Thursday is one of the quietest sports days of the year to date, unless something new happens with the FIFA investigation that has turned the soccer community upside down. The four teams left in the NHL playoffs have the night off before two Game 7 matches on Friday and Saturday. The NBA Finals do not begin until June 4 as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavs get ready for their much-anticipated series. As previewed yesterday, the AT&T Byron Nelson begins on Thursday. Have no fear, loyal readers. There’s still enough to fill a Six Pack for May 28.
A Golden Day for Golden State
The Golden State Warriors have navigated the gauntlet that is the NBA’s Western Conference and now prepare for the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The long layoff is going to help both teams. The Cavs have been banged up for a while with nagging injuries plaguing Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Kevin Love is already out until next season. The break is now a godsend for the Warriors after Klay Thompson suffered what seems to be a concussion after he was accidentally kneed in the head. It also will give Steph Curry a chance to fully heal from that ugly fall he took in Game 4.
The Warriors are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1975. Their 14-point win over Houston cemented one of the most impressive seasons in NBA history. The Warriors won 67 games during the regular season and did so with a rookie head coach in Steve Kerr. Steph Curry has developed into the game’s best shooter (and it may not even be close) and his supporting cast of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, and more.
This is the NBA Finals matchup that everybody wanted. These are the two best teams and there are a lot of storylines to this series. The Warriors have four guys capable of guarding LeBron, but they have obviously not faced a player of his caliber very much this season, and certainly not in these playoffs. Will the Cavs be able to defend the perimeter against the Warriors? That’s something that virtually no team has been able to do.
The long layoff is going to give the media plenty of time to create stories and narratives and also break down every element of the series. The Warriors are a big favorite in the -250 range to win the series and they are favored by six in Game 1 on June 4.
Game 7 Fun
The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a 5-2 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and have forced Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks. For the first time since 2000, there will be two Game 7’s in the conference finals. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning play on Friday and Game 7 of this series is on Saturday.
Wednesday night’s game marked the first time that the Ducks have lost in regulation this postseason. Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist and Andrew Shaw had an insurance goal and the empty-netter in the third period to cement Chicago’s victory. Duncan Keith assisted on all three second period goals and led the Blackhawks with over 28 minutes of ice time. That, by the way, continues to be a developing story. Kimmo Timonen did not dress for this game, but Kyle Cumiskey (7:15) and David Rundblad (5:53) did not play very much. Rundblad was on the ice during a long shift in the third period that continued after an icing whistle and a timeout. That was one of his eight shifts.
The Ducks had plenty of chances, especially in the third period after Clayton Stoner’s goal drew the Ducks to within one. Jakob Silfverberg brushed Corey Crawford’s glove hand and Stoner’s shot went into that corner of the net, much to the chagrin of Crawford. To his credit, he stood tall in the face of a barrage of Ducks shots. Anaheim outshot Chicago 13-4 in the third period and it was every bit as lopsided as it sounds before Shaw’s magnificent backhand goal sealed the game.
The Ducks outshot Chicago 32-23 for the game, but the Blackhawks were 33-17 in the faceoff dot, led by Jonathan Toews, who won 10 of his 12 draws. This has been a great series and it deserved a Game 7.
HBO Adds More Watt-age to Programming
The Houston Texans are going to be the subject of this season’s series of Hard Knocks, the HBO show that follows an NFL team through training camp. The Texans have the ability to remove any segment of the show that “compromises their competitive advantage”, but this has a chance to be a breath of fresh air for a league that has been raked over the coals on the PR front. JJ Watt is one of the league’s most personable, and beloved, superstars. He has appeared on FXX show The League, along with several other players, but Watt is a very marketable player for this series. Affable defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is one of the game’s better people and Bill O’Brien is a fiery, intense head coach.
This is not O’Brien’s first experience with cameras all over the training field, since his Nittany Lions were on ESPN’s Training Days in 2013. The Texans have some compelling storylines in training camp as well. They have a quarterback battle to decide between Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, and Tom Savage. They also have the return of 2014 first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney.
Hopefully this show can highlight the good sides of the NFL and its players after so many negative stories lately.
McDonald Doesn’t Learn
For the second time this week, former NFL defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested. His latest offense was a violation of a restraining order. The Bears have faced a PR storm after deciding to take a gamble on McDonald and then releasing him more than three months before the season is scheduled to start. At least the Bears made the right decision, but they probably should not have gambled on McDonald to begin with.
It’s not a strong limb to go out on to say that Ray McDonald’s NFL career is probably over. No team will take a chance on McDonald after this latest arrest. This is already his fourth domestic violence-related dust-up since August. Charges were not pursued in August, but now that the same thing has happened to the same person, and a child was involved, expect a more thorough process this time.
The Big Not So Easy
The New Orleans Pelicans are still going through the process of trying to find a head coach. The Pelicans were rumored to be very interested in Tom Thibodeau, but the Bulls boss has two years left on his contract and the Bulls are asking teams for compensation to let Thibodeau out of his deal. The Pelicans have been linked to Golden State assistant Alvin Gentry and coach turned broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy.
On Wednesday, former Orlando Magic player Scott Skiles has come to the forefront of candidates. Skiles has ties to both the Magic and the Pelicans. He played for the Magic and played in Greece under New Orleans GM Dell Demps. Even though Skiles has an affinity for the Magic, the Pelicans are in better shape with Anthony Davis and a much stronger core of players. On the other hand, the Western Conference is brutal and the Magic are not that far away from being a playoff contender in the East.
Van Gundy seems to be coming around to the idea of coaching, but it seems like he would only take the New Orleans job to coach Davis and that coaching the Magic would not be of interest to him.
MLB Infirmary Report
On a night where Bryce Harper went yard, again, injuries were the big story. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams could be done for the season with a major quad injury that will likely require surgery. That is a big blow for a Cardinals team considered by some to be the best team in baseball.
Scott Kazmir, whose comeback story to the Major Leagues is among the best in baseball, left his start with a shoulder issue and is awaiting an MRI. Kazmir was expected to be one of the best trade chips for the struggling A’s and any type of injury is going to hurt that trade value. With Jarrod Parker already done for the season, AJ Griffin recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Drew Pomeranz dealing with a shoulder problem, the A’s can ill afford another hit to their starting pitching depth.
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