Saturday, January 23, 2021

Boxing Challenge

 The boxing challenge resumes for 2021 after a three-week absence from the sport.

Showtime's three bout card may not be filled with huge names but has a world title on the card and two interesting undercard matches that make this card well worth watching.

The main event from the Showtime "Bubble" in Uncasville, Connecticut features the WBO junior featherweight title defended by Angelo Leo against Stephen Fulton.

This matchup was scheduled for last August with the winner gaining the title that was vacated by Shakur Stevenson, but Fulton tested positive for Covid-19 and was unable to fight.

Leo would fight Fulton's replacement, Tramaine Williams, for the vacant title and was very impressive in winning a unanimous decision and the championship as he wore down Williams in the second half of the fight. 
Fulton, like Williams, is a smooth boxer and will have to fend off the pressure of Leo.
I'd be surprised if this fight ended in a stoppage (unless cut related) as neither fighter has shown more than average power at best, but this could be a solid action fight and that depends on how much Fulton decides to move around the ring. 
This one could go either way.

The other two fights have those toss-away WBA minor titles on the line but still are interesting pairings.

Another junior featherweight fight pairs undefeated Raeese Aleem and Vic Pasillas.

Pasillas looked very strong in his previous win as he knocked out undefeated Ranfis Encarnacion in the sixth round in September, while Aleem dominated Marcus Bates in stopping him in ten rounds.
Those fights are the best wins for either fighter, so this will be the biggest test for each man.

The opener is a lightweight as touted Rolando Romero takes on late replacement Avery Sparrow.
Romero's original opponent, Justin Pauldo, missed weight by over three pounds and was replaced by Sparrow.
Romero "won' his "title" by unanimous decision over Jackson Marinez in August in what may have been the worst decision of 2021.
Sparrow's not going to be a threat to hurt Romero (3 KO's in 10 wins), so this appears to be a perfect opportunity for Romero to shine up a tarnished reputation from the Marinez fight.

The boxing challenge is currently tied at two.

WBO Junior Featherweight Title. 12 Rds
Angelo Leo vs Stephen Fulton
R.L: Leo Unanimous Decisions
TRS: Fulton Unanimous Decision

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Raeese Aleem vs Vic Pasillas
Both: Aleem Unanimous Decision

Lightweights. 12 Rds- * Due to the late replacement, I didn't get Ramon's pick for this fight, No points on this, Buzzer Disconnected.
Rolando Romero vs Avery Sparrow
R.L: 
TRS: Romero KO 8
 



Cavaliers cut down Nets again!

  Collin Sexton scored 25 points, Jarrett Allen scored 19 points in 19 minutes. and Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr. each posted double-doubles as the Cleveland Cavaliers moved above .500 with a 125-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets at Rocket Fieldhouse.

The win gives Cleveland a surprising two-game sweep of the two games against the Nets and pushed the Cavaliers into third place in the Central Division.

Cleveland improves to 8-7 on the season with their next game against the Celtics in Boston Sunday night.

Swashbucklings

1) The Brooklyn Nets entered these two games in Cleveland, with tons of hype about the new "Big Three" and they left town with questions, and watchers were impressed by the surprising Cavaliers with their effort and their team play.

2) Kevin Durant didn't play for the Nets and that likely was the difference between the double-overtime game in the first of the two games and the twelve-point loss in the latter game.

Brooklyn is holding Durant's playing time down as he rebounds from the Achilles injury that caused him to miss last season and with  Durant playing fifty minutes in the double-overtime game, it made sense for the Nets to give Durant the evening off.

3) The difference in this game was the third quarter when the Cavaliers moved a one-point halftime lead to a fourteen-point margin starting the fourth.

J.B. Bickerstaff's preaching of a team-first, move the ball and keep scrambling system of play simply rubbed Brooklyn into submission.

Imagine in a geological fashion- rocks change their shape due to two things, constant pressure and the never-ending passing of time.

That's how the Cavaliers are winning some of these games- pressure and time.

4) Dylan Windler returned to the lineup after breaking his hand in the Cavaliers opener.

Windler missed all of last season due to injury and broke his hand in game one.

Windler hit both of his shots, each from three-point distance to finish with six points in sixteen minutes of floor time.

5) Jarrett Allen scored nineteen points in nineteen minutes off the bench and had several impressive dunks.

The most impressive was when Allen took a pass from Collin Sexton, took a step toward the basketball, and with one hand slammed the ball into the hoop over former Cavalier Joe Harris.

I think Allen is going to get even better as his familiarity with the team grows and his team may look back at his acquisition as being one of the better trades in team history.





Friday, January 22, 2021

Cavaliers trade Kevin Porter to Houston

   The Cleveland Cavaliers experiment with the talented but problematic Kevin Porter Jr. ended as the Cavaliers sent Porter to the Houston Rockets for basically nothing but the right to write him off their cap.

Cleveland reportedly received a Top 55-protected second round pick from Houston, which basically means unless the Rockets would make the Western Conference finals, the Cavaliers will receive nothing except for the aforementioned cap space.

Porter hadn't played all season after an off-season mishap that saw various charges brought against him with all charges eventually dropped, but showed up for the Cavaliers home win over the New York Knicks and was very noticeable on the bench cheering for the team.

However, that didn't last as Porter threw a tantrum in the locker room after learning of his locker being moved to make room for the two players acquired from the Brooklyn Nets that resulted in Porter arguing with members of the front office including General Manager Koby Altman and throwing food around the locker room.

Porter's rookie year didn't see any of these problems after the Cavaliers traded four second-round picks to the Detroit Pistons for the final pick in the first round in 2019 to select Porter.

Porter averaged ten points, three rebounds, and two assists in fifty games in his rookie season and was thought to be part of the Cavaliers core for the future.

At 6'4 and with great quickness and leaping ablilty, Porter can play either shooting guard or small forward and is a better than average passer.

While I realize the problems in giving chances to troubled players over and over again, I'm not sure that I wouldn't have tried again with a player of Porter's talent.

Now, keep in mind that I don't know how many chances Porter has been given already and I don't know how keeping Porter around could be a difficult sell in an organization that seems to have a little bit of momentum rolling right now, but from what I've read Porter has not been unpopular in the locker room.

The one reason that does make sense is the arrival of Isaac Okoro that plays the same spots on the floor and it's not out of the question that it could have been difficult to find enough playing time for both Okoro and Porter to help both players develop properly.

Kevin Porter was a project worth trying for the Cavaliers and I won't criticize them for that.

However, any project worth starting is worth finishing- I'm not sure the Cavaliers completely finished the project.

Islanders dominate Devils 4-1

   The news started badly for the New Jersey Devils before their game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum when Mackenzie Blackwood was placed on the Covid-19 protocol list as a precaution.

The game was even worse as the Devils were not very good, to be kind, as the Islanders dominated the game in a 4-1 win that had the feel of a contest that was not that close.

Nathan Bastian scored (1) the only Devils goal in the second period sandwiched in between the four Islander goals.

The two teams will rematch Sunday on the Devils ice in Newark.

Hell Raisers

1) The word before the game that Mackenzie Blackwood had been placed on the Covid-19 list came at the worst possible time- before the Devils could activate Aaron Dell.

While being placed on the Covid list doesn't always mean that a person may have it,  the Devils and their fans are waiting with some trepidation until they know the status of Blackwood, who played so well in the first three games of the season.

2) While the Devils weren't exactly comfortable with Scott Wedgewood being the fallback option at goaltender, Wedgewood wasn't awful in this game, and although Wedgewood did allow four goals, one of those was a sharp angle shot that happened to hit the right angle with the other three not east saves either.

3) The Devils penalty killers are emerging as a problem with the Islanders scoring both of their third-period goals on the power play. 

I don't have a solution, but the situation is getting worse and worse every game.

4) For the third time in four games, New Jersey was called for too many men on the ice.

Can that be attributed to sloppiness, laziness, or players still adjusting to a new coach's system?

Could be any or all of those reasons, but that is an abnormally high number for only four games.

5) The Devils need more performance from Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev have each struggled mightily in these four games.

Palmieri has only two assists, Gusev doesn't have a point at all, both appear lost at times and both have appeared badly out of sync.

Both are playing without their regular line partners currently and that likely is much of the problem, but for what the Devils need from the two offensively, they had better hope that can be rectified by the return of their usual linemates.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Super Sexton cuts the Nets- Cavaliers win in Double OT!

   It was advertised as the debut of the new "Big Three" for the Brooklyn Nets.

It ended with a stunning Cleveland Cavaliers win in double overtime behind Collin Sexton's 42 points as Sexton scored twenty consecutive points for Cleveland covering the first and second overtime in their 147-135 victory.

The Nets stars put their points up on the board, but the Cavaliers rallied in the first overtime from a three-point deficit with both eighteen and twenty-three seconds remaining and tied to the game on a three-pointer by Sexton with 1.2 seconds left to force a second version, where it was all Cleveland and all Collin Sexton.

Sexton's 42 led Cleveland with Cedi Osman contributing 25 more. 
J.B. Bickerstaff used only eight players for Cleveland in the game and seven of the eight reached double-figures in points with the eighth- Isaac Okoro finishing with eight points.

Cleveland has evened their record to a surprising 7-7 and will face this same Nets team on Friday at Rocket Field House.

Swashbucklings

1)  Just wow.
Collin Sexton put this team on his shoulders and drilled shot after shot to keep the Cavaliers in a game that could have easily gotten away.
I'm still not ready to say that Collin Sexton is a number one player for a rebuilding franchise, but his game has advanced this season and he's getting closer and closer to considering him for that status.

2) What is the advancement in Sexton's game?
The improvement in the outside shot for Sexton has added an extra dimension to his game.
Sexton has always been able to beat his man off the dribble, but his outside shot had been inconsistent.
Sexton still will have his evenings where nothing falls, but this season Sexton has established himself credible enough that opponents will have to step out and contest his shot- which makes his drives to the basket even more effective.

3) The two newest Cavaliers each played over thirty and while Jarrett Allen played and gave the Cavaliers what they hoped for (12 points and 11 rebounds), the surprise was Taurean Prince, who scored 17 points and hit three three-pointers, one of those a key basket in overtime.
Prince had a lot of questions after being acquired by Cleveland, but if he's able to play closer to his time with the Hawks and less than his tenure in Brooklyn, Prince could help this team.

4) Cedi Osman played the most of anyone in the victory-fifty minutes and his twenty-five points came with nine of seventeen shooting, four of those from three-point range.
Osman can be inconsistent, but his effort is always there and I still have the feeling that there is some growth that still could come along.
Osman is only 25 and this season he's averaging fourteen points with four rebounds and assists each.
Even if this is the best that Osman ever plays, that's a pretty handy role player at least.

5) The future seems pretty clear from the first night with Jarrett Allen as a Cavalier.
Allen didn't supplant Andre Drummond at center as the starter, but Allen played more minutes (31 to 26)  and in crunch time, it was Allen on the floor, not Drummond.

6) JaVale McGee was a DNP and I would imagine trade offers will be heating up soon.
If the minutes aren't completely there for Allen and Drummond, they definitely aren't there for adding McGee to the mix.

7) I'm not a fan of the Cavaliers "City" uniforms anyway this season, but with their colors being black and white- it's not easy to keep things straight in games like tonight.
Brooklyn's colors are black and white and I had difficulties at times telling which team is which.
Hopefully, Cleveland will wear a different uniform for the rematch on Friday.

8) Kyrie Irving finished with 37 points in his return, Kevin Durant dropped 38 and James Harden popped in 21, but the Nets defense was awful and I still wonder if three guys that all seem to need the basketball can co-exist on the court.
Last night was only their first game together, but I'm not sure if this wins in the playoffs.
The Nets are going to have their nights where they just blow teams out of the arena but against good and better-rounded teams?
I'll say the jury is out.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hughes hits Rangers, Devils win 4-3!

   Jack Hughes scored two goals (1 & 2) and added an assist to support Mackenzie Blackwood's 47 saves as the New Jersey Devils held off a strong third period rally of the New York Rangers and grab a 4-3 duke at Madison Square Garden.

Travis Zajac scored (1) seconds into the game for the Devils first goal and Miles Wood scored the Devils final goal (3 Power Play) in the second period for the New Jersey goals.

The Devils will travel to Long Island on Thursday in the first of two vs the New York Islanders before hosting the Islanders on Sunday.

Hell Raisers

1) Jack Bleeping Hughes!

Not only does Hughes have points in each of the Devils three games, and not that Hughes scored two goals in this one, and not even that he scored all of his points in the second period- it's like this young man just hit the power switch and stated- now it's time to show just what kind of player I am.

2) Watching this game was one of those games that you can see the player growth burst out of the cocoon as a different level of player than they were before.

You don't see that very often and sports and when you do, it's a special night. 
I'm aware that it is just one game and I'm aware that I could look like a jerk if Hughes just had a good night, but I really have the feeling that Jack Hughes moved to a new level and still has room to grow.

Photo: Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

3) SO, you thought I was finished with Jack Hughes- Hughes could have scored another point as his pass from around that net that resulted in a P.K. Subban goal was waved off after a Rangers challenge because Kyle Palmieri was offsides bringing the puck into the zone.

It was a close call, but a justified reversal.

4) The calls did even out because on the Myles Wood goal, the Devils may have gotten a break because it did appear that Myles Wood may have had kicked the puck into the net or at least his foot was moving forward in a "kicking motion".

5) I've so busy gushing over Jack Hughes that I haven't added just how good Mackenzie Blackwood was in the victory.
47 saves, 50 shots and likely twenty more that weren't officially counted as shots with Blackwood's play saving this game against a relentless Ranger attack in the third period.
Blackwood has been facing so many shots in these first three games that even though Lindy Ruff wouldn't prefer to rest Blackwood until Aaron Dell arrives/clears protocol, he may decide to play Scott Wedgewood in one of the games against the Islanders, likely the road game.

6) I still have major concerns about the penalty killers with the Rangers scoring two of their three goals against the Devils PK team.
The Devils have already allowed four goals in three games with a man disadvantage and although the sample size is small, I wonder just how long this will be tolerated before a defensive shakeup is in order.

Photo Credits: Bruce Bennett Getty Images  


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Devils claim Aaron Dell

   The New Jersey Devils goaltending situation was hamstrung by the late retirement of Corey Crawford and making the Devils very vulnerable to anything that would take Mackenzie Blackwood out of the lineup.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and their cap constraints came to the Devils rescue when an injury forced Toronto's hand that caused them to waive forward Jason Spezza and goaltender Aaron Dell to create cap space.

Spezza was an easy player to slide through waivers- he's 37 and he had told any team that should they claim him, he would immediately retire, but Toronto knew that as much as they hoped that Dell would return to them, Dell's return would be unlikely with the Devils and the Edmonton Oilers in dire straits with depth in their net.

The Devils pounced on Dell and will be bringing to Newark as the steady veteran hand behind Mackenzie Blackwood.

Dell signed with Toronto in the off-season after spending his entire NHL career with the San Jose Sharks and was the loser in the Maple Leafs roster shuffle,

Dell won twelve of thirty starts for the Sharks last season, finishing with a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against-average of 3.01.

Dell is an upgrade over Scott Wedgewood and might be better suited for the backup goaltender than Corey Crawford would have been.

Crawford was a player that was used to playing a lot and even though the plan would have been for the two players to split time fairly evenly, I'm not positive that Crawford (Like Cory Schneider before him) that Crawford would have been fine with that over the course of a season.

Aaron Dell will be fine with that role.

It's what he's always been, it's what he's best suited for, and for a New Jersey Devils team badly in need- Aaron Dell will shore up the roster.

It will be a bit before Dell will actually join the team as being with the Maple Leafs involves crossing the border and will have to go through Covid-19 protocol before being allowed to practice and play with the team.