenseman Dylan McIlrath skated on the fourth line as a right wing. He also got into a second-period fight with Jared Boll. ... Sports Handicapping Service Leads. This was the Blue Jackets' fifth game in eight days. ... Boyle picked up his 599th career point on Zuccarello's goal.

NHL Recap: Arizona Coyotes (0) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (6) - 2/29/2016

NHL Recap: Arizona Coyotes (0) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (6) - Date: 2/29/2016 Patric Hornqvist had his first career hat trick, beating goalie Louis Domingue three times as the Pittsburgh Penguins made quick work of the sinking Arizona Coyotes 6-0 on Monday night. Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang both had a goal and an assist. Matt Cullen scored his ninth of the season and Sidney Crosby added three assists as Pittsburgh began a busy week by sending the Coyotes to their sixth straight loss. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots for his fifth shutout of the season and the 43rd of his career. Domingue made 27 saves but Arizona was never in it while going winless on a five-game road trip. Free MMA Picks. The Coyotes have dropped eight consecutive games away from home and haven't won on opposing ice since Jan. 25. Pittsburgh has won three of four. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The victory provided a giddy end to a relatively quiet day. Pittsburgh's only significant move before the 3 p.m. trade deadline consisted of sending Russian rookie forward Sergei Plotnikov to the Coyotes in the morning, ending the 25-year-old's forgettable tenure with the Penguins. Following a slow start he asked the team in December if he could return to the KHL in Russia. Best Sports Picks Today. The Penguins declined, citing a roster freeze, and the request did not sit well with new coach Mike Sullivan, who made the power forward a healthy scratch for his final 20 games with Pittsburgh. It made for an interesting day for Plotnikov, who made his way to the visitors' locker room after the deal went through Monday morning and suited up for the Coyotes a few hours later. He skated on the fourth line and finished with one shot on goal in 12:10 of ice time while also picking up a minor penalty for tripping former teammate Ian Cole. Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford cited earlier deals that brought in defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Carl Hagelin as one of the main reasons Pittsburgh decided against getting too aggressive at the deadline. He believes his team is significantly better than it was in mid-December when it was languishing in the bottom third of the East. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Penguins certainly played like it against the listless Coyotes, producing a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening minutes. Hornqvist cashed in 5:42 into the game by poking in his own rebound past a sprawled Domingue. Arizona's best chance to make things competitive ended when the Coyotes couldn't convert during a 5-on-3 power play in the middle of the first and Hornqvist doubled Pittsburgh's lead late in the period, deflecting a little flip from Kunitz that knuckled past Domingue's glove. Kunitz made it 3-0 just before the midway point, redirecting Letang's shot from the point. Hornqvist completed his hat trick with a power-play goal 11:06 into the second that forced a brief delay when hundreds of Penguins sock monkeys - part of a promotion - rained onto the Consol Energy Center ice to celebrate the first hat trick on a Leap Day in team history. NOTES: The Penguins travel to Eastern Conference-leading Washington on Tuesday night, a makeup game after their scheduled Jan. 24 meeting was postponed following a major snowstorm. ... Pittsburgh scratched goalie Jeff Zatkoff and made rookie Matt Murray the primary backup. Basketball Handicappers. The team will carry three goalies for the foreseeable future. ... Penguins D Justin Schultz, picked up in a trade with Edmonton last weekend, is expected to join Pittsburgh in the middle of the week. ... Pittsburgh and Arizona made a minor deal later in the day, with the Penguins sending prospect Matia Marcantuoni to the Coyotes for forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Dan O'Donoghue and defenseman James Melindy. ... NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Coyotes scratched defensemen Nicklas Grossmann and Jarred Tinordi along with forward Alex Tanguay. ... Phoenix returns home to host Anaheim on Thursday.

NCAAB Recap: Syracuse (70) vs. North Carolina (75) - 2/29/2016

NCAAB Recap: Syracuse (70) vs. North Carolina (75) - Date: 2/29/2016 Brice Johnson had 14 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 8 North Carolina beat Syracuse 75-70 on Monday night in its home finale. Joel Berry II added 13 points and two key late free throws for the Tar Heels (24-6, 13-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led by as many as 13 points after halftime but had plenty of trouble putting the game away against Syracuse's zone. UNC led by just a point near the 2-minute mark, but Isaiah Hicks and Johnson came up with big baskets to help the Tar Heels stay in control. Berry's two free throws with 6.6 seconds left made it a two-possession game, helping UNC hang on to first place in the ACC. Michael Gbinije scored 17 points to lead the Orange (19-11, 9-8), who shot 41 percent and made 5 of 20 3-point tries. Basketball Handicappers. The Tar Heels were coming off a weekend loss at Virginia as part of a 4-4 stretch against a backloaded February schedule. But they still entered the week tied with No. 7 Miami atop the league, and can claim at least a share of the regular-season crown and the No. 1 seed in next week's ACC Tournament by beating rival Duke on Saturday. NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. The Tar Heels didn't attack the Orange's zone with the same efficiency as in a January road win, shooting 41 percent while firing 25 shots from behind the arc despite being one of the ACC's worst in 3-point shooting percentage. But Johnson came up with several big plays during a critical sequence that saw the Orange get within three points with 7 minutes left, then helped the Tar Heels turn away one more burst from Syracuse that set up a suddenly tense finish. Gbinije hit a huge 3 to close the gap to 69-68 with 2:23 left, but he missed a drive in the final seconds with Syracuse down three to set up Berry's late free throws in what amounted to the Orange's last gasp.---TIP-INSSyracuse: Cooney finished with 14 points. ... Gbinije had seven assists and seven turnovers. ... Syracuse finished with 15 turnovers that UNC converted into 14 points. ... Syracuse made 19 of 23 free throws. UNC: Kennedy Meeks had 10 points including some big second-half baskets when Johnson and Hicks got in foul trouble. ... Marcus Paige finished with eight assists. ... UNC had a 40-34 rebounding advantage, including 19-12 on the offensive glass. UP NEXTSyracuse closes the regular season at Florida State on Saturday. UNC travels to No. 17 Duke in Saturday's regular-season finale.---Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP's college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

NCAAB Recap: Oklahoma State (50) vs. Iowa State (58) - 2/29/2016

NCAAB Recap: Oklahoma State (50) vs. Iowa State (58) - Date: 2/29/2016 Abdel Nader scored 19 points, Georges Niang added 17 with 10 rebounds and No. 21 Iowa State held off Oklahoma State 58-50 on Monday night in Niang's final home game. Jameel McKay had six points with 10 rebounds for the Cyclones (21-9, 10-7 Big 12), who clinched their fifth consecutive winning season in conference play. Iowa State broke open a tight game with an 11-0 run to start the second half. Football Predictions. The Cowboys made it interesting late, closing within 53-47, but ultimately fell to the Cyclones for the seventh straight time. Free NCAAB College Basketball Picks. Tavarius Shine, Jeff Newberry and Joe Burton all scored nine points for Oklahoma State (12-18, 3-14), which has lost f ive straight. Hot Sports Handicappers. The Cowboys were 4 of 27 from 3-point range. Iowa State also honored seniors McKay and Nader, both in their second season at Iowa State, before tip-off. But Monday night was all about Niang. Niang moved into the starting lineup as a freshman and later became a crucial part of Iowa State's first Sweet Sixteen team in 14 years. Last season Niang earned first-team All-Big 12 honors, and this year he became one of just nine players with 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 400 assists in the past two decades. Niang's talents and his colorful personality - perhaps best exemplified when he blew a kiss at rival Iowa fans last season - made him one the most beloved players Iowa State has ever had. Profitable NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. The Cyclones struggled at the outset, but Niang and Nader kept th em it in by scoring their first 18 points. Niang opened the second half with a basket, an alley-oop pass to McKay and a layup to help put Iowa State ahead 38-25. Nader then threw down a one-handed dunk over Mitchell Solomon that sent Solomon sprawling to the court. Nader followed with a corner 3 that made it 49-32. Nader's block with just over 3 minutes left forced a much-needed shot clock violation, and Monte Morris made it 58-48 on a layup with 32 seconds to go. Sports Handicapping Services. TIP-INSIowa State: The Cyclones had six straight losing seasons in the Big 12 before turning their program around. ... Morris failed to score or have an assist in the opening half. Oklahoma State: Anthony Allen stuffed Deonte Burton at the basket on a dunk try midway through the first half. ... NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. The Cowboys forgot to go after th e ball when Niang shot the front end of a 1-and-1 a few minutes later, and Niang recovered his miss for a wide-open dunk. UP NEXTOklahoma State hosts No. 23 Texas on Saturday. Iowa State plays at No. 1 Kansas on Saturday.---Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LukeMeredithAP

NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings - 2/29/2016 - 10:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Sacramento Kings - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Sleep Train Arena   Despite allowing 121 points and a record-tying 3-point performance in a home loss, the Oklahoma City Thunder were pleased with their most recent defensive effort. Winning Sports Handicappers. That's something the Sacramento Kings rarely feel. Facing that porous Kings defense along with the possible absence of Rajon Rondo leaves the Thunder a prime opportunity to regroup from a deflating defeat as they kick off a four-game road trip Monday night. Oklahoma City (41-18) was in position to hand Golden State its sixth loss of the season Saturday, holding an 11-point lead with less than five minutes remaining. Instead, the Warriors came back to force overtime, and Stephen Curry hit the last of his record-tying 12 3-pointers from 32 feet with 0.6 seconds left to hand the Thunder a crushing 121-118 loss." Moral victories are for young teams," Kevin Durant told the team's official website after fouling out with 37 points. "We'll get better from it and worry about the next game." Durant did say his team's defense was "better" after limiting the league's highest-scoring team - Golden State averages 115.4 points - to 103 in regulation.'' I thought all of the guys really played their hearts out and did a lot of good things,'' coach Billy Donovan said. ''It's disappointing to come up short like that, but I think there is a lot we can take from it in terms of what we can do and what we are capable of doing defensively with a tremendous amount of energy and focus." The Thunder finished with a 62-32 rebounding advantage. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. They've lost four of five while giving up more than 100 points in each game, but they did hold the Warriors besides Curry to 2 of 16 from 3-point range." If we can giv e that defensive effort every night that would be really great for our team," said Russell Westbrook, who had 26 points and 13 assists but shot 10 for 29. George Karl rarely gets a good defensive effort from his Kings (24-33), who give up a league-worst 109.2 points per game. Soccer Tipsters. They've yielded more than 100 in 14 straight while allowing an average of 115.6. Westbrook could have a particularly easy time if Rondo doesn't play after missing Friday's 117-110 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with right thumb tendinitis. Without Rondo, who has made two All-NBA Defensive first teams, the Kings let an ailing Chris Paul score a season-high 40 points and hand out 13 assists." I think we got frustrated," Karl said. "I think Rondo gives us some leadership, some maturity out there, so when the game gets going the wrong way that we feel maybe more confident to get a stop and /or a better shot." X-rays were negative on Rondo, who is day to day but has been bothered by the thumb for a few weeks. When these teams last met Jan. 5, Durant was out with a sprained toe and Westbrook tried to take more of the scoring load, but Rondo helped hold him to 6 of 23 from the field as Sacramento won 116-104 in Oklahoma City. Westbrook had 15 assists but Rondo had 19, and DeMarcus Cousins grabbed 19 rebounds to go with his 33 points. It was just the Kings' third victory in the past 23 meetings. Cousins came up one assist shy of his fifth career triple-double Friday with 26 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot 7 for 20. Sacramento is 2-12 when he's below 40 percent from the field. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Thunder's road trip continues Wednesday against the Clippers and with a rematch the following night against the Warriors.

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NHL Preview: Arizona Coyotes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - 2/29/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NHL Preview: Arizona Coyotes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Consol Energy Center   Evgeni Malkin is back in the fold as the Pittsburgh Penguins try to fend off other Eastern Conference wild-card contenders and move into one of the Metropolitan Division's automatic postseason spots. Winning Sports Handicappers. The Arizona Coyotes have their own playoff hopes, but they're not doing themselves any favors during their worst stretch of the season. Pittsburgh looks to sweep its brief homestand by sending the fading Coyotes to a sixth straight defeat Monday night. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Penguins (31-21-8) went a respectable 5-4-1 while Malkin sat out with an upper-body injury and have a three-point edge with a game in hand on Philadelphia for the East's last playoff spot. Sports Handicapper Leads. They also have a shot to catch t he third-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan, especially considering their 9-2-3 record in the last 14 games Malkin has played after Saturday's 4-1 win over Winnipeg in his return.'' He's obviously one of the best players in the league, so he's going to open up a lot of room,'' said Carl Hagelin, who scored twice. ''When he's on his game, the other team has to pay so much attention to him.'' Malkin still ranks among the league leaders with 23 power-play points and is hoping to help the Penguins snap their funk with the man advantage. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They've failed on all 17 power-play chances over their last nine games and went 1 for 24 with Malkin out. Pittsburgh missed on their only chance Saturday, but coach Mike Sullivan was impressed with how Malkin looked following his layoff even though he didn't have a point. Sullivan kept Malkin out of practice Sunday so he could rest before the end of the two-game homestand.'' (Malkin) I thought was really strong,'' Sullivan said. ''I think his conditioning will only get better as he gets his timing back and gets back into game mode.'' Center Nick Bonino also returned after missing the previous 17 for the Penguins, who lost the first meeting with Arizona 2-1 on Oct. 10. Free Boxing Picks. The Coyotes (27-29-6), though, have dropped eight points back of Colorado for the West's last playoff spot while losing five straight in regulation. Free NHL Hockey Picks. They're finishing a five-game road trip with this contest after not scoring more than two goals in any of the previous four. Brad Richardson and Oliver-Ekman-Larsson scored in Saturday's 4-2 loss to Philadelphia, during which it allowed three goals in the first period." We put a lot of good work into this game and we played in the offensive zone a ton," coach Dave Tippett said. "... We can't get many breaks right now and we can't capitalize on our chances." Games are close and you're not as good a team when you have to chase the game." The Coyotes claimed forward Jiri Sekac off waivers from Chicago on Saturday as they try to boost their offense and make one final push for the playoffs. He could make his debut in this contest for Arizona, which has gone 1 for 17 on the power play during its skid." Instead of finding ways to win hockey games we're finding ways to lose right now," Ekman-Larsson said. "We just have to keep working hard. We need to find points right now??? It's frustrating for sure... We have been trying a lot but it's not enough. We have to find ways to win hockey games." Rookie Louis Domingue has made 10 straight starts in net but has a 3.61 goals-against average during the losing streak. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 2.12 GAA in nine career starts against the Coyotes, though it's unclear if he'll get the nod with Pittsburgh playing the following night at NHL-leading Washington.

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NBA Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks - 2/29/2016 - 8:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Milwaukee Bucks - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center   Dwight Howard made clear his intentions to opt out of the final year of current contract in order to cash in during free agency this offseason when salaries are expected to rise at a record pace. Free Sports Picks Twitter. That's reportedly part of the reason he hasn't been wearing a Milwaukee Bucks uniform since the trade deadline passed. Instead, Howard will try to help the visiting Houston Rockets get back to .500 by beating the Bucks for the sixth straight time Monday night. Reports surfaced that Milwaukee (24-35) and Houston (29-30) agreed to the parameters of a trade that would've sent Howard to the Bucks for a package that centered around Greg Monroe, but the deal was contingent upon Howard opting in for the final year of his contract. As expected, Howard refused and intends to hit the open market. Free NBA B asketball Picks. The Bucks wanted to guarantee another season with Howard rather than parting with quality players and draft picks for a rental who might not be enough to help them reach the playoffs. Howard has a double-double in six of his last seven, but the Rockets have gone 2-5 in that stretch after falling 104-94 to San Antonio on Saturday. Howard finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds while James Harden had 27 for Houston, which fell behind 26-11 after one quarter and trailed by 31 in the second half. Profitable Handicappers. The Rockets haven't led after the first quarter in any of their last nine. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. They've lost eight of their last 12 and sit in the Western Conference's final playoff spot, but they insist they're not the "broken" team interim coach J. B Bickerstaf f referred to prior to All-Star weekend." We've just got to go out there and play better from the beginning," Howard said. "There's no books we can read or messages anyone can give us. It's about what we've got to do as a team." I don't think the score of (Saturday's) game showed the positive atmosphere we've had around here since the All-Star break." Howard sat out with a left ankle sprain as Harden scored 30 points in a 102-98 win over the Bucks on Jan. 22 for Houston's fifth straight victory in the series. Harden is averaging 32.3 points while shooting 62.8 percent from the field and hitting 12 of 19 from 3-point range over the last three matchups. Milwaukee has dropped back-to-back games after winning four of its previous five and began a five-game homestand with Saturday's 102-91 loss to Detroit. It sits 6 1/2 games behind the Pistons, Chicago and Charlotte for the East's final playoff spot with three other teams ahead of it." The last two games you can see the other teams are playing for something and the energy level is a lot different," coach Jason Kidd said. Khris Middleton finished with 26 points and has had at least 20 in five of his last seven. Monroe finished with only 10, though, and has scored below his season average of 16.5 four times over the last seven since Kidd moved him to the bench. Michael Carter-Williams finished with eight points and seven of Milwaukee's 21 turnovers. Las Vegas Handicappers. The Bucks rank near the bottom of the league with an average of 15.5 per game." (Turnovers have) been a problem for us all year," said Middleton, who along with Monroe scored 21 points in the first meeting with Houston. "We just have to correct it and slow it down." The Bucks will be without recent addition Steve Novak for the rest of the season after he sp rained his MCL against Detroit. It's unclear if Clint Capela will be available for Houston. He's missed the last two with a sprained right foot.

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NHL Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. San Jose Sharks - 2/29/2016 - 10:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. San Jose Sharks - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: SAP Center at San Jose   The last time the Montreal Canadiens faced the San Jose Sharks, they were hoping a recent slide was just a hiccup in their promising start to the season. Good Sports Handicappers. This time, they are hopeful a desperate run might save it. While the visiting Canadiens are holding onto their postseason hopes by a thread in the Eastern Conference, the Sharks look to lengthen the rope between them and the rest of the bubble teams in the West by continuing their defensive dominance in this series on Monday night. After a 19-4-3 start to the season, Montreal (30-27-5) has drifted to 13th place in the East and trails eighth-place Pittsburgh by five points. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Canadiens have only held onto their slim playoff hopes thanks to three victories on a four-game point streak. Free Sports Picks Twitter. Their last streak of at least that length ended on the first day of December and was followed by regulation losses in 10 of 11 games, the fifth defeat coming on Dec. 15 against San Jose (33-22-6). While opening the Canadiens' season-high six-game skid, the Sharks' 3-1 win in Montreal also extended a strong defensive streak in this series. San Jose has surrendered only three goals in the last five games as part of a 5-1 record against the Canadiens since December 2011. Martin Jones made 26 saves in the latest win, and he had 23 while helping the Sharks snap a two-game skid with Sunday's 4-1 victory at Vancouver. It took San Jose more than 44 minutes to wake up offensively, but Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun each scored in the third period to help the Sharks move 12 points ahead of the Canucks for the Pacific Division's third guaranteed playoff spot.'' We knew the importance of the ga me and I thought we were OK for the most part,'' said Jones, who became the fifth goalie in Sharks history with 30 wins in a season. ''We just didn't have a lot of jump and we kind of gave away a lot of pucks when we had full control, but in the third, we really stepped it up.'' Jones has a .934 save percentage over his last nine starts. Goaltending has been a topic of discussion over the weekend for the Sharks as they acquired James Reimer from Toronto on Saturday in exchange for struggling backup Alex Stalock. It is still unclear when Reimer will join the team, so Jones could make his ninth straight start on Monday or it could go to Aaron Dell, who was called up from the AHL to fill the void until Reimer is ready. Jones' two career starts against the Canadiens prior to this season while with Los Angeles were polar opposites. One of his 12 career shutouts came from a 6-0 win in Montreal on Dec. 10, 2013, but he allowed six goals in a 6-2 loss there on Dec. 12, 2014. While San Jose strengthens its grip on a playoff spot, Montreal hasn't quite let go yet. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Canadiens snapped a five-game road losing streak with Wednesday's 4-3 victory at league-leading Washington and followed with Saturday's 4-1 home win over Toronto. Max Pacioretty scored twice in the third period against the Maple Leafs, while Mike Condon made 31 saves.'' We've always had hope in this room,'' Pacioretty said. ''I won't look at the standings. I'm taking things one day at a time, one game at a time, and hoping for good results.''

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NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers - 2/29/2016 - 10:30 PM EST

NBA Preview: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: STAPLES Center   Coach Doc Rivers thinks Chris Paul needs to assert himself more often. Top Rated Sports Services. The All-Star point guard may have to against the up-tempo Brooklyn Nets. Paul looks to build on his best scoring performance of the season Monday night when the Los Angeles Clippers look to continue their home success against the Nets. Paul, fourth in the league with 9.5 assists per game, is averaging 19.8 points but has taken on a bigger load lately with Blake Griffin still sidelined. Paul has averaged 26.7 points and 11.3 assists over the last six games." I always think he should be more aggressive every night," Rivers said. Paul certainly was Friday, scoring 40 points with 13 assists in a 117-107 win at Sacramento. Despite an injured forearm, sore left calf and bruised left thigh, Paul attempted 20 field goals and 10 free throws in the same game for the first time this season." Just play. Just pl ay. Once they throw up the ball, everything else is out the window," said Paul, who hit 13 of 20 from the floor and made all 10 of his foul shots. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Clippers (38-20), who have alternated wins and losses in their last six games, have won 10 of the past 11 home matchups with the Nets. Paul had 15 points and 14 assists in a 105-100 win at Brooklyn (17-42) on Dec. 12, but he may need to do more scoring with the Nets playing at a quicker pace under interim coach Tony Brown. Free Sport Pick. The new scheme has Brooklyn averaging 104.9 points over its last nine games - nearly eight above its season average - while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 44.3 from 3-point range. It has the Nets in position for a three-game winning streak for the first time this season after forcing 21 turnovers and making 12 steals in each of the last two games, including a 98-96 win at Utah on Saturday." The pace that we want to play with - we're doing it," guard Donald Sloan said. "The looks we want to get - we're getting those. All in all, each game we're getting more fluidity with what we're trying to play." Thaddeus Young is finding a comfort level, sinking 18 of 27 from the floor while totaling 39 points over the last two games. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The forward had a team-high 18 points against Los Angeles in December. Gambling Profit. The Clippers might have Austin Rivers back after missing nine games with a broken left hand." I've been shooting for the past week, been doing a lot of shooting, a ton of therapy every day, hours of therapy every day," Rivers told the team's official website. "It f eels strong. I'm a quick healer. I'm very fortunate." My shot feels great. I feel like I have good wind, but I just want to get back with the team. I'm ready to get back." The guard is averaging a career-high 8.1 points.

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NBA Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets - 2/29/2016 - 9:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 09:00 P.M. EST Venue: Pepsi Center   The Memphis Grizzlies have a winning record since Marc Gasol's season-ending injury, taking advantage of matchups against lowly teams. Money Cappers. They couldn't beat one such opponent in their latest game, however. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. They'll seek to bounce back Monday night by extending their recent mastery over the short-handed Denver Nuggets, who are now missing their leading scorer. Memphis (34-24) is 4-2 since losing Gasol to a broken right foot, earning all of those wins against teams that are well out of the playoff picture. Sports Touts. The Grizzlies opened a three-game trip by completing a home-and-home sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday but fell 111-106 to Phoenix the next night. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Suns had lost 13 straight, tying their longest single-season skid in franchise history." It is frustrating knowing that we felt like we were rolling (coming into the game)," point guard Mike Conley said. "We still feel like we are rolling right now and playing good basketball. For us to come out and not play our best, I think our focus level wasn't where it need to be." The Grizzlies have proved sharp enough to win four straight over the Nuggets (23-36), including two this season. Gasol, though, was the star in the latest matchup, a 102-101 victory in Denver on Jan. 21. He scored 27 and delivered the go-ahead, three-point play with 12.2 seconds to go. Conley chipped in 20 points in Memphis' second victory in the past three visits to the Mile High City. Free Winning Sports Picks. The Grizzlies won four times in their first 35 games there. In the finale of their trip, they will face a Nuggets team that might not have Danilo Gallinari for three to four weeks. He hurt his right ankle in the third quarter of Friday's 122-116 overtime loss in Dallas. Gallinari is averaging a career-high 19.5 points and is among the league leaders with 8.2 free-throw attempts per game while connecting at 86.8 percent from the line. He missed the final six games in December because of a sprained left ankle, and the Nuggets were 1-5 in his absence." He's going to be out for a while," coach Michael Malone said. "He knew that right after (the defeat). He compared it to his sprain earlier in the year ... and he says it's worse." I feel bad for him. He was having a career year. Obviously, it's tough when you lose a player like Gallo because we're so young." The Nuggets have dropped four of five even with Gallinari on the floor and blew a 23-point lead in the se cond quarter Friday while failing to build on Wednesday's 87-81 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers." It was very disappointing," Malone said. "Obviously, we had a chance to get another quality win, and I feel we let it slip away." Kenneth Faried will try to step up in Gallinari's absence with a third consecutive high-scoring performance. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The forward, averaging 12.5 points, has a combined 41 on 18-of-27 shooting in the past two contests. Faried, who also grabbed 12 rebounds against the Mavericks, had 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 12 boards in last month's home loss to Memphis. Conley is averaging 20.0 points on 50.5 percent shooting in his last seven games, 5.5 more than in his first 45 this season.

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NCAAB Preview: Kansas vs. Texas - 2/29/2016 - 9:00 PM EST

NCAAB Preview: Kansas vs. Texas - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 09:00 P.M. EST   After extending its spectacular run of Big 12 titles, Kansas can now turn its focus to wrapping up an outright crown for the eighth time in the last dozen years. Winning Sports Handicappers. The second-ranked Jayhawks just need to avoid becoming the next upset victim on No. 25 Texas' home floor Monday night. Kansas (25-4, 13-3) clinched at least a share of its 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship with a 67-58 win over Texas Tech on Saturday and is now one shy of matching UCLA's record from 1967-79." Sometimes winning is a relief and losing is the end of the Earth," coach Bill Self said. "This feels better than a relief. I'm really proud of our kids. NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. They've really tried hard and they've given us what they've got." The Jayhawks need only to beat t he Longhorns (19-10, 10-6) or No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday to keep this season's title to themselves. Free Sports Picks. The first game in that closing set has them visiting a team that knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma 76-63 on Saturday." It is big for us, but we feel like we are a good team and we are capable of games like this every time we step out on the floor. We are excited, but it is a quick turnaround (before the Kansas game)," Longhorns senior guard Javan Felix said. Free NCAAB College Basketball Picks. The matchup with the Jayhawks will mark the fourth straight home game against a Top 25 opponent for Texas, which went 2-1 in its previous three. Profitable Handicappers. The Longhorns beat then-No. 10 West Virginia 85-78 on Feb. 16 and is 4-1 at h ome against ranked teams this season, including a victory over then-No. 3 North Carolina on Dec. 12. Profitable NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. They can become the first team since Kansas in its 2008 NCAA championship run to knock off a pair of top-three opponents in back-to-back games. The Jayhawks beat No. 1 North Carolina in the national semifinals and second-ranked Memphis in the title game. Texas, though, has just one win in its last 10 games against Kansas, and the Jayhawks have been ranked no lower than 14th in those matchups. The Longhorns lost 76-67 in their Jan. 23 meeting. Kansas has won its past two road matchups with Top 25 opponents - including a 76-72 win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma on Feb. 13 - after dropping its first two this season. Texas leading scorer Isaiah Taylor (15.5 ppg) has tallied 23 points in each of the past two visits from Kansas with his team splitting those games. The junior guard has a combined 37 in his past two games and led the way with 18 in the upset of the Sooners despite missing 10 of 15 shots. Jayhawks leading scorer Perry Ellis (16.1) contributed eight points on 4-of-13 shooting Saturday, his first single-digit performance since Nov. 25. Svi Mykhailiuk had a team-best 17 off the bench, one shy of tying his career best. Ellis had 26 points against Texas last month, one shy of matching a season high, and has a combined 54 in his last two games against the Longhorns. Wayne Selden Jr. scored 19 in the latest matchup but has totaled nine points on 4-of-15 shooting in his past two games.

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NHL Preview: Detroit Red Wings vs. Dallas Stars - 2/29/2016 - 8:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Detroit Red Wings vs. Dallas Stars - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 08:30 P.M. EST Venue: American Airlines Center   A veteran forward's late goal in one of the league's showcase games kept the Detroit Red Wings' much-needed point streak going. Gambling Profit. They'll try to extend it Monday night by continuing their dominance of the slumping Stars in Dallas. Brad Richards tallied the tiebreaking score with one minute left in Saturday's Stadium Series matchup against Colorado at Coors Field, his fifth outdoor game. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Red Wings (31-20-11) scored four times in the final period in the 5-3 win and earned a least one point for a fourth consecutive time. Sports Handicapping Software. They've won the past two contests and have used those four points to maintain a slim advantage on one of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spots. Detroit is seeking a 25th consecutive postseason berth." Finding a way to get the two points was huge," coach Jeff Blashill said. "Will it be a big moment? It will if we build off of it and have a great outing in Dallas and continue to move forward. I think as a team we did some good things and have to continue to do so to get better." The Red Wings will next seek a seventh consecutive win in Dallas and might be catching the Stars (38-19-6) at an advantageous time. Dallas is 1-4-1 in its last six and has dropped three straight on its own ice, its only home losing streak this season. It seemed the Stars might get at least one point Saturday against the visiting New York Rangers when Valeri Nichushkin scored with 4:01 remaining, but they gave up the tiebreaking goal with 2:53 left in a 3-2 defeat. NHL Hockey Handicappers. That result included some controversy as Dallas had a potenti al goal waved off midway through the third period, and officials couldn't determine if the puck crossed the line on video review. Todays Free Sports Picks. The Stars could take some solace from a much improved defensive effort in front of their fans. Free NHL Hockey Picks. They allowed 13 goals in their previous two home games, but goaltender Kari Lehtonen still expressed his frustration." I think it was a step forward, but the result was the same. Not too happy about that," he told the team's official website. At the other end of the ice, Dallas is averaging 2.1 goals in its last 10 home games, a far cry from its 3.8 per contest in its 16-4-0 start there. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have accounted for 13 of those 21 goals. The Red Wings have given up seven goals during their point streak after allowing 15 in thei r previous three games. They've yielded six goals in their past three road contests but had lost six straight until Saturday. Detroit's six-game road win streak against Dallas is its longest active one versus any opponent as is the Stars' home skid against the Red Wings. Dallas topped Detroit 4-1 on Nov. 8, ending a three-game losing streak in the series. Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, an owner of five consecutive multipoint performances against Dallas, missed that game because he was recovering from ankle surgery. He has four goals and nine assists during that run, including two goals and two assists in a 7-6 overtime win in Dallas last February.

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NBA Preview: Utah Jazz vs. Boston Celtics - 2/29/2016 - 7:30 PM EST

NBA Preview: Utah Jazz vs. Boston Celtics - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: TD Garden   Boston coach Brad Stevens said Utah "hit us in the mouth" following an 18-point loss to the Jazz in the Celtics' first game following the All-Star break. Stevens' team hasn't been bullied like that since, responding with three wins in four games. Free Sports Picks of the Day. The Celtics look to avenge that ugly loss in Salt Lake City and extend their home winning streak to 11 games in Monday night's rematch with the suddenly struggling Jazz. Boston (35-25) went into the break as one of the NBA's hottest teams with 10 wins in 12 games but emerged with a clunker. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Celtics shot 37.0 percent and scored 30 points in the paint - 15.1 less than their average which ranks among the league's best - in a 111-93 loss to Utah (28-30) on Feb. 19. Stevens didn't bla me the lackluster effort on any rust from the break but instead said, "I thought they hit us in the mouth and kept hitting us in the mouth for 46 minutes." The Celtics got back on track with a 20-point win in Denver two nights later, the start of a three-game stretch in which they averaged 118.3 points. Sports Handicapper King. The lone blemish over that span was a 124-122 loss in Minnesota on the second half of a back-to-back. Boston wasn't as sharp offensively Saturday against Miami, shooting 40.6 percent, but showed great resolve by rallying from an early 12-point deficit for a 101-89 win.'' The tide's turned a little bit," guard Evan Turner said. "We got acclimated to each other and found out rotations. We're playing pretty well." That's certainly been the case in Boston, where the Celtics haven't lost since Jan. 6. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. They're seeking their first 11-game home winning streak since Jan. 27-March 16, 2013, but Stevens says location shouldn't make any difference as the focus remains simply to play up to their standards.'' That's what's expected of us,'' he said. ''That has been the same message my entire time. You play between the lines.'' Despite having a hard time knocking down shots against the Heat, the Celtics still did a good job of running their offense, finishing with 26 assists to 11 turnovers on 103 possessions. Since Jan. 12, they lead the NBA with a 2.00 assist-to-turnover ratio and have the league's highest-scoring offense besides Golden State, averaging 112.2 points. Track Handicappers. The Jazz averaged 113.0 points on 51.8 percent shooting over a three-game stretch, beginning with the B oston game, but they've been nowhere near as efficient in the last two. After recording a season-low 78 points in an 18-point defeat to San Antonio on Thursday, Utah had 21 turnovers in Saturday's 98-96 loss to Brooklyn. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Jazz combined to go 8 of 37 from 3-point range in those games and have dropped a half-game back of Houston for eighth place in the Western Conference. Coach Quin Snyder summed up the game against the Nets by saying, "If we had effort, it was sporadic," but he isn't overly concerned about his team regrouping." If there is one thing these guys hang their hat on it's playing hard," he said. "There are some games for whatever reason you don't have a lot of juice." Gordon Hayward bounced back from an 11-point effort against the Spurs with a game-high 27. He had 22 against the Celtics while Derrick Favors scored 23. Boston A ll-Star Isaiah Thomas had 25 in the first matchup but scored 12 against Miami - his fewest since a season-low eight versus the Timberwolves on Dec. 21.

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NCAAB Preview: Syracuse vs. North Carolina - 2/29/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NCAAB Preview: Syracuse vs. North Carolina - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST   North Carolina heads into the final week of ACC play in search of its first regular-season championship in four years. A return home should increase the seventh-ranked Tar Heels' chances at gaining sole possession of first place in the ACC on Monday night against the Orange. With two games left in the regular season, North Carolina (23-6, 12-4) is tied with Miami atop the conference, one game ahead of Virginia and Louisville. Free Sports Handicappers. The Tar Heels beat the Hurricanes 96-71 on Feb. 20 and would own the tiebreaker for the top seed in the conference tournament should those two finish even, but they lost to both the Cardinals and Cavaliers. North Carolina fell 79-74 at third-ranked Virginia on Saturday." I think they were the actors and we were the reactors all night," coach Roy Williams said. NCAAB College Basketball Handi cappers. The Tar Heels have had no troubles dictating things in Chapel Hill, where they're 14-1 while outscoring opponents by an average of 19.1 points. Brice Johnson, a contender for conference player of the year, is averaging 21.6 points and 12.6 rebounds while shooting 66.2 percent from the floor over the last five games there. He had 16 points and eight assists - double his previous career high - when the Tar Heels visited Syracuse (19-10, 9-7) last month. Johnson took advantage of the Orange's 2-3 zone by setting up in the middle and finding Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks for dunks and layups in North Carolina's 84-73 win that spoiled Jim Boeheim's return from suspension. Hicks' 21 points are seven more than he's scored against anyone else this season. Basketball Predictions. The Tar Heels have their eyes on the ACC's top seed but can at least clinch one of the conference's four double byes with a win in this one. Syracuse is still in the mix for two days off at the Verizon Center, a game behind potential No. 4 seeds Duke and Notre Dame but with tiebreakers over both. Free NCAAB College Basketball Picks. The Blue Devils and Fighting Irish only have home games left, though, while the Orange play twice away from the Carrier Dome. Syracuse has won three of five true road games since losing its first four. Winning Sports Handicappers. The Orange's first trip to Chapel Hill on Jan. 26, 2015, was going well for a half, but a five-point lead quickly evaporated as the Tar Heels scored 58 second-half points in a 93-83 win. Marcus Paige had 22 points while Nate Britt, Kennedy Meeks and Johnson all had 17 with Johnson making all six of his field goals. Michael Gbinije finished with 16 and fiv e assists in that one and had 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting against UNC last month, but posted a career-high 34 while connecting on 8 of 13 from beyond the arc in Saturday's 75-66 win over North Carolina State." It just came down to Mike having to put us on his back," Boeheim said. "He had a tremendous game, probably as good as any senior as ever had (on Senior Day), as I can recall." Gbinije's big day made up for another bad one from Trevor Cooney, who has totaled eight points while missing 15 of 17 shots over his last two games. Cooney has averaged 27.5 points over his last two against the Tar Heels.

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NCAAB Preview: Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State - 2/29/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NCAAB Preview: Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST   A regular-season Big 12 title has long since fallen out of the picture for Iowa State, but over the weekend the Cyclones started building the framework to finish strong and make a postseason splash. With the re-appearance of some contributors who vanished during a lengthy rut, 17th-ranked Iowa State seeks its first winning streak this month and seventh win in a row over Oklahoma State when it closes its home schedule Monday night. Professional Handicappers. The knock all season on the Cyclones (20-9, 9-7) has been a lack of depth that shone clearly during a 3-5 stretch from Jan. 30-Feb. 22, thwarting their Big 12 title hopes while Kansas went on to secure its 12th straight. NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. Though all five starters average at least 10 points, Iowa State ranks 342nd of 346 Division I teams with 10.8 points per game off its bench - by far the worst mark in the Big 12. Sports Handicapper Picks. The average bench production, which would be Iowa State's lowest since the 2001-02 team's 7.8, dipped to 6.6 through the team's month-long lull. But behind the re-emergence of a pair of key reserves, Iowa State improved to 13-2 in Ames with Saturday's 80-61 win over Kansas State. Jameel McKay and Hallice Cooke combined for all 24 bench points, the most for the Cyclones since scoring a season-high 30 against Coppin State on Dec. 30. Cooke has averaged only 3.0 points in his first season with the Cyclones after transferring from Oregon State, but he surpassed his nine-point total from his previous 10 games - including four straight without a point - with 10 against the Wildcats. McKay averaged 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds in 16 games to open the season, but he lost his starting job earlier this month after returni ng from a two-game suspension for violating team rules. Free NCAAB College Basketball Picks. The senior forward looked rejuvenated Saturday in his second straight double-digit scoring game, posting 14 points and 17 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season and first since Jan. 6.'' My focus was as good as it's been all year. I just came out and wanted to play with energy,'' McKay said. ''I need people to know that I'm going to give 100 percent effort every time I'm on the court.'' Iowa State, which closes the regular season Saturday at Kansas, logged its sixth straight win over Oklahoma State with a 64-59 victory Feb. 6 in Stillwater. Georges Niang tallied 18 points and nine rebounds, but Cooke accounted for all three of Iowa State's bench points while McKay served the first game of his suspension. Jeffrey Carroll had 18 points to lead the Cowboys (12-17, 3-13), though senior starter Jeff Newberry was held to two while freshman phenom Jawun Evans sat out his first game after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Hot Sports Handicappers. The Cowboys, who have lost four straight and are 1-8 on the road, have struggled to score without Evans, another blow to a team that has played since mid-November without last season's second-leading scorer, Phil Forte, due to an elbow injury. Oklahoma State has made 38.5 percent of its shots in its last seven games and averaged 58 points, fifth- lowest in the nation in that span.'' When you take your two best players off your team in this league, it's tough for anybody," coach Travis Ford said. "This league is just unforgiving. It's not excuses, it's reality."

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NBA Preview: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards - 2/29/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Verizon Center   It's obvious where to begin when looking at the Washington Wizards' turnaround since the All-Star break.'' It starts with John (Wall), there's no question,'' coach Randy Wittman said. ''He's been locked in here, more recently.'' Wall's stellar play has the Wizards trending in the right direction, and he can continue working them back into the postseason discussion when the woeful Philadelphia 76ers visit on Monday night. Washington (28-30) is still on the outside looking in on the playoffs - it's two games out of the Eastern Conference's eighth spot - but a 5-2 spurt out of the break has it in position to make a run in the season's final five weeks. Wall's scoring hasn't been as dynamic as certain stretches this season, but he is averaging 10.5 assists while leading the Wizards to three wins in the last four games. B aseball Predictions. The point guard finished with 21 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds while sitting out the fourth quarter of Sunday's 113-99 win over East-leading Cleveland. Washington led by as many as 30 points, taking advantage of a resting LeBron James, and Wall got others involved in a win suited to the Wizards' ideal small-ball style. Otto Porter had averaged 6.0 points while shooting 38.5 percent the previous four games, but he finished 6 of 9 from the field for 21 against the Cavaliers while Bradley Beal added 17. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Wizards have held six of their last eight opponents to fewer than 100 points." We're doing what we're supposed to do," said Wall, who posted his 34th double-double midway through the third quarter. "The pressure's on us. We've just got to go out there and compete." Judging by the first two games ag ainst the 76ers, Wall's numbers might keep climbing in the second meeting in four days. Best Sports Picks Today. The All-Star had a triple-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 106-94 win over the 76ers on Feb. 5 in Washington - that started the Wizards' current five-game home win streak - and he just missed another with 23 points, 11 assists and eight boards in Friday's 103-94 victory at Philadelphia. Wall carries in a streak of six straight double-digit assist games against the 76ers and will try to lead Washington to its fifth consecutive win both overall in this series and at home. Philadelphia (8-51) remained within 11 points the entire way in its latest loss to the Wizards but followed with Sunday's 130-116 defeat at Orlando. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The 76ers never led and trailed by as many as 29 points in their eighth straight loss - their seventh losing streak of that many games over the last three seasons. Top Rated Sports Handicappers. The streak started with a 98-92 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 8, but Philadelphia has surrendered a league-worst average of 118.9 points in the seven games that followed. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The 76ers, the league's lowest-scoring team at 96.2 points per game, scored a season high while shooting 53.2 percent on Sunday, but the Magic matched a season-high point total for a Philadelphia opponent by shooting 57 percent. Philadelphia has lost six straight on the road and is 3-28 away from home. Orlando scored 77 points in the first half, the third most in any half in the NBA this season.'' No team should be able to score 77 points in a half, especially a team we t hink we can beat,'' small forward Jerami Grant said.

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NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2/29/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Date: 2/29/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Quicken Loans Arena   LeBron James should be back in the lineup Monday night, but the problems the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing run far deeper than what could be the occasional absence of their biggest star. Just ask J. R. Smith. Cleveland's sharpshooter took his team to task after its third loss in four games, a funk it will try to end as it opens a four-game homestand against an Indiana Pacers team that could soon find itself on the outside of the playoff picture. Winning Sports Gambling. Tyronn Lue decided to rest James on Sunday, and perhaps accustomed to mimicking their leader, the rest of the Cavs took much of the afternoon off as well. Cleveland (41-17) fell behind by as many as 30 in a 113-99 loss to Washington. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Cavaliers' most energized performance seemed to come in the visitors' post game locker room from Smith, who didn't attempt a 3 in 18 minutes but shot straight about his team's issues.'' If we're going to play with a lack of energy ... and come out and play the way we did today,'' Smith declared, ''we shouldn't be who we are and be in these uniforms.'' We can't play basketball like this going down the stretch. ... You talk about contending or being a championship contender and you're blown out ... and get thrashed, make it look good at the end. We can't do that. If we're serious about who we're supposed to be, we can't do this." They'll try to bounce back by improving to 8-4 on the second end of back-to-backs, and James is expected to return after missing his first game since Dec. 5. He's only shot 42.2 percent in two games against the Pacers (31-28) this season but got to the free-throw line 24 times in a pair of tight Cavaliers wins. Kyrie Irving had 25 points while Kevin Love and Smith had 19 apiece in a 111-106 overtime victory at Indiana on Feb. 1. Paul George was held to 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting in that loss and posted a nearly identical line Sunday against Portland. Sports Handicapping Monitor. This time George made one more of his 15 attempts to finish with 11, and the Pacers could never recover from allowing 39 points in the first quarter of a 111-102 loss. Monta Ellis, who had a team-high 18 points but shot 6 of 17, seemed to channel Smith afterward. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Pacers are sixth in the Eastern Conference, but they're only a game from being out of the picture entirely." We need to bring all the energy we have," Ellis said. "We've dropped two and we can't do that with how tight everything is right now. We need to leave it all on the court (Monda y)." The Pacers are 3-8 closing out back-to-backs, and the issues with no rest seem to stem from a lack of energy on the defensive end. Indiana allows 106.1 points per game on the second end of back-to-backs compared with 99.2 with at least a day between games. Free Winning Sports Picks. The Cavaliers are better defensively with no rest - an East-best 93.2 per game allowed as opposed to 98.2 otherwise - but their fatigue shows on the offensive end. Free NBA Basketball Picks. They're averaging 96.7 points after playing the day before, a precipitous dip from their 104.4 otherwise. The NBA's ninth-best 3-point shooting team overall (35.9 percent) is its sixth-worst (33.2) with no rest, and much of that has to do with Smith's struggles. He shoots 31.9 percent from deep on back-to-backs and 43.1 percent with time off. As long as James has been around, the Pacers haven't had any success in Cleveland. The Cavaliers have won 13 straight at home against Indiana with James in the lineup dating to his second year in the league.

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