Hall of Very Good? Bleh. Let’s make halls of fame great again.

The best part about Hall of Fame debates is that they never end — even after someone gets voted in. No offense to Harold Baines, but really?

I understand why the Veterans Committee decided to put Bill Mazeroski of the Pirates in; and as a Mets fan I totally respect his World Series-ending home run that devastated the Yankees in 1960. But over time, the standards to reach a hall of fame have been lowered in multiple sports. For example, ever since we’ve been watching sports, there have been transcendent athletes who are no-doubt-it, first-ballot hall of famers. And in most cases, all you need to identify them are their first names or nicknames: Magic, Kobe, The Babe, to name a few.

But the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 threw me for a loop. Jack Sikma and Paul Westphal were really good players in their day, but what stunned me was the fact that both of them had the identical career scoring average: 15.6 points. Granted, they played different positions — and Sikma played nearly 300 more regular-season games than Westphal did — but that’s irrelevant. The point is that all halls of fame should not be for really good players; they should house only the greats.

I get that the entire process — and the ongoing debates about candidates — are totally subjective. But when did our definition of all-time great  change along the way? Look at Yankees lefty CC Sabathia, for instance. He more than likely will get voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame because of the precedent that has been set with Mike Mussina’s election earlier this year. 

Sabathia is in his 19th big-league season — Mussina, who will be inducted Sunday, pitched 18 — and both have had exactly one 20-win season. Yet Sabathia will more than likely get a hall call because he is the 17th pitcher to strike out more than 3,000 batters. Fourteen of the pitchers who reached this milestone are in Cooperstown, including fellow lefties Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson. The other two are Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.

So when evaluating potential HOF candidates, I ask myself the following question: At any point in their careers, were these players ever the best in their sports at their positions? I raise that because in some cases, some recent inductees weren’t even the best pitchers on their particular teams. When Mussina and Clemens were teammates from 2001-03, who was the Yankee ace? Yes, Clemens may have been using PEDs at the time, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Has Sabathia even been the best pitcher of his era? Pedro Martinez and other outstanding hurlers over that span might have something to say about that.

Halls of fame should remain places where no-doubt-about-it, all-time greats end up. I understand why sports halls feel compelled to have an induction class every year; it certainly doesn’t hurt the bottom line to keep this annual tradition going. But it seems as if we’ve reached a point where we have yearly induction classes just for the sake of having them.

Meanwhile, the softening of standards has apparently reached other HOFs. Look at this year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction class. Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Def Leppard, Radiohead and the Zombies are all worthy inductees. But using my earlier argument, were Roxy Music and the Cure ever the best bands of their respective eras? Jann Wenner and that hall’s voters might disagree with me, but that’s totally debatable. And I happen to love both Bryan Ferry and Robert Smith.

So do we really want a Hall of Very Good? 

Let’s keep halls of fame — and those in them — great. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them?

By Stan Chrapowicki  |  Last updated 7/15/19

Ezekiel Elliott to hold out of training camp without a new deal?

Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys could be headed toward a contract impasse that keeps him out of training camp.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote Monday that, “Per a league source, Elliott has privately said that he will hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract.”

The Los Angeles Chargers are already facing a similar threat. Melvin Gordon has declared through his agent that he will demand a trade and could hold out into the season if he doesn’t get a long-term extension worthy of his production.

Elliott is clearly one of the NFL’s best running backs and is more valuable than the $3.85 million he’s due to make in 2019 without a new deal.

Sitting out of training camp does makes sense, especially if Elliott believes the Cowboys will eventually grant him his new deal. Running backs already deal with tremendous wear and tear, and it’s not like Elliott doesn’t know the offense. There are penalties to missing camp days, but it stands to reason Dallas could waive those in this situation.

However, his situation isn’t as simple as all that. The Cowboys have other players they might see as higher priorities who are also looking to get paid big-time money — quarterback Dak Prescott, defensive back Byron Jones and receiver Amari Cooper being atop that list.

Then there’s the looming legal battle with a Las Vegas security guard, who said he will sue Elliott over an incident at a concert earlier this year.

Needless to say, this game of contract chicken will be fascinating to watch unfold.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Jesse Reed  |  Last updated 7/15/19

Cavaliers officially waive JR Smith after failing to find trade partner

JR Smith’s Cleveland Cavaliers tenure is over.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Cavaliers officially waived Smith at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, having tried and failed to find a trade partner before reaching that point.

The Cavaliers did everything they could to try to trade Smith, right down to getting him to postpone his guarantee date to try to make a move happen. No matter what Cleveland did, nothing materialized.

Smith will now be free to sign with any team he wants. He barely played last season and was not in Cleveland’s plans going forward.

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  By Grey Papke  |  Last updated 7/15/19

MLB manager hot seat rankings

With the MLB regular season now about one-third of the way finished, we have a clearer picture of where each team stands. Some managers are already looking over their shoulders as a result of poor team performance. The following gallery is a ranking of MLB manager job security from one (least secure) to 30 (most secure).

1. Dave Martinez, Nationals

Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

While the Nats allowed Bryce Harper to walk in free agency, they entered the season with high expectations after signing Patrick Corbin. The roster has its share of stars with Corbin, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon, yet the team was almost out of the playoff race entering June. Washington was also the most disappointing team of 2018, at 82-80, and fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist in early May. Frankly, it’s surprising Martinez has lasted this long in his second year.

2. Mickey Callaway, Mets

Noah K. Murray / USA Today Sports Images

The Mets sideshow continues. Callaway’s team finished with 77 wins in his first season but seemingly went all in this offseason by adding Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos and also allowed rookie Pete Alonso to stick on the roster out of spring training, thereby losing a year of team control. Yet, New York was below .500 entering June, and the pitching staff (Callaway’s area of expertise) has been disappointing.

3. Don Mattingly, Marlins

Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports Images

It’s hard to believe him, but Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has insisted he expects the Marlins to win now. Jeter and Mattingly go way back to their days with the Yankees, but if Jeter truly practices what he preaches, Mattingly could be on the chopping block. To the surprise of no one (except maybe Jeter), the Marlins were 21-36 through June 3 and in contention for the worst record in baseball.

4. David Bell, Reds

Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

On one hand, the Reds ranked fourth in run differential in the NL through June 1. On the other hand, they were in last place at 27-32 with a lineup that has been a massive disappointment. The Reds’ pitching additions have worked out for the most part, particularly Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark, but the team had much higher expectations in Bell’s first season. It would be surprising if Cincinnati fired Bell in his first year but not unprecedented.

5. Ned Yost, Royals

Jim Cowsert / USA Today Sports Images

Yost gets some leeway for leading the Royals to two World Series, but the organization’s last winning season was its World Series championship 2015 season. K.C. won only 58 games last year and is well on its way to another embarrassing finish. The hiring of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny as a front office assistant opened some eyes, and he would make sense as a replacement if the Royals move on from Yost, whose contract expires after this season.

6. Joe Maddon, Cubs

Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports Images

Maddon is in the last year of his contract with the Cubs, and the team has high expectations for 2019 despite making few offseason moves. While they have appeared in four straight playoffs, including their historic World Series win in 2016, their playoff success under Maddon has otherwise been fleeting. The NL Central has never been tougher during Maddon’s tenure than it is this season, but the team might decide to finally move on from him if it doesn’t go further in the playoffs this year.

7. Mike Shildt, Cardinals

Jim Cowsert / USA Today Sports Images

Shildt was the Cardinals savior last season, going 41-28 after the first-time manager was promoted following Mike Matheny’s firing. His start to this season has been more innocuous at 30-28, third place in the loaded NL Central. The Cardinals are desperate to make the playoffs after failing over the last three seasons and trading a significant package for Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason. Shildt can’t be faulted for the team’s starting pitching struggles, but ownership could make changes if the team disappoints again this year.

8. Brad Ausmus, Angels

Jesse Johnson / USA Today Sports Images

You’ve probably heard this one before, but the Angels have been plagued by multiple pitching injuries and have struggled to find hitters around Mike Trout this year. They had the same issue recently under Mike Scioscia, and Ausmus hasn’t been able to buck the trend despite being far more amenable to using openers and defensive shifts. Ausmus should get some slack, but it’s inexcusable for the team to not be competitive for so long. The Angels are at risk of finishing below .500 for the fourth straight season.

9. Clint Hurdle, Pirates

Philip G. Pavely / USA Today Sports Images

The Pirates remain within striking distance in the NL Central, though winning the division doesn’t truly look realistic with Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams injured. Pittsburgh’s pitching staff has been far worse than expected as a result, and their negative-68 run differential through 58 games currently is the third-worst in the league. Hurdle has done a nice job considering the circumstances, but the team has finished above .500 only once in the last three years and could be in for a standings plunge if it doesn’t get healthy quickly.

10. Scott Servais, Mariners

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today Sports Images

The M’s had a fire sale this offseason despite winning 89 games in 2018 but were able to get off to a hot start anyway. The Jay Bruce trade on June 2 likely was the first domino to fall in a continuing rebuild with the team standing 17 games out of first place. Servais hasn’t done anything wrong, but it remains to be seen whether the front office sees him as the right manager for what will soon become a younger roster.

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By: Seth Trachtman

Megan Rapinoe strikes her pose upon receiving Golden Boot

Megan Rapinoe struck her popular celebratory pose upon receiving the Golden Boot at the Women’s World Cup.

Rapinoe scored on a penalty in the 61st minute of the U.S.’ 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Sunday in France. The goal put the U.S. up 1-0 and gave Rapinoe six goals on the tournament.

Rapinoe finished tied with teammate Alex Morgan and England’s Ellen White for the tournament lead in goals scored. She and Morgan tied on the next tiebreaker since each had three assists. Rapinoe received the Golden Boot based on scoring her six goals in fewer minutes played than Morgan.

When she was called up to get her trophy, she did the same pose she struck after a goal against France earlier in the tournament.

Megan Rapinoe: pic.twitter.com/64dLVdrGOY

— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) July 7, 2019

There isn’t much better for a soccer player than taking home the Golden Boot the same day you win the World Cup.

https://www.yardbarker.com/soccer/articles/megan_rapinoe_strikes_her_pose_upon_receiving_golden_boot/s1_127_29473922https://www.yardbarker.com/soccer/articles/megan_rapinoe_strikes_her_pose_upon_receiving_golden_boot/s1_127_29473922

By: Larry Brown

Every NFL team’s most underrated player

Whether it’s due to the position they play, lack of media coverage or playing in a small market, some NFL players don’t get the respect they deserve. Here’s a look at one underrated player on each NFL team.

1. Arizona Cardinals: David Johnson, RB

Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports Images

Johnson’s star has dimmed after missing nearly all of 2017 due to injury and averaging just 3.6 yards per carry last season behind a terrible offensive line. However, Johnson’s league-leading 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns in 2016 wasn’t a fluke, and he should be able to find more space in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense this season. Johnson is still a playmaker who can strike fear into a defense.

2. Atlanta Falcons: Deion Jones, MLB

Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports Images

After holding teams to only 4.1 yards per rush in 2017, Jones’ first as a Pro Bowler, the Falcons allowed a terrible 4.9 yards per rush last year. It’s no coincidence that while Jones was missing 10 games due to injury in 2018, opposing offenses were running wild in his absence. Atlanta’s defense could make a big improvement this season just by way of Jones and safety Keanu Neal staying on the field.

3. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB

Mitch Stringer / USA Today Sports Images

Humphrey has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his first two seasons, but that’s not to say he isn’t deserving. He’s been a key player on elite defenses in Baltimore over the last two seasons, though Humphrey hasn’t flashed huge tackle or takeaway totals. He’s quickly become Baltimore’s best cover corner, however, so the Pro Bowls should be coming.

4. Buffalo Bills: Jerry Hughes, DE

Troy Taormina / USA Today Sports Images

Hughes has been a stalwart on Buffalo’s defense since joining the team in 2013, with 42 sacks over six seasons. He’s also never missed a game since joining the Bills, yet Hughes hasn’t received Pro Bowl consideration.

5. Carolina Panthers: Eric Reid, S

Bob Donnan / USA Today Sports Images

Reid didn’t find an NFL contract last year until the season started. It’s hardly debatable that his profile in the anthem protests had something to do with the lack of interest, but Reid has been an outstanding safety for his entire career. He earned a multiyear contract from Carolina this offseason after recording 71 tackles and five passes defensed in only 13 games last year.

6. Chicago Bears: Eddie Goldman, NT

Chuck Cook / USA Today Sports Images

There are many underrated performers in what has become the NFL’s premier defense in Chicago, but Goldman is one who rarely gets mentioned. He masterfully plays his role as a run stuffer, recording 84 tackles over the last two seasons and helping the Bears hold opposing offenses to 3.8 yards per carry last year.

7. Cincinnati Bengals: Geno Atkins, DT

Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports Images

Atkins has plenty of honors for his play during his career, but he’s still rarely mentioned among the elite pass rushers these days. He’s recorded at least nine sacks in four straight seasons, and it’s even more impressive that Atkins has accomplished those numbers as an interior pass rusher. He’s now made seven Pro Bowls in nine seasons and is nearly to the point that he’s deserving consideration as a first ballot Hall of Famer.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/every_nfl_teams_most_underrated_player/s1__29442998#slide_7

By: Seth Trachtman

Meet the 2019 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team

The women of the United States soccer team are looking to repeat as World Cup champions. If they pull off the double, becoming the second women’s team to do so after Germany did it in 2003 and 2007, some of these ladies will become household names — well, several of them already are. Let’s meet the 2019 U.S. women’s World Cup team in order of jersey number.

1. Alyssa Naeher

At the last World Cup, Hope Solo was the star in net. No longer on the team, somebody had to step into her cleats, and that job has fallen to Naeher. The Penn State alum and former NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, Naeher has been the No. 1 goalie for the U.S. since Solo left the squad, and she’s been up to the task so far.

2. Mallory Pugh

Meet the next star of U.S. women’s soccer. Pugh is only 21, but the striker already has 16 goals for the national team in 53 caps. Granted, they’ve almost all come in friendlies, but she got in three games during the 2016 Olympics. She’s not ready to be the top striker yet, but don’t be surprised if she makes an impact.

3. Sam Mewis

Mewis, a midfielder, and her sister, Kristie, played together in the 2008 U-17 World Cup, the first sisters to do that for the United States. Alas, Kristie isn’t on this year’s World Cup team, but Sam is. This will be her first major tournament, unless you are a Tournament of Nations fan. She’s won two titles with her NWSL team. Will she taste World Cup victory as well?

4. Becky Sauerbrunn

Sauerbrunn is one of the old heads of this team. The 34-year-old has 158 caps, and this will be her third Women’s World Cup. She started every game at the 2015 World Cup, but will she be able to handle that kind of workload at this point? Her former teammate Christie Pearce played in the finals of 2015 at 40. Sauerbrunn is basically a spring chicken in comparison.

5. Kelly O’Hara

O’Hara and Sauerbrunn are teammates with the Utah Royals as well as with the national team. The 30-year-old is versatile, playing at wing and midfielder for the United States and forward and defense for her club squad. O’Hara has scored only two goals for the U.S., but one of them came in the semifinals of the 2015 Women’s World Cup against Germany.

Brian was a beast in college, winning the Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman, in 2013 and 2014. That led to her being the top pick in the 2015 NWSL Draft. The midfielder dealt with a head injury in 2018, but she’s healthy now and should be primed to contribute at this year’s World Cup.

7. Abby Dahlkemper

Dahlkemper hasn’t had a chance to compete in a World Cup or Olympics yet, as she didn’t get her first cap until October of 2016. However, she’s only 26, so there’s plenty of time for her. The year 2018 was big for her, as she appeared in a few tournaments with the U.S. and also made the Best XI of the NWSL and was the league’s Defender of the Year in 2017. She’s the kind of player who could help ease the strain for the veterans on the team’s defense.

8. Julie Ertz

Ertz is about to make things tough for attacking players on opposing teams. Since being moved into a defensive midfielder role, her tenacity has made things miserable for opponents. Her play has also earned her the honor of being named the U.S. Women’s Soccer Player of the Year. If her last name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s married to Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles.

9. Lindsey Horan

Full List 

By: Chris Morgan

Why Raptors are on verge of delivering knockout blow to Warriors

Before the Warriors dynasty, the two most famous teams of the 21st century, the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and LeBron-Wade Heat, had their historic runs end by way of a 4-1 drubbing in the Finals against an underdog. This iteration of the Warriors is on the verge of suffering the same fate, and the similarities don’t stop there.

In 2014, facing a 3-1 Finals deficit against the Spurs, James told his Heat teammates to “follow my lead ” and threw an absolute haymaker at the Spurs in the first quarter. San Antonio barely flinched and went on to dismantle Miami. Kind of reminds you of what happened to Steph Curry in Game 3 against the Raptors, doesn’t it? Curry unleashed an all-time haymaker on the Raptors, and Toronto was barely bothered by it, easily winning by 14 points.

In 2004, Kobe Bryant guaranteed the Lakers would win Game 5 after falling behind 3-1 to the Pistons. Kobe assumed his team could summon a championship effort out of thin air, and Detroit proceeded to smash LA in Game 5. Kind of reminds you of Draymond Green telling the media the Warriors would win in six after losing Game 3, doesn’t it? In Game 4, the Warriors tried to summon a championship gear they suddenly don’t have, and the Raptors stoically showed them the exit to Oracle Arena, bringing about what appears to be an end to the Kevin Durant era in Golden State.

What am I getting at here? Dynasties in the NBA have a way of ending abruptly. The signs often are right in front of us, but we don’t believe what our eyes tell us. For anyone who still thinks the Warriors can win this series without Durant, you haven’t been watching the same series as the rest of us.

How did we arrive at this point?

“The board man gets paid”

I’m not sure there has been a more on-point story about a superstar than the oral history of Leonard in college by Jayson Jenks of The Athletic. It included a great anecdote about Kawhi’s obsession with grabbing rebounds. He clearly had the right mindset then, but who could have predicted he’d be the best player in the NBA someday?

The “board man” is putting the finishing touches on a playoff masterpiece — he has averaged 31 points, nine rebounds and four assists on 50-39-89 shooting. He’s firmly in Bill Simmons’ 42 Club (add up points, rebounds and assists per game in the playoffs, and if it equals or surpasses 42, that guy is having a pantheon-level postseason).

On the way to the Finals, Kawhi dragged the Raptors through a series against the more talented 76ers with two “ice in his veins” shots — a contested go-ahead three in the final minute of Game 4 with the Raptors down 2-1 in the series and a memorable walk-off series winner in Joel Embiid’s face. Then, just when it looked as if  Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were ready to run away with the Eastern Conference Finals, Kawhi put the clamps on him. He held Giannis to 21 points in Game 6 and 43.5-percent shooting in Games 3 through 6 -– all wins by the Raptors.

The Finals have been more of the same. Kawhi has averaged 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block (and shot 45-40-94) through the first four games. Despite the gaudy numbers, Leonard waited until Game 4 to really put his Klaw imprint on the series. With his teammates playing one of the worst halves they have played all season, Leonard scored 14 of Toronto’s 17 first-quarter points to keep the Raptors within striking distance of the emotionally charged Warriors.

On the first two possessions of the second half, Leonard “came out and hit two big eff-you shots,” as Fred VanVleet so aptly put it, to give the Raptors their first lead. Leonard finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and four steals on 50-56-100 shooting. His net rating per 100 possessions was a freaking plus-54! He made all the right reads when the Warriors doubled and trapped him on pick-and-rolls. He gobbled up all of the rebounds that Green is usually able to tip-out to teammates. And he did it all with the same Terminator-like, emotionless demeanor that seems to have infected his teammates. Did I mention that he’s doing all this while clearly being hampered by his lingering quad injury?

You shouldn’t conflate Kawhi’s heroics as a failure on the part of Curry and the Warriors though.

These guys are still “eff-ing giants”

Steve Kerr’s quote about the Steph-Klay-Draymond core after the Game 5 win against the Rockets earlier these playoffs still rings true, especially as it relates to Steph and Klay. Curry’s 47-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist effort was damn near as impressive as LeBron’s iconic Game 1 in last year’s Finals (and that was the greatest 48-minute stretch of basketball I’ve ever seen). Even though Curry got gassed a bit in Game 4 (and kept double-clutching on some of his three-point attempts), he has nothing to hang his head over. He’s averaging 34 points, six rebounds and six assists on 45-40-94 shooting in the nine games without Durant this postseason. The Raptors employed a box-and-one defense on him. I can’t think of higher praise than a team playing a gimmicky high school defense on a player in the NBA Finals.

Thompson deserves recognition for his gutsy Game 4 performance as well. Klay scored 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting in 42 minutes despite being hampered with a hamstring injury that was so bad, the team wouldn’t let him even suit up for Game 3. Every time he goes down with an ugly injury, he finds a way to not only tough his way through games, but play at a high level, too. Unfortunately for the Splash Brothers, sometimes you just run into a buzzsaw in the Finals and there’s nothing you can do, no matter how well you play.

There are 82-game coaches, and then there are 16-game coaches

Coaching in the Finals is all about making the right adjustments. By that measure, Nick Nurse is having one of the finest Finals coaching performances since Rick Carlisle in 2011 for the Mavericks.

Nurse’s strategy in Game 1 didn’t get much recognition because of Pascal Siakam’s dominance. Thus, the first major sign of Nurse’s brilliance came in Game 2, when he ran a box-and-one defense that held the Warriors scoreless for five minutes, 32 seconds in the fourth quarter (until Iguodala’s dagger-three with seven seconds left).

After losing Game 2 basically because of an 18-0 blitz by the Warriors to start the second half, Nurse decided to start VanVleet over Danny Green in the second half of Games 3 and 4 because of FVV’s ability to chase and deny Curry. Toronto outscored Golden State by a combined 21 points in those two third quarters. Nurse’s emphasis on speeding the tempo in Game 4 -– the Raptors were even pushing the ball off made baskets -– was genius, too, as it led to inefficient shots and undisciplined defense by the depth-less Warriors. (Watch Curry gamble and leave Green wide open on this fourth-quarter three.)

Sticking with the vets

Another coaching move Nurse deserves credit for is sticking with Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry through their early-series struggles.

Ibaka had a horrendous first half in Game 3, highlighted by him inviting an on-fire Steph to dribble into multiple wide-open three-pointers as though he’d never played against him before. He was also out of sorts and clumsy on offense. The stage seemed too big for him. His next six quarters were probably the best six quarters of his life. He had five blocks in the second half of Game 3 and added two more in Game 4. Moreover, he played like an all-star on offense in Game 4, finishing just about everything in the paint, making smart reads while catching the ball on the move in the pick-and-roll, and even hitting a step-back off-the-dribble and a three-pointer just for kicks.

Much like Ibaka, Kyle Lowry struggled a bit early in Games 3 and 4, but was brilliant in the second half of both games. In Game 3, his excellent play was evident in the box score as he had 23 points and nine assists. In Game 4, it was less about his statistics and more about the constant pressure he put on the Warriors’ defense by pushing the pace and driving into the lane, leaning his large backside into defenders and finding open shooters. His fourth quarter was a special display of point guard wizardry -– none of the four assists in this highlight will win an ESPY, but they probably won the Raptors the title.

I said “probably” because …

Poetic Justice 

While I question whether Durant will even be 70-percent healthy if he plays Game 5, this series has broken perfectly for him to write a storybook ending to a confusing, albeit brilliant, three-year run with the Warriors. The layers of irony run deep. He never would have joined the Warriors had the Thunder not blown a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in 2016. He never would have joined the Warriors had they not blown a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers the next series. The basketball community has spent the better part of three years complaining that Durant was the personification of an embarrassment of riches. And Green even told him earlier this season, “We don’t need you. Leave.”

Full Article

By: Pat Heery

 

Top takeaways from Warriors’ series-clinching overtime win over Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers needed a win to stay alive in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4. They did not get it.

A high-scoring first quarter (36-35 in favor of Golden State) set the tone for what would be an exciting night of fast-paced basketball. At halftime, the Blazers led by the score of 69-65 thanks in part to a breakout game from Meyers Leonard.

The second half featured more of the same breakneck pace, and heading into the fourth quarter, Portland held a tenuous eight-point lead. With the season on the line, the Blazers felt their nerves a bit, and at the end of regulation, the score was tied 111-111.

Overtime beckoned in the NBA playoffs for the second night in a row.

In overtime, Golden State once again showed its championship mettle, outscoring the Blazers 8-6 for the clean sweep.

Here’s a look at the top takeaways from the Warriors’ crushing victory over the Trail Blazers in Game 4.

Who are you and what did you do with Meyers Leonard?

Both teams got off to a torrid start offensively, but if not for Meyers Leonard blowing up with 14 points in the first quarter, things would have gone a lot differently. It was a really fun environment watching Leonard hitting from pretty much anywhere he wanted — minus his one embarrassing faux pas at the rim. His 25 halftime points marked a career high in any game — both as a pro and at college.

All told, he racked up 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Just an incredible breakout performance from this former No. 11 overall pick out of Illinois.

To be completely fair, Leonard didn’t completely come out of nowhere, having scored 16 points in 31 minutes a game prior. But this is a guy who averaged 5.5 points per game in the playoffs before Game 4. And the way he jumped out with a dominant performance early set the tone for the Blazers and gave them a chance.

Third-quarter Dubs? Not this time

The Warriors’ hallmark has long been their ability to absolutely blow teams away in the third quarter. Portland experienced this firsthand, having been outscored 68-37 the previous two games in this period.

Coming out of halftime, it seemed like Golden State was primed to make another big run, down by just four despite some insanely hot shooting by the Blazers. Instead, Portland came out of the locker room with incredible focus and intensity to outscore the Warriors by four points in the third and go into the final period up eight.

Steph stayed hot with legendary performance

Without Kevin Durant, and with Andre Iguodala also watching from the bench with a sore Achilles, the Warriors were extremely shorthanded in Game 4. Thankfully for Golden State, Stephen Curry continued to put up points in bunches.

Curry was unbelievably hot in the first half, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-7 from three with 25 points. Scoring wasn’t the only thing Curry was doing well on Monday night, either. He kept putting the ball into the hoop to finish with a 37-point triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Just a phenomenal overall performance by a legendary player who will one day have a place in the Hall of Fame. The only real negatives were that his legendary free-throw streak finally was snapped, and his sloppy travel with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Portland’s backcourt was phenomenal

Lillard hasn’t looked like himself in this series. Of course, separated ribs would have something to do with his sub-par performances. We knew that if Portland was going to stay alive with a win in Game 4, he’d need to figure out a way to get going, regardless.

Portland’s star point guard did just that on Monday night. Putting together his finest performance in this Western Conference Finals, he scored 28 points, dished 12 assists, hauled down four rebounds and was responsible for the most entertaining highlight of the game (and some broken ankles for one poor defender).

Backcourt teammate CJ McCollum was also effective as we’ve seen throughout the series. He scored 26 points and added seven assists. Combined with Leonard, these guards presented the Warriors with a three-headed monster all night long.

Draymond Green = X-factor

One of the more underrated players the Warriors have relied on during their current dynasty, Green rose up with a virtuoso performance in Game 4.

He did the little things all night long. He dished an incredible 11 assists en route to a gritty triple-double that included 18 points and 14 rebounds.

And then, with the game on the line late in overtime, he hit his first three-pointer of the game.

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By: Jesse Reed

Recap: Bruins start strong, recover late to take Game 1 over Columbus

It might not have been pretty all the way through, but they got the job done.

For a while, this game was going exactly how Bruins fans hoped it’d go: the Blue Jackets came out rusty, the Bruins came out flying, and an early lead had fans feeling confident.

However, there was an uncomfortable feeling after the first period. You couldn’t help but feel like the Bruins should have done more. A few missed tips, a few bouncing pucks, a few great saves by Sergei Bobrovsky.

Those fears were realized in the third, when Columbus scored two quick “couldn’t do it again if they tried” goals and the Bruins found themselves trailing.

Just when it looked like the Blue Jackets were going to continue their stunning run with another steal, Charlie Coyle scored, then scored again, and all was well in Boston.

The B’s ended up taking Game 1 with a 3-2 OT win, their third playoff win in a row. Here are some thoughts from a wild night at the Garden:

  • In the first period, it was rust, not rest, for Columbus. The Bruins absolutely rolled the Blue Jackets in the first period. In terms of possession, shot attempts, actual shots…it was a madhouse. The Blue Jackets looked like they were hanging on for dear life, but a combination of Bobrovsky saves and Bruins flubs let the Jackets hang around.
  • You can’t help but be happy for Charlie Coyle. His turnover inside the defensive blue line led directly to the first Columbus goal. He atoned for that mistake by tying the game late in the third, and then did one better with the OT winner. As Jack Edwards likes to say, guilt is a powerful motivator.
  • Speaking of Coyle, it’s weird to say, but he’s probably been the Bruins’ best forward in this postseason. Yes, better than Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, etc. Coyle has ended up one the scoresheet many nights, and when he’s been kept off it, he’s been solid in other areas. He’s been great along the boards in the offensive zone, and has done a great job keeping possession for extended stretches.
  • Tonight must have been fairly sweet for Don Sweeney. His two big acquisitions were the ones that led the way for the Bruins: it was Marcus Johansson to Coyle for the game-tying goal, and Johansson to Coyle for the game-winning goal. BRUINS WIN THE DEADLINE!
  • In a good sign for the Bruins, Johansson has looked better in the past two games than he did all regular season with the B’s. Bruce Cassidy credited Johansson’s God-given talents after the game, citing his smarts and vision as his best assets. If he’s feeling good and gets rolling, it will be huge for the Bruins.
  • Tuukka Rask was solid tonight. There was nothing he could do on either of the Columbus goals, and he made some big saves in the middle portion of this game.
  • David Krejci didn’t play at all in overtime, leaving the game after taking a hit that seemed late and a bit high from Riley Nash. After the game, Cassidy said that he hadn’t talked to Krejci, but that he wasn’t in concussion protocol and is considered day-to-day. He also mentioned that the game ended before Krejci could come back, but kind of implied that he could have returned if the game continued.
  • Cassidy said postgame that he wasn’t terribly concerned about his top lines, but I’m not sure if I believe him. David Pastrnak has looked off the entire playoffs. Brad Marchand uncharacteristically missed a few golden chances tonight. Jake DeBrusk was quiet.
  • The only reason the Bruins are still playing? Their bottom-six forwards, oddly enough. It was the fourth line in Game 7 against Toronto, and was Noel Acciari who got things going tonight. As Cassidy implied after the game, if the Bruins can get their big guns going too, look out.
  • Charlie McAvoy showed another side of his game tonight: he was throwing the body big time. In the third, he got laid out by Josh Anderson behind the Bruin net. He got right up, and then proceeded to throw himself at any Blue Jacket he came across.
  • The most noticeable Columbus forwards to me tonight were Alexandre Texier, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Josh Anderson. Artemi Panarin was fine, but Cam Atkinson was borderline invisible, except when Marchand stepped on his stick before a faceoff.

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By: Dan Ryan