By Ron Johnson
With all that has gone down both on the court and on the ice, I figured this would be a good time to size up the status of both The NBA Finals as well as The Stanley Cup Final. Just a quick one to give everyone a refresher to prepare for what could be a wild weekend for The Summer of Sports.
NBA Finals: Nuggets One Win Away from Immortality
After tacking on one loss to Ground Zero of Mile High Mayhem, the Miami Heat appeared to be listening to Bleacher Brothers as well as Chiseled Adonis when it came to questioning their execution (or in the case of Game One, lack thereof) in their return to the Finals. After giving Denver their first loss of the postseason on their home court, the series shifted to Miami where the Heat felt that they had control of home court advantage.
The Nuggets on the other hand? Well, they had other plans in mind.
In Denver’s theorem, the motto was…rather Stone Cold like: Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave.
In Game Three, Denver went off the chain and showed that they belong in their first NBA Finals. Led by Nikola Jokic and yet another triple double for the big man, the Nuggets secured a 109-94 win to take back the series lead in front of a sellout crowd in South Beach. Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat with a double-double (22 pts, 17 rebounds), but the Heat could not recover from a 58 point onslaught in the second and third quarters, respectively. But the Heat were not deterred and felt they would bounce back in game four. In theory, it sounded good.
Jimmy Butler found his swagger in game four with a 25-point output, and the Heat even had a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter. However, Aaron Gordon and Jokic decided that this was their time. Led by Gordon’s 27 points and Jokic’s double-double himself (23 pts, 12 rebounds) the Nuggets brought the thunder and lightning to dish out their own brand of justice against Miami and left South Beach with a 108-95 win and a 3-1 series lead.
With the series now shifting back to Denver, the Nuggets have a rare opportunity in their crosshairs: to win their first NBA Championship in front of their hometown crowd. This would indeed put Denver at the top of the sports world once again as while some are nursing a hangover from last year’s Stanley Cup celebration with the Avs, they are primed and ready to run it back again come Monday night.
As for the Heat, well, history does not favor the young underdogs from Miami. In history, there have been 36 NBA Finals where the series has been 3-1. In that timeframe, the record is 1-35. The only team to ever come back from 3-1? LeChoke Lames and the Cleveland Cavaliers when they overcame the deficit against the Warriors to win the franchise’s lone championship prior to the so-called “King” taking his talents to Hollywood.
Can Miami overcome a 3-1 deficit in front of a hostile crowd in Denver? Can the Nuggets finish the story and bring the city its second championship in a year? Will it be Joker’s Wild or Butler’s Bash in Game Five?
Stanley Cup Final: Panthers Wake Up and Smell…a few Rats?!
After grabbing a combined four goals in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final and falling behind two games to none after a five goal loss in Game Two, the Panthers felt like they were indeed in trouble. They then found themselves travelling back to Sunrise, the Panthers were in familiar territory. The defending Eastern Conference Champs got back to basics at home and managed to get themselves a massive game three win with the help of an old friend: Ratatouille.
The Panthers fanbase proceeded to bring back and old favorite by launching rats on the ice during the team’s 3-2 overtime win on Thursday night. The win puts the Panthers back into this series, and they are now hoping that the Panthers fateful can keep that energy going on Saturday when game four commences. Jack Eichel did his usual thing with assisting on one of the Knights two goals, while Jonathan Marchessault got an assist as well as a goal in the first two periods.
But it was the fury of Matthew Tkachuk (11th goal of the playoffs) and the game winner from Carter Verhaeghe that woke up the Panthers enough to realize that they were NOT going to get swept this time around in the Stanley Cup Final.
Can the Panthers even up the series tonight? Can the Knights take a 3-1 series lead heading back to Sin City with a chance to polish it off? Will the Pied Piper of Sunrise (Tkachuk) bring the FL Rat Pack to the promised land?
In the end, this promises to be the most high octane finish to the Winter Sports Sessions that one could ask for. And even if this could be the last time we see Jokic or Butler in the Finals, it will be good nonetheless. As for Tkachuk, Marchessault and even Petrangelo and Barbeshev, here is to hoping that there will be more games like this on the horizon.
As for Jimmy Butler’s legacy, he’s already improved that in leaps and bounds, but a word of advice for him though: