Happy Thirsty Tuesday, everybody! Maybe “Thirsty Tuesday” doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as Thirsty Thursday, but we’ll go with it here in the Six Pack regardless. A light night of sports on Monday gave fans and handicappers the breather that they needed after a couple of high-octane weeks with playoff action in the winter sports, the Triple Crown, some UFC fights, and the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight earlier this month. Now that we’re all re-energized, let’s see what happened on Monday and look ahead to Tuesday.
How The West Will Be Won
The final two teams from the Western Conference are the top two seeds. It seems apropos given the meat grinder of the regular season in the best conference/league in all of sports. The Golden State Warriors are a heavy series favorite and they should be. They won all four meetings this season by double digits, scoring an average of 115 points per game in those matchups. In fairness to the Rockets, who have spent the season dealing with a myriad of injuries, the two teams have not played since January 21. The Rockets fell to 29-14 with that loss and went 27-12 the rest of the way.
The biggest deciding factor in this series could be fatigue. The Warriors are relatively fresh and aren’t dealing with any major injuries. The Rockets just went seven games with the Los Angeles Clippers and erased a 3-1 series deficit to get to this point. James Harden battled the flu during the previous series and Patrick Beverley is expected to miss the entire series with an injury. Dwight Howard was limited to 41 games and 29.8 minutes per game during the regular season. He has suited up in all 12 playoff games and has played 33.3 minutes per game. His 41.3 percent free throw success rate could be a sign of some tired legs.
The Warriors will make the Rockets run in this series. That’s the type of game that Houston is comfortable with playing, but at this stage of the game, it may not work in their favor. It could help the Rockets that Steve Kerr seems to have no interest in the Hack-A-Howard strategy because he knows that his team will excel at a quicker pace. That should make for better basketball after a sloppy, whistle-filled series between the Rockets and Clippers.
The Warriors simply have too many weapons in this series and the fact that they are so much healthier is going to come into play. The Warriors are 43-3 at home between the playoffs and the regular season and the Rockets are just 2-3 on the road. If the Rockets can’t steal one of the first two games, they’re going to be done in a hurry.
Game 1 is tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
Lightning Strikes Six Times
Tyler Johnson had a hat trick with a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, and an even-strength goal to pace the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-2 rout over the New York Rangers in Game 2. Johnson, who was passed over three times in the NHL Draft before he signed as an undrafted free agent with Tampa Bay in 2011, leads all scorers in the playoffs with 16 points and 11 goals. The shorthanded goal came on a 5-on-3 and was correctly ruled a goal upon review. It was Johnson’s fourth multi-goal game of the playoffs and every one of them has followed a Lightning loss.
Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos had the other two goals. Killorn’s insurance goal to make it a 4-2 game was a crucial moment and it came off of a dynamite pass by Victor Hedman. The skill of the Lightning was on display. They were outshot 37-26, but had the better chances throughout the game. The teams combined for five goals on 11 power play attempts in what was definitely a more wide open game than the Rangers wanted. Ben Bishop was good in net again with 35 saves on 37 shots. If Tampa Bay is going to pull the upset, Bishop needs to be better than Henrik Lundqvist. So far, he has been.
The Lightning were 32-8-1 at home during the regular season and have taken home ice advantage away from the Rangers by winning Game 2. Game 3 is on Wednesday night.
Ace vs. Ace
Corey Kluber and Chris Sale both dazzled in Monday’s 2-1 walk-off win for the Chicago White Sox. Kluber should have thrown a complete game shutout, but catcher Roberto Perez failed to smother a curveball in the dirt and then had the ball knocked out of his glove by a sliding Adam Eaton in the sixth inning. The White Sox eventually won on Carlos Sanchez’s walk-off single just inside the left-field line.
Kluber, who struck out 18 in his previous start, punched out the first five White Sox hitters he faced. Kluber ended with nine innings of one-run ball with 12 strikeouts and one walk. Sale, who entered the game with an ERA over 5.00, threw eight innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts and two walks. The two aces combined for 36 swings and misses in the game.
Everybody makes a big deal about the lack of offense in Major League Baseball, but there’s something special about two aces going out there and going pitch-for-pitch with each other. These are definitely two of the best. Kluber threw 80 of his 108 pitches for strikes. Sale was 72 for 109.
Tannehill’s The Man
Ryan Tannehill inked a contract extension threw the end of the 2020 season. The deal is for six years and $96M, with $45M guaranteed. Tannehill has consistently gotten better throughout his career since he was a little bit of a surprise top-10 pick in 2012. The Dolphins may have saved themselves some money by extending Tannehill before fellow 2012 draft picks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson get their offers. RGIII faces an uncertain future, but Andrew Luck is going to get an enormous deal and the Brinks truck will be arriving at Russell Wilson’s front door soon enough.
Tannehill had his best season last year and has more talent to work with at the skill positions this season. With Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker all in the fold, Tannehill should be able to improve for the fourth consecutive season.
If you have not listened to the AFC team previews on the last two weeks of the Gridiron Gambling Report, make sure you check out our thoughts on the Miami Dolphins from our AFC East/AFC North show. Adam Burke and Cole Ryan will be back on the air with the NFC East and NFC North at 4 p.m. ET today.
The Waiting Game
Everett Golson was reportedly close to committing to Florida State University, but the hottest “free agent” on the college football market is continuing to look over his options. Golson likely needs to find a non-SEC school to transfer to since there are a lot of concerns about his ability to get the necessary waiver given his academic transgressions at Notre Dame.
Florida State could clearly use his services with Jameis Winston in the NFL. Alabama has also been linked to Golson as a replacement for Blake Sims. South Carolina was a possible destination with a void at quarterback, but the Myrtle Beach native is reportedly not a consideration. Golson has visited Florida, Georgia, UCLA, and LSU.
The smart money seems to be on Florida State, especially since their College Football Playoff championship odds have recently dropped, nearly by half. Golson graduated from Notre Dame this past weekend and, as a graduate transfer, does not need to sit out the season.
One In, One Out for Seton Hall
Seton Hall suffered a major blow when Sterling Gibbs announced that he would transfer. After going through some due diligence by checking out a bunch of schools, Gibbs has settled on UConn. Gibbs, like Golson, is a graduate transfer, so he does not need to sit out a season. He was reportedly deciding between Ohio State, Pitt, NC State, and VCU. UConn brings back four starters and has two four-star freshmen coming in, so they will certainly get some preseason love for the national championship.
With Gibbs gone, Seton Hall was happy to secure a commitment from Derrick Gordon. Gordon, an openly gay player, was with UMass last season and played with Western Kentucky prior to that. Gordon averaged nearly 10 points and five boards per game with UMass. Gordon expressed his sadness that many teams around NCAA seemed to have no interest in him because of his sexual orientation. Good luck to him with this new chapter in his life.
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