Can you hear that? It’s the sound of Boogie Cousins scoffing and Kobe Bryant grinding his teeth. The NBA Playoffs must be around the corner…
Yep, the standard stuff has all wrapped up, with a thrilling last day of games seeing a bunch of teams still jostling for positions. You had the Nets fighting off the Magic, coupled with the Pacers falling to the Grizzlies to launch Brooklyn into the final spot in the East. While in the West it was an incredible showing from the New Orleans Pelicans to upset the Spurs (who were fully going for that second seed) and oust the Oklahoma City Thunder, despite OKC’s cruising win over the T-Wolves. Anthony Davis is about to get his first taste of playoff basketball. The Rockets won easy to leapfrog the Spurs and Clippers for second in the West, Chicago beat Atlanta for third in the East. The pretenders are all gone, we’re left now with the hopefuls and the contenders. The matchups are set. Bring it on.
Most of these series have a clear favourite, as is often the case at this stage. It’s hard to see Golden State losing to New Orleans, or Cleveland falling to Boston. But two series in particular stand out. The LA Clippers against the San Antonio Spurs is gonna be a barnburner. The defending champs against a team with a stigma for falling short, with massive ambitions to break that cycle. Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich… And don’t forget about one of the most heated rivalries in the NBA, Houston vs Dallas. Not only is this an interstate debate, but the Mavs really threw some bad vibes at the Rockets when they poached restricted free agent Chandler Parsons (who may struggle to be fit for the opener) from right under their noses, spoiling the grand plan for their roster. Which in turn was 95% great business by Dallas… but also 5% revenge for Daryl Morey calling Mark Cuban last season trying to trade for Dirk Nowitzki. There is blood in this one, and it is bad.
The biggest story right now though is probably the team that didn’t make it. No Oklahoma City, no Russell Westbrook, scoring champion, and no Steven Adams. Which begs the question, per desperate NZ media, will he be available for the Tall Blacks’ 2 game series with Australia in August. Adams is a hyper-proud kiwi, often wearing All Blacks jerseys to press conferences, so nobody should ever doubt his commitment, but he’s also a professional in one of the toughest leagues in the world, where player turnover is pretty insane if you fall down the pecking order. He might be able to play in the Olympic qualifiers, but it’s not really any of our business at this stage. Anyway, if a playoff run is the kicker (it’s not really, the finals will end in July), then Aussies Andrew Bogut, Paddy Mills and Aaron Baynes are all poised for deep runs. Surely they’ll need a good long rest afterwards…
Along with the Thunder, the Miami Heat also missed the playoffs, meaning that both 2012 finalists didn’t make it. And along with the Pacers, three of the four conference finalists from last season missed out.
Ah, Daly. Daly, Daly, Daly. Reports are that Mr Cherry-Evans is planning on backing out of his AU$1.2m-per-year deal with the Gold Coast Titans, sending the NRL world into a spin. DCE, like every other player, has until round 13 of the current season to withdraw from any contract signed for next season. Nothing has been confirmed yet, and the Titans aren’t too happy with the speculation, though the word on the grapevine is that he’s at least having second thoughts. Part of that may be the stalling of talks between GCT and Nate Myles, a Queensland buddy of DCE and big factor in his move. Until there’s actual confirmation, let’s just call this a ‘watch this space’ story.
How about this catch from Chris Jordan? Pretty sure he dived before the ball had even been edged. This from the first test between England and the West Indies in Antigua. An Ian Bell 143 highlighted England’s first innings, Jermaine Blackwood tonning up for the Windies as they logged a 104 run deficit, which England padded with 333/7d in their second innings (Gary Balance with 122). The Windies need 340 more runs to win, currently 98/2 at stumps on day 4.
Ricardo Christie is a guy we like to keep a close eye on, doing outstanding things in the surfing community. The Gisborne boarder is on his first go round with the elite world championship surf tour, and made huge waves yesterday (so to speak) when he eliminated joint world tour leader Felipe Toledo from the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia. This is the third event of 11, Christie sitting tied for 31st after a couple of 25th places so far (placings are based on the round they’re eliminated in, the second round in both cases so far). He rides up against Brazil’s Adriano de Souza in round three today. Live stream’s here if ya want it.
And shout out to Sophie Pascoe, becoming the first ever S10 para-swimmer to crack the one-minute barrier, going 59.77s for a World Record at the New Zealand open swimming championships.
Steven Adams, Upto Bro?
vs Portland – 35 mins, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals.
vs Minnesota – 21 mins, 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal.
2014-15 Season – 7.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game.
Kick off a huge weekend of sports with an emerging modern rivalry in Super Rugby, as the Crusaders host the Chiefs at 7.30pm tonight. Right now the pair are battling it off for second place in the NZ conference, that’s coz the friggin’ Hurricanes keep winning, who’d have thunk it? They Breezy Battlers play the ‘Tahs tomorrow afternoon, a rare 4.30pm kickoff, before the Highlanders host the mightily resurgent Blues. Speaking of the Highlanders…
Don’t be off to bed early tonight, once the rugby finishes the league kicks in. The Bulldogs face the Sea Eagles, while simultaneously the Dragons host the Broncos in a much more enticing game. 4 in a row for the Dragons, 5 in a row for the Broncs, one of those streaks is snapping. Also, the Warriors are off to North Queensland to face the Cowboys at 7.30 tomorrow night, followed by a cracker with the Storm vs Roosters, both should be great contests.
The oldest trophy in football is up for grabs, there are FA Cup semi-finals, with Reading and Arsenal on 4.20am Sunday and Liverpool and Aston Villa squaring off 2am Monday. Not to mention a real grudge match between Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League (4.30am Sunday). Chelsea win and they’ll almost certainly take the title, lose and they keep things interesting.
The Wellington Phoenix will hope to bounce back tonight at 7.30 when they host the Central Coast Mariners. 3 games without a goal has dropped them a little, however a quality win over CCM will rocket them potentially back into second place. That’d be huge, since a top two finish means they avoid the first round of elimination finals and effectively go straight into the semi finals.
And keep an eye on the Black Sticks Ladies as they face Korea in the semis of the Hawke's Bay Cup after rolling India 4-1 in the quarters. That’s at 4.30pm Saturday, Australia playing China in the other semi straight after it.