How Warriors can pass the test from the resurgent Thunder

In the Western Conference semifinals, Thunder coach Billy Donovan found success with a big lineup that included both Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. That duo spent a total of five minutes on the court together in their three regular-season meetings with the Warriors, but given their success on the glass against the Spurs (offensive rebound rate of 43 percent with both on the court), don’t be surprised if Donovan continues to experiment with a big lineup.

No matter how Donovan matches up with the Warriors, he will have to find a way to stop the most efficient pick-and-roll offense in the league. The Warriors are averaging a league-best 1.05 points per direct pick, including 1.10 with Curry as the ball handler. Against the Thunder, Curry’s most common defender on these plays was Russell Westbrook, whom he torched for 1.16 points per direct pick. Taking it a step further, in the fourth quarter and overtime against OKC, when the Warriors mounted three big comebacks, they averaged 1.6 points per direct pick with Curry running point.

Ultimately Golden State’s ability to win the series will come down to its shooting. Every team is reliant on efficient shooting for its offensive success, but the Warriors have been one of the three most dependent teams in the NBA. Similarly, the Thunder are one of the four most dependent teams on limiting their opponents’ shooting efficiency for their defensive success.

Most of the Warriors’ losses this season can be explained by their missing shots they normally make. The quality of their shots were not significantly different in their wins when compared to their losses, but their shot making ability (or qSM), which accounts for the difficulty of shots and shooter skill, is highly correlated with their offensive success. Although the Thunder can’t simply hope that the Warriors will go into a series-long slump, they have improved their defense in the playoffs and have the shot makers in Durant and Westbrook to rival the Warriors.

If the Warriors can make shots and control the defensive glass, they should be difficult to beat, but if the regular season is any indication of the type of series we can expect, the defending champs will be tested against the Thunder.

It’s what they wanted.

An exhausted, yet stoic, Dwyane Wade could finally admit as much as he slowly walked out of Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening to board the team bus for the dreaded flight back to Miami. The preferred option on the Miami Heat’s open itinerary was a trip to Cleveland for the Eastern Conference finals.

Wade and LeBron James communicated about the possibility they would match up as rivals only two seasons after they broke up as teammates in Miami. Together with the Heat, Wade and James won two NBA titles and advanced to four trips to the NBA finals in as many years.

Earlier Sunday in a text message, James wished Wade luck going into the Heat’s showdown in Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors. By the time it ended, with the Raptors rolling to 116-89 victory to eliminate the Heat, all James could offer Wade was consolation.

“I tried to get us there,” Wade said through a fatigued smile of moving on to Cleveland. “I did what I could. I don’t know how much I would’ve had left when we got there. But it would’ve been awesome.”

Eagles player: ‘Word on the street’ is Sam Bradford will return for OTAs

Assuming Bradford eventually returns, it doesn’t sound like he’ll need to win over his teammates after the holdout.

“I just see it as a guy handling his business,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I think he’s going to return and when he does that, we’ll break the ice and get back to work.”

Bradford might need to win over his new coach, though. Less than a week ago, Doug Pederson mentioned how Bradford was missing valuable time with the team.

Fall in love with the batting averages on Prado and/or Solarte if you wish, but this should be a two-horse race between the best third baseman in the world — when Machado plays shortstop, that is — and second-year stud Bryant. Arenado, however, has Bryant beat everywhere except in quality of teammates and versatility. Bryant can just take over for him in the fourth inning in San Diego on July 12. No harm there.

Catcher options: Welington Castillo, Francisco Cervelli, Jonathan Lucroy,Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos, J.T. Realmuto

Catcher pick: Buster Posey, Giants

Ramos is having an exceptional season, Realmuto is real good, Lucroy is mashing like we know he’s capable and Molina is a transcendent figure for a historic franchise. I’m betting on Posey’s track record to take over and make him the best and easy pick come June 30, though. He’s the best bet on the board. Even if he’s having an off year, he’s on a Hall of Fame track, in his prime, and we won’t be looking back on this pick with disdain.

The Broncos probably won’t start Paxton Lynch right away. Well, actually, maybe you shouldn’t buy into that storyline.

It was a fair narrative: Lynch is a great athlete but he’s not a refined quarterback just yet (few players coming out of college are). It was reasonable to assume he would sit and watch and learn an offense.

But John Elway said during a recent interview with Denver Sports 760 (via Pro Football Talk) the Broncos could be starting Lynch as early as this season.

Things wouldn’t improve from there. Arrieta would settle in and dominate the rest of the way, the Cubs got a two-run homer from the red-hot Addison Russell and ran away with an 8-2 win. They are now 5-0 against the Pirates, having outscored them 37-11 and lead them by nine games (the Cardinals started the day eight back and play later Saturday).

Broken bat bloodies another fan in the stands at Fenway Park

For at least the third time in the past two seasons, a fan was struck in Fenway Park by a broken bat. This time around, the piece of the bat from Astros’ George Springer actually went over the top of the protective netting and struck a man in the head.

I wouldn’t bet against Wilson accomplishing any of his goals. Even these. Actually, given what he has done through his first four seasons in the NFL, I expect him to shatter his own lofty expectations by the time he calls it a career.

He is wired like a total overachiever. He is one of the most mentally strong, unshakeable figures in all of professional sports. He does not believe in wallowing in or accepting failure and truly believes every goal he sets from an athletic standpoint is attainable. Alas, Wilson did have the good sense to scrap any plans to be a Michael Jackson-style singer/dancer long ago as he chronicled in his touching speech, grasping that even he does have limitations in some domains.

“Am I capable of doing what I want to do?” Wilson told the graduates he asked himself at his time. And, realizing that, from the time he was a 3-year-old beast in his local T-ball league, that sports were his gift, Wilson set about honing those skills to be among the very best on the planet.

So yeah, some things may truly be impossible — no amount of hours would turn Wilson into a singer — but the key to finding a meaningful career is to spend as much time as possible harnessing those traits and skills that seem to come more naturally.

PIRATES’ GERRIT COLE: CUBS AREN’T THE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL

Of course, the Cubs are currently the best team in baseball – the only team still in the single digits in the loss column halfway through May.

The Cubs sit at 27-9 overall with a +109 run differential. In fact, their run differential was higher than the next two teams (Red Sox +58) and Cardinals (+46) combined entering play Sunday.

Following Sunday’s loss, the Cubs have outscored the Pirates 38-13 in the six head-to-head games this season.

Cole had a rough go of it last time out against the Cubs, failing to go even five innings while allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and four walks. He was 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.947 WHIP in four starts against the Cubs during the 2015 regular season, but lost that one-game wild-card playoff when he surrendered four runs in five innings, including homers to Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler.
“We’ve had discussions, and I don’t think the contract is going to be a challenge,” Bowman said. “I think we’re going to get that worked out. I think he’s going to be a part of it. We’re looking for him to take that next step in his career.”

Panik had six goals and two assists in 30 regular-season games since joining the Blackhawks in January via a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Jeremy Morin.

The 25-year-old forward also had three assists in six games against the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the postseason.

Up against the salary cap, Panik would give the Blackhawks a forward that can make an impact on any of the four lines at a cost-controlled price.

NEW YORK — No aspect of the White Sox performance Sunday afternoon was without its mistakes.

If any had been, they might have walked away a winner.

The White Sox didn’t catch the ball, their starting pitcher couldn’t command it, the offense missed several chances and the bullpen struggled yet again. All of that added up to a near-miss and a 7-5 loss to the New York Yankees in front of 41,979 at Yankee Stadium.

Panthers pack six jerseys for Cam Newton to take to Super Bowl

“If we’re rained on pregame, we’d switch them after pregame for the first half,” Miles said Friday. “And then if it rained in the first half we’d switch them at halftime for the second half.”

Miles admittedly was disappointed the jerseys are black. The Panthers have a career record of 5-0 in the playoffs at home in white and 0-2 in the black.

As the designated home team, the AFC champion Denver Broncos had the option. They chose white.

“They wore their colors all in their home playoff games,” Miles said of Denver. “Our white thing is a home superstition. It’s kind of weird they’re preventing us from wearing white.”

It was weird until Miles was reminded the Broncos are 0-4 in Super Bowls wearing orange jerseys. He still was disappointed.

“The last two [playoff games] in black we got our butts kicked,” he quipped.

Miles has had a busy week. It began with getting a truckload of equipment — blocking sleds, weights, etc. — out Tuesday for the cross-country drive. The truck is expected to arrive Saturday. The rest will be shipped on the chartered plane that leaves Sunday.

Even though the game is in Santa Clara, California, Miles packed winter wear and raincoats. The equipment manager for the San Francisco 49ers “told me it rains every two out of three days.”

“I have a winter trunk packed, too,” Miles said. “We’re prepared. We’re not going to be packed for Minnesota cold, but I have the nice baseball jackets packed.”

Without having taken a single snap in the NFL, former first-round pick Kevin White is already being compared to seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson.

“Kevin White was one of the better receivers I’ve seen coming out,” Chicago Bears receivers coach Curtis Johnson said Friday. “He reminded me of some of the guys I had in Miami. He reminded me of Andre Johnson. He’s very similar to him.

Undrafted Harvard tight end Ben Braunecker has a fallback plan in case he fails to make it in the NFL.

“Infectious disease [doctor],” Braunecker said on Sunday. “I’d like to be more research based. It’s what I love. It’s my passion.”

Kevin White Takes It All In, Says He’s Up for NFL Challenge

Just hours later White was at the Bears practice facility in Lake Forest meeting Jay Cutler, his new quarterback, and fellow wide-out Alshon Jeffery (with whom he shares an agent). White was blurry-eyed, getting only “three to four hours” of sleep and trying to take in everything that has happened not just the past 24 hours, but the last four years.

“It’s been crazy,” White rolled his eyes while granting a dozen interviews at Halas Hall. Still it’s nothing compared to the late nights he spent online researching college coach after college coach for a shot at a scholarship. White estimates West Virginia University’s offer came after 250 emails.

“I love for someone to say, ‘You can’t do it,'” he conceded.
Whether it’s the critics who say he’s a one-year wonder in college and doesn’t have a repertoire of NFL routes he runs. Or whether it’s his brothers, Kyzir and Ka’Raun, challenging him to chess, push-ups or for a girl’s attention, Kevin White dares you to tell him he can’t.

Because he can. And he did.

Former NBA player Tate George argued his case in federal court in New Jersey on Wednesday as he awaits sentencing on fraud charges.

The former UConn star was convicted in 2013 on four counts of wire fraud in what prosecutors say was a real estate Ponzi scheme.

“I pulled back on the divorce because there is no rush for it,” she told the magazine. “For medical decisions and a ton of other things, it’s just smarter that it’s put on hold. But that does not mean I’m back with Lamar. It’s not even in our brains to think about us having a relationship. Only time will tell.”

According to search warrant records, Odom is believed to have overdosed on cocaine and other drugs before he was found unconscious at the Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nevada. He was hospitalized in Las Vegas and transferred to Los Angeles, where his family said on Oct. 22 that he was undergoing therapy and showing improvement.

However, the jersey turned out to be the wrong size. Vasko said he sent it back the day after Christmas.

“The tags and everything were still on the jersey, so I returned it,” Vasko said.

Lions Announce Jersey Number Changes, Assignments

With offseason workouts underway, the 2015 NFL Draft complete and rookie mini-camp right around the corner, the Detroit Lions announced some jersey number updates Tuesday.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy will switch from No. 95 to No. 53.

Ndamukong Suh’s No. 90 will go to new defensive tackle Gabe Wright, who wore it at Auburn. The Lions traded into the fourth round of last week’s draft to select Wright.

Reggie Bush’s No. 21 will go to new running back Ameer Abdullah, whom the Lions took with their second-round pick.

Fullback Michael Burton, the team’s fifth-round pick this season, will wear No. 46. Cornerback Quandre Diggs, the team’s sixth-round pick, will wear No. 36. Offensive tackle Corey Robinson, the team’s seventh-round pick, will be No. 70.

Wide receiver Andrew Peacock is switching from No. 1 to No. 18, and cornerback Nevin Lawson is moving from No. 43 to No. 24.

The NFL is estimating that by the time the NFL Draft ends Saturday night, more than 250,000 people will have made their way through the league’s draft festival in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Hand warmer Bears Fan: Since the draft was in Chicago this year, you knew some rabid Bears fans would show up. What I didn’t expect was that an actual bear would show up. This guy’s bear head and hand warmer earned him a spot on the craziest fans list.

Marcus Dolphinus: If Hollywood ever decides to make a Gladiator sequel and wants that sequel to star a Miami Dolphins fan, then this guy should be perfect. He was at the draft festival with a Bears fan, but she didn’t really seem interested in being in the picture.

Ram man: Ram man wasn’t the only fan in Chicago who wore a full football uniform, but he was the only fan who wore a full football uniform and a giant ram hat on his head.