Another weekend of sports is in the books. This one was a lot tamer than last weekend with the Kentucky Derby and Mayweather/Pacquiao, but that doesn’t mean that there is a shortage of things to discuss. The NBA playoffs yielded some interesting results and the NHL playoffs in the Western Conference are now decided. The Eastern Conference NHL playoffs still have some business to take care of this week, though all of the players have Monday off. What’s going on in the world of sports is important to your handicapping, so crack open a cold one and join me for a Six Pack.
Here are the top six stories for May 11:
Houston, We Have a Lot of Problems
The Houston Rockets were decimated in both of their games at Staples Center over the weekend and now face elimination in Game 5. The Hack-A-Jordan worked in the sense that DeAndre Jordan was just 14-of-34 from the free throw line, but running up the team’s foul totals hurt Kevin McHale’s team. James Harden was critical of his coach after the game, and rightfully so. The Clippers scored 252 points over Games 3 and 4 and won comfortably in both of them.
Game 4 was a six-point game at halftime but a 43-point third quarter from the Clippers removed all doubt. Dwight Howard only managed seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes and James Harden once again lacked that second gear. He led the Rockets with 21 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. The Clippers, meanwhile, padded the stat sheet once again. DeAndre Jordan’s 26 and 17 led the Clippers, but Chris Paul’s 15 points and 12 assists in just 26 minutes were the big story. Blake Griffin had 21 and 8 in his 33 minutes of action.
The Clippers are just too much for the Rockets to handle. Chris Paul is clearly hurt and the Rockets still can’t stop him. They have gotten out of their comfort zone by playing the Hack-A-Jordan philosophy and they have struggled to get into a good rhythm offensively. Dwight Howard hasn’t been able to handle the physical play at the rim and it has taken its toll on the oft-injured big.
There’s a chance that the Rockets bounce back in Game 5, but they have been dominated in these last two games and the Clippers have been deadly efficient. The Clippers have a lot of incentive to end this series in five games because Golden State and Memphis are ticketed for a long series.
Buzzer Beaters For All
Derrick Rose’s banked three-pointer gave the Chicago Bulls a Game 3 victory, but LeBron James returned the favor in Game 4 to retake home court advantage and send the series back to Cleveland tied at 2-2. Neither team played very well in Game 4 and it was definitely one of the ugliest games of the playoffs, but the dramatic ending spared both teams from criticism.
The Cavs are in bad shape right now. Their offense has bogged down without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving sat during some key moments in the fourth quarter since his ankle/foot injury is really acting up. Somehow, through it all, the Cavs were right in both games in Chicago and managed to pull out Game 4 and seemingly save their season.
Pau Gasol was out for the Bulls and they nearly pulled off the win. Injuries have taken a major toll on this series and neither team is coming to come out of this series in good shape. In another story, the Cavs players ignored David Blatt’s final play call. It wound up working out in their favor, but narratives began flying immediately. This is something to watch now and over the offseason, since Blatt and the players have been at odds on numerous occasions.
In the other Eastern Conference series, Paul Pierce’s game-winner propelled the Wizards to a 2-1 series lead in Game 3. Game 4 is tonight. The Wizards are likely going to be without John Wall for at least the rest of this season, if not longer. Washington had a 20-point lead in the second half last game and the Hawks roared all the way back to tie the game. The Hawks have looked tired throughout the playoffs and they may have spent too much energy getting back in last game to take back home court advantage.
Not Road Warriors
Golden State is in a precarious position on Monday night. Memphis can take a 3-1 series lead with another win on their home floor. The Warriors were held to 89 points in Game 3 and a lot of things are going wrong for the NBA’s top regular season team. Steph Curry has struggled with his shot throughout the two games that Mike Conley has played. The Warriors have no answer on the interior for Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph. Now, Marreese Speights is out for Game 4.
An emerging storyline in this series is that Steve Kerr is getting outcoached. Cole Ryan covered that and a lot more on his Monday edition of Betting the Buckets.
Rangers Live, Ducks Advance
For the 13th straight game, the New York Rangers were locked in a tight battle. For a while, it didn’t look like it was going to be. The Rangers led 4-1 early in the third period when the Capitals scored two quick goals to turn a rout into an action-packed final period. The Capitals had a huge push after making it a 4-3 game and nearly scored the equalizer, but Henrik Lundqvist stood tall.
It was a very interesting game. The Rangers were able to play with speed and their cycle game was on point in the offensive zone. But, the Capitals were very aggressive in the second and third periods and fired 45 shots on goal and dozens more that were blocked by Rangers players. Ryan McDonagh was rocked by Alex Ovechkin in the third period and missed a couple of shifts, but came back after what looked like a possible concussion at first glance. McDonagh’s head hit the glass and he got up in an unsteady fashion. He returned and looked no worse for the wear.
Game 7 will be on Monday in New York City.
The Anaheim Ducks needed overtime to get past the Calgary Flames by a 3-2 score, but the game was hardly that close. The Ducks outshot the Flames 47-19 and also dominated in the faceoff circle. Karri Ramo was terrific for the Flames in the loss. The Ducks now host the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals sometime later this week. The two Eastern Conference series need to wrap up first.
MLB Weekend Recap
How about Michael Pineda? Pineda’s velocity has spiked and he more than flashed the potential that made him such a highly thought of commodity as a prospect with the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Pineda punched out 16 Orioles hitters without issuing a walk over his seven innings in a Yankees win.
In sad injury news, Drew Smyly needs shoulder surgery. The Tampa Bay Rays got depressing news about Alex Cobb last week and now their rotation took another hit with the Smyly announcement. The Rays were in line to have one of the best starting rotations in MLB. Now, it’s a concern.
Josh Hamilton made a rehab start for Round Rock, Texas’s Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Count League. He went 1-for-3 with a couple of strikeouts, but it was good to see Hamilton back on the field. He should be with the Rangers by the end of the month, if not earlier.
Check out Monday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box for more news, notes, and insight on what happened over the weekend.
Fowler Ends Drought
Rickie Fowler’s mother, Lynne, sped back in time to see her son end a three-year PGA Tour victory drought at TPC Sawgrass in The Players Championship. Fowler was victorious on the fourth hole of a playoff against Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia. Fowler erased a five-shot deficit over the last six holes to get into position to play for the win and he took home the biggest title of his career.
Rory McIlroy tied for eighth and Tiger Woods made the cut, which was a better showing than what Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker put together. Spieth and Walker both missed the cut, allowing others to catch up a bit in the FedEx Cup Points standings. Spieth and Walker are currently the top two players on the list.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.