Welcome to Monday everyone. "The Stack" is here to talk about all of the big stories from the weekend in sports and trust me, there was a lot to talk about. So let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Monday, May 21:
1. Heat storm back to tie series 2-2 with Pacers, Spurs complete sweep of Clippers
It was a must-win game for the Miami Heat on Sunday and LeBron James delivered perhaps the most sensational game of his playoff career and completely shifting momentum in this series back in favor of the Heat. The Heat beat the Indiana Pacers 101-93 to tie up the series 2-2 and they did it in tremendous fashion. It wasn't looking good early on, even at halftime when the Pacers were up 54-46. A three by Danny Granger in the third quarter gave the Pacers a 61-51 lead and almost everyone watching the game had to be thinking "oh no" if you're a Heat fan or "yes, they're going to lose" if you're rooting against them. But then James and Dwayne Wade took over, scoring the majority of the teams points and doing it with ease. James had someo sick passes to Wade. Wade made some nice moves to get a couple of layups and dunks. The Heat outscored the Pacers 30-16 in the third quarter and didn't look back in the fourth. James finished with 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists. He was absolutely brilliant. Wade also had a dynamite game, scoring 30 points to go along with nine rebounds and six assists. By winning the game, the Heat have now taken away any edge the Pacers may have had. The Heat are back. Yes, it's only one game and there are still three more to go, but the Pacers are in a lot of trouble unless they can rally back and figure out a way to stop James and Wade. In game four, they had no response and when those two play like they did in game four, who's going to stop them? It probably won't be the Pacers.
The San Antonio Spurs have yet to lose this postseason following their 102-99 win over the Los Angeles to complete the sweep and advance to western conference finals. The Clippers fought really hard this game, playing their best game of the series, but the veteran Spurs were just too much. They had balance from their starting five and got solid contribution from their bench. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul did their part to keep the Clippers alive, scoring 21 and 23 points respectively, but it wasn't enough. They'll be back and better next year after having an offseason to gel. Griffin really needs to pick his game up. Only five rebounds last game? I know he's injured, but he needed to forget the injury and go out there and battle for more rebounds. When he can become a consistent double-double guy, that's when Griffin will be placed in the great player conversation in the league. The Spurs will have a long rest as the other three series conclude.
The Oklahoma City Thunder hold a 3-1 series lead over the Los Angeles Lakers following their 103-100 game four win over the Lakers in L.A. The Thunder faced a double-digit deficit, but rallied back thanks to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Then after the game, Kobe Bryant called out Pau Gasol so the series is pretty much over. The Lakers cannot and will not win this series. The Thunder are just too good. The Lakers are too inconsistent. Had the Lakers won game four and not given up such a big lead at home, perhaps I'd reconsider. But that didn't happen which means the Lakers are one loss away from hitting the links.
In the other eastern conference series, the Philadelphia 76ers rallied back to beat the Boston Celtics to tie the series up 2-2. I still think the Celtics will win the series, but the 76ers are making it difficult for them. The more games the Celtics have to play, the worse their chances of beating the Heat in the next round assuming the Heat win their series with the Pacers. This team needs rest. They won't get rusty by having a few extra days off.
Monday's NBA playoff games:
Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics 7:00 PM ET (series tied 2-2)
Los Angeles Lakers @ Oklahoma City Thunder 9:30 PM ET (Thunder lead series 3-1)
2. Coyotes stay alive versus Kings, Rangers hold series lead over the Devils
The Phoenix Coyotes remain alive in the NHL western conference finals following their 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings in game four. Mike Smith was terrific in net for the Coyotes, just like he's been all postseason long. He stopped all 36 shots he faced. And someone finally stepped up on offense and got some pucks past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who's been like a brick wall most of the postseason. That player was Shane Doan, who scored both Coyote goals and have forced a game five back in Phoenix. Can they keep this up and win another game? Yeah, they can win one more game, but the Kings are the better team. They looked let lethargic against a desperate Coyote team. Perhaps it was the early puck drop, noon local time. Maybe, but the Kings have played a game at that time this postseason last series against the Blues. They just didn't have a good game. They'll be back and ready to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in game five.
I mentioned Quick being a brick wall, well what about New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist who stopped a number of odd man rushes and didn't allow a single goal in the 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. The Rangers now hold a 2-1 series lead. The Devils have a good team, but they won't be able to get past the Rangers. Not unless they can consistently get pucks by Lundqvist and because they've only scored in one game this series, that doesn't bode well for them.
Monday's NHL playoff game
New York Rangers @ New Jersey Devils 8:00 PM ET NBCSN (Rangers lead series 2-1)
3. I'll Have Another and another triple crown winner?
I'll Have Another is one win away from history following another come-from-behind win at the Preakness on Saturday. Making the final turn, I'll Have Another was trailing as favorite Bodemeister was out ahead. But I'll Have Another made his late race push and forged ahead to take the lead, winning just barely, neck in horse racing terms. Bodemeister finished second. It was once again a thrilling race and an ever more exciting finish. I said Friday that I'll Have Another just doesn't seem like he's triple crown material and he may not be. You don't want to trail by as much as he has entering the final turn. He's putting his owner and trainer through a lot of stress. But he's won the first two legs of the triple crown and it would be absolutely amazing to see him complete the trifecta and win the triple crown. It would be the first triple crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. There is some controversy surrounding his trainer about illegal drugs he's given to horses. You hope that's not the case here. Hopefully I'll Have Another is clean so as not to diminish what a special accomplishment this would be should he win the Belmont which is in three weeks. Hopefully weather doesn't play a factor in the race. Think there will be a few people watching?
4. Other interesting notes from the sports world over the weekend
- NASCAR helds its All-Star race Saturday night. Jimmie Johnson won.
- The New Orleans Saints are doing some front office reshuffling. Saints owner Tom Benson's granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc will now become vice chairman of the boad with Dennis Lauscha becoming team president. Mickey Loomis remains on the team, but his role may diminish a little bit after it has been reported that Benson has tabbed Loomis to be head of basketball operations for the New Orleans Hornets.
- Washington Nationals pitcher Steven Strasburg had a great day yesterday, striking out eight and hitting a home run in the Nationals 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Anytime a pitcher hits a homerun, it's kind of cool since it doesn't happen all that often. When it happens to a star like Strasburg and he backs it up with a great outing on the mound and gets the win, it may mean just a little bit more.
- Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander was so close to a no-hitter Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He gave up a hit with one out in the ninth inning in the Tigers win. Verlander is a really good pitcher and has a no-hitter already on his resume. Another one would have been pretty sweet.
Coming up Tuesday: NBA and NHL playoff reaction plus other top stories in sports
Comments and suggestions on what to write about are always welcomed and appreciated.