Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Boston Celtics. A mind-boggling stat

Yes, I've been following the NBA playoffs, as would be expected of any true sports junkie/couch tater.

But I'll admit I didn't pay particularly close attention to the most recent game between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Something about flipping back and forth from that to Stanley Cup action, tending to a sick doggie, and my girlfriend going off on me for some perceived slight, that I still don't understand. Multi-tasking obviously isn't one of my strong points.

So I didn't notice it at the time, other than the Celtics appeared to be playing somewhat sloppily.

Until I saw the stat the following day. The Celtics had missed fifteen -- count em -- FIFTEEN dunks and lay-ups during the game?

Wait a second. This is a professional basketball team, arguably one of the best teams in the world. And they missed 15 dunks and lay-ups -- in a single game? Unbelievable.

Such shots are supposed to be "no-brainers", especially at that level.

It would be the equivalent of a world class golfer missing 15 six-inch putts during a single round. A Major League Baseball team dropping 15 routine pop-ups and/or fly balls during a single game. An NHL goalie facing 15 shots and, yep, giving up 15 goals. An NFL place kicker missing 15 extra point attempts in a row.







And even my feeble brain can do the math when it comes to blowing 15 dunks and lay-ups during the course of a basketball game. That's 30 easy points they didn't get.

The Celtics would lose that game by only 9 points.

If they'd made even HALF of the gimmes, that's another 14-16 points and they win.

Sure, you're gonna miss an easy one once in a while, be it a tap-in putt or botching a pop-up, extra point, easy save, etc., but FIFTEEN -- in ONE GAME?

It's got to be just about enough to drive a head coach (Brad Stevens) crazy.

Ah well. Sometimes weird stuff just happens, I guess. Not all of it good.

On the bright side, my little yorkie boy seems to be much better today. He must have got into something bad in the back yard. Squirrel poop, leaves or flowers of a blossoming plant that didn't agree with him -- who knows?

Vegas is in the Stanley Cup Finals. Hurray. I love Vegas. Next to San Fran, my favorite city.

But my significant other is due over again any minute, and I still don't know what she's mad about. Got a feeling I'm going to get more details, though.


Such is life.

But if she tells me I'm a jerk 15 times during the same conversation, we're going to have a problem......

Monday, May 21, 2018

Just when you think you've got if figured out....

WHAM, you don't.

After the Washington Capitals won the first two games AT Tampa Bay in the NHL's eastern conference finals, they should have been a lock -- right?

Not so fast.

Back comes the Lightning to win the next two IN Washington, another at home, and take a 3-2 series lead. Of course, most Washington teams are famous for choking in the post-season, including the Caps, so it followed that Tampa Bay would dust them off in Game Six to complete another epic DC fold.

[And BTW, though the Nationals of Major League Baseball have been loaded with talent in recent years, they can't seem to get out the first round of the playoffs. Don't be surprised if they gag it up again this October.]

But it didn't happen. The Caps would prevail. On to Game Seven. Who will win that? Got a lucky penny?

In the NBA, the Boston Celtics won the first two games at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Beaners have yet to lose at home this post-season, and have home court advantage in the Eastern Conference finals. But they've pretty well stunk it up on the road as well.

Now the Cavs have come back to win Games Three and Four at home, evening the series. Still, they have to win a game at Boston somewhere along the line to get to the Finals.

And you get the feeling they'll do just that. Lebron and Co. will overcome. Maybe. Besides, the Celts are playing without their two best players, namely Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. It's somewhat amazing they've made it THIS far. Kudos to them.

In the West, everybody figured all along it would boil down to Golden State and Houston slugging it out. And so it has.

OK, the Warriors went into Houston and "stole" Game One, thereby gaining home court advantage. It's been a couple years since the Dubs lost a home playoff game, so they should be a lock -- right?

Um, not necessarily.

The Rockets would come back and thump the Warriors to the tune of 22 points worth in Game Two. Twenty two points is a beat down. And Houston had won two out of three from GS during the regular season, and had a better record to boot. So you had to figure the Rockets would have regained their confidence.

Until Game Three, back in Oakland. The Warriors won by FORTY ONE POINTS?  Forget beat down, that's a massacre, a slaughter, where's the "mercy rule" when you need it? The league's "best" team got hammered by 41 points? Oh my. So much for the previous confidence builder. Welcome to the wood shed, Californee style.

But again, ya never know. If the Dubs blast them again like that to take a 3-1 series lead, Houston will probably fold. The pressure on the Rockets to win Game 4, even by the slightest of margins, is enormous.

Yet just when you think you've got THAT figured out, along comes a little blip on the radar. Or maybe not so little after all. Golden State's Andre Iguodala got a knee banged up. No, he isn't considered an "All-Star" like his four teammates Curry, Durant, Thompson, and Green. But he WAS a starter and played a quiet, if quite significant role for the Dubs. Namely, being a premier defender. Iguodala made things very difficult for the likes of Chris Paul and James Harden, depending on which he was guarding as they tried to drive the ball towards the hoop.

While supposedly not the "end of season" type of knee injury, subtracting him from the equation could prove fateful indeed. Remember, two years ago when the Warriors had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Cavs in the Finals, Draymond Green was (rightfully) suspended for Game 5, for his thuggish behavior. The Dubs would lose that game, at home, the tide turned, and the Cavaliers came back from the 3-1 deficit to capture the title.

Don't underestimate the presence, or lack thereof, of Iguodala. If the Rockets can "steal" Game Four in his absence, this series will take on a whole new look. Good for Houston. Not so good for Golden State.

But we'll see. Still got that lucky penny?

Cuz lord knows, just when yours truly thinks he has it figured out, he once again is shown to be clueless.

It never fails.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It's getting ridiculous when.....

The coverage of the Preakness, horse racing's second leg of the Triple Crown, starts at 5 o'clock and the race itself won't happen until about 7 PM.

What in the world can the talking heads find to yap about for two hours, before a race that takes only about 2 minutes to run?

Are they interviewing the horses, Mr. Ed Style?

I managed to tune in just as the pampered steeds were being loaded into the gates, and a couple minutes later -- presto -- we have a winner. Justify, I think, but don't care.

You also know it's getting ridiculous when the horse-a-holics say this or that "magnificent beast" may have been overworked by running in the Kentucky Derby.

REALLY? That race was two, or was that three weeks ago? What animal under the sun can't get properly rested up over the course of that amount of time? I mean, what else do they have to do but graze, jog at leisure, get bathed and otherwise groomed daily, and pampered at every turn? If a horse is still "gassed" a few weeks after running hard for two minutes, I would humbly submit yon horse might be sneaking Marlboros in the stable at night. At least get him, or her, to an equine lung specialist to check for asthma, or some other ailment, because something is seriously wrong. And they're not supposed to be enjoying the pleasures of the horseflesh with the Grade A, USDA choice mare-babes, just yet, right? A few of those hump-arounds every day could wear out any otherwise healthy male. Including the two-legged ones. Couldn't hurt to check on late night stable hanky-panky either.

Here's a prediction. Yep, Justify has now won both the Derby and the Preakness. But if you looked close at the finish of the latter, he was gassed indeed, and the #8 nag had come from behind and was in the process of blowing by him, but ran out of real estate just before the finish line.

No horse racing aficionado here, but I'm pretty sure the last leg of the Triple Crown, sometimes called the Belmont Stakes, is quite a bit longer than either the Derby or the Preakness.

So yeah, they'll all have a week or three to rest up, but if form holds, look for Justify to fade badly down the stretch in the longer race.

It's like a world-class 100 meter sprinter being totally wiped after a race. Hey, he only ran hard for less than 10 seconds. Are they really that fragile and conditioned to shut down after such a brief spurt of energy and effort?

And those guys get far more fame, glory, and money than marathoners that run 26 -- count em -- TWENTY SIX five minutes miles in a row?


Friday, May 18, 2018

Why the NHL, and others, are just wrong

So why does the NATIONAL Hockey League call itself that? What nation are they referring to? Canada? The USA? In a league chock full of Swedes, Russians, Czechs, and miscellaneous others? It's just wrong.

International Hockey League would be more suiting, but that name is already taken -- by a minor league outfit to the NHL. Go figure.

The same applies to the National Basketball Association. Presumably, that refers to the United States. But it's equally loaded up with "foreigners" as well. Should stricter immigration laws be put in place to stem the tide of tall skinny guys with a bunch of tattoos that are really good at putting a basketball through a round orifice? I dunno.

Why do they call it the World Series when only American (plus those pesky Blue Jays from Toronto) are allowed to compete? How do we know a team from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, and a few other countries couldn't win the best of seven against the best the Yanks and Canucks have to offer? We don't. The name World Series is just wrong.

On that note, the Little League World Series gets it right, and also wrong. They allow teams the world over to compete, which is right. But they always make sure an American team will be in the Finals, which is highly biased, hence wrong.

In soccer, the title World Cup is appropriate. Any country can compete.

So is the Masters Tournament in golf. You have to have won something before you're even allowed to partake.

NASCAR, the National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing, is wrong on a couple levels.

First, there's not a "stock" part anywhere on those racing machines.

Second, if it's "National", assuming that means the United States, and given there's not a more "good-ole-boy" sports series anywhere on the planet --- why do they allow Japanese cars (see Toyota) with Japanese motors to compete? Want "national"? KEEP it national, like Fords, Chevies, you know, American cars  What's the problem? It's just wrong.

The Super Bowl is OK in professional football. Nobody would question there's a super amount of money wagered on it every year. Billions. But why do they insist on calling teams like the Jets and Giants being from New York, when they play in New Jersey?

Further, why is it the Dallas Cowboys, decidedly west of the Mississippi River, play in the NFC Eastern Conference, when the Rams, until recently located in St. Louis, hundreds of miles east of Dallas, played in the NFC West?

How come the America girls are so good at the above-mentioned world-class soccer, when their male counterparts stink? The latter couldn't even QUALIFY for the next World Cup because they're that bad? They should hang their heads in shame. Who's been in charge of that rag-tag outfit? Whoever it is -- fire him, or her. Better yet, give them a prominent position in the government, with a hefty raise in pay. Perfect. It's the American way. But it's still wrong.

Why is it that American college head coaches can leave their schools for "greener", and I use that term literally, pastures, and make even more millions of dollars?

But the very kids they recruited to play for them, who make nothing, cannot, lest they have to sit out a year of eligibility? How horribly wrong has that always been?

Final thought. Why, tell me WHY is it that so many neighbors walking their rather large dogs seem to think it's perfectly OK for them to drop a massive land mine in my front yard (the canines, not the homo sapiens -- at least so far), but the doggie police check up on me repeatedly to make sure my two toy yorkies, which never leave the fenced backyard, have their licenses and shots (they always do) up to date?

It just ain't right, I tell ya......

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tampa Bay/Washington. Anybody home?

This has to be the strangest series in NHL history. Four games into the Eastern Conference Finals, and the visiting team has won them all? Has that ever happened before?

Many thought the Tampa Bay Lightning were Stanley Cup worthy this year. And they might just still be. Though it got a bit difficult to believe after they dropped the first two games of this series -- at home.

Nonetheless, as has been noted in this space before, everything Washington has a chokish air about it. True, the Wizards, though making the NBA playoffs, weren't expected to go far. They didn't.

The Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball have had talent galore for several years, but can't get out of the first round of the playoffs. Choke city.

How many times have the Washington Capitals of the NHL had a superior regular season -- even winning the President's Cup for the best record, and then choked in the playoffs? A few.

Both political parties in Congress, Trump, and the whole lot of the overpaid, clueless and pampered prima donnas in Washington DC, seem to choke every time they're faced with a major issue that will effect the populace. And how many millions of Americans choke, gag, or barf on a daily basis at their all-talk, do-nothing shenanigans?

OK, the Washington Generals, long the foils of the Harlem Globetrotters, were supposed to lose. Kind of like Wile E. Coyote of the old Road Runner cartoons. Or Elmer Fudd hunting that wascally wabbit. It was always written into the scripts. You knew how it was going to turn out, but hopefully got a few laughs along the way.

Not so with the current Washington Capitals. Those guys are good, and this is serious hockey business.

But c'mon. They took the first two games on the road against the favored Tampa Bay Lightning -- only to turn around and lose the next two at home?

This has yet another Washington choke written all over it.

Vegas Golden Knights and long shots

You've got to give it up to some guys, and gals. They're not afraid to put their money out there on long shots, REALLY long shots, in any particular sporting event.

Of course most times they lose.

And they get laughed at by their friends, coworkers, etc., for having placed such a foolish wager in the first place.

How many folks thought the rag-tag American hockey team could knock off the mighty Soviet Red Army back in the 1980 Olympics? Or Joe Willie's Jets defeating the formidable Colts in Super Bowl III? For that matter, go back less than a year. Did anybody you know think the Philadelphia Eagles had a prayer of becoming Super Bowl champions, especially after their starting QB went down? And besting Tom Brady in the Big Dance to do so?

But there were no doubt a few that placed bets on such things. And they hit it big, assuming they had the cajones to wager a sizable amount in the first place.

Sure, most who bet on such long-shots probably write it off as money long gone. Just a fling, for fun, because they can afford it. But ya never know how such things will turn out.

Enter this year's Las Vegas Golden Knights. A first year expansion team in the NHL. Only stocked by players other teams didn't "protect", a few draft choices, and free agents looking for a job, but not finding it elsewhere. Conventional wisdom dictated this would be another rag-tag team indeed.

The Stanley Cup? Get outta here. Those guys? Not a chance.

The odds-makers said so. The Knights were a 150:1 shot when the season started. As long as long shots can get.

But then something strange happened, and kept happening. Those pesky Knights kept winning games, way more than they were supposed to.

And look at them now. In the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and holding a 2-1 series advantage over Winnipeg.

True, they're still six wins away from Lord Stanley's bauble, the Jets are mighty tough themselves, and the winner of the Washington/Tampa Bay series in the East will be no bargain either in the Finals -- if they get there. But they might.

And those folks that had the utter audacity to plop down, say, a C-note on Vegas winning the Cup, no longer look as fool-hardy as they did back in October of last year. They have a very real shot of that Franklin turning into 15 grand. Not exactly Trumpish money, but a decent chunk of change to be sure. $15K can pay for a big part of a kid's college education, or eliminate other debts, such as credit cards. Or a mighty nice down-stroke on a new car. A home improvement project. A year's bar tab. Lots of things.

So here's to those folks that took a flyer on the ultra-long shot Golden Knights before they'd even played their first game.

I hope their bets come in. How can you root against such people?

I wish I'd have been one of them. Just so things would be that much more exciting these days as the NHL playoffs progress.

But I was rooting for Vegas anyway. I love that town.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lebron and the Cavs. Going down

I'd be the first to admit my prognosticating skills aren't exactly top-flight. If I pick em, they're probably going to lose. It's a trait I inherited from my late father. Dear old dad could sure have his "locks", and then watch them crash and burn. It happened every time.

Nonetheless, if Peter King of Sports Illustrated is still considered an "expert" on football winners and losers -- when it's long been obvious he couldn't pick his nose with a power auger -- I shall fearlessly and boldly go where only fools have gone before.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are going down to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

Yeah, in Game One, Lebron James had a bad game. A bunch of turnovers, only 15 points, and the Cavs lost by thirteen.

Ah, but the pundits said look out for Game Two. Surely Lebron would, excuse the pun, rebound.

And so he did. Dear LJ racked up a triple-double, pouring in 42 points, and playing stellar defense as well. Teammate Kevin Love chipped in with 20 some points, and the rest of the team appeared to emerge from their recent funk.

And they lost by 13 points -- again.

To a Celtics team severely undermanned with their best two players (Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving) out for the season.

That means Cleveland has to win four of the next five games to get past Boston, including two of those being in Beantown -- if it goes that far.

But now the Cavs go back home for Game Three and Four. Can they rally? Maybe.

Game Three will be particularly interesting. You just know the Cavs will play with a collective desperation. All hands on deck, 110% kick-ass mode, and all of that.

Yet the Celts have so far outsmarted and out-hustled the Cavs every which way. Don't be surprised if the trend continues.

The only way Cleveland gets back in this series is with a blow-out win. If it's close, the Beaners will gain even more confidence. And if Boston goes up 3-zip, color it over, and then watch Lebron bail in free agency to parts unknown.

If THAT happens, watch the Cleveland faithful burn his jerseys -- again. Has there ever been a "home-town" athlete that had his jerseys burned in effigy -- twice? Years apart?

That would be breaking new ground, and not in a good way.

No doubt about it, the Cavs better not only defeat the Celts in Game Three, but convincingly.

Else all hell might break loose in the "flake by the lake" -- sometimes known as Cleveland.

I mean, c'mon. The Indians of Major League Baseball, far and away the most talented team in the AL Central, can't seem to get out of their own way. The Browns of the NFL have won one game in the last two years, and recently renewed head coach Hue Jackson's contract? Say what? They lost their NHL Barons team several years ago. And if Lebron James bails -- again -- no telling what the Cleveland masses might do, but it would probably be ugly. Zebra mussels might sprout legs, rise up out of Lake Erie, and take over the whole town. That would be pretty ugly.

Add those all up and it would be just about enough to cause the Pope to go on a jihad. Mother Teresa to self-resurrect and strap on a suicide vest. The Kardashian girls to join a nunnery. Judge Judy to donate her annual $47 million salary -- you read that right -- 47 MILLION to be a shrew as a sham judge -- to charity. And enroll herself in charm school. You know -- REALLY drastic actions.

And for just those reasons, I fervently hope Boston polishes off Cleveland convincingly -- best case scenario a sweep.

Just to see what happens next.

But I picked the Celtics before the series even started.

So something has to go horribly wrong with that.

Dad's watching, I hope, and I wouldn't want to be the black sheep that went against family tradition. As in always getting picks wrong. OMG, heaven forbid any of our clan could actually -- gasp -- pick a winner.

It just wouldn't be fitting somehow.