May 17, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

🍻 Happy Friday! Let's sports...

1 big thing: 🏀 A nostalgic evening in Oakland

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Quickly:

  • Final: Warriors 114, Trail Blazers 111 (GSW leads 2-0)
  • Recap: Golden State was down 15 points at half but mounted an epic comeback thanks to a sensational final few minutes and an all too familiar third-quarter outburst.
  • MVP (tie): Steph Curry: 37 pts (11-22 FG), 8 reb, 8 ast; Draymond Green: 16 pts (8-12 FG), 10 reb, 7 ast, 5 blk
  • Highlight: Andre Iguodala picked Damian Lillard's pocket twice in the final seconds. Classic Iguodala.

Why it matters: I was in attendance last night, and I kid you not, this was one of the most electric basketball environments I've ever experienced.

  • Have I seen closer games? Yes. Have I been to a Warriors playoff game before? Yes. Have I seen bigger comebacks? Of course. But never have I witnessed a crowd so genuinely happy to be watching their team play.
  • After giving it some thought, I've concluded that the undeniable energy circulating the building was a direct result of the Warriors turning back the clocks.
  • With Kevin Durant out of the lineup, there's a certain flow to their play that can only be described as nostalgic. The theme of the night was the Steph-Draymond pick-and-roll, which is virtually impossible to stop, and the ball movement was so beautiful I almost shed a tear.

Blazers guard Seth Curry:

"They know they have to be sharper as a team when they don't have [Durant]. A lot of times when he's on the floor, they run one action. Steph gets the matchup he wants, Klay gets the open shot, whatever. If not, they end up throwing it to KD and he goes to work. Without KD on the floor, they have to work harder without the ball. Steph will come off three, four screens, Klay comes off more screens."

The backdrop: Imagine being a Warriors fan. A true "been there from the beginning" Warriors fan. It's a pretty good gig — considering the team's historic greatness and all — but I also feel like there's some frustration there.

  • Ever since KD arrived, the Dubs have been almost annoyingly good. Other fan bases despise them, the media seems exhausted by them at times and we all roll our eyes at the notion that someone else might win the title.
  • For a Warriors fan, I imagine it can feel as if the world has forgotten the long road they took to get here; that the team's true identity was born long before KD's arrival; and that this dynasty was built methodically over many years, on the back of a scrawny kid from Davidson.
  • That's why Oracle Arena felt so alive during last night's vintage performance. Finally, a seminal victory that would be appreciated, instead of being met with the classic, "I mean, with that roster, you should've won by more" logic.

The bottom line: The Warriors are better with Kevin Durant, and anybody who says otherwise is either trolling you or trying to get you to click on a link. Golden State will need his offensive brilliance to three-peat.

  • But last night, in one of the final games they'll ever play at Oracle, nothing felt more right than seeing the band's original members on stage together — playing their greatest hits.
2. 🏒 Bruins sweep 'Canes, head to Stanley Cup Final
Photo: Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Boston Bruins will return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013 after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 to complete the sweep.

Fun fact: Boston has a team in the championship round for the 23rd time since January 2000 (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLS). Only Los Angeles has more (24), per ESPN.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Series MVP: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 109 saves on 114 shots in four games (95.6% save percentage) ... Carolina's combination of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney made 90 saves on 105 shots (85.7%). He was unreal.

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The big picture: The Hurricanes' magical run came to an abrupt end, but the number of kids they inspired along the way will be felt for years to come and is something that can never be taken away from this group.

3. ⛳️ Brooks Koepka's mastering of the majors continues
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

First of all, that photograph looks like a watercolor painting. Second of all, Brooks Koepka is ridiculous.

By the numbers: Koepka, the defending PGA Championship winner, shot a course-record 63 at Bethpage Black yesterday, putting him in prime position to win his third major in his last five starts.

  • If you go back to the start of the 2017 U.S. Open, Koepka's scoring average in majors is 69.03.
  • He's 52-under during that span, with two rounds of 63 and seven rounds of 66 or lower. In 29 rounds, he's broken 70 a mind-boggling 17 times.
  • Perhaps most impressive: He's just the third golfer with multiple rounds of 63 in major championship history (Greg Norman and Vijay Singh).

What they're saying:

  • ESPN's Ian O'Connor: "This is all Tiger's fault, of course, because he inspired a generation of golfers who grew up watching him. ... Woods helped make golf a viable option for Brooks and other versatile young athletes who lived in the gym and preferred to look more like NFL strong safeties."
  • No Laying Up podcast: "2019 Koepka is an advanced stage EA Sports user-created player. 99 rated skills across the board. You've made him super jacked and you dress him in random stuff just for fun. Simulating all the regular events and just playing the majors."

What's next: Day 2, baby

4. 🏈 The four "Hard Knocks" contenders
Giphy

The NFL and HBO will soon reveal which team will be featured on this summer's installment of the training camp series "Hard Knocks."

Why it matters: The assumption is that most teams loathe being on the show and view the additional media obligations and constant camera presence as little more than a distraction.

  • But there's no denying the impact "Hard Knocks" can have on a franchise's brand exposure, particularly if they have a fun roster. Just look at the Cleveland Browns last season — "Hard Knocks" is a big reason why America fell in love with them.

The contenders: Teams can avoid being selected if they (1) made the playoffs in the past two seasons, (2) have a first-year head coach or (3) have been on the show in the past decade. That leaves us with five eligible teams — minus the San Francisco 49ers, who have been ruled out.

  • Oakland Raiders: This is the obvious choice thanks to Jon Gruden and Antonio Brown, alone. But I honestly hope they don't get picked because I'd rather them be on "Hard Knocks" next year — in the midst of their Las Vegas relocation.
  • Washington Redskins: Exciting rookie (Dwayne Haskins) vs. affable journeyman (Case Keenum) is the QB storyline we deserve. You've also got the all-time great (Adrian Peterson), the stud free agent (Landon Collins), the loudmouth corner (Josh Norman) and the coach on the hot seat (Jay Gruden).
  • New York Giants: Two of the most camera-friendly and intriguing players are gone (Odell Beckham Jr. and Collins). And, while Daniel Jones vs. Eli Manning could fun, it's not like Jones is in line for the starting gig — and it's not like either guy is a quote machine.
  • Detroit Lions: No offense to Lions fans, but this team just doesn't have many charismatic superstars. That being said, "Hard Knocks" tends to reveal unexpected personalities every year, so maybe Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay are hilarious.

P.S. ... Miss you, Bob Wylie.

5. 🏇 Previewing the 144th Preakness Stakes

Bodexpress (16-1 odds) during a training session this week. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

From Mike Sykes: Of the 13 jockeys taking part in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, nine who rode in the Kentucky Derby are aboard a different horse this weekend.

What's happening: Jockey shuffling always has a "musical chairs" feel to it, but this year is especially hectic, per AP.

  • That's because the top four horses that crossed the finish line in Kentucky — Maximum Security, Country House, Code of Honor and Tacitus — won't be running in the Preakness.

Go deeper:

  • The purse: $1.5 million guaranteed.
  • The favorites: Improbable (5-2 odds) leads the pack, followed by War of Will (4-1), Anothertwistafate (6-1), Alwaysmining (8-1) and Owendale (10-1). Full odds/picks.
  • The coverage: Begins Saturday on NBCSN at 2pm ET and continues on NBC at 5pm, with the race set to start around 6:48pm.
  • The facilities: This weekend's race could be one of the last at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course, which has hosted the Preakness since 1909. The facilities are in need of a major overhaul, and city officials don't want to spend a half a billion dollars on upgrades.
6. ⚾️ May 17, 1970: Hammerin' Hank joins the 3,000 hit club

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

49 years ago today, Hank Aaron recorded his 3,000th career hit, becoming the ninth player in MLB history to join the 3,000 hit club. Hank would finish his career with 3,771 hits — good for third all-time.

All-time hit leaders:

  1. Pete Rose (4,256)
  2. Ty Cobb (4,189)
  3. Hank Aaron (3,771)
  4. Stan Musial (3,630)
  5. Tris Speaker (3,514)

🎥 Watch: Aaron goes up the middle for 3,000

7. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Speaking of the 3,000 hit club...

  • Question: Can you name the only five members of the club who were active this decade?
  • Hint: One is still active, two recently retired and two played together in pinstripes.

Answer at the bottom.

8. The Ocho: 🏏 A lovely cricket pitch taking you into the weekend
Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

The Ship Inn in Elie, Scotland, is the only pub cricket team in Britain to play their matches on the beach. Throughout the season they play against Scottish clubs as well as touring teams from all over the world.

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

Their first match was this week against The Borderers Cricket Club, which has been around since 1895. Next week, they'll play against two university teams: Edinburgh University and the University of St. Andrews.

Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images

"Fixtures are tide-dependent, and games end after the last wicket – or when the tide comes in. Man of the match is awarded in the beer garden, a terrace above the sea wall with chunky wooden tables, where they barbecue in summer," The Guardian writes.

Kendall Baker

Enjoy the weekend,

Kendall "Ladies and gentlemen, the 2019 Baltimore Orioles" Baker

Trivia answer: Derek Jeter (3,465), Adrián Beltré (3,166), Alex Rodriguez (3,115), Albert Pujols (3,110), Ichiro Suzuki (3,089)