Happy Friday everyone, it's Chris Bengel guiding you into the weekend. If I can give you one piece of advice right out of the gate: avoid betting the spread when it comes to the NBA playoffs.

The conference finals have produced some lopsided results over the past week. When you think you know exactly how a game is going to go, something completely different happens. The Heat took a 2-1 series lead last weekend with a hard-fought 109-103 victory, and then the Celtics took the next two games in convincing fashion. I'm fine with betting some player props for a few units, but outside of that, I'd rather dabble in the NHL playoffs or some Major League Baseball action.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to the picks!

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

The Hot Ticket

Yankees vs. Rays, 7:10 p.m. | TV: Amazon Prime

Latest Odds: New York Yankees +120
  • Key Trend: The Yankees are 6-0 in their last six games as an underdog
  • The Pick: Yankees (+105) 

The Yankees have finally been bitten by the injury bug, but that didn't stop them from taking it to their American League East rivals on Thursday in a 7-2 win over the Rays. Rays starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough did fluster the Yankees through the first five innings, but eventually the Bronx Bombers were able to chase the left-hander from the ball game and their bats woke up.

Friday's starting pitcher, Jeffrey Springs, has been solid in spot starts for the Rays so far this season. However, we did see a little bit of struggles in his last start against the Orioles when he walked four batters. He did toss 5.2 innings of shutout baseball, but he also had the benefit of facing a pedestrian Orioles lineup, which is a tad different than the AL East-leading Yankees.

Even if Springs pitches well, the Yankees should be able to go toe-to-toe with him with Jameson Taillon slated to make the start. Taillon has enjoyed a strong season thus far in which he's yielded two or fewer runs in all but one start this season. He's also coming off a season-high strikeout performance with seven punch-outs against the White Sox. In what could end up being a low-scoring affair, I'm content to roll with the Yankees, who have won their last six games when they've been an underdog.



Heat vs. Celtics, 8:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
Jimmy Butler Under 22.5 Points (-115)
-- As I mentioned up top, I'm completely staying away from any spread when it comes to the Eastern Conference Finals. You just don't know what you're going to get and it would be nothing more than a dart throw at this point. 

So instead, let's focus on Jimmy Butler. Throughout the series, we've experienced two vastly different versions of the Heat star. Butler scored 70 points in the opening two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, but has completely regressed over the past three games: he hasn't topped the 13-point mark and has finished with single-digit scoring numbers in two of those contests. 

Now, 22 points isn't a lot for a player of Butler's caliber to score, but until we see him consistently making shots, I'm betting the under on his points prop.

Key Trend: Butler has scored 13 points or less in each of his last three games


Avalanche at Blues, 8 p.m. | TV: TNT

Latest Odds: Colorado Avalanche -175

The Pick: Avalanche (-175) -- It looked as though the Avalanche were going to close out the Blues in Game 5, but the Blues rallied back to tie the game late in regulation and force overtime where they came away with a 5-4 win. It was a deflating way to lose

Still, I have no problem riding with the Avalanche to close out the series in Game 6 on Friday.

The Avalanche have won each of their last four road games and have yet to lose on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While goaltender Darcy Kuemper has received a significant amount of criticism for surrendering five goals in Game 5, but Colorado has bounced back quite easily following a tough game. Over their past 12 games, the Avalanche have accumulated a 10-2 record when their opponent scored five or more goals in the previous game. 

It's hard not to be confident in the Avalanche when they're scoring a league-best 4.44 goals-per-game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Look for Colorado to close out the series and advance to face the Oilers in the Western Conference Finals, which will be must-see television.

Key Trend: The Avalanche are 4-0 in their last four road games