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Bob Matthews' Column

Spurs Need One More Win - No Cinch in Miami

 
Spurs Need One More Win - No Cinch in Miami
Posted June 17th, 2013 @ 10:23am

SPURS NEED ONE MORE WIN – NO CINCH IN MIAMI


POPULAR FORMER AMERK DANIEL PAILLE EASY TO ROOT FOR


STREAKING WNY FLASH WILL GET SOME NATIONAL EXPOSURE


RED WINGS FANS MIGHT FINALLY SEE AARON HICKS


ABBY:  156 GOALS AND COUNTING


The San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 114-104 Sunday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.


But the Spurs are no lock to win the championship. The rest of the series – Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary) -- will be in Miami, where the defending champion Heat seldom lose.


The early line for Tuesday night’s Game 6 favors Miami by 7 points. That seems steep to me, but I understand why. The Heat are 45-7 at home this season (37-4 in the regular season and 8-3 in the playoffs). San Antonio is 30-20 on the road (23-18 in the regular season and 7-2 in the playoffs).


The Spurs won Game 1 at Miami. Can they do it twice in one series?

 

The Heat also still are favored to win the series: Bet $130 to win $100. San Antonio is bet $100 to win $110.


Other thoughts on the NBA Finals:


Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is a master psychologist and giving struggling Manu Ginobili his first start of the season on Sunday night paid off. It pumped up the home crowd (Ginobili  was the last starter to be introduced) and the classy veterani, with renewed confidence, responded with a season-high 24 points and 10 assists.


The Heat need Chris Bosh to step up. He was a superstar out of the spotlight with the Toronto Raptors but hasn’t been nearly as productive in Miami.  His reputation as a player is at stake. I don’t expect him to meet the challenge but he might surprise.


The MVP of the Finals almost always is an established star player. Tony Parker (San Antonio) and LeBron James (Miami) are the favorites now, but San Antonio sharpshooter Danny Green has an outside chance. He’s already set a Finals record with 25 three-point field goals – including 17x28 (.607) in his team’s three victories.


Here’s an interesting stat from ESPN: Since the 2002-03 season, San Antonio is 14-2 (.875) in games on the road to close a playoff series. The other NBA teams are a combined 61-75 (.449) in that situation.  Credit superior coaching by Popovich and a group of players that knows how to finish.


PAILLE AN UNLIKELY HERO FOR THE BRUINS

The No. 1 Star of the Game for the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals Saturday night was former Rochester Americans fan favorite  Daniel Paille. The 29-year-old left wing scored the game-winning goal and had an assist in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.


Paille, the No. 20 overall pick in the 2002 NHL entry draft by the Buffalo Sabres, was a popular Amerk for portions of three seasons (2004-05 through 2006-07). He wasn’t a dynamite scorer (35 goals and 42 assists in 153 games), but the fans appreciated his skating ability, hustle and relentless hard work, particularly killing penalties.


The now 29-year-old Paille played portions of five seasons with Buffalo. In 195 games, he had 35 goals and 42 assists. On Oct. 20, 2009, the Sabres decided Paille was expendable and traded him to the Boston Bruins for a conditional pick in the 2010 draft. It reportedly was the first trade ever between division rivals Buffalo and Boston involving a player under contract.


The Sabres used the third-round pick (No. 75 overall) acquired for Paille to select young center Kevin Sundher, who made his pro debut this season with the Amerks (4 goals and 9 assists in 38 games).


When the Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup over Vancouver, Paille and teammate Greg Campbell were lauded as the team’s unsung heroes for their work killing penalties against potent Vancouver. Now he has a shot for a second Stanley Cup ring in two seasons. Buffalo’s loss obviously was a gain for Paille and the Bruins.

 

NOTE: Paille scored another goal in Boston's 2-0 home win in game 3 Monday night.


WNY FLASH ARE NO FLASH IN THE PANS


After a slow start this National Women’s Soccer League season (0-2-1), the Western New York Flash are the hottest team in the league (5-0-1). They’re coming off a 2-0 win at Washington last Saturday night minus mainstays Abby Wambach (league-leading 6 goals),Carli Lloyd and Samantha Kerr (in action with their national teams).


The Flash and Sahlen’s Stadium will get some national exposure in two of the six-game regular-season Fox Soccer TV package. Teams with the best soccer-specific stadiums were given preference in the scheduling. Portland and the Flash each will host two games. WNY will host Sly Blue FC, July 21, 1:30 p.m., and the Boston Breakers, Aug. 17, 8 p.m.


Fox Soccer also will carry live the two semifinal matches Aug. 24 and the championship match Aug. 31.


The way the Flash have been playing, the nation’s soccer fans could be seeing a steady dose of the WNY Flash players and their stadium.


EJ MANUEL WILL BE BEST PLAYER TO WEAR #3 FOR BILLS...EXCEPT FOR GOGOLAK


Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel will wear No. 3 for the Buffalo Bills. Only four players previously wore the number for the Bills. Three were kickers – Pete Gogolak (very good), and John Leypoldt and Todd Schlopy (not so good). We can only hope that Manuel will be better than Buffalo’s other No. 3: quarterback Benny Russell. He appeared in one game for the 1968 Bills. He was 1x2 for 3 yards.


Kevin Kolb will be the fifth player to wear No. 4 for the Bills: QBs Brian Brohm and Tyler Thigpen, and punters Rusty Jackson and John Kidd.


WINGS MIGHT FINALLY GET A LOOK AT AARON HICKS


Rochester Red Wings fans survived the hideous 2010 and 2011 seasons and have watched decent home teams the last two seasons. The reward for their patience figures to be a look at some of the best prospects in all of baseball playing for the Red Wings in the near future.


Here are five of the outstanding young players who figure to be wearing Rochester soon:


Center fielder Aaron Hicks – The 14th overall pick in the 2008 June entry draft was touted as a “five-tool” player and had his breakthrough season last year for Double-A New Britain. The 24-year switch-hitting outfielder hit .286 with 13 HRs, 61 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 129 games...He was ticketed for Rochester this year but had a hot spring training to earn a job with Minnesota. He was the starting CF for the Twins until a recent hamstring injury put him on the DL. He got off to a brutal start at the plate and currently is hitting only .179 (with 34 runs, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HRs, 19 RBI, 4 stolen bases and 56 strikeouts). But he has impressed the Twins and opposing scouts with his defense and power potential. Assuming he’ll need a rehab stint, Rochester fans figure to get a brief look at him soon.


Third baseman Miguel Sano – Surprisingly, the frugal Twins outbid many other teams by signing the 16-year-old slugging prospect for $3.15 million when he was 16 years old. After dominating the pitcher-friendly Advanced Class-A Florida State League this season (.330, 16 HRs, 489 RBI, .655 slugging percentage in 56 games), the now 20-year-old  slugger was promoted to Double-A New Britain. He has struggled so far with the Rock Cats (1x11, with 6 walks and 3 RBI) but no one is worried. He could be Rochester’s starting third baseman Opening Day 2014.


Center fielder  Byron Buxton – The No. 2 overall No. 2 pick in the 2012 entry draft is t6he best player in the Single-A Midwest League: .344; 64 runs in 63 games; 15 doubles; 8 trip-les; 8 HRs; 51 RBI; 29x40 stolen bases...He’s only 18 but appears to be on the fast track to stardom. ..Could be a Red Wing by 2015.


Other top prospects on the way to Rochester en route to Minnesota include pitchers Alex Meyer and Trevor May (acquired in trades last winter for Denard Span and Ben Revere, respectively), 2B/OF Eddie Rosario and strong-hitting catcher Josmil Pinto.


ABBY NEEDS THREE GOALS TO TOP MIA HAMM


Abby Wambach’s goal in the U.S. national women’s soccer team’s 4-1 win over South Korea Saturday night in Foxborough, Mass., was the 156th of her international career. She trails former teammate and mentor Mia Hamm by two goals.


The next game for the U.S. women will be against North Korea  Thursday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.


For the record, it was Abby’s 12th goal on a penalty kick in international play.


Abby didn’t start Saturday night’s game. For only the third time with a full roster, Alex Morgan and Sydney Laroux started together up top.


Morgan, who’ll turn 24 on July 2, and Laroux, who turned 23 in May, are the U.S. women’s long-term future. Morgan has 44 goals in 67 international games. Leroux has 17 goals in 37 caps.


But Wambach, who turned 33 on June 2, still has plenty left. She’s tied with Laroux for the team lead with 8 goals this year. Morgan has 6 goals. Her leadership and history of clutch goals assure that she has plenty of starts and playing time left.


The U.S. is 8-0-2 this year and on a 33-game unbeaten streak (outscoring opponents 105-26). The U.S. is 100-2-8 in games Abby scores a goal.


BASEBALL HOT AND COLD TEAMS AND PLAYERS


Chris Davis hit his MLB-most 23rd home run Sunday in a 6-3 home win over Boston...The Orioles have won six straight series over Boston...Manny Machado (Baltimore) has a MLB-most 32 doubles,  including 5 in his last 5 games.


Heretofore light-hitting Jose Inglesias (Boston) has a 17-game hitting streak and a .438 batting average (39x89).


Popular former Red Wing Francisco Liriano (Pittsburgh) takes a 5-2 record and 2.36 ERA into Monday night’s start against Cincinnati.


Kansas City is 10-2 in its last 12 games and has allowed three runs or fewer in 14 of its last 15 games.


Adam Lind (Toronto) was 7x17 with 2 HRs and 6 RBI in a four-game sweep over Texas. He has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games.


Bartolo Colon (Oakland) won his sixth straight decision Sunday over visiting Seattle. He is 9-2 this season and has 7 straight home wins.


San Diego is above .500 (35-34) for the first time since the close of the 2010 season (90-72). The Padres are 30-19 since April 24 and 21-7 in their last 238 home games.


Michael Cuddyer (Colorado) has a 14-game hitting streak and a .340 batting average.


Stephen Strasburg (Washington) has a 3-6 record.


St. Louis lost a series (2-1 to Miami) for the first time since April 26-28.
The Dodgers are a season-worst 10 games under .500 (29-39).


The White Sox are 1-12 in their last 13 road games and 10 games under .500 (28-38) for the first time since May 7, 2011.


Texas has 6 straight losses and is 1-6 in the first 7 games of a season-long 11-game homestand.


Cole Hamels (Philadelphia) is 2-10 after a 5-2 loss Sunday at Colorado.
Justin Morneau (Minnesota) is hitting .288 but has only 2 HRs in 240 at-bats.


San Francisco is 6-14 in its last 20 road games.


SHORT SHOTS


Defenseman T.J. Brennan was traded again last week: From Buffalo to Florida to Nashville in six months.  He appears to be a journeyman at age 24. Most Rochester fans would like to see him play again for the Amerks. In 36 games for Rochester last season, he had 14 goals and 21 assists.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says “Redskins” represents “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” I’d buy that if he were talking about Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and the team’s fans instead of a significant percentage of Native Americans.


Ramon Dominguez, 36, who won the last three Eclipse Awards as North America’s top jockey, has retired after suffering a “traumatic brain injury” in a spill at Aqueduct Jan. 18. His mount clipped heels with another horse and unseated Dominguez. He was kicked in the head by a trailing horse. He had 4,985 career wins out of 21,276 mounts (an impressive 23 percent)


Another sad horse racing note: The Hollywood Gold Cup will be run for the final time on July 6. The track is closing after this 75th anniversary year.  I wonder if another thoroughbred track ever will be built in this country.


Former Red Wings shortstop Jason Bartlett, who hosted a local golf tournament last weekend, is sitting out this baseball season. Assuming he’d like to resume his playing career next season, how about Minnesota signing him? He could be Rochester’s shortstop and infield insurance for the Wings...Bartlett’s wife, Kelly Chevez, is from Rochester...In portions of three seasons with the Red Wings (2004 through 2006), Bartlett hit .324 in 186 games. In portions of nine big-league seasons, he hit. 271. His best season was 2009: .320, 29 doubles, 7 triples, 14 HRs, 66 RBI, 30 stolen bases with Tampa Bay.


Headline on Page 1 of Sunday’s New York Post: “Don’t Choke, Phil...Mickelson chases first open win”...He didn’t exactly choke, but he didn’t win.


If the Los Angeles Clippers could get Dwight Howard from the Los Angeles Angels for a package featuring Blake Griffin, they should do it. Howard and Chris Paul would be a tough duo to beat. I believe Griffin is very much overrated in everything except dunking.


If you’re not a hockey fan, chances are you won’t buy my opinion that Doc Emrick is the best play-by-play man in pro sports today.


Shenise Johnson (Rush-Henrietta) update for her second season with the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars: 6 games...11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game.


I’d like to see rookies Evan Gattis (Atlanta) and Yasiel Puig (Dodgers) represent the National League in the Home Run Derby.” Unfortunately, that would be too creative for MBL officials.


Torri Hunter hit his 300th career HR Sunday. Good hitter. Excellent fielder. Great team guy. Always hustles. And a classic example of a very good player with no chance to make the Hall of Fame.


There is no guarantee that Tim Tebow will make the roster of the New England Patriots, but you can purchase his No. 5 replica game jersey for $99.95 on the team’s website.


I’m starting to wonder if the key factor in the NBA Finals will be which star will break down first – Tony Parker or Dwyane Wade.


A sure sign of summer’s arrival  in Rochester: A crowd of 11,475 at Frontier Field on a beautiful Saturday night to watch an exciting come-from-behind 6-5 Red Wings victory over the Gwinnett Braves. Since their dreadful 2-11 start, the Wings are 32-25 and the roster has been relatively stable. The pitching staff is healthier. The lineup has been producing. Chris Colabello is having one of the best offensive seasons in modern team history. The team is peaking at6 the right time with thoughts of the second trip to the playoffs since 1997 dancing in the heads of loyal fans – 13 of the next 15 games will be on the road.


USA Today Sports NBA Draft Preview is on the newsstands and it ranks Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Wiiliams No. 6 and James Southerland No. 69, respectively on its Top 101 Draft Board. Carter-Williams is projected as a lottery pick and compared to Penny Hardaway and Shaun Livingston. Southerland is projected as “late second round to undrafted” and compared to Steve Novak and Kyle Korver.

 

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