The long wait is over. Game day is finally here for the NBA Finals as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors make their final preparations for a shot at history. That’s obviously the big story of the day, but other key stories are drawing attention for June 4. With no Six Pack coming on Friday due to a scheduling conflict, we will also take a look ahead to the weekend with NASCAR, UFC, boxing, and a slew of great sporting events on tap.
The NBA Finals do not need any more build up. After a long wait to get underway, every angle about this series has been dissected, put back together, and re-dissected. Who will guard LeBron James? Can Kyrie Irving have an impact? Will JR Smith keep shooting the lights out? Is Klay Thompson going to show any lingering effects of the concussion? Will Marreese Speights have an impact on the interior? Can Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes contribute offensively?
All of these angles have been covered extensively. All that matters now is that Game 1 tips off tonight. The Cavs have the weight of an entire city’s fan base on their shoulders. The city of Cleveland has not experienced a championship in a pro sport since 1964. The Cavaliers have 19 postseason appearances without a title. This is their second Finals appearance. With LeBron James absolutely carrying the team in 2007, the Cavs were swept right out of the Finals by the San Antonio Spurs.
Golden State has 31 playoff appearances and no championships since 1975. A lot has been made of the fact that Oakland may not have any pro teams in the near future. The Oakland Raiders have been trying to move, as have the Oakland Athletics, because O.co Coliseum is a dump with sewage problems and nobody seems willing to pony up the money for repairs and upgrades. The Warriors may move out of Oracle Arena and play in San Jose or San Francisco, where they played from 1962-1971. Both of these fan bases deserve a champion, but only one will be happy.
People have besmirched the notion of experience in the NHL playoffs this year because of how some teams have fared. When it came down to it in Game 1, the more experienced team made the plays to win in the third period. The Tampa Bay Lightning got out to a 1-0 lead on an impressive display of hand-eye coordination from Alex Killorn in the first period. The game stayed that way until Teuvo Teravainen took over in the third period. The Blackhawks scored two goals in 1:58 late in the period to escape with a 2-1 win. Teravainen, inexplicably benched in Game 3 of the Blackhawks/Ducks series, scored his third of the playoffs to tie the game and then set up Antoine Vermette’s game-winner on his next shift. Vermette was also inexplicably benched for that same game.
The Blackhawks got strong goaltending from Corey Crawford, who stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced and really kept the Blackhawks in the game until they got their legs going to match Tampa Bay’s speed. Ben Bishop stopped 19 of 21 shots, but was very dejected leaving the bench after his team failed to score with the extra attacker. This will be a major test for a young team like Tampa Bay. They played great for 53 minutes and then all that hard work fell apart in the blink of an eye.
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but David Rundblad played 10 shifts and 7:22 for the Blackhawks. Kyle Cumiskey had nine shifts covering 5:01. That left a minimum of 22:34 of ice time for each of Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith (29:15), Johnny Oduya (23:46), and Brent Seabrook (26:23). With Tampa Bay’s speed, this is still a situation to monitor and it’s thoroughly impressive that the Blackhawks have been able to overcome it for so long.
All sorts of things going on in Major League Baseball. The league apologized to the Kansas City Royals for blowing a replay call on a double play ball that allowed the Indians to extend the inning and score the game-winning run in Tuesday’s 2-1 Tribe victory. The Royals responded by beating the Indians 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Josh Hamilton’s tremendous comeback story has been put on the shelf once again, as he will miss 3-4 weeks with a strained hamstring. Hamilton sent waves through the league after a walk-off double earlier this week, but his buddy has failed him once again.
The Mariners acquired Mark Trumbo in an attempt to break up their left-handed heavy lineup. Trumbo has good power, but doesn’t help the areas that Seattle needs help in. For more on this trade and its impact, check out Thursday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box.
Masahiro Tanaka showed absolutely no signs of rust in a dominant outing against the Mariners on Wednesday. Tanaka has been trying to baby his UCL through rehab and rest and recovery rather than Tommy John surgery. He’s one of the game’s most effective starters when he’s out there, even at less than 100 percent.
Saturday Night Fights
Miguel Cotto will fight Daniel Geale for the WBC Middleweight Title at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. We’ve got you covered for that one with this preview.
UFC Fight Night returns stateside as Dan Henderson and Tim Boetsch duel in a main event middleweight fight in New Orleans. Several other fights are on the card, including a heavyweight battle between Ben Rothwell and Matt Mitrione. Look for a preview of UFC Fight Night 68 early this afternoon.
Race for History
American Pharoah has drawn Post 5 for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday as the three-year-old colt looks to make history. It has been 37 years since a horse won the racing Triple Crown and American Pharoah is a huge favorite to accomplish that feat. The field only features eight horses and only one who, like Tonalist, the 2014 Belmont Stakes champion, did not race in either of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Tonalist was the winner during California Chrome’s run at history last year. Chrome finished fourth, but it didn’t stop Chrome’s trainer from going on a diatribe about horses that only show up for the Belmont.
The biggest challengers to American Pharoah appear to be Frosted and Materiality, who both ran in the Kentucky Derby and had decent showings. For more on the Belmont Stakes, we’ve got you covered with this preview.
Djokovic Rollin’ at Roland Garros
Novak Djokovic, who has not lost a set at the French Open and has only lost two sets all season, beat Rafael Nadal in straight sets and barely broke a sweat. Andy Murray needed four sets to beat David Ferrer, but that is your French Open semifinals matchup at the top of the men’s bracket. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the last remaining Frenchman, and Stan Wawrinka, who upset Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, is the only semifinal.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams is expected to advance to the Finals with a win over Timea Bacsinszky on Thursday afternoon. Lucie Safarova already punched her title to play for the title with a straight-set win over Ana Ivanovic. The 28-year-old Safarova is a surprise finalist, but she did knock off Maria Sharapova in the fourth round and has not lost a set yet at the French Open. She has won five tiebreaker sets to maintain that undefeated mark.
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