May 16, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

☕️ Good morning! Tonight's slate:

  • 8pm ET: Bruins go for the sweep against the Hurricanes
  • 9pm ET: Warriors host the Trail Blazers (Durant still out)
1 big thing: 🏒 Another day, another replay controversy

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, San Jose's Erik Karlsson scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Sharks a 5-4 win and a 2-1 series lead.

The controversy: The assist from Timo Meier that led to Karlsson's goal appeared to have been an illegal hand pass. All four referees missed it, marking another blown call in a postseason filled with them.

  • And, since the NHL's video review process doesn't include hand passes that lead to goals, the play was not able to be reviewed.
  • NHL official statement: "Plays of this nature are not reviewable. A hand pass that goes into the net can be reviewed, but a hand pass between teammates cannot be reviewed."

My take: I understand certain plays not being reviewable. It slows the game down and can make for a slippery slope. That being said, once the postseason begins, everything (within reason) needs to be reviewable. Period.

  • The world is watching. The goal should be to get the call right, regardless of how long that takes or what transpired on the play in question. Why hasn't every league adopted this policy?
  • And by the way, I'm not even 100% sure that replay would have overturned the goal. I think it would have, but who cares what I think? This is precisely why we have replay review! To find these things out for certain!

Watch: According to NHL rules, a player can't bat the puck with his hand to a teammate, or "[allow] his team to gain an advantage" with a hand pass. You be the judge...


🎥 Go deeper: Every video angle

2. 🏀 The Brook Lopez game

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On a night when Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't his typical human highlight reel self (still had 24 points and 14 boards), Brook Lopez led a ferocious comeback and won Milwaukee a playoff game. Final score: Bucks 108, Raptors 100.

  • By the numbers: Lopez finished with a career-playoff-high 29 points (13 in the fourth), 11 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 assists … He hadn't scored 29 points since March 2018 and hadn't grabbed 11 boards since October 2017.
  • Mind-blowing stat: Brook took a game-high 11 three-pointers — an element that he's only recently added to his game. In his first eight seasons, Lopez attempted a total of 31 deep balls. In his last three seasons, he's attempted 1,224. That includes 512 this season — 17th-most in the entire league.
  • What's next: The Raptors will get a chance to redeem themselves in Game 2 on Friday after letting this one slip away. Kyle Lowry was the only player to make a field goal in the fourth quarter; everyone else went 0/15.

P.S. ... From the NYT: "Dick Garrett was part of the 1974 Milwaukee Bucks team that lost in the finals. Now, as a security guard, he has a front-row seat to watch Giannis." Best thing I read yesterday.

3. ⚾️ The AL's interleague edge has eroded
Expand chart
Data: Major League Baseball; Chart: Axios Visuals

Since baseball's interleague play was introduced in 1997, it has been largely dominated by the American League. But the National League is finally getting some revenge.

By the numbers: At the turn of the century, the NL was actually the better league head-to-head, winning roughly 51% of interleague games from 1997-2003. Then disaster struck.

  • From 2004-2017, the AL won interleague play every single season, often by wide margins. In 2006, for example, they went 154-98 (61%).
  • In those 14 seasons, the AL went 2,057-1,711 against the NL. How good is that? If the average AL team were playing a 162-game season against its NL counterpart over that span, it would win 88 games — good enough to make the playoffs in the NL most years.

Fast-forward: The NL finally edged past the AL last season with a record of 158-142 (52.6%). And through Tuesday of this season, the NL led 35-30 (54%).

  • Possible explanations: The DH isn't the advantage it used to be; more cellar dwellers in the AL (Orioles, Royals) coupled with more risers in the NL (Brewers, Braves); more NL superstars (the top three players this year, according to WAR, are all in the NL: Cody Bellinger, Paul DeJong, Christian Yelich).

Go deeper: How the National League is taking over baseball

4. ⛳️ PGA Championship begins at long, wet Bethpage Black

Photo: Christian Petersen/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images

The PGA Championship begins this morning at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. At 7,459 yards, the notoriously difficult course will demand a ton of length — especially with rain dampening the fairways this week.

  • Course details: Bethpage has 78 bunkers but only one water hazard. It also features three 500-yard par 4s. Here's how players will be attacking them, courtesy of pro Rob Labritz, who is in the field:

No. 7 (524 yards): "Longer hitters will carry it over that corner of trees on the right. Hit a good drive and you can get there in two. If you don't hit a good drive, you've got to take your lumps," Labritz told the NY Post.


No. 10 (502 yards): "Depending on where they put the tee, if the wind is into you, you've got to aim to the walkway, the narrowest fairway in America."


No. 12 (515 yards): "If the tee is way back, you have to hit it well right of those cross bunkers. If the tees are up a little bit, you can challenge those bunkers and turn it over to give yourself a mid-to-long iron in."

Go deeper: Tee times, pairings (Woods, Koepka, Molinari at 8:24am ET)

5. 🏈 Football roundup

NFL: The Jets fired GM Mike Maccagnan, which was probably the right move, but why did they wait until now?Maccagnan hired head coach Adam Gase (who will serve as interim GM), doled out $121 million in guarantees to free agents (most in the NFL) and ran their draft. And now you dump him? Huh?

College football: The Athletic's Stewart Mandel released his post-spring top 25 (subscription). ... 1-10: Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, Florida.

Video games: The NCAA has formed a group to look at how its rules can be modified to allow college athletes to be compensated for their names, images and likenesses. Could this mean the return of the NCAA Football video game franchise? Gosh, I hope so. Give me Dynasty Mode or give me death.

6. 🏀 May 16, 1980: Magic Johnson becomes a legend

Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

39 years ago today, Lakers rookie Magic Johnson clinched the NBA championship with a masterful performance in a Game 6 win over Julius Erving and the Sixers.

  • By the numbers: Johnson filled in at center for injured league MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (ankle) and put up 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in 47 minutes. He shot 60% from the field and made all 14 of his free throws.
  • The big picture: It was the Lakers' seventh title as a franchise and the first of five championships they'd win in that decade, alone ('80, '82, '85, '87, '88).

Go deeper:

7. 🏒 NHL trivia

Bruins center David Krejčí recently became the third Czech-born NHL player to record 100 career playoff points.

  • Question: Who are the other two?
  • Hint: One starred for nine teams, while the other starred for just one. They played together for almost two full seasons earlier this decade.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🥩 College meat judging is a real thing that exists
Screenshot: YouTube

"Intercollegiate meat judging is like no sport you've ever seen," writes SI's Mike Piellucci.

  • "It's college football in a cooler, a world built around high school recruiting, top-notch facilities, competition for scholarships, rivalries, national championships, All-Americans and professional scouts."

How it works: Colleges compete to see which team can best evaluate cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Each competition features multiple events, or "classes."

  • Yield grading: This class requires competitors to "eyeball the amount of fat and muscle on a beef carcass down to fractions of an inch."
  • Specifications: In this event, competitors must "evaluate whether a table of 10 cuts fits a checklist of USDA standards."
  • Scoring: A school can enter as many students as it wants but only four competitors' scores count toward the team's official total.
"Whenever outsiders ask about it, you just admit, 'Yeah, it's really weird.' We freeze our butts off for five hours in a contest, and it is what it is."
— Kansas State senior Sam Davis

The powerhouse: Texas Tech has won seven of the last 11 national championships, which take place in Dakota City, Nebraska, every November. Why are the Red Raiders so dominant? It starts with geography and money.

  • Geography: Since Texas Tech is in the heart of cattle country, the team is able to practice with a fresh set of cuts every week — "the equivalent of extra live reps on the practice field."
  • Money: In 1982, the school set up a side business called Red Raider Meats that sells leftover teaching product across the state. It's now a $2.2 million retail and catering business, and all proceeds are funneled into the meat judging program's endowment, which is currently roughly $10 million.

Please, for your own sake, go deeper.

9. 🏀 The luckiest tie in the world

From 2011 to 2014, the Cavaliers won three of the four NBA draft lotteries. Each time, vice chairman Jeff Cohen represented the team in the drawing room and wore the same black and silver tie.

  • Fast-forward: Alvin Gentry was wearing the same tie when the Pelicans won the lottery. Former Cavs GM David Griffin, now with New Orleans, had asked Cohen to send it to him as a good-luck charm and he passed it on to Gentry.
  • The bottom line: "Put Jeff Cohen and his damned tie in the Hall of Fame," writes ESPN's Zach Lowe. "Gentry said he is going to frame the tie and the lottery balls, and hang it in the Pelicans' practice facility."
10. 🏀 The internet has gained another GIF

Immediately legendary. Will be used in Twitter comments and text message chains for years to come.

Kendall Baker

👋 See ya tomorrow,

Kendall "Watch this immediately" Baker

Trivia answer: Jaromír Jágr (201 points) and Patrik Eliáš (125 points)