What does the bizarre ending to Game 1 mean to Game 2?

Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals was unlike anything people expected.

The spread in Las Vegas before the game favored Golden State over Cleveland by 13 points, the largest odds against LeBron James in a single game in over a decade.

Despite the odds though, Cleveland, backed by James’ NBA Finals career high 51 points, outplayed the Warriors in the majority of the game. The Cavs even led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter.

This was largely due to LeBron’s brilliance as well as the fact that Cleveland was the more physical team. They dominated the boards, especially on the offensive end.

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Photo via @KingJames

But, Golden State did not turn the ball over and shot better from three, which kept them in the game.

Still, in the last minute, the game was Cleveland’s to lose. And three things went horribly wrong for them.

The first was with just 36 seconds left. The officials overturned a very close block/charge call thanks to a fairly new rule that those plays are reviewable. Instead of Cleveland retaining possession up by two, Kevin Durant got to knock down two free throws to tie the game.

The next was with 4.7 seconds left. Cleveland was down by one and James rifled a pass underneath the basket to George Hill, who would have an open layup if he weren’t grabbed by Klay Thompson.

Hill was 81 percent from the line this year. After tying the game with the first free throw, he missed the second, missing the opportunity to go up one and force the Warriors to hit the final shot.

And the final was the blunder heard around the world, where JR Smith grabbed the offensive rebound after Hill’s miss and dribbled the clock out.

According to Cleveland Head Coach Tyrone Lue, he though the Cavs were ahead and was running the clock out.

If one of those three things does not happen, Cleveland probably steals Game 1. Instead, they lost in overtime. Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr said that his team got “Lucky.”

With the wacky ending to the first one, how will both teams come out on Sunday? Did the bizarre fashion that Cleveland lost game one sink them for Game 2? Or could it motivate them?

With that, let’s look at history.

LeBron James teams have won the first game of the Finals once… in 2011. In all of his Champion seasons, he trailed in the Finals from the beginning.

In this year’s playoffs, the Cavaliers lost Game 1 twice, to Indiana and Boston. In 2016, Cleveland’s championship year, the Cavs dropped the first two games. He won all of those series in seven games.

Obviously, this year is different, with James having perhaps his worst Finals supporting cast yet and going against Golden State with Kevin Durant who wasn’t there in 2016. There is more of an uphill climb this year.

Nonetheless, after seeing his opponents in Game 1s, James has scored 43, 46 and 42 in his three Game 2s this year. Especially after Thursday’s loss, a similar performance to those seems very likely.

Andre Iguodala usually guards Cleveland’s superstar when these two met in the past, but he has missed the past few games and has been ruled doubtful for Game 2.

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Without Iguodala’s help, James can continue to take advantage of his matchups, especially when Golden State switches.

What will James get from “the other Cavs” though.

Kevin Love was solid coming back from his concussion, another double-double will be needed from him. Sometimes defensively against the Warriors, Love has gotten exposed on switches. But, offensively and on the boards, he should be able to duplicate his Game 1 efforts.

JR Smith is going to need to make up for his error. The criticisms of him should lead to him being aggressive in Game 2.

If he catches fire, it can give Cleveland a huge tool. But he has shot very poorly this postseason, especially on the road. With that, we could see a lot of bricked threes coming his way.

For Golden State, Kevin Durant was not productive on Thursday. He took a lot of contested mid-range shots and shot a poor 8-22.

Durant was great throughout the playoffs mostly, but he is in a funk right now. He has shot under 40 percent in three of the past four games. If Cleveland defends him well again from the get-go, his rhythm could continue to be thrown off.

Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did their part in opening game, they shot 10-21 from deep.

Heading into the next game however, Thompson has a sprained ankle and bruising. According to Bleacher Report, he plans to play, but the discomfort can limit him defensively and perhaps hurt his shooting rhythm.

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Anything can happen in Game 2 from a gritty Cavs win to a Warrior blowout.

In order for Cleveland to win they will need “The King” to dominate once again. They will need to control the boards and limit their turnovers to create more shots. They will need another productive game from Kevin Love. The will need another role player to step up, whether that is Smith redeeming himself, Korver playing more than 16 minutes and hitting his threes or Jeff Green playing like he did in Game Seven at Boston where he scored 19. They will need Durant or Curry to struggle. And they will need a little luck.

In order for Golden State to win, they just need to play their usual game, with good production from their stars and solid defense on everyone except James since that is close to impossible. If he is the only one hurting the Warriors, then they are in good shape.

The odds are stacked against James’ Cavaliers, but as we saw in Game 1, they can beat Golden State. Just a lot has to go right. And they have to come out with an intensity we have yet to see.

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Manny Machado to Arizona makes a lot of sense

Manny Machado could be the biggest name moved during the 2018 season.

 

The Baltimore shortstop has gotten off to the best start of his career. As of June 2, his 17 home runs are just one behind the league lead. His OPS is also fifth best at his career high 1.024.

 

The Baltimore Orioles, besides their three-time All-Star, have been disastrous thus far. They are already 21.5 games back in their division with a 17-40 record, the worst in the MLB.

 

Machado is an upcoming free agent, and he can most likely get his desired salary in a place where he can compete for the postseason somewhere else.

 

That said, Baltimore trading him sooner rather than later for young assets seems to be the most logical action.

 

There is a plethora of teams that are looking to load up for a playoff run. Machado’s ability to play shortstop and third base makes him versatile enough for more teams to fit him into their lineups.

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Plus, his expiring contract will make it so the Orioles will have to compromise as many teams surly will not be willing to deflate their farm systems for a possible rental.

 

One team that could possibly be a good fit for him could be the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Heading into June, Arizona is 1.5 games back of NL West leading Colorado, and hitting has been a massive struggle in 2018 for the DBacks.

 

Arizona has scored the second fewest runs in the league and are dead last in team batting average.

 

To make matters worse, their best hitter this season, A.J. Pollock, is on the DL for breaking his thumb.

 

Inexplicably, former five-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt has had a horrendous 2018 thus far, batting just .209 with seven home runs in 54 games.

 

Third baseman Jake Lamb and outfielder Steven Souza Jr. (30 home runs each in 2017) have battled with injuries all season long. They have played in just 15 and 14 games respectively.

 

Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte have spent the most time at shortstop, but combined the two infielders are batting under .210.

 

Yet despite these offensive problems, the Diamondbacks are still above .500 and near the top of the NL West. Adding Machado could lead to a powerful lineup if the team can get healthy and Goldschmidt snaps out of his season-long funk.

 

Arizona made a similar move last season when they traded three prospects for former Detroit slugger JD Martinez. With his offensive dominance, the DBacks scored the fourth most runs in the NL and made it to the NLDS before falling to Los Angeles.

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Baltimore desperately needs pitching for the future, so a higher end pitching prospect like Taylor Widener (2.74 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 49.1 innings in Double-A this year) and a couple of mid-level prospects could do the trick to get Machado to the desert, and possibly make Arizona the team to beat in the NL West.

Despite their worst start in history, the NL West could still belong to the Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers started the 2018 season 16-26, which was the worst start in the franchise’s long history. They sit at 22-27 on May 24, but the defending NL West Champions could still have a favorable chance at winning the division.

There are eight teams in the National League with a record of at least three games above .500 after May 23’s games. None of those teams reside in the NL West, a division that has the defending NL champions and two 2017 playoff teams.

The Colorado Rockies lead the division with a 26-24 record, just 3.5 games better than Los Angeles.

For most of the young season, the Arizona Diamondbacks led the way. They even had their best start in history at 21-8, but they have gone 1-13 since May 9 and they dropped out of first place.

The Diamondbacks are third to last in runs in the MLB, and their best hitter in 2018, A.J. Pollock (1.001 OPS), could miss the next couple months with a broken thumb.

Five-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt has gotten off to his worst start in the majors. His current .695 OPS is the lowest of his career by far and he is hitting an abysmal .145 over the past 15 games.

Colorado has somehow managed to stay above .500 despite a bottom ten scoring offense in the MLB and a pitching staff that ranks in the bottom ten in team ERA in the league. But they have struggled to string wins together and gain momentum.

Injuries have plagued the Dodgers’ start. Clayton Kershaw has been on the DL since May 5. Corey Seager will miss the remainder of the season. Pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill have both missed multiple starts.

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When healthy, the Dodger rotation can more than capably set the team up for a playoff spot. Kershaw will be back on top of the rotation in a couple of weeks according to MLB.com. Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda have had healthy starts and have pitched well recently. Rookie Walker Buehler has thrived thus far with a 2.38 ERA in his first six starts. He also has a WHIP under one.

LA’s leader in batting average in 2017, Justin Turner, was hit by a pitch in Spring Training and returned just nine games ago. In those games though, the Dodgers are 6-3.

However, with Seager’s production lost and 2017 Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger hitting just .214 in the past 30 games, the assumption is that Los Angeles needs another bat to contend for the division.

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While another bat would be a big help, trading good young assets for a superstar talent like Manny Machado may not be necessary in winning the division.

So far, the Dodgers are the only team who rank in the upper half of the MLB in runs. Colorado, Arizona and San Diego all rank in the bottom six for team OPS in the league.

LA could certainly use another guy who can produce runs, but with next year’s free agency class being filled with top players like Machado and Bryce Harper, trading away valuable prospects may not be necessary to add a star player in the near future. A couple of quality but not overly expensive veterans should plug some holes in LA’s lineup, specifically in the infield where, besides Turner, the highest batting average is Bellinger’s .243.

 

 

When will the Five 2018 First Round quarterbacks Play?

The Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens all drafted a quarterback in the first round. They all have also signed or traded for at least one other new quarterback this offseason.

With each of these teams having other options at quarterback, when will the new draftees be given their time on the field in 2018? Will they at all?

Cleveland Browns

In recent years, it has been expected that quarterbacks chosen with the number one overall pick start opening week. Five of the last six have since 2009, the only hold out being Jared Goff in 2016 for the Los Angeles Rams.

With the 2018 first overall pick, Cleveland chose former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. Prior to the draft though, the Browns made a deal to bring in Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo, a quarterback who started 15 games including one during the playoffs in 2017.

Generally, with Taylor the Browns know what they will get.

Taylor is a disciplined and athletic player without a particularly strong arm. Last year, he threw the ball 420 times, only four of which were interceptions. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes. But, Taylor ranked at just 25 in the NFL in touchdowns, and has hovered around .500 as a starter in his career at 23-20.Close

Mayfield, fresh off of winning the Heisman, has a much stronger arm and similar athleticism. His bigger personality could also spark some swagger in a team that has seemed depleted in recent years. He has the potential of being a star for the Browns, something they have not had at quarterback since returning to the league in 1999.

With that, he also has bust potential as all young quarterbacks do. His lack of size and his attitude could send him down a path similar to other Browns busts like their last first round quarterback Johnny Manziel.

But the possible reward is worth the risk for an organization looking for someone to lean on. If Mayfield does not appear ready, then they have a guy in Tyrod Taylor to throw out there to hold down the fort until the reigning Heisman gets more instruction.

Week one starter: Baker Mayfield

New York Jets

Within a week of signing former Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the New York Jets traded up in the draft to select at number three. With that pick, they selected Sam Darnold out of USC, a player with a rocket arm who was fifth in the NCAA in passing yards in 2017.

The Jets’ moves give Head Coach Todd Bowles three options to start week one. Bridgewater and Darnold will also battle Josh McCown, who started 13 games for New York in 2017 and

threw 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions.

Due to McCown’s familiarity with the system and the fact that in 2017 he was effective, we should see him come out of the preseason with the starting job. The Jets will certainly transition to Darnold, but when might be up to McCown’s play.

The former USC quarterback displayed lots of skills in college, but his glaring weakness was turning the ball over. Spending the offseason with professional coaches and sitting behind a quarterback who has over a decade of experience could help shape him into a more disciplined quarterback.

Darnold will debut once McCown fails to lead the Jets to wins. The former USC quarterback would also come in once Bowles feels like the rookie has shown that he is ready in practice and wants to put him out for early experience.

It shouldn’t take Darnold a whole season to get ready, perhaps around weeks five or six he will have enough instruction to get into the game.

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Photo via @nyjets

Teddy Bridgewater, 25, is a wild card. The Jets have their veteran place holder and hopeful future face of the franchise, but where does that leave Bridgewater, who, prior to a knee injury in 2016, was a playoff quarterback in Minnesota?

With the direction the Jets are going, Bridgewater is an odd fit for this roster. If he comes into camp looking like his 2015 self, then perhaps he could challenge McCown for the week one starter spot.

This team will be led by Darnold soon, so whoever he replaces is irrelevant for the future of the franchise. McCown is the safer bet at backup due to his healthy history and experience with many types of offenses.

Week one starter: Josh McCown

Buffalo Bills

The Bills ended the longest active NFL playoff drought last season by squeaking their way into the Wild Card round.

Their quarterback was Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills were not high on. Buffalo benched him midway through the season for one half before Nathan Peterman threw five interceptions against the Chargers, forcing Coach Sean McDermott to put Taylor back in.

Taylor has since been traded, and the Bills in another deal acquired former Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron.

McCarron has been rumored to get traded to a team needing a quarterback since he received starts in 2015 after Andy Dalton suffered an injury. He performed well in four starts and almost won a playoff game before a defensive collapse buried the Bengals against Pittsburgh.

With just Peterman on the roster, it appeared McCarron would be handed the starter’s job. That was until Buffalo traded up in the draft to seven, where they selected Wyoming QB Josh Allen.

Allen has a great arm, one that allows him to make throws that other quarterbacks cannot.

But, he has had accuracy issues throughout college, and his offense looked flat against their two toughest opponents last year (Wyoming only put up 26 total points in their two losses to Iowa and Oregon).

Regardless, Allen has the build and arm to make big plays in the NFL. But for a team that just made it to the playoffs, perhaps turning things over to the raw talented rookie isn’t in their best interest if they want to get back to the postseason.

McCarron should start week one, and if he plays like he did in 2015, he should stay the starter this season. Allen’s talent could use some molding, so having him backup in 2018 seems like a logical decision. If McCarron fails to keep Buffalo in the playoff race though, then Allen’s time should come sooner rather than later.

Week one starter: A.J. McCarron

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Arizona Cardinals

There are three new quarterbacks in the desert.

After Carson Palmer’s retirement, The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford, despite injury holding him out in 2017. Mike Glennon was brought in after the Bears released their 16-million-dollar backup. And like the Jets and Bills, the Cards traded up to get their quarterback of the future, Josh Rosen out of UCLA.

Arizona will treat Bradford with caution in camp considering his latest injury. With the reps off Bradford will be getting, Rosen will have a chance to gain more with the first team. That extra work and exposure, if Rosen performs well, could show Head Coach Steve Wilkes that the rookie is ready to go week one.

Rosen’s biggest question has never been skill. His passer efficiency rating over three college seasons was over 140 and he threw for over nine thousand yards.

His issue has been maturity and ability to lead. He was difficult to coach at UCLA according to NFL.com scouting reports, and on the field, he took unnecessary risks leading to 10 interceptions in 11 games last year. The Bruins were just 18-20 with him as quarterback.

But, Bradford has yet to lead a team to the playoffs since he entered the league in 2008, as the first pick for St. Louis. Bradford is a consistently accurate quarterback, but he doesn’t throw down the field well and has never been able to elevate a team in the pros.

Week one starter: Josh Rosen

Baltimore Ravens

2008 was the last time Baltimore drafted a quarterback in round one of the NFL draft. Their draftee, Joe Flacco, has been the starting quarterback ever since. The Ravens made it to the playoffs from 2008 through the 2012 season when they won the Super Bowl.

Then, Flacco was made the richest quarterback in history at the time, and the Ravens have made it to the postseason once in the past five years.

Over the past two seasons, the Ravens were one play away from the playoffs.

On Christmas day in 2016, during week 16, Antonio Brown of the Steelers reached the ball over the goal line for the game winning touchdown with nine seconds left. That game ended Baltimore’s season.

In week 17 of 2017, a 53-yards touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on fourth-and-13 in the final minute knocked the Ravens out of the wild card spot.

Flacco’s performance in those two seasons have gone similarly. Average to poor play prior to the bye week. Following their bye weeks, he has looked like a quarterback worthy of his pay check.

Last season, before the bye, Flacco had a quarterback rating of 73.6 while throwing eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions. After their bye, his rating shot up to 89.5, and he threw 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

But, with his early season struggles, the Ravens over the last couple of seasons have lost games in the opening weeks to teams that received a top ten draft pick. If the Ravens had won those games, they would have almost certainly made it to the playoffs in 2016 and 2017.

With the disappointments of the last few seasons, Ozzie Newsome’s last first round pick before retirement was selecting Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner from Louisville.

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Photo via @Lj_era8

Jackson led the Cardinals to three straight winning seasons. He threw for 9,043 yards and ran for another 4,132. He has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick with his ability to make plays with his legs.

With his speed, Jackson will need to learn to throw more accurately on rollouts and on the run. That could take some time to work on, therefore sitting behind a quarterback who had the sixth most completions last year could help Jackson’s accuracy development.

Flacco has been the guy in Baltimore for a decade. They have gotten him new weapons for 2018 in hopes of improving the production of the passing attack. Flacco will more than likely be the Ravens’ starter for this season, but another disappointing finish outside of the playoffs and Lamar Jackson will be the starter come 2019.

Week one starter: Joe Flacco

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s time is coming

On May 14, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. posted a picture at JFK International Airport in New York. The Toronto Blue Jays were scheduled to play a two-game series at Citi Field against the Mets starting the next day.

Was this finally the moment when the number two rated prospect according to MLB.com was being called up to the big leagues?

No. He posted an old photo and fooled everyone on twitter who were desperately trying to figure out if the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero would play in the bigs yet.

Guerrero Jr. is just 19-years-old, but so was Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when they debuted. And neither of them had a season as dominant in the minors as Guerrero is having now. If he continues to hit at the absurd rate, who is to say he won’t make an appearance for the Blue Jays this season?

As of May 20, after 39 games, Guerrero Jr.is batting .421 with an OPS of 1.169. He leads the Eastern League of Double-A in both of those categories as well as total bases and doubles. He also leads the league in RBIs with 45 in just 39 games. In a 162-game season, that is on pace to over 200 RBIs.

His power is unquestioned. There is even video of hitting a home run the opposite way off of a tee. So why wait until next year to bring up the most exciting prospect still in the minors?

The Toronto Blue Jays are already 10 games out of first place in the AL East with a 22-25 record. With the Yankees and Red Sox playing at such high levels with highly talented rosters, there is little-to-no hope of Toronto competing for the division.

With their lackluster pitching staff, 4.61 team ERA, and inconsistent hitting aside from Josh Donaldson, a wild card spot is also seemingly far off.

Donaldson will become a free agent after this season. The right action to take for Toronto looks to be to trade the former AL MVP for some young assets and then replace Donaldson at third base with their top prospect.

Guerrero Jr. has the potential to be the future face of the Blue Jays. He is hitting about as good as possible in the minors, so if a deal for Donaldson occurs, it would open the door for Guerrero to get some early experience in the majors.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s time is coming

On May 14, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. posted a picture at JFK International Airport in New York. The Toronto Blue Jays were scheduled to play a two-game series at Citi Field against the Mets starting the next day.

Was this finally the moment when the number two rated prospect according to MLB.com was being called up to the big leagues?

No. He posted an old photo and fooled everyone on twitter who were desperately trying to figure out if the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero would play in the bigs yet.

Guerrero Jr. is just 19-years-old, but so was Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when they debuted. And neither of them had a season as dominant in the minors as Guerrero is having now. If he continues to hit at the absurd rate, who is to say he won’t make an appearance for the Blue Jays this season?

As of May 20, after 39 games, Guerrero Jr.is batting .421 with an OPS of 1.169. He leads the Eastern League of Double-A in both of those categories as well as total bases and doubles. He also leads the league in RBIs with 45 in just 39 games. In a 162-game season, that is on pace to over 200 RBIs.

His power is unquestioned. There is even video of hitting a home run the opposite way off of a tee. So why wait until next year to bring up the most exciting prospect still in the minors?

The Toronto Blue Jays are already 10 games out of first place in the AL East with a 22-25 record. With the Yankees and Red Sox playing at such high levels with highly talented rosters, there is little-to-no hope of Toronto competing for the division.

With their lackluster pitching staff, 4.61 team ERA, and inconsistent hitting aside from Josh Donaldson, a wild card spot is also seemingly far off.

Donaldson will become a free agent after this season. The right action to take for Toronto looks to be to trade the former AL MVP for some young assets and then replace Donaldson at third base with their top prospect.

Guerrero Jr. has the potential to be the future face of the Blue Jays. He is hitting about as good as possible in the minors, so if a deal for Donaldson occurs, it would open the door for Guerrero to get some early experience in the majors.