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This Week in Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) reacts after the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart turns the ball over in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The Cavs won, 102-99. (Leah Klafczynski/Akron Beacon Journal/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly round up in the world of sports. This past week saw the Washington Capitals punch their ticket into the Stanley Cup Finals, a new rule set in place regarding the NFL’s national anthem policy, MLB teams fighting for positioning and both conference finals in the NBA head to game seven.

National Basketball Association

For the first time since 1979, both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals went to a deciding game seven.

The week started with the Cavaliers down 2-1 in the series. Boston tried desperately to take a 3-1 lead, but the Celtics road struggles continued as Cleveland beat Boston 111-102 to tie the series at two.

Wednesday, the series went to Boston for game five. The Cavaliers had all the momentum going in to the game winning the last two games convincingly. Boston though, was undefeated at home throughout the playoffs and that theme continued. Boston took game five 96-83 and went up in the series 3-2. LeBron James had 26 points while Kevin Love added 14. The two stars didn’t get any help from the rest of the team though leading to the low point total for the Cavaliers.

Game six was back in Cleveland, and the Celtics had the opportunity to end the Cavaliers’ season Friday night. As good as Boston has been at home, they’ve been that bad on the road. The Celtics have only won one road game all playoffs long, and the Cavaliers took advantage of the Celtics’ inexperience. Game six ended with Cleveland on top 109-99 forcing the series back to Boston for a deciding game seven. Love was knocked out of this game with a head injury and was taken into concussion protocol. James stepped up in a major way scoring 46 points with 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Game seven was Sunday night and if the Cavaliers were going to steal one on the road, they were going to have to do it without Love. Boston put their undefeated home record on the line and looked good throughout the game. Game seven was a low scoring affair and at halftime the Celtics led 43-39. The game stayed close until the last five minutes of the game when James took over the game, giving the Cavaliers an 87-79 victory, ultimately ending the Celtics season and sending the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. James once again flirted with a triple-double scoring 35 points with 15 rebounds and nine assists. Terry Rozier struggled for the Celtics. He’s been one of Boston’s best players in the series, but scored just four points on 2-14 shooting from the field. James is headed to his eighth straight NBA Finals and ninth overall. He will try to improve on his personal 3-5 NBA Finals record against the winner of the Western Conference Finals.

In the Western conference, the Warriors and Rockets gave viewers the first close game of either conference finals on Tuesday when the Rockets squeaked by the Warriors 95-92 to tie the series at two heading back to Houston. James Harden and Chris Paul combined for 57 points and Eric Gordon had 14 off the bench.

Heading back to Houston for game five, the Rockets looked to hand the Warriors their first back-to-back losses of the playoffs. The teams gave viewers another entertaining game. Harden struggled shooting just 5-21 from the field for 19 points. Gordon picked up his slack though scoring 24 points off the bench. Houston would end up winning 98-94 but lost Chris Paul at the end of the game to a hamstring injury that would prove costly.

Game six was in Oakland on Saturday, and the Rockets tried to close out the series on the road. They didn’t have Paul on the court who was still struggling from his hamstring injury. The Rockets came out on fire and dominated the first half, at one point leading by 17 points. Not having Paul however, let the Warriors bring Houston back to reality. Not only did the Warriors come back from their 17 point deficit, they ended up winning the game by 29 points 115-86. Klay Thompson was 9-14 from three and scored a game high 35 points.

The Warriors and Rockets will face off for game seven Monday night in Houston for the right to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

National Hockey League

The Las Vegas Golden Knights have had an opportunity to rest as they had all of last week off waiting to see who their opponent would be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The teams they were watching were the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning who won three straight games to take a 3-2 series lead over the Capitals.

Game six was in Washington on Monday and Tampa Bay was looking to make it four straight. Braden Holtby and the Capitals were having no part of that though as they blanked the Lightning 3-0 to force a game seven in Tampa Bay. T.J. Oshie scored 2 goals in the win and Devante Smith-Pelly added a third. Holtby was outstanding stopping all 24 shots he faced and never letting the Lightning get any momentum.

Game seven was Wednesday night, and the home crowd was not too pleased with the game they witnessed. The Capitals followed up their game six shutout win with a 4-0 win in game seven to earn their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. Alex Ovechkin got the scoring started for Washington in the first period, and the team never looked back. Andre Burakovsky scored two goals and Nicklas Backstrom added one in the third period just for good measure. Holtby was once again perfect stopping all 29 shots he faced.

Game one of the Stanley Cup Finals will be played Monday night in Las Vegas. The cup will be hoisted this year by a team that has never won before. Obviously, this is the Knights first year in the league, but the Capitals have never won the cup in their 44-year existence. The Capitals’ only previous visit to the finals was in 1998 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

Major League Baseball

Month number two is coming to a close in baseball and a lot of teams are separating themselves from the pack.

The Milwaukee Brewers have won eight of their last ten games and stretched their lead in the National League Central to four games of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates are both five games back of the Brewers.

In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves are clinging to a half game lead over the surging Philadelphia Phillies. This division was not expected to be this tight, but the Washington Nationals have battled back from an atrocious start to just one game back of first place. The New York Mets are one game over .500 and four games behind the division leading Braves.

The entire NL West has struggled so far this season. The Colorado Rockies are currently in first place with a record of 28-25. The Arizona Diamondbacks have fallen apart. Two weeks ago they had the best record in the NL. Now, they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games and fallen to 26-26. The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off a season that saw them make it to the World Series. Right now though, the Dodgers are 24-28 and fourth place in the division. They have made a recent comeback however, winning eight of their last 10.

In the American League, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are far and away the best two teams. They continue to jockey back and forth for first place in the AL East. Currently, Boston has a one game lead over the Yankees.

The AL Central appears to have no teams that want to win the division. The Cleveland Indians are still sitting in first place but are just one game over .500. The Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins are both three and a half games out of the division lead, while the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox sit in the basement of arguably the worst division in baseball.

The defending World Series Champion Houston Astros are quietly going about their business and have a one game lead in the AL West over the surprising Seattle Mariners. The Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics are also hanging around with both teams sitting within five and a half games of the division leading Astros.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Houston Astros (34-20)
2. Boston Red Sox (36-17)
3. New York Yankees (33-16)
4. Chicago Cubs (27-22)
5. Atlanta Braves (30-21)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (36-17)
2. New York Yankees (33-16)
3. Milwaukee Brewers (34-20)
4. Houston Astros (34-20)
5. Seattle Mariners (32-20)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps had another average week winning three and dropping four.

After a rainout on Mon., May 21, the Whitecaps started their week at home sweeping a double header against the Fort Wayne Tincaps. The team got their revenge on the Tincaps taking three out of four a week after losing three out of four to Fort Wayne.

West Michigan took that momentum on the road to South Bend to play the Cubs for a weekend series. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, the Cubs didn’t seem to care about the momentum that West Michigan had built. After dropping game one of the series on Friday 4-2, the Whitecaps were embarrassed 11-0 by the Cubs on Saturday. Sunday night, their struggles continued as they lost 5-3 to the Cubs for their fourth straight loss.

West Michigan currently sits at 26-23. They are five and a half games back of the Mid Eastern Division leading Lansing Lugnuts. The Whitecaps will try to avoid being swept as they finish their four game set with the South Bend Cubs on Memorial Day. Tuesday, the team heads to Dayton, Ohio to face the Dragons who are just a half game behind West Michigan. They will finish this week with a three game series at Bowling Green and try to gain ground on the second place Hot Rods. The team returns home June 5. To find tickets to upcoming games click here.

National Football League

There was big news out the league this week involving a new national anthem rule. On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the owners had unanimously agreed to a new rule that mandates players on the field stand for the national anthem.

The new policy in place does not mandate that players be on the field for the anthem. If a player chooses, they have the option to stay in the locker room until the anthem is finished. If a player does go to the field and kneel, the new rule states that the team is subject to fines, and those teams have the option to fine the specific players for their protest.

This new rule has been picked apart by many and overall has been quite an unpopular decision. Owners, players, coaches and even coaches from other leagues have weighed in with their opinion on the new rule.

The Golden State Warriors are trying to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. In the midst of that, their head coach, Steve Kerr found time to comment on the decision.

“I think it’s just typical of the NFL,” Kerr said to reporters during a team practice. “They’re just playing to their fanbase, and they’re just basically trying to use the anthem as fake patriotism. Nationalism, scaring people, it’s idiotic, but that’s how the NFL has handled their business.”

The New York Jets have made it clear they won’t conform to these new rules. Team CEO Christopher Johnson said he won’t discourage players from kneeling during the anthem despite the new rule and even offered to pay any fines his players might receive.

“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said. “If somebody (on our team) takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players.”

It will be interesting to see how teams and players league-wide will react to this new policy in week one. The argument could be made that the anthem protests were dying down and coming to an end. This new ruling will more than likely spark a new controversy for the 2018 NFL season. NFL fans will have to wait and see what happens in light of the new rule.

Professional Golfers’ Association

The Fort Worth Invitational was this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. South African native, Justin Rose won the tournament finishing at -20. Rose was consistent all weekend scoring two sets of 64 and two sets of 66. As the winner, Rose took home $1.3 million dollars this weekend.

American, Jordan Spieth finished the tournament at five under par and tied for 32nd place.

Justin Rose will try to build off this tournament win and take his strong play into the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio next weekend. Jason Dufner is the defending champion of this tournament. The purse for this tournament is $8.9 million.

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