If you are a sports betting enthusiast like all of us at BangTheBook.com are, then you probably start thinking about the betting impact of the day’s top stories. Not every top story has a relevance to betting, but you probably try to connect the dots anyway. In a new feature each weekday, we will take a look at the top six sports stories of the day in an article titled the Daily Six Pack. They say that an apple day keeps the doctor away. Well, we like to think that a six pack a day keeps the bookie away.
With that, let’s take a look at the six top stories for Wednesday April 15:
The Curtain Falls on Many Teams
The NBA regular season comes to a close on Wednesday and the players on 14 of the league’s 30 teams will either watch the playoffs from home or start taking post-season vacations with the families. One of my biggest personal issues with the NBA is that there are rarely surprises among the 16 NBA playoff teams. Sure, the Milwaukee Bucks greatly exceeded their win total, but most of the teams moving on to the second season were expected to do so. There aren’t any “big” disappointments among the 14 teams that fell short. The Miami Heat could be considered one, since they were still expected to make the playoffs without LeBron James, but they spent a good portion of the season without Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or both.
In terms of teams to watch entering next season, the Charlotte Hornets have to be near the top of the list in the Eastern Conference. Injuries did a number on the Hornets this season and they were a respectable 25-26 against the Eastern Conference, the best record of any Eastern Conference team not in the top eight. They have some talented pieces and the chance to be in the playoff picture next year.
Out west, everybody will focus on the Utah Jazz because of how they played after the All-Star Break, but the team to watch in my mind is the Sacramento Kings. They’ve made tremendous strides in getting better leadership into the organization. There will be a season of growing pains, especially if the team moves on from DeMarcus Cousins, but George Karl has a long leash to put something together in Sacramento. The biggest hurdle for the Kings is the division that they play in, but this is a team that could make some noise in the near future.
Win and You’re In
The eighth seeds in both conferences are hanging in the balance on Wednesday night. The Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans both control their own destiny. The Brooklyn Nets will sneak into the postseason with a win if the Pacers falter and the Oklahoma City Thunder will make it if the Pelicans lose because the Thunder will beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pacers have no picnic in the park either against the Memphis Grizzles. The Nets host the Orlando Magic.
The Atlanta Hawks would much rather see the Brooklyn Nets. The Pacers are a much different team with Paul George in the lineup and he has been the catalyst for this impressive Pacers run. The Hawks may get their wish because the Pacers clearly have the tougher game and played a double overtime game against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
The Golden State Warriors don’t care who they play, but the New Orleans Pelicans deserve a lot of credit for being in this position. They stepped up and won some big games when Anthony Davis was out around the All-Star Break and are building a team that can be a serious force in a year or two. The Oklahoma City Thunder deserve a lot of credit as well, because they have gotten to this position largely without Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook has put the team on his shoulders, for better or worse, and the Thunder can make the postseason because of him.
The final two playoff spots are not the only things left to be decided. The Southwest Division title hangs in the balance. The San Antonio Spurs spent most of the season as a sleeping giant and now hold the keys to the division title. A win over the Pelicans will secure not only that, but the #2 seed in the Western Conference as well. The Houston Rockets host the Utah Jazz and can with the Southwest with a win and a Spurs loss. Everything else is basically decided and the focus will shift to the start of the playoffs.
NHL Playoffs Begin Tonight
While some of you will be watching the conclusion of the NBA regular season, the NHL ramps up the intensity in a big way with the start of the playoffs. The big news is that Patrick Kane will be back for the Chicago Blackhawks as they open up the postseason against the Nashville Predators. Kane’s return is huge for Chicago and the betting market will respond in a big way in the futures market as the news gets around.
A trendy upset pick is the Ottawa Senators over the Montreal Canadiens. Canadiens top scorer Max Pacioretty still has not been cleared to return to the lineup and the Canadiens are heavily dependent on goaltender Carey Price. The Senators finished the season 20-1-2 to get to this point. Ottawa won three of the four regular season matchups.
The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals meet in what should be one of the most exciting series of the first round. A big reason why is because of the star power in the game. John Tavares and Alexander Ovechkin both have cases to be the league MVP and the Capitals have quite a supporting cast with Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom. The Islanders had more wins than the Capitals, but Washington has home ice because they won the season series.
Out west, the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames meet in the Pacific Division first round. The Canucks and Flames are very similar teams, with the exception of their special teams’ performances. This should be a back-and-forth series and fans of both teams should strap in for a rather long series.
Swarm of Injury Bugs in MLB
It was a rough night to be a Major League Baseball fan. First, Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco was struck in the face with a liner off the bat of Melky Cabrera. Carrasco got his glove up and the ball ticked off the glove and deflected right into his jaw. X-rays were negative and Carrasco did not show signs of a concussion. Somehow, the righty escaped with only a bruised jaw. It was a terrifying sight, as every comebacker like that is, but it seems that Carrasco and the Indians got really fortunate.
It’s amazing that it doesn’t happen more. Pitchers are only about 55 or 56 feet away once they finish their deliveries and balls off the bat from hitters can come back at well over 100 miles per hour. Some pitchers, including White Sox hurler Hector Noesi, are wearing caps with Kevlar inside to protect against balls to the head, but it would not have mattered in Carrasco’s case.
David Wright pulled his hamstring in the Mets’ win over the Phillies on Tuesday night and the early returns are not good. The Mets were gaining steam as a team to watch throughout the season, but their offense was marginal to begin with and the loss of Wright would certainly hurt. The Mets have gotten some great pitching from Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Bartolo Colon so far, but this could be a big setback.
Alex Rios is out for the steamrolling Royals with a broken hand. Rios was a big deal for this offense because he was one of the few right-handed bats with some extra-base hit potential. Rios was also off to a great start offensively, as are most of the Royals. The Royals were going to come back to earth, but this could hasten the process.
Back on Tour
With the Masters in the rearview mirror, the PGA Tour moves to the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, SC. Matt Kuchar was the victor last season with an 11-under 273 to best Luke Donald by one shot. Plenty of Americans topped the leaderboard, including Jim Furyk who took home just over $187,000 for his efforts in a tie for seventh. Last year’s Masters runner-up, Jordan Spieth, finished 4-under in a tie for 12th.
It’s hardly a surprise that Jordan Spieth is favored to win at 11/2. I’d avoid Spieth, though, because he’s been on a media blitz all week long following his historic win and it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to go when he tees off on Thursday. With everybody else at 14/1 or lower, there’s going to be some value in this tournament. The golfer at 14/1 is Zach Johnson. Ian Poulter, who played well at the Masters, is next at 18/1. Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, and Patrick Reed are all in at 20/1. Bill Haas is at 25/1.
Mariota or Winston?
In the never-ending coverage of the NFL Draft, another wrinkle was thrown into the first overall pick discussion on Tuesday. Wonderlic scores came out for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Mariota scored a 33 on the famed test, while Winston checked in with a 27. The 50-question test is designed to measure cognitive ability, though it is not going to serve as a projector of future success. Tom Brady scored a 33 on his Wonderlic. Joe Flacco had a 27. Ben Roethlisberger had a 25 and he’ll likely have a bust in Canton one day.
It’d be great if the NFL Draft would just get here already to end the speculation. It’s hard to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going with Mariota over Winston, barring something crazy over the next couple of weeks, but they have yet to make a firm decision.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.