What a weekend of sports. Saturday was one of the top sports days in a long time with a thriller between the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs right after one of the most exciting Kentucky Derby races in quite some time. The Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight had some good flurries of action, but seemed to disappoint most viewers overall. That and more will be discussed in this Monday edition of The Six Pack.
Here are the top six stories for the start of the work week on May 4:
The Side Effects of Hype
I was definitely in the minority on Saturday with regards to the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Even though Mayweather’s style of using his jab to keep the opponent to the outside followed by dancing away from danger often leads to boring fights, I thought it was interesting to watch two technically-sound fighters do battle. Admittedly I’m not a huge boxing fan, but because I knew what to expect, the fight did not disappoint me.
The pay-per-view price tag and the immense build-up for the fight gave a lot of viewers unrealistic expectations. These two fighters were not going to stand upright and throw the whole fight. With Pacquiao at 36 and Mayweather at 38, those days are well in the past. Pacquiao came out and talked about a shoulder injury that limited him in the fight and Mayweather used the bumps and bruises argument as well. Whether or not it sets up a rematch remains to be seen, but this fight did not do a whole lot to gain boxing some favor in what is predominantly a UFC crowd nowadays.
Mayweather won the fight, even through Pacquiao was the aggressor. The fight basically played out as expected. That was the most disappointing part of it all. I, along with many others, was hoping for a Pacquiao win. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rematch that served as Mayweather’s final bout. With a win, he would tie Rocky Marciano with a 49-0 record. Mayweather seemed almost apologetic after the fight about his “Money team” schtick and some of the other things he has done during his career. To me, that sounded like a guy interested in one more payday and then a ride off into the sunset. The promoters may have to label it as Mayweather’s swan song because the fight disappointed so many people that ponied up the $100 to get the bout.
American Pharoah and the Triple Crown
American Pharoah, typo and all, won the Kentucky Derby by being the best horse in the field. Victor Espinoza did a terrific job pacing the colt through the first two-thirds of the race before turning it on for the final straightaway. Espinoza is just the sixth jockey in Kentucky Derby history to win back-to-back races. He was the victor last year on California Chrome.
It was a little bit unfortunate to see what happened before the race. International Star, who was the leading point-getter during the Road to the Kentucky Derby race circuit was scratched, along with El Kabeir, who was going to be ridden by Calvin Borel.
American Pharoah became the second horse to win from post 18 in Derby history. The most impressive part of the win was that Espinoza guided American Pharaoh from the outside down the stretch, which showcased the colt’s tremendous speed and endurance. The next test is the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 16.
End of an Era?
The San Antonio Spurs couldn’t seal the deal this season. After struggling through the first half of the regular season, they failed to win Game 6 at home and then narrowly missed coming out on top in Game 7. One has to wonder if this is the end of the road for the Spurs. Kawhi Leonard is a fantastic player and Gregg Popovich is still the NBA’s top coach, but Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are gradually showing signs of age. Duncan’s playoff performance was excellent as always, but his regular season was a bit of a disappointment and Parker battled a slew of injuries yet again.
The Spurs, as we know them, would never lose that Game 6 at home. Perhaps they just ran into a very good Los Angeles Clippers team. San Antonio’s loss to New Orleans on the final day of the regular season really cost them because the Dallas Mavericks were an easy out for the Houston Rockets. A matchup against the Clippers was a lot tougher. Even if the Spurs would have won Game 6 or Game 7, the series would have taken a lot out of them heading into the next round.
It’s better for the game of basketball that the Clippers moved on. Change is good. The Clippers certainly have a tough test against the Houston Rockets and it’s hard to see anybody beating the Golden State Warriors and newly-crowned MVP Stephen Curry. No knock on the Spurs, who are fundamentally sound and still a force in the NBA, but it may be the end of their run of dominance.
Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs
The Atlanta Hawks are in serious trouble. After playing rather poorly against the Brooklyn Nets, the Hawks needed a good Game 1 performance against the Washington Wizards. They didn’t get it. The Hawks committed 11 turnovers to Washington’s six and shot just 34 percent from beyond the arc. Atlanta folded down the stretch after the quick turnaround and a hot first half.
Six Wizards were in double figures, led by 28 from Bradley Beal. All five Hawks starters were in double figures, but the way this game played out showed the impact that a lack of depth can have. The Hawks relied heavily on their starters throughout the season against the Nets and tired legs decided the game in the second half.
There are some concerns for the Wizards moving forward. Bradley Beal sprained his ankle and John Wall sprained his left wrist. The Hawks should make it a point to go at Beal in the half court and make him spend a lot of effort defending on that bad ankle. Atlanta will probably win Game 2 to bounce back, but they will need to dig deep and find something to avoid a series upset.
The Cleveland Cavs and Chicago Bulls start up their series tonight. It’s rather interesting to see the Cavs as such a heavy favorite for the series but just a five-point favorite in Game 1. The Kevin Love injury will hurt from a lot of different angles for the Cavs. He’s a solid rebounder and stretches the opposing defense. Without those two things, the Cavs are going to have to rely heavily on JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will attack the rim in the absence of Love and that means Smith and Shumpert need to hit open jumpers.
As for the Bulls, they need to use Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah a lot. The Cavs have a major lack of frontcourt depth with Love out. Timofey Mozgov will have to stay out of foul trouble because the Cavs have no answer for Gasol otherwise. This will be David Blatt’s first big test as the head coach of the Cavs.
NHL Playoffs Update
Three of the four NHL playoffs series are 2-0, as the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are the only teams to split the first two games. The Tampa Bay Lightning took both games in Montreal and are now 7-0 on the season against the Canadiens. Tampa Bay was the worst road team to make the playoffs, but they had the best home record during the regular season. They took home ice advantage away from the Canadiens by winning both games at Bell Centre and now control their own destiny in a big way.
The Anaheim Ducks look poised to steamroll the Calgary Flames and move right into the conference finals. The new NHL playoff format that forces play within the division in the first two rounds (with the exception of the wild cards) really helped out the Ducks. The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames were probably the worst teams to make the playoffs. The Ducks also played the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, who were the #8 seed by being the second wild card.
MLB Weekend Recap
It was an interesting weekend of Major League Baseball action. The Houston Astros are the talk of the baseball world with their 10-game winning streak. The Astros took a chance with their lineup, combining big right-handed power and some speed with a lot of strikeouts and walks. So far, it’s working in a big way. The Astros have one of the most progressive front offices in baseball and their 18-7 start is certainly impressive.
Jean Segura took a pitch to the helmet and exited Sunday’s game with some dizziness. A few hours after the game, Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was given his walking papers. Manager-in-waiting Craig Counsell has taken over and the team is expected to give him a multi-year deal instead of placing the interim tag on him.
The Boston Red Sox were swept at home by the New York Yankees for the first time since 2006. The Seattle Mariners, swept by the aforementioned Astros, dropped to 10-15 on the season, putting some fear into bettors that played the over on their season win total. The Los Angeles Dodgers are opening up a gap in the NL West with a three-game lead and a 16-8 record.
Join us every weekday for the Daily Six Pack, covering six of the top stories from the sports world.