Who To Watch (April 19 – April 25)

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(Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

WELCOME BACK!

If we’re being honest, we may have just witnessed one of the best weeks in sports in a LONG time since we last met. Tiger Woods stayed in competition all weekend, and he FINALLY WON A MAJOR, over a decade since his last major championship. Congrats on number 15, Tiger! In the NBA, we have seen some great games thus far. Kyrie Irving had a great performance in Game 2 to help the Celtics take a 2-0 series lead. Damian Lillard has been phenomenal as the Trail Blazers have gone ahead 2-0 on OKC. The Clippers completed the biggest comeback in playoff history to tie their series going into Game 3, but the Warriors won last night to regain the lead. The Sixers lead Brooklyn 2 to 1, the Spurs lead Denver 2 to 1, the Rockets and Bucks are ahead 2 games to none in their respective series, and Toronto and Orlando are tied.

In the NHL, we saw one of the greatest upsets in sports history, as the Columbus Blue Jackets won their first playoff series EVER, sweeping the President Cup winning Tampa Bay Lightning, the same team that tied the record for the most wins in NHL history this season. The New York Islanders advanced as well, sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins. Colorado leads Calgary three games to one (shout out to UMass defenseman Cale Makar, who joined the Avalanche this week after the Minutemen reached the NCAA championship game). The rest of the series in the league are currently competitive, with St. Louis and Las Vegas leading theirs 3 games to 2, and the remaining two series tied at 2 games apiece.

In baseball, the reigning World Series champs look awful (more on that later), and Tampa Bay seems to be taking the league by storm this season, as the currently stand at 14-5.

Enough recaping, lets look ahead now.

Buy

Kerm: Damian Lillard

I’ll just leave this here:

Dame’s confidence seems to be at an all-time high in this series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. From the heroic shot making to the shit talking directly to Steven Adams’ face, it’s clear that he won’t be punk’d in the first round this postseason. Let’s see if he can keep this energy in Oklahoma City tonight.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/19, 9:30 PM)

Game 4: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/21, 9:30 PM)

Game 5: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers (4/23, 10:30 PM)*

Game 6: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/25, TBD)*

*if needed

Mike: Austin Meadows

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The Rays are an MLB best 14-5, and the bat of Austin Meadows has been a key reason why (Credit: Fred Thornill/Canadian Press)

The Tampa Bays Rays are the best team in the AL East right now by a significant margin. With the Red Sox and Yankees getting off to slow starts, the Rays have taken full advantage. One of the surprise contributors to their success has been Austin Meadows and his blazing hot bat. After Thursday’s games, Meadows is hitting .364, getting on base at a rate of .432, and slugging .697 which gives him a stellar OPS of 1.129. Tampa Bay acquired Meadows along with Tyler Glasnow in the Chris Archer trade last year, and so far that trade is looking like a big win for the Rays. Pitching never seems to be a problem for Tampa, it’s always the offense that struggles to produce. With Meadows tearing the cover off the ball to start the year, the Rays are finally stringing together consistent wins, and that makes them a real threat in the AL East this year.

When to Watch: 

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/19, 7:10 PM)

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/20, 6:10 PM)

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/21, 2:10 PM)

Kansas City Royals vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/22, 7:10 PM)

Kansas City Royals vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/23, 7:10 PM)

Kansas City Royals vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/24, 1:10 PM)

Nick: Jayson Tatum

For someone so young, Jayson Tatum has some great playoff moments in his career. Michael Jordan did not play a playoff game until he was 22. but at just 21 years old, Tatum already has 21 playoff games under his belt. On Wednesday, Tatum played Robin to Kyrie Irving’s Batman, but he made the two biggest plays at the end of the game. First he hit a three to give Boston a 92-91 lead. The, on the next Celtics possession after he set up a pick for Kyrie Irving, he rolled to the perimeter, and received a pass from Irving. After a pump fake, he drove to the rim, and had the awareness to see a wide open Gordon Hayward, who had leaked right under the hoop; Hayward made an easy layup, giving Boston a 94-91 lead with 12.1 seconds left. He also got an old-fashioned three point play after a horrible Indy turnover, securing a victory for Boston. His 26 points were second on the team, and the 11th time he has scored at least 20 points in a postseason game. If Tatum can get buckets at this level behind the stellar play of Kyrie, the Celtics might be poised for a long run. Buy your Playoff Tatum stock here.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers (4/19, 8:30 PM)

Game 4: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers (4/21, 1:00 PM)

Game 5: Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics (4/24, TBD)*

*if needed


Sell

Kerm: Utah’s Defense

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The Utah Jazz have lost their first two games of the postseason, and Rudy Gobert has a -43 +/- in the series, worst on the team (Credit: Rick Bowmer/AP)

Someone needs to get fired for the defense being played on James Harden in the Jazz/ Rockets series. I understand the idea of taking away parts of a player’s game, but the strategy of guarding Harden by standing nearly behind him on defense and allowing him to freely drive right, might be the dumbest gimmick I’ve ever seen. In Game 2, I witnessed Harden drive and kick to teammates for two wide open threes in back-to-back plays during the first half. Wouldn’t you rather force him to consistently make tough, contested three point attempts?

I really hope the Jazz put up a fight at home, because they’re better than this.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz (4/20, 10:30 PM)

Game 4: Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz (4/22, 10:30 PM)

Game 5: Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets (4/24, TBD)*

*if needed

Mike: Russell Westbrook

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Westbrook has shot an abysmal 35% to start this postseason, as the Thunder are down 2 games to Portland heading into Game 3 tonight (Credit: Glenn James/Getty Images)

I really thought the Thunder were just going to come out and roll right through the Trail Blazers in the first round, but clearly I was wrong to think that. Part of my mistake was overestimating Russell Westbrook’s ability to lock in for the playoffs and perform at a high level. Instead of doing that, Westbrook has shot a disappointing 35.1% from the field which includes a putrid 10% mark from three-point range on 10 attempts. Triple-doubles don’t matter when you can’t put the ball in the hoop efficiently but you still take over 18 shots a game, which is what Westbrook is doing in the playoffs so far. If OKC wants to avoid another first round exit, Westbrook needs to start picking his spots more carefully and recognize what are and aren’t good shots for him at this point.

When to Watch: 

Game 3: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/19, 9:30 PM)

Game 4: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/21, 9:30 PM)

Game 5: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers (4/23, 10:30 PM)*

Game 6: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4/25, TBD)*

*if needed

Nick: Boston Red Sox

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The Red Sox are off to a 6-13 start, good for the third worst record in baseball (Credit: USA Today Sports)

“If we don’t start playing better, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, maybe myself, we could get traded”

-David Price, via Alex Speirer/Boston Globe

That’s a pretty accurate quote if you ask me. Too soon? Your call (it is to me), but nevertheless, last season this team was one of the most dominant teams in recent MLB history. Now, less than a month into 2019, and they have the worst record in the AL. The season is less than 12% complete for Boston, there are 143 games left to be played. However, the Sox have yet to win a series all season (they’ve tied twice, and lost four). The starting rotation is 2-11, and no starter has more than one win. Only one hitter is hitting above .300 (and bless J.D. Martinez for doing it, one of the only bright spots thus far). Dustin Pedroia is 2 for 20 this season, and was just put on the IL yet again; I LOVE Dustin, he was one of my favorite players growing up, but it might be time to retire. This team is too talented, but I’m sorry, I just can’t do it right now. With the Bruins and Celtics in the thick of the playoffs, the Boston knows they need to do good this time of year to get viewers in this city. If they’re going to be THIS bad while other teams are playing their heats out, they’re not getting my time and attention. I’m selling the team until the playoffs are over for the B’s and C’s; after that, we can talk.

When to Watch: 

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/19, 7:10 PM)

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/20, 6:10 PM)

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4/21, 2:10 PM)

Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox (4/22, 7:10 PM)

Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox (4/23, 7:10 PM)

Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox (4/24, 7:10 PM)

Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox (4/25, 7:10 PM)


The “Who to Watch” series drops every Friday, via Hold My Drink Sports

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