Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bid you all hello and welcome to the newest edition of Ramblings from a Talking Head, the occasional blog that knows it doesn’t have a lot to say but says it anyway for your viewing pleasure. The week-long break from playoff sports has ended over the last two days, so the excitement (and discussion topics) for June sports has ramped up once again! There’s too much news to talk about to continue hyping the blog, so let’s jump in:
Warriors def. Cavaliers 108-100 in OT, take 1-0 series lead:
A week between games for the Warriors and Cavaliers led many fans and sportswriters to believe Golden State and Cleveland would be rested and ready to hit the ground running in Game 1, and those watching were not disappointed. Both teams were ready from the tipoff to attack often in an effort to break their opponent’s best laid defensive measures. LeBron was allowed to score consistently by the Warriors, and he put up 44 points, including the overtime. The Warriors were a bit off at times on the offensive side, but great defensive efforts (and a boost in offensive production) from Andre Iguodala and the second unit helped keep Golden State close and capable of winning the game in overtime. The closing minutes of the fourth quarter, however, may have sounded the end of the Cavs’ chances already: Kyrie Irving showed a greatly noticeable limp on his way to the locker room. The initial tests are showing no damage to his ACL or MCL, but the Cavs’ medical staff and players (especially Irving) are waiting with bated breath for more tests today (6/5/15) to provide more insight into the scope of the injury and the potential for Irving to play again in this series. Irving’s absence handcuffs Cleveland’s offensive production at best and dooms them at worst. Golden State can continue to allow LeBron James to assert himself to the extent they did in Game 1, but with less concern for who can fill the offensive void that the other four players on the court at any time. My prediction before this injury was Golden State in 6, and I believe that to remain true with this development.
Blackhawks surge in 3rd period, def. Lightning 2-1 in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Finals:
The first two periods of this fast-paced matchup played heavily in the favor of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the newcomers to the championship round; the sole goal of the first 40 minutes came from a replay-worthy swipe from Alex Killorn (if you missed it, go watch it… it’s a fun goal to see). The Blackhawks, the poised veterans from deep playoff (and championship) runs past, responded with a goal from a new guy on the rink and took the league with the expected veteran presence, if not from Kane or Toews. Teuvo Teravainen, in his first playoff appearance at 20 years old, placed Chicago back into the thick of things with around six minutes left in the 3rd period and set the table for Antoine Vermette’s go-ahead goal. The youthful Lightning, who hold home-ice advantage and are making the team’s first Finals appearance since 2004, is now down 0-1 and will need to match the defensive intensity from the first 54 minutes of Game 1 to even the series.
Todd Gurley is still “a ways away from practicing,” per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
This isn’t all that surprising or troubling to me as a Rams fan. Despite my Makin’ The Play co-host Rob Johnson’s insisting, I am content to wait and see how Gurley helps the Rams offense, especially if he returns to the level he played at for Georgia. I still believe that Gurley would have been a top 5 pick if not for the ACL injury and think he can help the Rams offense return to a productive level.
Cardinals 8-2 in their last 10, Wacha picks up eighth win vs LAD
The St. Louis Cardinals, in the face of injuries to the lineup, rotation and bullpen, continue to do the only thing that matters in the long run: Win. I will admit, the Brewers and Diamondbacks aren’t the highest level of competition and the Cards did lose series to the Tigers and Royals late last month, but still have the best record in baseball with a .667 winning percentage. The Cards do not appear to be slowing down much, either, after a 7-1 victory over the NL West-leading Dodgers on June 4th, giving Michael Wacha his eighth victory of the year and placing him squarely in the early NL Cy Young Award talk alongside Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole.
Bell City Cubs win the Class 1 State Baseball Championship in extra innings
Bell City defeated Atlanta 6-3 in eight innings to complete their comeback for the MSHSAA Class 1 baseball championship. Peyton Maddox picked up the win in relief for the Cubs, who took advantage of a couple of fielding errors by Atlanta to tie the game late and allow for the extra innings victory. Congratulations to coach Justin Simpher and the entire Cubs team for their awesome accomplishment.
As of this writing, Notre Dame’s baseball team won their Class 4 state semifinal game via mercy rule and will play in the Class 4 state championship Saturday morning, so good luck to the Bulldogs!
That’s all the rambling I have prepared for this time! If you have questions or banter to share, you can find me on Twitter (@CodySandusky)! Until next time, ramble on!
I’m going to begin this week’s blog by including a few lists. I enjoy making lists and watching the reaction they bring. So, let’s get started! The list below includes some of the best High School baseball players in our area. I have put together 20 players that “caught my eye” this year. They are not necessarily the best players in the area (although most are). However, these guys made a difference for their teams and stood out to me. They are in no particular order. I was lucky enough to see most area teams this year because of my unique job. There are guys and teams I didn’t get to see. If I had watched every team in our area my list might be different. Did you get a chance to see any High School baseball? Who are players that stood out to you this year? What do you think of my list?
High School Baseball
- Graham Ruopp – Notre Dame
- Adam Pope – Notre Dame
- Logan Heisserer – Notre Dame
- Palmer Campbell – NMCC
- Landon Vaughn – Kennett
- Trent Pobst – Scott City
- Tyler McLevain – Cooter
- Riley Hickerson – Cooter
- Trey McDaniel – Greenville
- Cameron Misner – Poplar Bluff
- Brandon Stuckensnieder – Poplar Bluff
- Michael Houchin – Jackson
- Jacob Priggel – Oran
- Blake Wolferding – Sikeston
- Jacob Clark – Sikeston
- Trevor Lewis – East Carter
- Nate Finney – Bell City
- Josh Morse – Cape Central
- Devin Trammel – Bernie
- Daniel Bergtholdt – Valle Catholic
Lets continue with my “list” theme for the next topic. There are a bevy of great pitchers in the game of Major League Baseball. It seems like virtually everyone is throwing 95 MPH or higher. Of course just because you can throw hard doesn’t mean you will be an effective pitcher; but I will admit it does make it easier. Pitching sets the table. Good pitching helps your defense and helps to take pressure off the offense. Starting pitchers in particular are so important in today’s game of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball. They also have the best starter’s ERA in the game at 3.00. So, who are the best starting pitchers in the game today? Here are my top 10 pitchers in the game right now. I have few restrictions. I do not include any injured players. ERA, efficiency, innings, and track record are pretty high on my list of qualifications. What do you think? Would you change anything? Is there a guy that missed the list you would put in?
Rusty’s MLB Starting Pitchers Top 10 List
- Clayton Kershaw – LA Dodgers
- Felix Hernandez – SEA Mariners
- Chris Sale – CHI White Sox
- Madison Bumgarner – SF Giants
- Max Scherzer – WAS Nationals
- David Price – DET Tigers
- Johnny Cueto – CIN Reds
- Zack Greinke – LA Dodgers
- Cole Hamels – PHL Phillies
- Dallas Keuchel – HOU Astros
Just missed my Top 10
- Corey Kluber – CLE Indians
- Jordan Zimmermann – WAS Nationals
Young Pitchers on the cusp of being really good! If they had more Major League time they would probably crack my top 10 list.
- Matt Harvey – NY Mets
- Sonny Gray – OAK Athletics
- Gerrit Cole – PIT Pirates
- Michael Wacha – STL Cardinals
- Chris Archer – TB Rays
- Yordano Ventura – KC Royals
Guys that would probably be in top ten if not hurt…
Adam Wainwright* – STL Cardinals – Would be #4 in the top 10 if not hurt.
Jose Fernandez* – MIA Marlins – At least in my top 15 players.
Sigh…Without the St. Louis Blues still in the playoffs I have lost some interest to be honest. Two teams are left, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since I am a Blues fan, well…I can’t bring myself to root for the Hawks. I have to go with the lightning. I actually like their chances as well. Ben Bishop has been a stud in goal for the Lightning. I have always liked Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan. In the finals if you have a great goal scorer like Stamkos and a hot goalie like Bishop, it can be good enough to bring home the Cup. The Lighting rank first in the league in goals per game. It won’t come easy that is for sure. The Hawks are second in goals against. They have a tough defense. Plus, you can’t overlook Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Corey Crawford’s experience. What is my pick? Lightning in 7 games.
Another quick NHL note:
I think it was a good move to bring Ken Hitchcock back as the head coach for the St. Louis Blues. He signed a one year deal to stay with the Blues last week. I think you give the post season underachieving Blues and Ken Hitchcock another crack at it. At least with a one year contract the Blues can cut ties after next season. That is why I think it was wise for the Blues front office. Yes the coach is very important, but ultimately it’s up to the players. They are the ones on the ice, not the coach. Blues need better goal scorers not a different coach.
First, the University of Alabama-Birmingham Football program is back! In December the UAB “big wigs” decided to shelve the UAB program. Why? Simply…money. In an article by espn.com, University President Ray Watts said, “The fiscal realities we face — both from an operating and a capital investment standpoint — are starker than ever and demand that we take decisive action for the greater good of the athletic department and UAB.”
Now, just 6 months later UAB has reversed that decision. Why change it now? Why reverse the decision? In the article below it mentions the University “received pledges…”from the “…community matching the $17.2 million needed to reinstate the football program…”
Bottom line is Football is back for UAB. Good for them for making it right. Job, scholarships, hopes, and dreams were crushed in December. But at least now they can start rebuilding what they tore down. Unfortunately, this will be a huge disadvantage for the football program that is now behind in signing players and preparing for the upcoming season. Will they be ready for the 2016 season? Not sure, but at least football is back. How can you not? At least for me it pulls at my heart strings when you see how it effects the student athletes, coaches, and anyone else involved with the program. Watch this video of UAB Players and Coaches when the announcement is made. Do you think it matters to them? Glad to hear football is back!
Here is another Football story:
This story comes from the NFL, reported by ESPN. St. Louis Rams defensive ends’ Chris Long and William Hayes experience “homelessness” in this video. It shows the two spending time on the streets, dressed in disguise, experiencing what it is like to be homeless. It’s admirable in my opinion for these two guys to take a step back from the life they live, and put on another person’s “shoes.” Chris Long says, “…We were just hoping to gain a little perspective and put kind of a feeling with the cause that we had been [donating to] from a distance the last couple of years.”
Chris Long and William Hayes were moved by a few people they met during this process. They both have a better appreciation of those on the streets. Kudos to Chris, William, and the St. Louis Rams. This is the type of story I wish I saw more often. May we be more aware of how we can help our community. Click on the link below to see their story.
Agree or disagree with my opinion? Let me know your thoughts! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me (@rusty_hendricks).
Information gathered from USA Today, Youtube, and ESPN.
The St. Louis Cardinals have won the most World Series Championships of any National League team in the history of the sport, 11. It has become a right of passage for Redbird fans to expect their beloved Birds to make the Postseason once the calendar turns to October. St. Louis has reached the National League Championship Series in each of the last 4 seasons. They are 2-2 in those matchups, both losses came to San Francisco. The Cards are off to a 33-18 start to the season, one of the best starts in franchise history. With 111 games left, if St. Louis posted a virutally .500 record of 56-55 the rest of the way, it would finish with 89 victories, which is likely good enough for a playoff spot. Last season the Cards won 90 games en route to the NL Central crown. The 2 NL Wildcard teams, the Pirates and Giants won 88 games. So barring an unforeseen collapse this year, the Birds on the Bats are likely going to be playing in October. Is the current roster good enough to make a World Series run ?
So far they’ve been able to withstand the losses of Ace Adam Wainwright and 8th inning set up man Jordan Walden. First baseman Matt Adams will likely miss the rest of the season after his quad injury required surgery. Veteran Mark Reynolds steps in at first base and some Cardinal fans are calling for the team to make a trade to acquire more protection at the position. If Reynolds wasn’t on the current roster, he would be exactly the type of player that would fit nicely in this spot. Reynolds, who has hit at least 20 homeruns in seven straight seasons, will be given every opportunity from Manager Mike Matheny to lock down the position. If Reynolds fails, then the organization will have to look in another direction.
The most intriguing challenge for Matheny will be to find playing time for his five outfielders: Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Jason Heyward, Randall Grichuk and Peter Bourjos. Holliday is the mainstay in left field and will be in the lineup everday. Heyward, who has struggled, could see his playing time reduced if his bat doesn’t start to heat up. For now, Heyward will be the choice most days in right field for Matheny, but there is no doubt Heyward has been a major disappointment thus far. His sample size has been small, but he hasn’t hit for the power that the club has hoped for and his Gold Glove defense hasn’t been as good as advertised.
Jon Jay has returned from a stint on the disabled list, but it’s unsure whether or not his surgically repaired wrist is 100 percent and what production he’ll provide. Jay is batting just .248 and 25 of his 27 hits have been singles. Jay plays a solid defensive centerfield, but is limited by his weak throwing arm. Jay should be really pushed for playing time by the exciting Grichuck who has shown an electric bat and the ability to make every defensive play in the outfield.
Then there’s Bourjos who appears healthy again after offseason surgery on his hip. Despite his great speed, Bourjos hasn’t been an asset on the base paths. He’s been throw out stealing 5 times, while swiping just four bases.
Who will be the consistent 8th inning set up man to get the game to a red hot Trevor Rosenthal ? Seth Maness has been a solid reliever and ground ball machine, but seems to be a better option when runners are on base rather than on the mound to start an inning clean. Kevin Siegrist is showing that he is back and healthy. His ERA is a solid 2.08. Interestingly, Lefties are batting .308 against Siegrist while righties bat just .185.
Rosenthal has put up All Star numbers, an ERA of .074 with 15 saves in 16 chances. His walk rate is way down since going exclusively to the stretch and abandoning the wind up.
The starting rotation has been rock solid, leading the Majors with an Earned Run Average of 2.70. Jaime Garcia has been very good since returning to the rotation, but how long can his shoulder hold up ? Will the team make a trade for a pitcher or hitter ? Only time and performance and health will tell.
Right now, all is well in Cardinal Nation, but in baseball things change quickly. Stay tuned, but it looks like another exciting Summer is in store for Redbird fans.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome back to Ramblings from a Talking Head, a sports blog that is acutely aware of the irrelevance of its banter on impacting the sports world at large. Despite that, however, I type to see myself published online as much as I sometimes talk to hear myself speak (every Monday thru Friday from 4-6pm on SEMO ESPN 92.9 FM, Saturdays from 9-10am on SEMO ESPN and any time you see me on the street), so here we go with another blog post! There was a lot of exciting sports news from across the spectrum over the Memorial Day weekend and even more opinions to be discussed concerning those results, but I want to take full advantage of the “Rambling” in this blog’s title by discussing one topic specifically in this week’s post. This week, I will be rambling on the NBA Playoffs and the commonality of playoff teams having winning percentages at or below 50 percent.
The NBA Playoffs have surged on and, outside of the Clippers’ implosion costing the team a 3-1 series lead and the Rockets victory over Golden State in Game 4 to stave off elimination (as of this writing), the playoffs have seen the teams expected to advance do so in convincing fashion. Cleveland completed their sweep over Atlanta last night with a 118-88 win, asserting once again that the team with LeBron on its roster is always the favorite to make the NBA Finals. Atlanta, as the number one seed and a team that had a winning record against the West this season (22-8), failed to dispel the thoughts of many fans concerning the West’s superiority over the lesser Eastern Conference with their paltry performance against James and the Cavaliers. The quick work made of the East’s top seed, as well as another year of the seventh and eighth seeds in the East having losing records (and the sixth seed sitting at .500), has again brought about the conversation concerning playoff reforms.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is maintaining a holding pattern on the topic, focusing his energy on flop prevention, potential draft restructures and sponsored jerseys, instead. I have no problem with this, especially in regards to the first two topics on that list in dire need of analysis and revision. NBA teams making the playoffs with a subpar record is not a recent trend, however; teams with records .500 or lower have made playoff appearances consistently since the NBA/ABA merger for the 1976-1977 season. The issue became more pronounced and expansive (no pun intended) after the playoff field was expanded (see?) to 16 teams for the 1983-1984 season, when that season’s bracket saw five teams make it to the playoffs with a regular season win percentage of .500 or less. In the 31 years since the NBA playoff field was expanded to 16 teams, 75 out of a possible 496 teams have made the playoffs with a .500 or below record. Those figures average out to 2.4 teams with such records making the playoffs each year, or 15.1 percent of playoff teams from 1984 to today.
I know that the majority of readers will call out the East’s run of subpar playoff teams since 2000, and I cannot refute those with the results and numbers that I have documented. Since the 1998-1999 strike-shortened season, all 25 of the playoff teams at or below .500 have been from the Eastern Conference. Five of those years, including four in a row (‘05-’06 thru ‘08-’09) saw three or more teams with an even or losing record. Many fans and analysts use these numbers to establish that the Eastern Conference is the lesser of the two conferences with a large gap. That analysis is, for all intents and purposes, correct; as a Bulls fan, I have watched my fair share of East matchups and many of them are subpar, at best. But to imply or directly state that this disparity is the worst in league history is short-sighted and ignores the NBA prior to the ‘98 strike.
I have given the number of teams at or below .500 to make the playoffs both since the 16-team expansion (75) and since the 1998-1999 strike season (25), which leaves 50 teams having made the playoffs with a subpar record between the 1983-84 and the 1998-99 season. The first five years of the expanded playoffs (‘83-’84 thru ‘87-’88) contained 23 teams with non-winning records. Furthermore, those years were not just filled with Eastern Conference ineptitude. Poor playoffs records were evenly distributed between both conferences during this period, so superiority was solely determined by the Finals, not just by the number of below-.500 teams in the conference playoffs. The first five years of playoff expansion saw the following spread of Eastern/Western playoff teams with subpar records:
1983-1984: 2 East, 3 West
1984-1985: 3 East, 3 West
1985-1986: 2 East, 3 West
1986-1987: 2 East, 2 West
1987-1988: 2 East, 1 West
The split between subpar East and West playoff participants continued until the ‘98-’99 strike, with the last three years preceding the strike having only Western Conference playoff teams (6 total) with non-winning records. It was only after the strike that the Eastern Conference began to take its current place as the lesser of the two conferences.
I’ve thrown out a lot of numbers (and have kept even more to myself, but I enjoy doing research, so it’s a win-win) in an effort to see if playoff reform is needed in the NBA and what approach may be the best way to fix the supposedly broken NBA postseason. My conclusion, however, is the East’s current plight with being the weaker conference is likely just a cycle that will play its way out as the years go on. I use “likely” both in an effort to not tout my thoughts as irrefutable evidence, as well as to leave a margin for error if this trend continues. If the Eastern Conference continues to have 3 teams in each postseason with subpar records for the next five to ten years, I may need to go back to the drawing board with my theory. The current state of the NBA has a few other problems to sort out, especially in the draft lottery format, before revamping the postseason becomes the main priority.
That’s all for this week rambling, I hope that this post have been informative and fun to read! Until next time, you can catch me on Twitter (@CodySandusky) and on the SEMO ESPN airwaves six days a week!
All statistics and season standings courtesy of basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Welcome to Rusty’s Rundown! Rusty Hendricks here from SEMO ESPN and play by play announcer for Sikeston Sports. I am a sports junkie, especially anything Cardinals baseball. I went to Advance High School and graduated from Missouri Baptist University with a Broadcast Journalism degree. I also played baseball in college. I have been fascinated with sports from a young age and always seem to have an opinion. Hope you enjoy our blogs here on semoespn.com with the goal of talking sports! I will touch on national and local sports. Plus, really anything that catches my eye. Let’s get started shall we!
I will open with the St. Louis Cardinals. You know…that team that has the best record in baseball. Right now the Cardinals are in a good place. But my question is will it last? We lost one of the best pitchers in the game in Adam Wainwright for the season with an Achilles injury. What concerns me is innings. Where are they going to come from? The starting pitchers in my mind could definitely do a better job of eating innings. Innings are a concern for the starters and for the relievers. The relievers are near the top in the league in appearances. We saw last year how a taxed bullpen can have a negative impact. Trevor Rosenthal the Cardinals closer was clearly affected by his innings total a year ago. We might not see the results now in regards to the relievers, but later on in the season we could. That is why the starters for the Cardinals need to eat up more innings. Of course we have young arms such as Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. I’m sure the Cardinals are leery of stretching their starts out. Nonetheless, the Cardinals have the best starters ERA in baseball. Am I concerned over nothing? Or could this be a problem down the road?
Next Cardinals topic…Will the Birds on the bat try to add pitching via a trade? If so, who? Cardinals have been linked to names such as Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir. I would love to see Hamels in a Cardinals jersey. However, realistically I don’t see it happening. I believe he has too high of a price tag. Plus, I don’t think it would be wise for the Cardinals to give up the kitchen sink for a guy like Hamels. I think they would be more likely to land someone like Aaron Harang, Mark Buerhle, Colby Lewis, or Dan Haren. These four pitchers become free agents after the season. The Cardinals could benefit from one of these pitchers. They wouldn’t have to give up much and they wouldn’t have to pay them after the season is over. Do the Cardinals need to make a move? Are you satisfied where they stand now?
How about High School Baseball…I have to give a shout out to the Bell City Cubs. They defeated Oran on Friday for the Class 1 District 2 Championship. The first District crown in 25 years for the Cubs! They will be solid next year as well. What about Class 2? Bernie, East Carter, Greenville, and Valle all won District Crowns. Malden gets past NMCC in Class 3. Watch out for Notre Dame to make a run for state in Class 4. Then in Class 5, Jackson, unexpectedly wins their District. I think we could see at least 2 state Champions from our area. We will see.
A few of the areas track and field participants were honored this past week at state. Maurice Davis caught my eye. He placed first in state in the 100 meter dash at the Class 2 level. 10.97 seconds for Davis. Impressive for the Junior who looks to be a stud for the Football team next season.
Not a big NBA guy. But Steph Curry is insanely good. He has me rooting for the Warriors to win a Championship. As I write this column both the Warriors and the Cavaliers have 3-0 series leads. I think it’s fairly safe to say they will be meeting each other in the final round. I pick the Warriors in 7 games against the Cavs. Who do you have winning it all?
I will leave you with the topic of football in St. Louis. Will we have football in St. Louis in 2016? I certainly hope so. Roger Goodell recently praised the progress St. Louis has made in building a new stadium. But will it be enough? I don’t think that question will be answered for awhile. But if St. Louis comes through and funds a new stadium before the lease is up on the Edward Jones Dome, how could the NFL say no to the Rams staying? Why won’t the NFL step up and back the Rams in St. Louis? The NFL just handed down penalties to the New England Patriots with their “deflate gate” scandal. The NFL have been standing on their “ethics” so to speak and sticking their chest out. Will they not do the same for St. Louis? Or is the dollar sign the most important thing for the NFL. I guess only time will tell…
We will talk to you later! Until next time…
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is Cody Sandusky, co-host of Makin’ the Play (Monday-Friday 4-6pm on SEMO ESPN 92.9 FM) and the Saturday Morning Express, which can be heard on Saturdays from 9-10am on the SEMO ESPN networks. Welcome to the first of what will be a running series of blogs about the status of the sports world, ranging from headline news to uniform quirks (I am a big uniform fan, so you have been warned) that I am calling “Ramblings from a Talking Head.” I love being able to pursue a childhood dream of working in sports talk radio, whether it be play-by-play or studio hosting, but I am more than willing to take a joke and acknowledge my role as a “talking head” on the airwaves. Thankfully, due to developments in technology, I do not have to talk your ear off with ramblings on the air; you can instead read it at your leisure here on SEMOESPN.com! Another warning: I will at times go entire blog posts without mentioning the “big stories” or local and regional teams. This is because we as a station discuss them during our shows (The Sports Huddle, Makin’ the Play and the Saturday Morning Express), so I do not want to tap the well dry and repeat the sentiments we share on the air. I think we are covered on the preliminaries, so without further ado, let’s start the rambling:
The NBA Playoffs are in full swing and the Eastern Conference appears to own a monopoly on the dramatic flair that playoff basketball can bring. Game winners have not been difficult to find, with three coming this weekend from Paul Pierce, Derrick Rose and LeBron James; Rose and James exchanged buzzer-beater shots in back-to-back games that caused many in Cleveland to have nightmares on Friday night about The Shot, as well as the opportunity to strike back (albeit 26 years too late for payback on MJ) with their own clutch shooting. I am a Chicago Bulls fan, so I loved seeing one of those shots… not so much on the other, but I have to acknowledge and respect LeBron’s ability to take the shot in the midst of a rough shooting night. The series is heading back to The Q in Cleveland and I feel confident in saying that the fireworks are not done yet.
Paul Pierce is doing his part to lead a hobbled Wizards squad (missing their leader in John Wall) past the number one seeded Hawks, who did everything within their power to make Washington look like a team without ambition in the final quarter before the Pierce bank shot. If Pierce and Rose’s faces are not in a local bank’s advertising campaign or on the side of ATMs in D.C. and Chicago (respectively) by the end of the week, their agents will have missed a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the hype of those moments.
The Western Conference playoff matchups have seen a few surprises, namely the Clippers playing like the team that many thought they could be and the Warriors are not playing like the dominant team we saw throughout the regular season, in large part because of the hard-nosed play of the Memphis Grizzlies. Mike Conley has proven that, even with an imposing frontcourt that is above and beyond what the Warriors regularly send to the floor, he plays a big role in the success of the Grizzlies. Conley may have only contributed 11 points in Saturday’s 99-89 victory in Memphis, but one cannot overlook the fact that Grizz have not lost a game this postseason when Conley has played. Look for Tony Allen to continue shining on the defensive end as Memphis looks to build a 3-1 lead tonight at FedEx Forum… a game that you can hear on SEMO ESPN 92.9 FM.
As for the Clippers and Rockets, “Hack-a-Jordan” is the latest in the NBA’s series of plodding attempts to stifle a team’s performance by deliberately sending their worst free throw shooter to the line. The Clippers have been able to play above and beyond the Rockets’ efforts in Games 2 and 3, with both games seeing LA score over 120 points while limiting Houston to under 100. If it provides any consolation to the fans at home, James Harden voiced after the game that he is not the biggest fan of the “Hack-a-…” strategy, but stopped short of completely backing the bus over Head Coach Kevin McHale. The ’14-’15 Rockets are primed to become another example of Dwight Howard’s inability to help his team during a playoff series, being ejected in Game 3 after receiving two technical fouls. Houston has their backs against the wall and the Clippers are one win away from playing in the franchise’s first Western Conference Finals. My X-Factor in this series? Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. If the Clippers can close out this series, prepare for a manic Ballmer and a lot of Vines and YouTube clips of his celebration.
Rickie Fowler was recently named, alongside Ian Poutler, as the most overrated golfer on the PGA Tour in a poll of Tour members taken by SI Golf. The 26-year-old has always been known as a flashy dresser (I must admit that I am consistently a fan of the head-to-toe eclecticism that Puma provides Fowler on a week-to-week basis) and as well-liked amongst his peers, but also as a golfer that could not take the next step and win a tournament down the stretch. Trailing leader Sergio Garcia by five strokes with six holes to play, Fowler put on an impressive display of shooting that carried over into the three-way playoff between Garcia, Kevin Kisner and himself. Fowler delivered in the playoff and took The Players Championship trophy over Garcia and Kisner, two men who are versed in disappointing finishes to tournaments. Fowler has long been painted as one of the young faces of golf, but has not had the hardware to back up those aspirations. I am not saying that we need to immediately crown him as the future of golf (he has more to prove in the form of a few more victories, namely a major), but he is still primed to be seen alongside Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth (who missed the weekend at TPC Sawgrass, a disappointing showing compared to his mastery at Augusta) and Hideki Matsuyama (if you don’t know who he is, look him up) as the future of golf.
– The Cardinals dropped two out of three in the series against Pittsburgh this weekend. The team is still struggling in the areas we have seen up to this point (Heyward and Adams not consistently producing offensively, no 5th starter to eat innings and help the bullpen, bullpen being taxed) and the hot start may be waning. It is an off day today with a series against Cleveland starting Tuesday; a tough stretch against the Tigers, Mets, Royals and Dodgers to end the month will reveal more of who the Cardinals will be in this 2015 season… and it may not be the beautiful picture we saw to start the season.
– The Chicago Blackhawks swept the Minnesota Wild, proving that the Blues fell to what many considered to be an inferior team in the Wild. I don’t have a complete answer as to what the Blues should do this offseason with respect to the coaching staff and its roster, but seeing Chicago take it to the Wild will do nothing but fuel the fire sale that could occur.
As I have detailed in a large portion of this post, playoff season is in full swing for the NBA and the NHL, as well as high school and college baseball ramping up for their respective postseasons. There is plenty of action to catch both locally and nationally, so find a game and enjoy the breakneck pace of spring sports as we look to crown champions in a number of sports and organizations! Until next time… Ramble On.
Weekday mornings 9-10am with Erik Sean and Jess Bolen.
Thanks for joining us at Isle Casino for our 2nd Birthday Bash! Missed out on the event? Check out these photos!