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There’s a cliché that the best two words in sports are Game 7. Well, across the NHL and NBA this weekend, we witnessed seven of them — not to mention additional winner-take-all matches in soccer and tennis.
Some of the showdowns were good, old-fashioned classics, while others were duds. Some favourites advanced, and some underdogs did too. The only constant: heartbreak on one side — and jubilation on the other.
Here are seven takeaways from a wild sports weekend:
Maybe the Maple Leafs are just cursed. Unlike last season against Montreal, Toronto didn’t quite collapse against Tampa Bay. Instead, it was simply a loss where one team got one extra bounce. Of course, that bounce didn’t go the Maple Leafs’ way, because bounces never seem to go the Maple Leafs’ way. Their series against the two-time defending champions was scintillatingly close — the Leafs both outscored and outshot the Lightning by one over seven games. But for the sixth straight year, Toronto is going home after the first round. That makes nine consecutive potential series clinchers that the Maple Leafs have lost. Maybe this team needs major changes to shake up the mojo. Or maybe they’re just cursed.
Sometimes in the playoffs, you need superstars to step up. Hockey might be the ultimate team sport, and sure, anything can happen in the playoffs. But thanks to a pair of true gamechangers, hockey fans will get the first Battle of Alberta playoff series since 1991. For the Oilers that gamechanger was unsurprisingly Connor McDavid, whose tenacious individual effort was the dagger in Edmonton’s 2-0 Game 7 win over Los Angeles. Per stats guru Meghan Chayka, McDavid was on the ice for 20 of the Oilers’ 26 goals in the series, recording 14 total points. Meanwhile, Johnny Hockey came through for Calgary, picking a corner in OT to send the Flames past Dallas and goalie Jake Oettinger, whose 64 Game 7 saves were somehow not enough.
WATCH | Memorable moments from the Battle of Alberta:
But the playoffs are also where stars are born. McDavid and Gaudreau were expectedly great. Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe? Not so much. Verhaeghe was a third-round pick of his hometown Maple Leafs in 2013 who bounced around the minors before finally getting a chance with the Lightning a couple years ago, when he scored nine goals in 52 games. That was enough for the Panthers, who poached him from their state rivals in free agency. The move paid off in their six-game series victory over Washington, where Verhaeghe, per ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, was on the ice for a McDavid-like 13 of Florida’s 20 goals, and earned a point on 12 of them, including his Game 6 OT winner.
What now for a trio of surefire Hall of Famers? In many ways, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Patrice Bergeron have defined the salary-cap era of the NHL. But after each met a first-round exit, their futures are less certain than usual. The Penguins were up 2-0 in Game 5 of a series they led 3-1 when Crosby was injured, forcing him to miss the rest of that contest as well as Game 6. Pittsburgh eventually lost in OT of Game 7, despite Crosby’s return. “Sid the Kid” remains excellent, posting 10 points in the series, but at 34 he’s certainly no longer a kid, and he’s surrounded by a similarly aging core with co-star Evgeni Malkin headed to free agency. In Washington, Ovechkin produced a vintage 50-goal season, but the Capitals seemed to sputter all season before falling to the Panthers. And Bergeron, also a pending free agent, made a point to hug each and every teammate after the Bruins’ Game 7 loss to the Hurricanes. Could that signal the end of an era? The 36-year-old said today he wouldn’t play anywhere but Boston — that is, if he continues to play.
Both of last year’s NBA finalists flamed out of the playoffs. The reigning champion Bucks, missing all-star Khris Middleton, simply ran out of steam against an impressive Celtics team in a 28-point Game 7 loss, despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s best efforts. But while Milwaukee shot a paltry 12 per cent on three-pointers against Boston’s stout defence, that wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as the Suns’ stunning defeat to the Mavericks, in which the 33-point margin was flattering to top-seeded Phoenix. At halftime, the Suns, who owned the NBA’s best regular-season record, had managed just 34 points — as many as Dallas superstar Luka Doncic scored on his own to that point. The Mavs now meet the rejuvenated Golden State Warriors in the West final, while the East final features the Celtics and Miami Heat. Read more about both games here.
Canadian women aren’t done collecting soccer hardware. In a winner-take-all match across the pond, Canadian Olympic champion Jessie Fleming came on in the 80th minute and proved crucial to Chelsea’s FA Cup victory. Fleming ran alongside star Australian forward Sam Kerr on a two-on-one in extra time, acting as a decoy for Kerr to fire home the game winner. The play capped a breakout year for the 24-year-old, who was even handed Canada’s captain’s armband at an international tournament recently. Meanwhile in France, fellow gold medallist Ashley Lawrence scored twice and Jordyn Huitema saw action too as Paris Saint-Germain won the less-heralded Coupe de France with an 8-0 rout over underdog Yzeure.
Novak Djokovic is back, and Iga Swiatek has arrived. Djokovic bageled Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening set of their Italian Open final en route to his sixth Italian Open championship. It’s a return to form for the controversial Serb, who heads to the French Open for his first major of the season next week. Meanwhile, Swiatek claimed the women’s title, marking her stunning 28th straight victory and fifth straight championship. Ranked No. 1, Swiatek should be a clear favourite at Roland Garros. In women’s doubles, Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos missed out on a second straight victory of their own, falling in the Rome final. Read more about all the clay-court action here.
Jimmy Butler steals the show on NBA media day with ‘emo’ phase look following Damian Lillard’s trade to the Milwaukee Bucks
Whether or not Miami Heat’s golden child Jimmy Butler’s new “emo” look is just a phase, the NBA star carried it off with some aplomb, drawing plenty of laughs from his teammates.
One year on from his memorable fake dreadlocks look, the 34-year-old outdid himself by turning up at the Heat’s media day on Monday sporting a straightened fringe, piercings in his eyebrow and lips and painted black nails.
Butler said he’s now “emo” and after the summer he and the Heat have had, who can blame him?
After former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his agent publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would only want to play for Miami, it seemed like a matter of when, not if, the 33-year-old would end up in South Beach.
Butler led the Heat to an improbable NBA Finals appearance as the eight seed last season, so it’s easy to imagine his excitement at the prospect of Lillard’s addition to the roster pushing the team over the top and to its first title in the post-Lebron James era.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in last week with a package that blew Miami’s out of the water, meaning Lillard will now be plying his trade in Wisconsin and not Florida.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Butler said as he entered his press conference, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “I’m emo. This is my emotional state, I’m at one with my emotions so this is what you get.”
Despite failing to acquire Lillard and losing key contributors Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Butler remains confident ahead of the upcoming season, telling reporters the Heat are going to win it all.
If it’s good news that he’s now at one with his emotions, Butler might just also be a gifted method actor and isn’t actually going through a belated “emo” phase. The six-time All Star could be heard saying “don’t make me break character” as he entered the press conference.
His new character was certainly a hit with his teammates and had Bam Adebayo crying tears of laughter as the pair were having their photos taken for the new season – which means, yes, Butler will have this hair in official photos for the entire year.
Certainly not someone to do things by halves, Butler was fully immersed in his new state and even posted songs from emo bands on his Instagram story throughout the day.
Finding Your Perfect Match: The Best Ways to Choose an Online Sportsbook
In the ever-expanding world of online sports betting, selecting the right sportsbook is crucial. This is to ensure an enjoyable and secure gambling experience. With numerous options available, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. For instance, you can be looking into sites like BestOdds to find a sportsbook to go with but do not know what exactly to check.
This article will explain the basics of finding an excellent online sportsbook.
Licensing and Regulation
The first and most critical factor when choosing an online sportsbook is ensuring it operates in a legal and transparent manner. A reputable sportsbook should possess a valid license from a recognized regulatory authority. These licenses indicate that the sportsbook adheres to strict standards, including fair play, responsible gambling and financial security.
Before registering, check for the sportsbook’s licensing information. In most cases, you will find this in the footer of their website. Some of the most reputable regulatory bodies for online sports betting include the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.
Additionally, research the sportsbook’s track record for regulatory compliance and any previous non-payment or unethical practices incidents. User reviews and industry news sources can provide valuable insights into the sportsbook’s reputation.
Odds and Betting Markets
The quality of odds and the variety of betting markets offered are key factors in determining the suitability of an online sportsbook. Competitive odds provide better potential returns for your bets, while a wide range of markets allows you to explore different betting options.
Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you get the best bet value. Some websites and apps even offer odds comparison tools to make this process more convenient.
Moreover, consider the breadth of sports and events covered by the sportsbook. Whether you’re into mainstream sports like football, basketball, or soccer or niche sports and events, the sportsbook should offer diverse markets to cater to your preferences.
Security and Payment Options
Security is paramount when sharing personal and financial information with an online sportsbook. Look for sportsbooks that employ the latest encryption technologies, such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer), to safeguard your data. Consider factors like two-factor authentication (2FA) to enhance account security further.
Payment options are another critical aspect. Ensure the sportsbook offers convenient and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common payment methods include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets (like PayPal or Skrill) and cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin). Choosing a sportsbook that supports your preferred payment method is essential to streamline your betting experience.
As LeBron James enters Year 21, the theme of Lakers media day was passing the torch and sharing the load
The budding relationship between fifth-year forward Rui Hachimura and four-time MVP LeBron James has been one of the stories of the offseason for the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers. Stories of the two working out together have become commonplace. “I call him my Daniel-san and I’m Mr. Miyagi,” James joked at Lakers’ media day Monday. It was an appropriate comparison not just between James and Hachimura, but the legend and his entire team.
Now that Udonis Haslem has called it a career and Andre Iguodala is seemingly headed in that direction, James is officially the NBA’s oldest active player. He proved that he is still a superstar on the court last season, but aside from Anthony Davis and Taurean Prince, all of his Laker teammates are at least a decade his junior. In a perfect world, the days of James pushing for 30-point triple-doubles on a nightly basis are now over. He has a group of young teammates eager to learn from his example and lift him up when he needs it.
“I think with this team we have the most depth,” new Lakers big man Christian Wood said Monday. “No team in the league has more depth than we have.” This was the goal of the Lakers’ offseason. Though they didn’t make any particularly splashy additions, six of the seven Lakers to play at least 200 postseason minutes are back this season. Joining them are Gabe Vincent, a starter on Miami’s finalist from a season ago, and Wood, one of the NBA’s most dynamic scoring big men. Rounding out the new-look bench are former first-round picks Taurean Prince (29), Cam Reddish (24) and Jaxson Hayes (23). That youth-oriented approach was no accident, as Lakers coach Darvin Ham explained Friday.
“Now that we have, top-to-bottom, what we feel is a highly balanced, skilled, athletic, younger team of guys that have logged a ton of NBA minutes, we can surround both he and AD with these players who are coming in eager to contribute, eager to show that they can impact winning,” Ham said. “That’s gonna allow us to be able to be more efficient with his game-to-game minutes.”
Managing James’ minutes was difficult last season. The Lakers lacked depth on a roster depleted by the Russell Westbrook trade, and when Davis was hurt, James needed to carry a remarkable burden just to keep the Lakers afloat. He averaged 24.1 shots and 34.6 points per game between Dec. 18 and Jan. 24, Davis’ longest extended absence of the season. Roughly one month later, he suffered the foot injury that hampered him for the rest of the season. It’s an outcome Davis is hoping to avoid this time around.
“It’s my goal every year to play 82,” Davis said. Though likely unobtainable, keeping Davis on the floor will be essential to the Lakers’ championship hopes this season. In fact, James might even argue that his co-star’s health is more important than his own. “He is the face [of the franchise],” James said at media day. For stretches last season, he was among the NBA’s best players. Between Nov. 13 and his own injury on Dec. 13, Davis averaged 32.4 points per game while doubling as the league’s best defensive player.
But for the Lakers to realize their considerable potential, he’ll have to sustain that dominance for longer stretches. The supporting players, who were so instrumental in lifting the Lakers from out of the top-10 in the West and into the Western Conference finals, will have to continue to benefit from James’ presence as Hachimura has. The Lakers went from cellar-dweller to contender last season when they morphed from an older, star-driven roster to a younger, balanced one, and whether that means Davis stepping into James’ role as the focal point of the team or the role players improving with another year in the system, the Lakers made it clear at media day that they plan to continue that transformation.
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