"The Stack" 4-20-17
The Stack is back on this Thursday with plenty of playoff reaction, but we will also try and get to some thoughts on Aaron Hernandez in as well as some other things so let’s get right to it and see what’s in “the stack” for today, Thursday, April 20th:
Wizards, Rockets Warriors all grab 2-0 series leads
The home teams so far in these three series are undefeated. The Washington Wizards had to fight in the fourth quarter, but Bradley Beal scored came up clutch with 16 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Wizards came from four down to beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-101. The Wizards have not played great in this series, but they are the better team overall, at least in my eyes. They will struggle in Atlanta and the Hawks will take a couple of games, but I think the Wizards will ultimately win the series.
Despite 51 points from Russell Westbrook, the Houston Rockets were able to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-111. The Thunder were up by nine after the first quarter and were looking good. They were up by three entering the fourth quarter and Westbrook stayed in when he would normally rest. He didn’t shoot well in the fourth quarter going 4-for-18. Is there a correlation? I would say so. After the game he said that he wasn’t tired, but when you don’t get the rest like you normally do, it will affect you and it affected Westbrook. He isn’t getting any help at all from the rest of his team so he feels like he has to do it and leave it all on the court. Hopefully we still get seven games out of this series, but in order for that to happen, Westbrook is going to need some help.
No Kevin Durant, no problem for the Golden State Warriors as they trounced the Portland Trailblazers 110-81. They outscored the Trailblazers by 32 points in the first and third quarters. They had balanced scoring. The Trailblazers just have no answer for them. They will win one game in this series…max. And Durant will likely play here in game three and or four. It’s nice to give him rest, but put the Trailblazers away in four and you’ll have plenty of time to rest before the second round of the playoffs start.
Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action
The Minnesota Wild did not become the first team to get eliminated from the playoffs this year. Devan Dubnyk turned in a masterful performance in net making timely save after timely save. Charlie Coyle made the Jake Allen pay in the first period when he intercepted the puck along the side boards and shot it in the net before Allen could get back to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. They would add another one in the second when Martin Hanzal scored with a slapshot that beat Allen amazingly enough. The Wild had multiple other opportunities to increase their lead and score more goals with breakaways, but Allen stoned them every time. Quite frustrating for the Wild I’m sure, but they did get the shutout win 2-0. The Blues lead the series 3-1. Game five is back in St. Paul on Saturday.
The Calgary Flames have the dubious distinction of being the first team knocked out of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not that anyone will remember or not that it matters. The Flames lost 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. Their series I think was similar to the one against the Winnipeg Jets a few years ago when the Ducks swept them. The Jets were a fairly young team and people were more excited in Winnipeg just to see playoff hockey again after such a long time. The Flames were in the playoffs a couple of years ago, but not many people thought they would make the playoffs this year. In a weaker Pacific Division they can perhaps get back to the playoffs a little more easily than the Jets can in the Central Division, but the team and the fans should look at this season as a success just to get to the playoffs and not that they got swept.
The Washington Capitals could very well disappoint us all again and make an early playoff exit. I think they understand that because they came out with a fury in the first period Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs scoring four goals and jumping out to a 4-1 lead. They had to hang on for dear life though as the Maple Leafs chipped away and cut the deficit to one at 4-3 in the third quarter. After Auston Matthews scored in the third period to make it a 4-3 game, T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game a minute later to help slow the momentum the Maple Leafs had. Tom Wilson also had two goals for the Capitals. The Maple Leafs scored another goal with 27 seconds left to make things interesting at 5-4, but the Capitals were able to hang on. The goaltending for the Capitals has to be a concern. Braden Holtby needs to step up his game. Either that or the defense needs to be improve. Something isn’t working right now with the Capitals, but they got a big win to even the series up 2-2.
It’s been a rough four days for Boston fans. Four straight days they went to TD Garden for Celtics and Bruins games and four straight days they walked out sad because the home team lost. The Bruins had a couple of golden chances against Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson, but couldn’t find a way to break through. The Senators finally broke a scoreless tie in the third period when Bobby Ryan scored to give the Senators a 1-0 game. That score would stand. I thought the Bruins would be able to win this series. It does not look good for them right now with the Senators holding a 3-1 series lead.
Aaron Hernandez commits suicide in prison cell
The world was rocked by the early news on Wednesday morning that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had hung himself with a bedsheet in his prison cell. Reports are that he had also jammed his cell door from the inside with things to prevent guards from getting to him. It’s a stunning revelation given that Hernandez had just been acquitted of a double murder case (I think he still did it, but that is beside the point). He was still serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of Odin Lloyd. I heard the word tragedy brought up in the immediate moments following news of his death. I first thought of “coward.” It’s a cowardly move to take your life in prison. You did the crime, now you have to do the time. Hernandez’s lawyers immediately suspected foul play and the Hernandez had given no indication that he would take his own life and vowed to have an investigation done. Then reports surfaced in the afternoon that the bible verse John 3:16 was on his forehead and there were reports that maybe Hernandez was on synthetic marijuana. The situation is troubling overall. It’s sad that Hernandez did what he did and threw a football career away. It’s sad that he leaves behind a four-year old daughter. Having said that I absolutely have zero sympathy for him. He’s evil. He’s not a good guy and he is a coward for taking his own life if indeed that is what happened. I don’t think foul play happened, but it can’t be ruled out. Odd situation overall with that happening the day the Patriots visited the White House for a fifth time combined with almost half the team not coming to meet the president for a variety of reasons. Just an odd day in Patriot land. Doubt Bill Belichick or Robert Kraft will say much about it.
Serena Williams is pregnant
An Instagram picture of Serena Williams with the caption “20 weeks” lit social media on fire yesterday. The picture was quickly removed, but a rep for Williams says indeed she is pregnant. The 20 week timeframe puts her roughly in early September to give birth meaning she will miss the remaining Grand Slam events (French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) this year. This gives someone like Maria Sharapova a chance. Sharapova is coming back soon after her long suspension for using a banned substance. Tennis is going to miss Williams for a little while. Hopefully though her pregnancy goes well and we’ll see her back on the court by next year’s Australian Open.
Thursday’s playoff schedule
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Indiana Pacers 7 PM ET TNT (Cavs lead series 2-0)
Toronto Raptors @ Milwaukee Bucks 8 PM ET NBA TV (Series tied 1-1)
San Antonio Spurs @ Memphis Grizzlies 9:30 PM ET TNT (Spurs lead series 2-0)
Columbus Blue Jackets @ Pittsburgh Penguins 7 PM ET NHL Network (Penguins lead series 3-1)
New York Rangers @ Montreal Canadiens 7 PM ET CBC (Series tied 2-2)
Chicago Blackhawks @ Nashville Predators 8 PM ET NBCSN (Predators lead series 3-0)
San Jose Sharks @ Edmonton Oilers 10:30 PM ET NBCSN (Series tied 2-2)
Coming up Friday: Playoff reaction plus initial thoughts on the NFL schedule
Listen to this week's "The Sports Block" podcast here (now on iTunes)