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This Week in Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love grabs a rebound over Toronto Raptors' Jonal Valanciunas in the third quarter of Game 4 of a second-round playoff series on Monday, May 7, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers won the game 128-93 to sweep the series against the Raptors. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

By Mike Staley

Whitecaps Baseball

The West Michigan Whitecaps had the luxury of home cooking this week but failed to take full advantage of it.

Wednesday, the Whitecaps avoided a sweep at the hands of the Clinton Lumberkings winning the last game of the series 8-5. Heading into the weekend, the Whitecaps looked for a different outcome but had more of the same. They dropped the series opener with the Burlington Bees on Thursday. After a rainout Friday, the two teams faced off in a Saturday double-header. The Bees took the first game 6-1, but the Whitecaps once again avoided being swept with a 6-0 victory in the second game.

Overall the Whitecaps went 2-4 this week bringing their record to 19-16. They dropped from second in the division to fourth and are currently three and a half games behind the first place Lansing Lugnuts.

The Whitecaps head to Fort Wayne to take on the Tincaps in a four-game series starting Monday. They return home Friday for a three-game set with the Lake County Captains. To find tickets to upcoming games click here.

National Basketball Association

The NBA playoffs are down to the final four teams. The conference finals feature no surprises as the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets face off in the Western Conference finals and the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers battle in the Eastern Conference finals.

On Monday, the Cavaliers finished off their sweep of the Toronto Raptors. Not only did LeBron James and the Cavaliers end the Raptors’ season, but they ended Toronto Head Coach Dwane Casey’s career with the Raptors.

The Raptors announced their decision to fire Casey on Friday. The decision was somewhat surprising considering Casey’s success with the franchise. Toronto set a franchise record this year with 59 wins and earned the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Casey was also voted the Coach of the Year by his fellow head coaches this year in the NBA. Despite that success, the team decided it was time for a change after back-to-back years of being swept out of the playoffs by Cleveland.

After avoiding a sweep in game four, the Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Boston Celtics in game five ending their season. The Celtics continue to play strong basketball without their leaders on the floor. The 76ers meanwhile have a bright future and can take this playoff experience and learn from it going forward.

Out West, the Golden State Warriors continued their domination of the NBA when they took down the New Orleans Pelicans in five games. Tuesday, the Warriors beat the Pelicans 113-104 and kept their hopes of repeating as NBA champions alive. The Warriors are looking to get to the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season.

Tuesday night also saw the Houston Rockets advance as they beat the Utah Jazz 112-102 to win the series in five games. Rockets all-star point guard, Chris Paul advanced to the Western Conference finals for the first time in his future hall-of-fame career. Many experts and analysts have knocked Paul over the years for his inability to get his team into the conference finals, but Paul has momentarily silenced his critics. Paul will look to continue to silence them when he and James Harden lead the Rockets into battle against the Warriors Monday night in Houston.

Game one of the Eastern Conference finals took place Sunday afternoon when the Celtics hosted the Cavaliers in Boston. The Celtics stunned the Cavaliers beating them 108-83 igniting a rowdy Boston crowd. LeBron was 0-5 from three-point range 5-16 overall scoring only 15 points. The Celtics had four players in double figures with Jaylen Brown leading the way with 23 points. The Cavaliers will need a better effort from LeBron and their stars in game two on Tuesday if they want to even the series at a game a piece.

National Hockey League

The reign of the Pittsburgh Penguins came to end Monday when the Washington Capitals beat them 2-1 in overtime to win the series in six games. The Penguins were going for their third straight Stanley Cup Championship but ultimately fell short. This marked the first time in Alex Ovechkin’s career he advanced past the second round of the playoffs. This was also the fourth meeting between these two teams in the playoffs in the Sidney Crosby-Ovechkin era. Crosby had won the previous three meetings and went on to win the Stanley Cup all three times. Ovechkin is hoping he can turn the tables and win his first Stanley Cup.

When the Nashville Predators were down in the series 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets, P.K. Subban guaranteed that the Predators would go into Winnipeg and win game six, forcing a seventh game in Nashville. The Predators backed up Subban’s guarantee winning game six 4-0. Unfortunately for Subban and the Predators, he didn’t guarantee a win in game seven and the Jets ended up with a convincing 5-1 win Thursday night advancing the Jets into the Western Conference finals against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

The conference finals began Friday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the Capitals for game one in Tampa Bay. The Capitals took the crowd out of the game early and never let them back into it jumping out to a 4-0 lead and eventually winning the game 4-2 on the road. Game two was Sunday night, and the Lightning looked to get even with the Capitals. The Lightning held a 2-1 first period lead before the Capitals scored three goals in the second and one to begin the third period. With just under seven minutes to go in the game, the Capitals added another goal making the score 6-2 and scoring five unanswered goals in the process. That would end up being the final score giving the Capitals a 2-0 lead as the series will shift to Washington D.C. Tuesday night.

The Western Conference finals feature two teams who have never won the Stanley Cup. The Golden Knights are an expansion team who nobody expected to make the playoffs, let alone be one of the final four teams remaining. The Jets didn’t seem to care about the Las Vegas Cinderella story and took game one Saturday night in Winnipeg 4-2. The Knights will try to take game two Monday night and head back to Las Vegas with the series tied at one.

Major League Baseball

Fans of baseball were treated to a no-hitter this week when Seattle Mariners lefty, James Paxton became the first Canadian born player in MLB history to toss a no-no. Making it even more special, Paxton threw the no-hitter in his hometown of Toronto against the Blue Jays. Paxton fanned seven while only allowing three walks in the game. The Mariners won the game 5-0.

The National League Central has been the most interesting division in baseball so far. The Milwaukee Brewers currently sit in first place with a record of 24-17. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are both a half game back of the Brewers while the Chicago Cubs are currently fourth in the division, just one game back of first place.

In the American League, the Central Division continues to struggle. The Cleveland Indians are in first place with a record of 20-19. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers both have losing records but are just one and a half and three games out of first place respectively.

The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both continue their winning ways and are tied atop the AL East with records of 28-12 which is tied for the best record in the league.

The MLB continued their tradition of honoring mothers on Mother’s Day. Sunday saw every team in the league have a splash of pink in their gear. Players were wearing pink cleats and sweat bands and swinging pink bats not only to honor mothers, but to bring awareness to breast cancer. With pink on all the fields Sunday, the top teams continued to perform at a high level.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

  1. New York Yankees (28-12)
  2. Boston Red Sox (28-12)
  3. Houston Astros (26-16)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (24-15)
  5. Los Angeles Angels (24-16)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

  1. New York Yankees (28-12)
  2. Boston Red Sox (28-12)
  3. Houston Astros (26-16)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (24-15)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (24-17)

National Football League

The Detroit Lions were blindsided this week when they found out about their new head coach’s past transgressions. Matt Patricia was hired by the Lions in February to take over as the head coach. Somehow though, during the hiring process, the Lions missed the fact that Patricia was arrested in 1996 for aggravated sexual assault.

After the story was released Wednesday by The Detroit News, the Lions’ PR department released a statement on the issue.

“Coach Patricia was the subject of a standard pre-employment background check which did not disclose the issue.”

The reason everyone missed this arrest was because Patricia was never convicted of any crime. If he had been convicted, the background check would have shown the arrest as convictions of crimes stay public record permanently. Non-conviction arrests however, only stay on the record for seven years and after seven years, the record disappears.

It remains to be seen if this news will make the Lions second guess their decision to hire Patricia as the head coach. Patricia has been on the coaching staff with the New England Patriots the last 14 seasons and hasn’t had any issues come to light during those years.

Patricia will try to put this issue behind him and like the rest of the NFL, focus on the upcoming season.

The first thing coaches will focus on for their season is the new-comers.

Rookie mini-camps began this week, and it’s the first opportunity for teams to see what their draft picks and free-agent signings can do to help their teams win.

There’s been drama in Pittsburgh this week involving the Steelers’ two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and their third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State, quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Roethlisberger openly discussed retirement during the season last year but more recently said he wants to play three to five more years. The Steelers decided to take Rudolph in the draft despite Roethlisberger’s declaration of his intent to play many more seasons.

“I was surprised when they took a quarterback because I thought that maybe in the third round, you know you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” Roethlisberger said in an interview on his weekly Pittsburgh radio show on 93.7 The Fan. “Nothing against Mason; I think he’s a great football player…I just don’t know how backing up or being a third (string quarterback)…well, who knows where he’s going to fall on the depth chart–helps us win now.”

Rudolph has kept his head down and continued to reiterate that it’s not Roethlisberger’s job to teach him, but it’s his job to learn the offense by studying the playbook and learning from the coaches.

On Thursday, Roethlisberger put aside his personal thoughts on the matter and tried to clear the air with Rudolph.

“He reached out and said, ‘Hey, good luck in rookie minicamps,’” Rudolph said of Roethlisberger after his first practice with the Steelers. “I was really appreciative of that. I just said, ‘Hey, thanks, look forward to meeting you.’”

The Steelers are hopeful that Rudolph is the future successor to Roethlisberger at the quarterback position whenever that may be.

Professional Golfers’ Association

The Players Championship was this past weekend and American golfer, Webb Simpson won the tournament finishing at -18. His final round on Sunday wasn’t his best, as he shot a 73, but he played strong all weekend. He shot a tournament low 63 on Friday that helped cement him as the tournament’s winner. As the winner, Simpson took home $2 million.

Jason Day had a strong outing coming off his win last weekend. He finished tied for fifth shooting -13 for the tournament.

Tiger Woods had a decent weekend as well. Woods finished tied for 11th place shooting -11. He had solid third and fourth round shooting 65 and 69 respectively.

The tour shifts to Dallas next weekend when the AT&T Byron Nelson open will be played at Trinity Forest Golf Club. The purse will be $7.7 million for the tournament.