Playoffs shaping up

March 27, 2001 7:19 AM
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Wednesday

Carolina at Washington: Both playoff-bound teams are 1-1-1 against each other. The Capitals are 21-8-6-2 at home. The Hurricanes are 13-15-5-3 on the road. Washington has scored 209 goals, allowing 194. Carolina has scored 190, allowing 195. The Caps are on a bad streak, but coach Ron Wilson is not about to push the panic button yet. Take Washington as it gets back in stride heading into the playoffs. Predicted score: Washington 3-2.

Friday

Boston at Ottawa: This is the fifth meeting between these Northeast Division foes. Ottawa holds the edge 2-1-1. Ottawa has the third best home record in the NHL, 24-7-4-2. The Bruins struggle on the road at 12-17-3-4, which ranks 21st. Ottawa is 32-15-5-2 against Eastern Conference opponents, 11-5-1-1 against the Northeast Division. Boston is 24-21-5-2 vs. the East, 8-6-1-1 against the Northeast.

The Senators are the fourth best goal producers in the league, scoring 244 times compared to Boston’s 199. The Bruins are 24th, giving up 225. Ottawa ranks seventh with 182 goals against. Predicted score: Ottawa 5-1.

Saturday

Detroit at Philadelphia: This is the second and final time these two teams will clash in the regular season. Detroit won the first meeting, 5-1. The Red Wings have the second best record in the league, 44-18-9-4. The Flyers are seventh at 40-22-10-2. Philadelphia has the fourth best home record at 24-9-2. Detroit ranks third on the road, 21-9-6-2. Detroit has the second best record in the league when facing Eastern Conference opponents, 11-6-2-0. However, it is just 2-2 against the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia is 11-7-3 vs. the West, 4-2-1 against the Central Division. In the goal-scoring department, Detroit ranks fifth with 231. The Flyers are 10th with 223. Philly has allowed 188 goals; Detroit, 193. The Flyers have been playing good defense. This should be an exciting, hard-hitting affair, on ABC-TV (noon Pacific). Predicted score: Philadelphia 3-2.


Parties round out the Madness

By: Adam Soboleski

NCAA Final Four parties may not be as big, widespread or exclusive as Super Bowl parties, but they are around this Saturday and Monday.

Imperial Palace: There will be a Big 4 Party inside the Royal Halls on the third floor during the national semifinals Saturday. Doors open at 2 p.m. Admission is free. Contestants can enter a free-throw shooting contest. If a contestant makes 2-of-3 shots, they win a prize. If an entrant makes 3-of-3, the prize is a T-shirt. Anyone who wagers $25 or more on the semifinal games gets a free coupon for the free throw shooting. Coupons also may be bought for $3. Grand prize is a basketball autographed by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. The Miller Girls will be there.

Aladdin: Final Four parties will be in the sports book and upstairs lounge during Saturday’s semifinals and Monday’s finals. Admission is free to both areas. With a $10 bet, a person can compete for prizes that include getaways, free dinners and Desert Passage shopping certificates. Contestants can also shoot at arcade type baskets (in the book and lounge) for prizes.

Jerry’s Nugget: It’s Championship Week 2001 and Jerry’s Nugget will give prizes Saturday and Monday. A $20 bet on the semifinal and final game earns one drawing entry for "Giveaway Madness," plus free food and two free drinks. Prize giveaway will be during the championship. Games will be on 10-foot TV screens. The Bud Girls will be there.

Suncoast: Semifinals games will be shown on giant TV screens (for free) in the Suncoast Showroom. Monday’s championship game has a $4,000 "Cash is King Giveaway." Admission ($10) includes two free Bud or Bud Light drafts, one free hotdog and a chance to win cash. Also, there will be $1 Bud or Bud Light drafts, $1 popcorn, 75-cent hot dogs and $3 sub sandwiches. Tickets are on sale at the Suncoast Box Office. Doors open at 5 p.m.

Other promotions: Ellis Island offers all the beer you can drink for $5 during the semifinals and national championship games ... On Monday night, Barbary Coast has a free party, and will give out gifts and prizes … At Caesars Palace, there’ll be a hot dog stand near the book.

Contest, party updates: The number of participants was down for Park Place’s March Madness tournament. This year, 433 entered the contest throughout Nevada at the properties. "It was down a little bit (from 463)," said Caesars sports book director Chuck Esposito. "But still, the response is tremendous. People who are playing are really enthusiastic about it."... During the first and second rounds, 800 attended the March Mania viewing party in Paris Las Vegas’ Le Theatre des Arts showroom. "It was huge," Bally’s/Paris sports book manager John Avello said. "We’ll do that next year."


Showdowns in pro looming this weekend

By Andy Iskoe

While the college basketball season ends and the major league baseball season begins, the NBA regular season enters its home stretch. Less than a dozen games remain for each team. Those results will have a profound impact on the playoffs.

Philadelphia has the NBA’s best record this season, but its losing streak (five games as the week begins) enabled San Antonio to overtake the 76ers for that honor —though by just a half game. Nevertheless, Philly’s woes make the race for the league’s overall home-court advantage wide open.

Eight teams are within four losses of having the best overall record, including Milwaukee from the Eastern Conference. The Bucks begin the week leading the Central Division, just 4½ games behind Philadelphia for the conference’s top seed. That gap will have changed by the time you read this. The 76ers hosted the Bucks Monday night.

Philly appears safely in front of both Miami and New York for the Atlantic Division title, but what once seemed like a shoo-in top overall seed now appears to be just a strong possibility. Especially with outstanding play by the half dozen teams in the Western Conference vying for a pair of division titles and the top seed.

The Knicks and Heat are battling for the three-four spots in the East and a home-court edge in the opening round. Charlotte could be the No. 5 seed. Orlando and Toronto are in a tight battle for the six-seven seeds. Quite likely, the only playoff team with a losing record will be the East’s No. 8 seed. Boston and Indiana are deadlocked for that final spot with identical 31-38 records.

San Antonio and Utah begin the week tied in the loss column, but the Spurs have two more wins than the Jazz. They lead the Midwest Division by a game. The teams meet Thursday in San Antonio for their final regular-season game. Dallas remains a contender, though they trail the Spurs by 4½ games. The Mavericks have a pair of games remaining against Utah, and one at San Antonio.

Despite the absence of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers closed to within a half game of Pacific Division-leading Sacramento with Sunday’s win over the Kings. Portland’s play has been erratic, but the Trail Blazers begin the week just a game and a half behind Sacramento.

Just 4½ games separate those six teams, meaning the final dozen or so games will determine which ends up with the league’s top overall seed, the conference’s No. 6 seed, and no home-court advantage in the opening round’s best three-of-five series. Essentially, a playoff atmosphere will exist for the rest of the regular season for these teams.

Minnesota and Phoenix appear to be the final two seeds in the West. They’ve opened up a bit of a gap over Houston and Seattle.

Here’s a look at three of the most attractive match-ups this weekend.

New York at Portland (Friday): The Knicks are battling nagging injuries to Marcus Camby and Larry Johnson. They continue to rely on Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston for offense.

Portland suffered a lapse in play since they brought back Rod Strickland, but seems to have snapped out of its funk with a pair of wins over Utah within the past two weeks and a win at Dallas.

The Blazers are clearly the league’s most talented and deepest team. The enigmatic Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Scottie Pippen form the team’s nucleus, but the supporting cast is deep. They catch the Knicks in a terrible spot.

New York is playing its fourth game in five nights and ends a five-game road trip Sunday at the Lakers. Portland is rested and in the midst of a homestand. The Blazers should be solid favorite. They’re recommended as a play if favored by 7 points or less. The game should be low scoring. Use 178 as a guide before making a play on UNDER.

Milwaukee at San Antonio (Saturday): Both teams lead their divisions and thus battle for a top two seed in their respective conferences. Milwaukee’s strength is the backcourt with Ray Allen and Sam Cassell. Glenn Robinson offers support upfront. San Antonio’s game is built around the twin towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Derek Anderson sparks the backcourt. Milwaukee won the only other meeting this season 102-98. This should be a similarly tight contest.

The Spurs will be favored by perhaps 4 to 6 points. They’re in the third game of a nicely spread-out four-game homestand. This is their only game over four days. Milwaukee is opening a six-game road trip and will play four games in five nights. The primary preference: look for a play on the OVER, with the Total line hopefully no higher than 192 to 194. San Antonio will be the fresher, and would be worth supporting if laying no more than 6 points.

Dallas at Sacramento (Sunday): Sacramento is fighting for conference top seed. Dallas should avoid being seeded fifth or sixth, thus having to play three of five on the road in the opening playoff round. Sacramento won the first two meetings, by 25 at home and by 11 in Dallas but had not met since mid-January. The acquisition at the trade deadline of Juwan Howard by Dallas gives the Mavericks a solid third option besides Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley. The Kings are led by Chris Webber, but get solid support from Predrag Stojakovic and Vlade Divac. This is Dallas’ fourth straight road game, all against playoff-bound teams, although the Mavs haven’t had to play on back-to-back nights. Sacramento should be a healthy favorite, possibly by as much as 6 or 7 points. Anything higher than 5 points would point to a play on Dallas. The OVER would be worth a look if the line is no higher than 198.


John Bennett’s Hoop Picks

NBA
Wednesday

Nets by 3 over Nuggets

Magic by 2 over 76ers

Suns by 8 over Cavaliers

Mavericks by 2 over Trail Blazers

Wolves by 2 over Supersonics

Kings by 3 over Lakers

Thursday

No games scheduled

Friday

76ers by 8 over Warriors

Raptors by 9 over Nets

Hornets by 7 over Nuggets

Celtics by 3 over Pacers

Magic by 4 over Pistons

Jazz by 8 over Cavaliers

Trailblazers by 3 over Knicks

Supersonics by 6 over Clippers

Lakers by 7 over Mavericks

Kings by 6 over Wolves

Saturday

Rockets by 2 over Wizards

Nuggets by 3 over Hawks

Bucks by 2 over Spurs

Clippers by 5 over Cavaliers

Sunday

76ers by 6 over Pacers

Magic by 2 over Raptors

Trail Blazers by 8 over Wolves

Celtics by 3 over Hornets

Jazz by 4 over Grizzlies

Knicks by 3 over Lakers

Kings by 7 over Mavericks

Bucks by 2 over Suns

NCAA

March Madness boils down to the last day of March and the second day of April when the championship game takes place. Final Four teams are Michigan State, Maryland, Arizona, and the tournament favorite Duke.

Michigan State 71, Arizona 67: Spartans are tough when the chips are down. Wildcats play better in second game of series than opener. That will work against them. This is a tough selection here.

Maryland 85, Duke 82: Fourth encounter between these two ACC teams. There isn’t much difference between them. Maryland has the hot hand and is playing more decisively. Duke may have more tools than Maryland, but the Terps may want it more. Maryland plus the points gets the money and the game. Terps go on to win it all on Monday.