LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The ultimate anguish. The ultimate joy.
For the first time since Kobe Bryant’s fifth and final title a decade ago, the Lakers are NBA champions. James had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday night to win the NBA Finals in six games.
“Our organization wants their respect. Laker Nation wants their respect,” James said. “And I want my damn respect, too.”
Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who dealt with the enormous anguish that followed the death of the iconic Bryant in January and all the challenges that came with leaving home for three months to play at Walt Disney World in a bubble designed to keep inhabitants safe from the coronavirus.
It would be, James predicted, the toughest title to ever win.
“We have a Ph.D in adversity, I’ll tell you that much,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’ve been through a lot.”
They made the clincher look easy. James won his fourth title, doing it with a third different franchise — and against the Heat franchise that showed him to to become a champion.
Bam Adebayo had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 12 points from Jimmy Butler — the player who, in his first Heat season, got the team back to title contention. Rajon Rondo scored 19 points for the Lakers.
With that, the league’s bubble chapter, put together after a 4 1/2-month suspension of play that started March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic and came with a promise that it would raise awareness to the problems of racial injustice and police brutality, is over. So, too, is a season that saw the league and China get into political sparring, the death on Jan. 1 of commissioner emeritus David Stern — the man who did so much to make the league what it is — and then the shock on Jan. 26 that came with the news that Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other died in a helicopter crash.
The Lakers said they were playing the rest of the season in his memory.
They delivered what Bryant did five times for L.A. — a ring, and the clincher was emphatic.
“You have written your own inspiring chapter in the great Laker history,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said. “And to Laker Nation, we have been through a heartbreaking tragedy with the loss of our beloved Kobe Bryant. Let this trophy serve as a reminder of when we come together, believe in each other, incredible things can happen.”
Game 6 was over by halftime, the Lakers taking a 64-36 lead into the break. The Heat never led and couldn’t shoot from anywhere: 35% from 2-point range in the half, 33% from 3-point range and even an uncharacteristic 42% from the line, not like any of it really mattered. The Lakers were getting everything they wanted and then some, outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter and doing all that with James making just one shot in the period.
Rondo, now a two-time champion and the first to win rings as a player in both Boston and Los Angeles — the franchises now tied with 17 titles apiece — was 6 for 6 in the half, the first time he’d done that since November 2007. The Lakers’ lead was 46-32 with 5:00 left in the half, and they outscored Miami 18-4 from there until intermission.
Ball game. The 28-point halftime lead was the second-biggest in NBA Finals history, topped only by the Celtics leading the Lakers 79-49 on May 27, 1985.
“We didn’t get the final result that we wanted,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But even what I mentioned to the guys, these are going to be lifetime memories that we have together. This locker room … we’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience and that locker room brotherhood for the rest of our lives.”
True to form, the Heat — a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference that finished with a losing record last season, a team that embraced the challenge of the bubble like none other — didn’t stop playing, not even when the deficit got to 36 in the third quarter.
A 23-8 run by Miami got the Heat to 90-69 with 8:37 left. But the outcome was never in doubt, and before long confetti was blasted into the air as the Lakers’ celebration formally and officially began.
“Laker Nation,” Vogel, now a first-time champion bellowed. “We did it.”
Lakers: Davis did not wear the gold-painted sneakers that he had for Game 5; instead, he went with red-and-black ones Sunday. … Among the ring-winners: Dion Waiters, who began this season with the Heat; 19-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker (he turns 20 Nov. 25) and Kostas Antetokounmpo — the brother of two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Heat: Goran Dragic (torn left plantar fascia) checked in late in the first quarter, his first appearance since Game 1 of the series. “I just wanted to be out there to help my team as much as possible. It is what it is. The Lakers were better,” an emotional Dragic said. … Jae Crowder had 12 points and Duncan Robinson had 10 for the Heat.
JOIN THE CLUB
John Salley and Robert Horry were, until Sunday, the only players to win championships with three different franchises. James (Miami, Cleveland) and Danny Green (San Antonio, Toronto) added their names to that list with this title.
Miami led the NBA with 94 games played this season — 30 more than Minnesota, which played the fewest in the NBA. The Heat finished with 1,247 3-pointers this season, including playoffs, 290 more than any other year in team history.
Nobody knows. The draft is set for Nov. 18, but the dates for the start of free agency, training camps and next season’s schedule could be weeks away from being finalized.
2021 Draft: Power among Central Scouting's players to watch – NHL.com
Owen Power, a candidate to be chosen among the top 10 in the 2021 NHL Draft, was one of three players from the University of Michigan to earn an A rating on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list released Tuesday.
The list is a compilation of top prospects from all the major development leagues throughout North America and Europe. It will be updated throughout the season as scouts evaluate the players.
“At this point in the evaluation process and considering the lack of a summer scouting season, it’s much too early to identify a strength for the 2021 draft class other than to state that there are a number of good prospects at every position,” director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. “There is no Alexis Lafreniere-type prospect with a clear lead as a consensus No. 1.”
Lafreniere was selected by the New York Rangers with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and signed his three-year, entry-level contract Oct. 12. The forward was the projected top choice from start to finish last season while playing for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“There are a number of prospects with a head start to compete for the top prospect based on past performance, but until we can get viewings to evaluate the entire draft class, the projection for No. 1 consideration is an open field,” Marr said.
The 31 players on the preliminary list with A ratings are considered potential first-round picks. Players with B ratings are considered possible second- or third-round choices, and those with C ratings are potential fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round selections.
Power (6-foot-6, 214 pounds), a defenseman who turns 18 on Nov. 22, became the second player for Chicago to win United States Hockey League Defenseman of the Year last season. The Mississauga, Ontario, native led USHL defensemen with 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 45 games and tied for first with five power-play goals.
“He can put up points, and is very mobile for how big he is,” NHL Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory said. “He runs the power play, has elite hockey sense and is going to be a highly sought-after player.”
Power entered the USHL as a 15-year-old in 2018-19 and set a league record by scoring 11 goals as a 16-year-old defenseman.
Forwards Matthew Beniers (6-1, 174) and Kent Johnson (6-0, 166), who each will join Power at Michigan in the Big Ten this season, also received an A rating. A 24-game conference schedule is tentatively set to begin Nov. 13.
Beniers scored 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 44 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program under-18 team last season.
“He’s a kid that’s been on the radar for a couple of years now with the program,” Marr said. “He has the skills and the smarts, but it’s his intangibles with his compete and how he gets things done and makes things happen that make him so appealing.”
Johnson, 18, scored 101 points (41 goals, 60 assists) in 52 games for Trail of the British Columbia Hockey League last season. He scored 147 points (61 goals, 86 assists) and averaged 1.31 points per game in 112 BCHL games.
“He’s an elite point producer,” Gregory said. “When you see a 17-year-old put up 100 points, that’s something special. He plays with pace and skill, is crafty with the puck and can snipe it as well. He’s going to score a lot of goals.”
Among the A-rated skaters considered likely to be selected in the first round are forwards Xavier Bourgault (6-0, 172) of Shawinigan and Zachary Bolduc (6-1, 175) of Rimouski in the QMJHL, and Dylan Guenther (6-0, 166) of Edmonton in the Western Hockey League; and defensemen Luke Hughes (6-2, 176) of the NTDP under-18 team, Brandt Clarke (6-1, 180) of Barrie (OHL) and Daniil Chayka (6-3, 187) of Guelph (OHL).
Hughes, the youngest of the three Hughes siblings (Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes) scored 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) and three power-play goals in 48 games for the NTDP under-17 team last season. He has four assists in seven games for the under-18 team this season.
“Luke does things so quickly,” Gregory said. “You wouldn’t see him skate it up as much as Quinn, but he can do it and does. He can snap a pass, stretch a pass. He’s got this veteran’s poise as a young guy. It’s very tough to compare [Luke and Quinn Hughes] but you see some similarities like you did with Jack and Quinn. They have that quickness, that escape ability, that all three of them have.”
Bourgault has scored five points (three goals, two assists) in four games and Bolduc two goals in four games.
“He’s one of these dynamic offensive players that just come at you every game; he just pops,” Marr said of Bourgault. “Every time he’s on the ice, he’s a scoring threat when the puck is on his stick.”
The A-rated players to watch on the International side include center Aatu Raty (6-1, 177) of Karpat in Liiga and goalie Jesper Wallstedt (6-2, 214) of Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League.
Raty has no points and two shots on goal in 9:34 of ice time this season. Wallstedt is 1-1-2 with a 1.92 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in four games.
“[Wallstedt] was always a difference-maker,” Marr said. “He’s got the skills and attributes with his athleticism, reflexes, and mental toughness. Just like Iaroslav Askarov (chosen No. 11 by the Nashville Predators in the 2020 draft) had his following prior to the 2020 draft, Wallstedt does as well this season.”
Photos courtesy of Chicago Steel / USHL and Daryl Marshke / USA Hockey’s NTDP
Players, fans rip Rays for Blake Snell’s quick hook in Game 6 – Sportsnet.ca
Then Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash decided to take the ball from his ace after he gave up his second hit of the game. Unfortunately, that pitching change provided the spark the Dodgers needed as they would score two runs including one off a wild pitch to take the lead in Game 6.
Many took to social media to question Cash’s decision to pull Snell after just 73 pitches.
73 pitches… I’m hella mad for him
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) October 28, 2020
I would have kept @snellzilla4
— Steven Stamkos (@RealStamkos91) October 28, 2020
Dodgers can win elusive World Series title if Roberts pulls right strings – Sportsnet.ca
Now the Dodgers are just one victory away from slaying their past playoff demons and finally capturing that elusive title.
Will the Dodgers close it out or will the Rays force a Game 7? Tune in to Sportsnet or SN Now at 8 p.m. ET to find out. In the meantime, here’s what to watch for prior to first pitch.
Watch every game of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sportsnet and SN Now.
Roberts gets another chance to pull the right strings
The last time Tony Gonsolin started in this series, he lasted just 1.1 innings in what ended up as a bullpen day for the Dodgers in Game 2.
Manager Dave Roberts claims things will be different in Game 6, declaring Gonsolin a “starter” as opposed to an “opener.” Roberts did couch it a little, though.
“I’m going to watch him pitch and then we’ll see what we do after that,” Roberts told reporters Monday. “… I want to go as long as he possibly can, that’d be great.”
Considering Roberts pulled Clayton Kershaw after 85 pitches in Game 5 when he appeared to be cruising, it’s hard to imagine the 25-year-old Gonsolin having a long leash. The bullpen is fully rested after Monday’s off day, giving Roberts his full complement of weapons.
Game 2 didn’t go so well for Roberts as he watched a number of decisions backfire en route to a 6-4 Rays victory. Now the ever-unconventional manager has another chance to flex his strategic muscles and deliver the franchise’s first title since 1988.
Snell must be sharp from the jump
Los Angeles was aggressive from the opening pitch over the weekend, striking for at least one first-inning run in each of the past three games. It will be crucial for Snell to come out of the gate and put a zero on the board to prevent his opponents from building any quick momentum.
Snell was able to limit the Dodgers to two runs over 4.2 innings in Game 2 while striking out nine, but those numbers don’t tell the full story. The left-hander walked four batters and gave up plenty of hard contact. Five of the seven balls put in play against him came off Dodger bats at 95 m.p.h. or harder.
The 2018 Cy Young winner will need to be extra careful this time around, as it’ll be the Dodgers’ second look at him in six days.
If the Dodgers do indeed take care of business in Game 6, three players stand out for World Series MVP honours, each with a different storyline attached.
The rejuvenated young star: Corey Seager
It wasn’t too long ago that Seager was considered one of the game’s rising superstars. His 2018 season was limited to just 26 games due to Tommy John surgery but his 2020 campaign has put him back in the mix with baseball’s elite.
His regular season was phenomenal — he posted a .943 OPS — and he’s been even better in the playoffs. After winning NLCS MVP, he’s still raking in the World Series with a .471/.609/.842 slash line. If not for the bizarre Rays win in Game 4, Seager would likely have already earned his second MVP trophy of the post-season. The race is Seager’s to lose at this point.
The franchise icon: Justin Turner
Turner has set a number of franchise records during this playoff run and stands as the Dodgers’ post-season leader in games played, hits, walks, RBIs and home runs. He’s been a hit machine during this World Series, as evidenced by his .364/.391/.818 batting line.
An 0-for-4 Game 6 from Seager and another big performance from Turner could easily tip the scales in the third baseman’s favour. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and winning World Series MVP in what could be his final game in a Dodger uniform would be extremely poetic.
The late-bloomer who became a hero: Max Muncy
Muncy was released by the Oakland Athletics at the end of spring training in 2017, prompting the Dodgers to sign him as a minor-league free agent. He’s become a star at the MLB level since his promotion in 2018 and finds himself entrenched in the heart of one of baseball’s best lineups.
Like Seager and Turner, Muncy has been on fire during the World Series, slashing .389/.522/.611. If he provides a clutch hit or two in Game 6 to clinch the title, it would be easy to make the case he deserves MVP.
2021 Draft: Power among Central Scouting's players to watch – NHL.com
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