What's up sports fans, it's Chris Bengel here once again to bring you all the sports news you can handle.
One thing I've been wondering in recent weeks is if it's just me or have there been more injuries around Major League Baseball than we've seen in a long time. If you're like me and play fantasy baseball, the 2021 season has been an absolute dumpster fire. I constantly find myself putting one of the players in an IL spot. Just when I get somebody back, another player gets moved to the IL in his place. My IL currently consists of Ketel Marte, Austin Nola, Mitch Garver and Tejay Antone -- and that's a lot better than it's looked in quite some time.
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📰 What you need to know
1. Clippers avoid elimination, force Game 6 behind Paul George 🏀
The Clippers were facing elimination last night and Paul George certainly proved to be up to the challenge. He poured in 41 points, including 20 in the third quarter, to help lead Los Angeles past Phoenix, 116-102, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Clippers certainly had the deck stacked against them with starting center Ivica Zubac missing the game due to an MCL sprain in his knee. However, George proved to be incredibly efficient throughout the night:
- George turned in a 15-of-20 shooting performance
- He also hit three shots from beyond the arc
- Point guard Reggie Jackson chipped in 23 points and made contributions on both ends of the floor
Phoenix did show a tremendous amount of resiliency as they battled back several times. However, every time Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and company would make a push, George would come down and hit a clutch shot for the Clippers.
Despite not having Kawhi Leonard for the entire series, George is definitely looking to shed his label of a player that struggles in the postseason and he's succeeding. George looks locked in on both ends of the floor and his mid-range game has been something special to watch.
Our NBA scribe Michael Kaskey-Blomain weighed in on the Clippers victory with his takeaways of the action. You can check them out here.
2. Lightning jump out to 1-0 Final lead over Habs 🏒
The Stanley Cup Finals got underway on Monday, and it was all Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning came away with a dominant 5-1 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 and looked like the offensive juggernaut that we've come to expect throughout the season.
Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde scored the opening two goals of the contest before Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot scored and cut the deficit to 2-1 in the second period. However, the Lightning weren't phased as they scored the final three goals of the game en route to the easy win.
Here are a few reasons why the Lightning were able to come away with a win in Game 1:
- Nikita Kucherov: You wouldn't know that Kucherov was banged up with an upper body injury just a few days ago. The star forward registered two goals and an assist and looked absolutely lethal all over the ice. Kucherov missed the entire regular season due to hip surgery, but hasn't missed a beat since returning to the ice during the playoffs. This marked his third multi-goal game throughout the 2021 postseason
- Blocked shots: A big reason for Montreal's deep playoff run has been their defense. However, it was Tampa Bay that excelled in the defensive department in Game 1. The Lightning ended up blocking 15 shots on the night and played extremely disciplined hockey. In addition, the Lightning only committed three penalties all night and killed off those Canadien power-play opportunities
- Andrei Vasilevskiy continues to stand tall: Tampa Bay also had a stone wall in net as Vasilevskiy turned away 18 of the 19 shots that he faced. While that isn't a huge clip, it's still impressive that Vasilevskiy has also given up four total goals over his last four games
3. Ranking trade destinations for Damian Lillard 🏀
Over the weekend, it was reported that Lillard has grown frustrated with Portland and their potential to contend for an NBA title. There's no shortage of destinations for the star guard.
All 29 teams would want to have Lillard on their roster, but there are certainly some suitors that are more realistic than others.
CBS Sports' NBA scribe Sam Quinn ranked all 29 teams in order of how likely they'd be willing to trade for Lillard. Here's his top three:
- Golden State Warriors: "Lillard is an Oakland native, but he's taken a backseat to Curry in the Bay Area for obvious reasons. There could be no more fitting end to his career than returning home and winning a title that would not only cement his legacy, but Curry's as well. There are teams that can offer Lillard a chance to win and there are teams that can offer Portland a worthwhile rebuilding package, but the Warriors are the team best-positioned to do both, and given his background, they are likely the realistic suitor Lillard is most likely to push for."
- Philadelphia 76ers: "The Philly side of the equation is cleaner: if they can pair Lillard with Joel Embiid, they should do it. Having two of the best 11 players in basketball makes you an instant title contender, and, while they'd be less talented than the Nets, they'd have one of the few players in basketball that poses real matchup issues for them in Embiid."
- New Orleans Pelicans: "Portland could receive any sort of package it wants from the Pelicans. Want young players? Take some combination of Brandon Ingram, Jaxson Hayes, Kira Lewis, Nickeil Alexander-Walker or their restricted free agents (Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). Picks more your speed? The Pelicans have 11 of them in the next seven drafts. Assuming Oklahoma City doesn't get involved, the Pelicans will start the bidding with the most to offer"
You know I'm the biggest 76ers fan you'll find, but all bias aside, the Sixers make a ton of sense. It's truly hard to imagine many teams that have the assets that Daryl Morey does. Say what you want about Ben Simmons, but the point forward still has a ton of value in the right system. Can they make it happen?
4. Who is the best head coach in the NFL? 🏈
The NFL has seen the changing of guard in recent years with many gifted younger minds joining the head coaching ranks. However, there have been some constants that have remained the same in the likes of Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, and Mike Tomlin just to name a few.
Much like CBS Sports NFL writer Cody Benjamin, It's hard to argue with anyone but Reid at the top of the list.
Reid completely transformed the Philadelphia Eagles when he arrived in 1999. He led the Eagles to six NFC East titles, five NFC Championship Game appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in 2004. Once Reid moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs, all he's done is win a Super Bowl in 2019 and reached the postseason in all but one of his eight seasons.
Benjamin revealed his order for the top 32 head coaches from around the league and Reid topped his list as well. Here's what he said about his other two coaches in the top three:
- Bill Belichick: "Belichick is still the greatest NFL coach of all time; his 31 playoff wins are absurd, and his six titles are matched only by Curly Lambeau and George Halas. Even after a bad 2020, when Tom Brady got the last laugh as the post-Brady Pats slipped to mediocrity, Bill remains one of the NFL's best schemers. You simply cannot count him out. Ever. His defense, in particular, seems poised for a return to form."
- John Harbaugh: "Critics may compare him to his current star QB, Lamar Jackson: Undeniably good, but can he win it all? Let's not forget Harbaugh already has. No, he hasn't returned to an AFC title game since 2012, but his team has also gotten incrementally better since Jackson entered the picture. Few coaches are as reliable and so willing to adapt their approach. Another ring is certainly within reach."
Reid edges out Belichick for me because of the unknown. Did Belichick make Tom Brady's career or was it the other way around? Brady did win a Super Bowl in his first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so this debate is still wide open for me. I'm not going to say Belichick is overrated, but I believe Reid did more with less-- especially during his time with the Eagles.
📝 Odds & Ends
- The pairings for the 2021 Big Ten/ACC Challenge were announced on Monday. Among the high-profile matchups are Duke/Ohio State, Michigan/North Carolina, Louisville/Michigan State, and Iowa/Virginia
- Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young briefly left Game 3 due to a bone bruise in his right foot. On Monday, the team announced that Young is currently listed as questionable for Game 4 on Tuesday
- Another day, another home run from Los Angeles Angels slugger Shohei Ohtani. In the first inning against the Yankees last night, Ohtani blasted his 26th home run of the year, which ties him with Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the MLB lead
📺 What to watch tonight
⚾ Padres vs. Reds, 7:10 p.m. I CIN +143 I TV: MLB.TV
🏀 Bucks vs. Hawks, 8:30 p.m. I ATL +230 I TV: TNT
⚾ Giants vs. Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. | LAD -140 | TV: ESPN
🥇 Best thing I saw on the internet
Gwen Goldman, 70, has been a fan of the New York Yankees her entire life. She wrote a letter to then Yankees general manager Roy Hamey in 1961 in which she asked to be a bat girl for the team. At the time, Hamey responded by saying that she would "feel out of place in a dugout." However, as a part of the team's HOPE Week initiative, Goldman got to fulfill her childhood dream and served as an honorary bat girl for the Yankees on Monday night.