Thursday, March 31, 2016

NHL Recap: Calgary Flames (0) vs. Los Angeles Kings (3) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Calgary Flames (0) vs. Los Angeles Kings (3) - Date: 3/31/2016 Jeff Carter scored twice, Jonathan Quick made 21 saves in his fifth shutout of the season and the Los Angeles Kings reclaimed the Pacific Division lead with a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. Hockey Picks. The Kings moved one point ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks with their 46th win this season, tying the franchise record most recently set in their Stanley Cup-winning 2013-14 campaign. Quick earned his 42nd career shutout, extending his own NHL record for American-born goalies. He also earned his 39th win of the season to match the franchise single-season record, which he set in 2009-10. Joni Ortio stopped 26 shots for the Flames, who have allowed 134 goals on the road, tied with Ottawa for worst in the league. Andy Andreoff also scored for the Kings, and Anze Kopitar ha d two assists. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Kings pounced after Josh Jooris clipped Quick for goaltender interference 35 seconds into the second period. Drew Doughty fired a low slap shot from inside the blue line and Carter tipped it, sending the puck rising over Ortio's right shoulder to take the lead 11 seconds into the power play. Doughty picked up his 316th career point, passing Steve Duchesne to move into second place in career scoring among Kings defensemen. Carter scored his 22nd goal of the season later in the second, benefiting from the alertness of Brayden McNabb and Milan Lucic. Catching the Flames in a change, McNabb threaded a pass through the neutral zone to Lucic, who spun through two defenders and left a pass for Carter at the foot of the crease for an easy score. Mikael Backlund appeared to have given the Flames some life when he scored on a wrist shot late in the second, but the goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference by Lance Bouma. Flames coach Bob Hartley unsuccessfully challenged the call. Sports Handicapper King. The Flames endured another deflating sequence when Sam Bennett hit the inside of the post in the third, only for the Kings to break down the ice and score. Carter threw the puck in front and it went in off Andreoff and Joe Colborne. With five games to go, the Kings are in position to claim the franchise's second-ever division title. However, a recent 1-4-0 stretch by Los Angeles and the continued post-Christmas surge of the Ducks has put another banner in doubt. NOTES: The Kings host the fifth and final Freeway Faceoff this season between the Southern California rivals next Thursday. ... Quick blanked the Flames for the third time in his career. ... Calgary has only collected 27 points on the road this season, the lowest total in the league.

NHL Recap: Vancouver Canucks (4) vs. San Jose Sharks (2) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Vancouver Canucks (4) vs. San Jose Sharks (2) - Date: 3/31/2016 Jannik Hansen scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:03 remaining and the Vancouver Canucks snapped a nine-game losing streak by beating the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on Thursday night. Daniel Sedin and Bo Horvat scored in the first period and the Canucks rebounded after blowing another late lead to avoid matching the longest losing streak in franchise history. Markus Granlund added an empty-net goal and Ryan Miller made 32 saves to help Vancouver earn its second win in San Jose in March. Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks, who lost for the 22nd time at home this season and will now likely have to open the playoffs on the road. San Jose is five points behind Los Angeles and four back of Anaheim in the Pacific Division with the Kings having one game in hand and the Ducks two. Martin Jones made 22 saves. Sports Betting Leads. The Canucks appeared on their way to losing their 13th game this season when leading after two when Couture tied the game midway through the third. He took a pass from Brent Burns at the side of the net and beat Miller for his fourth goal in two games this week against Vancouver. But shortly after that, Burns couldn't handle a pass from Joe Thornton in the offensive zone. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The puck deflected off the boards right to Hansen, who skated in on a 2-on-1 and beat Jones for his 20th goal of the season. Todays Free Sports Picks. The Canucks took advantage of a pair of giveaways from Joonas Donskoi to score twice in the first period. After the first in the neutral zone, Jannik Hansen fired a shot on net that Jones kicked out right to Daniel Sedin for the goal into the open net just 1:09 into the game. Free NHL Hockey Picks. Then with the Sharks controlling play, Donskoi lost the puck in the offensive zone and gave it right to Horvat, who skated in and beat Jones on a breakaway to make it 2-0. Hot Sports Handicappers. The Sharks got one goal back in the second on the power play when Marleau one-timed a pass in the slot from Thornton to make it 2-1. NOTES: The Canucks lost 10 straight games from Oct. 23-Nov. 11, 1997. ... Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. Thornton's assist on Mareleau's goal gave him 1,335 career points, tied with Mike Gartner for 30th place on the career list. ... Canucks F Jake Virtanen served the first game of his two-game suspension for a blindside check on Sharks D Roman Polak on Tuesday. ... Vancouver F Sven Baertschi did not return after the first period with a lower-body injury.

NBA Recap: Boston Celtics (109) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (116) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Boston Celtics (109) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (116) - Date: 3/31/2016 Al-Farouq Aminu scored a career-high 28 points, including a career-best six 3-pointers, and the Portland Trail Blazers extended their winning streak at home to a season-high six games with a 116-109 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. With only six regular-season games remaining, Portland (40-31) holds the sixth seed in the West. Boston (39-37) entered as the East's fourth seed, but fell to sixth with the loss. CJ McCollum added 17 points and Damian Lillard had 14 for Portland, helping to avenge a 116-93 blowout loss to the Celtics two weeks ago in Boston. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 22 points. Jae Crowder returned to the court after missing the last eight games with a sprained ankle. He didn't miss a beat, sinking a big 3-pointer with 1:08 left to give the Celtics a one-point lead. McCollum answered with a tough fadeaway jumper to reclaim a 110-109 lead with 1:04 remaining. Allan Crabbe's steal on the next possession led to a dunk by Aminu with 49.2 seconds left. Boston couldn't catch up. Portland trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter, only to rally for a 13-point lead in the fourth. Aminu was the Blazers' lifeline in the third, scoring 12 points and matching his career high of 20 points on a dunk, sparking Portland. Crabbe's 3-pointer and a rebound basket by Ed Davis capped the Blazers' 10-0 run, tying the game at 81 and bringing the crowd to its feet. With Lillard on the bench to start the fourth, the Blazers took over. Lillard re-entered the game with 6:35 remaining and Portland's lead began to dwindle after Ed Davis fouled out with four points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Sports Handicapping Services. The Celtics were able to close the gap to two with just o ver 3:25 to go. With the crowd chanting ''MVP,'' Lillard made two free throws to ice the win. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Blazers were lifeless early, going scoreless for the first three minutes. Lillard struggled in the first, scoring only six points, and going 0 for 3 from deep range. Portland was able to take the lead briefly off a 3-pointer from Maurice Harkless with just over three minutes remaining in the first. Sports Picks Free. The Celtics' stellar defense, highlighted by a 7-0 run to start the second quarter, allowed them to build a 58-54 lead at the half. Free NBA Basketball Picks. Thomas led all scorers with 13 points at the break. Best Sports Picks Service. TIP INSCeltics: Have a two-game s treak against the Blazers and were looking for their first sweep of Portland since the 2010-11 season. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. Trail Blazers: Lillard had scored at least 20 points in the Blazers' last two meetings with the Celtics. ... The Blazers are still adjusting to the loss of Meyers Leonard, who will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. UP NEXTTrail Blazers: host Miami on Saturday. Celtics: visit Golden State on Friday.

NBA Recap: Los Angeles Clippers (117) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (119) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Los Angeles Clippers (117) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (119) - Date: 3/31/2016 Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Steven Adams hit a go-ahead tip-in with 26.9 seconds left and the Oklahoma City Thunder held on to avoid a potentially embarrassing loss, edging the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 119-117 on Thursday night. Russell Westbrook added 26 points and 11 assists for the Thunder, who lead the Clippers by 5 1/2 games in the race for the No. 3 seed in the NBA's Western Conference playoffs. Baseball Predictions. The Clippers played without usual starters Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J. J. Redick, as coach Doc Rivers chose to rest them. Blake Griffin also was out, serving the last game of a four-game team-imposed suspension. Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers carried the load offensively, each scoring 32 points and going a combined 12-of-17 from 3-point range. Los Angeles led by as many as nine in the second half but couldn't hold on as the Thunder outrebounded the Clippers 46-26. No rebound was bigger than one by Adams that came after Westbrook took a well-guarded, fallaway 15-foot jumper that missed badly. Adams tipped it in to put Oklahoma City ahead. Rivers, who posted a career scoring high, missed a driving shot in the final seconds and Westbrook rebounded with 2.7 seconds left to seal the win for the Thunder. Oklahoma City made 10 of its first 11 shots and led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but the Thunder's poor interior defense and the sharpshooting of Crawford and Rivers allowed Los Angeles to quickly close the gap. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The duo went 8 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half, combining for 40 points, and Crawford made three free throws with 1.3 seconds left to give the Clippers a 69-65 halftime lead. Los Angeles shot 63.2 percent in the first half, the Thunder 58.1 percent. A 12-2 run to open the second half put Oklahoma City up 77-71, but the Clippers scored nine straight to regain the lead and were up 92-83 after a dunk by Wesley Johnson on a play that started with a turnover by Westbrook. Los Angeles led 97-93 entering the fourth quarter. Consecutive dunks by Durant and Adams, off assists from Westbrook, gave the Thunder the lead again at 110-109 with 5:56 left. Los Angeles went up 115-110 after consecutive 3-pointer by Johnson and Jeff Green. Sports Handicapping Monitor. TIP-INSClippers: In addition to the absence of Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin, the Clippers were without Paul Pierce, who's still nursing a sprained ankle. ... Los Angeles' starting lineup was Crawford, Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute, Johnson and Cole Aldrich. ... Rivers' previous career high was 25 points, against Sacramento on Feb. 2 1, 2015. He also set a career high with seven 3-pointers in nine attempts. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. Thunder: Durant recorded his 60th straight game of 20 or more points, the fourth-longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger. ... Westbrook's double-double was his 50th of the season. RESTING UPDoc Rivers said it made sense to rest the majority of his starters against the Thunder, considering the gap between the Thunder and the Clippers in the standings. Sports Picking Services. The Clippers will be off Friday and Saturday before Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin all return for a game Sunday against the Washington Wizards.'' I don't know how much guys need rest or not,'' Rivers said. ''I think they do. I know Chris, for sure, and J. J. DJ (Jordan) is young, but he's given us so many minutes. I just thought if we were going to do it, it was a good time. We have two more back-to-backs, so we may do it a couple more times. I'm not sure. I'll just go by what I see.'' UP NEXT:Clippers: Host Washington on Sunday. NBA Basketball Handicappers. Thunder: Visit Houston on Sunday.

NHL Recap: Arizona Coyotes (1) vs. Dallas Stars (4) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Arizona Coyotes (1) vs. Dallas Stars (4) - Date: 3/31/2016 Jamie Benn scored his 40th goal, Antti Niemi made 31 saves and the Dallas Stars beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night to move two points ahead in the Western Conference race. Dallas (103 points) pulled away from second-place St. Louis (101). Sports Cappers. The Stars have four games remaining, and the Blues have five. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The loss eliminated the Coyotes from playoff contention. Arizona's Martin Hanzal scored the game's first goal 17:07 into the first period, but Dallas tied it less than a minute later on Patrick Eaves' 10th goal. Basketball Picks. The Stars' Radek Faksa scored 11 seconds into the second period. Benn's goal came 10 minutes later, and Patrick Sharp added a power-play goal into an empty net with 1:11 to play. Benn is the Stars' first 40-goal scorer since Mike Modano in 1993-94, the team's first season in Dallas. Only Washington's Alex Ovechkin has more goals this season (44) than the 2014-15 Art Ross Trophy winner. Niemi's 16 career wins vs. Arizona are his most against any team. Mike Smith had 29 saves for the Coyotes. Dallas' Ales Hemsky extended his point streak to six games with assists on the two second-period goals. John Klingberg also had two assists, and Benn added an assist on Sharp's goal. Hanzal, who scored a goal in each of the three games between the teams this season, left after the first period because of an upper-body injury. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Coyotes also played without their leading scorer, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, because of illness. Sports Betting Profit. The Stars got big hits early by Stephen Johns on Max Domi 45 seconds into the game and Benn against Zbynek Michalek at 6:11. Benn's hit sent him to the penalty box for boarding, along with the Coyotes' Antoine Vermette for roughing Benn. Hanzal's goal came on a snap shot from the slot after passes by Anthony Duclair from the right and Domi from the left pulled Niemi out of position. Eaves scored with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle. Faksa scored off the second-period faceoff. Hemsky passed from behind the net to Faksa in front for his third goal in five games. NOTES: Hanzal had three of his 13 goals and two assists in the Coyotes' three games against Dallas. ... Arizona LW Eric Selleck made his NHL debut, and D Alex Grant played in his third game and first with the Coyotes. Each received a fighting major, Grant for a bout with Dallas' Colton Sceviour in the second period and Selleck against Jordie Benn in the third. ... Stars D Kris Russell (lower body) missed his fifth game. C Tyler Seguin (Achilles tendon) remained out but could resume skating next week. ... Arizona won the season series 2-1. ... Hemsky has seven points (two goals, five assists) during his streak and has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games. ... Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Stars have 12 players with 10 or more goals, one away from the franchise record of 13 last achieved in 1993-94. Valeri Nichushkin has scored nine.

NHL Recap: Ottawa Senators (3) vs. Minnesota Wild (2) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Ottawa Senators (3) vs. Minnesota Wild (2) - Date: 3/31/2016 Cody Ceci got a goal with 3:57 left that deflected off two Minnesota players to help the Ottawa Senators beat the Wild 3-2 on Thursday night. Ceci's ninth goal of the season bounced off Erik Haula and goaltender Devan Dubnyk's skate. Erik Karlsson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored, Craig Anderson made 23 saves and Ottawa won its second straight game a night after being officially eliminated from the playoffs. Zach Parise scored his team-high 25th goal for Minnesota, which had its season-high six-game winning streak snapped. Haula tied it early in the third, but the Wild fell to 2-21-5 this season when trailing after two periods. Dubnyk made 19 saves.

NBA Recap: Denver Nuggets (95) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (101) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Denver Nuggets (95) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (101) - Date: 3/31/2016 Luke Babbitt scored 22 points and Tim Frazier had 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, leading the injury-riddled New Orleans Pelicans past the Denver Nuggets 101-95 on Thursday night. Babbitt had 10 of the Pelicans' first 12 points and scored on a driving layup with 2:08 left to give them a 94-89 lead. After Denver cut the deficit to 94-91, Babbitt hit two free throws and Frazier sank a 3-pointer to seal the game. New Orleans took the lead for good, 81-80, on Frazier's high-arching shot early in the fourth quarter. He then scored six points on a three-point play and 3-pointer to give the Pelicans a 92-84 advantage. Picks and Parlays. Toney Douglas added 20 points and a season-high 10 assists for New Orleans. Darrell Arthur tied a career high with 24 points for Denver, which is on the verge of following the Pelicans and being eliminated from the Western Conference playoff picture. Gary Harris added 16 points for the Nuggets, and Kenneth Faried had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Pelicans received plenty of contributions from players who were not on the roster at the beginning of March. Frazier was signed to a 10-day contract on March 16 before being re-signed for the rest of the season. Jordan Hamilton, who signed a 10-day contract on March 25, scored 14 in his second game as a starter. James Ennis, who was signed Wednesday, added 11 points. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The Nuggets, who won at Memphis on Wednesday to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, could not take advantage of the Pelicans' lack of familiarity. In one sequence during the third quarter, the Nuggets botched consecutive fast breaks when a crosscourt pass hit the bottom of the net and an attempted alley-oop sailed over Faried's outstretched fingers. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. There were 13 lead changes in the first quarter, six in the second quarter and seven in the third, with neither team pulling ahead by more than six points. Denver scored the last six points of the third quarter to go ahead 78-77. Center Omer Asik is New Orleans' only starter from the teams' last meeting on Dec. 20 who is not out for the rest of the season with an injury. Handicapping Sports. The list includes the Pelicans' five leading scorers: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. NBA Basketball Handicappers. TIP-INSNuggets: Despite losing, Denver completed its first wi nning month of the season, going 9-8. ... Will Barton, who averaged 24.7 points and hit 13 of 21 3s in the last three meetings with the Pelicans, went 0 for 8 from the floor and scored his first points on three free throws with 1.18 left in the third quarter. Pelicans: New Orleans finished 5-12 in March. Its only winning month was January, when it went 8-6. ... Coach Alvin Gentry used his 38th starting lineup, extending a franchise record. UP NEXTNuggets: Host Sacramento on Saturday. Pelicans: At Brooklyn on Sunday.

NHL Recap: New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Florida Panthers (3) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Florida Panthers (3) - Date: 3/31/2016 Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice to move the Florida Panthers back into first place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. Jaromir Jagr had a pair of assists and Al Montoya made 23 saves for Florida, which broke a tie with Tampa Bay for the division lead. Free Guaranteed Sports Picks. The Lightning lost to Montreal 3-0 Thursday night. Mike Sislo and Blake Pietila scored for New Jersey, and Keith Kinkaid made 36 saves. Huberdeau scored his second goal by skating in along the goal line left of Kinkaid and banking in a close shot for his 18th at 3:13 of the third period. Jagr's assist on the play gave him 60 points this season, marking the 18th time he had accomplished the feat. Jagr also assisted on Aleksander Barkov's 24th goal at 17:52 to put Florida up by two. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Devils opened the scoring during a shortened power play after a 4-on-4 stretch in a first period that featured five minor penalties. Sislo collected a blocked shot in front of Montoya and netted his third goal at 8:30 for a 1-0 lead. Devante Smith-Pelly assisted on the goal, giving him 12 points in 14 games since being traded to New Jersey by Montreal on Feb. 29. Smith-Pelly had the same amount of points in 46 games with the Canadiens. Huberdeau took a diagonal pass from Thornton, was stopped by Kinkaid with the right skate on a shot in close but followed it up for his 17th goal at 7:57 of the second to make it 1-1. Huberdeau, who set a career high Tuesday with his 16th tally, has goals in his last four games. Pietila scored his first goal at 19:54. NOTES: Tyler Kennedy returned to New Jersey's lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury. ... G Cory Schneider (knee), who has missed 12 games, is expected to start Saturday in Tampa. ... Devils LW Patrik Elias (knee) participated in morning skate and has not ruled out returning this season. Elias turns 40 in two weeks. ... C Derek MacKenzie (out seven games) and D Erik Gudbranson (six) returned to Florida's lineup after suffering injuries blocking shots. ... Panthers LW Shawn Thornton's assist was his first point since Feb. 12 against St. Louis.

NHL Recap: Montreal Canadiens (3) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (0) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Montreal Canadiens (3) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (0) - Date: 3/31/2016 Rookie Mike Condon made 26 saves for his first NHL shutout and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 on Thursday night. Gambling Profit. Tampa Bay started play tied with Florida for first place in the Atlantic Division at 93 points each. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Panthers beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Thursday night. David Desharnais, Torrey Mitchell and Phillip Danault scored. Condon stopped Ondrej Palat's penalty shot with 11:08 left in the second. He also made a save on Nikita Kucherov's in-close backhander during a power play late in the period. It was Condon's 52nd NHL game, all coming this season. Alexei Emelin played in his 300th NHL game and had two assists. Playing i n his 400th NHL game, Desharnais got his first goal in 13 games off a rebound to put Montreal ahead 1-0 at 9:11 of the first. Mitchell skated into the slot from the left wing and made it 2-0 when he lifted a shot over Ben Bishop 52 seconds into the second. Bishop reached behind himself to glove Lars Eller's right-circle shot during a power play 6 minutes into the game. Bishop finished with 21 saves. NOTES: After hosting New Jersey on Saturday night, the Lightning close out the regular season with road games against the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, the Devils and Montreal ... Montreal G Carey Price (lower-body injury) practiced with the team for first time since getting hurt on Nov. 25. ... Kucherov (two games, foot) and teammate Ryan Callahan (five games, lower body) both returned from injuries. ... Montreal D P. K. Subban (neck) sat out his 10th straight game. ... Montreal D Nathan Beaulieu left after one period with an u pper-body injury.

NBA Recap: Chicago Bulls (103) vs. Houston Rockets (100) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Chicago Bulls (103) vs. Houston Rockets (100) - Date: 3/31/2016 Nikola Mirotic scored 28 points and Jimmy Butler added 21 to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 103-100 win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. In a pivotal game for two teams fighting for the final playoff spots in their respective conferences, the Bulls were fueled by a strong fourth quarter in which they outscored the Rockets 32-20. Chicago entered the fourth facing a nine-point deficit but was able to overcome thanks to hot shooting from Mirotic. Sports Picks. Trevor Ariza attempted a tying 3 at the buzzer, but it rimmed out and Chicago held on. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Bulls won their second consecutive game following a four-game skid and trail Indiana by one game for the final playoff spot in the East. Houston drop ped a half-game behind Utah and Dallas, who are tied for the seventh and eighth seeds in the West. James Harden led Houston with 24 points and eight assists, Patrick Beverley had a career-high 22 points, and Michael Beasley added 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Bobby Portis started at power forward for Chicago in place of Taj Gibson, who was sidelined by a broken rib with no clear timetable for a return. Additionally, Derrick Rose (hyperextended left elbow) was limited to 12 minutes and did not play in the second half. Doug McDermott handled the bulk of the minutes in Rose's absence, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Sports Handicapping Service Units Gained. The Bulls kept pace with the Rockets in the first half, thanks in large part to 21 first-half points from Mirotic. After scoring a team season-high 15 points in the second quarter of Tuesday's win over Indiana, Mirotic dro pped 14 second-quarter points on Houston, hitting four of five 3s. Houston had a chance to take a lead into halftime, but a 30-foot attempt from Harden clanked off the front of the rim, and the score was tied at 52 at the break. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Rockets took advantage of a sloppy Chicago start to the third quarter, opening on a 14-2 run that included a thunderous dunk by Harden over Pau Gasol that also drew a foul. Gasol had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his 500th career double-double. Sports Tipsters. TIP-INSBulls: Gibson will be reevaluated Friday, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. Gibson, who tried to play through the injury Tuesday for 10 minutes in Indiana, insisted he will return this season. ... Rose (elbow) wore a thick sleeve and made several trips to the locker room for treatment. Rockets: Fell to 23-35 when allowing 100 or more points. ... Houston missed 16 of 25 3-point attempts, including five of seven by Harden. ... Houston dominated Chicago in the paint, outscoring the Bulls 48-30 from close range. ... Clint Capela had eight points and five rebounds off the bench. UP NEXTBulls: Host Detroit on Saturday. Rockets: Host Oklahoma City on Sunday.

NHL Recap: Toronto Maple Leafs (1) vs. Buffalo Sabres (4) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Toronto Maple Leafs (1) vs. Buffalo Sabres (4) - Date: 3/31/2016 Cal O'Reilly and Johan Larsson each scored twice and the Buffalo Sabres extended their home dominance over the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 4-1 victory Thursday night. Buffalo built a 3-0 lead and Larsson capped Buffalo's seventh straight home win over Toronto by scoring into an empty net in a meeting of two Atlantic Division rivals who have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Free Golf Picks. The Sabres also improved to 17-1-1 in their past 19 home games against Toronto in a run that dates to Feb. 4, 2009. Brooks Laich scored for Toronto and Tobias Lindberg set up the goal in his NHL debut. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Maple Leafs acquired Lindberg in a multiplayer deal that sent captain Dion Phane uf to Ottawa last month. Chad Johnson made 25 saves for Buffalo. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The loss left the Maple Leafs at the bottom of the NHL standings with five games remaining in their season. Larsson opened the scoring 7:09 in before the Maple Leafs managed their first shot on net. Driving in on the right wing, Larsson used defenseman Morgan Rielly as a screen and snapped a shot that beat Garret Sparks high on the short side. Buffalo struck again with a power-play goal with 19 seconds left in the period, when Jack Eichel patiently waited in the left circle and set up O'Reilly driving through the middle, where he wristed a shot inside the left post. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Maple Leafs were outshot 9-0 before getting their first puck on net with 8:04 left in the first period. O'Reilly capped the Sabres' surge 3:41 into the second period. He sped up the left wing and beat defensemen T. J. Brennan and Jake Gardiner to the puck that Buffalo's David Legwand cleared from his own zone. O'Reilly leaned into his shot at the left circle and blasted it past Sparks. Lindberg made a no-look pass from the end boards to set up Laich in front for Toronto's goal 13:32 into the second period. Sports Touts. The Sabres had a goal disallowed with 2:43 left in the second period. Mark Pysyk scored on a shot from the left point, but referee Kendrick Nicholson waved it off by ruling there was incidental contact between Sparks and Sabres forward Hudson Fasching. Replays showed that Fasching wasn't inside the crease and that it was Sparks who initiated the contact. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The goal was still disallowed even after the Sabres used their challenge to have the play reviewed. The Sabres were allowed to challenge the play even though the NHL announced on its website that the play was not reviewable. NOTES: Before the game, Sabres coach Dan Bylsma announced LW Evander Kane would miss the final five games of the season after he hurt his left hand in a 3-2 loss at Detroit on Monday. ... Toronto recalled Lindberg, Brennan, RW Kasperi Kapanen and D Andrew Campbell from the AHL earlier in the day. Connor Carrick, Rinat Valiev, Connor Brown and Zach Hyman were loaned to the minors. ... The Maple Leafs' last win at Buffalo was a 4-3 overtime victory on Jan. 29, 2013. There were only three players dressed on Thursday who competed in that game: Buffalo's Marcus Foligno and Toronto's Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.

NBA Recap: Brooklyn Nets (87) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (107) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Brooklyn Nets (87) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (107) - Date: 3/31/2016 LeBron James scored 24 points to move into 12th place on the NBA's career scoring list and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 107-87 on Thursday night. James passed Dominique Wilkins with a three-point play in the first quarter. Baseball Handicappers. The four-time MVP, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, has 26,689 career points. Kevin Love added 19 points for Cleveland (53-22), which leads Toronto by 2 1/2 games for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. NBA Basketball Handicappers. Thaddeus Young led Brooklyn with 18 points. James, who also had 11 assists, sparked a 25-6 run to end the second quarter. After returning with 7:27 remaining, he scored eight points as Cleveland built a five-point margin into a 63-39 lead at halftime. James sat out Tuesday against Houston to rest, a game Cleveland lost after leading by 20 points in the third quarter. Sports Picks Today. The Nets defeated the Cavaliers 104-95 in Brooklyn last week, a game in which Cleveland scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Cavaliers, with that embarrassing performance likely still in the back of their minds, took the lead for good late in the first quarter and continued to build the margin, which reached 32 in the fourth quarter. Coach Tyronn Lue was able to rest his starters in the final period. Brooklyn dropped its eighth consecutive road game and has lost six straight at Quicken Loans Arena. Kyrie Irving, who was listed as questionable after missing Thursday's shootaround because he was sick, scored 10 points. Sports Betting Profit. The speculation about his playing status came as off-the-court issues surrounded the star guard. Irving addressed a personal issue on Twitter late Wednesday night involving R&B singer Kehlani, who the player was dating at one time. He subsequently deleted the tweets regarding their relationship. James offered his support to Irving, and Lue said he spoke to him.'' We're all just there for him,'' Lue said. ''He's a part of this team and it's our job to make sure he's OK. He's in good hands.'' Nets center Brook Lopez, the team's leading scorer, was given the night off to rest. Bojan Bogdanovic added 14 points for Brooklyn. James is likely to pass Oscar Robertson, who scored 26,710 career points, for 11th place on Friday night in Atlanta. He has also passed Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, John Havlicek and Tim Duncan on the scor ing list this season. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. TIP-INSNets: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also didn't play for rest purposes. Two former Cavaliers - Henry Sims and Wayne Ellington - started in their place. Sims, who is on his second 10-day contract with Brooklyn, made his first start of the season. ... Brooklyn's last road win came at Denver on March 4. Cavaliers: J. R. Smith, who also missed shootaround because he was sick, scored 10 points. ... Cleveland scored 16 points off eight Brooklyn turnovers in the first half. UP NEXTNets: Visit New York on Friday. Cavaliers: Visit Atlanta on Friday.

NBA Recap: Orlando Magic (114) vs. Indiana Pacers (94) - 3/31/2016

NBA Recap: Orlando Magic (114) vs. Indiana Pacers (94) - Date: 3/31/2016 Evan Fournier scored 25 points and Nikola Vucevic added 24 on Thursday night to lead the Orlando Magic past the Indiana Pacers 114-94. Best Sports Picks Today. The Magic have won three straight since snapping a six-game losing streak, including their first win at Indiana since Feb. 4, 2012. And it came on a night the Pacers couldn't afford to lose. Indiana, which slipped into the No. 8 slot in the East with Tuesday's home loss to Chicago, now trails Detroit for the No. 7 spot by one full game. Paul George scored 27 points and had eight rebounds, while Lavoy Allen finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn't nearly enough. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Magic took control with a 7-0 second-quarte r run that made it 53-41. Indiana finally tied the score at 62 early in the third, but Orlando answered with a 14-5 run and steadily pulled away. After missing the previous 13 games, Vucevic looked like he fit right in with a team that has suddenly found its footing after being eliminated from the playoff chase. Football Tipsters. Two nights after scoring 139 points and shooting 61.5 percent from the field, both season highs, the Magic went back at it. Orlando shot 53.3 percent Thursday including 13 of 19 in the third quarter when it fended off Indiana's rally. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Magic led 57-51 at the half, extended it to 62-53 early in the third quarter and then watched the Pacers score nine in a row to tie it. But Victor Oladipo's 3 broke the tie, starting the big run that put the Pacers in a big hole. CAREER HIGHSGeorge promised to r eturn from his broken right leg better than ever. He's proving it every night. After becoming the first Pacers player to top the 40-point mark three times in one season, the three-time All-Star has now set a career high for points in one season with 1,757 and needs two more 3s to become the second Pacers player to make 200 3s in a season. He's four 3-point attempts away from breaking Reggie Miller's single-season record (529), set in 1996-97, and his point total is now the fourth-highest on the franchise's single-season list. Best Free Sports Picks. TIP-INSMagic: Snapped a seven-game road losing streak. ... Oladipo had 18 points and two steals, leaving him 16 points and three steals short of becoming the third NBA player since 1985-86 to start his career with three straight seasons of 1,100 points, 110 steals and 70 3s. ... Andrew Nicholson had 11 points and Elfrid Payton had 10. ... Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Magic prevented Indiana from getting a second straight season sweep. Pacers: Had won seven straight and 11 of the previous 12 games in this series. ... George Hill made two 3s to move within two of passing Chuck Person (466) for No. 5 on Pacers' career list. ... Ian Mahinmi finished with six points, ending his three-game streak of scoring at least 18 points. ... Backup guard Rodney Stuckey left in the first half after hurting his left wrist on a charge. He returned in the second half. ... The 20-point loss was Indiana's third-worst at home this season. UP NEXTMagic: Travel to Milwaukee on Friday. Pacers: Visit Philadelphia on Saturday.

NHL Recap: New York Rangers (3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (4) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: New York Rangers (3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (4) - Date: 3/31/2016 Victor Rask scored the go-ahead goal with 10:54 left, and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 on Thursday night in former captain Eric Staal's return to his old home arena. Jeff Skinner, Patrick Brown and Justin Faulk also scored for the Hurricanes, who trailed 3-2 after two periods. Ryan Murphy had two assists and Cam Ward made 24 saves. Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored for New York and Derek Stepan had two assists during a three-goal second. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 24 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 27-2-2 when leading after two. Rask's winner off a rebound came after Faulk reached up to keep the puck in the offensive zone. World's Best Handicapper. The Rangers challenged that the Carolina defenseman was offside but the offic ials determined the video review was inconclusive, allowing the goal to stand. Skinner started the third-period rally when he redirected Murphy's slap shot from the blue line past Lundqvist 4:22 into the third, and Ward stopped all 10 shots he faced in the period. Carolina has earned points in 12 of 14 games since the trade deadline - the day after it sent Staal to the Rangers. All eyes were on the former Carolina captain in his first game at the arena he called home for a dozen years. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The wall outside the Rangers' dressing room bore a collage of photos of Staal's time in Carolina and a ''ThankYouEric'' Twitter hashtag. During the first TV timeout, the Hurricanes played a tribute to him on the videoboard - after which, Staal did not one but two thank-you stick waves. Free Tennis Picks. Then h is new team peppered his old friend - Ward - in the second, scoring twice in an early span of 3:27. Zuccarello made it 1-1 just 96 seconds into the period when he beat Ward high with a wrist shot. Nash - with Brett Pesce hanging on his back - then beat Ward high to his glove side to make it 2-1 at 5:03. Kreider gave the Rangers a short-lived 3-2 lead with 2:42 left in the second and 24 seconds into a hooking minor on Ron Hainsey, surging past Pesce and beating Ward to his glove side. NOTES: Zuccarello has five points in his last five games. His 25th goal of the season was his 200th career point. ... Carolina LW Sergey Tolchinsky made his NHL debut and was in the starting lineup. He assisted on Faulk's goal for his first career point. ... Faulk's goal was his first since Feb. 5, though he missed 18 games since then with a lower-body injury.---Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

NHL Recap: Nashville Predators (2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (5) - 3/31/2016

NHL Recap: Nashville Predators (2) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (5) - Date: 3/31/2016 Phil Kessel scored twice and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins moved within striking distance of a 10th straight playoff berth with a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night. Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, which improved to 10-1 in its last 11 games. Winning Sports Handicappers. The Penguins will clinch a spot in the postseason if Detroit loses in regulation on Friday against Minnesota. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 shots to reach the 35-win plateau for the seventh time in his career. James Neal and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and an assist for the Predators, who failed for a third straight game to wrap up a playoff bid. Pekka Rinne stopped 25 shots before sitting out the third period in favor of backup Carter Hutton. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Penguins improved to an NHL-best 12-4 this month. Sports Bettors Email Leads. Their sprint through March is all the more impressive considering their sometimes lifeless starts. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They fell behind Buffalo by three goals in the opening period on Tuesday before roaring back for a 5-4 shootout victory thanks in large part to a career-high 35:14 from Kris Letang, who finished off the rally with the deciding shootout goal. Given an opportunity to pull closer to a postseason spot that looked perilous at best after scuffling through the first three months of the season, Pittsburgh jumped in front quickly. Kessel converted a pretty cross-ice feed from Justin Schultz into an open net just 3:06 into the game. Johansen tied it with a minute to go in the fi rst after slamming a Neal pass from behind the net by Fleury. Kessel got the lead back for the Penguins with a sizzling wrist shot from the right circle that whizzed by Rinne's right arm and into the top corner 2:29 into the second. Letang, whom Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan called ''one of the most elite defensemen in this league'' following his tireless play against the Sabres, ended the Penguins' 3-for-29 power play slump by calling for the stick at the point and drilling one past Rinne just past the game's midway point. Neal made it a one-goal game at the 14:24 mark of the second when he pounded sent a shot from the slot past Fleury, his former teammate. Todays Free Sports Picks. The Penguins, however, just kept coming. Hornqvist parked himself in front of Rinne and stood there unfettered before deflecting home a slap shot by Trevor Daley to make it 4-2 late in the second. Rinne sta yed on the bench in the third period and the Penguins improved to 36-0 when leading after two by relying on Fleury and a steady forecheck that stopped the Predators from generating any sustained momentum. NOTES: Kessel has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) in his last 22 games. ... Penguins center Sidney Crosby had one assist to give him 599 in his career. ... Pittsburgh went 2 for 4 on the power play. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Predators were 0 for 4 with the man advantage. ... Nashville scratched defensemen Anthony Bitetto and Ryan Ellis and forwards Eric Nystrom, Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque. ... Pittsburgh scratched injured defensemen Olli Maatta and Brian Dumolin as well as forward Bryan Rust, who is day to day with a lower body problem. ... The Penguins play at the Islanders on Saturday. ... Nashville hosts San Jose on Saturday.

NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers - 3/31/2016 - 7:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. Florida Panthers - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: BB&T Center   If Florida ends up missing out on the Atlantic Division title, it will likely have done nearly all it could against the team that overtakes it. Rather, home struggles down the stretch could wind up costing the Panthers. Sports Betting Profit. The second of a three-game homestand comes Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils with Florida hoping to avoid its first three-game home span without a point in two years. And it will have to do so without one of its top scorers. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Panthers (42-25-9) finished a 2-1-0 road trip with Saturday's 5-2 win in Tampa Bay to complete a 4-1-0 season against the Lightning. It put them two points up on their division foes before Tampa's 3-0 home win Monday over Toronto. Sports Touts. The Maple Leafs turned around and handed the Panthers a 5-2 defeat a night later to keep the teams even at 93 points. NHL Hockey Handicappers. That won't work for the Panthers because the Lightning have six more regulation and overtime wins - the first tiebreaker. Boston (88 points) and Detroit (87) linger, but the Atlantic race appears to be confined to the Sunshine State." We just have to regroup," Jaromir Jagr told the team's official website. "There's always next game. It's not like we lost and we're out of the playoffs. We have to forget about it and get ready for next game. It's going to be even bigger." Jagr had an assist and is a point away from his 18th 60-point season, while Jonathan Huberdeau scored for a third straight game. Game Fixing. Those two might be asked to do even more if Vincent Tr ocheck misses time. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The forward, who had scored in four straight games to tie Jagr for the team lead with 25 goals, left in the second period after blocking a shot, and it seems that he suffered a non-displaced ankle fracture that will likely sideline him for at least the rest of the regular season. He's expected to be in a cast for 10 days before being re-evaluated in time for a hopeful playoff return. In the meantime, 5-foot-6 center Rocco Grimaldi will likely be called up in Trocheck's absence." He was our best player for a long time, so it's tough," Jagr said. "Not only we lost this game, we lost our best player. Hopefully somebody else is going to step up. He was playing so well and the whole line (Trocheck-Jussi Jokinen-Reilly Smith) was playing so good." The immediate problems were on the penalty kill. Toronto was 3 for 4 on the power play after the Lightning went 2 for 5 three days earlier. Over a 2-2-1 home span, Florida has given up 4.20 goals per game with opponents' power plays (6 of 16, 37.5 percent) nearly tripling its own (2 of 15, 13.3). The Panthers last lost three straight home games in regulation from March 27-April 4, 2014. Since acquiring Jagr from New Jersey on Feb. 26, 2015, the Panthers have won two of three in the series with the 44-year-old recording five points. He's certainly on the better side of the series considering winning out likely won't be enough for New Jersey (37-32-8) to make the playoffs. The Devils, however, will have a significant impact on the Atlantic race, following Thursday's game with Saturday's in Tampa before a home meeting with the Lightning five days later. They remained solid defensively in Tuesday's 2-1 home win over Boston and have limited opponents to six goals over a 3-1-1 span." We can only contro l our games," said goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who finished with a career-high 29 saves. "We just have to hope there are a few losses from other teams. We just have to win our games." New Jersey could have Cory Schneider, who had been with AHL Albany for conditioning after suffering an MCL sprain on March 4. He's back with the team but has posted a 3.45 goals-against average and .869 save percentage over a 1-7-0 span. Florida's Roberto Luongo has given up four goals in three straight home games with an .855 save percentage, as well as 11 with a .756 mark on a three-game skid against New Jersey.

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NHL Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning - 3/31/2016 - 7:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 07:30 P.M. EST Venue: Amalie Arena   Twelve years and a pair of lockouts separate Tampa Bay from its last division title, when a 14-year-old Steven Stamkos watched the Lightning hoist their only Stanley Cup. Handicapper Return on Investment. Tampa proved last year that winning the Atlantic certainly isn't a prerequisite to play for the silver chalice by eliminating division-champion Montreal on its way to the Final, but home-ice advantage through the first two rounds certainly would benefit a team that has lost only four regulation games at Amalie Arena in 2016. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. Tampa Bay can clinch the division's tiebreaker over its Sunshine State rival with a regulation or overtime victory Thursday night against a Canadiens team has won the first two matchups this season. Good Sports Handicappers< /a>. The Lightning (44-27-5) won the Southeast in 2003-04 before beating Calgary in seven games to win the Cup. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They haven't finished better than second in their division since, with a franchise-record 108 points in 2014-15 falling two behind Montreal. Handicappers Free Picks. Tampa won the second-round series with the Canadiens in six games despite not having the home-ice edge and won the Eastern Conference before losing Chicago in the Final. It has gone 15-4-1 at home in the new year, though, and is inching closer to have an advantage over Florida for the Atlantic title. A victory over the Canadiens (35-36-6) would secure the tiebreaker with more victories in regulation or overtime over the Panthers, who also have 93 points to tie for the division lead. Free NHL Hockey Picks. Tampa Bay has six more such wins, and after Thursday, both clubs will have five games remaining. The Lightning have won four of their last five, with the lone defeat coming to Florida on Saturday. They bounced back with Monday's 3-0 win over Toronto as Ben Bishop made 34 saves. Tampa completes a six-game homestand Saturday against New Jersey." A lot of things we need to work on," said Stamkos, who had two assists. "We will take the win, especially at this point of the year when points are critical, but I can't sit here and honestly say that was a great effort from us. We have to thank Bish for sure for giving us a chance to win this game ultimately." Valtteri Filppula returned from injury after missing the previous six, but Ryan Callahan sat out his fifth straight and Nikita Kucherov missed his second in a row as they both battle lower-body injuries. It's unclear if they'll return against Montre al, which is trying to play spoiler after being eliminated from postseason contention. It dropped six of its previous eight before dealing Detroit a blow to its playoff hopes with Tuesday's 4-3 win. Max Pacioretty opened the scoring in the first, then broke the tie in the third with his 27th goal of the season. P. K. Subban sat out for the ninth straight contest with a neck injury, but he's reportedly close to returning.'' The games we've won through this bad stretch have been against some very good teams," Pacioretty said. "Sometimes you're able to surprise teams like that. First-place teams tend to take their foot off the gas late in the year.'' The Lightning won the previous seven regular-season meetings before Pacioretty's shootout goal gave the Canadiens a 4-3 victory Dec. 28. Tomas Plekanec scored in that contest then had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 victory over Tampa on Feb. 9. Bishop took the loss in both matchups af ter posting a 1.41 goals-against average while winning his previous seven regular-season starts against Montreal. Mike Condon made 36 saves for the Canadiens in the first meeting and could be in net again despite a 3.89 GAA over his last six starts.

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NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Houston Rockets - 3/31/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Houston Rockets - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Toyota Center   As desperate as the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls are, any and all wins are welcome no matter how they're earned. With two weeks left in the regular season and limited opportunities remaining, the Bulls visit the Rockets on Thursday night for a matchup of two teams clawing to remain in the postseason hunt. Each slowed subpar stretches with tight victories Tuesday night. Houston (37-38) rallied from a 20-point deficit for a 106-100 win at Cleveland, and Chicago (37-37) earned a 98-96 victory at Indiana on Jimmy Butler's winner in the final seconds. Free MMA Picks. The Rockets won for the second time in three games as they battle Utah and Dallas in a packed race for the Western Conference's final two playoff spots. Houston trailed the LeBron James-less Cavaliers by 13 points entering the fourth quarter, but James Harden poured in 18 of his 27 during a 35-16 advanta ge in the final 12 minutes. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Rockets followed a 14-point second quarter by shooting 57.1 percent for 66 points in the second half. Maybe more impressive was a defensive effort that kept them in the game. Cleveland shot 32.5 percent after halftime and 36.0 for the game, the third lowest all season for a Houston opponent.'' The thing about us is to not get in our own way,'' Patrick Beverley said. ''When we do that, we're fine.'' The Rockets open a tough seven-day stretch that continues with Sunday's home game versus Oklahoma City and closes Wednesday at Dallas. However, they finish the season against four of the West's bottom five teams and play five of the last seven at home. Meanwhile, the Bulls continued a road-heavy stretch by surviving Tuesday's game against the Pacers. Spor ts Handicappers Rankings. They avoided their fifth straight loss and pulled within two games of Indiana for the East's eighth playoff spot while claiming the tiebreaker. Five of the Bulls' final eight games are on the road, where they are 13-23 and have lost 11 of 13. Nikola Mirotic made seven 3-pointers for 28 points in the latest. He scored 11 more than his previous three games combined and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double since Jan. 9. Butler, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose - Chicago's top three scorers - combined to shoot 36.8 percent for 32 points, but Butler dribbled down the clock and sank a 10-foot jumper with 3.7 seconds left.'' We needed this win,'' Butler said. ''It was big for us to get a win here on the road against a playoff team. Hopefully this starts a trend for these last eight or nine games.'' It still wasn't pretty. Profitable N BA Basketball Handicappers. The Pacers outscored the Bulls 52-36 in the paint and 15-5 in fast-break points. Chicago committed 17 turnovers and shot 26.1 percent in the fourth quarter, finishing at 42.5 overall - its fourth straight game below 43.0. A drought without a 50-percent effort has reached a dozen games. One before that, the Bulls snapped a four-game skid with a 108-100 home win over the Rockets on March 5. Gasol, Butler and Rose combined to shoot 51.2 percent for 69 points, 31 rebounds and 21 assists to help Chicago to its third win in the last four games of this series. NFL Handicappers. The Rockets, who have won the last three in Houston, were led by Harden's 36 points and eight assists.

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NBA Preview: Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers - 3/31/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse   Though they hoped a home-heavy stretch would provide a springboard for a playoff push, the Indiana Pacers are instead trying to avoid finishing it with a losing record. After guard George Hill declared the rest of their games must-win, the Pacers look to get on track by extending their dominance over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night. Indiana had a hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference on March 13 before heading into a span with eight of nine at home. Handicappers Free Picks. The club, however, lost to lowly Brooklyn in its lone road game Saturday and fell to 4-4 during the stretch with Tuesday's 98-96 loss to reeling Chicago. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Pacers continued to scuffle in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on 5-of-22 shooting. Sports Betting Profit.  They've shot just 28.8 percent in the final 12 minutes over their past three." It's real frustrating," All-Star forward Paul George told the team's official website. George and Ian Mahinmi totaled 38 points on 16-of-28 shooting against the Bulls, but the rest of the Pacers shot just 37 percent. Mahinmi has been a surprising bright spot, averaging 18.3 points while shooting 74.2 percent over the previous three games. Indiana, which fell into eighth place, needs to take advantage of matchups with Orlando, Philadelphia and New York. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Pacers are a half-game behind Detroit and two ahead of the Bulls as they try to nail down a fifth straight playoff berth. Finishing higher than eighth could be huge since they've dropped all three meetings with East-best Cleveland and have been ousted by LeBron James-led teams the past three postseasons.& quot; It's a must-win," Hill said of Thursday's contest. "Any game right now is a must-win." The Pacers (39-35) haven't had much trouble doing that against the Magic (31-43), winning 15 of the past 17 matchups and eight in a row at home by an average of 18 points, including a 2012 first-round playoff series Indiana won in five games. Sports Bettors Phone Leads. They've limited Orlando to 86.7 points per game over the past 18 meetings, though the Magic are feeling good offensively as they continue to get healthier. Orlando has averaged 125 points while shooting 57.8 percent, including 21 of 46 from 3-point range, in winning back-to-back games for only the second time since Dec. 28-30. Andrew Nicholson led eight players in double figures with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-9 shooting as the Magic put up their best field-goal percentage (61.5) in eight years and their most points since 2009 in Tuesday's 139-105 home win over Brooklyn." It definitely would have meant more if we were chasing a playoff spot but we are still improving and still learning and becoming more familiar with each other," Aaron Gordon said. After second-leading scorer Victor Oladipo returned from a wrist injury, top scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic hopes to play after missing 13 games with a groin injury. Even without him, the Magic have held a 114-94 scoring advantage in the paint over their last two games. NBA Basketball Handicappers. They would appear to have an edge in that area as they go up against an Indiana team that has been outscored 210-156 inside over its last four. Dewayne Dedmon has stepped up the past two games, totaling 33 points and 17 boards.

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NHL Preview: Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - 3/31/2016 - 7:00 PM EST

NHL Preview: Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 07:00 P.M. EST Venue: Consol Energy Center   The Pittsburgh Penguins are picking the right time to have not only their most impressive stretch of the season, but arguably the best the entire league has seen over the past few weeks. Sometimes it just takes a little while to get going. Soccer Tipsters. The Penguins have made falling behind a habit lately before turning on the jets, a pattern they'd like to abandon as they try to move closer to locking up a playoff spot in Thursday night's visit from the Nashville Predators. Pittsburgh (43-25-8) has outscored opponents 37-22 in winning nine of its past 10 games, going from the postseason bubble to near-lock status with six games left. Any combination of four points gained by the Penguins or lost by Detroit will wrap up a 10th straight playoff berth. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They've been making it awfully difficult on themselves , though. Pittsburgh has given up the first goal in six of its last seven games, bouncing back to win five of those. Free Tennis Picks. Tuesday's hole was the deepest yet, but the Penguins dug out of a 3-0 first-period deficit to beat Buffalo 5-4 in a shootout. Only Washington (21) has won more games when allowing the first goal than Pittsburgh (17).'' For some unknown reason it keeps happening,'' said rookie winger Tom Kuhnhackl, whose short-handed goal late in the second tied it before Nick Bonino's shorty 24 seconds later gave the Penguins the lead. ''We find ourselves down one or two goals, today three goals down. Free NHL Hockey Picks. That can't happen as we get closer to the playoffs.'' A few weeks removed from a wild card being the best-case scenario, Pittsburgh is a point away from the New York Rangers in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round. Good Return on Investment. The Predators (39-25-13) will start on the road if they qualify but are closer to punching their postseason ticket, needing just a win Thursday to ensure they'll finish ahead of ninth-place Colorado. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. Their first two attempts didn't go so well, though. They fell behind 3-0 after 12 minutes in a 4-3 home loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday, then gave up a pair of empty-netters in the final two minutes to account for Wednesday's 5-2 final in Dallas.'' We've had two games where we had a chance to clinch a playoff spot and couldn't do it," said Pekka Rinne, who started Wednesday after getting pulled early against the Avs. "So we just have to go to Pittsburgh and hopefully get it done (Thursday).'' That won't be easy against a Penguins team that has scored at least four goals in six of its last nine games, and it could be more difficult if Ryan Ellis can't go. The defenseman scored the first short-handed goal of his career Wednesday but left in the second period after taking a puck off the side of the head. James Neal has been doing his part heading into a visit to the city he called home for parts of four years, piling up seven goals and four assists over his last eight games. Neal scored a third-period goal against the Penguins on Oct. 24 before Phil Kessel's overtime tally gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 win. The Penguins have won six of seven in this series with Sidney Crosby totaling three goals and seven assists. Marc-Andre Fleury has been outstanding in the past six meetings, posting a .948 save percentage and allowing one goal or none in five of those. Rinne has lost five straight to Pittsbu rgh behind an .870 save percentage.

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NHL Preview: Calgary Flames vs. Los Angeles Kings - 3/31/2016 - 10:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Calgary Flames vs. Los Angeles Kings - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: Staples Center   Darryl Sutter doesn't seem overly worried about the Los Angeles Kings' drop in the standings or his team's recent trend of giving up goals. NBC Sports Picks. The latter has been a season-long problem for the Calgary Flames. Slumping Los Angeles looks to get back on track in Thursday night's return to Staples Center, where the Flames enter off their worst defensive performance in three years. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Kings (45-26-5) have lost four of five to fall one point behind charging Anaheim for the Pacific Division lead. Sports Handicapper King. They've scored two goals or less in five of the last six games and surrendered 13 over the past three, an uncommon occurrence for a team that's allowed the third-fewest this season. Los Angeles pe rmitted three unanswered goals in the third period of Monday's 5-2 loss at San Jose, now three points behind the Kings after defeating Vancouver on Tuesday." I think we did what we wanted to do for the most part," said an unconcerned Sutter. "We had a good first period, scored a power play goal, we didn't take a penalty until late in the first, we were able to kill it off early in the second. Bounced back after they scored to go ahead against the fourth line. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. Tie it up, go into the third. Professional Sports Handicappers. That's what you want." Each of the Kings' last four losses have come on the road, including three to teams on pace to reach the playoffs. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They've won three straight and nine of 11 at Staples Center, where they'll play four of their final six regular-season games. With the postseason still two weeks away, Jonathan Quick has time to work out of a cold stretch. The All-Star goaltender has a 3.47 goals-against average and .874 save percentage in losing four of his last five starts. Quick does own a 1.62 GAA in his last 17 matchups with the Flames and stopped 45 of 47 shots to help Los Angeles win both previous meetings this season. Anaheim took over first place with Wednesday's 8-3 drubbing of the Flames, scoring three times in the first 6:51 and building a 5-0 lead 5:30 into the second to record its 23rd consecutive home win in the series, tying an NHL record for the longest streak against a single opponent. Calgary (32-39-6), which has allowed a league-high 245 goals, yielded its most in a game since an 8-2 loss to Edmonton on April 3, 2013.'' You give them a few freebies from the start, and you know it 's going to be a long game," coach Bob Hartley said. "Nothing to take away from the Ducks, but in order to beat them you need a few saves here and there." Hartley has been able to count on Joni Ortio of late. The 24-year-old Finn had 24 saves in Monday's 5-2 victory at Arizona that opened this four-game trip and stopped 23 of 25 shots Saturday against Chicago. Ortio, 2-1-1 with a 1.97 GAA over his last four starts, recorded 35 saves in a 2-1 loss in Los Angeles on Feb. 23. The Flames hope to have leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau back after he missed a second straight game Wednesday with an upper-body injury.

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NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks - 3/31/2016 - 10:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 10:30 P.M. EST Venue: SAP Center at San Jose   With every point crucial as they chase their first division title in five years, the San Jose Sharks are hoping to make the most of another golden opportunity against the Vancouver Canucks. Coming off his first career hat trick, Logan Couture will try to help the Sharks keep the pressure on in the Pacific Division race by dealing the visiting Canucks a franchise record-tying 10th consecutive defeat Thursday night in the back end of this home-and-home set. After losing three in a row at SAP Center last week, the Sharks locked up their 11th playoff appearance in the past 12 seasons with Monday's 5-2 victory over Los Angeles. Now they've shifted their focus to capturing their first division crown since the last of a four-year run in 2010-11. San Jose is in a tight chase behind the Ducks and the Kings - both of whom have a game in hand. Sports Handicapping Service Winning Streaks. The Sharks, though, gai ned more ground on idle Los Angeles on Tuesday with a 4-1 road win in the opener of back-to-back games against a Vancouver team tied for the league's fewest points. Couture led the way with his first hat trick after recording 20 career two-goal efforts. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The center, who also snapped a 10-game goal drought, has 11 goals and 23 points - his second most versus Western Conference opponent - in 27 career games against the Canucks (27-36-13). Couture has been a big part of San Jose's return to the playoffs after missing nearly two months early in the season due to a broken leg that was followed by surgery to repair internal bleeding. Sports Handicapper Reviews. The Sharks have gone 29-13-5 with Couture in the lineup but are below .500 without him.'' We're a different team with him,' 9; coach Peter DeBoer said. ''We missed him.'' Though they're a conference-best 26-10-3 on the road, the Sharks (43-28-6) have struggled to break even on the home ice. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They've also dropped five in a row there against the Canucks. Vancouver, however, hasn't been able to win at any venue of late. Expert Sports Picks. The club hopes to shake its first nine-game losing streak since a franchise-worst 10-game skid from Oct. 23-Nov. 11, 1997. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Canucks had two ties during a 10-game winless stretch from Jan. 7-28, 1998. They've been outscored 28-8 while getting blanked four times during this 0-8-1 stretch. Recalled from the AHL earlier this month, Chris Higgins scored his third goal in 31 games on Tuesday . The veteran left wing is just one of the players getting an opportunity with Vancouver missing injured regulars Alexander Edler, Luca Sbisa, Brandon Sutter, Radim Vrbata and Derek Dorsett. Though they aren't getting results, Henrik Sedin insists there's been reason for optimism." (Because) we can start talking about (a lack of execution), it's good for us," the captain explained, "because the past two or three months, that hasn't been the case. We've been way too spread out. We haven't played within our structure and that's why we've been losing games." San Jose's Joe Thornton has at least one point in each of San Jose's last 30 wins dating back to Nov. 28. The center has one goal and seven assists in a six-game point streak against Vancouver. Brent Burns, who ranks second among all defensemen with 71 points, has six assists in his last four games. The All-Star also has eight assists and 12 poi nts over his past 11 in this series.

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NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - 3/31/2016 - 9:30 PM EST

NBA Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 09:30 P.M. EST Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena   On their best run since the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Clippers can afford to take some well-deserved time off. And that's precisely what Doc Rivers plans to do with several starters in Thursday night's matchup with an Oklahoma City Thunder team expected to be back at full strength. Rivers said following Wednesday's 99-79 rout at Minnesota - the Clippers' fourth straight win - that Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J. J. Redick will be rested when the team plays its fourth game in five days on Thursday. Free Guaranteed Sports Picks. The trio received some additional down time by each sitting out the fourth quarter against the Timberwolves with Los Angeles up 79-53 after three.'' It's been a tough season for all of us not knowing who is going to play on a nightly basis,'' said Paul, who nearly notched a triple-double with 20 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds in 31 min utes. ''Finding our rhythm now and sitting these fourth quarters has been great.'' Trailing the Thunder by 4 1-2 games for third in the West with eight remaining and comfortably ahead of fifth-place Memphis, Los Angeles (47-27) is turning its attention to the playoffs and Blake Griffin's impending return. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The star forward, sidelined since Christmas, will be eligible for Sunday's game against Washington after completing a four-game suspension for punching the team's assistant equipment manager in January. Oklahoma City (52-33) took a similar approach in its last outing, sitting Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka Tuesday in Detroit. Winning Sports Handicappers. Their absences were felt as the Thunder recorded their lowest point total of the season in an 88-82 loss that halted a s eason-high eight-game winning streak. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The short-handed Thunder shot 37.8 percent and committed 19 turnovers in a sharp dropoff from their recent offensive displays. Oklahoma City shot 51.1 percent and averaged 117.3 points during the streak." We had terrible shot selection, and we kept turning over the ball," guard Randy Foye said. "You can't shoot yourself in the foot all night and expect to beat an NBA team.'' The Clippers figure to face a decline on defense without Paul and Jordan. Sport Handicapping. They've been sensational on that end during their unbeaten run, limiting opponents to 88.3 points per game and 37.1 percent shooting. NBA Basketball Handicappers. They held Minnesota to a season-low 34.5 percent." We're hitting our stride at the right time," guard Jamal Crawford said. "We hit a bump in the road a week and a half or so ago, it was an adjustment period, and now we're figuring things out again." The Clippers couldn't slow down the high-powered Thunder in their last visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena, with Oklahoma City shooting 52.7 percent in a 120-108 win on March 9. Durant had 30 points and 12 rebounds and Russell Westbrook registered one of his league-high 16 triple-doubles with 25 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 19 assists. Oklahoma City also owned a 52-29 rebounding advantage and will likely have a decided edge again. The Thunder's plus-11.3 rebounding margin since March 2 is the NBA's best, while Los Angeles ranks 29th over that span at minus-9.5. Durant, averaging 31.4 points over his last 11 matchups with the Clippers, also scored 30 points in a 103-98 win in Los Angeles on March 2. Paul had 32 in a 100-99 home victory in t he teams' first meeting this season on Dec. 21.

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NBA Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Portland Trail Blazers - 3/31/2016 - 10:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 10:00 P.M. EST Venue: Moda Center   In the midst of a difficult road swing, Brad Stevens insists he isn't thinking about the playoff race even though his Boston Celtics are fighting for home-court advantage. Sports Handicapper Records. The third-year coach certainly doesn't want his club thinking ahead to the intriguing final two games of this trip before visiting what has been one of the NBA's toughest venues recently. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Celtics could get a boost from the return of starting forward Jae Crowder on Thursday night when they try to deal the Portland Trail Blazers their fourth loss in 20 home games. Crowder became a key piece to Boston's playoff push before injuring his ankle early in the third quarter against Houston on March 11. Including that game and the eight he's missed, the Celtics have gone 4-5 while averagin g 100.7 points. Professional Sports Handicappers. They had scored 111.5 per game in the previous 28, with Crowder averaging 17.4 points in his last 12 full games. Crowder also leads the team with 1.8 steals per game and is hopeful of returning for this one. One of four teams in a tight fight between third and sixth in the Eastern Conference, Boston (43-31) should be motivated to finish in the top four after winning 16 of its last 18 at home. Stevens believes his club will get there if it can remain focused on the present. It has split the first two on this five-game trip following Monday's 114-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers." I don't even pay attention to (the standings). We've got so many games left. It's not like we're down to one or two," Stevens told the team's official website. "We'll end up where we end up. NBA Basketball Handicappers. That's the way I've always looked at it. Results take care of themselves." Stevens hopes that's the approach prior to Friday's date with a Golden State team that's riding the NBA's longest home winning streak and Sunday's final showdown with the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers. Best Free Sports Picks. The Celtics took the Warriors to double overtime in December before falling 124-119. Portland's 16-3 home record since Jan. 10 is third-best in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio, which both remain unbeaten at home. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Blazers extended their current home winning streak to five after leading by as many as 28 points in Monday's 105-93 win over Sacramento. Now they're hoping to keep closing the gap on struggling fifth-place Memphis while inching closer to clinching a postseason berth." We haven't really talked as a team about where we want to finish, but I feel like our main thing is making the playoffs," said Allen Crabbe, who led the way Monday with 21 points. The Blazers have been particularly strong offensively at home, averaging 114.4 points in its last 10 games. Leading scorers Damian Lillard (25.4 points per game) and C. J. McCollum (20.7) should be well rested after two days off and sitting out the fourth quarter Monday. Portland's prolific backcourt, however, was outplayed by Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley in a 116-93 loss at Boston on March 2. Thomas and Bradley teamed for 47 points, while Lillard and McCollum had a combined 37 and shot 13 for 30. Thomas has averaged an East-leading 26.2 points in 13 games this month, but he's scored just 8.8 per game on 29.3 percent shooting in six career visits to Portland (39-36). Bos ton has won two the last two meetings in this series after losing the prior four. Lillard has shot 35.2 percent in seven career matchups with the Celtics and enters this one looking to avoid being held under 20 points in a season-high fourth consecutive game.

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NHL Preview: Arizona Coyotes vs. Dallas Stars - 3/31/2016 - 8:30 PM EST

NHL Preview: Arizona Coyotes vs. Dallas Stars - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 08:30 P.M. EST Venue: American Airlines Center   With a demanding trip to face two of the Western Conference's top teams looming, Dallas knows how vital two points are in its last game against a non-playoff contender. Arizona just hasn't played like a postseason afterthought against the Stars. Dallas continues its pursuit of the West's top seed Thursday night, but it's the visiting Coyotes seeking a sweep in the season series after beating the conference front-runners last week. Sports Handicapper Picks. The Stars (46-22-9) are tied on 101 points atop both the Central Division and the West with St. Louis, and after Tuesday's 5-2 win over Nashville, they have a three-game advantage in the first tiebreaker of regulation and overtime wins. Both teams have five games remaining, but Dallas follows this contest with visits to Los Angeles and Anaheim before facing Colorado and the Predators at home." I think we're doing a lo t of good things, and we're getting good results because of it," Jason Spezza told the team's official website. "We're trending in the right direction. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The games are only going to get tougher and tougher here as we get going." Spezza scored his 30th goal to give the franchise its first set of three 30-goal scorers along with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin since Russ Courtnall, Ulf Dahlen, Mike Modano and Dave Gagner each hit the mark for the Minnesota North Stars in 1992-93. Benn has three in his last two games to put him one away from his first 40-goal season. No Stars player has reached that mark since Modano's 50-goal campaign in '93-94 - the franchise's first season in Dallas. He's already tied with Brett Hull in 2000-01 for the top mark since the turn of the millennium. Good Return on In vestment. Team-wise, it's Dallas' first 100-point season since 2006-07. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. That one ended at 107, but it was only good enough for third in the old Pacific Division and fifth in the West." It's a good accomplishment, not a lot of teams hit that," Alex Goligoski said. "We should feel good about that. Football Tipsters. The team has worked hard all year. We still have some time to add more points." After a 3-1 home win over the Stars last Thursday, Arizona (34-35-7) has won the first two meetings by a 9-4 total after Dallas swept three last season by a 13-4 score. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The games this season have both come in the desert, but the Stars have won the last six in Dallas while limiting the Coyote s to a total of two goals over the previous three. Last week's victory was part of a three-game winning streak that ended with Monday's 5-2 home loss to Calgary. Anthony Duclair had both goals and is one away from becoming the second player since the franchise moved to Arizona to hit the 20-goal mark after Peter Mueller scored 22 in 2007-08. Teemu Selanne's '92-93 franchise record of 76 is probably out of reach. Both of Duclair's goals came on the power play, and the Coyotes are 3 for 7 in the last two games." We made some good plays on the power play. You want to capitalize every time we're not ahead," Duclair said. "That's what we did, but at the same time the game is played 5-on-5 and they did a better job." A loss of any kind or Minnesota earning a point against Ottawa will formally eliminate Arizona from playoff contention in a season that started with promise. The Coyotes were second in the Pacific in mid-January but have gone 12-19-2 since with 2.30 goals per game. That's put more pressure on their goaltenders, and Mike Smith figures to face Dallas. He's been a new man since returning from a 40-game injury absence, going 4-1-0 with a 1.20 goals-against average and .965 save percentage, though he's lost his last four against Dallas. Kari Lehtonen has had the majority of the starts for the Stars lately, posting a 1.77 GAA and .941 save percentage over a 3-1-0 span. He's notched 1.51 and .950 marks over a 5-1-0 run against the Coyotes.

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NHL Preview: Ottawa Senators vs. Minnesota Wild - 3/31/2016 - 8:00 PM EST

NHL Preview: Ottawa Senators vs. Minnesota Wild - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Xcel Energy Center   Both the Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators put together remarkable second-half runs to reach last season's playoffs. Only one seems headed for an encore. Nearing a fourth consecutive postseason trip, the resurgent Wild aim for a seventh straight win in Thursday night's meeting with the visiting Senators. Best Bets of the Day. The Wild are on pace to extend another roller-coaster season by coming through during the stretch run, though it took an organizational shakeup to foster this midseason rally. Minnesota (38-28-11) is 15-6-1 since interim coach John Torchetti replaced Mike Yeo on Feb. 13 to move five points clear of Colorado for the West's final wild card with five games remaining.'' I think it was just a stand by all of us in this locker room. Enough is enough,'' defenseman Matt Dumba said. ''We were sick of losing games to probably teams we shouldn't a nd ended up beating the ones that were higher up in the standings that we knew we could.'' Such surges are nothing new for the Wild. Free NHL Hockey Picks. They went 28-9-3 over their final 40 games last season and 23-10-7 over the last 40 of 2013-14, earning wild-card spots under Yeo each time. Number #1 Sports Handicapping Service. Torchetti has them playing like serious contenders once again. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Wild have outscored opponents 14-3 over their last three wins while yielding eight goals over the streak, and they've been stellar on special teams. Sports Handicapping. They're 27 of 28 on the penalty kill over the past 11 games and have converted 24.1 percent of power-p lay chances since the coaching switch.'' It's my job, when I took over, to gain the players' confidence that I trust them in all situations," he said. "I think once players trust, not just their coach but their teammates, they're able to play the game faster.'' Minnesota moved within one of its longest winning streak since a seven-game run from March 14-27, 2013, with Monday's 4-1 victory over slumping Chicago, three nights after increasing its playoff hopes with a 4-0 win at Colorado. Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter each had a goal and an assist against the Blackhawks to support another sharp effort from Devan Dubnyk, who's posted a 1.30 goals-against average while starting each game of the streak. Haula is on a career-high nine-game point streak and Niederreiter has six goals over that stretch. Ottawa (35-33-9) nabbed one of the East's wild cards with a sensational 21-3-3 finish to last season but won't be du plicating that feat, having been eliminated with Philadelphia's win over Washington on Wednesday. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Senators did their part to try to stay alive, opening a three-game trip with Wednesday's 2-1 win at Winnipeg. Last in the NHL in shots allowed, Ottawa held the Jets to 21 to halt a three-game skid." That was one of our best defensive efforts," goaltender Andrew Hammond said. ''The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is the shot blocks throughout the game at key times. Whether it was on the penalty kill or at the end of the game there when they had the goalie out, that was a huge part.'' The Senators have had the upper hand against the Wild of late, going 3-0-1 in the last four meetings and winning nine of the past 11. Erik Karlsson capped a three-point night by scoring the deciding goal in a 3-2 overtime victory in Ottawa on March 15. Ottawa had won four straight in Minnesota before a 3-2 shootout loss last March. With Hammond working Wednesday's win, the Senators are expected to turn back to a struggling Craig Anderson. The veteran goaltender has allowed 10 goals in losing all three starts since a 23-save effort against the Wild.

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NBA Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans - 3/31/2016 - 8:00 PM EST

NBA Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans - Date: 3/31/2016 Time: 08:00 P.M. EST Venue: Smoothie King Center   Missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season seems inevitable for the Denver Nuggets, but they can gain some ground with another win at New Orleans. Handicapper Return on Investment. The Nuggets look to capitalize on a meeting with the injury-riddled Pelicans and beat them for a fourth straight time on the road Thursday night. Denver (32-44) is clinging to faint playoff hopes with six games remaining. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Nuggets are 5 1/2 games back of the three-way tie between Houston, Utah and Dallas for the final two spots in the Western Conference. Sports Handicapping Software. They remained alive in the playoff race with Wednesday's 109-105 win at Memphis after losing six of their previous nine games." We made enough plays down the stretch," coach Michael Malone said. Will Barton is putting together a strong stretch. NBA Basketball Handicappers. The guard scored 25 points and hit 6 of 12 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, two days after scoring 23 while making 5 of 9 from beyond the arc in a 97-88 loss to the Mavericks. Barton is averaging career highs of 14.9 points and 6.0 rebounds, and Malone thinks that's worthy of recognition." I think his season, overall, has been fantastic. He has to be one of the top candidates in terms of not only Sixth Man of the Year, but Most Improved in the NBA," he said. Barton has converted 13 of 21 beyond the arc while averaging 24.7 points and 8.7 boards over the last three meetings with the Pelicans (27-47). He was four assists shy of a triple-double Dec. 20, but that wasn't enough in a 130-125 loss. He finished with career highs of 32 points and sev en 3s while adding 10 rebounds. Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 13 boards in that matchup, giving him averages of 17.3 and 10.0 over the last three in the series. Football Predictions. The Nuggets won 115-98 in their last visit to New Orleans on Nov. 17, getting 32 points from Danilo Gallinari. However, the forward is expected to be shut down for the rest of the season with an ankle injury that's sidelined him for a month. Injuries have become synonymous with the Pelicans, who have used 36 different starting lineups. Free NBA Basketball Picks. They were missing nine players for Wednesday's 100-92 loss at San Antonio, falling for the 13th time in 17 games. The slew of injuries is giving journeyman Alexis Ajinca a chance to prove he's deserving a larger role next season. The big man had 18 points and nine boards against th e Spurs, giving him averages of 15.3 and 7.0 while starting four straight games at forward. Listed as a center, Ajinca is averaging 5.2 points and 4.1 boards while starting 13 of 53 games. A sore calf kept him out of the last meeting with Denver, when Anthony Davis had 27 points while Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday had 21 apiece. All three of them are out for the season, and Omer Asik is the only remaining healthy starter left from that game.

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