While the Esports industry is very young, franchising has allowed for it to mature much faster than its traditional sports counterpart. With franchising coming into play there are many different groups and people buying in, and these entities want esports teams in their cities.
This means that many fans will start to want to see their teams in person and thus esports arenas are the next step, you can check out why that is here.
The teams in League of Legends have not officially stated what cities they will be based in, so some of this is a bit of guessing as either they were founded in these cities or have major investments from them.
Now here is a list of US/NA cities that already have multiple teams in them:
Boston Uprising (Overwatch League)
Celtics Crossover Gaming (NBA2k)
100 Thieves (League of Legends)
Cavs Legion (NBA2k)
Dallas Fuel (Overwatch League)
Mavs Gaming (NBA2k)
Clutch City (League of Legends)
Houston Outlaws (Overwatch League)
OpTic Gaming (League of Legends)
LA Gladiators (Overwatch League)
LA Valiant (Overwatch League)
The Overwatch League
Florida Mayhem (Overwatch League)
Heat Check Gaming (NBA2k)
Bucks Gaming (NBA2k)
FlyQuest (League of Legends)
Counter Logic Gaming (League of Legends)
Echo Fox (League of Legends)
Knicks Gaming (NBA2k)
New York Excelsior (Overwatch League)
Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area:
Golden State Guardians (League of Legends)
San Francisco Shock (Overwatch League)
Warriors Gaming Squad (NBA2k)
76ers GC (NBA2k)
Philadelphia Fusion (Overwatch League)
Raptors Uprising GC (NBA2k)
Team Solo Mid (League of Legends)
We will make sure to continue updating this list as more esports franchise, more teams commit to cities, and more teams join the already franchised leagues. An EU and Asia list will come out once a couple other franchising esports leagues finalize.
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The 2018 NBA Playoffs are off and running, and the second-round matchups are starting to take shape. There has been a mix of surprises and predictability thus far, and the second round should hold more of the same.
The second and final Western Conference semifinal round was set following Utah’s win over Oklahoma City on Friday. The Rockets have been waiting since Wednesday to see who they would be facing in the second round.
With the matchup official, here are some predictions and analysis of what this series could hold.
The Rockets made short work of the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Winning in just five games, Houston clearly overmatched and outclassed the Wolves.
Second halves were particularly strong for the Rockets. This includes a 50-point third quarter in Game 4. Every time it seemed like Minnesota had momentum, it was stomped out by the Rockets’ hot shooting and solid defense.
Chris Paul dribbles against Derrick Rose during their first-round series. (Photo by Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports)
Only one of the five games was decided by single digits, as Game 1 ended 104-101 in favor of the Rockets. The rest were either blowouts or not hotly contested. The closeout game was decided by 18 points, which is indicative of the what the Wolves were able to muster against the best team in the NBA, in the face of elimination, no less.
The Rockets have scored an average of 110.4 points per game through their five contests. They are first in 3-pointers made and attempted, leading the second place teams by a wide margin. Despite their high-scoring ways, Houston’s field goal percentage sits at 44.5 percent. This is probably due to their offensive style of play, relying on threes rather than high-percentage looks.
The focal point of that offense, James Harden, sits at 29 points per game in the playoffs. His 3-point percentage is sky high, at 38.5 percent. Chris Paul, his backcourt teammate, is scoring at a clip of 19 points per game, while dishing out 6.6 assists. Those assists actually sit 0.8 lower than Harden’s.
Houston just keeps solidifying itself as the best team in the NBA. But with a relatively easy first-round matchup over, now the real tests begin.
One of the best stories in the 2018 playoffs has been this Utah Jazz team. Led by rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell, Utah took down a team led by three potential future Hall of Fame talents in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In six games, the Jazz were able to ride their brand of defense-oriented basketball to a series win that not many saw coming. The combination of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony was supposed to be built for playoff basketball. But the team fell flat against a potential new Western Conference powerhouse.
Donovan Mitchell drives against Corey Brewer during the first round of the 2018 playoffs. (Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
Mitchell has been putting up numbers not seen by a rookie in the playoffs since Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Averaging 28.5 points per game while also grabbing 7.2 rebounds, Mitchell has continued his dominance. Ricky Rubio has also been playing very well, scoring at a clip of 14 points per game and dishing out seven assists. Rubio also had a triple-double in Utah’s Game 3 win in Salt Lake City.
Coach Quin Snyder’s team has arguably over-achieved this season on the back of a possible Rookie of the Year campaign by Mitchell. But their undeniable performances against Oklahoma City and their big three may paint this team in a different light. The defense is some of the best in the league, and the scoring is confusing and frustrating of opposing teams.
Utah is a team that struggles to draw free agents, but if the team continues to play like this, then Western Conference championships and NBA Finals appearances are certainly on the horizon.
Preview and predictions
Utah will be an interesting challenge for the NBA’s best regular season team. Houston has a historically high-powered offense, but NBA fans just saw the Jazz’s defense shut down some of the premiere scorers in the league in the first round.
With Rudy Gobert locking down the paint, he might neutralize Clint Capela in the post. His two blocks per game are tied for fourth in the playoffs, and he can guard smaller players as well. Rubio has never been known for his defense, but his offense has nearly matched that of Chris Paul’s lately. Plus, his passing ability rivals Paul’s own.
The matchup to watch, however, will be Harden versus Mitchell. The defensive end of the floor will be irrelevant, but the offensive show these two players can put on will be ridiculously exciting. Look for Mitchell to do his best to match Harden’s performance, while Harden looks to show up the rookie at all costs. Plus, NBA fans have seen Harden go cold in the playoffs in the past, whereas Mitchell just keeps on delivering.
In the end, though, it is hard to bet against this Houston team. Their regular season pedigree speaks for itself, and in the NBA, more so than any other sport, great offense can beat great defense.
This one will be close, and a new rivalry might be born. But expect the Rockets’ push towards the finals to continue.
Rockets in six
Featured image by Jeff Swinger/USA TODAY Sports
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“The two best words in sports,” is the cliche often used to describe a Game 7.
A winner-take-all game is always exciting. Whether it is in the first round of the playoffs, or for the championship. Whether a person considers themselves a casual or rabid sports fan, it always feels like must-watch TV. A moment that will allow you to say “I was there when…”
With the NBA playoffs heating up, and the games getting more and more important as teams climb the ladder towards the NBA Finals, it is time to take a look at the teams most likely to win those games.
Here are the teams with the rosters most suited to win a Game 7, if a series should come down to it.
Golden State Warriors
Saying the Warriors can win one game is a little like saying that the sky is blue. But for sake of the argument, let’s look at their credentials.
As the dynasty has taken shape, the Warriors have only had to play two seven game series. Back to back, no less. Both series were infamous in their own ways.
The first was in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, before Kevin Durant switched sides. The second was the NBA Finals, as the best regular season team of all time fell to LeBron and the Cavaliers in Game 7.
The difference here is the aforementioned Kevin Durant acquisition. The Cavaliers proved to be too much for the Warriors in Oakland in 2016, but Golden State “only” had two prolific scorers back then, not three.
Draymond Green drives to the hoop against Manu Ginobili during Tuesday’s Game 5 win. (Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Stephen Curry is slated for a return in the second round, assuming the Warriors finish off San Antonio. With him, Durant, Thompson, Green and their fantastic bench, it is going to take a fantastic team to take them to seven games, let alone win the series.
It seems as if the Warriors and the Rockets are on a collision course for Western Conference dominance. If that happens, then a potential Game 7 would take place in Houston, as the Rockets had the best record in the NBA. Against any other team, a Game 7 would be in Oakland.
Golden State, though, had the same record at home and on the road during the regular season, at 29-12. Obviously, the Warriors would like to play in front of their own fans, but a road game does not necessarily put the team at a disadvantage.
The Warriors can beat any given team, and have. With a fully healthy squad and the multitudes of playoff experience, betting against them in a winner-take-all game might be a fool’s errand.
Speaking of the Rockets, it is hard to deny that their offensive capabilities can overtake any team on any given night.
There is one obvious and pressing question facing Houston, however. Can they shrug off the idea that they are chokers, or that they lay down when the playoffs roll around?
Paul and Harden celebrate during a game against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
This is clearly a different Rockets team than we have seen in the past. The efficiency and shooting is off the charts, and they play legitimate defense. Chris Paul and James Harden have ditched their ball-hogging ways in favor of pacing and rhythm. Their three point shooting is historic, but does not hamstring their mid-range or low-post games.
The problem, though, is that if a team is going to commit to the jump shot, then they have to fall to stand a chance. Any and every team can go cold on a given night, and it will be especially memorable and demoralizing if that happens in a Game 7.
Houston’s home record is three games better than their road record (34-7 versus 31-10). That is good news, considering they will probably have home court advantage, regardless of their opponent.
The key to winning a Game 7 for Houston is to bury the opposing team early. As the Timberwolves have been well aware during their series with the Rockets, no lead is a comfortable one. When almost every player on the floor can score in bunches, problems arise for opposing defenses.
Riding their shooting abilities and continuing to play their brand of fast-paced basketball on both ends on the floor is their bread and butter. If the Rockets find themselves in a Game 7 situation, their opposing team will be preaching that every other statistic and record is irrelevant, and that anything can happen in a one game series.
That should not be Houston’s approach. The Rockets would need to go into that game remembering that they are the number one overall seed for a reason.
Toronto is also on a quest to shake off some preconceived notions about their playoff performances. For the first time in franchise playoff history, the Raptors won a Game 1. So far, so good, but this team still has some proving of itself to do.
Not unlike the Rockets, the Raptors also seem to be different this year than in years past. In 2016, they lost in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2017, they were swept in the second round. Both series losses were to the Cavaliers, as they made their way to the NBA Finals.
Since 1996, the Raptors have played just two seven game series. The most recent was in 2016, as they beat the Pacers in Game 7 to earn their first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
DeRozan hangs on the rim after a dunk. (Photo by Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
This is a much, different team, though. DeRozan and Lowry are a dangerous backcourt duo when they are both on, and the role players have never been this good. Between those two and Valanciunas, Ibaka, and one of the most productive benches in the NBA, it seems as if Toronto can take on any team in the league at their best.
Coach Dwane Casey has balanced star power with fundamentals as well as any coach in the league, including Steve Kerr. Toronto rode that game plan to the East’s best record, and a chance to disprove doubters once and for all.
Toronto is much better at home than on the road. Considering they are the East’s number one seed, that should work out just fine. Unless they face a Game 7 matchup if they are able to reach the NBA Finals. At 25-16, their road record is a full nine games worse than their home record. Considering the Raptors’ rabid fanbase, that is not very surprising.
Much has been made of Lowry’s postseason struggles, and DeRozan’s feast or famine performances. But the fantastic bench and great defense can mask those issues in a single game. Sometimes, bench performance can be the difference in those games. Although, stars playing to their fullest potential is always the goal.
Here, it would probably be sufficient to write the words “LeBron James” and be done with it. But, while he is the heart and soul of the team, he is not the only player on the floor.
Cleveland’s struggles this year have largely been the focal point of the entire season. At the end of the day, though, this team can win close games.
James embraces Love after their Game 7 NBA Finals win. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
J.R. Smith is a spotty shooter. Kevin Love essentially disappears if the team does not feed him the ball enough. Nance, Jr., Hood, and Green are all good complimentary pieces, but tend to shrivel under the spotlight. At any point, though, everyone just mentioned could play second fiddle to LeBron’s heroics. If they are all on, then teams are going to have a hard time figuring out what to do with the Cavaliers.
Lest we forget, the LeBron-led Cavs dethroned the Warriors in that historic Game 7. James also won a Game 7 against the Spurs in 2013. He is, without much argument, the best player in the world, and he can take over games at will.
Nothing would will James to a victory like a championship-or-bust one game series.
Tyronn Lue and the Cavs have beaten the best regular season team in NBA history in a Game 7. And while this iteration is much different, and not without its glaring issues, if the Cavaliers find themselves in this position again, it is hard to bet against The King.
Featured image by Ravell Call/Deseret News
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LeBron James. Kevin Durant. James Harden. These are all names that most households around the world are familiar with or, if not, have at least heard once or twice. They are the best players on their respective teams, and their teams have legitimate shots at a championship partially due to their excellence and presence on the court.
But if you took any of these players and all the supporting cast out of the equation, none of these guys could win a single game one-on-five, no matter how good they are. Everyone on the basketball court needs help in one way or another, and often times these supporting cast players appear to make the studs better. Here we will talk about the non-stars who are making a difference so far this postseason and how they could possibly lead their contending team to a championship.
Photo source: www.fivethirtyeight.com
After averaging less than 10 minutes per game and not even five points or three rebounds in his limited playing time, JaVale McGee has come alive in the playoffs as the Warriors starting center. He propelled them to an early lead in Game 1 against the Spurs and was solid in Game 2 as well. His two-game playoff averages are currently at 12.5ppg on 71 percent shooting, 5.5rpg, 1.5s, and 1.5b in just 17.5 minutes.
These per-minute numbers are just phenomenal and could get more minutes if 1) he didn’t make simple mistakes and 2) fewer teams went small against the Warriors. He is a great defensive presence and has helped the Warriors in a great way so far in this series. If Zaza comes back, I think Javale deserves the starting role and most of the minutes at the five regardless of his return. Finals MVP?
Sticking with the theme of important centers, Clint Capela was huge in the Rockets’ Game 1 win over the Timberwolves, racking up 24 points, 10 boards, a steal and three blocks in the dominant performance. Chris Paul and James Harden both said great things about him after the game, calling him dominant and describing his energy as “contagious”.
One of the most important takeaways from this is that he did it against Karl-Anthony Towns, who is a fairly decent basketball player. He truly held his own and outscored the starting All-Star center by 16 points, which speaks wonders. Harden and Paul’s elite passing abilities do make Capela’s offensive job a bit easier, but he takes all credit for his tough defense. We’ll see what kind of game he and Towns have in Game 2.
Photo source: www.raptorshq.com
This is a very non-household name, but Wright leads the way on the best bench in the entire league. The Toronto Raptors have a couple stars, a few other solid starters, and the rest of them are just very consistent contributors off the bench. Wright and other bench guys like Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, C.J. Miles, and Pascal Siakam have all been a great part of Toronto’s first-seed berth this season.
Wright has averaged 14.5 points in two games so far in these playoffs, helping the team go up 2-0 on the Wizards. While the points are important, the defense he brings to the table is something else, already averaging three steals and a block and a half in his two playoff games. Wright and the rest of the bench have a great chance of assisting in taking the Raptors far in this race for the championship, and I think they could surprise some people.
Ever since Kyrie Irving went down, Terry Rozier has been fantastic for the Celtics, especially in these playoffs. Once again, this is not necessarily a household name for most NBA fans. Heck, not even his current opponent Eric Bledsoe knows who he is. When asked how personally he takes the matchup with Rozier, Bledsoe said: “I don’t even know who the f— that is”. Granted, this was not the nicest thing Bledsoe could have said after the loss, but Charles Barkley said it best: Rozier is the guy who is “kickin’ yo ass”.
Excuse the profanity, but Chuck isn’t wrong here. Rozier has led Boston to a 2-0 lead over Giannis and Milwaukee behind averages of 23.0ppg on 47 percent from the floor, 3.5rpg, 5.5apg, and 1.0spg. He has defied all expectations, and while he is no Kyrie Irving, he should be huge for this team’s playoff run. Bledsoe, meanwhile, is sitting at just 10.5ppg on 36 percent shooting, 5.5rpg, 4.0apg and not much else. To add to the embarrassment, Bledsoe is averaging three turnovers per game, while Rozier hasn’t committed a single one this series.
There is plenty of media and talk about the studs that carry their respective team and have great nights consistently, but some guys truly don’t get enough credit. Despite not even hearing about some of these names in an average basketball-related conversation, their opponents have heard plenty about them, and are vital to the success of their respective teams. A lead role is nothing without his supporting cast members, and some of the support these stars have been getting has exceeded all expectations for fans and teammates alike.
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With every series shifting to the lower seeded team’s home court, it is time to take a look at where each team stands matching up with their opponent, some potential focus changes and predictions on how the next games will shake out.
Here is a summary of every series now that the first two games are in the books.
Raptors vs. Wizards
The Toronto Raptors finally shook the first game monkey off of their backs.
Up until Saturday, the franchise had never won the first game of a playoff series. Now, they hold their first-ever 2-0 lead.
Game 1 ended in a 116-104 win for the Raptors, although the final score does not quite tell the whole story. Toronto started off well, and got out to an early lead. By the end of the third, though, they only lead by one point. The bench players sealed the win in the fourth quarter, which is unsurprising, as Toronto’s bench has been fantastic all season.
Lowry guards Wall during Game 1. (Photo by Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
Game 2 was all Raptors, as the Wizards could not keep up after Toronto put up a 44-point first quarter. DeRozan led all scorers with 37 points, as the game wrapped with a 130-119 final score.
Although players like Serge Ibaka and Mike Scott have been terrific, the real story here is the battle of the backcourts. DeRozan and Lowry are winning this battle handily. Lowry is averaging 12 points and 10.5 assists, and DeRozan is giving the Raptors 27 points and 5 assists.
Wall seems to have no more rust to shake off, however, as he is putting up 26 points per game, and distributing at a clip of 12.5 assists per game. While Beal, who has played all year and earned his first All-Star appearance, can only muster 14 points and 3.5 assists.
The series is now shifting to Washington, but that is not necessarily a gigantic advantage. The Raptors away record is two games better than the Wizards’ home record. Expect the home crowd to give the Wiz a boost, but if the Raptors continue their trend of incredibly timely scoring, this series could be over in four or five games.
Celtics vs. Bucks
Although the Celtics are up 2-0 in the series, it has not been as lopsided as the record indicates.
In Game 1, Boston needed overtime to beat the seventh-seeded Bucks, after Khris Middleton knocked down a Hail Mary 3-pointer with 0.5 on the clock. It was a game of runs, as Boston had a 15-0 run to end the first quarter, with Milwaukee answering with a 21-5 run in the second. It was only fitting that a game that back and forth got an extra period.
As the old adage goes, though, better teams win in overtime. The Celtics outscored the Bucks 14-8 in bonus time, and took the win.
Game 2 ended with a 120-106 Celtics victory, but the Bucks were not hopelessly behind for the entire game. Rather, they hung around, but just could not muster the defense necessary to hold off Boston’s balanced attack.
As expected, Antetokounmpo has been the driving force behind Milwaukee, averaging 32.5 points and 11 rebounds in the two games. Middleton, the Game 1 hero, has been a scoring machine, giving the Bucks 31 points in the first game and 25 in the second. Outside of the Greek Freak’s 13 rebound performance in Game 1, though, no other Buck has had a double-digit rebound game. This likely has contributed to their 0-2 hole.
Without Kyrie Irving, the Celtics have looked just fine. In Game 1, four Celtics scored 20 or more, with Jayson Tatum only being one point shy of making it five. Six of Boston’s players had double-digit scoring games in Game 2. Not bad for an injury-laden team whose offense was written off after the All-Star break.
If the Bucks can break out of some bad habits and lackluster defense, they could even this series at home. But look for the Celtics to take the series with their more complete team and better coaching. Biding time until Marcus Smart can return in May, Boston has a lot to play for.
76ers vs. Heat
This series has been great, and will likely stay that way.
The “watchability” factor is due in part to the fact that Game 1 was an absolute blowout. The 76ers carried their cocky attitude and potent offensive attack into the playoffs to the tune of a 130-103 win. Even without Embiid locking down the paint, this young Sixers team found ways to score and keep Miami from doing much offensively.
Veterans and newbies stepped up for Philadelphia in the 27-point drubbing of Miami. Redick and Belinelli contributed 28 and 25 points, respectively, while Saric gave a 20-point performance. Ben Simmons, the possible Rookie of the Year, was one rebound shy of a triple-double, and Ilyasova turned in a double-double. There is not much an opposing team can do about that.
Wade against Simmons in Game 2. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
The story of Game 2 was vintage Dwyane Wade rearing his head. Wade played outside of his mind, scoring 28 points. He was playing off of the ball, however, only tallying three assists. Five other Miami players scored in double figures, including Dragic’s 20-point performance.
Saric and Simmons both had good second games, but while they received support scoring-wise, the defense was not enough to stop the Heat.
As the series moves to Miami, it will be the talk of the NBA if Wade can keep playing at this level. With Embiid still out, the series is up for grabs, as the mixed veteran and young talent of Miami tries to take advantage of the 76ers’ mostly inexperienced roster.
Hopefully, we are looking at a classic seven-game first round series.
Cavaliers vs. Pacers
The Pacers put an end to LeBron’s historic 21-game first round winning streak in Game 1 of this series. Considering all of Cleveland’s struggles this season, it is not really that surprising this is the year it came to an end.
In Game 1, the Pacers were on a mission to earn some respect. In the first quarter, they outscored the Cavs 33-14, and did not look back. Victor Oladipo, as he has been all year, was the focal point of Indiana’s offense. He scored 32 easily, while Stephenson, Turner and Bogdanovic all had double-digit scoring games.
LeBron had a triple-double, putting the Cavs on his back. It was not nearly enough, however, as they lost by 18 points on their home court. Only two other Cavaliers scored more than nine points, which cued the calls of “LeBron needs more help.”
Game 2 was a full-fledged LeBron takeover, though, as he was determined to not go down 0-2. James had 46 points and 12 rebounds, and outscored the entire Pacers team in the first quarter. As the Pacers cut an 18-point lead down to just four, more LeBron heroics sealed the win, as the Cavs came away with the three-point victory.
Any series featuring this Cavaliers team will be put under a microscope. The issues this team has had are not only well-documented but numerous. The second half of their season was less tumultuous, but it is generally agreed upon that 2018 could possibly put an end to LeBron’s streak of seven straight NBA Finals appearances.
Are the Pacers good enough to knock this battle-tested Cleveland team out in the first round, though? Probably not. Especially if LeBron continues his ageless 2018 campaign. Indiana does have a six-game advantage at home, versus Cleveland’s road record. But the Pacers continue to lean heavily on Oladipo.
Averaging 26 points in these first two games, probable Most Improved Player, Victor Oladipo, has no choice but to keep playing this well if the Pacers want to keep winning. Everyone knows what the Cavaliers can do when they put it all together, so, even though NBA pundits will say otherwise, the pressure is on Indiana to continue to impress.
Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans
The Pelicans have taken a surprising 2-0 lead in this third versus sixth seed first round series. It is magnified by the fact that both of these games have taken place in Portland, which features a fantastic home court advantage.
The first game was close, but the margin of victory would have been two possessions, if McCollum did not hit a prayer of a three-pointer at the buzzer. As with many NBA games, the final two minutes were the most exciting of the game. The Trail Blazers were within one point with one minute left, after a McCollum three.
The last minute was punctuated by poor decisions and turnovers by Portland. Not to be overshadowed, though, was some excellent defense by Jrue Holliday, which included a massive block with nine seconds left.
Another bad second half cost Portland Game 2 as well. The Pelicans dominated the turnover game and took advantage of every opportunity handed to them. Playoff Rondo is back in full force, falling one assist shy of a triple-double in Game 2, and had a massive 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. He even stole the spotlight from Anthony Davis, which is no easy task.
Jrue Holliday celebrates after a late foul was called against Portland. (Photo by Sean Meagher/Oregon Live)
It is hard to pick the brightest spot on the Pelicans roster over the first two games. Mirotic has proven to be an important addition, averaging 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. Jrue Holliday, as mentioned earlier, is playing well on both ends of the floor. Rondo contributed with his passing in Game 1, with 17 assists, and in all areas in Game 2. And of course, Davis has gotten his, with a 35-point, 14 rebound first game, and a 22-point, 13 rebound second game.
On the flip side, it is easy to pick out the problems for the Blazers. Lillard and McCollum have outright failed to carry the team the way that they did during the regular season.
Lillard is averaging 17.5 points, and McCollum has just a 15 point average. This is a far cry from Lillard’s 26.9 point and McCollum’s 21.4 point regular season average. These two simply need to play better, because when they do, the rest of the team feeds off of them. This is not an easy task, however, if Holliday and Rondo are going to continue to guard them as well as they are.
Yet another problem for the Blazers, is that the series now shifts to New Orleans. Not having the home court fans behind them has been a problem for Portland. The team is only one game above .500 on the road. The Pelicans only hold a three-game advantage at home, so expect the series to stay hotly contested.
Thunder vs. Jazz
Back-and-forth games have been the calling card of this series. Both games have been closer than their final scores indicate, due to late-game fouls and free throws. Lead changes are at a premium, and it appears that these two teams are evenly matched.
Game 1 featured two of the “OK3” have terrific nights. Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined for 65 points and 20 assists by themselves. Carmelo Anthony added 15 points and 7 rebounds, which helped carry the Thunder to a win.
Donovan Mitchell continued his dismantling of NBA defenses, with a 27-point night. He was also good for a double-double as he notched 10 rebounds. Six other Jazz players were in double figures in the scoring column, but the OK3’s 80 points were too much for the rookie-led Utah team. Both teams scored over 100, setting the stage for, possibly, the most exciting first-round series, depending on preference.
Continuing that trend, Mitchell did it again on Wednesday, earning 28 points. Derrick Favors turned in a double-double, and Ricky Rubio flirted with a triple-double. There were 13 lead changes in the game, but the last one in the fourth quarter belonged to the Jazz.
Westbrook, George and Anthony combined for 54 in Game 2. But Utah’s scoring was much more timely. The Thunder played well on the offensive end, as they usually do, but the defense that the Jazz are known for kept them ahead when it counted.
If the Thunder’s big three can continue averaging 67 points per game, it simply will be up to the Thunder’s bench to outscore Mitchell. The other big obstacle is Rudy Gobert, who locks down the paint with the best of them.
Utah’s home court advantage is significant, but the Thunder can score anywhere. Westbrook will have to continue to get his teammates involved, and Mitchell will have to play his brand of basketball to keep this series as fascinating as it has been.
Much like the Sixers-Heat series, we could be in line for a seven-game shootout here in the first round.
Warriors vs. Spurs
It seems as if the Warriors are doing just fine without Stephen Curry.
This is looking like the most lopsided series in the first round of the playoffs, because neither Game 1 nor Game 2 were close. The Spurs took minimal leads during Game 2, but they were short-lived. Other than those few instances, it has been all Warriors.
Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are showing their age, and the absence of Kawhi Leonard is glaring. Even the Warriors’ bench is looking to be too much for San Antonio. The Spurs have lost both games by 21 and 15, respectively.
McGee and Thompson both go up for a block on Dejounte Murray. (Photo by Christopher Chung/The Press Democrat)
They allowed Durant and Thompson to score over 30 in Game 2. Their only real scoring threat on a consistent basis is LaMarcus Aldridge. Even so, the Warriors can allow him to score whatever he wants as long as they continue to lock down the rest of the offense.
Meanwhile, the Warriors are playing so well that they have managed to take over the series despite just one double-double from any player in either game (Draymond Green, 12 points, 11 assists). Steve Kerr and this Warriors team are not only accustomed to the playoffs, but they have grown used to playing without Curry. Playing without the two-time MVP may not even cost them a game in this round.
The Warriors might perform sweeps of the Spurs in back to back years. Their only hope of salvaging a game is hoping Aldridge can keep repeating his 34 point, 12 rebound performance he put up in Game 2. Along with that, they will need Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili to score 15 or more while playing good defense.
Other than that, all the Spurs have to look forward to is the trip home, where they play well. But it is very likely the advantage will not mean much.
Rockets vs. Timberwolves
Game 1 of this series saw what is probably the closest the Timberwolves will come to snatching a victory away from the best team in the NBA.
Losing by only three points, the Wolves lost their chance to tie on an abysmal final possession that ended with Andrew Wiggins losing the ball out of bounds with less than a second remaining on the clock. Minnesota played well, and Houston played as poorly as they are going to, and it still was not enough.
James Harden went off for 44 points, as he essentially scores at will. Only Capela and Paul could muster offense worth mentioning, as Harden was option number one, two and three for the Rockets.
Burgeoning star Karl-Anthony Towns only took nine shots in the entire game, making three of them. That is not winning basketball for the Wolves. It seems as if their only hope is to overpower the Rockets with Towns in the paint, as Capela makes his shots, but gets no plays ran for him.
Game 2 was the kind of blowout one might expect for the one seed versus eight seed matchups.
The Rockets won by 20, and only needed 12 points from James Harden to do it. Chris Paul was the standout in this game, backed up by Gerald Green. Only three Wolves scored in double-digits, none of them scoring 20 or more.
Frankly, the Timberwolves are outmatched and outclassed. As the series moves to Minneapolis, a crowd that has not seen a playoff game in 14 years may shake the Rockets enough to allow Minnesota to steal a game away, though.
It is going to take more than 6.5 points per game from Towns to do it, though.
Featured image by Ravell Call/Deseret News
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London Spitfire likes to keep the league interesting. Spitfire are easily the second best team in the Overwatch League. With an impressive 15-7 league score so far and a +30 map differential it’s impossible to deny they are among the best. However they are not perfect by any means. They have three more losses then their rivals New York Excelsior, and they have now lost three matches in a row. They lost to rising stars Philadelphia Fusion, then long time road block Houston Outlaws, and then their aforementioned rivals, NYXL.
London are one of the most dominant teams, but they struggle in odd match ups and often lose to opponents considered much worse then them. But admittedly, their inconsistencies have made them a very interesting team to watch. NYXL looks amazing with flashy plays by Park “Saebeyolbe” Jong-ryeol and Kim “Pine” Do-hyeon, but if you’re anything like me, seeing them win every day is a bit…boring. But a team like Spitfire, well anything can happen.
London’s abysmal start to stage 3 places them with the bottom two teams in the League. Courtesy of the Overwatch League website
Losses against lower teams
It sounds weird praising a team for their losses, but this does make the whole league a bit more interesting to watch. They lost to two teams I would argue they should’ve easily won. That was Boston Uprising and Los Angeles Gladiators. Now since then both have proven themselves as forces to be reckoned with, but neither team has even managed to make it to stage finals before. The Boston match was a heart pounding 2-3 loss for London. It was an amazing game that lead to their first loss. At that point we thought the three Korean teams were going to dominate the league. London vs Boston was the first sign that wasn’t going to happen.
And when they lost to the Los Angeles Gladiators, they lost by a bit of a margin, 1-3. But it again really fit a story line of Baek “Fissure” Chan-hyung claiming victory over his old comrades. In both scenarios, although disappointing for London fans, was actually incredibly hype to see them lose, and totally went against what everyone was expecting.
Roadblock with Houston Outlaws
At this point it’s fair to say that London have a problem with Houston. Maybe it’s that Houston is known as a great anti-dive team. Maybe it’s because all four times they have played Houston it was the same week that they play New York. Or maybe there really is just a mental road block at this point. No matter what it is, if you’re just looking at the regular season they are 0-3 against Houston. Now why is this interesting? Story lines. People like a good story, and a dominant tyrant brought down by a somewhat mediocre (at this point) team is exciting. On top of that once they do win, it’ll be even more exciting since we won’t be expecting it. It was super exciting when they tasted revenge beating Houston 3-1 in the Stage 1 finals. Next win will be just as satisfying as well…if they win.
The most interesting rivalry in the league
New York Excelsior is the final boss of Overwatch. With an immaculate 20-2 record and a staggering +54 map differential, they are the top dogs. At this point there aren’t many teams who really put up much of a fight towards NYXL. Heck, only two teams in the entire league have ever actually won against them. Those being Philadelphia Fusion, and of course, London Spitfire. The Spitfire are actually the only team to win twice. Once in the Stage 1 finals and a second time in Stage 2. Unfortunately after a pretty one sided loss against NYXL, they are now 2-2 on sets. Like I said, NYXL always winning does get boring, but as long as London is around, they will never sit too comfortably a the top; if they slip up even a little, London will be looking for blood.
Why is this good for the league?
People like to see change; if you watched the same episode of the same show every day it would get boring. Watching the same three teams win day in day out is exhausting and uninteresting. That’s why a team like London is good for the league. Keep it exciting, keep the fans on their toes. There’s a reason in Football no one wants the Patriots to win, they always win. No one wants to see the same result everyday. So London both being the only team to go toe to toe with NYXL while also being a team that any team can strive to beat keeps the league a bit more balanced.
The tight end position is a potential area of need for the Detroit Lions. Depending on the new offensive philosophy, the Detroit Lions could add another pass-catching threat or a blocking tight end to the roster during free agency or the draft.
Eric Ebron has been a bust in the eyes of many fans. He has had some decent production and still has potential to grow in the new offensive system. However, taking him 10th overall in the draft, ahead of players like Odell Beckham Jr., has left fans scratching their heads. Was he really worth a top-10 pick?
Coaching is key when it comes to championship teams and systems. With the potential of a New England style offense coming to Detroit, it makes sense that there should be an increase in tight end involvement in the offense.
The man coaching the tight ends this coming season is Chris White. He comes to Detroit from the University of Connecticut where he worked as the senior quality control research and director of football.
White has been coaching in some capacity since 1996 (UNLV) and got his first NFL gig in Minnesota (2009-12) as a special teams assistant.
CURRENT Tight Ends ON ROSTER
Ebron was drafted 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. This has been a hot-topic debate among Lions fans. He has shown flashes of great athleticism and playmaking ability and has produced solid numbers for a tight end in his career.
In his first four years, he has 186 receptions and 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns. More than half of that production has come in the past two years as well (114 catches, 1,285 yards and five touchdowns).
The struggle for most fans comes solely from the high selection in the draft. Rob Gronkowki type stats are what many fans would expect from someone taken so high.
However, it is like comparing apples and oranges to compare Ebron’s stats to Gronkowski’s. The systems have been totally different, and Gronk has been the focal point of New England’s offense while Ebron is utilized as a third or sometimes even fourth option.
With an increased role in the offense, Ebron may very well prove his worthiness of that top-10 pick. Drops are often mentioned with him, however, he only had three drops last season. For what it’s worth, Jimmy Graham had seven drops last season.
Darren Fells (Photo from Associated Press)
Darren Fells began his career in sports as a professional basketball player overseas. He then began playing in the NFL in 2014.
He is now 31 years old, but only has four years of wear on his NFL tires. He spent the first three years of his career in Arizona prior to joining the Lions in 2017.
Lack of reps limited his production last season. Fells had 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
If the offense does indeed feature the tight end position more, it would be a surprise if these numbers do not at least double next season, unless he loses reps to Michael Roberts or a new tight end currently not on the roster.
Michael Roberts (Photo by Mike Mulholland/mlive.com)
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Lions selected Michael Roberts (127th overall) out of Toledo. He has solid playmaking ability and extremely large hands. The size of his hands makes for a promising red-zone threat with a large frame (6-foot-5, 265 pounds). His hands measured 11 ¾ inches, larger than an NFL football’s width (11 ¼ inches).
2018 DRAFT and free agency options
Gesicki makes a touchdown catch against USC. (Photo by Jayne Kamin USA Today Sports)
Mike Gesicki from Penn State is an intriguing prospect and is the only tight end worth adding based on the Lions’ needs and when he may be available to draft. His athleticism was on full display in Indianapolis during the combine last week.
He ran the fastest 40 time for tight ends at 4.54 seconds. His 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press was good for second place. His vertical was also the highest among all tight ends at 41.5 inches. He finished first in every other combine test as well, which included broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches), three-cone drill (6.76 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.1 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.3 seconds).
This performance was off the charts and may hurt the Lions’ chances to get him in the third or fourth round as he was projected to be picked in the third or fourth round before the combine. Some projections have him going as high as the second round now, and the Lions may not value the tight end position as a second-round need.
Jimmy Graham is a big name available to pick up. There will be several suitors for his services. Projections have him going to many different places, including Houston, New Orleans, New England and Denver. The Lions could just as well decide to bring him in as another pass-catching threat.
It worked out pretty well the last time they brought in a pass catcher from Seattle (Golden Tate). His large frame would create another option for Stafford and help open things up outside for the receiving corps.
Featured image by Daniel Mears, Detroit News
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Going in to stage two, Boston Uprising had proven themselves as real playoff contenders, coming within touching distance of a spot in the Stage 1 playoffs. The Uprising fell to two tough opponents in week 1 of stage 2 as they struggled in the new meta.
Boston Uprising falter against Philly
In their first Match of stage 2, Boston Uprising took on the Philadelphia Fusion. The two last met in week five of stage 1, with Boston coming away with a 4-0 victory.
Between stages DPS player Josh “Eqo” Corona was ready to play for Philadelphia instead of George “ShaDowBurn” Gushcha and earn a starting spot on the roster. On the whole Philly looked strong. With Eqo now in the side, the team was matching Joona “Fragi” Laine’s aggression. That aggression worked well to counter Boston’s dive.
Eqo made Philadelphia a harder team to predict. Eqo plays a very aggressive Genji to a very high degree. Combined with a tank like Fragi, the two become a force to be reckoned with. With the Mercy nerfs in play, Fragi’s picks are much more punishing on the other side and Boston didn’t like playing without Kellex’s Mercy, eventually switching back to her when the fights went poorly.
On Hanamura, Fragi sneaks into Boston’s back lines as Winston and does as much damage as he can and leaps out. This allowed Eqo to clean up and force Boston off the point. Winning the map in their attack round in 95 seconds. This strategy was played out many times against Boston to great effect.
In the end it looked like Boston was unprepared for the hyper-aggressive Philadelphia Fusion and struggling without resurrects in play. However, it was not all negative in the match against Philadelphia, Boston looked to be trying new strategies. Proving they were capable of more than just Dive, winning a point in Control playing a triple tank composition with Dreamkazper on Roadhog.
Houston outlaws hold strong
In their second match of the week against Houston Outlaws, there was hope that Boston had weighted their practice into the more difficult matchup. With hope they could pull off the upset they almost got last time. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. In a match that was closer than the scoreline says, Boston once again lost 4-0.
Houston Outlaws are a very strong team and undoubtedly could make it to the Stage 2 playoff final, so Boston was always going to have a tough match ahead of them. With little time between matches, The Uprising still seemed to struggle without Mercy to fall back on.
The first three maps were fairly close with Hanamura and Kings Row both going to second rounds. Unfortunately Watchpoint Gibraltar was not even nearly as close with Houston full-holding on the Payload map. Kings Row was the real talking point as Boston Uprising had DreamKazper play Doomfist on first attack and defense. Gamsu showed a strong performance on Reinhardt.
The strategy worked well with both sides finishing with similar times. On Boston’s second attack, they showed they could play different strategies as Dreamkazper moved over to Hanzo. Unfortunately Houston also changed up their attack with Linzr switching to Mei towards the end to great effect.
The first match next week does not get any easier with Boston having to take on NYXL. With Boston struggling in the new meta it is hard to see The Uprising come away with the bragging rights in the upcoming derby match.
When the first pitch of the 2017 World Series is thrown out Oct. 24 at Dodger Stadium, it will mark the 113th installment of baseball’s fall classic. Only one World Series, however, can be dubbed the greatest World Series ever played.
For the fans in Houston and Los Angeles, their focus won’t be on this series being an all-time classic. Their primary focus for the immediate future will be on winning at least four of the possible seven games that remain. Right now, the glory of a championship is first and foremost.
The rest of baseball’s fandom is just looking to be enthralled. We’re looking for hotly contested games that remain up for grabs into the final innings. We’re looking for immaculate pitching, we’re looking for clutch two-out hits and we’re looking for spectacular game saving glove work in the field. In short, we’re looking for the proverbial barn burner.
With 112 World Series already on record, there have been some wild match-ups throughout time. Perhaps no match-up has offered more excitement to baseball fans of all stripes than 1991’s World Series, pitting the Atlanta Braves against the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesotans will remember 1991 for two distinct reasons. First, on Oct. 27, 1991 they saw their Minnesota Twins lift the World Series title after seven games. Second, just four days later, the Twin Cities were buried under almost two-feet of snow from an epic Halloween blizzard.
In Atlanta though, 1991 will always be remembered with mixed emotions. The 1991 Braves improved from last place in 1990, to first in 1991. This was also the first year that a World Series was played in Atlanta since the Braves moved from Milwaukee at the end of 1965.
How they arrived
Braves legend, Tom Glavine, tries to channel a little rally hat magic on the road in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)
Speaking of the Braves’ remarkable turnaround, Minnesota also accomplished the same feat. They too finished the season in last place in 1990, only to become AL champions in 1991. It was the first time in MLB history that any team went from “worst to first” let alone having two teams do it in the same season.
For Minnesota, 1991 was the year of the bat. This isn’t to say they couldn’t pitch, but their offense was magnificent. They led the majors in average (.280) and on-base percentage (.344) that year. They also finished second in both slugging (.420) and OPS (.764) making them one of the toughest lineups for opposing pitchers to navigate.
Atlanta’s forte though, was undoubtedly their pitching. The Braves’ pitching was phenomenal in 1991. Tom Glavine, 1991’s NL Cy Young award winner, was the unquestioned leader of the young Atlanta staff. This Braves rotation was young, hungry and devastatingly good.
For the season, Atlanta finished third in team ERA (3.49), third in fewest hits given up and fourth in total runs surrendered. Any fan can plainly see, scratching runs across the plate against this pitching staff was no small task.
The 1991 World Series was more than just excellent pitching versus excellent hitting. This series was a classic match-up of two evenly matched ball clubs. Something had to give, because we all know there can only be one team left standing. That team left standing, in the end, would be the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota didn’t get to the summit of baseball’s highest mountain without a fight though, and what a fight it was. Atlanta and Minnesota put together a performance for the ages. Culminating in arguably the greatest World Series ever played. This was a World Series filled with spectacular pitching, clutch hitting and wild defensive plays.
The greatest world series ever played
In the pantheon of World Series match-ups, there are several that stand out. For instance, 1960’s classic Pirates and Yankees showdown featured the only walk-off Game 7 homer ever, by the Pirate’s Bill Mazeroski. Braves versus Twins in 1991 rates right up there with the lot of them.
Bill Mazeroski sinks the Yankees with his dramatic walk-off Game 7 World Series home run. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)
The 1991 World Series offered something for everyone, including one of the most bizarre plays in World Series history. Of course this is referring to Kent Herbek pulling Ron Gant off the bag in the third inning of Game 2. For fans of a certain age in Atlanta, this certainly must still be a sore subject.
The Twins and Braves only played two games decided by more than a single run, Game 1 and 5. Minnesota took Game 1 by a score of 5-2 and Atlanta took Game 5, blowing away the Twins 14-5. All other games in the series were one-run affairs.
Extra innings was also a common thread that tied this series together as well. Game 6 and the pivotal Game 7 were two of the three extra inning games. Minnesota would find themselves on the winning side in both of the aforementioned games. The Twins’ only extra inning loss came on a Mark Lemke 12th inning RBI single in Game 3.
For the Twins, legendary Kirby Puckett was the man of Game 6. Puckett’s glove, and then his bat, cemented the win for Minnesota and pushed the series to Game 7.
Puckett seemed to defy the laws of physics, jumping at the wall in left-center to rob Gant of extra bases. Then, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Puckett sent a Charlie Leibrandt offering into the seats for a solo homer. His clutch hit won the game for Minnesota in walk-off fashion, making Game 7 a necessity.
The deciding game of the 1991 World Series pitted two excellent pitchers at opposite spectrums of their careers. For the Twins, it was 15-year veteran and 1984 World Series champion, Jack Morris. The Braves countered with a future Hall of Famer, 24-year-old, John Smoltz.
1991 World Series MVP and Game 7 winner, Jack Morris, rushes to greet Dan Gladden at home plate. (Photo courtesy of: Pioneer Press/Jean Pieri)
All these two did was lock horns to produce one of the best pitched games in World Series history. Smoltz pitched excellent in Game 7, but wily veteran Jack Morris pitched a magical Game 7. With Morris in command of all his pitches, he put together one of the greatest World Series starts this side of Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Morris went the distance, all 10 innings, to pitch a complete game shutout under immense pressure.
Jack Morris, for his part, swallowed that pressure deep down and used it to breathe fire at the Braves lineup. He gave up seven hits and walked only two hitters in his 10-inning masterpiece. On the back of Morris’ Game 7 exploits, coupled with his Game 1 win and his hard luck no-decision in Game 4, he walked away as World Series MVP.
When Gene Larkin laced a one-out single to left-center in the bottom of the 10th inning, bringing Dan Gladden in for the winning run, it was only fitting that Morris was the first player to welcome him home.
If the showdown between Los Angeles and Houston is half as good as 1991’s World Series, we are in for a treat. Play ball, boys.
(feature photo courtesy of: twinkietown.com)
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The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2.The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.
Why not the Indians
The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.
Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.
Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.
The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.
Why not the Yankees
Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?
Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.
And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.
The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.
Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)
In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.
This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.
The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.
The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.
Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.
Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.
Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)
Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.
And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.
Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.
Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.
It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.
The World Series baseball fans need
Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.
We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.
Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)
Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?
These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.
An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.
In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.
Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!
(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)
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