Puck PicksNashville looking for playoff berth

Feb 13, 2001 7:32 AM

Tuesday, Feb. 13

Dallas at Nashville — The Predators have been playing well this season and are in contention to make the playoffs for the first time in their short history, thanks to the strong play of center David Legwand. These two clubs have met only once this season as Dallas won 1-0 back in November. Look for Nashville to turn the tables on the stars as a nice home dog. Predicted score: Nashville 3-2.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

Ottawa at New Jersey — It may be lover’s day, but there’ll be no love in this game. These two Eastern Conference leaders clash for the third time this season. The Senator’s prevailed 3-1 back in October and skated to a 4-4 tie last week. However, both games were played in Ottawa. Look for the Devils to prevail here. Predicted score: New Jersey 4-2.

Thursday, Feb. 15

Colorado at Ottawa — It’s not easy to play back-to-back games in the NHL. To make things worse for the Senators, they played in the States the night before, and had to go through Customs at the border. They now have to face the likes of the powerful Avalanche. Ottawa will be tired and Colorado should be able to capitalize early and often. Predicted score: Colorado 5-2.

Friday, Feb. 16

Anaheim at Dallas — Dallas won both meetings this season against the (lame) Mighty Ducks by scores of 1-0 and 3-1. Going into last Friday’s action, the Ducks had lost 12 of their last 14 games. Anaheim is only 8-24-5-3 against Western Division opponents. Dallas wins this one with ease. Predicted score: Dallas 5-1.

Saturday, Feb. 17

Atlanta at Philadelphia: We always like to give you one game we feel is "free money." The Flyers beat Atlanta 6-4 and tied 2-2 on back-to-back nights in January. The Thrashers are 3-9-3-1 against the Atlantic Division. The Flyers are 10-4-2-0 versus the Southeast. Throw out that tie on consecutive nights. Did we say "free money?" Predicted score: Philadelphia 4-2.

John Bennett’s Hoop Picks

Thursday, Feb. 15:

Pacers by 6 over Pistons

Raptors by 8 over Heat

Mavericks by 5 over Cavaliers

Spurs by 12 over Wizards

Blazers by 2 over Kings

Celtics by 4 over Supersonics

Warriors by 3 over Grizzlies

Friday, Feb. 16:

76ers by 9 over Clippers

Hornets by 3 over Lakers

Knicks by 8 over Nets

Rockets by 4 over Magic

Spurs by 3 over Wolves

Kings by 9 over Nuggets

Grizzlies by 2 over Warriors

Saturday, Feb. 17:

Mavericks by 8 over Wizards

Bucks by 7 over Hornets

Bulls by 2 over Heat

Cavaliers by 3 over Rockets

Blazers by 9 over Celtics

Sonics by 4 over Hawks

Sunday, Feb. 18:

Spurs by 3 over Raptors

Knicks by 4 over Magic

Nets by 6 over Clippers

Suns by 3 over 76ers

Jazz by 4 over Kings

Wolves by 11 over Grizzlies

Lakers by 7 over Pacers

Nuggets by 9 over Wizards

Warriors by 5 over Hawks

Thursday, Feb. 15:

Cincinnati by 3 over Memphis

Wyoming by 2 over B.Y.U.

Oregon by 5 over Washington State

Arizona by 6 over U.C.L.A.

Arizona St. by 3 over So. Cal.

Saturday, Feb. 17:

Wyoming by 5 over Creighton

Minnesota by 4 over Michigan

Kansas by 8 over Iowa State (Revenge, Revenge)

Kentucky by 7 over Vanderbilt

Massachusetts by 3 over Temple

Utah by 9 over Louisville

Wake Forest by 6 over Maryland

So. Cal by 3 over Arizona

Rutgers by 5 over Georgetown

Alabama by 4 over Ohio State

Saturday, Feb. 17:

Georgia Tech by 6 over No. Carolina St.

Florida St. by 3 over Virginia

UCLA by 8 over Arizona St.

Indiana by 3 over Illinois

California by 4 over Stanford

Villanova by 7 over Miami Fla.

Sunday, Feb. 18:

Duke by 9 over St. Johns

Wisconsin by 9 over Northwestern

Tennessee by 6 over Florida

St. Josephs by 12 over Fordham

Michigan St. by 11 over Iowa

No. Carolina by 13 over Clemson

Cincinnati by 9 over Marquette

Kansas St. by 5 over Texas Tech

No clear-cut favorite in the NBA this year

By: Andy Iskoe

The NBA’s mid-season party, All-Star Weekend, has come and gone. With just over two months left in the regular season, the focus intensifies on the developing division races and the march toward the playoffs.

Most teams have played about 50 games, just shy of two-thirds of the schedule. Rookies have hit the wall, having played more games than at any time in their athletic careers. Aging veterans who might not have paced themselves properly will start to show increasing signs of fatigue.

Philadelphia continues to have the NBA’s best record. Their play has been consistent throughout the season. The 76ers have shown they’re more than just All Star (and probable regular season) MVP Allen Iverson, but the loss of Theo Ratliff for more than a month will test their depth and ability to adapt.

They’ve already played most of the season without point guard Eric Snow, with coach Larry Brown showing why he’s one of the more underrated coaches in the pro game.

New York, Miami and Milwaukee will most likely challenge Philadelphia over the next couple of months. They have only a half dozen games to make up on the Sixers. Ratliff’s injury gives them hope for the short term.

How about the job "interim" coach Jim O’Brien is doing with the Celtics? Since taking over for Rick Pitino, O’Brien has Boston playing improved defense. The Celts have made a nice run just before the All-Star break to claim the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Boston’s fate could be determined by how they do on their current seven-game road trip out West. Their only game against a sub-.500 team will be their opening game at Vancouver.

In Chicago, the focus should turn to scouting the college ranks. With just six wins in 48 games (and riding a 16-game losing streak), the Bulls have opened up a 5½-game lead over Washington for the league’s worst record.

The best races appear to be the two in the Western Conference. At the All-Star break, there were four teams within 2½ games of the leader in the Midwest Division and three such teams in the Pacific Division.

The entire complexion of the Western Conference seedings can change each week until (or unless) some achieve separation by either going on a winning streak or losing streak. Minnesota was the league’s hottest team heading into the All- Star break, having won 11 straight.

The seven top teams have distanced themselves somewhat from the four teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Dallas holds down the No. 7 seed with a 31-19 record.

Yet the Mavericks are actually closer to attaining the top seed than they are to sliding out of the playoffs. They trail the conference’s top team, Portland, by four games. They have a 4½-game lead over Denver, which is sitting at No. 9.

Here are some of the more attractive games this weekend.

San Antonio at Minnesota (Friday) — These teams entered the All-Star break separated by just a half game in the standings, trailing just Utah in the Midwest Division. Minnesota had won 11 straight, but began post-All Star play with games at Portland and Phoenix earlier in the week, putting that streak in jeopardy.

The projection is for Minnesota to win by from 5 to 7 points. A play on the UNDER is also worth considering if the Total is no higher than 190.

Charlotte at Milwaukee (Saturday) — The fortunes of these Central Division front-runners have changed over the past two months. Milwaukee got off to a slow start but, heading into last week’s All-Star break, the Bucks had won 14 of 20 games and lead Charlotte by five games. The Hornets, losing 14 of their last 20 games, slipped a game behind Toronto in the standings.

Milwaukee should be a solid favorite of from 4 to 6 points. The projection is for them to win by from 10 to 12 points. The play is on MILWAUKEE with a preference as well for the UNDER provided the Over/Under is no higher than 187.

Utah at Sacramento (Sunday) — Sacramento’s rise to contender status began with the thrilling playoff series two seasons ago when they lost to Utah at the wire. Last season, the Kings took the Lakers to a full five games in the opening round before bowing out to the soon-to-be champs.

Utah continues to roll. At times, their age threatens to curtail their decade-long run as one of the top teams in the league. But just as quickly, the Jazz seem to re-energize and go on a run where they win two of every three games, such as they’ve done for the past month.

The Jazz relied for years on Karl Malone and John Stockton. Donyell Marshall has made increasing contributions after a rocky start this season. Malone has been in his best form of the season in recent weeks.

Sacramento is led by Chris Webber, who is a contender for league MVP honors. Coach Rick Adelman has the Kings playing improved defense while still running the court. Webber gets solid support from teammates such as Jason Williams, Vlade Divac and Doug Christie.

The projected total for the game is 194. The preference is to use a 3-point overlay in either direction in determining a play on the Total.

ESPN Zone, new book coming to NY-NY casino

By Adam Soboleski

Bettors will have more options to enjoy televised events this summer.

That’s because ESPN is coming to Las Vegas.

Well, it’s been here before to broadcast and cover sporting events and air the ESPY Awards. But this time, it’s bringing an ESPN Zone, a sports-themed dining complex, to New York-New York Hotel & Casino. The ESPN Zone will be complemented with a new race and sports book at the casino.

They’re scheduled to open early this summer. The ESPN Zone will cover 33,000 square feet. The new sports book will be directly across from the ESPN Zone, which will be where the old book was. Both the book and ESPN Zone will open at the same time, with sports celebrities and top horseracing jockeys as special guests.

"New York-New York is going to be the place to be for sports enthusiasts," said Rory Hascall, the resort’s executive director of casino operations. "This is about entertainment and having fun — for tourists and locals alike."

The sports book will feature eight betting windows with 70 seats. The television setup is in the planning stage. There will be individual 12-inch monitors at the horse book.

"The (race and sports book) look will be quite small, but unique," said Steve Mann, assistant vice president of casino operations. "You’ll be able to place a bet and then you can go to the ESPN Zone. We’re going to be the best sports bar (in Las Vegas).

Hascall and Mann are overseeing the project.

"We’re building a sports book that will accommodate the ESPN Zone," Mann added. "We want them to complement each other. It’s going to be so fabulous!"

Race and sports odds will be same as at all MGM Mirage books, since New York-New York is a Mirage property.

"We’re not looking to build a super book," Hascall said. "It’s going have a unique and plush look."

There also will be a new keno lounge next to the new sports book.

The ESPN Zone will have three components: the Studio Grill, the Screening Room and the Sports Arena.

The grill will feature American food with sports-themed artwork. The Screening Room will offer multi-game viewing and direct audio control for all televised games. It will feature two 14-foot screens and a dozen 36-inch monitors with tier seating. The arena will feature several games developed exclusively for ESPN Zone.

"We are thrilled to bring ESPN Zone to the Las Vegas community as well as to millions of visitors who make the city a destination every year," said Randall Baumberger, vice president and general manager of ESPN Zone. "Our concept of delivering an interactive dining experience has proven successful with both passionate sports fans and those looking for incredible food in a unique environment. We feel as though ESPN Zone will add significantly to Las Vegas’ entertainment landscape."

The project also features a SportsCenter Studio Store with official ESPN and ESPN Zone merchandise, including sportswear and souvenirs. There are going to be 12 "Zone Thrones" — leather reclining chairs with speakers in the headrests. The Bristol Suite, a private dining, meeting and reception area, will seat 50 to 70.

"Someone will say, ‘I’m a local, but I may make a trip to the Strip for this,’" Mann said.

This will be the seventh ESPN Zone. Others are in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Anaheim.