Apr 23, 2019

Axios Sports

📺 Good morning! Tonight's playoff extravaganza calls for multiple screens. Bring the kitchen TV into the living room, power up the old iPad, order food so you don't have to move, do whatever it takes.

  • P.S. Has your dad signed up yet? Tell him we need him. And that his new sports page awaits.
1 big thing: 🏀 Russell Westbrook is running out of time

Photo: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

For the second straight year, the Thunder find themselves down 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs. And for the second straight year, Russell Westbrook has been wildly inefficient.

Why it matters: This is Westbrook's third season as the face of the franchise following Kevin Durant's departure, and Oklahoma City still hasn't won a single playoff road game, let alone a series.

  • Another early exit will not do great things for his postseason résumé and overall NBA legacy, and it could lead to a roster shakeup in OKC this offseason.

By the numbers: The Thunder are 4-11 in the postseason since Durant left, and Westbrook is shooting a paltry 38.7% from the field over that span.

  • This series: Westbrook's shooting has been even worse (36.3% FG). On top of that, he fell right into Portland's trap in Game 4, taking the open midrange jumpers they were literally begging him to shoot.
  • Yes, but: OKC's struggles don't fall solely on Westbrook's shoulders. His co-star Paul George has also struggled mightily (38.7% FG over two postseasons), as have some role players.

Between the lines: To make tonight's matchup even more movie-like, the protagonist of our story is taking on his nemesis, Damian Lillard, who has outplayed him this series (28.8 PPG, 43.9% FG) and loves getting under his skin.

The bottom line: If they can't mount a comeback, the Thunder will face some big-picture questions this summer, and the "can't win a ring with Westbrook as your point guard" argument will have gained some serious legs.

Tonight's slate:

  • Magic vs. Raptors (7pm ET, NBATV)
  • Nets vs. 76ers (8, TNT)
  • Spurs vs. Nuggets (9:30, NBATV)
  • Thunder vs. Trail Blazers (10:30, TNT)

P.S. ... In other NBA news, the Bucks eliminated the Pistons, the Jazz beat the Rockets to force Game 5, and the Suns fired their coach after just one season. Classic Suns.

2. 🏒 Hey man, thoughts on back-to-back Game 7s?

Source: Giphy

Same, man. Hat guy gets it. Game 7's are the greatest thing in the world, and we get two of them in the NHL tonight. Back-to-back. Same channel (NBCSN).

7pm ET: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins

  • Fun fact: Both teams have won twice on the road this series.
  • The intrigue: This is the second season in a row and third time since 2013 that these two teams have played gone to seven games in the first-round, with Boston winning the previous two.

10pm ET: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks

  • Fun fact: San Jose won Game 6 by the score of 3-1, improving to 35-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer.
  • The intrigue: This is the first-ever Game 7 for the Golden Knights, who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season last year, falling 4-1 to the Washington Capitals.

P.S. ... The Dallas Stars knocked off the top-seeded Predators last night, and the Hurricanes forced a Game 7 against the top-seeded Capitals. The insanity of the 2019 postseason continues.

P.P.S. ... If you're still awake, the Premier Lacrosse League's inaugural college draft will air on NBCSN following the games.

3. 🏀 No. 2 prospect set to announce decision
Cole Anthony. Photo: Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Five-star point guard Cole Anthony, the No. 2 recruit in the nation per ESPN, will announce his college decision on "Get Up!" in the next half-hour. He's deciding between UNC, Georgetown, Oregon and Notre Dame.

  • Fun fact: Cole's father is former NBA player and current TV analyst Greg Anthony.

The big picture: Once Anthony commits, point guard Jaden McDaniels will be the only uncommitted top-1o recruit (Kentucky is the frontrunner).

  1. James Wiseman, C (Memphis)
  2. Cole Anthony, PG (Undecided)
  3. Isaiah Stewart, C (Washington)
  4. Anthony Edwards, SG (Georgia)
  5. Vernon Carey Jr., C (Duke)
  6. Jaden McDaniels, PG (Undecided)
  7. Josh Green, SG (Arizona)
  8. Nico Mannion, PG (Arizona)
  9. Scottie Lewis, SF (Florida)
  10. Matthew Hurt, PF (Duke)

Go deeper:

4. 📸 Photos 'round the world
Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

BURSA, Turkey: Cyclists during Stage 4 of the 55th Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey, a 621-mile race that featured 119 cyclists from 17 teams.

  • Go deeper: 25-year-old Austrian Felix Großschartner won with a time of 24 hours, 53 minutes, 58 seconds. Italy's Valerio Conti finished second and Eritrea's Merhawi Kudus came in third.
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

MONTE CARLO, Monaco: I've said it once, and I'll say it again: I want to bathe in the Monte Carlo Masters. Everything is gorgeous.

Photo: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

THESSALONIKI, Greece: "Tens of thousands of fans in Greece's second-largest city partied through the night and into Monday after PAOK Thessaloniki became the first team outside Athens to win the Greek league title in more than three decades," WashPost reports.

  • The backdrop: Russian billionaire Ivan Savvidis bought the club in 2012 and rescued it from financial ruin. He's currently banned from all matches after storming onto the pitch with a gun last year.
5. ⚾️ Division update: AL Central

Byron Buxton hitting for extra. Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

1. Minnesota Twins (13-7): The Twins have won six of 10 and look like a legit threat to the Indians' reign atop the division.

  • Player to watch: Byron Buxton has 17 total hits this year, and 12 of them are doubles (leads MLB). He's on pace for 102, which would demolish the MLB record of 67.
  • By the numbers: The Twins have three players the AL's top 11 OPS rankings: Jorge Polanco (1.083), Eddie Rosario (1.018) and Nelson Cruz (1.014).

2. Cleveland Indians (12-9): The Indians look poised to win a lot of games behind a pitching staff that ranks near the top of the league in almost every category. So basically, the same story it's been for a few years now.

  • Player to watch: Perennial MVP candidate Francisco Lindor is back in at shortstop after missing the start of the season with an ankle injury.
  • By the numbers: Indians pitchers have recorded 214 strikeouts this year. Only the Rays (232), Yankees (225) and Brewers (220) have more.

3. Detroit Tigers (10-10): The Tigers find themselves at .500 through 20 games, but they've got a brutal nine-game road trip coming up that may set them back.

  • Player to watch: Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.96 ERA) has emerged as the Tigers' ace with Matt Moore injured and Jordan Zimmerman (0-3, 4.94 ERA) underperforming.
  • By the numbers: Shane Green has 10 saves — one in each of the Tigers' wins.

4. Chicago White Sox (9-12): The White Sox have won six of their last 10 and are in the midst of a series against the lowly Orioles. Feels like they're building a little momentum.

  • Player to watch: Shortstop Tim Anderson has been absolutely electric, leading the AL in both batting average (.403) and stolen bases (9). Keep flippin' those bats, kid.
  • By the numbers: Chicago's team batting average is .251, good for fifth-best in the AL.

5. Kansas City Royals (7-16): Not a ton has gone right for the Royals this season, but they're rebuilding, so this wasn't exactly unexpected.

  • Player to watch: Former first-round pick Hunter Dozier has made major strides as a hitter this season. He's currently ranked 10th in the AL in batting average (.324) and is tied for seventh in dingers (7).
  • By the numbers: The Royals have stolen 27 bases already, which is the most in baseball. Makes sense considering they might be one of the fastest teams ever.
6. 🏈 April 23, 1989: Cowboys draft Aikman

The rest is history. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

30 years ago today, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Troy Aikman out of UCLA with the No. 1 pick — the first selection of the Jerry Jones era in Big D.

The big picture: One year later, the Cowboys formed one of the league's most potent offensive trios when they added rookie Emmitt Smith to an offense led by Aikman and wideout Michael Irvin.

  • After losing his first 11 starts, Aikman went 94-60 through the rest of his career and led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls, including back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.

Go deeper: Career highlights

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Ryan Braun recently played his 1,600th game with the Brewers, the only team he's ever known.

  • Question: Who are the other two active players who have played at least 1,600 games all with the same team?
  • Hint: They both play in the National League.
  • Submitted by: Jake Lewit (New York)

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🚜 A Swiss combo of golf and baseball

Photo: Rainer Jensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Ever wondered what would happen if you combined golf, baseball and a splash of tennis? The answer has been sitting in the Switzerland countryside for 400 years. It's called Hornussen, or "farmers' golf."

How it works: Two teams take turns hitting a small puck off a stand with a 2.9 meter rod, while the opposing team stands in the field and attempts to knock the puck out of the air using wooden paddles.

  • If the puck gets through unhindered, the batting team scores. The further the distance, the more points you get.
  • If the fielding team hits the puck using their wooden paddles, the batting team gets no points.

You can't not watch.

9. Everything else
Photo: Courtesy of Full Sail University

🎮 Esports: Orlando-based Full Sail University plans to open the largest esports arena on a U.S. college campus in May, per SportTechie. The $6 million arena, dubbed "The Fortress," can hold 500 fans and will support the school's varsity esports team while also hosting other college and pro tournaments.

⛳️ Media: Barstool Sports is launching the Barstool Classic, an amateur golf tour with $10,000 on the line. There will be eight qualifying events and the top six teams from each course will advance to the championship. Read more on Front Office Sports.

🏈 CFB: Sports Illustrated's Andry Staples took the place of line judge during Georgia's spring game. His conclusion: "There jobs are nearly impossible. I don't know how anyone does it."

⚾️ MLB: Good long read: "One last Opening Day at a dying minor league ballpark"

🐶 Dogs: This Scottish pooch is way too good at soccer.

10. 🎰 Pick 3: Make your picks!

Will Reilly Smith and Vegas cruise into the next round? Photo: David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

Pro tip: Download The Action Network app to master the art of sports betting.

1. Who will win the Maple Leafs vs. Bruins game?

  • Know this: The Maple Leafs have already won two games on the road this series.
  • Watch: 7pm ET (NBCSN)

2. Will the team that scores first in Golden Knights vs. Sharks end up winning?

  • Know this: The team that scored first has won all six games this series.
  • Watch: 10pm ET (NBCSN)

3. Who will score the most points in the NBA tonight?

  • Know this: (1) Nikola Jokic, (2) Russell Westbrook, (3) Kawhi Leonard, (4) Damian Lillard, (5) Ben Simmons, (6) Someone else

🎰 Play now: Make your picks (cutoff time: 7pm ET)

Yesterday's results: 26.5% correctly predicted that the Hurricanes would beat the Capitals ... 45.6% correctly predicted that Predators vs. Stars would go under 5.5 goals ... 22.7% correctly predicted that Giannis (41) would score the most points.

  • Seven nailed all three: Chuck Kraus (Troy, N.Y.); Craig Lauder (Chapel Hill, N.C.); Dave Roach (Richland, Wash.); Mark Ascione (Washington, D.C.); Jason Foster (Middletown, Del.); Dave Anderson (Libertyville, Ill.); Andrew H (Austin, Texas).


Kendall "Hat guy gets it" Baker

Trivia answer: Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals) and Yadier Molina (Cardinals) ... full list