Penguins open as favorites to win Stanley Cup over Predators

After a grueling 3-2 double-overtime Game 7 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins opened as favorites in Las Vegas to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Pittsburgh opened as a minus-150 favorite for the series at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, while the Nashville Predators are a plus-130 underdog. A $100 bet on the Penguins would win $66.67, while that same bet on the Predators would win $130.

Pittsburgh opened the playoffs tied with Anaheim and the New York Rangers with the fourth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at 10-1. Nashville was tied for the third-worst odds at 30-1 and was a large +170 underdog against the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1.

After defeating the Stanley Cup favorites — the Washington Capitals — in the conference semis, Pittsburgh took over as the 7-4 Stanley Cup favorites entering the Eastern Conference finals.

Game 1 will be Monday night at 8 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.

Celtics F Amir Johnson not starting Game 4 due to injured shoulder

CLEVELAND — Boston Celtics big man Amir Johnson will not start in Tuesday night’s Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers due to a right shoulder sprain, coach Brad Stevens said.

Kelly Olynyk will start in his place.

Stevens said he’s uncertain if Johnson will play at all Tuesday night due to the injury.

Johnson injured his shoulder in the opening minutes of Sunday’s Game 3 when he got tangled with Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson while chasing a rebound. Johnson later returned to the game but did not practice on Monday.

Even as a starter, Johnson’s playing time has been limited this postseason. He is averaging 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds over 10.5 minutes per game in 13 appearances, including nine starts.

This will be Olynyk’s first playoff start of his career. He started six regular-season games this season in 75 appearances.

Gerald Green starts in place of Amir Johnson for Celtics in Game 2

BOSTON — The Celtics started veteran guard Gerald Green in place of Amir Johnson in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Gerald, specifically, has been ready when called upon all year in a unique year, right, for him,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said before tipoff. “He got hurt in training camp, didn’t hardly play at all until Christmas, played in the Christmas Day game, and then played a lot while Avery [Bradley] was out, but didn’t play a lot in March. But he’s always been ready, and he always stays ready.”

Stevens went to Green in the team’s first-round matchup against the Chicago Bulls when Boston fell behind 2-0. The Celtics won the next four games to capture the series.

Green started twice in the second-round series against the Washington Wizards, with Boston winning in Game 1 but losing in Game 3. Johnson started the other five games of that series.

Green did not play in the final two games against Washington, but he logged 13 minutes in Wednesday’s Game 1 against Cleveland, when Boston showed some of its best energy of the night. He scored 11 points behind 3 of 5 shooting from long range.

Cleveland coach Ty Lue said that with the Cavaliers trying to force the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands, it was smart of Boston to put another shooter such as Green on the floor.

The Cavaliers lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.

Spurs to start Jonathan Simmons over Kawhi Leonard for Game 2

San Antonio Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons is starting in place of Kawhi Leonard in Tuesday night’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he thinks he’ll list Leonard as questionable for Game 3 after ruling Leonard out for Game 2 with a sprained left ankle caused by what Popovich described as a “dangerous” and “unsportsmanlike” closeout by Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia.

Leonard had an MRI on Monday and Popovich had no timetable on when his star player would be able to return to action.

“The thing that worries me is he did it again,” Popovich said. “So one would logically think maybe it will take longer, but I’m hoping that’s not true and that we’ll have him for Game 3. But I don’t know. And I don’t think we’ll know until Friday or Saturday.”

Leonard left Game 1 on Sunday after re-injuring his tender left ankle in the third quarter when Pachulia’s foot slid under Leonard’s following a jumper by the All-Star forward.

The play happened in front of the Spurs bench and Popovich was angry at the time and even more upset a day after San Antonio’s 113-111 loss to the Warriors.

Leonard scored 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting in nearly 24 minutes to go with eight rebounds and three assists. He made all 11 of his free throws.

Kawhi Leonard ruled out of Game 6 vs. Rockets

HOUSTON — Despite insisting that he would play, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out of Game 6 against the Houston Rockets because of a left ankle injury, coach Gregg Popovich said Thursday.

“Kawhi’s out,” Popovich said. “He’d rather play.”

Jonathon Simmons will start in Leonard’s place against the Rockets on Thursday night.

Popovich said earlier in the day that Leonard would be a game-time decision. Leonard was walking slowly but without a noticeable limp, as he arrived at the team’s shootaround in Houston on Thursday morning.

“It’s not an empirical formula,” Popovich said after practice. “You watch, you feel, you talk to the player and you come to a decision. Going to take as much time as possible, see what he feels like, see what I see and make a decision.”

By sitting out, Leonard, who is averaging 27.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting during the playoffs, would have more time to heal before a potential Game 7 or the Western Conference finals. The Rockets are 17-5 at home when facing elimination over the last 25 postseasons, the best record in the NBA in that span.

The Spurs lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.

Reserve point guard Patty Mills, who is filling in for injured starter Tony Parker, said earlier in the day that Leonard’s potential absence shouldn’t alter San Antonio’s focus headed into Thursday’s matchup at the Toyota Center.

“It shouldn’t change anyone else’s mindset,” Mills said. “Everyone did a great job of executing their roles last game. It should be the same. It has to be the same.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Spurs were 4-0 in games without Leonard and Parker this season.

Leonard sat out much of the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday and didn’t take the court for overtime after he came down on the foot of James Harden while turning to run up the court with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

He limped to the bench during the next stoppage in play, retied his shoe and re-entered the game, but he was largely ineffective on both ends of the floor.

Throughout Game 5, Leonard also appeared to be nursing a sore right knee, as he returned to the bench on multiple occasions to have athletic trainers tend to the injured area.

Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas undergoes dental work on tooth, has custom mouthguards

BOSTON — Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Isaiah Thomas, who is in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s Game 2 against the Washington Wizards, underwent intensive dental work.

Thomas had one of his left front teeth ejected in the first quarter of Boston’s Game 1 victory Sunday. An initial attempt to reposition the tooth by team doctors at the arena was unsuccessful, but that didn’t deter Thomas from scoring a game-high 33 points as Boston rallied from a 17-point deficit to win.

Thomas missed practice on Monday while undergoing oral surgery, and Stevens said he believes the All-Star point guard had to undergo more work before Tuesday’s game, in part because the damage was more than just the lost tooth.

“The tooth that was knocked out was not the only one that was affected. So he had some other issues there,” Stevens said. “So he was in getting oral surgery [Monday]. A few hours after practice ended, he came by the office for a minute, but was still … I don’t know if he went back to the dentist’s today or went to the hospital today just to work on it some more, but he’s continued to have some work on it.

“He’s good to go [in Game 2], but he’s still in a pretty good deal of pain. He’s got a swollen mouth. But they say that he’s doing really well from a recovery standpoint, which is positive.”

Stevens said Thomas was fitted for custom mouthguards for additional protection so soon after oral surgery.

“That will be strongly encouraged,” Stevens said. “And sometimes when guys are strongly encouraged to wear those, they wear them. And sometimes they throw them. So we’ll see.”

Thomas, playing on what would have been the 23rd birthday of his late sister Chyna, was seen interacting with his son, Jaiden, before Tuesday’s game. That included engaging in a lighthearted news conference before Stevens and Wizards coach Scott Brooks took to the podium for their pregame sessions.