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This Weekend in Sports: NBA & NHL Playoffs Begin, Crew Try to Bounce Back, UFC, More

No shortage of action across a number of sports this weekend, including the start of both the NBA and NHL playoffs.

April 18, 2024

This Weekend in Sports previews the biggest games and events for the coming weekend.


Play-In Tournament

Two games left — the Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat (7 p.m. ET Friday) and Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans (9:30 p.m. ET Friday). The winners become the 8 seed, the losers are eliminated. The Heat likely have lost Jimmy Butler to a MCL injury, while the Pelicans definitely have lost Zion Williamson to a hamstring injury. Check out our previews for these games.

Playoffs, First Round, Saturday

The greatest players on the planet will hit the hardwood this weekend, a treat for basketball fans. The stars are mostly healthy, and on paper these playoffs should be highly competitive considering that the top three teams in the West were separated by one game in the final standings and seeds 4-8 were separated by only two games. In the East, the Celtics ran away with the 1 seed, but seeds 2-8 were separated by only four games. Parity has arrived in the NBA.

There are storylines everywhere:

Can Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and the Nuggets (Tipico: +300 to win the title) run it back for a second straight championship? They’ll get an early test against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers (+2500), who are largely the same team that Denver swept in the West finals last year.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have been together for a full season for the Mavericks (+1400), but they also have a tough matchup in the Clippers (+1300), a veteran superteam of two-time champion Kawhi Leonard and three other future Hall of Famers looking for their first title — Paul George, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Booby Gibson: Mavericks are the playoffs darkhorse

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the Celtics (+160) have been knocking on the NBA title door for seven seasons — can they finally win it all?

How will the Bucks (+1500) do after pairing Damian Lillard with Giannis Antetokounmpo and replacing head coach Adrian Griffin with one-time champion Doc Rivers in late January? Rivers is 17-19 since taking over, Giannis could miss some of the first round with a calf strain, and Lillard is dealing with an adductor issue.

The Cavaliers (+6000) flopped out of the playoffs in the first round last year, and things didn’t look good earlier this season when point guard Darius Garland and power forward Evan Mobley needed surgeries. But they are back, and team leader Donovan Mitchell had a great late-season stretch to get Cleveland into a top four seed.

The Suns (+2000) have three guys who can take over a game — Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal — but how will they do collectively during the long grind of the playoffs?

Joel Embiid is the best big man in the East and has been for years, but the 76ers (+1700) have never gotten beyond the Eastern semifinals. The 7-footer’s return from his latest injury has been a godsend for Philly — they’ve won nine straight games.

Here is the weekend schedule:

  • Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 1, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves, Game 1, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks, Game 1, 6 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets, Game 1, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday
  • TBD at Boston Celtics, Game 1, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
  • Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers, Game 1, 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday
  • Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks, Game 1, 7 p.m. Sunday
  • TBD at Oklahoma City Thunder, Game 1, 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday


Playoffs, First Round, Saturday

The intensity on the ice will ramp up this weekend as the puck drops on the first round of the playoffs. Some things to look for as you consider your hockey wagers:

The Rangers’ Artemi Panarin has been great this season, recording career highs of 49 goals and 120 points. Unfortunately, Panarin’s prowess has not translated to the postseason. He only has 46 points in 57 playoff games, and had only two secondary assists in NY’s first round series loss to the Devils last year.

The Bruins have the best regular-season record in the NHL since the 2020-21 season, but they have flamed out in the first round in the past two years and only have one series win since 2020. The Maple Leafs are even worse in the playoffs — they’ve won one series since 2004.

Hurricanes netminder Frederik Andersen has been a stopper since returning from injury. But with his injury history, Carolina likely will need to rotate in Pyotr Kochetkov to give him breathers now and then.

The weekend schedule:

  • Islanders at Hurricanes, Game 1, 5 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Maple Leafs at Bruins, Game 1, 8 p.m. ET Saturday
  • Lightning at Panthers, Game 1, 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday
  • Capitals at Rangers, Game 1, 3 p.m. ET Sunday


FC Cincinnati at Atlanta United FC, 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCC has only scored six goals in four matches on the road this season, and Atlanta is only one point behind in the standings in the Eastern Conference logjam.

Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday

The defending champions Crew, coming off a loss to Inter Miami on Tuesday, haven’t beaten a Western Conference team since the start of the 2022 season. The Timbers have won four straight games.

New York Red Bulls at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The Red Bulls are tied with Inter Miami for the East lead at 15 points, while LA is tied for sixth in the West. The Red Bulls have won 15 games on the road since the beginning of 2022. They are tied with Orlando City SC and CF Montreal for the most road victories during that time span.


Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians, Friday-Sunday

The Guardians (12-6) lead the AL Central heading into Thursday’s action, while the A’s are a surprising 8-11 in their final season in Oakland.

Texas Rangers at Atlanta Braves, Friday-Sunday

As expected, these teams are leading their respective divisions. The defending world champion Rangers are atop the AL West, while the Braves lead the NL East. Marcell Ozuna is tied for the MLB lead in home runs with eight.

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees, Friday-Sunday

The Bronx Bombers have the most wins (13) in MLB heading into Thursday’s games and are three games ahead of AL East counterpart Tampa.


ATP Barcelona, through Sunday

Tipico odds: Stefanos Tsitsipas +185, Casper Rudd +330, Alex de Minaur +450

WTA Stuttgart, through Monday

Tipico odds: Iga Swiatek -111, Aryna Sabalenka +300, Elena Rybakina +500, Coco Gauff +750

Click here to bet on either the ATP or WTA tournaments.


RBC Heritage, Thursday-Sunday

Tipico odds: Scottie Scheffler +420, Xander Schauffele +1200, Rory McIlroy +1300, Ludvig Aaberg +1400, Patrick Cantlay +1500

Scheffler is days removed from dominating at Augusta for his second Masters championship, and he’s won three PGA Tour titles this season. Click here to bet on the winner, finishing positions, round leaders and more from Tipico.


GEICO 500, 3 p.m. ET Sunday

Tipico odds: Denny Hamlin +1100, Brad Keselowski +1100, Joey Logano +1100, Ryan Blaney +1100, William Byron +1100

We have an unusual amount of racers going at above +1000 odds, thanks to the difficulty of winning on a superspeedway like Talladega. But take your pick of these guys, they all seem to have solid chances at the win on Sunday:

  • Byron has finished 1-7-1-3 in his past four races, which doesn’t include his superspeedway victory at the Daytona 500
  • Blaney has five top five finishes and is the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion
  • Keselowski won this race in 2021 and has been very good at Talladega

Click here to bet on all of Tipico’s options for the Geico 500.


Fight Night, Saturday

Matheus Nicolau (19-4-1) vs Alex Perez (24-8-0)

Tipico odds: Nicolau -175, Perez +150

Both flyweights are ranked in the top 10 heading into the match.

Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.