Cavs vs Raptors Game 3 Preview

Three down, one to go. The Cleveland Cavaliers will attempt to wrap up their series against the Toronto Raptors at 8:30 p.m. in the Q. A win tonight would send the Cavs into their fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Finals against the winner of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers series.

The Cavs are walking into this game with a home court advantage and a tremendous amount of momentum after coming out of game three with a LeBron James buzzer beater to win the game.

Toronto doesn’t have much to feel confident about. They have lost the past nine playoff games to Cleveland. They’re facing a potential sweep on the road. The Cavs held one of their leading scorers, DeMar DeRozan, to just eight points in game three.

LeBron, when asked about DeRozan’s poor performance said, “He missed a lot of easy opportunities…we’re just trying to make it a little bit more challenging that’s all.”

Looking ahead to the Eastern Conference Finals of the Cavs and the Celtics if each come out on top of their semifinal series, LeBron said he has been watching the other teams in their series. He said he has a lot of knowledge and insight on the Boston team who is missing their two star players Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving and still flourishing but doesn’t want to talk about it just yet, he still has a lot of work to do in the series against Toronto tonight.

Bulls Capture 3rd MAC Title in 4 Years

When former Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley left the Bulls, fans feared the program would lose some of their dominance in the Mid-American Conference. Now head coach Nate Oats would disagree with that fear.

For the third time in four years, the Buffalo Bulls have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

This time it would come at the hands of the Toledo Rockets by a final of 76-66. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they were without MAC player of the year Tre’Shaun Fletcher.

The story of the game was the high pick and roll between MAC All-Third Team guard Wes Clark and MAC Sixth Man of the Year Nick Perkins. Oates went to this set time and time again, typically against guard Jaelan Sanford and center Luke Knapke. Sanford struggled all night to fight through the large frame of Perkins, and with Knapke sitting back instead of hedging, Clark poured in open jumpers all game to the tune of 26 points.

Perkins, after going just 1-8 in the first half, found a rhythm against a tired Knapke in the second half. “I just slowed down, got to my spot, and finished”, said Perkins. “That really was the big difference”. The big man would finish with 16 huge points.

Toledo would end the game with 3 starters in double digit scoring, led by Jaelan Sanford with 19. However, they were just never able to get over the hump in the second half. “The difference was on us… a couple bad turnovers back to back and missed wide open shots”, said the junior guard. “It was just on us”.

Despite having the NCAA Tournament now staring him in the face, Coach Oats pointed out how excited he was for next season. “Well, if you go to some NCAA tournaments, it is easy to recruit the best players, and you can keep this momentum rolling”, said the second year Buffalo coach. “And the recruiting class we’ve got coming in next year…we’ve got something building”.

Buffalo now awaits Selection Sunday to see where they are seeded and who they will be playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Central Michigan Caps Magical Season with MAC Title

 

For the first time since 2013, the Central Michigan Chippewas women’s basketball team will be going to the NCAA Tournament.

Both the Chippewas and the Bulls expected themselves to be in this game after going 17-1 and 16-2 in conference play respectively.

Presley Hudson lit the Chippewas offensive spark early and often, pouring in 11 points going 3-3 from downtown. The Chippewas turned things up defensively as well, as they were able to frustrate Buffalo point guard Stephanie Reid who was 0-2 after the first quarter.

The game would turn on its head in the second quarter, however, as all good MAC Tournament Championship Games seem to. Down 34-23, Buffalo forward Mariah Suchan nearly dove out of bounds to save a loose ball to Reid, who found sharpshooter Cierra Dillard open for 3. This sparked a 17-5 run that put Buffalo up 40-39 via another Dillard 3 ball. Central would calm the storm a bit as Presley Hudson and gang would retake a 43-40 lead heading into halftime.

The second half absolutely belonged to Chippewa senior Tinara Moore. After a scoreless first half (with only 2 touches according to coach Sue Guevara in the post-game presser), Moore established a dominant presence down low. Hudson and Moore dissected the Bulls defense with the high pick and roll as Moore cruised to a 17-point second half performance and finished with 14 rebounds.

Central would extend the lead to as much as 14 before Buffalo made another run to cut it to 4. The Chippewas were able to make enough of their free throws in the closing seconds, however, as Central Michigan punched their ticket with a 96-91 victory.

As mentioned, Tinara Moore’s rebounding down low was too much for Buffalo as double teams failed to slow her down even the slightest. Guards Micaela Kelly and Presley Hudson poured in 26 points each as they frustrated Buffalo’s perimeter defense all day. All starters for Central Michigan finished in double digit scoring.

All-MAC Tournament honors from Central Michigan went to Tinara Moore, Micaela Kelly, and MAC Tournament MVP Reyna Frost who had 10 points and 11 boards in the championship win. Frost scored 14 in the quarterfinal win over Eastern Michigan and 18 in the semifinal win over Miami Ohio. “Thank my teammates and thank my coaches for giving me this award”, tournament MVP Frost said, “preparing me for these games”.

For Buffalo, Cierra Dillard was not her usual self from the field as she really struggled to be efficient. Dillard would finish with 26 points on 6-20 from the field and 5-15 from 3. Stephanie Reid, one of the leaders of this Buffalo team, suffered 2 injuries in the game, the latter of which ending her day.
In inadvertent elbow to her right wrist late in the 3rd forced the trainer to wrap it.

Reid would sit the beginning of the 4th and a sprained ankle at the 5-minute mark would end her day. She would finish with 15 points. A technical foul on Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack with 8 minutes left for disagreeing with a call would prove crucial down the stretch.

Despite 17 turnovers for Central compared to just 5 for Buffalo, the Chippewas overcame this with their persistence on the glass (primarily because of Moore). Central outrebounded Buffalo 44-34 and those extra possessions down the stretch really took the life out of the Buffalo defense.

Buffalo, after a 27-5 regular season record, is still hoping to be a team to receive an at-large bid. “I don’t see how they can’t be”, said Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara. “They’re one of the top 64 teams in this country”. Coach Guevara also pointed out the MAC Conference was 7th overall in RPI which should work in Buffalo’s favor.

Buffalo forward Summer Hemphill also believes that this Bulls team still has work to do. “The season’s definitely not over”, the freshman said. “We have a longer run to look forward to”.

 

 

 

 

 

Indians Provide Clouds On Yankees “Sonny” Day

The Indians opened up a four game weekend series with the New York Yankees Thursday night, and snagged a five to one win.

The Tribe got off to a fast start off of the Yankees newly acquired right hander Sonny Gray, scoring two unearned runs in the first inning. Bradley Zimmer and Michael Brantley reached base on miscues, and Jose Ramirez came up and smacked a single into right field. Zimmer would score, and Brantley would as well when former Indians farm hand Clint Frazier, who was traded to New York in the Andrew Miller trade last year, airmailed a throw to third base.

Both Gray and Indians starter Corey Kluber would settle in after that. The next scoring play wouldn’t come until the bottom of the 6th when Yan Gomes hit a bullet off of the left field wall, scoring Carlos Santana and Brandon Guyer.

The Yankees would get on the board in the seventh thanks to Gary Sanchez. He blasted a Corey Kluber pitch into the seats for a 427 foot home run.

Fransisco Lindor would respond right away in the bottom of the inning off Yankee reliever Chasen Shreve. He found the Home Run Porch in left to get the lead back to four runs.

Corey Kluber was magnificent, and that may be putting it lightly. Not only did he go the distance, he became the fourth player in MLB history to strike out at least eight batters in 12 consecutive starts (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan). He also moved into eighth place all time in strikeouts by an Indians player.

His final line was nine innings, 11 strikeouts, and one earned run on three hits.

Gray would finish his night with six inning, giving up four runs (two earned), while striking out six in a solid debut for his new team in a losing effort.

The two teams will play again tomorrow night in game two of the series. Trevor Bauer will get the start for the Tribe. He will take on the Yankees newly acquired left hander Jamie Garcia.

Salazar Tosses Gem, Lindor Walks it Off in Cleveland

If you are a big fan of offensive baseball with teams trading home run for home run all game long, this Saturday night in Cleveland was not the night for you. Unless of course your next favorite thing is free baseball. In which case, you would have loved this one.

Danny Salazar, a crucial piece of the Indians rotation in 2016 (minus the postseason) had been sidelined for the past month and a half dealing with a shoulder injury. His last start was on May 27th and his last MLB appearance was June 3rd. He would go toe to toe with Blue Jays ace Marcus Stroman who entered the contest with an impressive record of 9-5 and a 3.10 ERA.

Salazar set the tone early (and I mean EARLY) by striking out the side to start the game, doing it all on 12 pitches. Out of those 12 pitches, 11 were fastballs, and absolute heaters at that. Salazar would continue to torch batters all game long, moving his fastball around the zone with ease and topping out at 98 MPH. Not too shabby for someone who hadn’t pitched in a major league game in over 30 days. When Danny did decide to feather in some off-speed stuff, it was nasty. Blue Jay hitters were chasing changeups and sliders out of the zone consistently en route to a 8 strikeout performance for the Dominican right hander.

“It was very impressive”, said Tribe manager Terry Francona. “He came out throwing strikes, he had velocity, he attacked. That was really impressive”.

The Tribe offense would strike first in the bottom half of the 4th, as with runners on the corners and only one away, Edwin Encarnacion hit a screamer towards Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson who did not field it cleanly, allowing Michael Brantley to reach second base and Francisco Lindor to score. Donaldson did not receive an error on the play, rather, it was ruled a fielder’s choice as Encarnacion was thrown out at first.

Toronto would not answer until the 8th frame. With Salazar cruising but still only on his first start back from injury, Terry Francona decided to pull Danny (who was only at 85 pitches and seemed to have complete control of his fastball still) in favor of reliever Andrew Miller. Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak would clobber the first pitch thrown by Miller, depositing the ball into the right field seats to level things at 1.

The Tribe would put runners in scoring position in both the 8th and 9th, but were unable to convert. Toronto also had their chances at the dish but could not score anyone, sending the game to extras.

In the end, it would be none other than Francisco Lindor who played hero for the home faithful. Frankie found a pitch to his liking, literally just as the rain had started up again downtown, and sent an absolute rocket to right that was a no doubter the second he made contact. Lindor would trot around the bags with that enormous smile and receive a friendly assault from his teammates at home, giving the Indians a 2-1 win to even the weekend series up. The homerun was good for Lindor’s first walk-off long ball in his career, and fans certainly don’t expect it to be his last.

“I wasn’t trying to win the game, I was just trying to get on base!” said Lindor in his post-homerun interview, acknowledging Brantley and Ramirez, due up after him, both as top 3 hitters in the league. “I finally got the barrel to the ball”.

The biggest gripe fans had was the decision to pull Salazar (evident by the number of angry phone calls you could hear on the radio on the way home from the game), however, when you pull a guy who hasn’t started in 30+ days for arguably the most reliable bullpen setup guy in the game, it’s hard to fault that. One would much rather have Danny Salazar come playoff time than lose him over a late game injury in mid-July because he got pushed too hard.

The final line for Marcus Stroman would be 1 earned run on 5 hits with 7 strikeouts and 5 walks through 7 and 2/3 innings. For Salazar, it was 0 earned runs on 1 hit with 8 strikeouts through 7 innings. Bryan Shaw would receive the win despite a cascade of boos from the fans when he entered the game (I guess we all hate the guy with a 1.20 ERA???) and Toronto reliever Danny Barnes would be hit with the loss. Shaw is now 3-4 on the year while the loss dropped Barnes to 2-3.

The unsung heroic play of the game (excluding the walk-off here) came from Michael Brantley in the 9th. Jose Bautista would send a towering fly ball to the track and left, giving Darwin Barney (the runner on first) the idea that he could tag up and move to second to get in scoring position. Brantley fired a laser from the track right into the glove of Jose Ramirez who would lay down the tag on Barney, a crucial double play that really got the momentum back in Cleveland’s favor after it had been deflated by Justin Smoak.

The Tribe will look to win the series tomorrow as Corey Kluber will square off against J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays at 1:10. Check out the link below to re-watch Frankie’s walk-off blast! (Courtesy of MLB.com)

http://m.mlb.com/cle/video/topic/6479266/v1637980483