Jimmy Butler recorded his second triple-double of the NBA Finals as the Miami Heat staved off elimination to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 111-108 Friday night and force a Game 6 in their championship series.
Butler hit a pair of free throws with 16.8 seconds left in the game to give Miami a one-point lead and on the ensuing Lakers offensive possession LeBron James set up teammate Danny Green at the top of the key with a wide-open look to give Los Angeles a chance to take the lead back, but he missed.
The Lakers were gifted another opportunity, however when Markieff Morris got the offensive rebound but appeared to panic trying to force a pass inside only to see it sail out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Heat who saw Tyler Herro ice the game with a couple of free throws with 1.6 seconds to play, giving the Lakers no time to get a quality look to force overtime as they had no timeouts left and couldn’t advance the ball.
Game 6 will go on Sunday evening.
Here are few takeaways from a dramatic Heat victory in Game 5.
Game of the year
Before diving into any of the nitty-gritty of the contest, let’s first take time to appreciate the greatness that was Game 5.
There’s been a lot said about the quality of play all throughout the bubble and Friday’s game looked to be the very apex of all this great basketball we’ve been treated to thus far.
In short, Game 5 of the 2020 NBA Finals was what peak basketball looks like.
There were 15 lead changes and six separate ties as both teams shot the ball well and got timely stops when needed. Then there was a nail-biting finish and a duel for the ages between two superstars (which we’ll get to in the next section).
So this is less a takeaway and more just a mini section of deep appreciation for that game.
Thank you, Basketball Gods.
Jimmy vs. LeBron
Butler became just the sixth player in NBA history to record multiple triple-doubles in a single NBA Finals when he once again put the Heat on his back for a line of 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals on 11-of-19 shooting and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
Among the names on that elite list is LeBron James, who had himself quite the night as well, erupting for 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists on 15-of-21 shooting, including a deadly 6-for-9 night from deep.
A big reason why this game was so compelling is because of the duel between these two players.
From early on in the game you knew this game was shaping up to be something special because of the performance of Butler and James with the Heat star going off for 22 first-half points, with six rebounds and assists to boot, and James answering with 21 of his own in the opening half.
As such, the end of the game was enhanced as this showdown met its logical conclusion with the pair going basket for basket down the stretch. Besides the Herro free throws that iced the game and an Anthony Davis putback with 21 seconds to play, all the points scored within the last 2:52 of the game were scored by Butler and James.
It was like scripted theatre but even better because there was no telling what the outcome was going to be until the final buzzer.
Seeing stars compete against each other and thrive the way Butler and James did Friday is why sports will always be the best kind of entertainment.
Heat role players get the job done
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room.
There will be a lot of blame given to Green for missing a wide-open shot to potentially win the championship, but he isn’t to blame.
“I was able to draw two defenders below the free-throw line and find one of our shooters at the top of the key for a wide-open three, to win a championship,” James told reporters after the game of the look Green had. “I trusted him, we trusted him and it just didn’t go and you live with that.”
Less forgiving is the play Morris was attempting to make after he grabbed the offensive rebound. There was about five seconds left to play and he attempted to make a desperate pass on the inside to Davis, despite the Lakers big man being smothered. Morris probably could’ve kicked it out to Green for another look at three or to another perimeter player for a decent look as the majority of Miami’s defenders were scrambling about and out of sorts.
Still, that isn’t what happened and in the end the better team won Friday mainly because as great as Butler was, Miami got the most out of its supporting cast, which vastly outplayed their Lakers counterparts throughout the game.
Duncan Robinson finally got uncorked, exploding for 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting from three-point range, and in the first half Kendrick Nunn was huge in helping Miami enter the break with a lead, scoring 11 of his 14 during that time.
By comparison, outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who hit big shots for the Lakers in the fourth quarter, their non-stars were a decided non-factor with the trio of Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso being particularly ineffective.
AD injury status
Of pressing concern for the Lakers in advance of Game 6 will be the status of Davis.
The All-NBA big man had another strong game, going for 28 points, collecting 12 rebounds and coming up with three blocks and steals as the primary defender on Butler once again, but he had an injury scare near the end of the first quarter where he looked to bang up his right heel.
At first it didn’t look to be a cause for concern as he hardly missed any time (and actually ended up playing 42 minutes), but down the stretch of the game Davis looked a little hobbled and without that trademark burst that makes him such a unique talent to begin with for his size.
It’s unclear at the moment if it was just fatigue setting in for Davis or anything truly serious, but he will be someone that will be closely monitored right up to tip-off on Sunday, for sure.
Bayern Munich 4-0 Atletico Madrid: Initial reactions and observations – Bavarian Football Works
Initial reactions and observations
- Bayern’s midfield dominated the match and dictated the tempo. Kimmich was probably the best midfielder tonight and gave another amazing display.
- Bayern’s defense showed character, but David Alaba’s form is worrying. His head is simply somewhere else. On the other hand, Süle, Hernandez, and Pavard were amazing.
- Coman had a phenomenal match and was probably the best player on the pitch. He has improved in recent months, but the competition on the wings might have made him a better player.
FULL TIME! Bayern Munich 4-0 Atletico Madrid
83’ — Davies, Martinez and Choupo-Moting in for Muller, Goretzka and Lewandowski
73’ — Bouna Sarr and Douglas costa in for Pavard and Coman.
72’ — ANOTHER WONDER GOAL! Coman scores his second tonight!
66’ — Tolisso scores a wonder goal!!!
45’ — The second half is underway!
Halftime Observations and Analysis
- Kimmich is crazy good. The midfielder was all over the pitch in the first 45 minutes and made a world-class assist for Coman.
- Coman looking refreshed. The Frenchman was lethal so far. He scored and assisted and made some dangerous runs on the left flank.
- The defense was shaky in the beginning but got better as the game progressed.
- Good job for dealing with a team like Atletico. Bayern usually has certain difficulties when playing against teams like Atletico, but for now, the Bavarians are managing to keep them at bay.
Halftime: Bayern lead 2-0.
41’ — Leon Goretzka scores and makes it 2:0
28’ — Kingsley Coman scores after Kimmich’s perfect pass!
Kickoff! New season of the Champions League is underway
One hour until kickoff: Bad news, Muller is on the wing. Even worse, Davies isn’t playing. Hansi, why?
THE CHAMPIOONS! It’s the very first match day of the new season, and defending champs Bayern Munich face the giant-killers — Club Atlético de Madrid, scourge of Europe, ender of UCL seasons. With Serge Gnabry confirmed out due to the coronavirus, Hansi Flick has lost one of his best weapons against Diego Simeone’s men. How will Bayern fare?
Well, first of all, figuring out a role for Alphonso Davies is the best idea for cracking Atlético Madrid open. Whether he starts on the wing or at left-back, the young Canadian’s pace is crucial in the absence both Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry. The other keys to the puzzle will be our blockbuster duo of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, who’ve been unplayable since the season started. With them, the Bavarians have a nigh-unstoppable battering ram that will definitely make Oblak and co. pause and consider their options.
It’s Bayern time.
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Time: 9:00 pm local time, 3:00 pm EST
TV/streaming: CBS All Access, Find Your Country
Tips for commenting:
- If you’re a new member, feel free to introduce yourself. We’re
mostlyvery friendly! Also, we’re from all parts of the world so don’t feel shy if you’re from a country that doesn’t seem represented on the blog.
- SBN is a little slow to show new comments. Refresh the page regularly to keep up with the discussion, especially after goals.
- The goal celebrations are for everyone to participate in! Even if you’re lagging behind the others, keep replying to the most recent call of the player’s name. Even if you missed the first call, just start from the second, and so on.
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Check out our beginners thread if you have any more questions. That’s about it. Auf geht’s!
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Toronto Raptors prepare for a very different NBA draft – The Globe and Mail
Taking place in November instead of June, and during a pandemic that has limited the ability to scout players in person, the Toronto Raptors are preparing for a very different NBA draft experience.
The Raptors have the 29th and 59th picks in the draft, which will take place on Nov. 18, a little more than a month after the NBA Finals concluded inside the bubble in Orlando. The process of evaluating prospects live at games, combines and individual workouts has mostly shifted to studying those players on film and interviewing them by video calls.
The Raptors scouting department works year-round and has scouts around the world. Their staff had already learned a great deal about prospects before the pandemic shut down the sports world, including March Madness, in the spring.
“I think that we’re a front office that spends a lot of time digging in on guys throughout the entire season, not just during the predraft,” said Dan Tolzman, Raptors assistant general manager and vice-president of player personnel. “So a lot of the work we’ve done, it happened earlier in the year while the games were still going on.
“We feel pretty comfortable where things were when everything got changed. I think it’s going to come down to trusting in our gut feeling on some of these players.”
Typically, NBA teams bring potential picks to their cities for individual workouts close to the draft, but the league restricted most player travel because of the pandemic. Some players did local workouts and teams connected by video to watch or talk to them.
“We value the visits … and we get to know [the prospects] in person,” Tolzman said during a video call with reporters, adding that it was also a good way to sell the potential players on the city. “A lot of these guys have never been out of the country or especially to Toronto. It’s unfortunate for that side of things to kind of miss out on that opportunity. We’re still getting some one-on-one time. We’re doing a lot of Zoom interviews. It doesn’t recreate the interperson discussions, but we’re doing our best to at least get to know them.”
The Raptors are still doing homework on the prospects, including speaking with people who know them. Tolzman added that it can be tough to evaluate virtually how a player is doing with goals he may have stated months ago, such as changing his diet, adding or losing weight or improving a particular skill.
“It seems like forever since we’ve seen these players. They might be completely different from the last time we saw them playing in March,” Tolzman said. “We’re basing a lot of these decisions on extensive film work, discussions as a staff and a lot of background digging on players to get as much info as we can to make an educated decision come draft night.”
All teams missed the scouting opportunities that would have come with U.S. college conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament.
“Those are two events that are so important for the performances under pressure, the different sort of environments that are really good for critiquing players and getting to see them in different settings,” Tolzman said. “It’s almost like the final exam of a scouting season where you can go to a conference tournament and you can see 12 different draft prospects in one day.”
Tolzman said he believes the market for undrafted talent could be huge this year, because some potential gems never got the chance to shine in front of scouts.
He added that international prospects might be more NBA ready than in in the past, because they spent four or five months before this draft training in the United States, rather than previous years when they would typically be playing back home.
“Because of this situation most of them are now State-side and they’re already doing the NBA-type training methods,” Tolzman said. “They might hit the ground running a little bit quicker than normal.”
The NBA has not released any details about how the draft will operate or what it will look on TV. The Raptors will still feel at home where key members of their staff usually work on draft nights, inside their Toronto training facility – OVO Athletic Centre – fitted with sophisticated analytics technology.
“We’re waiting to hear officially from the league on what to expect,” Tolzman said. “I think all the technologies and all the setups that we usually have at OVO for these sorts of thing, we’re going to have the same things right in front of us. It’ll just be a matter of it looking and feeling a little bit different. But we’re going to make sure it’s all set up and ready to go at least a week in advance to get comfortable and ready.”
World Series Takeaways: Game 2 the epitome of baseball in 2020 – Sportsnet.ca
Tampa Bay’s offence finally arrived. The Dodgers flexed the depth of their pitching staff. In a perfect representation of 2020 baseball, a dozen pitchers were used, five homers were hit, and the game took three hours, 40 minutes to play.
Plenty happened. And this series just got a lot more interesting. Here are your takeaways from World Series Game 2.
Watch every game of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sportsnet and SN Now.
Arrived just in time
Not much has gone right at the plate for Brandon Lowe this post-season. He came into Wednesday’s game mired in an epic slump, batting .107/.180/.161 with six hits — five of them singles — in 15 games. He’d struck out 19 times against only five walks. For a guy who put up a .916 OPS this season, something was obviously amiss.
Through it all, Rays manager Kevin Cash has stuck with him, continuing to write Lowe’s name second in the batting order game after game, trusting the second baseman was too good of a hitter not to break out of it. A home run came in Game 5 of the ALCS, followed by a single and a walk in Game 6. Promising signs. But then Lowe went 1-for-8 over his next two games, leading into his first plate appearance Wednesday when he did this:
Fastball hunting in a 3-1 count, Lowe smoked that ball 410 feet over the wall in left-centre, a no-doubter the moment it left his bat. His next plate appearance didn’t go so well, as he fell behind 0-2 and grounded out chasing a slider. And his third started similarly, falling behind 0-2 to Dodgers right-hander Dustin May. But then May missed his location with a slider, leaving it out over the plate — and Lowe knows exactly what to do with those:
Was Lowe fortunate to get a hung slider in an 0-2 count? Sure. But he was rewarded for a patient approach in the first, getting the 3-1 fastball hitters feast on. And process aside, the results had to be a relief for a struggling hitter suffering through a miserable few weeks.
Same could be said for Joey Wendle, who entered the night with a .583 OPS this post-season, nearly 200 points off his regular season rate. Before Lowe’s second homer, Wendle stepped to the plate in the fourth with two on and two out, and got himself one of those hanging May sliders, driving it to right-centre and cashing both runners:
That was Wendle’s fifth hit in his last 35 plate appearances, and only his second extra-base hit in 16 games this post-season. Later in the night, with runners on the corners and none out in the sixth, Wendle sliced a first-pitch Joe Kelly curveball into left field deep enough to cash the runner from third with a sacrifice fly. Again, screw the process. Wendle will happily take the result.
So, too, will the rest of the Rays hitters who came to life Wednesday after a 10-game stretch in which the club scored only 31 runs. That goes for Manuel Margot, who went 2-for-2; Yandy Diaz, who ripped a 109-m.p.h. liner off the wall in the seventh; Willy Adames, who laced a double off Alex Wood in the eighth and put his hands up when he got to second, like, ‘finally.’
Are these signs of an offence beginning to break out of the slump it’s been in since Game 4 of the ALDS? The Rays certainly hope so.
Something had to give
In their Game 1 victory the Dodgers executed a patient game plan against Tyler Glasnow, refusing to swing at any secondary stuff off the plate, forcing the Rays starter to come into the zone with fastballs, and taking their walks when he didn’t. The result was Glasnow throwing 112 pitches over only 4.1 innings, walking six and allowing six runs in the process.
That set up a fascinating dichotomy entering Wednesday’s Game 2. The Rays were starting Blake Snell — a Cy Young winner whose success is predicated on generating swing-and-miss outside the zone. This season, Snell threw 57.7 per cent of his pitches off the plate — and that number increased slightly to 58.4 per cent in the playoffs. He was also one of MLB’s best at generating swings on those pitches, with a 33.2 per cent rate.
But the Dodgers refused to chase against Glasnow and had generally been refusing to chase all season long, going after only 11.9 per cent of the pitches they were thrown outside the zone this season — MLB’s best rate. Something had to give.
For a while, it was the Dodgers. Snell started his night in attack mode, retiring his first three batters with only 10 pitches, the fewest he threw in any first inning this year. And he absolutely cruised through four, striking out eight without allowing a hit.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 22, 2020
Living in the zone with his fastball and changeup, Snell was getting plenty of swing-and-miss with his breaking balls, earning five strikeouts with his slider and three with his curveball. Nine of the 13 times Dodgers hitters swung at his slider they came up empty.
But with two out in the fifth, right after his ninth strikeout, Snell’s command began to waver. He walked Enrique Hernandez on five pitches before falling behind Chris Taylor, 2-1. And that’s when he allowed his first hit of the night:
A Mookie Betts walk and Corey Seager single followed, and suddenly Cash was on his way out of the dugout to get his starter. It turned that quickly. Snell went from unhittable to on the ropes in the span of four batters, all with two outs.
Still, the Rays can be happy with what Snell provided. It was only 88 pitches over 4.2 innings, but he struck out nine and contained one of baseball’s best, most patient lineups. And for starters in these playoffs, five innings is the new seven.
Particularly for these clubs, which each have nuclear bullpens to deploy. And although the Dodgers plated a couple late runs with solo shots off Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks, Tampa’s relievers held the lead, with Aaron Loup and Diego Castillo recording the final four outs in order.
Where things get interesting now is Glasnow and Snell’s next appearances in the series. Glasnow could start Game 5 and Snell Game 6, provided things don’t go haywire and neither is asked to return on short rest. But either way, the cat-and-mouse game between them and the Dodgers lineup will continue. Baseball’s all about adjustments. And later on in this series, we’ll see whose are better.
Choose your own adventure
And it’s possible that was true. Maybe Roberts just didn’t like what he was seeing from Gonsolin through his first six hitters, causing him to pull the rookie right-hander with one out in the second inning. Gonsolin had allowed a homer and a walk, after all, and the final hitter he faced made relatively loud contact flying out to centre field.
But it’s much more likely that the real reason Gonsolin was lifted so early was because that was the design all along. When you’re the Dodgers, you can do things like this. The club is carrying 15 pitchers for this series and used only five in Game 1. Some of the team’s highest-leverage arms — Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol — were not among them. Neither was Julio Urias, who pitched three innings of lights out relief in Game 7 of the NLCS. With an off day Thursday, Roberts had an embarrassment of options to help him get 27 outs in Game 2.
And so, Gonsolin was pulled after only six batters, replaced by Dylan Floro, who mowed down the bottom third of Tampa’s order. Victor Gonzalez was next, entering in the third to start his night against the top of the Rays lineup. He faced four hitters before turning it over to May, who saw eight. And so on and so forth, as the Dodgers used seven arms to pitch nine innings.
Still, it’s probably not accurate to say Roberts was merely following a script — he was following multiple scripts. He was choosing between manifold avenues depending on how his pitchers were performing, which part of Tampa’s lineup was due up, who the Rays were likely to call upon off their bench, and which matchups he felt put his club in the best possible position to be successful. If Gonsolin was dominating, he probably would’ve been left in to face the Rays lineup one time through. But he wasn’t, so Roberts took one of the exits on his road map and tried to continue charting the most optimal course to his team’s preferred destination.
Welcome to 2020 baseball. What was once known as a bullpen day, and only deployed in times of desperation, is now sound strategy. Provided you have the pieces to do it. That’s the thing about the Dodgers. Their roster runs extremely deep with effective players on both sides of the ball. They can create the matchups they feel are most advantageous from the first pitch of the game until the last. They might trot out a different batting order every night. They might ask players to switch positions multiple times in one game. And they might just utilize that extreme fluidity in their deployment of pitchers, too.
Think about it this way. The Dodgers essentially have two true starters in this series — Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. The rest of the staff just gets outs when they’re asked. Sometimes that could be at the beginning of the game. Sometimes it could come somewhere in the middle, either in extended relief of a short start or in a briefer stint because that’s where the game’s highest leverage presented itself. And sometimes it could be at the end, as the club has gotten saves with three different pitchers this post-season.
Like it or not, this is the strategy. Create advantageous matchups for your team while keeping the opposition guessing. Some will look at how things turned out Wednesday and suggest the strategy’s bunk. But that would be recency bias shrouding the fact the Dodgers have done this throughout the playoffs and won 10 of 14 games.
The issue Wednesday was May hanging sliders all over the plate in the fourth and fifth, and Kelly allowing a couple groundball singles in the sixth. That’s a flaw in execution and luck, not strategy.
Friday, when Buehler takes the mound for Game 3, you’ll likely see a much more traditional starting pitcher’s outing. But don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers going back to their bullpen’ing ways in Game 4. That’s the design. And it’s gotten them this far.
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