Cavaliers, Warriors clear leaders on NBA Conference odds boards

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While oddsmakers have an expectation that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are on a collision course for a third consecutive NBA Finals clash, there is some interesting movement among the challengers.

Just more than a week out from the start of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are the -300 betting favorites on the Eastern Conference futures while the Warriors’ odds are -250 atop the Western Conference board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers had a losing record (6-10 straight-up) in March, their victory against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday put them in a good position to finish first overall in the East and have home-court advantage for the first three rounds.

The Celtics (+425), led by PG Isaiah Thomas, draw in as the biggest challenger on the Eastern side. Boston is 20-10 SU over its last 30 games, slightly better than Cleveland’s 18-12 SU mark over the same number of games.

The Cavaliers clearly do have issues, particularly with tightening up their defensive play. An opponent could pounce early in the playoffs before James and Kyrie Irving find a groove.

Both the Washington Wizards (+900) and Toronto Raptors (+1200) are neck-and-neck to earn the No. 3 seed, which might mean playing Boston in the second round. The Wizards have great leadership from PG John Wall. The Raptors will have to rely on their defense – that’s why they got PF Serge Ibaka at the deadline – until PG Kyle Lowry, who’s just back from wrist surgery, is 100 percent.

On the Western Conference board, the Warriors’ odds are slightly better than the -333 they were listed at in late February. The absence of Kevin Durant (sprained MCL), who’s expected back just prior to the playoffs, has enabled SG Klay Thompson to rediscover his all-star form, while two-time MVP Steph Curry has also gone a hot streak.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs (+325) are seen as posing the biggest challenge to Golden State, as their price has come down from +500. The red-hot second half that MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets (+750) have put together has led to their odds dropping from +900.

Oddsmakers see the Western Conference as a three-team race, at most, with the Los Angeles Clippers (+2500) and Utah Jazz (+2500) each drawing very long odds on the NBA betting futures at the sportsbooks.

Archdiocese lets girls back on boys’ CYO hoop team after threats

Jessica Remo/NJ Advance Media via AP
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CLARK, N.J. (AP) — Two girls have been cleared to rejoin a boys’ Catholic youth basketball squad in New Jersey after church officials reversed an earlier decision that the fifth-grade team could not be coed.

Archdiocese of Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced the change Wednesday.

The boys on the St. John’s team in Clark had decided to give up their season rather than play a game without their female teammates. The rest of their season was then forfeited.

The archdiocese had said that Catholic Youth Organization rules state that teams should be boys or girls only. However, NJ.com found that the league rules do not mention whether the teams in St. John’s division — the JV black league — can or cannot be coed.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said Tobin believes that the team shouldn’t have been penalized for mistakes that adults responsible for following league rules might have made.

According to Goodness, Tobin asked CYO officials to “study the current league rules regarding participation and team makeup in all age groups” and reinstated the team’s 7-3 record.

Rob Martel, coach and father of one of the girls, fought back tears when he told the team that its season was going to continue and they would be going to the playoffs.

“This is all we ever wanted,” assistant coach Keisha Martel said. “This was never about being defiant or wanting to break, bend or change rules. It was about fairness for these 10 year olds, about finishing the season the way they started — together.”

Tobin said he wanted the children to play for the reasons CYO sports were established. “To provide a source of both recreation and reaffirmation of our Christian faith,” Tobin said.

Bucks players honor Craig Sager with vibrant, colorful warm-ups

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The Milwaukee Bucks honored Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager Thursday night by sporting colorful warm up suits.

 

The suits were inspired by the vibrant outfits Sager wore during interviews with players and coaches in his multiple decades with TNT.

Sager passed away at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer and while he may be gone, his impact will live on throughout basketball and beyond.