Welcome to another weekly round up in the world of sports. This week, both the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals started off with a bang, Major League Baseball starts its third month of the season and Clay Matthews has a non-football but sports related injury.
National Basketball Association
The 2018 NBA Finals started Thursday night and there was history before the game was even played. For the first time ever in any of the four major North American sports (NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB), two teams were matched against each other in the championship for four straight years. The Golden State Warriors have taken two of the last three finals from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Cleveland is looking to get even with Golden State by winning the championship this year.
There was also another historical factor to this matchup as the Warriors were a 12.5 point favorite in game one at home. That’s the largest spread for any game one matchup in NBA Finals history. The previous record was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers being favored in game one of the NBA Finals by 12 points over the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers ended up winning that game, but the Lakers took the series 4-1.
When the game finally got underway, all this history went out the window and the two teams started to make their own history. Game 1 was filled with drama and was much closer than anyone anticipated. Right before halftime, the Cavaliers led by three with about three seconds left on the clock. In what turned out to be a bit of foreshadowing for the end of the game, J.R. Smith made a defensive mistake and went for the steal on a pass to Steph Curry instead of guarding him on the shot. With Smith out of the way defensively, Curry jacked up a shot from about 38 feet out and drained it at the buzzer to tie the game at 56 going into halftime.
The two teams went back and forth in the second half and with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the game remained close. The Warriors were on the receiving end of some good fortune that was controversial. With under 40 seconds to go in the game, the Warriors were down by two points. Kevin Durant drove to the paint and ran over LeBron James trying to score a layup. The official closest to the play called a charge on Durant awarding the ball back to the Cavaliers. Another official however, called a blocking foul on James. The officials went to a video replay and decided to overturn the call on the court and sent Durant to the line for two free throws. Durant hit both free throws tying the game. The Cleveland players and bench were livid and the Cavaliers’ head coach, Ty Lue was obviously very upset with the call.
“LeBron was clearly four feet outside the restricted area,” Lue said in his post game comments. “He wasn’t close. What are we reviewing? For our team to play their hearts out and compete the way we did. It’s bad. It’s never been done before…it ain’t right.”
Unfortunately for Cleveland, that was just the beginning of an unforgettable finish to this game. Cleveland trailed by one and with 4.7 seconds left. George Hill was fouled and sent to the free throw line. He hit the first free throw tying the game at 107. With the chance to put Cleveland up by one, Hill missed the second free throw and one of the most memorable sequences in sports history took place. Smith rebounded the ball and had the chance to put it back up or pass to a teammate for a potential game winning shot. Instead, he dribbled back out to the top of the key and with all of his teammates screaming at him, he realized his mistake and passed the ball but it was too late. Time had run out and the game was headed to overtime. After the play, James was yelling at him and Smith’s lips could be read saying, “I thought we were ahead.”
Cleveland tried to put it behind them in overtime but it proved to be too difficult. The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers 17-7 in overtime and took the eventful game one 124-114. The game had everything fans could hope for. It was physical and contentious and even had a few ejections handed out. James scored 51 points and set a career high for the finals, but this game will forever be remembered for Smith’s mental error that may have cost Cleveland the game.
Game 2 was Sunday night and the Cavaliers looked to silence the critics from game one. The Warriors were once again 12.5 point favorites in this game. The Cavaliers stayed close in the first quarter, but the Warriors outscored Cleveland by nine in the second quarter giving the the Warriors a 13 point halftime lead. In the third quarter, the Cavaliers actually outscored the Warriors which is newsworthy due to the Warriors’ third quarter domination throughout the playoffs. But that was the only quarter the Cavaliers won and the Warriors ended up winning the game 122-103. James had 29 points on 50 percent shooting. He added nine rebounds and 13 assists. Curry and Durant lead the way with with 33 and 26 points respectively. The Warriors now lead the series 2-0. The Cavaliers will try to regroup in the coming days as they head back to Cleveland for game three on Wednesday night.
National Hockey League
The Stanley Cup Finals began Monday night in Las Vegas. Both the Capitals and Golden Knights are fighting to bring the Stanley Cup home to their city for the first time ever.
Game 1 was a high scoring affair with a combined 10 goals between the teams. This game had five lead changes which set the record for the most ever in a Stanley Cup Final game. Much like the NBA’s Game 1 of the finals, this game had its fair share of controversy. Early in the third period, the Knights trailed 4-3 when Ryan Reaves put in a rebound off of Braden Holtby’s pads to tie the game. Reaves very clearly cross checked John Carlson in the back knocking him over just before putting the puck in the net. Carlson and the Capitals were irate and the announcers even mentioned that if a ref had seen it, they would have undoubtedly called a penalty on Reaves and waved off the goal.
A few minutes later, Tom Wilson landed his fourth controversial hit of the playoffs. This time the victim was Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault passed the puck and roughly three seconds later Wilson came up behind him at full speed and blindsided him with a hard hit. Marchessault was down on the ice for a few moments before skating back to the bench. Wilson was suspended three games for an illegal hit in the Pittsburgh Penguins series and had two other hits reviewed by the league in these playoffs.
Tomas Nosek scored the game winning goal and added an empty netter at the end to secure a 6-4 win for Las Vegas in Game 1.
Game 2 was more of a defensive struggle and saw both goaltenders make some amazing saves. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 of 26 shots but was outdueled by Holtby who made a save that will be shown on highlight reels 50 years from now. With two minutes left and a one goal lead, Holtby made a diving stick save on Alex Tuch who had one of the most wide open nets a shooter could ever hope for. With that save, Holtby and the Capitals held on for a 3-2 win and tied the series 1-1.
Game 3 shifted to Washington D.C. Saturday night. The game was a defensive struggle in the first period and at intermission the game was tied at zero. Devante Smith-Pelly did score a goal in the first period that was waved off for a goaltender interference. In the second period, the Capitals’ two leading scorers took over the game. Alex Ovechkin scored the game opening goal 1:10 into the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov assisted on the goal and then about 10 minutes later added a goal of his own to make it 2-0. After a Nosek goal for Las Vegas in the third period to make it 2-1, Smith-Pelly scored the goal that put the game on ice. Washington won the game 3-1 and took the lead in the series 2-1. Las Vegas will try to get even on Monday night when they face off in the nation’s capital.
Major League Baseball
While basketball and hockey are playing their championships, baseball is in the middle of their long season.
The Milwaukee Brewers continue to surprise everyone and lead the National League Central by two games over the Chicago Cubs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh are both trying to keep up with the Brewers’ pace. The Cardinals blanked the Pirates on Sunday 5-0 and the Cardinals starting pitcher, Michael Wacha lost a no-hitter in the ninth inning.
The NL East remains tight at the top with the Atlanta Braves holding a one and a half game lead over the Washington Nationals and a three game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. The New York Mets have cooled off from their hot start and sit at 27-30, seven games behind the Braves.
The NL West is the closest division in baseball. It’s also arguably the most disappointing division in baseball. Arizona has rebounded from nine losses in 10 games and has won three straight to regain the top spot in the division. The Colorado Rockies are a game and a half back of first place and the Los Angeles Dodgers have won seven of their last 10 and quietly sit just two and a half games out of first place. The San Francisco Giants are tied with Dodgers with both teams sitting just one game under .500.
In the American League, the AL East contains the two best teams in baseball. The New York Yankees are just percentage points better than the Boston Red Sox. Both teams hold a huge lead over the other teams in the division. The Tampa Bay Rays are 11.5 games back of first place and sit in third place in the division.
The Cleveland Indians continue to hover around .500. They have maintained their first place positioning in the AL Central over the serging Detroit Tigers. Detroit is two and a half games back of the Indians but are currently three games under .500. The Minnesota Twins are one game back of the Tigers. These three teams are jockeying for first place, but none of them have taken the steps to pull away from the rest of the pack.
The biggest surprise in baseball has to be the Seattle Mariners. At 37-22, they currently hold a one game lead over the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros. Even more surprising is that they are doing this after losing their best player, Robinson Cano to an 80 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. The Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics are hanging around with both teams sitting just a few games above .500.
ESPN’s top five power rankings
1. Houston Astros (37-24)
2. Boston Red Sox (41-19)
3. New York Yankees (37-17)
4. Chicago Cubs (33-23)
5. Washington Nationals (33-25)
The Collegiate’s top five power rankings
1. Boston Red Sox (41-19)
2. New York Yankees (37-17)
3. Seattle Mariners (37-22)
4. Houston Astros (37-24)
5. Milwaukee Brewers (37-23)
West Michigan Whitecaps
The West Michigan Whitecaps started the week out by avoiding a sweep at the hands of the South Bend Cubs by winning 6-2 on Mon., May 28.
They then traveled to Dayton, Ohio. To take on the Dragons for a three game series. The Whitecaps lost the opener of the series 2-1 on Tuesday, but crushed the Dragons on Wednesday, winning by a score of 10-1. Dayton took the rubber match on Thursday 8-3 however, taking 2 out of 3 from the Whitecaps.
Heading into the weekend, West Michigan looked to stop the bleeding but couldn’t do so. They traveled to take on the Bowling Green Hot Rods for three games. The Hot Rods gave them more than they could handle and swept the weekend series giving the Whitecaps their fourth straight loss.
The Whitecaps are now 28-28 and eight and a half games out of first place. West Michigan will be home all week and try to get back in the win column starting with a three game series on Tuesday against the last place Great Lakes Loons. Then heading into the weekend, the Whitecaps will host the South Bend Cubs for a three game series. To find tickets to upcoming games click here.
National Football League
During the NFL off-season, most players and teams are working hard on the upcoming season. They try to lay low and there can be a lack of news to report. Other than the typical position battles and comments from coaches and players on how their preparation is going, this week didn’t have much news to report. But there was one weird story this week.
The Green Bay Packers have put on an annual charity softball game for years. This year was no different. However, this year saw the Packers star linebacker, Clay Matthews get hit in the face with a line drive. Packers guard, Lucas Patrick was the player who hit the line drive and ran out to the mound immediately to check on Matthews. Matthews covered his face with his glove to catch the dripping blood as he ran off the field to get medical attention. Matthews tweeted Saturday that he had indeed broken his nose and will have surgery once the swelling goes down.