Prop – NBA – How many Points will Dirk Nowitzki Score in the 1st Half

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals Dirk Nowitzki scored more than 14 points in the first half. Dirk however has only done it once in 5 games so far. He certainly showed in Game 5 that he is capable of scoring points in bunches during the first half but his recent performance definitely warrants the under in this prop. 1 out of 5 so far in this series he has gone over and on the road at a very determined Miami makes it even more likely he will go under. Dirk has been a clutch player and has done tremendous work in the 4th quarter but he hasn’t been a fast starter.

 

Pick: 13 or Fewer points

NHL – Boston Bruins @ Vancouver Canucks

Absolutely nothing has changed in this matchup since I wrote the below preview a few days ago.

“Coming into the playoffs the Vancouver Canucks were probably the best team in hockey and they probably still are. The Canucks are 1st in Goals Scored, 1st in Goals Against, 1st in Power Play % and 3rd in Penalty Kill %. Compare that to the Boston Bruins who were 5th in Goals, 2nd in Goals against, 20th in Power Plays and 16th in Penalty kills.

Vancouver is cruising in the playoffs so far this  year. After a tough first series against the defending Champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks won in 6 against Nashville, and 5 against a very, very good San Jose squad. Vancouver has even won 7 of their last 9 playoff games and has seemingly gotten stronger the further into the playoffs they have pushed. Vancouver has the offense to score when needed, and the defense to shut down opponents so they can control the tempo and pace of the game.

The Boston Bruins have just emerged by the skin of their teeth winning in 7 games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Conference Finals. Boston is actually 2-2 in their last 4 and is hardly on a roll. They are a bit banged up with several players health being a question mark and they have benefited from some inspired play of some young players. Boston has also struggled on the road lately going 1-2 in their last 3 road games.

Vancouver is the odds on favorite in this series and many are even picking the Canucks to sweep the Bruins. I don’t think this series will end in a sweep but the way that the Canucks are playing entering play and the fact that they will have home ice advantage does lead me to believe they will take the opener.”

Well a few things have changed. Vancouver has now won 8 of their last 10 games, Vancouver completely shut down Boston in Game 1 and won 1-0. Boston’s struggles have continued and they are now 2-3 over their last 5 games and 1-3 in their last 4 road games. I feel the exact same way as I did about the previous review. I don’t think Vancouver will sweep Boston but at home and on a roll I just don’t see Vancouver losing. I could be wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I would be very surprised if Boston took Game 2.

Pick: Vancouver Canucks

Tennis – Na Li vs Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone is the defending French Open champ but this match is a lot closer than it might appear.

 

Schiavone is 24-14 so far on this year (including Fed Cup Matches). Schiavone has also had some success on Clay posting a 13-4 record on that surface. Schiavone is probably very comfortable on clay having played on it over 160 times with a record of 107-57. The last two years Schiavone has been even better than that clay record would suggest and she hast posted solid results. Between 2002-2005 Schiavone really struggled on clay and her career mark on that surface is lower because of those struggles.

 

Na Li has posted a better start to the 2011 campaign going 26-9. Na Li has also won a title but of those wins 11 have come on hard courts including her very solid start to the year with a title in Sydney and a Finals appearance in the Australian open. After her red hot start to the year Li slowed down dramatically and posted very poor results until the past month or so when she has gotten on a roll again. Na Li is 14-3 on clay so far this year and that’s almost identical to Shiavone. Na Li has had success on Clay but hasn’t played on it much over the course of her career having played 82 matches on clay, almost half as many as Schiavone.

 

Schiavone has beaten players she is supposed to beat on her way to the finals but hasn’t really faced a top talent type test yet. Na Li meanwhile has pulled off several big upsets against big name players including #4 Victoria Azarenka and #7 Maria Sharapova. Na Li is probably in slightly better form but hasn’t won a grand slam title in her career while Schiavone is the defending champion here.

 

These two have played twice before and have split the series 2-2. Na Li leads on Hard courts 2-1 while Schiavone has a 1-0 lead on clay courts. While I think Na Li is playing better Schiavone has had her best results on clay over the past two years. Schiavone is not exactly a clay court specialist but clay is her best surface while Na Li has always been more of a hard court player. Na Li will make this close and might even pull this one out but I like the defending champion in this one playing on her best surface vs a hot Na Li.

 

Pick: Francesca Schiavone

Soccer – Stoke City vs Manchester City (Neutral location)

This Saturday, Stoke City and Manchester City will travel to London and play in the FA Cup Final at the English National Team’s home pitch, Wembley Stadium. Neither team has made an FA Cup Finals in over 30 years. For those of you less familiar with British Soccer, the FA Cup is a tournament held every year which includes every single team in English Soccer from the Premier League down to the Conference National leagues.

Stoke City (12-7-16) enters play presently 8th in the Premiership, having blasted its way with ease into the FA Cup Final. Their semifinal victory over Bolton was a 5-0 rout. They also defeated fellow Premier League members West Ham 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Stoke enters play in very strong form. Stoke has gone 3-2-0 in their last 5 matches and 5-3-2 in their last 10. Stoke has been terrible away from home this year, with a 3-3-12 record on the road, but how important those struggles will be to a game on neutral turf is hard to determine. Stoke did win their one other game at Wembley this year, which was the Bolton tilt mentioned earlier.

Manchester City (19-8-9) had a far more difficult challenge in the semifinals of the FA Cup where they dispatched Premier League leading and intercity rivals Manchester United 1-0. Manchester City has also posted far better results in league play and leads Stoke in the Premier tables by 19 points. Manchester City has also been very good recently posting a 5-0-1 record over their last 5 and a 7-0-3 record over their past 10. Manchester City is the better team, but this prop doesn’t allow for Manchester City to rely on extra time; they must win in regulation to win this prop.

It’s worth noting that in these two teams only meeting earlier this year, the result was a 1-1 draw on Stoke’s home soil. However, Stoke has only been very good on home turf this year; they have struggled away from home and while the game is being played at a neutral location, the lack of home field advantage will hurt Stoke. I don’t think that Stoke will be able to match the intensity and pressure that City will place on them and I expect Manchester City to take this one in regulation.

Pick: Manchester City