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NBA Playoffs 2020: LeBron James' scoring barrage leads Los Angeles Lakers past Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 – NBA CA



The Los Angeles Lakers have regained command of the series, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers to take a 2-1 lead.

An offensive outburst from LeBron James dictated the game, while a second-half explosion from Anthony Davis helped close things out with a 116-108 victory. Damian Lillard‘s dislocated finger appeared to be just fine, but a combined 62 points from he and CJ McCollum was not enough to come away with a win.

For more on the action-packed Game 3, we have you covered with some key takeaways below.

Attack mode LeBron

The Lakers only needed 26 minutes of LeBron James in their Game 2 blowout win. He tallied just 10 points – it was only the fourth time in his career that he was held to 10 points or less in a playoff game and the first time since 2014.

As usual, despite the win, the general masses were critical of LeBron’s Game 2 showing, unhappy with his scoring output. It’s unknown whether or not that was the motivation behind his Game 3 performance, but James was seeing red from the jump.

It only took LeBron until the 10-minute mark of the second quarter to eclipse his scoring output from his last contest. He was a bulldozer in transition, looking to call his own number whenever he had the opportunity. He got to the free throw line early and often and his 3-point shot was falling for the first time this series (he was previously 1-for-8 from beyond the arc). It added another dynamic to his score-first attitude that made him virtually unstoppable.

James would finish the game with 38 points shooting 11-for-18 (61.1%) from the field, 4-for-8 from 3-point range and 12-for-17 from the free throw line, constantly putting pressure on the Blazers defence.

LeBron looking to attack the way he was tonight exposed Portland’s lack of a matchup for the all-time great.

Lillard’s finger appears as non-factor

When Damian Lillard was forced to leave Game 2 with a dislocated finger, Portland’s season flashed before their eyes. Luckily, the superstar cleared himself to play in Game 3 immediately after the loss, but it was still a question of how will the injury – even on his off-hand – impact his rhythm and performance?

Well… it didn’t take long for Lillard to dismiss any uncertainty. He’d convert his first three 3-point attempts of the game and explode for 14 points in the first quarter alone. Not once did it look like his finger was disrupting his shot or his ball-handling, meaning he was the typical offensive threat we’ve seen all season.

Lillard would post a team-high 34 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds, but he did go quiet in the second half.

The Lakers did a great job of taking Lillard out of the game with a variety of double teams and traps, using fullcourt pressure and off-ball denial to outcast the prolific scorer. He shot 2-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from beyond the arc, but still tallied 15 points simply from hitting 10 of his 11 free throw attempts.

It was a positive to see that his finger didn’t bother him but the All-Star didn’t get the result he was looking for.

Davis’ second-half statement

The Trail Blazers switched up the starting lineup, electing to start both Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside, presumably to try and make life more difficult for Anthony Davis.

The lineup change had appeared to be working going into the halftime break as Davis was held to just six points shooting 1-for-3 from the field, giving Portland a four-point lead. James was the Lakers’ only source of offence and they needed a completely different version of their other superstar if they were going to pick up the win.

In the second half, Davis turned into the player that’s considered to be among the top tier of the NBA.

The 27-year-old forward exploded for 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and a block in the final two periods. When Los Angeles was trying to put the Blazers away late in the game, it was Davis who stepped up going for 12 points in the fourth quarter, knocking down jumper after jumper to secure the win.

AD would finish with a monster stat line of 29 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals to go with a team-best +/- of 15. It was a tale of two halves for the All-Star big man.

Third-quarter Melo

Carmelo Anthony was transparent in Game 2, finishing with two points, zero rebounds and a +/- of minus-26. He was a key part to the Blazers run to qualify for the postseason and it was no coincidence that his poor performance went hand-in-hand with the blowout loss.

If Portland was going to have a chance in Game 3, they were going to need a better showing from Anthony.

When the team was struggling to counter a game-altering run from the Lakers in the third quarter, Melo was there to weather the storm. It was like a flashback to the late 2000s with James and Anthony trading buckets.

Carmelo erupted for 13 points in the quarter to keep the Blazers in the game. He was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and gave his team life when it seemed like the Lakers were going to run away with the game.

Portland would still come up short, but Anthony’s 20 points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block was a step in the right direction after a rough showing in Game 2.

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Lundqvist's former backups praise him with Rangers era ending –



There was concern, and goalie Steve Valiquette said he remembers getting an email from Rangers assistant general manager Don Maloney.

“He was asking me to come back from Russia on a contract because Henrik wasn’t having a great training camp and they weren’t 100 percent sure about him,” said Valiquette, who played for New York in the 2003-04 season and from 2006-10. “They wanted a little more assurance to have a guy that was around. They probably would have used me if they were thinking he needed time in the minors to back up Kevin Weekes for a bit.”

Lundqvist started the 2005-06 season with the Rangers anyway.

“And, sure enough, Henrik, his second start, I remember him standing on his head against [the] New Jersey [Devils],” Valiquette said of Lundqvist saving 20 of 21 shots in a 4-1 home victory Oct. 13, 2005. “It was off to the races from there.”

The Rangers bought out the final season of Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million contract ($8.5 million average annual value) on Wednesday, making the goalie known as The King an unrestricted free agent for the first time after playing all 15 of his NHL seasons with New York.

Lundqvist will be free to sign with any team when free agency begins Oct. 9, marking the end of the most successful era for a Rangers goalie.

The 38-year-old is 459-310-96 with a 2.43 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 64 shutouts, and 61-67 with a 2.30 GAA, .921 save percentage and 10 shutouts in the postseason. Lundqvist, sixth on the NHL wins list, is New York’s leader in games played (887), wins, shutouts, saves (23,509), and time on ice (51,816:19), along with starts (130), wins, shutouts, saves (3,567) and time on ice (7,935:25) in the postseason.

Valiquette, Weekes and Martin Biron, who each backed up Lundqvist in New York, spoke to and shared insight into the goalie’s distinguished career with the Rangers.

Legendary work ethic

Biron said that by the time he joined the Rangers, he already heard enough about Lundqvist’s work ethic to know what to expect. Or so he thought.

“I got on the ice and I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is times 10 what I expected his work ethic to be and I already expected it to be high,'” said Biron, who was with the Rangers from 2010-14. “It was unreal.”

Weekes recalled Lundqvist’s affinity for facing breakaways in practice. He said most goalies shy away from the shootout drill unless it is required because they risk getting exposed, but Lundqvist was different.

“He wanted them, and requested them,” Weekes said. “Why? He had that much fire. He wanted that 1-on-1 challenge.”

Lundqvist is the NHL leader in shootout wins with 61. He has played his entire NHL career with the shootout, which was implemented in his first season, and without tie games.

“When we’d go to a shootout and Hank was in net, I’d just get ready to leave the ice like, ‘This is done,'” Valiquette said. “I’ve already seen him for 20 minutes the day before in practice and the day before that and the day before that shut everybody down. He was just different. When I was playing with him as a practice partner, I’d be keeping score on the drills we’d be doing so I could try to meet his level, and it was so difficult to ever get close to him.”

Video: Henrik Lundqvist Great Saves

Celebrity status, ‘obsession with hockey’

Lundqvist became an A-list celebrity in New York, where Biron recalls seeing him dine with John McEnroe, and even play guitar onstage with the tennis legend on another occasion.

“He doesn’t talk about it a lot and he doesn’t go out and promote himself in that way,” Biron said of his former teammate’s celebrity status. “It’s just him, it’s the way he is, and it works for him. He is comfortable in who he is.”

Lundqvist also became known off the ice for his fashion sense. Weekes said Lundqvist was ahead of the fashion curve when he arrived in New York from his native Sweden in 2005, both with the clothes he wore, specifically the skinny suits, and with how he wore his pads.

“He was an innovator in terms of his strapping on his pads, the way they were configured, the way he wore his pads, the functionality of how the pad was set up based on how he played, his stance,” Weekes said. “If you stand up straight and you roll your ankles to the outside, that’s how his feet looked if you were behind him. That didn’t make sense because, if anything, you’d want your feet to be straight or more inward so you have inside edge, but I don’t know, it was so different from what I had seen and what we had really seen.”

Valiquette said Lundqvist’s celebrity, his style, the suits, the hair, the custom pads and his own crown logo all created a misrepresentation of who he really is and what he cares about.

“People can think that he’s more into fashion or the distractions become too much with the celebrity around him, and it’s never the case,” Valiquette said.

Valiquette recalled having dinner with Lundqvist one night in Pittsburgh, where the conversation turned to hockey, the Rangers and goaltending. It was then that he realized how much Lundqvist loved the game.

“I was floored by his knowledge of how our defensive zone should be structured around how he needs to see the puck off the release,” said Valiquette, a Rangers studio analyst for MSG Network. “He was talking about how the player defending in front of him, if the pass came from below the goal line to the slot area, that he needs our player to go at their player on the body so the shooter couldn’t shoot across the net but he only had to protect that strong side. He was bringing out napkins and moving the salt shakers around, and it really dawned on me that this guy really had a massive obsession with hockey and he wanted to become a master of all things.”

Biron said, “He was very critical. He thought he could save every one of the shots he would face, and really that’s the good quality of every great goaltender. There would be goals he would say, ‘I should have had that.’ I’d look at him and say, ‘You know what, you and Dominik Hasek maybe, but the rest of us mortals would say that’s a pretty good goal.'”

The end

Weekes watched closely how Lundqvist handled this season, navigating through the changing of the guard to Igor Shesterkin once the rookie was called up by the Rangers from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Jan. 6. Lundqvist started four of New York’s final 29 games before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, then started and lost the first two games against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers because Shesterkin was unfit to play. The Rangers were swept in the best-of-5 series.

Weekes called it a master class in professionalism and grace but said he knew the reduced role was eating away at Lundqvist inside.

“He never had that type of adversity,” said Weekes, an NHL Network analyst who played for the Rangers from 2005-07. “He didn’t have to worry about contracts. For the most part until the latter stages nobody was messing with his ice time or playing games with him. No PR people are going to give you the wrong address when you’re going to a team function. The organization for him was always red carpet. So what’s happened in the last couple years for him, I can’t imagine how hard it’s been because all of a sudden you’re not treated the same way.

“The reality isn’t the same and you don’t have the ability to override. The automatic decision isn’t, ‘Hey man, this is yours because you’re you.’ Publicly he’s shown a lot of grace. He’s a first-class person, a Hall of Famer, philanthropic. But I’m sure his heart and his soul and his psyche are broken in a thousand pieces because this was a very different reality for him.”

It’s an even stranger reality now that Lundqvist knows he won’t be back with the Rangers next season.

He could sign with another team and continue his quest to win the Stanley Cup. He could retire from the NHL, return to Sweden and play a few more seasons, maybe team up with his twin brother Joel Lundqvist, a center for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. Or he could hang up the pads for good.

Whatever happens, the goalies who played with him, who saw his rise to royalty in New York, have a shared perspective on why Lundqvist will one day have his No. 30 retired at Madison Square Garden.

“He’s going to leave this game as the most respected guy that any of us ever played with,” Valiquette said. “That goes a long way. That’s a legacy. That’s not a one-off thing. You’re talking about a legacy.”

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Rays win AL Wild Card Series 2020 –



ST. PETERSBURG — Making the postseason in 2019 was a big accomplishment for the Rays. It was the first taste of the playoffs for a young core, something the organization knew would pay dividends moving forward.
Following that experience, the Rays secured the No. 1 seed and won the American

ST. PETERSBURG — Making the postseason in 2019 was a big accomplishment for the Rays. It was the first taste of the playoffs for a young core, something the organization knew would pay dividends moving forward.

Following that experience, the Rays secured the No. 1 seed and won the American League East for the first time since 2010, both things they appreciated and acknowledged. But their level of success this season will be determined more by what they accomplish in October.

ALDS presented by Utz, Game 1: Mon., time TBD on TBS

Tampa Bay’s chase for the first World Series championship in franchise history is off to a strong start, as it completed a sweep of Toronto in the best-of-three American League Wild Card Series with an 8-2 win in Wednesday’s Game 2 at Tropicana Field.

Box score

The Rays advance to the AL Division Series and will face the winner of the Indians-Yankees Wild Card Series matchup in Game 1 on Monday at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Every win in the postseason is that much more [momentum],” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We played good right at the end of the year and got where we needed to be from a pitching standpoint. Now, it’s just trying to ride that wave of momentum, and these guys do an unbelievable job at creating that.”

In order for the Rays to accomplish all their goals, their pitching staff will likely have to lead the way, much like Blake Snell and the bullpen did in their Game 1 win over the Blue Jays. But in Game 2, it was the offense that carried Tampa Bay.

The Rays rattled off four singles, including a Manuel Margot RBI hit, in the first inning against Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu to take an early 1-0 lead. In the second, the offense delivered the knockout punch against Ryu. Kevin Kiermaier led off with a single, and that was quickly followed by a Mike Zunino two-run homer to extend the lead to 3-0.

Randy Arozarena continued the rally with a one-out double. Yandy Díaz drew a four-pitch walk, and then the Rays were given a gift by the Blue Jays’ defense, as Margot reached on a Bo Bichette error to extend the inning and load the bases. That proved to be costly as Hunter Renfroe hit the first postseason grand slam in franchise history to cap off the six-run second.

“We showed the potential of what we can do on both sides of the ball,” Zunino said. “Obviously, in Game 1 we had Blake throw an absolute gem and we were able to scrape enough runs to win, and today showed the bats coming alive and Tyler allowing just two and the bullpen keeping it where it was. I think it just solidifies who we are as a team.”

On the mound, Tyler Glasnow picked up right where the pitching staff left off Tuesday. The right-hander opened the game with three consecutive fastballs to Cavan Biggio to record a strikeout. The last heater came in at 99.3 mph at the knees to get Biggio looking and set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Glasnow struck out eight and allowed two runs on six hits over six strong innings. His only mistakes were two pitches to Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen, who turned both into solo home runs. Rays pitching has allowed only three earned runs over the past 29 innings, dating back to the regular season. Tampa Bay also improved to 10-2 in games started by Glasnow in 2020.

“It feels great,” Glasnow said of moving on to the ALDS. “We had a bunch of confidence going into this. Everyone went out there with no pressure, just kind of loose like we’ve been all year. Especially in that second inning, just to watch the momentum and the adrenaline from the grand slam, it was a pretty special moment.”

The Rays will play in the ALDS for the sixth time in franchise history. Over the weekend, they’ll fly to San Diego, a city they hope to call home for the next few weeks, as Petco Park will also host the AL Championship Series. The World Series will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington beginning Oct. 20.

Now, Tampa Bay will play either Cleveland, which it hasn’t faced this season, or New York, which it went 8-2 against during the regular season.

If the Rays play the Yankees, it’s fair to assume that the two teams won’t be smiling at each other on or off the field. The last time the two AL East rivals faced off, New York closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 100 mph fastball over Mike Brosseau’s head, which led to Cash’s postgame warning about his “stable” of pitchers that throw 98 mph.

Regardless of whether the Tribe or Yanks advance, they’ll be tasked with knocking off a Rays team that is tough to beat.

“Who we play, I don’t want to say is irrelevant, but if we can control what we can control, that’s the biggest thing for us,” Zunino said. “Our pitching staff, our bullpen and if we can have quality at-bats, I like our odds against anybody.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.

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Jays season comes to an end – Bluebird Banter



Blue Jays 2 Rays 8

Unfortunately this one was over early. It wasn’t the way I expected Hyun Jin Ryu to do in his first (hopefully not last) playoff start in a Blue Jays uniform. Obviously the extra day of rest didn’t help.

Ryu wasn’t sharp and Bo Bichette forgot how to play short. By the end of the second it was 7-0.

In the first inning, Ryu gave up four singles, allowing just one run, helped out by a great throw from Lourdes Gurriel when Mike Brosseau tried to stretch his single into a double. Then, with 2-outs, Hunter Renfroe hit a ground ball to Bo, and, instead of taking a step and getting his momentum going to first, he threw it flat footed and well high. This one didn’t cost us any runs.

Second inning started out single and Mike Zunino home run. 3-0. Then it was out, double, out, walk followed by an easy ground ball to short. But Bo booted it. It should have been the last out of the inning, but instead Renfroe hits a grand slam and it was 7-0 and it was pretty much game over.

The Rays got another run in the third off Ross Stripling.

About the only fun we had was watching Nate Pearson throwing 2 innings of perfect relief, with 5 strikeouts.

On offense the only fun was Danny Jansen hitting two solo homers.

We had 7 hits total. Danny’s 2 and a single each from Vlad, Grichuk, Hernandez, Shaw and Panik.

Jays of the Day? Well, let’s give one to Danny and one to Pearson.

Suckage: Bichette (0 for 3, plus the 2 errors) and Ryu (7 runs, 3 earned).

That was a heck of a ride. What a weird season.

Thank you to everyone for joining with us for all the ups and downs. I’m lucky to have you all to share this little sandbox.

We don’t close shop for the off-season. We’ll be looking back at the season and looking forward to next season (presuming). And, among the other stuff, I’ll return to the OOTP season that we were playing before the actually season started. That should carry us through to Christmas.

We had 889 comments in the GameThread. I led us to crushing defeat.

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