NBA FINALS: GOLDEN STATE vs. CLEVELAND
Details/TV: Game 1 at Golden State, Thursday at 6 p.m., Channel 7:
They’ve had more than a week to rest up for this – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson should have their heads screwed back on straight, and LeBron James has lined up all his endorsers for optimal exposure as he’s back to this stage for the fifth straight season. So the wait is over — let either the Warriors win their first title in 40 years, or the Cavs capture their first ever in their 45-year existence. The storylines are abundant, but most focus will be on how Curry, the regular season MVP who averaged 31.2 points and almost shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the Western Conference finals, goes shot-for-shot with James, third in the MVP voting and posting an average of almost a triple-double in the Cavs’ sweep of the Eastern Conference finals. Golden State may have a more-than serviceable spike strip for James in Draymond Green, who has been asked to do this before.
In December, 2012, Green, a second-round draft pick out of Michigan State and on the Warriors’ bench for his rookie season, was assigned to guard James, then with Miami, during a regular-season game. James failed to score twice with Green on him. After a missed jumper and a turnover, the 6-foot-8 James backed Green down and drew a foul. Then he yelled at Green. “He said, ‘You too little,’ and I hate when people say that to me,” the 6-foot-7 Green told the San Jose Mercury. “So I said something back to him. I think that’s where I gained respect. And it’s mutual.” By the way, in that game, Green also made the game-winning shot, a layup with 0.9 seconds to play. After the contest, James, who scored 31 of the Heat’s 95 points in the two-point loss, sought out Green to congratulate him. “He played hard, it was great competition out there between me and him,” James said. “He knows how to play the game and (Golden State) is a good fit for him. It was good to see him out there.” Maybe now, not so much. During the regular season, James scored 42 points with 11 assists in a 110-99 win in Cleveland in late February. Curry had 18 points in that game, but only six after the first quarter and was 5-of-17 from the field. An injured James missed the prior meeting in early January at Golden State, a 112-94 Warriors’ win where Curry and Thompson combined for 47 points, and Green had 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Game 2 at Golden State is Sunday at 5 p.m.
147th BELMONT STAKES
Details/TV: At Elmont, N.Y., Saturday at approx. 3:30 p.m., Channel 4:
It’s the third time in four years that we’ve had a Triple Crown chance and the 14th time since Affirmed did it in 1978. Again, it’s just a chance. American Pharoah will see about turning back as many as nine competitors in this latest attempt in the “Test of the Champion” at a mile and a half. Seven key horses skipped the Preakness to rest up for this one, including the three trained by Belmont-based Todd Pletcher – Materiality, Carpe Diem and Madefromlucky. “I understand,” said American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert said of the loaded field. “It just shows the respect they have … It’’s something you can’t control. You have to earn it. I’ve seen a lot of great horses leave here and (lose) the Belmont — Smarty Jones, Big Brown, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, Funny Cide, I’ll Have Another … you just don’t know.” Maybe American Pharoah’s best shot is praying for rain, like in the Preakness. The problem here could be that American Pharoah has never raced at Belmont before, which gives Pletcher’s Madefromlucky an advantage to some bettors here. The one thing we do now know is how American Pharoah came to be named, even with a common misspelling of “Pharoah.” Marsha Baumgartner, a 64-year-old registered nurse from Barnett, Mo., is apparently the one responsible. In a recent New York Times story, we learned that Baumgartner entered a contest held on the website of American Pharoah’s owners, Zayat Stables, to name a dark bay colt sired by Pioneerof the Nile and Yankee Gentleman. Baumgartner had the winning entry and it was submitted on Jan. 15, 2014 to the Jockey Club. She did not win any kind of prize for it. Except maybe the satisfaction for having some insider knowledge on how things happen in the racing industry.
THE REST OF THE WEEK:
UCLA must defeat Maryland one more time Monday at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) at Jackie Robinson Stadium, or else the No. 1-seeded Bruins’ baseball season is over. A win pushes them into the 16-team Super Regionals starting Saturday, likely against Virginia, which eliminated USC … The Dodgers have four games to finish in three days at Colorado before a four-game series over Thursday-Sunday at home against St. Louis (with the Sunday game at 5 p.m. on ESPN) … The Angels win an all-expenses paid trip to New York to face the AL East-leading Yankees to end the week after playing host to Tampa Bay to start it … The Chicago-Tampa Bay NHL Stanley Cup Final best-of-seven starts Wednesday (5 p.m., Channel 4) in Florida …. More at this link.