NBA Game Recap: Houston Rockets (98) vs. Golden State Warriors (107) - Date: 3/31/2017 Apr 01, 2017 OAKLAND, Calif. Stephen Curry scored 24 points, Klay Thompson had 20 and the Golden State Warriors got key plays down the stretch from just about everybody, using a big fourth quarter to hold off the Houston Rockets 107-98 on Friday night.Andre Iguodala's left-handed drive and layup tied it with 7:07 remaining and he finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Ian Clark hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 5:58 to play before Matt Barnes delivered a clutch basket.James Harden had another tough shooting night for Houston, held to 17 points while going 4 for 18 from the floor and 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. He also had 12 rebounds and eight assists.JaVale McGee contributed 13 points and a season-best five blocked shots off the bench in a 10th straight win for the Warriors, who are determined to earn the No. 1 seed i n the Western Conference.
Friday, March 31, 2017
NHL Game Recap: Washington Capitals (3) vs. Arizona Coyotes (6) - Date: 3/31/2017 Apr 1, 2017 GLENDALE, Ariz. Christian Dvorak scored a pair of unassisted goals and the Arizona Coyotes chased Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby early in a 6-3 victory on Friday night that ended Washington's six-game winning streak. Alexander Burmistrov also scored twice for the Coyotes, giving him three this season. He scored 13:12 into the game to make it 3-0 and prompted Capitals coach Barry Trotz to replace Holtby with Philipp Grubauer. Holtby returned to the net for the final two periods, but only stopped 18 shots in the game. While Holtby had a night to forget, Louis Domingue stopped 45 shots in making his second straight start for the Coyotes. Josh Jooris and Peter Holland also scored for the Coyotes. Nicklas Backstrom, Daniel Winnik and Justin Williams had the goals for the Capitals. Backstrom's goal came after Oliver Ekman-L arsson received the first penalty of the night, 1:18 into the second period. It was the Capitals' 35th power-play goal in their last 38 games. Despite losing, Washington still moved closer to clinching the Metropolitan Division crown because Columbus lost to Chicago 3-1. Sports Handicappers. The Capitals have a four-point lead over the Blue Jackets with five games remaining for both teams. CTAIN RETURNSShane Doan, playing for the first time after missing seven games with a lower-body injury, assisted on Burmistrov's first goal. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The 40-year-old captain who has played in all 21 of the Coyotes' seasons has said he will talk to team management and consider his options after the season. NEW KID IN TOWNClayton Keller, the Coyotes' first-round draft pick last June, was a scratch after playing in his first two NHL games ea rlier in the week. Fox Sports Picks. The 18-year-old center scored 21 goals in 31 games for Boston University this season. NOT THIS TIMEThe Capitals fell to 35-6-2 in games when they score on the power play. UP NEXTWashington: At Columbus for a Metropolitan Division showdown on Sunday. A win there would all but wrap up the division title and move the Caps in range of clinching the league's best regular-season record. Arizona: Four games remain for the Coyotes, beginning Sunday in Los Angeles against the Kings.
NHL Game Recap: Los Angeles Kings (2) vs. Vancouver Canucks (0) - Date: 3/31/2017 Apr 1, 2017 VANCOUVER, British Columbia Jarome Iginla scored his 625th career goal and Jonathan Quick made 35 saves for his second shutout of the season as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-0 on Friday night. Number #1 Sports Handicapping Service. Tyler Toffoli also scored for Los Angeles, which is clinging to slim playoff hopes and now sits eight points behind Nashville for the second wild card in the Western Conference with five games remaining for each team. Iginla's milestone goal tied Joe Sakic for 15th place on the league's all-time list. Ryan Miller made 24 stops for Vancouver, which was eliminated from postseason contention last week and was shut out for the 10th time this season. Iginla got the Kings on the board on the power play with 7:17 left i n the second period by deflecting a shot from Alec Martinez past Miller for his 14th of the season and third goal in three games. It was also Iginla's fourth game-winning goal of the season and the 101st of his career. Acquired from Colorado prior to the NHL trade deadline, the 39-year-old has six goals in 14 games with Los Angeles after scoring just eight times in 61 contests with the Avalanche. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. Toffoli doubled the Kings' lead 3:50 later on a 3-on-2 rush, beating Miller high over the blocker with a perfect shot off the crossbar and in for his 19th. MLB Handicappers. The Canucks - now 2-8-2 over their last 12 games - had a great chance to jump in front less than two minutes into the second on a power play of their own, but rookie forward Brock Boeser, who came in with two goals in his first three NHL g ames, missed a wide-open net with Quick out of position. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Kings were coming off a 4-1 victory in Calgary after picking up just one win over their last five (1-4-0), a stretch that helped put the club's playoff hopes on the brink of elimination. Quick, who missed 59 games earlier this season with a groin injury, picked up his 44th career shutout after going 4-4-0 over his last nine starts, with 16 goals-against over that span. He made a nice pad save on Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa from the slot about five minutes into the third. Miller kept the Canucks in it midway through the period when he stopped Adrian Kempe all alone in front on a 2-on-1 break before Quick stoned Daniel Sedin moments later. Vancouver held an early 6-0 lead in shots before Los Angeles forced Miller into a save, but Martinez rang a seeing-eye effort through traffic moments later that found iron and stayed out. NOT ES: Griffen Molino, who signed a two-year contract as a college free agent with Vancouver on Tuesday, made his NHL debut. Sports Predictions. The 23-year-old forward had 15 goals and 18 assists in 40 games with Western Michigan University this season. ... Canucks F Drew Shore and brother Nick Shore, a forward with the Kings, played against each other in the NHL for the first time. Drew Shore picked up an assist on L. A.'s second goal. ... Vancouver backup G Jacob Markstrom, who hasn't played since injuring his right knee during the team's skills competition in late February, will have surgery next week and is out for the year. UP NEXTKings: Host Arizona on Sunday to open a four-game homestand before visiting Anaheim in the season finale. Canucks: Host San Jose on Sunday in the opener of a home-and-home set.
NHL Game Recap: St. Louis Blues (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (2) - Date: 3/31/2017 Apr 1, 2017 DENVER Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene scored shootout goals, Calvin Pickard had 27 saves through overtime and two more in the shootout and the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Friday night. Jake Allen had 31 saves and Ryan Reaves scored for the Blues, who clinched a playoff spot by earning a point. Sports Illustrated Picks. The Blues are in the postseason for the sixth straight season and are in the hunt for a top-three finish in the Central Division, which would mean avoiding a first-round matchup against a division winner. Free NHL Hockey Picks. They have 91 points, three more than fourth-place Nashville and both teams have five games remaining. Sports Betting Profit. The Avalanche ended a seven-game skid with the win and put a damper on St. Louis' celebration. J. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. T. Compher scored in regulation and MacKinnon also had an assist. Duchene opened the shootout with a goal, and after rookie Tyson Jost was stopped by Allen, MacKinnon ended it. Pickard stopped Patrik Bergland and Vladimir Tarasenko in the shootout to give Colorado its first win since March 15. Reaves scored on a tip in the first period to give St. Louis the lead, and Compher tied it with a power-play goal at 11:49 of the second period. Mikko Rantanen had a chance to give Colorado the win in overtime, but Allen made a save on his breakaway in the final minute. NEW BEGINNINGJost, 19, made his NHL debut after signing an entry-level contract Wednesday. Jost just completed his freshman season at the University of North Dakot a and jumped right into the NHL. Jost, Colorado's first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2016 draft, had 16 goals and 19 assists in 33 games for the Fighting Hawks but is the second player in the program's history to turn pro after one year. He jumped over the boards for his first shift 2:08 into the game with his mother and grandfather watching from the stands. Jost nearly had his first goal early in the third period. Allen got a glove on his shot from the left circle, and the puck just missed going inside the far post. NOTES: St. Louis D Robert Bortuzzo suffered an upper-body injury in the second period and did not return. ... Compher's goal in the second period was just Colorado's fourth on the power play in the last 23 games. ... Track Handicappers. The Blues are 18-7-2 since Mike Yeo took over as head coach on Feb. 1. UP NEXTBlues: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday. Avala nche: At the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.
NHL Game Recap: San Jose Sharks (2) vs. Calgary Flames (5) - Date: 3/31/2017 Apr 1, 2017 CALGARY, Alberta Matt Stajan got his first goal in 24 games during Calgary's three-goal second period, and the Flames beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2 Friday night to clinch a playoff berth. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett also scored for Calgary, which won three out of the four meetings this season against San Jose. Brian Elliott finished with 36 saves as the Flames pulled one point behind the third-place Sharks in the Pacific Division with four games remaining for each team, including a matchup in the season finale at San Jose. Calgary is back in the playoffs for just the second time in eight seasons. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Melker Karlsson scored for the Sharks, who have lost eight of their last nine. Martin Jones gave uup four goals on 22 shots before he was replaced by Alex Dell to start the third per iod. Dell stopped all 12 shots he faced.
NBA Game Recap: Washington Wizards (88) vs. Utah Jazz (95) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 SALT LAKE CITY Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 10 rebounds, Gordon Hayward scored 19 points and the Utah Jazz beat the Washington Wizards 95-88 on Friday night.The teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter. Profitable Handicappers. There were six ties, and neither team led by more than four until the final 33 seconds.Hayward got hot late after struggling much of the night and led an 11-4 run that gave the Jazz an 85-80 edge. Washington never led again, and Bradley Beal's turnover with 35 seconds left allowed Utah to close out the game from the free-throw line.Hayward scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and also had seven rebounds and four assists for the night.Beal led Washington with 27 points and John Wall added 16.
NHL Game Recap: Columbus Blue Jackets (1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (3) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 CHICAGO Artemi Panarin had two goals, Corey Crawford made 32 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 on Friday night to reach the cusp of clinching the Central Division. Panarin scored in the opening minute, then added an empty-netter with 44 seconds left for his 28th goal of the season. Marian Hossa also scored in the first period for Chicago, and Patrick Kane assisted on all three goals as Chicago extended its division lead to nine points over idle Minnesota. Point Shaving. The Wild have five games remaining and the Blackhawks have four. Nick Foligno scored his 25th goal to end an eight-game drought and Sergei Bobrovksy made 21 saves, but the Blue Jackets lost for the second time in two nights. Panarin and Hossa put Chicago ahead 2-1 a fter 20 minutes in a matchup of the teams with the NHL's second- and third-best records. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Blackhawks and Crawford played a smart, tidy game to deny the Blue Jackets a chance to gain ground on first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Bobrovsky got his first regulation loss since Feb. 19 against Nashville. He had been 10-0-2 during the run and entered leading the NHL in wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Coming off a 2-1 overtime loss at Carolina on Thursday night - with backup Joonas Korpisalo in net - the Blue Jackets didn't arrive at the their hotel in Chicago until about 1:30 p.m. on Friday. Winning Sports Picks Who You Should Follow. The team left Raleigh-Durham International Airport on a chartered jet shortly after Thursday's game, but the plane was forced to turn back about 30 minutes into the flight because of a faulty generator. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Blue Jackets returned to the hotel they stayed at on Wednesday, then flew to Chicago on Friday. Chicago took advantage by striking fast. Panarin got a power-play goal 32 seconds in and four seconds after Columbus' Brandon Dubinksy was sent off for cross-checking Niklas Hjalmarsson. After Jonathan Toews won a faceoff in the Blue Jackets' zone, Kane slipped the puck to Panarin in the slot. He beat Bobrovsky just over his glove with a quick shot. Sports Handicap. The teams exchanged goals 22 seconds apart during a 4-on-4 late in the first period. Foligno tied it 1-all with 2:45 left in the first from the left side of the crease. After taking Sam Gagner's pass from behind the net, he slipped the puck under Crawford. Finishing a 2-on-1 break with Kane, Hossa's 26th goal put Chicago back in front 2-1 moments later. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The 38-year-old faked Bobrovsky to the ice, cut across the crease and scored on a slick backhander. Both goalies made a handful of alert saves in the scoreless second period, but neither was heavily tested. Bobrovksy denied Hossa on a prime chance early in the third, then Crawford was sharp when needed - including on Gagner's deflection at 9:30 during a Columbus power play. NOTES: Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov missed his ninth game (lower body), but coach Joel Quenneville said he hoped the 22-goal scorer would return for the playoffs. ... C Vinnie Hinostroza, recalled from Rockford of the AHL on Thursday, was among Chicago's scratches. ... Columbus coach John Tortorella said the team's flight turnaround was ''very nerve-wracking,'' but otherwise joked about the incident before Frid ay's game and hoped it might rally his team. ''When you hear the announcement: `It's an emergency, but we're OK,' where do you go with that?'' Tortorella said. UP NEXT:Blue Jackets: Host league-leading Washington on Sunday in a showdown of the top teams in the rugged Metropolitan. Blackhawks: Host Boston on Sunday in their final regular-season home game. Chicago closes out the schedule with three road contests.
NBA Game Recap: Detroit Pistons (105) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (108) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 MILWAUKEE Khris Middleton hit a 3-pointer with 40.7 seconds left in overtime, rookie Thon Maker scored a career-high 23 points and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons 108-105 on Friday night.Middleton hit the 3 from the right wing after Maker tipped an offensive rebound right back to his teammate to save a crucial possession that started with a Middleton miss from nearly the same spot behind the arc.It was a thrilling end to the month for the Bucks, who moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference after going 14-4 in March.Tobias Harris scored 23 points to lead the Pistons in a game of wild of swings. Detroit trailed by 18 in the first quarter, then led by 10 in the fourth quarter before the Bucks finished with a flourish.All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks' charge from a 91-81 deficit, scoring 10 points in t he final 5 minutes of regulation. Maker's putback with 51 seconds left completed the rally, tying the score at 95.The Bucks heeded the cries of ''Defense!'' from their fans in overtime at the Bradley Center. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a 3 with 1:22 left to tie the game at 102, but Detroit didn't hit another field goal until Ish Smith's 3 with 0.1 seconds left.Milwaukee looked at first like it would cruise to a win, hitting 7 of its first 9 attempts from 3-point range to build leads of 22-4 and 35-22 in the first quarter, before the Pistons started chipping away.TIP INSPistons: Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after police say he was spotted speeding in suburban Detroit early Wednesday morning. He was arrested after a field sobriety test and taken to the police station, where a breathalyzer test showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent. Caldwell-Pope was cited for operating while intoxicated and released. Caldwell-Po pe declined to speak with reporters before game in Milwaukee and finished with 17 points. He played in Detroit's home win on Thursday over Brooklyn. ''He's a guy we really believe in not only as a player, but as a high-character guy,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said. ''We're aware of the situation and we'll let things run its course.'' Bucks: Rookie G Malcolm Brogdon missed the game with a sore back. ... F Michael Beasley (left knee) returned after missing 17 games with a hyperextended left knee, scoring seven points in eight minutes.UP NEXTPistons: Host the Toronto Raptors on April 5, when Detroit will try to even the season series at two games apiece.Bucks: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. Coach Jason Kidd and guard Jason Terry played together in Dallas when the Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011.---More NBA Basketball:https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
NBA Game Recap: New York Knicks (98) vs. Miami Heat (94) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 MIAMI ??? Kristaps Porzingis scored 22 points, Courtney Lee added 20 and the New York Knicks led nearly the entire way in beating the Miami Heat 98-94 on Friday night.Justin Holiday scored 12 for the Knicks, who played without Carmelo Anthony (back), Derrick Rose (knee) and Lance Thomas (hip). It was only the fourth win in the last 15 games for New York.Goran Dragic scored 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 16 rebounds for Miami, which missed 15 of its final 16 attempts from 3-point range. Sports Picks. Tyler Johnson scored 15 for the Heat.Even with the loss, Miami (37-39) held onto the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings because No. 8 Indiana (37-39) also lost, the Pacers falling to Toronto. Fre e NBA Basketball Picks. The Heat and Pacers are just a half-game ahead of No. 9 Chicago.The Heat had a chance to tie in the final seconds, but Dragic missed a layup and Whiteside was called for offensive basket interference as he tried to tip the rebound.Lee then sealed the win by hitting a pair of free throws."These guys have got to play like we want to win the game," Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. "We're not just going out there to play. You're not out there playing a pickup game - you're out there to try to win. So no matter who you have on the court, that's the way we should be approaching it." It may prove to be a costly loss for Miami.This was possibly the last game the Heat will play this season against a team eliminated from playoff contention. Miami hosts Denver on Sunday, followed by a three-game, four-night trip next week to Charlotte, Toronto and Washington. After that, it's back home for games with Cleveland and Washington - who may still be jockeying for playoff seeds.New York trailed for only 1 minute, 48 seconds, and never by more than a point. Hot Sports Handicappers. The Knicks' lead was four after one quarter, four at halftime and two after the third quarter.Miami tied the game five times in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter, and New York answered with a basket to reclaim the lead every time.TIP-INSKnicks: New York needs to finish 4-2 to avoid a third straight season of at least 50 losses. ... Anthony averaged 17.3 points in March. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The only other month when he averaged less while playing at least eight games was February 2012 (16.5). ... New York had 25 assists on 38 field goals.Heat: Dion Waiters (ankle) continues progressing, though no timetable has been set for his return. Friday was the seventh game he missed with the sprain. ... What is Sports Handicapping. Tyler Johnson got hit in the face in the first half, with some blood getting on his uniform and the court.GRANT HONOREDFormer Heat player Brian Grant, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nearly a decade ago, was at the game and is hosting a fundraiser Saturday in Miami to aid his foundation. "With Parkinson's, the main thing you want to happen, the best thing that can happen, is for you to progress relatively slow. And I've been progressing slowly," Grant said. He and Heat President Pat Riley - his former coach - chatted at courtside just before tipoff, both smiling broadly.VALUE GUYSWith Anthony, Rose and Thomas hurt and Joakim Noah suspended, the Knicks played without four of their five highest-paid players - that group making a combined $68 million this season. Lee was the only Knicks player with a salary over $4. 1 million who was on the court Friday.UP NEXTKnicks: Host Boston on Sunday, the start of a three-game homestand.Heat: Host Denver on Sunday, Miami's final game this regular season against a Western Conference opponent.
NBA Game Recap: San Antonio Spurs (100) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (95) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 OKLAHOMA CITY Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points, and the San Antonio Spurs rallied from 21 points down in the third quarter to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95 on Friday night.The Spurs never led until the final minute. LaMarcus Aldridge's dunk with 20.7 seconds left put the Spurs up 96-95. Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook drove to the hoop, but Aldridge blocked his shot. Leonard then drove the length of the floor, scored and was fouled. His free throw with 5.8 seconds left put the game out of reach.Westbrook had 32 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists for his 39th triple-double of the season. He needs two more to tie Oscar Robertson's single-season record of 41 set during the 1961-62 season.Pau Gasol scored 17 points for San Antonio, which was coming off a 110-98 home loss to Golden State on Wednesday in which the Spurs blew a 22-point lead.
NBA Game Recap: Dallas Mavericks (90) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (99) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 MEMPHIS, Tenn. Mike Conley scored 28 points, Zach Randolph added 22 points and 12 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies clinched a playoff spot with a 99-90 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.Memphis' win, coupled with Denver's 122-114 loss at Charlotte earlier Friday night, earned the Grizzlies their seventh straight postseason berth.But Memphis had to weather a 3-point shooting rally in the closing minutes. Dallas made six of its first nine 3-point attempts in the final frame, a jumper by Wesley Matthews cutting Memphis' advantage to 94-90 with just over a minute left.But Dallas could get no closer, dropping its fourth straight.Troy Daniels finished with 21 points for Memphis, shooting 7 of 12 from outside the arc.Six Mavericks finished in double figures, led by 13 points each from Dirk Nowitzki, Matthews a nd J. J. Barea. Matthews also had seven assists, and Nowitzki grabbed 12 rebounds.
NBA Game Recap: Sacramento Kings (89) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (117) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 NEW ORLEANS DeMarcus Cousins had 37 points and 13 rebounds in his first game against the Kings, and the New Orleans Pelicans routed Sacramento 117-89 on Friday night.Cousins had downplayed his first meeting with the team that drafted him in 2010 and traded him away this February, but his play looked inspired. He tied a career-high with five 3-pointers and executed a tricky, crowd-pleasing, cross-court bounce pass during a fast break.Anthony Davis added 19 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks for the Pelicans, who led by as many as 32 en route to their eighth victory in 11 games.Pelicans first-round draft choice Buddy Hield, who was part of the Cousins trade, had 13 points for Sacramento, while Ben McLemore had 15 points.
NHL Game Recap: New Jersey Devils (1) vs. New York Islanders (2) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 NEW YORK Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier scored to help the New York Islanders preserve their slim playoff chances with a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 shots as the Islanders pulled four points behind Boston for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. New York won at home for the first time since beating the Devils here on Feb. 19, going 0-4-1 at Barclays Center in between. Halak has won both starts since being called up from AHL Bridgeport on March 23. Free Sports Handicappers. The Islanders might have suffered a big injury as captain John Tavares left the game late in the third period. NHL Hockey Handicappers. Tavares fell awkwardly with 3:14 left w hile chasing a puck behind the Devils net, and immediately began clutching his left leg. He was helped off the ice and to the dressing room. Adam Henrique scored and Keith Kincaid had 36 saves for the Devils, who are 2-13-4 in their last 19 games.
NBA Game Recap: Orlando Magic (116) vs. Boston Celtics (117) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 BOSTON Isaiah Thomas scored 35 points, Jae Crowder had 18 and the Boston Celtics held off the Orlando Magic 117-116 on Friday night to maintain their slim lead over Cleveland atop the Eastern Conference.The Celtics (49-27) entered with a half-game lead over the Cavaliers, who won easily against Philadelphia to preserve that margin.Al Horford and Jaylen Brown each scored 12 points, and Boston won for the fifth time in six games.Aaron Gordon scored 20 of his 32 points in the first half and had 16 rebounds, while Evan Fournier scored 20 points for the Magic. Elfrid Payton dished out a career-high 15 assists and flirted with a triple-double, getting 12 points and nine rebounds.
NBA Game Recap: Philadelphia 76ers (105) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (122) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 CLEVELAND LeBron James scored 34 points, Kyrie Irving dropped 24 and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended a turbulent and troublesome March with an easy 122-105 win over the injury-weakened Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.James made 14 of 22 shots in 30 minutes as the Cavs ended a three-game losing streak and won for just the third time in eight games to end the month 7-10.It's been an alarming stretch for the NBA champions, who are running out of time to get tuned up for the postseason. But against the lowly Sixers, Cleveland regained some of its swagger before heading into April when the real fun begins.Kevin Love added 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Cavs won their ninth straight over the Sixers.Richaun Holmes and rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 19 apiece for Philadelphia, which only dressed nine players.
NBA Game Recap: Indiana Pacers (100) vs. Toronto Raptors (111) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 TORONTO DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points and the Toronto Raptors rolled to their seventh straight home win over the Indiana Pacers with a 111-100 victory Friday night.DeRozan was 11 of 26 from the floor to register his 30th game of 30 points or more this season, tying Vince Carter's 2000-01 franchise mark. It was also DeRozan's sixth 40-point game of the season.Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 17 rebounds for his team-leading 28th double-double, while Serge Ibaka added 15 points and 12 rebounds.Paul George led the Pacers with 28 points, while Jeff Teague added 19, but they were unable to prevent Indiana, currently holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, from its fifth loss in its last six games.The Pacers' last regular-season win in Toronto came on March 1, 2013.
NHL Game Recap: Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. New York Rangers (3) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 NEW YORK Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist in regulation and then got the clinching coal in the shootout to lift Pittsburgh to a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, snapping the Penguins' four-game skid. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray stopped 30 shots for his 29th win of the season. Chris Kreider tied the score with 11.6 seconds left in the third period to force overtime. Nick Holden had a goal and an assist, Rick Nash also scored and J. Best Free Sports Picks. T. Miller added two assists for the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 32 saves as New York fell to 0-5-3 at home since beating Washington on Feb. 19. Phil Kessel also scored in the tiebreaker for the Penguins, and Murray stopped Mika Zibane jad and Mats Zuccarello.
NBA Game Recap: Denver Nuggets (114) vs. Charlotte Hornets (122) - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 CHARLOTTE, N. C. Kemba Walker had 31 points, and the Marco Belinelli and Frank Kaminsky took over in the fourth quarter as the Charlotte Hornets preserved their slim playoff hopes with a 122-114 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.The Hornets shot 17 for 26 on 3-pointers, including 7 for 12 in the fourth quarter. Charlotte made 16 3s in a win earlier this season over the Nuggets.Charlotte trailed by eight entering the fourth, but scored 12 straight points to take control. Walker ignited the run with a long 3-pointer and then scored on a drive and drew a foul. Kaminsky, who had 22 points, and Belinelli each had three 3s in the fourth quarter as Charlotte outscored Denver 36-20 to essentially save its season.In the meantime the Hornets dealt a severe blow to Denver's playoff chances. Both teams entered the game on the outsi de of the postseason bubble. Charlotte was 2 1/2 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Nuggets were 1 1/2 out of the eighth spot in the West.Nikola Jokic led Denver with 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Kenneth Faried had 18 points and 13 rebounds.Jokic, who had 31 points in the last meeting, was dominant for most of the night as the Nuggets outscored the Hornets 52-32 in the paint. But Jokic was neutralized in the fourth quarter as the Hornets started knocking down 3s, forcing the Nuggets into comeback mode and scrambling for quick shots.TIP INSNuggets: Denver made 9 of 19 3s in the first half. ... Mason Plumlee had a chance to play against his brother Miles Plumlee.Hornets: Walker became the second player in team history to scored 8,000 career points when he made a 3-pointer early in the first quarter. Best Sports Picks Today. The only other player to reach that mark is Dell Curry (9,8 39), the father of the Warriors' Steph Curry. ... Walker's 52 20-point games this season ranks third in team history.UP NEXTNuggets: At Miami on Sunday night. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The Hornets would surely appreciate the Nuggets getting a win there.Hornets: The road doesn't get any easier as they travel to Oklahoma City to face the Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
NCAAB Game Recap: Coastal Carolina (59) vs. Wyoming (83) - Date: 3/31/2017 Hayden Dalton scored 19 points with 11 rebounds and Justin James added 17 points to carry Wyoming to an 83-59 win over Coastal Carolina to claim the CBI championship on Friday. Dalton sank 5 of 9 from long range in notching his 12th double-double of the season. Wyoming (23-15) won the last two games - at home - by routs in the best-of-three College Basketball Invitational finals series after dropping the opener by 10 on the road. It was Wyoming's first national title since the 1943 NCAA championship. Coastal Carolina (20-19) was led by Demario Beck with 17 points, while Jaylen Shaw had 10. Sport Handicapping. The Chanticleers, who never led, closed within 44-34 after a 3-pointer by Joseph Williams-Powell from the top of the key with 15:37 to play. But James' layup and a trey by Dalton igni ted an 18-7 roll that left the Cowboys ahead 62-41. NCAAB College Basketball Handicappers. The Chanticleers never got closer than 18 after that, and the lead eventually reached 81-51 late.
NBA Game Preview: Washington Wizards vs. Utah Jazz - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 SALT LAKE CITY -- Injuries are keeping the same company as death and taxes for the Utah Jazz this season. When it comes to staying healthy, the Jazz can't seem to catch a break.A quadriceps contusion sidelined forward Gordon Hayward on Monday against New Orleans. Todays Free Sports Picks. Then, on Wednesday at Sacramento, point guards George Hill and Raul Neto both sat out with strained groins.Still, Utah (46-29) isn't letting those mounting injuries get in the way while it battles to secure a Top-4 seed and homecourt advantage. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Jazz took care of the Pelicans in a 108-100 win and followed up with a 112-82 rout over the Kings.Now they return to Utah to host the Washington Wizards o n Friday night as the Jazz look to extend their current winning streak to four games.Injuries to starters like Hill, Hayward and power forward Derrick Favors -- who has missed multiple games with a knee contusion -- have created opportunities for other players to step forward and play important roles.One such player is Shelvin Mack. Number #1 Sports Handicapping Service. The veteran guard saw his minutes dwindle and he fell out of the rotation earlier in the season. A sprained ankle complicated his efforts to get back into the lineup. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. The coaches assured Mack he would get his chance again."They just kept telling me to stay ready," he said. "Stay ready the when the time comes." Once Mack got off the bench against the Kings, he responded with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 28 minutes. NFL Handicappers. The bulk of his points came in a critical third-quarter stretch where he helped Utah hold off a Sacramento rally after the Kings had whittled a double-digit lead to three points.Mack also clogged passing lanes and forced turnovers which, Utah coach Quin Snyder said, means as much as scoring for a bench player trying to earn a bigger role."What we've said is: Whoever plays has to try to defend," Snyder said. "He had five defections, and that's what we want from guys off the bench. NBA Basketball Handicappers. They come in and they do that. The offense sometimes takes care of itself." Washington (46-29) has clinched a Southeast Division title, but still has plenty at stake in Salt Lake City. The Wizards trail Boston by two games and Cleveland by 1 1/2 games for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are a game ahe ad of fourth-place Toronto.Every game is critical in the battle for seeding at this point. Washington cannot afford to take another step back on its current road trip after falling to the Los Angeles Clippers 133-124 on Wednesday.The Clippers, who are a game behind the Jazz, scored a season-high 74 first-half points and shot 56.6 percent from the field during the game. It offset a second straight strong offensive performance for the Wizards, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-108 on Tuesday night to clinch their division title."The Clippers made a lot of shots, and they had over 70 at halftime, which is way too many," guard Bradley Beal said. "We were able to put some stops together, but when you're playing catch-up, it's always tough." John Wall has been playing out of his mind for the Wizards during their current road trip. In three games, Wall is averaging 37.3 points, 11.0 assists and 3.0 steals. Beal has complimented him with 23.3 points per game during the same stretch.Washington has had tremendous success on the road in March. The Wizards are 7-4 away from home this month. Utah is looking to add to a five-game winning streak in its home arena.
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NHL Game Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Chicago Blackhawks - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 8:30 PM EDTVenue: United Center, Chicago, Ill., 60612 With six games left in the most successful season in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to jump-start an offense that's gone ice cold. Documented Handicappers. Their situation could be far worse if not for goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who likely will be coming away with some top honors after the season. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Blue Jackets look to rediscover their scoring touch against one of the NHL's best when they tackle the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at the United Center. Columbus (49-19-8) picked up a point with a 2-1 loss in overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Sports Free Picks. That's pushed the Blue Jackets within four points of the Washington Capitals in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and the chance to open the postseason against a wild card. But an offense that's sputtered lately is a concern for John Tortorella's team. Columbus has managed just eight goals and is 0-for-9 on the power play over the last five games. Free NHL Hockey Picks. That's resulted in three losses with two coming after regulation." We need to find our offense. ... We got to find a way to get goals here and produce and gain momentum from that. It's contagious and we're just not doing it enough," Columbus' Nick Foligno said. Over the last five games, Foligno, who's scored 11 of his 24 goals with the man advantage, hasn't had a point, and Cam Atkinson -- Columbus' leader with 34 goals - - has just one tally. No player on the Blue Jackets has posted more than two points over that span, and that's wearing on Tortorella, a coach noted for being blunt." I think we have to stop the rhetoric," he said. "We just have to play better. Gambling Profit. There's no sense in dissecting this anymore. Our top guys have got to play better." That may be easier said than done against the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford is 5-1-0 in his last six home games against Columbus, allowing just nine goals. Scott Darling has never faced the Blue Jackets in Chicago, but is 10-3-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average as a starter at home this season. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Blue Jackets' situation would be direr if not for Bobrovsky, who didn't play Thursday and looks to close what's been arguably the bes t month of his NHL career -- one that may go a long way toward his second Vezina TrophyIn 10 March games, Bobrovsky has gone 9-0-1 with a 0.99 GAA, a .971 save percentage and four shutouts. Overall, he leads the NHL with 41 wins, a 1.97 GAA and .935 save percentage." Bob" also has beaten Chicago in four straight contests despite allowing a total of 10 goals. The Blue Jackets will face a Blackhawks team that overcame a rough patch in a big way. After surrendering 12 goals in losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, Chicago (49-21-7) avoided going winless on its road trip by scoring four first-period goals to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday." I think it's good to know we can play like that," Chicago forward Patrick Kane told the NHL's official website. "Let's try to get this momentum going into the (Stanley Cup playoffs) where we're firing on all cylinders." For the la st two months, Chicago has been doing just that. After closing January with three straight losses, the Blackhawks have gone 19-4-2 to surge past the Minnesota Wild and move atop the Central Division and the Western Conference. The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, Kane has played a crucial role with team highs of 19 goals and 16 assists over the last 25 games, and that includes three goals and three assists in a four-game points streak at home. Kane is second in the league with 84 points, seven points behind Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Kane played a season-high 28 minutes, 48 seconds on Oct. 21 against Columbus, but failed to register a point in Chicago's 3-2 loss. Chicago will be looking for the second 50-win season in the Original Six franchise's history. The 'Hawks set a franchise record with 52 wins in 2009-10, and would go on to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to end a 49-year Stanley Cup drought.
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NBA Game Preview: New York Knicks vs. Miami Heat - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 MIAMI -- South Florida fans won't get a very appealing matchup on Friday when the Miami Heat host the lowly New York Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena.Miami (37-38) defeated the Knicks (28-47) on Wednesday night in New York, producing a rather easy 105-88 victory in which a "Let's Go Heat" chant was loudly heard at Madison Square Garden.Now, here comes the rematch.The Heat entered Thursday as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and is likely looking at a first-round playoff battle against the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers."Our guys embrace what's at hand," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Miami's playoff chase. "We embrace this challenge and enjoy it." The Heat have seven games left in the regular season, and the final four could be particularly difficult with two games against the Washington Wizards and one each against the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland.All three of those teams are safely in the playoffs, each among the top four in the East. But what remains to be seen is if those games against Miami will mean anything to them in terms of seeding or if their respective coaches will use them to rest their stars.And while the Heat are preparing for yet another important stretch of games, the Knicks -- as has become their custom -- are already thinking about the draft and free agency.That loss on Wednesday eliminated New York from playoff contention for the fourth straight season. It was a mathematical elimination for a Knicks team that had been counted out by virtually everyone many weeks ago in a nightmare trend that has continued for over a decade now.In fact, since the 2000-2001 season, the Knicks have won just one playoff series, which is tied with the New Orleans Pelicans for the fewest among any NBA franchise. Also during that span, the Knicks have won just 41.8 percent of their games, a record that is the third worst in the league. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets have been worse.Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis has been, pretty clearly, bitterly disappointed with his team's performance."I thought we would be in the playoff race," Porzingis told the media after Wednesday's loss. "I thought we would be the six, seven or eight seed, but things didn't go like we wanted." Things are so bad for the Knicks that forward Carmelo Anthony -- the team's superstar -- took just two shots in a scoreless first half against Miami and finished with just nine points."I don't think me going out and trying to score 30 or 40 points every night is going to help the team in the long run," Anthony told the media. "I'm just here to help those (young) guys." With Anthony playing a subservient role and starting point guard Derrick Rose sitting out with a sore le ft knee, Miami took full advantage and is favored to do so again Friday.The Knicks, who have lost nine of their past 11 games, should be an easy mark for the Heat.Even if Rose is back for New York on Friday -- which Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said was probable -- it is likely not enough to derail a Heat team that is playing for something significant.With a win on Friday, the Heat would become the first NBA team ever to reach .500 after a start that led them to 19 games underwater. It would also be the most wins (38) of any NBA team that at one point was 19 games below .500, breaking the record it now shares with the 2013-2014 Knicks.The Heat, which is expected to get shooting guard Dion Waiters back from an ankle injury shortly, is 26-8 since the halfway point of the season. Best Sports Picks Service. The Cavaliers, their possible first-round playoff opponents, are just 17-15 during that span.
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NBA Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 OKLAHOMA CITY -- The chants of "MVP, MVP" rang throughout the arena as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook engineered an overtime comeback victory on Wednesday night at Orlando.While that is nothing new in Oklahoma City, it is becoming the norm during road games as well for the MVP candidate.During the win over the Magic, Westbrook displayed every skill needed to be MVP-worthy. Leading Handicappers. The 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists gave him his 38th triple-double of the season. He recorded the highest point total in a triple-double in league history.Westbrook and the Thunder return home to face the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night."That is definitely a blessing," Westbrook said of stunning statistical season. "I definitely don't take this game for granted, and I try to come out each night and try to compete at a high level. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. That is definitely something that is a blessing and definitely something that I can be proud of." However, for Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan, it was an intangible that Westbrook put on display that has stood out this entire season."Some people get freaked out about, 'I don't want to be the guy who misses, I don't want to be viewed that way,'" Donovan said. "Then there are guys who don't think about that. Football Handicappers. They go for the win. Russell always plays to win. NBA Basketball Handicappers. There's a mindset you have to have for that." With eight games left in the regular season for the Th under, it is hard to imagine what else Westbrook can do to separate himself from the rest of the MVP contenders, in particular, Houston Rockets guard James Harden.Westbrook can start by racking up a few more wins against the top-tier teams. After getting run off the court twice in the past two weeks by the Golden State Warriors and Houston, a win over the Spurs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena could bolster Westbrook's resume.But more important for the Thunder as a team, a victory would aid their bid to grab home-court advantage for the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Sixth-place Oklahoma City (43-31) is 2 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Utah Jazz (46-29) and 1 1/2 games back of the fifth-place Los Angeles Clippers (46-31), with the top four securing the home-court edge.The Spurs (57-17) are also playing the seeding game. But after a crushing loss to the Warriors on Wednesday, they now trail Golden State (61-14) by 3 1/2 games for the No. 1 overall seed.S purs coach Gregg Popovich has never voiced too much concern over seeding. He likes to give the impression that as long as his team is in the playoffs, they have a chance to win the championship.With a lock on No. 2 in the West, there is no guarantee that Popovich won't rest some of his starters.However, the combination of the loss to the Warriors and a loss the last time San Antonio came to Oklahoma City, and the Spurs could be aching to get back into the win column as soon as possible."It's the NBA. You can't dwell on any of them," Spurs forward Danny Green told NBA.com. "You learn from it and move forward, be more professional, and try to get better."In the past, that's where Timmy (Duncan) was good for us, or teams in the past just collectively. We wouldn't let things like that happen. It might happen, but rarely. But I think it's happened more often than it should here at this time and this year."
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NBA Game Preview: Orlando Magic vs. Boston Celtics - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 BOSTON -- For the second time this week, the Boston Celtics won without lacing up their sneakers on Thursday night.Just as on Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Thursday night, this time falling to the Bulls in Chicago. And just as on Tuesday, the Celtics, sat at home with their feet up watching television while they moved into a half-game lead over the defending champions in the Eastern Conference standings.On Friday, the Celtics will take the court when the lowly Orlando Magic come to town.The Celtics, who seem to have the better remaining schedule in their battle with Cleveland, host the Cavs next Wednesday. Cleveland has a 2-1 lead in the season series.The Celtics, who close a six-game homestand Friday night, had won six in a row and 14 of their past 15 games at home before running into the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. Boston blew a 1 6-point lead and beat the Bucks in overtime in Milwaukee earlier this season, but the Celtics couldn't get the job done Wednesday in a 103-100 loss.It was Boston's first game as conference leaders in six years."It was a tough game," Celtics forward Jae Crowder said. "Those guys came out early and we fought back and were able to put ourselves in position to win the game but came up a little short. It was a good game, a good tough game, a good test for us." The Celtics (48-27) have clobbered the Magic in both meetings this season, winning by 30 points in both locations. Boston owns 12 consecutive home wins over the Magic.Wednesday night saw Celtics scoring machine Isaiah Thomas reach some milestones. He became the sixth Celtics player to score 2,000 points in a season, extended his club record with a 3-pointer in his 50th straight game and also posted his 50th 25-point game of the season.The same night, the Magic ran into Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook. Westbrook set an NBA record for most points scored in a triple-double when he had 57 while leading Oklahoma City to a 114-106 overtime win at Orlando.The Magic (27-48) blew a 21-point third quarter lead in losing for the third time in their last four games."Yeah, 'shoulda, coulda, woulda', but we didn't make enough plays to win the game," Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. "You have to play 48 minutes, you've got to hit big shots and you've got to hit timely shots. You've got to make your free throws and take care of the basketball and you've got to get whatever threat is coming at you on their offensive end under control." The Magic shot 48.5 percent from the floor in the first three quarters but then shot just 20.9 in the fourth quarter and overtime.Orlando was officially eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night, and now the young team has to fight through the rest of the schedule."I told my guys to keep their head high and that they played a terrific basketball game," Vogel said. "We're going in the right direction. I was proud of the way they performed (against Oklahoma City)."
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NBA Game Preview: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 CLEVELAND -- LeBron James said the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a bad spot after losing for the fifth time in seven games Thursday night.At least they're not the Philadelphia 76ers.Cleveland is muddling through a brutal March in which it has lost 10 of 16 games and fallen a half-game behind the Boston Celtics for first place in the East after a 99-93 loss to the Chicago Bulls.The Cavaliers are hoping they can stop their three-game slide and begin to look like they might defend their 2016 title by getting themselves right against those Sixers on Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena."We're just in a bad spot," James said. "We're going to try to figure it out. Sports Bettors Phone Leads. Tomorrow's another day. It's another opportunity, but we've g ot some work to do. We don't have a lot of time." James scored 26 points against the Bulls and moved past Shaquille O'Neal for seventh place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He now has 28,599 points in 14 seasons."That means absolutely nothing right now," James said. "I've been healthy enough and I've had some great teammates that allowed me to get to that point. Shaq is an all-time great, and the most dominant player to ever play this game. Extremely excited to see him get a statue outside of Staples Center. But I could (not) care less about me passing him. Means absolutely nothing." The 76ers are heading for their fifth straight lottery appearance and ravaged by injuries as the season nears its merciful end.Cleveland begins a three-game homestand against the Sixers after playing six of the last seven on the road. Richard Jefferson (left knee tendinitis) and Kyle Korver (left foot soreness) were out against the Bulls.Korver wi ll not play against the Sixers and it is unclear whether Jefferson will be available.The 76ers (28-47) know a thing or two about injuries even as they have matched their win total from the previous two seasons.The latest casualty is up-and-coming forward Robert Covington, who will not make Philadelphia's trip to Cleveland and Toronto because of right knee soreness.Covington, who is averaging 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, underwent an MRI on Thursday after sitting out a 99-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. In his last game, Covington totaled 21 points and 13 rebounds in a 106-101 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday."Our doctors and medical staff review and discuss the results of his MRI and continue to evaluate and treat him," the team said.Jahlil Okafor also didn't make the trip, according to Philly.com, nor did Sergio Rodriguez. Okafor will miss his fifth consecutive game with right knee soreness and Rodriguez his third with a left hamstring str ain.The 2016 No. 1 overall pick, Ben Simmons, hasn't played a second of pro basketball because of his broken right foot, and Joel Embiid, who was probably on his way to rookie-of-the-year honors, is done for the year after knee surgery.Without enough bodies, the Sixers turned to Richaun Holmes, who scored 25 points Wednesday."Each game that we play, we're forming our identity being a team that plays hard, plays together," Holmes said.Add them all up and Philadelphia may at best have nine players available to face the Cavs, who have beaten them eight consecutive times.
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NBA Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Houston Rockets visit the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, it will be a rematch of a game that had far greater significance three days earlier.When the clubs dueled in Houston on Tuesday, the Warriors were embarking upon arguably their most difficult back-to-back of the season. And they'd be doing it without injured forward Kevin Durant.The Warriors risked losing critical ground to the San Antonio Spurs in the race for top seeding in the Western playoffs when the back-to-back began, but they dispatched the Rockets and Spurs with relative ease, winning 113-106 at Houston and then 110-98 at San Antonio.The result: Golden State (61-14) has moved a virtually insurmountable 3 1/2 games up on the Spurs (57-17) as they head to the regular-season finish line with six home games and a visit to lowly Phoenix.The Warriors have won nine in a row since coach Steve Kerr's controversial decision to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green instead of playing them in a nationally televised showdown with the Spurs on March 11."There's no question we've benefitted from resting guys," Kerr told reporters after Wednesday's win. "We're in a good groove. We've bounced back. We're fresh." The Rockets, meanwhile, have bounced backward. A threat to catch San Antonio for the second seeding when they took the court Tuesday to face the Warriors, the Rockets (51-24) have dropped two straight to fall solidly into the third position in the West.For them, getting Ryan Anderson (sprained ankle) and Montrezl Harrell (attending birth of child) back into the flow, and staying healthy in general, would have to be considered much more important than anything else over the final seven games.The Rockets have positioned themselves to rest key players down the stretch without risking losing playoff positioning. One guy who could use a break is James Harden, who played through a slightly sprained wrist to score 30 points Thursday night. However, he was limited to a season-low four assists in the loss."It will get better, but if I keep banging on it and keep falling on it, then it's going to keep going back to Square 1," Harden noted to reporters before Thursday's game. "I try to limit banging on it and keeping it away from contact, (but) it's kinda hard because it's my left hand. I do a lot with my left hand." Two days after missing 26 of their 31 3-point attempts in the loss to Golden State, the Rockets surpassed the Warriors as the NBA's greatest single-season, 3-point-shooting team when they made their record 1,078th of the season at Portland.Golden State set the previous mark of 1,077 last season.The Warriors (897) rank third behind the Rockets (1,083) and Cleveland Cavaliers (955) this season.Friday's game will feature the top four players in the NBA in made 3-pointers this season, with Warriors guards Curry (289) and Thompson (247) ranking 1-2, followed by Harden (238) and Eric Gordon (231).
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NHL Game Preview: Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 10:00 PM EDTVenue: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 6G1 VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Jarome Iginla is hoping that one memorable night leads to another Friday. Fixed Games. The 39-year-old Los Angeles Kings winger will play what could be his last game in Vancouver, two nights after excelling and then receiving a rousing send-off from fans after what could have been his final game in Calgary, where he starred for many years. Friday's matchup holds extra meaning as the Kings (43-30-4) fight to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the already eliminated Canucks (30-37-9). Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Kings are 10 points out of a playoff spot, and a loss to Vancouver would eliminate them from contenti on." I don't know what the future holds," Iginla said Thursday after a short Kings practice at Rogers Arena. "Whether I play next year or not, I appreciate all the times and the games I've had against the Canucks. I have lots of good memories of competing against the Canucks and some great battles in here fighting in the playoffs." Obviously, I may play next year and I may not. But whether I lose or not, I want to enjoy it. Each game is still a lot of fun playing. But it's still our goal to make the playoffs and we're gonna do our best to give ourselves that chance." Iginla is looking for the Kings to pick up where they left off Wednesday in a convincing 4-1 victory over the Flames." We want to carry that over," Iginla said. "It was a team effort, team game, and it felt good." It would also be nice for the Kings if Iginla picked up where he left off personally on Wednesday. He had a Gordie Howe hat trick -- a g oal, assist and a fight. With six games remaining, the Kings need a lot of help from other teams in order to make the playoffs. But Iginla and company also want to make sure they help themselves as much as possible. Starting Friday." It's a must-win game," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "It's kind of like how all of our games have been in the last few weeks." Essentially, one more regulation-time loss will end the Kings' postseason hopes. But Doughty said they are determined to go out fighting." We're all fighters in here," he said. "We take a lot of pride when we put on the Los Angeles Kings' jersey, and we take a lot of pride in playing well for each other." We're brothers in here and we're never gonna go out on the ice and not play as hard as we possibly can -- no matter the circumstances." Doughty wants the Kings to deliver a better effort than they did in a 4-3 home loss to the Canucks earlie r this month." That was a big game for us, and that was a game we needed to win, too, and it was a game we should have won," Doughty said. "That was probably a big difference in (determining) where we are in the standings right now." If we'd won that game, we might have gone on a bit of a roll or something like that. So we owe these guys, because they beat us in our arena." The Canucks have lost nine of their past 11 games but have two wins in three meetings with L. A. this season. Both victories came in the last two encounters. Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said they are looking forward to being potential playoff spoilers." It gives us incentive to play for -- for sure," Sedin said. "We've got nothing else except for pride, so that's something that we can look to play for -- but we'd rather be playing for a playoff spot ourselves." However, Canucks coach Willie Desjardins downplayed the potential spoiler role.& quot; You want to play well for you," he said. "You're not doing it to spite somebody else or whatever. You want to make sure you're playing good because that's what you do and that's how you play." L. A.'s got a good team. Money Cappers. They're gonna come in and play hard, and we're have to be ready if we're gonna compete against them." The rebuilding Canucks will continue to audition young players. Forward Griffen Molino is slated to make his NHL debut after signing as a free agent Tuesday upon the completion of his collegiate career with Western Michigan." I'm excited to just get that first game under my belt, work hard, see how things go, try to keep it simple and have fun," said Molino, a 23-year-old Trenton, Mich., native. But Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom will not be taking part in many enjoyable activities for a while. Markst rom, out since mid-February with a knee injury suffered while trying to stop a breakaway in a team skills competition, has had his season shut down. He will undergo surgery next week to repair a torn meniscus." It's very disappointing," Markstrom said. "Obviously, it sucks being out of the lineup and being injured. You want to battle with the guys."
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NHL Game Preview: Washington Capitals vs. Arizona Coyotes - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 10:00 PM EDTVenue: Gila River Arena, Phoenix, Ariz., 85305 GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Washington Capitals have a shot at their third 120-plus point season in the last eight years. Good Return on Investment. They are closing in on the Presidents' Trophy as the league's top overall team, they have posted four win streaks of at least six games for the first time in franchise history and they have the NHL's stingiest defense with 170 goals allowed. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. That doesn't mean coach Barry Trotz is satisfied. Following the Caps' 5-3 win over Colorado on Wednesday in Denver, their sixth straight win, Trotz lamented his team's recent penchant for letting up after taking le ads." I didn't like our third at all," Trotz told the Washington Post. "We gave up five three-on-twos, and a couple other potential three-on-twos. Sports Bettors Phone Leads. That's not how you manage games." After Evgeny Kuznetsov scored to give Washington a 4-1 lead in the second period, Colorado's Matt Nieto and Nathan MacKinnon scored to cut the lead to one." We're a great team when we're really focused and making the right plays," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the Post. "The thing we have to focus on now is why we're letting up those 4-1 leads, and it's really just getting a little too casual." The reason we get those leads is because we're making the right plays, and we're not doing anything individualistic. We just have to make sure we're maintaining our game plan, and then those leads will go up even more." The Caps have motivation as the regular season draws to a close. NHL Hockey Handicappers. They lead the Columbus Blue Jackets by four points for the Metropolitan Division title with six games left for each team. Following Friday's game in Arizona against the Coyotes at Gila River Arena, the Caps will travel to Columbus for a key showdown on Sunday." I'd like to be in a position where we have a three-point cushion in Columbus and go into Columbus and win that hockey game. We'll put ourselves in a real good spot to secure the division. Now we've got to take care of business before we even get there. freepick. That's why I say, just win the day and stay focused on the task at hand." In the Coyotes, the Caps will face a team that has lost seven of its last eight games (1-6-1) and has scored one goal or fewer in six of those games, while allowing 28 goals during the eight-game stretch." We're playing in our D-zone too much," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "When you do that, eventually you break." With the playoffs out of reach, the Coyotes are playing a lot of young players, including recently signed rookie Clayton Keller, and it is showing in the stats. Arizona has allowed at least 30 shots in 13 of 15 March games, and 40 or more four times." There are some challenges right now because you've got some veteran players in there that are probably not happy with the way the season has gone and you've got some young players that are just trying to feel like they fit in the league," coach Dave Tippett said. "There's a whole mixed bag in there that is not exactly ideal." Coyotes captain Shane Doan should return to the lineup after a seven-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Free NH L Hockey Picks. Tippett wanted to see Doan get through a full practice on Thursday before deciding but Doan felt fine. The 21-year veteran could be playing his final season. Left winger Jamie McGinn rejoined the team after leaving it for a death in the family. He skated Thursday but probably won't play Friday. Defenseman Kevin Connauton (upper body) is day to day. Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve. Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for Arizona. Braden Holtby will start for Washington.
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NHL Game Preview: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 9:00 PM EDTVenue: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colo., 80204 The St. Louis Blues are starting to feel like the Pepsi Center is their home away from home. Sports Handicapping. The Blues face the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night, marking the third time in 26 days the teams will play in Denver. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The first two worked out pretty well for St. Louis: a 3-0 win on March 5 and a 4-2 victory on March 21. If that pattern holds Friday, the Blues (42-28-6) will be able to celebrate clinching a playoff spot. Free Tennis Picks. They enter the game with 90 points, one ahead of Nashville for third in the Central Division, with a game in hand after the Preda tors lost to Toronto on Thursday. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Blues are also 11 points up on Los Angeles, the only Western Conference team not in a playoff spot that hasn't officially been eliminated from contention. Hot Sports Handicappers. The most points the Kings can earn is 91, so a St. Louis win would clinch at least the second wild-card position in the conference. It is hard to imagine the red-hot Blues losing their six remaining games in regulation, so the only question left is whether they will be a wild-card team or finish in the top three of the division and avoid the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the West. Coach Mike Yeo said the most important thing is finishing strong. St. Louis is 11-1-1 in its last 13 games, so it has momentum going into the last 10 days." We want to make the playoffs, but we want to make sure that we're a good team going in," Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after a 3-1 win over Arizona on Wednesday. "The same focus for us: We got the win (Wednesday) and obviously there are some areas we have to be better at going into our next game." A quirky schedule had the Blues and Avalanche playing only one time before March. St. Louis beat Colorado 5-1 at home on Nov. 6 and has a chance to sweep the season series with a win Friday and another on the last day of the season in what will likely be a prep for the playoffs. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Avalanche (20-53-3) have long been eliminated from the postseason and are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, all in regulation. Two more losses and they would match their longest losing streak of the season, although there was an overtime loss in that Jan. 12-Feb. 4 stretch. Colorado doesn't have much to look forward to, but the re was excitement surrounding the team Thursday. Tyler Jost, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, arrived a day after signing an entry-level contract, and the hope is he will be able to play Friday. The only thing that could hinder that is paperwork. Jost is from St. Albert, Alberta, and officials were dealing with his work visa and issues that might not be cleared up before the game against St. Louis. When and if Jost, 19, is able to play, it will add a spark to a team that has gone 11-44-3 since Nov. 23. Jost just finished his freshman year at the University of North Dakota, where he had 16 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. General manager Joe Sakic dubbed him one of the untouchables before the March 1 trading deadline. Jost is just as eager to get on the ice as the organization is." I want to be a part of the rebuild and I want to do whatever I can to help this team in that rebuild stage," Jost told HockeyBuzz.com. "Obviously, they're struggling a little bit, but I think I can bring some energy and some pace into this lineup. I'm still very honored and happy to be part of this organization." If he gets on the ice Friday, he will probably witness St. Louis clinching a playoff spot and putting the Kings behind." We can't control what L. A. does, but we can control what we do in this room," Blues goaltender Carl Hutton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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NHL Game Preview: San Jose Sharks vs. Calgary Flames - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 9:00 PM EDTVenue: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Canada, T2G 2W1 CALGARY, Alberta -- The Calgary Flames let their emotions get the better of them against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night. In the process, the Flames (43-30-4) dropped a 4-1 decision to the Kings at the Scotiabank Saddledome and missed out on an opportunity to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs." We just didn't have any rhythm to our game," said Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan, who challenged his players on Thursday to learn from the emotion of the chippy affair against the Kings heading into their next game at home on Friday against the San Jose Sharks (43-27-7). "I think we need to do a better job of having better discipline over emotion." Although they didn't clinch their first playoff berth in three seasons, the Flames can still do so with a win over the Sharks or a loss by the Kings against the Canucks in Vancouver on Friday." The good thing about that is we have five more games to do it," said Flames left winger Johnny Gaudreau, who vowed that he and his teammates will put the disappointing loss to the Kings behind them. "We learned from it. Obviously, a lot of young guys in our lineup. Come back (on Friday), hopefully clinch against San Jose." Following a 3-2 loss in Edmonton to the Oilers on Thursday, the Sharks will be looking to bounce back with a win over the Flames." This league doesn't let you feel sorry for yourself," said San Jose coach Peter DeBoer. "We'll pick ourselves up, dust off, and get ready for that game (in Calgary)." The Sharks led the Pacific Division standings for most of the season before their recent slump that has seen them lose seven of their past eight games, including five in a row on the road. Best Sports Handicappers Free Picks. That allowed both the Ducks and Oilers to jump past them. San Jose sits in third, three points back of Anaheim and two behind Edmonton. Free NHL Hockey Picks. The Flames are only three points behind the Sharks. Despite San Jose's recent troubles, right winger Jannik Hansen said the Sharks are playing better of late." We're obviously getting closer to the playoffs here," said Hansen, who the Sharks acquired from the Canucks at the NHL trade deadline. "We need to have our game in the right spot. Handicapper Return on Investment. The last two games have been a whole lot better than the previous six." The Flames started the season series between the two teams with a 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Nov. 3. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Sharks responded with a 4-1 win on home ice on Dec. 20 before the Flames bounced back with another 3-2 victory on Jan. 11. Sports Betting Handicapping. The same two teams will wrap up their five-game series and their regular-season schedules on April 8 in San Jose. San Jose captain Joe Pavelski said the Sharks have to get back to the way they were playing early in the season if they hope to get back ahead of the Ducks and Oilers while fending off the Flames." It's there, but there's more," said Pavelski. "Teams are showing up every night and playing hard. NHL Hockey Handicappers. There's another level for us to get to."
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NBA Game Preview: Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley knew he was going to have a big game right when his team really needed it."I could tell when we got off the plane from the trip," Conley said after Memphis, which hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, returned home from an 0-4 road trip to beat the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night."My mindset was it was a must win and I just wanted to make a statement not with my team, with just the coaches and the city, that we're not playing the basketball we need to be playing right now and we are better than this." The Grizzlies' need was made greater by the absence of All-Star center Marc Gasol, who missed his third straight game.Conley, who had a game-high 36 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the floor in the Grizzlies' 110-97 win, is averaging 23.4 points per game in March, the best mo nth of his 10 years in the NBA."Since post-All-Star, he's been killing it," Memphis coach David Fizdale told the Commercial Appeal. "I know our record doesn't necessarily display him killing it. I know he doesn't care about the individual numbers, but you can see it. He's turning it up a notch."You know me, I love it. When I look at this score sheet and see this kind of box score from Mike Conley, I get excited to see that." Conley has managed to avoid the nagging late-season injuries that have plagued him in the past."I feel like I'm back to where I was at the beginning of the year. I'm back to being reckless again," Conley told the paper. "I'm not worried about my back and all of the things that go along with that. Free Sport Pick. That's one part of it. And having guys go in and out of the lineup kind of forced me to be more aggressive. Free NBA Basketball Picks. That plays a part of it, too." Memphis (41-34) is currently seventh in the Western Conference standings and appears safe for the postseason. Gambling Profit. The Grizzlies are 2 1/2 games behind the sixth-place Oklahoma City Thunder (43-31) and four games up on the eighth-place Portland Trail Blazers (37-38).For the Mavericks (31-43), playoff aspirations are fading. Dallas sits 5 1/2 games behind Portland with eight games remaining.The Mavericks have lost three in a row, including a 121-118 defeat at New Orleans on Wednesday, and they are just 3-7 in their past 10 games.Undrafted rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell came off the bench to score 15 points in 24 minutes for Dallas, a bright spot for coach Rick Carlisle."He's demonstrating a real consistency with the level of force that he plays with," Carlisle t old the team's website on Thursday. "Last night, he was a little unaggressive offensively in the first half, as I mentioned after the game, and in the second half he just said, '(Forget) it.'"He just went hard, and he stepped into open shots. And when you have that kind of attitude and you're playing to your strengths, you can have a hot half like that. He's showing some abilities as a scorer and as a defender, and he does a little bit of everything. He's a guy that we like for a lot of reasons."
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NBA Game Preview: Sacramento Kings vs. New Orleans Pelicans - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 NEW ORLEANS -- There was no cartoon bubble above DeMarcus Cousins' head Thursday to indicate what he truly meant to say -- as opposed to what he actually said -- but there is no question the New Orleans Pelicans' newly minted center is anticipating the chance to play for the first time against his old team, the Sacramento Kings, on Friday night at the Smoothie King Center."It's just another chance to come out, play hard and try to get a win," Cousins said, smiling, after several questions about what it will be like to play against the Kings, who traded him to New Orleans in a blockbuster deal during the All-Star break.Cousins, who was chosen fifth overall by the Kings in the 2010 NBA draft, eventually came closer to the truth, saying he would enjoy reuniting with his former teammates and coaching staff.In his 6 1/2 se asons in Sacramento, Cousins established himself as one of the league's premier centers -- as well as a lightning rod on the court for his emotional style of play. Cousins' Sacramento career was tempestuous at times, but he insisted he was pleased despite never making the playoffs."I enjoyed my time there," Cousins said. "I developed a lot of relationships. It'll be good to see the guys again. I haven't seen them since before the (All-Star) break. It'll be a good chance to see those guys and laugh a little bit. But seriously, it's another chance for us to come out and get better. Todays Free Sports Picks. That's how I'm approaching the game." Kings guard Garrett Temple said he expects fireworks."If I was in (Cousins') shoes, I'd come out trying to take it to us," Temple said after the Kings' loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.New Orleans coac h Alvin Gentry said no matter how much Cousins tries to downplay the initial reunion, he knows his emotions will be off the chart, trying to prove something to the team that traded him away."I think guys are kidding themselves when they say it's just another game. It's never just another game," Gentry said. "It's just like coaches, when you get fired by a team and you play them, you want to beat that team. It's not like when you play anyone else. It's human nature." The game has some meaning to the Pelicans (32-43). Free NBA Basketball Picks. They are five games out of the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference and probably would have to win their final seven games to have any chance of leap-frogging the Portland Trail Blazers for the final postseason spot.The Pelicans, who are 9-9 since the Cousins trade, have two more home games remaining -- including their home finale Tuesday against the Nuggets -- before finishing the season with four consecutive road games. Making the road games even more challenging are the two sets of back-to-backs (Nuggets-Warriors and Lakers-Trail Blazers).Since going 2-6 with Cousins alongside Anthony Davis, the Pelicans have won seven of their past 10 games. Cousins said the team's recent play is indicative of the great things that can happen for the Pelicans next season.Davis has scored more than 30 points in each the past four games, and Cousins said the two are learning how to play off each other."Honestly, I think we've both eased up the pressure on each other," Cousins said. "In the past, there were games where it felt like there were a hundred people just hanging all over me. But, since I've been here ... I'm seeing new defensive schemes that I've never seen in my career before. I definitely think we've eased up the pressure on one other and we're more free out there." Sacramento (29-46) had won two straight against playoff teams (the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies) before losing 104-84 at Utah on Wednesday.The Kings are 5-13 since trading Cousins for guards Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway and the Pelicans' No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft (as long as New Orleans does not have a top-three pick).Cousins, who scored 41 points last week in a victory over Memphis, said he will be ready against his old team."I'm not trying to make it personal or anything like that," Cousins said. "I was joking when I said it, but I'm really serious: My only focus is to go in and get a win. Profitable Handicappers. This is just another opportunity for us to go in and get better. ... Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. To come in and try to make it about me, that would be a selfish move on my end."
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NBA Game Preview: Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks - Date: 3/31/2017 Mar 31, 2017 MILWAUKEE -- The Detroit Pistons stopped a five-game losing streak Thursday.If they are going to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive, the slumping Pistons will have to get by one of the league's hottest teams when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.Detroit (35-41) is 2-8 in its last 10 games and the untimely slump has dropped the Pistons to 10th place. Detroit is 2 1/2 games out of the seventh and eighth playoff spots, occupied by the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.The Pistons also trail the ninth-place Chicago Bulls by 1 1/2 games."(We do not talk about it) right now," Pistons forward Marcus Morris said. "We just talk about what needs to happen to get in the playoffs. We've got to think about some teams losing, but we've also got to win. We start now, put a couple together, and see what happens." Morris helped the Pistons on Thursday by totaling 28 points and 13 rebounds, but their 90-89 win over the Brooklyn Nets was not decided until Ish Smith's go-ahead 3-pointer with 28.5 seconds remaining.Getting back into the postseason will not be easy for Detroit, which won 44 games last season.Starting with Friday's meeting in Milwaukee, the Pistons play five straight against teams with winning records before closing the season against the Orlando Magic.Despite the tough schedule, coach Stan Van Gundy thinks Detroit is up to the challenge."I expect (us) to come out and play hard and well," Van Gundy said. "We'll see what happens, but that's what I expect. It's been really tough and I understand everybody's disappointed in our locker room. We got ourselves in this situation, and we have to play (six) games hard and well, and whatever happens happens." Milwaukee, meanwhile, is trying to pull away from Atlanta and claim the fifth seed for i tself.The Bucks and Hawks are tied at 39-36, but Atlanta holds the tiebreaker by virtue of a 3-1 advantage in the season series. Sports Picks Today. The Bucks sit two games ahead of seventh-place Miami and have a magic number of four to claim their first playoff berth in two years.Milwaukee improved to 13-3 in its last 16 games with a 103-100 road win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Free NBA Basketball Picks. The Bucks have pulled off their surge since Jabari Parker was lost for the season with a torn left ACL.Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 22 points and Khris Middleton added 19 on Wednesday. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon contributed 16 points and nine assists, with a few key plays down the stretch."When Jabari went down, we were in flux with another player and that was getting Khris back," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "You're ta lking about an All-Star player. We were on minutes restrictions with him (Middleton), then we lose Jabari the same day. Profitable Handicappers. There might have been a little confusion of where we were going, but in that locker room no one gave up."We stuck together and I thought we became closer. Profitable NBA Basketball Handicappers. That locker room never once let go of the rope. Sports Handicapping Services. They kept fighting and they found their way back in the playoff race." The Bucks have won two of the three games with Detroit this season. In those games, Detroit's Andre Drummond is averaging 19 points and 14.7 rebounds while Antetokounmpo is averaging 16 points and 7.3 assists.Milwaukee is 5-2 in the last seven home meetings with Detroit.
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NHL Game Preview: New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders - Date: 3/31/2017 Time: 7:30 PM EDTVenue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY, 11217 NEW YORK -- Coming off one of their most dispiriting losses of the season, the New York Islanders seek to revive their flagging playoff hopes Friday night when they host the last-place New Jersey Devils at Barclays Center. Losers of three straight following a 6-3 defeat Thursday at the hands of the Flyers in Philadelphia, the Islanders (35-29-12) are six points out of the second Eastern Conference wild card, with six games to play and three teams ahead of them in the standings. Profitable Handicappers. Their best hope for a quick turnaround is that the Islanders face off with the struggling Devils (27-35-14), who have lost four in a row and 14 of their last 16 since a 3-2 win over New York on Feb. 18." We have to be ready eve ry period of every game, especially this time of the year when we're fighting for the playoffs," Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk said on MSG Network. Boychuk returned to the lineup Thursday after a 12-game injury absence, and his teammates were far from ready against the Flyers, and it cost them dearly. Profitable NHL Hockey Handicappers. The Islanders surrendered five first-period goals, including four in the opening nine minutes. Starting goalie Thomas Greiss lasted just eight minutes and allowed three goals on eight shots before being replaced by Jaroslav Halak." It's really inexplicable," Islanders coach Doug Weight said on MSG Network. "When you give up five in this league, you're not coming back." New York rallied to score three consecutive goals in the second and third periods, including the 100th of Cal Clutterbuck's career, but the hole was too dee p for them to dig out of. Now sitting in 11th place in the East, the Islanders are just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games." We just have to try and forget about this loss, and try and take the good from the second and third periods into (Friday's) game," Boychuk said. Sports Picking Services. The Devils look to play the role of spoiler, and they will have some reinforcements in the lineup to help their cause. Veteran winger Michael Cammalleri, sidelined 13 straight games by an upper -body injury, returns to action for the Devils. Recently signed defenseman Michael Kapla will make his NHL debut against the Islanders. Cammalleri adds a veteran scoring option to the Devils' attack, even though he has just 10 goals this season and none in 22 games since Jan. 3. NHL Hockey Handicappers. The undrafted Kapla wrapped up his four- year career at Massachusetts-Lowell last week and agreed to terms with the Devils on Tuesday. He was captain the previous two seasons and totaled 17 goals, 75 assists, 92 points and 100 penalty minutes in 152 collegiate games." It's a dream come true to sign an NHL contract, so I am very excited to be here and be part of the Devils organization," Kapla told NorthJersey.com. "I'm happy to get my feet wet and get a taste of what the NHL is like." A solid two-way defenseman who likes to join the rush on one end while considered steady at the other, Kapla was on the Devils' second power-play unit at practice on Thursday." For one, he's a real character guy," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's what we're looking to add more of to the organization: some leadership, some vocal-ness. On the ice, the thing we really like is he's got good hockey instincts. He moves the puck well and has poise under pressure." The 22-year-old Kapla joins a long list of youngsters in the Devils' lineup as the organization evaluates its players the final week and a half of the season. Including Kapla, seven players ages 22 or younger will skate against the Islanders on Friday when the Devils look to snap a four-game losing streak while further hindering New York's chances of making the playoffs. Hynes said backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid will start, making it six straight games he and Cory Schneider will have alternated starts. Weight did not name his starting goaltender, which is the third of four this season between the Islanders and Devils. Each team has one win.
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