Category Archives: Sports

Warriors skewer Cavaliers, raise questions on LeBron’s ultimate legacy. NBA Finals recap.

Warriors win NBA Championship!

I’ve been had. I actually thought this was going to redeem the worst, most lopsided NBA postseason in a looong time! Because I thought Cleveland had enough talent to hang around for six games, though I always figured that they’d lose in the end. But no, it turned out that the more technocratic predictions from Vegas and data nerds had it right. Golden State wins in a 4-1 slaughter that wasn’t even that close!

How did Golden State do it? Well, the terrible trio of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green is extremely difficult to beat, as is the Warriors’ powerful bench. But was it really all about Golden State?

I overheard some people last year calling Kevin Durant overrated and predicting that he’d be lost in the crowd in Golden State. Swear on the basket.

Before I begin, here’s an issue of accountability. I was not alone in my prediction of a competitive series. Indeed, all it took was a Cavs victory in Game 4 that improved them to an enviable 1-3 in the Finals for “Cavs in 7” to trend on Twitter for hours!

And don’t think it was just emotional and irrational fans talking like this either. As LeBron James is a media darling. I guess that lead pundit after pundit to quarrel with 538’s 90% chance of a Golden State Championship. In particular, ESPN big shot Stephen A. Smith called that “disrespect” to Cleveland and the talents of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and especially LeBron. Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd went a step further, claiming that Cleveland had a “better bench” among other advantages. You can tell that neither fully believed what they were saying because they did not flat-out pick the Cavs to win, but they sure as Hell implied it by innuendo! It will still be so hilarious to see the likes of them flip-flop on Cleveland’s projected talent, though! Many on social media said much the same, except they would predict without the burden of public images.

So it’s been very revealing to see LeBron supporters on Twitter suddenly talk as though the Cavs didn’t have anybody else. My favorite excuse was offered by Cowherd. Alleged critic of political correctness that he is,  he got butthurt over the standard LeBron is held to while some are saying that he’s every bit as great or better than Michael Jordan! I’ll address this insult to our intelligence later, but if that’s the standard, why shouldn’t it be consistent?

Shorter Cowherd.

The one unimpeachable piece of evidence in favor of LeBron is that throughout this series, he kept scoring like no tomorrow! This overlooks that there are some players who are highlight reel machines and will scribble a lot on the stat sheet regardless of how good their performances are. For example, the 2016 Carolina Panthers’ defense (NFL) was top-tier in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles, yet still allowed a lot of points.

Stats vs. great QBs as follows. Matt Ryan: 48/33 pts., 3/4 sacks, 0/0 picks; Drew Brees: 41/20 pts., 1/3 sacks, 1/1 picks; Derek Carr: 35 pts., 1 sack, 1 pick, Russell Wilson: 40 pts., 3 sacks, 1 pick. Good except at what counts.

With that in mind, I’m finally ready to explain why the Cavs got beat so badly. I agree with the more objective analysis that while LeBron did help a lot to keep Games 3&5 in reach, he also seemed lost in the crowd in the last two or three minutes of these games. Misleading stats aside, this series really is on him. If LeBron keeps LeBronnin’, Cleveland wins those games… and now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to seize the day in home court.

Frankly, I’m beginning to understand why some call him “LeChoke.” As much as I would love to say these last-minute vanishing acts were a shock, that’s not the case. As a Hawks fan I was of course happy to see my team be one of the few to post a winning record against the Cavs this season. And yet, I can’t in retrospect give us too much credit. Why? Because LeBron displayed the same inconsistency as was seen in the Finals. It started with LeBron leading his team to the near elimination of an 18-point, third quarter deficit heading into the fourth before… they stalled out. I will allow that him and his teammates getting blown out of home court by our second-stringers (the A-team was hurt) was an “any given night” kind of thing, but what excuse is there for them blowing a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter shortly afterward.

The only time we lost to Cleveland was when we were blown out for something like 80% of the time yet only lost by 5 in the end. In other words, a very ugly win. Watching the Finals made me think, “it wasn’t us. It was LeBron.”

And then there are the elimination games in the past in which LeBron has missed critical shots in the clutch. I still think he’s one of the top 10, at least top 20 best ever, but he has the following kryptonite that other greats do/did not: when it becomes clear that the game will come down the last minute or two, he seems to get nervous, missing shots, getting contained, passing to the wrong guy, letting guys on the paint, you name it. If you want someone who can put a game away in the first quarter, there’s nobody more qualified, but man shall not live on blowouts alone.

Whoever originally made this won the Internet!

And that is why he’s probably well below Magic Johnson. Jordan? Non-comparison.

Magical playoff run ends. Stanley Cup Finals recap.

Preds lose!

At this point, I must be a glutton for punishment. I root for many teams in many leagues and have seen three lose championship games in half a year. First Alabama football’s quarterback plays awfully, causing the defense to get tired from being on the field most of the time and blow a sizable lead in the National Championship, then the Falcons choke away an even bigger lead in the Super Bowl, and now the Predators have lost the Stanley Cup Finals because their goalie, Pekka Rinne seemed to lose whatever he had in the playoffs.

Now I know how Bills fans felt…

After the three rounds of looking like the best goalie in the NHL, Rinne suddenly played awfully in Games 1 and 2. What happened? Quick goal bursts were allowed in both games that proved the deciding factor. Sure we only scored once in Game 2, but that’s probably because Rinne’s bad play sapped our confidence.

Rinne seemed to return to form in Games 3 and 4 at home, but then we had a epic meltdown in Pittsburgh. We lost that one 6-0. We finished this up by losing a defensive masterpiece in Nashville. I wasn’t surprised. While both Rinne and Matt Murray were brick walls in this game, I noticed that Rinne was being forced to move about to stop the puck a lot more than Murray was.

I’m not going to blame the refs. There are some who will and have. But while I generally view “you can’t leave it to the zebras” as an excuse for the corrupt (and don’t even think you trust the sports pundits who will always lie about the importance of the preseason for ratings’ sake on this), the reality is that we’d have just been slaughtered once again in Pittsburgh where Rinne protected the net about as well as cartoon security guards protect banks. That is what really lost us this series.

But just so we’re clear, this should have been a goal.

Rinne was inconsistent throughout the regular season, so perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. He has had hip problems throughout his career and will turn 35 next season. That’s not too old, but combined with a bad hip… while Rinne is still a solid goalie, you gotta wonder how much longer he can go. Juuse Saros better be ready soon just in case.

Despite this disappointing outcome, I am optimistic that we really have begun a Cup window. Yes, despite the heartbreak my teams have given me.

Still proud of what they accomplished!

Just one thing for this team’s newly passionate fanbase, though: we seem to have subpar regular seasons and good postseasons, so don’t worry about it if we come out flat next fall. Just keep calm and hate Chicago and Dallas! Welcome to Smashville!

Same shit… but fun nonetheless. NBA Finals preview.

It’s NBA Finals time. Which I personally find less exciting than I used to. It’s the third straight season in which Cleveland and Golden State have won their conferences. It is very, very rare for this to happen. To give you an idea of have incredible this is, the 1990’s Bulls (AKA Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen) dynasty never made it through the playoffs without losing at least one game. The Warriors have done just that.

Part of this lack of suspense until the Finals can be attributed to the fact that the NBA is superstar-driven and thus lacks parity by its very nature. There are no underdog champions. The closest there’s been in decades were last year’s Cavs. And they actually had a better regular season record than this year’s incarnation. It’s just that the competing Warriors team was so good that it looked unbeatable.

Not to mention that Golden State probably wins that trophy if Draymond Green hadn’t decided to be an idiot and get himself suspended. BFD!

But the same Finals matchup three years in a row? That’s another level! The reason may be the NBA trying to increase parity by changing the rules to make it easier for teams to keep their cores. This backfired by letting the Cavs and Warriors keep their cores more easily so they can focus on depth. Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors was but the tip of the iceberg! And we’re surprised that we had awful NBA playoffs?

This has gotten to the point where even perennial playoff teams like my Hawks are entering the rebuild phase. In any other league, it would be a bad idea to mess with your good team. But in the NBA, “good” is not enough. Nothing less than drafting the next LeBron or Curry will do. And of course, no league generates more rumors of bad teams tanking than the NBA.

Speaking of greats, this Michael Jordan meme was never more appropriate than when Steph Curry broke his W/L records in the regular season AND playoffs.

Contrast this to other leagues. Some gloating hockey fans and wistful basketball fans (most notably Charles Barkley, who has implied that the NHL playoffs are better) note the NHL’s unpredictability. Personally, I think this is overreaction Monday. For all the shocking, sometimes puzzling outcomes that the NHL has, it’s really just as dynasty-friendly as the NBA. You might know that the Islanders and Oilers dominated the 1980’s NHL. but did you know that three teams — the Penguins, Red Wings, and Devils — each have a pair of ’90’s Stanley Cups? Or that the Kings and Blackhawks have a combined five current decade Cups already? That such a league still has lots more true suspense than the NBA says it all!

You want a league with parity? Try the NFL. As dominant as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers can be, they don’t play defense or do their own blocking. Eight Super Bowls so far this decade and seven different champions. And yes, I think this has something to do with the popularity of football.

Here’s hoping the NBA realizes what it’s done and reverts to the old rules so that the Association can again have few upsets in the playoffs but not none at all!

In the meantime, will these Finals be worth watching? As shitty and pointless as the playoffs were, some good basketball may be coming back precisely because these are superteams playing. I loved the Finals the last two years, and as old as this show is, it should be entertaining to see again.

So I’ll probably like this a third straight time. Four would be pushing it, though.

My prediction? The Cavs aren’t awful without LeBron, despite what the gushy pundits on ESPN want to say. I remember when Boston marched out to a big early in a critical game in their series against Cleveland. The Cavs were starting to get momentum when LeBron got tired and had to rest. But the Cavs kept right on roaring back without him. So I think this will be a good series because Cleveland’s got enough depth to take the Warriors to six games.

But if I’m wrong, if the LeBron haters’ dream of a sweep comes to fruition, it’s the final proof that Adam Silver has created a Godzilla!

Wounded warriors. Stanley Cup Finals preview.

One of my teams is competing for a championship. Again. Don’t worry, by “one of my teams,” I mean teams in various leagues. I’ll get into how I feel about this  in good time. Let’s look at the matchup first.

I’ve seen people calling this a great matchup. In fact, the Twitterverse was not in fact overwhelmingly behind Ottawa even though it was a heavy underdog against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The notion was that the blandness of Ottawa would have made for a bad series but that the matchup between the Penguins and Predators is awesome! I’m not so sure. Has there ever been a championship contest between teams this banged-up. The Pens have key defensemen out of action, Sidney Crosby playing hurt, and until recently, no Matt Murray. But thanks to some absolutely fantastic goaltending by backup Marc-Andre Fleury, that have crushed the Blue Jackets and pulled out a narrow victory over the Caps before Murray took over to do the same to the Sens.

Though I’m glad Murray is OK, Rinne vs. Fleury would have been an interesting contest of shockingly hot goalies. *Sigh*.

As for my Preds, losing rising star Kevin Fiala was bad enough, but now Ryan Johansen is in the same shape, though at least Mike Fisher will return at some point in these finals. I was worried we might lose to the Ducks with our top two centers out, but the next men up have been up to this so far.

So these are definitely not going to be the best Stanley Cup Finals, I’m sorry to say. Both teams are missing pieces.

How many more players on both teams will this place get?

But the show must go on! This is still championship hockey between two fantastic teams! While the injuries have hurt the Pens’ ability to get the puck and thus score, they still have the goaltending to keep them in this series. The majority of pundits who incorrectly picked the Caps to beat them defended themselves by saying that the Pens were outplayed but were lucky. Not at all. the Caps couldn’t get anything by Fleury. That was the key.

As for us, the gradual excitement this team has been building for years has exploded with this playoff run. Anyone who’s been watching our games will tell you that this was not the Pekka Rinne they were expecting. While he’s generally been hit-miss in the playoffs, he’s stepped up to consistently break the hearts of opposing fans while at same time, making us exhale in relief! While our offense can be inconsistent at times, fast and mobile forwards like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and James Neal have scored plenty. And of course, we have possibly the best defensemen in the league! P.K. Subban has become our public face in advertisements because of his strong play and Roman Josi and Yannick Weber are no slouches either.

The glove of death.

This is probably going to come down to goaltending. Neither Rinne nor Murray seem likely to break, but whoever bends more will likely lose the Cup for his team. So here’s hoping Rinne keeps up his brick wall impersonation.

As indicated, this is the third time in half a year that a team I cheer for is in the big one. Three disappointments would be hard to take. Welcome to Smashville!

Pure playoff team? Predators-Ducks (Round 3) recap.

Preds win!

You’ve heard of chokers, I assume. Players and coaches who deliver except when it matters most. Right or wrong, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Big 10 football, Barry Bonds, Kari Lehtonen, and Alex Ovechkin all have the choke label. Of course, “choke” is one of those strong words that get overused. After all, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Steph Curry, John Elway, and Sidney Crosby were called chokers at some point even though that was obvious bullshit! But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players and coaches who do choke. Take the Washington Capi… come to think of it, no Washington team has gotten past the second round in forever! And they call Atlanta a cursed sports town…

But what about the opposite breed? The teams that don’t play well except when the lights are on. Take the 9-7 football Giants team several years with a bottom ten-ranked defense that went all the way. A year later, a Ravens team that lost four out of five leading into the playoffs proceeded to win it all! When it counted, they delivered.

Same deal with my Nashville Predators. Whatever happens next week, this is a magical season! You can see it in the home crowds of the playoffs. Yes, we’re assholes to the opposing goalies, but we’re energized in part because of something great happening in Smashville! Even with a 41-41 record and no starting home ice, I still thought we had a shot at overcoming Chicago in Round 1 simply because it’s a rivalry in which the games are usually close. But advancing all the way to the Finals? No way! But maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. We had the same record last season but came a game away from Round 3.

Of course, Pekka Rinne making saves like this makes all the difference.

 

What’s happened is that when the season was on the line, everybody delivered. Pekka Rinne has been playing at a super-elite level, stopping every shot he had to! P.K. Subban has become the amazing piece everybody thought we had traded for last offseason. Roman Josi has only continued to improve.

Even our forwards, the weakest link to our team in spite of their speed, come to play. With John Gibson stepping up his game probably because he knew his fellow Ducks wouldn’t be able to score at will on us like they had on Columbus and Edmonton, we turned it up put the puck in the net some more. I thought we might be done when Ryan Johansen got hurt, but we weathered that quite nicely.

Love the celebrating P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg or not, you have to admit that they’re fitting teammates.

Some say that Preds-Ducks is a real rivalry because we’ve met in the playoffs three times in a decade. I don’t know, seeing as how we won every single time. Kinda one-sided. Then again, the Nashville fans on social media that I see seem to hate the Ducks for how dirty they often play, even mocking the fact that the Ducks are based on those Mighty Ducks Disney movies of a generation ago. Mutual fan interest counts.

So now we’re in the Finals. I hope to see us win the Stanley Cup. I went through two heartbreaks at the finish line with Alabama football and the Falcons. A third in a matter of months would really suck. Welcome to Smashville!

Duck season begins. Predators-Ducks (Round 3) preview.

Vs.

This is one of a few recurring playoff matchups for Nashville in our short history. But the clashes with the Ducks have been different from those with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, and Sharks because we’ve never lost a series to this team. One of those two victories over them wasn’t even the classic Game 7 loss the Ducks used to keep having.

From last year’s memematic

At any rate, despite how dirty the Ducks can play at times I do have some respect for them right now. If we proved unworthy of the media praise until the playoffs began, the Ducks were better than anyone would have imagined. firing Bruce Beaudreau and going back to the guy they had before Bruce seems lampoon-able, but they are in the Western Conference Finals.

It’s not said in hockey news as much as the Caps’ latest inability to get past even a severely beat-up Penguins team or whether the Pens can still do it all with those injuries, but the whisper about how Pekka Rinne is playing out of this world can be heard. As someone who has actually been watching the games, he really has been playing as well as the .951 save percentage he’s put up in the playoffs so far. Defensemen like Roman Josi and P.K. Subban remain as good as ever, blocking many shots, creating turnovers, and even scoring on their own. This is the Preds team as it was hyped up to be after the trade for Subban, not the .500 team that we actually got in the regular season.

By the way, Montreal was eliminated in Round 1. Anyone still think they won the trade?

The Ducks’ path to a deep playoff run has been quite a bit different. John Gibson has been playing badly as their goalie. Don’t let last night’s Game 7 vs. Edmonton fool you. The Ducks are not very good on defense. They do, however, score lots and lots of goals with a firing squad spearheaded by Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Thus, we have classic offense vs. defense meeting.

I can’t have certainty here because I’m not a believer in the “defense wins championships” line of thought. I’d argue that this happens 55-62% of the time. Certainly not a definitive statement. recent examples of defensive powerhouses in other sports failing in the big one include the 2014 Seahawks, 2015-2016 Golden State, and 2012 49ers. So I don’t think “defense beats offense, Preds in 6” is the way to go.

That said, despite the different coach, the book on beating the Ducks remains the same: Keep the pace down and intercept the puck so their forwards can’t ball out, They will still probably struggle to come from behind if they have to because of our puck-hogging defensemen.

This needs to happen a lot.

Here’s hoping for a good series and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance for the Preds. Welcome to Smashville!

Uncharted territory. Predators-Blues (Round 2) recap.

Preds win!

My Nashville Predators are now officially the top dogs in Central this season. Take the records of the Wild, Blackhawks, Blues, and fire them out of a cannon! Because we made it the farthest in the playoffs. That’s what will be remembered more.

Particularly by us.

Which brings me to what this afternoon’s Game 6 means. With a 4-2 series win over the St. Louis Blues we have reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history! This is an official benchmark for our hockey team. At the very least, we are officially more accomplished than the Capitals when you factor in how short our history is. Although perhaps I shouldn’t have taken shot since they do seem to have shown signs of life in their last three games against the Pens (plus, cappin’ the Caps is an old hat at this point).

This series started kind of surprisingly. We split the opening two in St. Louis with both teams’ goalies, Pekka Rinne and Jake Allen, suddenly letting quite a few pucks into the net. Were they going cold?

No colder than the ice. Do you want to punch me for that pun?

No, this became a series of defensive standoffs after switching to Nashville. Both Rinne and Allen became walls in front of their nets. To say that points were at a premium would be like saying that a few people were surprised to see us sweep Chicago.

I suspected that Game 6 would decide the series because if we lost that, the Blues would have home ice and a 2-game streak on us in a “win or go home” finale. And with a 1-0 lead after the first period expired, we seemed to be headed for that situation. But Rinne stepped up. So did Allen, really. I didn’t like seeing all those breakaways and power play chances happen without goals being scored. Still, Peter Laviolette seemed to make adjustments that enabled us to capitalize on our speed to close out this series with a 3-1 single-game win over the Blues.

I’m now about to watch the Ducks and Oilers go at it! Our next opponents could be determined tonight. Welcome to Smashville!