Monday, May 16, 2016

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning always seem to go together. A flash followed by a boom. Like salt and pepper, corned beef and cabbage, politicians and lies, and even another season with the Detroit Lions having no hope --ZERO -- of reaching the Super Bowl. One pretty much always comes with the other.

It seems odd that two professional sports teams named after weather conditions most of us find somewhere between annoying and troublesome have reached their respective conference finals.

But such is the case with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Tampa Bay Lightning.

OKC wasn't supposed to get this far. All the pundits had said so for months. They considered it a foregone conclusion the NBA Western Conference finals would feature the San Antonio Spurs taking on the Golden State Warriors. After all, they had far and away the best regular season records.

But the Thunder, after being blistered in the opening game against SA, went on to defeat the Alamolanders 4 out of the next 5 games, including two in SA to dispatch the Spurs. That wasn't supposed to happen, but it did.

Ah, the defending champ Warriors would put them in their place -- right? It looked that way in the first half of their opening game. The Dubs led by 13 at the break and seemed to be on cruise control. But then something strange happened. The Warriors went cold -- and dumb -- in the second half and the Okies wound up beating them by 6 points to take a 1-0 series lead. A 19 point swing. That wasn't supposed to happen either.

When one thinks about it, the OKC Thunder has accomplished something extraordinary. Combined, Golden State and San Antonio had lost just 3 games on their home courts all season. The Thunder has been able to match that single handedly in merely the last couple weeks. The Warriors were well rested, fully healthy and had plenty of time to prepare for OKC coming into their house. But they got beat fair and square anyway. Game 2 in the Oracle is far from a lock for the home boys. OKC's confidence is running mighty high, and rightfully so. If the champs go down 2-zip at home, then have to face the prospect of the next two games in Okieland, the unthinkable might happen. No Golden State or San Antonio making it to the Finals. Sure, we all knew the Thunder was pretty good, but few thought they were THAT good.

The NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning seem to be over-achieving as well. Aren't these the same guys that have been playing without their top forward, best defenseman, and ceded home-ice advantage to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals? And then their starting goalie went out with a leg injury -- duration unknown -- in the opening game? Still, the Lightning took Game 1 and it took the PPs overtime to win Game 2.

True, anything can happen in the wacky world of professional sports when the playoffs start. Everybody's pretty good or they wouldn't still be there, especially in the later rounds.

Maybe the Warriors roar back. Or the Penguins. Or maybe they don't.

Most assume the Cleveland Cavaliers will make short work of the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference finals. Maybe. But hey, the Raptors beat them 2 out of 3 in the regular season. We'll see.

And how crazy would that be? The Toronto Raptors facing off against the Okla City Thunder in the NBA Finals?

Nobody would have ever thunk it. But it's possible. This was supposed to be be Lebron's Cleveland coronation year, but it might not work out that way.

In the NHL Western finals, St. Louis is battling San Jose. Blues and Sharks. They seem to go together as well. Don't sharks swim in the deep blue sea? Neither was projected to get this far, but they did and somebody's gotta win.

Bottom line. Nobody's a sure thing this year. Some mighty have already fallen, and some improbables are still kicking butt.

The next few weeks could feature some very interesting stuff indeed.

And they're practicing at Indy for the "greatest spectacle" in racing on Memorial day Sunday. The 500 of FAST cars. Forget the short tracks (demolition derbies) and wimpy restrictor plates NASCAR has mandated at Daytona and Talladega to slow the cars down. Bring on the boys and girls that can go 225 MPH all the way around the track. THAT'S some serious racing and yours truly wouldn't miss it for the world.

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