Is it fair to say that the second round of the NBA playoffs has been disappointing? The Cleveland Cavs vs. Chicago Bulls series has been watered down by major injuries on both sides. The Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston Rockets series has just been a steady parade to the free throw line full of video reviews. There have been some shining moments, but all in all, it feels like it has been a very boring set of games. A lot of other things are happening in the sports world and we’ll look at those together in today’s Six Pack.
The LeBron Show
Kyrie Irving was a lot better in Game 5, but LeBron James dropped 38 on the Chicago Bulls as the Cavs took a 3-2 series lead James had 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals, and three blocks to go along with his 38 points and the Cavs have him to thank for their 3-2 series lead. JR Smith and Kyrie Irving hit a couple of big shots, but the Cavs let a 16-point lead slip away in the second half and nearly found a way to lose the game.
There was a little bit of excitement following Taj Gibson’s ejection for getting tied up with Matthew Dellavedova and subsequently kicking the Cavs’ reserve. It seemed to fire up the Bulls more than the Cavs, who fought back in a big way before falling short at the end. Jimmy Butler had 29 for the losers, while Derrick Rose had 16 points on just 7-of-24 shooting.
The Bulls should win Game 6 and it’d be a surprise if Pau Gasol didn’t fight his way through the game with the season on the line. There are two major concerns for the Cavs coming out of Game 5. Kyrie Irving is very clearly hurt, especially on the defensive end. The Bulls need to go right at him every chance they get because it will slow him down on the offensive end. Also, Timofey Mozgov was 0-of-7 from the floor. If Gasol makes his way back into the lineup, the Cavs are going to be at a big offensive disadvantage in the paint.
Expect this series to return to Cleveland.
Bad Basketball Out West
The Houston Rockets forced Game 6 in their series with the Los Angeles Clippers, but it was another painful game to watch. Dwight Howard kept shooting free throws while blindfolded and DeAndre Jordan went to the free throw line 16 times. The Rockets finally shot the ball well with a 54 percent success rate from the floor and James Harden stepped up with 26, 11, and 10 while dealing with the flu.
The big key for Houston is that they were able to push the pace. Houston had a 17-3 edge in fast break points and it gave them a huge advantage on the interior when both teams set up in the half court. Houston outscored Los Angeles 64-46 in the paint. Kevin McHale made some good offensive adjustments and the Rockets dictated the pace.
Doc Rivers needs to make some changes for Game 6. Matt Barnes is killing the team right now. After an 8-of-11 performance with 20 points in Game 1, Barnes is 6-of-26 with 25 points over the last four games. With an off shooting night from JJ Redick, Barnes’s stat line was overshadowed a little bit in Game 5, but somebody else needs to see some more time. The Clippers’ bench didn’t provide much of a lift as Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford were 5-of-21 from the floor.
It will be a good thing when this series is over. It has really set basketball back, especially after how well these two teams played in the regular season. They are putting up gaudy point totals, but this has not been good to watch and four of the five games have been blowouts.
The Tampa Bay Lightning moved on to the Eastern Conference Finals with a decisive 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Tampa Bay controlled the pace of the game throughout and they were clearly the better team. Everybody that needed to step up did exactly that. Steven Stamkos scored and looked more like the players that everybody expected throughout the postseason. Nikita Kucherov had been off to a slow start in the playoffs, but he scored two goals and added an assist. Ben Bishop stopped 18 of 19 shots, including some key saves when the game was hanging in the balance.
For Montreal, Tampa Bay’s speed was simply too much. The Canadiens rode the coattails of Carey Price into the playoffs and there’s only so much that he can do. The Canadiens scored 10 of their 25 postseason goals in two games – their first-round Game 1 win and their second-round Game 4 win. The Canadiens only scored 2.6 goals per game during the season and had the 23rd-ranked power play. Carey Price got no help and that was the team’s undoing in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay awaits the winner of tonight’s Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals.
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has wanted out of the Mile High City for a while. Some have criticized Tulowitzki’s inability to stay in the lineup because they believe it comes from a lack of competitiveness and his unhappiness with the situation in Colorado. Tulowitzki and his representatives have had dialogue with the Rockies regarding a possible trade.
There are a ton of stumbling blocks to a Tulowitzki trade. Tulo is still owed $94M through 2020 with a $15M club option for 2021 that carries a $4M buyout. Contract language also prohibits him to be traded a second time during the length of the deal. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the most productive players in baseball. Tulo has benefited from Coors Field, like all players have, but he also has a .278/.348/.469 slash line away from Coors. It’s not as impressive as his overall numbers, but that puts him in the upper echelon of shortstops.
He’ll be 36 when his guaranteed years expire and middle infielders have a sharper aging curve than most players. Somebody will take him and hope that he can maximize the value of his deal over the next few seasons, but the Rockies will have a very high asking price.
PGA Tour Invades Charlotte
The Wells Fargo Championship is this weekend at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, NC. Normally this tournament is played the first weekend of May, so a slight change has altered the field a little bit with the Players Championship being played last week. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are among the big names participating. Patrick Reed will also be playing alongside longtime players like Ernie Els and Jim Furyk.
Rory McIlroy has four top-10 finishes in five events at Quail Hollow, so he will be a popular pick this week. Phil Mickelson has 13 trips to Quail Hollow and has played into the weekend in all of them.
JB Holmes was the winner last season, holding off Jim Furyk’s big charge with a 65 on Sunday. McIlroy tied for eighth. Mickelson tied for 11th. With just over a month until the US Open at Chambers Bay, it will be very interesting to see how the next five tournaments go prior to the next Major of the season.
At Bovada.lv, McIlroy is the overwhelming favorite at 7/2. There’s some good value on the rest of the board. Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk are next at 18/1, with Phil Mickelson checking in at 20/1. Hideki Matsuyama is lined at 22/1 with Bill Haas at 25/1 and last season’s champion, JB Holmes, at 28/1.
Deflategate Fallout Continues
Ted Wells spoke with reporters to defend the report that seemingly implicated Tom Brady in the deflated balls scandal. Wells’s credibility and allegiance were called into question during the 30-minute phone conference, which did not sit well with Wells, who seemed to get audibly frustrated with reporters.
Tom Brady has hired legal representation in an attempt to get the suspension reduced or thrown out altogether. This is a really ugly incident all around for the NFL. If they back off, which they probably will, they will look weak. The idea that players doctor balls to gain an advantage is not new to sports, but for it to be this high-profile is definitely a problem for the perception of the NFL.
Hopefully this story will go away soon, no matter the outcome.
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