Vegas veteran Benjamin Eckstein, author of America’s Line, brings three decades of experience to make weekly picks in his “Ecks & Bacon” column.
LAS VEGAS — Have you been to Lisbon recently? We are spending a few days in the capital of Portugal watching the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. And also looking for a small one-bedroom on the ocean. We had to go a few miles from the center of the city to find better real estate prices, and Cabo da Roca is the spot.
It’s about 24 miles from Lisbon, and a 38-minute drive on the A5 with no traffic. Cabo is SMACK on the ocean with views that you dream about. Got a few spots that look delicious and will get back to you once they give me the prices. On to the game.
Champions League Pick
Got Bayern vs Barcelona for a spot in the semifinals and, naturally, all the chatter usually starts with the GREAT Lionel Messi. Fair enough. But Die Bayern, which translates as The Bavarians, are year in and year out one of the strongest clubs in the world. They just put the German Bundesliga crown on their head again, for the TWENTY-NINTH time, which is two more than the Yankees.
This season had the extra sauce because Bayern won 26, lost four and had four draws for 82 points. Second place went to Dortmund with 69 points. But the real story is this goal-scoring machine and stingy defense. You sitting? The Bavarians rocked the net for 100 goals and allowed just 32 for a HISTORIC +68 goal differential. Did I say PLUS SIXTY-EIGHT? Yes, Barca has Messi, but Bayern has a guy you have probably not heard of a bunch, Robert Lewandowski.
He comes from Warsaw, Poland, is 31 years old, makes $20 million per and – my favorite little piece of information – they call him THE BODY!!! Lewandowski has scored 53 goals in 44 appearances across all competitions this season, including 13 in seven Champions League matches.
In the last 13 games away from Munich, Bayern has NOT lost. Actually, the Bavarians have NOT lost a match since early December! My only problem is Messi. Any time he is on the field, betting the other side is always scary. So we’re thinking maybe a light, very light tickle to Bayern, and since both teams fill the net like sardine fishermen off the coast of Morocco, the bet is OVER 3 goals.
On the ice, still thinking that the Avalanche are way too strong for the Coyotes, so it’s another Rocky Mountain High for me and my bankroll! The Avs fed Arizona a 3-0 bagel in the opener and while the Coyotes might get on the board, Colorado has TOO much talent and will post another W!
And if you’re thinking NBA tomorrow, we have a play-in game for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, with the Blazers now -6 points over the Grizzlies. Absolutely LOVE Damian Lillard. He has put the entire Portland team on his shoulders and they’ve won six of eight since the restart to grab the eighth seed. But let’s drill down. Specifically, the last three wins. They beat the 76ers 124-121 – a Philly team without Ben Simmons, and NO Joel Embiid after only six minutes. Then they posted a 134-131 win over a Mavericks team that was kinda playing out the string. And in the most important game, the Blaze barely squeezed past a lousy Nets team 134-133 and DIDN’T come close to covering the 10-point spread.
The last time they hooked up with Memphis was the first game of the restart, and they beat the Grizzlies in Orlando 140-135. In an earlier meeting at Memphis, the Grizzlies picked up a 111-104 victory. Look at all the recent Portland scores and you’ll notice exceptionally tight games.
So, here’s how the play-In works. Since Portland is the higher seed, a win tomorrow and Memphis is gone. If the Grizzlies win, they’ll play another game Sunday for the glorious chance to face the top-seeded Lakers. Just so happened to be in Vancouver when the Grizz were introduced to the world, and STILL have the GORGEOUS Vancouver Grizzlies baseball cap. That’s not enough of a reason to pick Memphis, but Ja and PLUS SIX IS!!!
Benjamin Eckstein is a nationally syndicated sportswriter/oddsmaker. His column, America's Line, with the Ecks & Bacon appetizer, has run in the New York Daily News and over 100 other papers since 1988. You can follow him online at www.americasline.com. He is beloved by most, when he picks winners, and detested by others, when he picks the occasional loser. If you wanna piece of Eck, hit his Email...firstname.lastname@example.org.