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Published: Friday, April 13, 2018 @ 11:35 AM
— The NBA season began with little prospect for drama.
The Golden State Warriors still have their big four to rule the West, and the East belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers as long as they have LeBron James, right?
But the picture has changed quite a bit since November… or so it seems.
If you are a casual fan ready to dive into the postseason, are five things to know about the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend:
1. The best (regular season) team in the Western Conference was not the Warriors.
Houston had the best record in the league, going 65-17 behind MVP candidate James Harden.
There’s still a lot of skepticism about them, though, because they haven’t shown their brand of basketball will hold up in the playoffs.
2. The best (regular season) team in the Eastern Conference was not the Cavs.
Toronto is the No. 1 seed in the East, going 59-23 as Cleveland and the Boston Celtics broke in new lineups and dealt with numerous injuries.
There’s still a lot of skepticism about the Raptors, too, because they haven’t shown they can beat LeBron in the playoffs.
3. The Warriors and Cavs are still the betting favorites in their respective conferences.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson all missed at least nine games this season. Curry only played 51 games and is out for the first round — it not longer — with a knee injury.
Apparently the oddsmakers at Bovada are confident Golden State can get past a wounded San Antonio Spurs team and Curry will return sooner or later, because the Warriors are still 7/5 favorites to win it all.
Cleveland blew up its roster at the trade deadline, but the Cavs are younger and more athletic than they were — and they still have LeBron. They are 5/4 to win the East with Toronto at 8/5.
4. The East is still a joke.
The Eastern Conference has been the little brother to the West for more than a decade, and a look at the standings shows that is still the case.
More surprising than the nondescript Raptors winning the No. 1 seed in the East was the injury-ravaged Celtics finishing second in the standings. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are both sidelined for Boston, meaning a first-round upset at the hands of Milwaukee is a definite possibility.
On the bright side, the third-seeded 76ers have been the talk of the league with Philadelphia’s impressive collection of young talent finally coming together after years of languishing at the bottom of the standings.
5. The West could get wild.
The Warriors-Spurs opening round series would be a lot more interesting if Kawhi Leonard surprisingly became available, but the Warriors struggled down the stretch and San Antonio coach Greg Popovich has a way of getting more out of less, so you never know.
Meanwhile, the Rockets face an uber-taletned Timberwolves team that is viewed as an underachiever in some circles despite ending a long playoff drought. What if the light comes on for Minnesota?
Then you’ve got the highly entertaining Blazers against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans in the 3-6 matchup with the star-studded Thunder taking on the new-look Jazz in the 4-5 series.
Upsets are more of a college basketball thing, but this is a year where more look likely than usual in the NBA.Follow @marcushartman
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 2:57 PM
CINCINNATI — In his second-to-last start before the trade deadline, Matt Harvey delivered his worst performance since joining the Cincinnati Reds.
Harvey allowed eight earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park as the Reds tried to avoid a three-game sweep. He left the game after facing three batters in the fourth.
Six runs scored against Harvey on four home runs, the most Harvey has allowed in a game in his career. The Reds trailed 8-0 after the fourth.
» PITCHING UPDATE: Reds will use six-man rotation
The trade deadline is July 31, and Harvey is expected to be a popular name in trade talks.
Despite this start, Harvey has pitched well for the Reds. In his last four starts, he was 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA. In his last five starts, he had allowed a total of six earned runs and no home runs. He had not allowed a home run since giving up three against the Cardinals on June 6.
Before the game, interim manager Jim Riggleman said Harvey was enjoying pitching in Cincinnati and not allowing trade talks to bother him.
“I think he likes it here,” Riggleman said. “His performance indicates he’s getting better and better. We hope he stays here. We’re fortunate to have him. It was a great acquisition for our front office to get him.”
» HAL McCOY: Reds honor 2018 Hall of Fame class
Riggleman hopes the Reds don’t trade Harvey and said he hasn’t seen any indication they will.
“As good as we’ve seen Matt, I think he’s just getting healthier and healthier,” Riggleman said. “You may even see a healthier guy next year.”
Harvey gave up a two-run home run to Gregory Polanco in the first, back-to-back home runs to Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte in the second and a solo home run to Sean Rodriguez in the fourth inning.
Harvey’s ERA jumped from 4.63 to 5.21. This was the first time he failed to last four innings in 13 starts with the Reds.
The WWE Smackdown trucks are lined up around US Bank Arena outside GABP. Inside the park, a smackdown of a different sort. Pirates lead Reds 6-0 in middle of second. pic.twitter.com/bVOysWpkXl— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) July 22, 2018
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 12:54 PM
DAYTON — The University of Dayton shared a video updating the progress of phase two of the three-year, $72 million UD Arena renovation on Friday.
The video shows the seats in the 300 and 400 levels have been removed. They will be replaced by padded seats with cupholders.
» EARLIER COVERAGE: Phase two of renovation may be busiest
UD Arena Director Scott DeBolt walked fans through the changes going on inside and outside the arena.
“The main concentration of phase two is expanding the north side and east side of the building,” DeBolt said.
DeBolt mentioned the expanded concourse area, improved restrooms and an elevator that will provide access to a new landing at the top of the east side 400 level. That area will contain restrooms, expanded handicap seating and concession options.
“The area will provide guests with a dynamic view of the playing floor and the river,” DeBolt said, “all while maintaining the intimacy of the arena.”
Two photos from today of UD Arena as phase two of renovation continues. pic.twitter.com/ikMF0LreZ8— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) July 18, 2018
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 1:39 PM
— Offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings Tony Sparano died Sunday morning at age 56.
The Vikings said in a statement Sunday that Sparano died unexpectedly.
Before coaching with the Vikings, Sparano was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders. He started his NFL career in 1999 as an offensive quality control coach for the Cleveland Browns. Throughout his career, Sparano has coached with the Redskins, Jaguars, Cowboys, Jets and 49ers, according to NFL.com.
“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony's presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts.”
Published: Sunday, July 22, 2018 @ 12:04 PM
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds will use a six-man starting pitching rotation at least until the trade deadline July 31, though interim manager Jim Riggleman hopes the Reds hang onto Matt Harvey, the player most likely to be dealt.
“I’ve got no indication that he’s going to be traded,” Riggleman said Sunday.
» HAL McCOY: Reds honor 2018 Hall of Fame class
Harvey (5-5, 4.63 ERA) makes his 13th start with the Reds on Sunday, facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park. He would make one more start with the Reds if he stays with the team until the trade deadline.
Entering Sunday, the only question with the rotation was who would start Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals after Homer Bailey (1-7, 6.68) returns to the rotation Tuesday. Riggleman confirmed that starter will be Sal Romano (5-8, 5.19).
“If we absolutely need (Romano) today in the bullpen,” Riggleman said, “he would pitch today, but we would really try to limit that and see if he would then be able to pitch Wednesday as a starter.”
The six-man rotation could test the bullpen if the Reds stick with it for long because it means the Reds will have one fewer reliever than normal.