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Final Four Is Set
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
NBA Quiz: Teams in the Eastern Conference have only won six of the last 20 NBA championships. Name the six. Answer below.
Los Angeles at New Orleans; New England at Kansas City
1 vs. 2 in each.
--Today, we started with the Chargers at the Patriots in Foxboro, L.A. making a second straight trip to the East Coast in a week, and while it had nothing to do with the final result, it clearly didn’t help; New England and Tom Brady in total control from the start.
True, it was briefly 7-7 after a Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen touchdown pass, but the Pats ended up scoring on their first three possessions, 21-7, and it was 35-7 at the half.
At the intermission, Brady was 23/39, 233, 1-0, while New England had rushed for 114 yards and four touchdowns on just 18 carries, rookie Sony Michel with three of the scores.
The Pats had outgained the Chargers 347-128, 24 first downs to L.A.’s six.
Then, to open the second half, New England received the kickoff and ate up 7:22 in going down the field for a three...38-7...game really over, if it wasn’t already in the middle of the second.
Final score a deceiving 41-28; Rivers with three touchdown passes, but completing just 25 of 51 for 331. Brady finished 34/44, 343, 1-0, 106.5.
Rivers is now 0-8 lifetime against Brady. New England has won 16 straight at home, nine straight in the playoffs. Rivers is also now 1-5 in his career (including playoffs) when the game-time temperature is at or below freezing...27 degrees today.
But Brady is 25-7 in cold-temp games and he’ll need to fall back on this experience one more week, because....
Next Sunday in Kansas City, for the AFC title game, the temps won’t exceed the upper teens.
--In today’s nightcap, Nick Foles and the Eagles sprinted out to a 14-0 lead in New Orleans, Foles with a TD pass and touchdown rushing, but Drew Brees rallied the Saints back in the second quarter, Philly up just 14-10 at the half.
Brees then threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas in the third for a 17-14 lead, Thomas ending up with 12 receptions for 171 yards and the score, Wil Lutz kicked a field goal early in the fourth and the Saints were up 20-14.
But late in the game, Lutz missed a 52-yarder and Philly got the ball back with 2:58 to play. Time for Foles to work some more magic.
Only he didn’t. Alshon Jeffery let a pass go through his hands, Marshon Lattimore picked it off, his second of the game, and that was all she wrote.
The Rams head to New Orleans for the NFC title game next Sunday.
--In Kansas City, Saturday, shockingly the Indianapolis Colts simply did not show up, falling behind 17-0 early in the second quarter as the Chiefs won easily, 31-13, even though Patrick Mahomes didn’t throw a touchdown pass, albeit he looked terrific, 27/41, 278, 0-0, one exciting play after another.
I mean the Colts were outgained 185-12 yards in the first quarter, 433-263 for the game.
It didn’t help that future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 23-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter (the shortest miss of his 20-year career) that could have cut K.C.’s lead to 24-10, and that he also missed an extra point that would have made it 24-14 with 5:30 left in the fourth.
What was equally shocking was that the Colts had blazed into the game winners of 10 of 11, the hottest team in football, and they just fizzled out. Head coach Frank Reich said after: “It was stunning. It’s beyond me how we’ve been so good early in the game, all year...”
--In Saturday’s nightcap, the Rams played old-fashioned, smash-mouth football, channeling the late- “Ground Chuck” Knox in gaining 273 yards on the ground (170 at the half) as they manhandled the Cowboys, 30-22, in a game that didn’t seem as close as the final score would indicate. The 273 yards representing the most in playoff history for the Rams, and the most in playoff history against the Cowboys.
The high-flying offense of 32-year-old wunderkind Sean McVay wasn’t needed, as CJ Anderson rumbled for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley returned from injury to pick up 115 and a score on just 16 carries, while the Cowboys’ star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, was held to just 47 yards on 20 carries as the Rams’ front seven played a monster game.
The final defensive stats are a bit deceiving, understating the efforts of Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler, but at every critical juncture, it seemed they came up big; this from an L.A. ‘D’ that allowed an NFL-worst 5.1 yards per carry during the season.
But for Jerry Jones’ Cowboys, this is the third time in five years they have failed to get out of the second round, one win away from the NFC title game.
--The Jets hired former Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase to replace the fired Todd Bowles. Immediately, the vast majority of Jets fans panned the selection, having wanted someone like former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, or, if available, John Harbaugh.
But upon further reflection, I for one am warming to the pick. Maybe it’s because Gase’s Dolphins beat my Jets 5 of 6 times, and because Gase is thought to be a terrific tactician on offense and will help Sam Darnold develop into the elite quarterback the franchise requires.
Or perhaps it’s because Gase’s kick-ass, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, attitude is just what the Jets need after four years of the somnolent Bowles.
As the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta, who some on talk radio claim is a mole for Jets team ownership, reported:
“The reality from talking to people in the know is that Gase was a terrific communicator with players with a keen understanding of player psychology designed to build confidence.
“He had one unyielding requirement: You have to love football.
“Gase wanted players to eat, sleep and breathe the game, players committed to pull the rope the same way. Publicly or privately whining about contracts or playing time was a one-way ticket out of town.
“You have to respect that about the man. He didn’t put up with garbage. He respected players and asked for one thing in return: Respect the game....
“Gase’s strong personality can galvanize a place. His bravado will be contagious. His mindset and message to his team are pure. It’s some variation of this every week: We’re going to score 50 points and kick their ass.
“He’s a motivator and innovator. He will be absolutely terrific for Darnold, whose development was at the heart of this process.”
Steve Serby / New York Post
“Adam Gase is innovative, an offensive genius. Peyton Manning loves Gase and has recommended him to various franchises around the league, most recently the Browns, who passed in favor of Freddie Kitchens.
“And most recently the Jets, via a call to (Jets owner) Christopher Johnson.
“Gase is – or should be – the best thing for Sam Darnold.
“Whether he is the best thing for the Jets is another matter entirely.
“No one can say with any certainty whether Gase will be more than a quarterback whisperer and be better the second time around – well, Bill Belichick was, right? – after sinking with the division-rival Dolphins.
“It is a red flag that he could not get along with wide receiver Jarvis Landry, and it is an even redder flag that he reportedly became power crazy enough to bark at owner Stephen Ross.
“And this is New York, which swallows imposters whole.
“If you do not have armadillo skin, you have no chance here. The jury is out on whether Gase does.
“And these are the New York Jets, who will be ‘celebrating’ the 50-year anniversary of their one and only Super Bowl championship on Saturday, in case you haven’t heard.”
--As alluded to above, the Browns stayed inside and hired offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, which makes sense, I guess, seeing as Baker Mayfield has a familiar face to guide his progress. But the Browns had played well under interim coach Gregg Williams, who was 5-3 after Hue Jackson was fired.
Williams wasn’t retained and rumor has it the Jets will hire him to be their defensive coordinator, which would be a terrific move.
--The Broncos hired Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to be their new head coach, but the Broncos still don’t have a quarterback.
--The Bengals are said to be targeting Rams assistant coach Zac Taylor, while the Dolphins are expected to hire New England’s Brian Flores; both teams waiting for the Rams and Pats to be eliminated from the playoffs.
--Steelers president Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Antonio Brown won’t be released, but “all other options are on the table” regarding his future with the team.
After missing practices prior to the season finale, and being benched, Rooney said in the interview that it would be “hard to envision” Brown as part of the team when it reports to training camp in late July.
Rooney added: “Whether the situation can be reconciled and [we] have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way from thinking that can happen.”
Rooney also said he will talk to some key players to see how they feel about Brown, 30, returning next season.
A trade can’t be executed until the start of the new league year March 13, with Brown having a roster bonus of $2.5 million due March 17. To be continued...in March.
--Very interesting goings on at Ohio State. Dwayne Haskins declared for the draft, no surprise, a day after Georgia’s Justin Fields announced he was transferring to Columbus.
But what was surprising is seeing Haskins’ backup, Tate Martell, enter his name in the transfer portal, the redshirt freshman having played in six games for the Buckeyes in mop-up duty this season, but still highly thought of.
Yes, Fields would be expected to become the starter, but the NCAA probably isn’t ruling on his eligibility for next season until February. Ordinarily, a transfer has to sit out a year, but Fields quickly enrolled at Ohio State so he’s a student there now.
Martell, though, would have to go the normal transfer route and wouldn’t be eligible until 2020.
Ergo, if the NCAA says Fields is ineligible for 2019, a possibility, the Buckeyes don’t have a real quarterback. No one else threw a pass for them this year and they don’t have a star in waiting in the incoming class.
--Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray is heading to the NFL draft, according to reports, thus walking away from a $4.66 million signing bonus (at least most of it) from the Oakland A’s when they selected him ninth overall in last year’s MLB draft, and a spot in big league spring training.
Murray would pick up more from being a first-round pick in the NFL, initially, and could have a long career in the league, for which he would be duly compensated, but if he was seriously hurt, a lot of what he would be signing for in future years is not guaranteed, vs. baseball’s guaranteed structure.
--The flipside of success is losing a disproportionate amount of players to the NFL and both Alabama and Clemson are losing at eight underclassmen, including Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence.
Alabama also announced left tackle Jonah Williams, tight end Irv Smith Jr. and running back Josh Jacobs are heading out, while for the Tigers, cornerback Trayvon Mullen is among the others heading out early.
But it’s still Clemson-Alabama in next January’s CFP title game. Book it.
Monday, Jan. 14, is the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.
--During the national title game the other day, much was made of the stability of Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff vs. Nick Saban’s, and Phil W. then pointed out to me that Saban lost another assistant on Thursday, co-offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who is leaving to become OC at Michigan.
For Phil and I, the significance is that Gattis, 34, was a fine safety at Wake Forest, and he’s had a rather meteoric rise in the assistant coaching ranks, after being drafted by Jacksonville and then playing a few games in the NFL with the Chicago Bears.
Ergo, Gattis is probably a future head coach at Wake Forest. Not that Dave Clawson is going anywhere for now, but if he keeps putting up 7-6 seasons, which is a huge accomplishment at Wake, he’ll undoubtedly get a bigger job, which has been his history. Enter Gattis. I like the call, Phil.
College Basketball Review
Since last chat, we had a few upsets in the top 20 on Wednesday.
Rutgers had its biggest win in the Big Ten in quite a while with a 64-61 takedown of 16 Ohio State (12-3), Rutgers improving to 8-6.
Temple (12-3) handed 17 Houston its first loss 73-69.
And Ole Miss (12-2) whipped 11 Auburn 82-67.
Saturday, Auburn (12-3) rebounded to beat Georgia (9-6) 93-78, Houston (16-1) beat Wichita State (7-8) 79-70 (what’s happened to the Shockers?), but Ohio State fell again, this time to Iowa (14-3) 72-62, so the Buckeyes (12-4) will tumble out of the top 25 when the next poll is released Monday.
In the Top Ten on Saturday....
I watched the entire Duke-Florida State contest, an entertaining affair, won by the No. 1 Blue Devils 80-78 on a last-second, uncontested three by freshman Cam Reddish, Duke improving to 14-1, the 13-ranked Seminoles falling to 13-3 before a really great crowd in Tallahassee, which was nice to see, speaking strictly as a fan of the sport.
The Seminoles had a chance to pull off the upset, after RJ Barrett converted only one of two free throws to make it 78-77, FSU, but after Phil Cofer got the rebound of Barrett’s miss, he tried to knock it out of bounds off a Duke player and instead, after a lengthy officials review, it was deemed to have gone off Florida State, thus giving the Blue Devils the final shot.
Zion Williamson was knocked out at the end of the first half when he was poked in the eye, the man-child, and future No. 1 overall pick, with 11 points and eight rebounds.
But fellow freshmen, soon-to-be lottery picks, Reddish and Barrett picked up the slack, Barrett playing all 40 minutes (as did freshman guard Trey Jones), scoring 32, while Reddish had perhaps his best game of the season with 23, the two combining to go 9 of 15 from three.
Duke is just so thin, however, you wonder what will happen come Final Four time when, invariably, one of the big three picks up an early two fouls. Plus it’s obvious point guard Jones is critical to the team’s national title hopes. [Duke alum Ken P. saying Jones is ‘the key.’ Don’t disagree.]
As for this Knicks fan, if we don’t win the Zion Lottery, I’d be very happy with Barrett, as would every other fan base in America.
3 Tennessee (14-1) had a nice 78-67 road win at Florida (9-6).
4 Virginia remained undefeated at 15-0 in dispensing with Clemson on the road, 63-43, the vaunted Cavaliers’ ‘D’ holding the Tigers (10-6) to just 25.9% from the field (14 of 54).
5 Gonzaga (16-2) beat a solid San Francisco (14-3) squad 96-83.
7 Kansas (14-2) knocked off Baylor (9-6) 73-68.
8 Texas Tech (15-1) beat Texas (9-6) 68-62.
And 10 Nevada is now 16-1 after a solid 74-64 road win at Fresno State (12-4).
In other games of note, I also watched virtually all of Louisville’s shocking thrashing of 12 UNC, at Chapel Hill, 83-62, the Cardinals (11-5) playing inspired ball under first-year coach Chris Mack, handing Tar Heels coach Roy Williams his worst home loss in 16 seasons at the helm, Carolina dropping to 12-4.
19 Buffalo is now 15-1, blowing out Miami(OH) 88-64.
21 Marquette is 14-3 after a 70-66 win at home against Seton Hall (12-5). I mention this one because the Warriors have one of the top three players in America these days, guard Markus Howard, who had 26 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists; Howard going off for 53 in an overtime win the game before against Creighton, with the star now averaging 25.8 on the season. [The 53 points is the most by a player in a game matching Division I opponents this season.]
Lastly, Wake Forest is now 0-3 in ACC play in its drive for 0-18, 76-65 losers at Miami (9-7). Good job, Danny Manning. We are so proud of you. And I’m warning my fellow Demon Deacon fans, next year will be far worse, 20-point defeats turning into 30+.
Phil W. passed along the comments of Coach Manning from earlier this week after Duke blitzed the Deacs, Duke shooting 58% from the field.
Manning was asked what it would take for Wake to compete against the Dukes of the world, especially on defense, and he said this:
“We don’t have enough time. There are a lot of different things that go into it. The bottom line is that when you step out on the court, you have to find a way. You’ve got to find a way.
“You have to be able to compete, and compete every possession. And I thought there were some possessions when we did a good job competing. But it’s got to be the mindset that ‘We’re going to win every possession.’
“And there were too many empty possessions for us tonight.”
He is so inspirational, wrote the editor, dripping with sarcasm.
Johnny Mac, please send me my sword, parcel post.
--One more, this afternoon, 6 Michigan State (15-2) defeated Penn State (7-10) 71-56.
2 Michigan is hosting Northwestern later tonight.
--New York area fans have had a lot to chirp about this offseason, and in the past few days, both New York teams signed terrific versatile infielders, the Mets inking Jed Lowrie, hot off a 99-RBI season with Oakland, to a two-year, $20 million deal, and the Yankees signing DJ LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million contract.
I’m sure not a Yankee fan, but I love what they did in bringing in LeMahieu. He’s a three-time Gold Glover, won a batting title, and is a clutch hitter.
Yes, LeMahieu has benefited from Coors Field, .330 batting average there vs. .264 on the road, but in “The Little Bandbox That Ruth Didn’t Build,” DJ will do just fine.
The Yankees move also speaks volumes about their interest in Manny Machado.
Ken Davidoff / New York Post
“You win the pool if you predicted, two months ago, the best day of the Yankees’ 2018-19 offseason would entail them bringing DJ LeMahieu aboard.
“Nevertheless, here we are, and here Manny Machado isn’t. If the Yankees haven’t fully broken off their flirtation with Machado, in that the talented free-agent infielder hasn’t decided on his next employer, they’re well on their way. Thanks to their mastery of the proportional response.
“Signing Machado to a mammoth contract as a reaction to Didi Gregorius’ Tommy John surgery, or to Miguel Andujar’s poor defense at third base, never made much sense, and that’s even before addressing the legitimate questions about his personality fit. The Yankees’ greater long-term concerns reside in the outfield, where there just happens to be a lefty-hitting, big-stage-loving free agent named Bryce Harper still available. At the least, the Yankees should meet and engage with Harper the way they did with Machado and see if common ground can be found.”
--The Washington Nationals signed free agent second baseman Brian Dozier to a 1-year, $9 million deal, Dozier with five straight 20+ home run seasons, though he hit only .215 last year, dividing his time between Minnesota and the L.A. Dodgers.
--Some in baseball keep bitching about how slow the free-agent market has been, like last winter, but I look at the deals Lowrie and LeMahieu received and I think, ‘nothing wrong with the market,’ those two getting very reasonable contracts for both team and player. [As well as Mets ace Jacob deGrom receiving a nearly $10 million raise to $17 million, a record increase for an arbitration-eligible player.]
And then you have the shockingly free-spending Milwaukee Brewers, who inexplicably handed catcher Yasmani Grandal a one-year, $18.25 million deal. $18.25 million?! It turns out the Mets, prior to them signing Wilson Ramos for two years, were dangling a four-year, $50 million offer in front of Grandal, but the 30-year-old is opting for this one.
Yes, Grandal has hit 27, 22 and 24 home runs the last three seasons, but he gives up more passed balls than anyone, and the Dodgers thought so little of his play that he was benched in favor of Austin Barnes in the past postseason.
--Stick a fork in my Tottenham Spurs in terms of winning a league title, the Spurs falling at Wembley to Manchester United 1-0, as United goalkeeper David de Gea produced a “masterclass,” as the BBC put it; the Spurs denied on one opportunity after another, particularly in the second half.
So Tottenham is now nine points behind first-place Liverpool, 1-0 winners this weekend over Brighton.
As for Man U, manager Ole Gunnaer Solskjaer made it six of six since taking over for Jose Mourinho and he has his boys suddenly back in the top four race, which is a big story, across the pond.
In other games of note, Chelsea defeated Newcastle 2-1, and West Ham upset Arsenal 1-0.
With Man City yet to play Wolverhampton tomorrow, the standings are:
Liverpool 22 (games) – 57 (points)
Man City 21 – 50
Tottenham 22 – 48
Chelsea 22 – 47
Arsenal 22 – 41
Man U 22 – 41
Back to Tottenham, they are now 2-0-4 (W-D-L) in Big Six matches. That ain’t gonna cut it.
--The Carabao Cup, so called for sponsorship reasons, is an English football competition that includes the top four leagues (Premier, Championship, League One and League Two)*. Better known as the League Cup, it is behind the league championship and FA Cup for prestige, but its yet another incentive for players (and mainly team owners).
You can imagine, though, that the Premier League’s elite clubs often field inferior lineups for the matches in order to keep their teams fresh for PL and Champions League play, but the other day, Manchester City nonetheless defeated League One’s Burton 9-0 in the semifinals of the competition. It was the first time in more than 31 years City had scored nine goals in a single match.
And the thing is, at the semifinal level this is a two-leg series so the two have to play each other again.
*I noted last year, when looking at competitions like the FA Cup, think of the Premier League as the major leagues, the Championship League would be AAA, League One AA, and League Two single-A.
Which is why I have finally gotten into the FA Cup the last few years, where you even have club teams (well below League Two) eligible for the competition. Every now and then you get a titanic upset that would be the equivalent of the Los Angeles Dodgers losing to the Yankees’ A team, something like that.
Alpine World Cup
--Last week, Mikaela Shiffrin’s win streak in the slalom ended in Flachau, Austria, Shiffrin finishing second to rival Petra Vlhova of Slovakia. But then this weekend’s races at St. Anton, Austria, were canceled due to over 9 feet...9 feet...of snow, as you’ve seen on some of the world news reports...the biggest snows in decades.
--On the men’s side, Austria’s Marcel Hirscher has been totally dominating, winning the last three Cup races (two slaloms and a giant slalom), giving him nine wins on the year! [The men were able to race this weekend because they were in less-snowy Adelboden, Switzerland.]
Not for nothing, but the 29-year-old Hirscher is now up to 67 career World Cup wins.
--I’m posting the column prior to the finish of the Sony Open at Waialae, Matt Kuchar and Andrew Putnam battling it out, Kooch looking for his ninth career title.
--The European golfing press, particularly in Ireland and the UK, has been writing a lot about Rory McIlroy’s failures to close the deal the past year. This stat is rather telling. Including at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, Rory has played in seven final pairings (or threesomes) and hasn’t captured a single one of those titles.
His lone win in over a year was when he shot a brilliant Sunday 64 for a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
Shane Ryan of Golfworld had the following observation.
“It’s no secret that Rory is a media darling. Along with his robust game, he’s intelligent, more open than most and funny. He’s my favorite professional golfer, although I’m not sure if that’s the sort of thing I’m supposed to admit. Everything is more exciting when Rory’s involved, and win or lose, he’s one of the more interesting personalities in the sport. Maybe that’s why his recent struggles seem to have been spun by secret consensus into a broader, kinder narrative about mundane flaws within his game that are simply one revelation away from resolving, rather than the crueler but perhaps truer narrative: That he’s put himself in contention plenty of times, just like in the glory days of 2014, but that he no longer possesses the steel to close. It’s not the skill that has faltered, perhaps, but the nerve.
“Nobody wants to call Rory McIlroy a choker, and when you consider what he’s accomplished in his career, and how he’s accomplished it, the idea seems ridiculous on its face. How can the man who faced down Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at Valhalla, who intimidated and bludgeoned them into submission, be a choker? How can the man who closed with an incredible flourish on Saturday at Hoylake to crush the field be a choker? How can the man who ruined Sergio Garcia psychologically within two holes at the ’14 Bridgestone Invitational be a choker? Those examples alone are enough to cement someone’s bona fides for a career, and that’s not even counting the majors he dominated, or his stellar Ryder Cup play.
“But it may be time to consider that even if Rory McIlroy isn’t a choker – far from it, in the big picture – he has perhaps entered a choke-y stage of his career.”
Yet...Rory is still just 29. He’ll be back in a big way at some point in the next two years, says moi.
--Andy Murray announced tearfully that he plans to retire after this year’s Wimbledon but fears this week’s Australian Open could be the final tournament of his career, Murray struggling to recover from hip surgery.
“I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months,” said the 31-year-old Scot.
“I want to get to Wimbledon and stop but I’m not certain I can do that.”
Murray, a former world number one, had surgery on his right hip last January and has played in just 14 matches since returning in June.
He has three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic gold medals.
Roger Federer said, “The news has hit us top guys hard. I hope he can play a good Australian Open and he can keep playing beyond that.”
--We note the passing of J.D. Gibbs, the elder son of former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who died at the age of 49 after a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease.
The news was announced by Joe Gibbs Racing, the family-owned NASCAR team that the Hall of Fame coach founded in Huntersville, N.C., in 1991.
In the family’s NASCAR business, J.D. was his father’s right-hand man, named president of JGR in 1997, J.D. instrumental in expanding the business from a single-car team to a force in NASCAR that has won four championships.
As noted by the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke, J.D. “was warmly regarded throughout NASCAR – held in high regard by corporate executives, racecar drivers, mechanics and media alike.”
J.D. was diagnosed with his disease in 2015 and the symptoms increasingly affected his speech and cognitive function.
Joe Gibbs Racing fields four cars in the Cup series (for drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones).
--Ex-LSU player Matt Branch lost a leg after being shot by a dog while on a hunting trip, according to a close friend and hunting companion of the former offensive lineman who warned others to be “the utmost careful when it comes to gun safety.”
Branch, who played at LSU from 2009 to 2011, was reported to be in intensive care but expected to recover.
According to the Clarion Ledger, friend Micah Heckford said: “The opportunities for an accident are there and we just don’t realize it....If there’s a shell in that gun, anything can happen.”
As Des Bieler of the Washington Post reported:
“Branch was struck by a shotgun blast when a dog who was with his group jumped into the back of their Ford Ranger and stepped on the weapon’s safety, setting it to fire mode, while also managing to pull the trigger.”
Now the story is too serious to joke about, and we’re glad that Branch will recover, especially given the remote area where the accident occurred, but this does not impact Dog’s standing on the ASL, for those wondering about that aspect.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/15/66: #1 “We Can Work It Out” (The Beatles) #2 “The Sounds Of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel) #3 “She’s Just My Style” (Gary Lewis and The Playboys)...and...#4 “Five O’Clock World” (The Vogues) #5 “Ebb Tide” (The Righteous Brothers) #6 “Day Tripper” (The Beatles) #7 “Flowers On The Wall” (The Statler Brothers) #8 “The Men In My Little Girl’s Life” (Mike Douglas) #9 “As Tears Go By” (The Rolling Stones) #10 “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” (The T-Bones...solid ‘A’ week...)
NBA Quiz Answer: Six Eastern Conference teams to win it all last 20 years...
Miami 2012-13, 2011-12
Go back and look at that Pistons team. How they did it I’ll never know. Great job by Larry Brown.
But as Ben Golliver of the Washington Post points out, maybe this year is different, with the Golden State Warriors struggling some, and the Toronto Raptors the class of the NBA thus far (Milwaukee and Denver fans would have something to say about this last statement).
That said, in the last 20 years, West teams have a 68-43 record over the East in Finals games. There have also been 28 60-win teams over the past 20 years: 19 from the West, just nine from the East.
But as Golliver also noted, LeBron’s groin injury that has him out at least 11 games, with the Lakers 3-6 without him thus far heading into tonight’s game in L.A. against the Cavs, has the team in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The NBA, and the television networks, desperately need LeBron in the postseason, while in the East you’ll have at least two teams likely to make the playoffs with below .500 records.
That said, I am totally against ‘reform’ plans to just rank the teams 1-to-16 for the playoffs.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.
*I learned today I have to head to the Pittsburgh area tomorrow, for all the wrong reasons, and will be out of touch long stretches. Note to Shu: Think Hoffer’s F.H. in Norvelt.
RIP, Cousin Mike. One of the kindest people I ever met. His mother, my Aunt Agnes, a saint.