Sunday, April 30, 2023

Rangers even series over Devils

     The New Jersey Devils scored the first goal and the last goal but it was the in-between action that cost the Devils in game six as the New York Rangers sandwiched five goals in between to take a 5-2 win in game six and tie the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals at three games for each team.

New Jersey received their goals from Curtis Lazar and Dawson Mercer (power play) in the defeat with Akira Schmid saving twenty-four shots before being relieved in the third period by Vitek Vanicek.

Game seven was originally scheduled for one o'clock on Monday but has now been moved to seven o'clock.

I planned on writing more but work got into the way.


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Cleveland Browns Draft Review

 Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns appeared to be in a very difficult situation without either a first or second-round selection and the Browns didn't seem likely to land many players that could help them immediately.

Instead, to my surprise, the Browns were able to land two players that some had rated as borderline first-rounders, may have added two future starters to the offensive line, have added two players that likely will see action this season as a regular portion of the defensive line rotation, and a young quarterback to develop into a possible asset down the road.

All of that without selections in the first two rounds, so it's likely easy to see that under the circumstances I'm pleased with the results of the seven new draftees.

The Browns had eight draft picks but they traded their final pick in round seven to the Baltimore Ravens in return for Baltimore's sixth-round pick in the 2024 draft.

Cleveland's drafting of Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman (3rd) and Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones (4th) could result in two potential starters with high upside and Ohio State center Luke Wypler (6th) could be the third when you consider the Browns depth chart at the position.

Defensive linemen Siaki Ika (Baylor 3rd) and Isaiah McGuire (Missouri 4th) should at least be part of the rotation among the defensive linemen with a chance to eventually start.

Add to that, some projections really liked Northwestern corner Cameron Mitchell and if you lean towards the more positive reviews rather than the negative, the Browns have at least added a strong special teams player that has a chance to eventually help as a slot corner.

What I liked the best about the draft is while the Browns added some depth at positions that they needed it most, Andrew Berry and company managed to do it in a way that didn't feel panicked or desperate.

Instead, the Browns watched the draft unfold and did what the best drafters do in any draft from little league through professional- you take the best players available and you take advantage of the mistakes of others.

When you are strong enough to take a player that should have never been available to you regardless of your team's need at the moment, that's usually a move that winners make- because the best player available is almost always going to help you win.

There are exceptions to this rule, usually drafting pitching in baseball, but eight or nine times out of ten the best player is the best choice.

The Browns seldom have taken this road since their 1999 return and it usually bites them in the end.

When you force immediate need over the best player, if there is a vast difference in talent, it hinders your organization because eventually there will be other immediate needs and things never solve themselves.

I'm more willing to dip into free agency to fill immediate needs rather than force early draft picks to solve positional problems, which can be more expensive but doesn't set the building process back from a potential bust that fails to solve a problem.

The Browns may not have solved every problem during this off-season but I like the process that they are following.

The Browns are showing flexibility in how they are building their team and not sticking entirely to their analytics model.

The best way of doing things is to be open to the entire spectrum, not be afraid to vary some from your core beliefs, and show growth by admitting that perhaps your way is not perfect or even the whole way to build.

Maybe the Browns front office is finally getting the picture.

Browns select Luke Wypler

 Apparently, the mild heat on the job of Andrew Berry has caused him to make a few changes.

On the second day of the draft, Berry changed his previous perception of what type of defensive tackle he prefers moving from the smaller, more athletic type to the mountainous run-stopping version in Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika.

Then after earlier selecting Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones in the fourth round, Berry and the Browns selected another Buckeye blocker in center Luke Wypler in round six.

I was just partially kidding in my first paragraph but the Browns traditionally since returning (not only Andrew Berry) have shown an aversion to Ohio State players more often than not, which would be fine if Ohio State didn't rank among the top three or four teams in collegiate talent every year.

In Luke Wypler, the Browns are adding a center ranked either second or third at the position, depending on your draft guru of choice, with most having Wypler rated well above centers that were drafted on day two.

What may have held the 6'3 300 pound Wypler down a bit is that he is a true center that didn't play any guard at Ohio State.

Some teams don't always like drafting pure centers and prefer to draft centers that can also play guard, increasing their versatility and giving them a fallback position if one doesn't work out.

Wypler might be a sign that the Browns have given up on former draft pick Nick Harris, who was handed the starting center position last season but a knee injury in training camp cost him the season and when free agent signee Ethan Pocic, who was signed with the intent of backing up Harris, played extremely well last season and was re-signed to a new contract in the off-season, Harris looked to be a potential backup.

However, with this selection of Wypler, who wasn't expected to be a sixth-rounder and at the rookie contract cost, this certainly seems to be the long-term possible replacement for Ethan Pocic and could be the end of Harris's Cleveland tenure unless he can show that he could be solid at guard to be a backup at two positions (see I told you that teams like it when their centers can play guard too).

Value in the late rounds over positional need is how good teams build their depth and how they are able to maintain their level once they start winning.

Taking players where they shouldn't have fallen is how successful teams draft, it's nice to see that the Browns might be improving in how they run their drafts.

Browns select Cameron Mitchell

   The Cleveland Browns used the second of their two fifth-round picks using a current football adage- you can never have too many cornerbacks.

The selection of Cameron Mitchell of Northwestern, a college teammate of Greg Newsome, is interesting as a player that has one major criticism- Mitchell couldn't stay healthy with the Wildcats.

Mitchell is a versatile corner that can play in several coverage styles but might project best as a slot corner.

Mitchell entered the draft as a junior after starting for two seasons at Northwestern, intercepting two passes in 2021 but didn't have an interception last season, which could be a product of quarterbacks throwing away from him.

At six foot, Mitchell isn't a small corner but he can be outfought for the ball and Ourlads lists a tendency to get beaten deep because he will look for the football and lose a step to the receiver by doing so.

Mitchell is expected to be a solid special teams player by several draft previews and should have a chance to see some time in the secondary as a rookie if he is able to work on his vulnerability to the deep ball and perhaps improve his technique according to Ourlads.

Browns select Dorian Thompson-Robinson

  The Cleveland Browns possessed two fifth-rounders, both early in the round and so close together that only the Minnesota Vikings selected between the two Cleveland choices.

I always like to see teams take quarterbacks on the third day of the draft, even if they don't always need them.

It creates depth, creates competition, and on occasions even can produce a starter, whether that's for the team that drafts them or for another team in need down the road.

With the first of the two choices, Cleveland took a quarterback in UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

Thompson-Robinson holds the UCLA program record for passing yards and touchdowns, has a strong arm, and produced a solid senior year after many thought he would declare for the 2022 draft, throwing for over 3,100 yards, rushing for over 600 yards, throwing twenty-seven touchdowns and running for twelve more.

The only real knock on Thompson-Robinson is his occasional tendency to hurry his throws and move prematurely in the pocket but much of this comes from that he really hasn't played that much football, having served as a backup to former high school phenom Tate Martell.

Thompson-Robinson has a certain raw quality to him, he will need lots of time and work, and more players of his experience don't make it in the league than prove to be successful but I think he'll stick with the Browns for 2023.

Let me tell you what I really like about this pick.

For years, I've complained that so many teams will give their starting quarterback spot to a player and then use a player with an entirely different skill set as his backup and then wonder why the team struggles with the backup performing with a team that has been built around what the starter can do.

I've never thought that makes a lot of sense and whether you like Dorian Thompson-Robinson as a prospect or not or if you think Joshua Dobbs is a true NFL quality backup quarterback or not, give the Browns credit for placing quarterbacks in their room that have many of the same qualities and attributes, which should give the team a better chance to succeed in the event of an injury to the starter.

That's only smart thinking and it's good to see for the hype over the Browns, who all too often think they are the smartest people in the room, and "analytics" that Cleveland's thinking on this is correct.


Browns select Isaiah McGuire

 When I wrote about the Cleveland Browns defensive persons of interest, I wrote that the defensive end that I liked best other than Zach Harrison of Ohio State that the Browns could have an opportunity to draft in the third round was Isaiah McGuire of Missouri.

Last night, I wrote about the Browns third-round selection of Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika while I had no issue with the selection of Ika if the Browns were drafting a defensive lineman I preferred Isaiah McGuire.

So, when the Browns were able to select Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones and then still land McGuire with the second of their fourth-round choices, lady luck is dancing with the Browns on my draft board.

McGuire is listed as both a defensive end and the new term "edge rusher" but can play with his hand down or come off the line as a standup rusher.

At 6'3 and 265 pounds, McGuire may not be a three-down lineman but he is noted as a high-effort player that can shove aside a tight end as well as rush the passer.

Ourlads rated his physical skills very highly and think that with some refinement McGuire has a chance to be a starter and at worst would be a part of a rotation system.

The concern with McGuire is that he's perhaps a "tweener" (too small to be a defensive end, too slow at linebacker) and some regarded him as inconsistent at Missouri, although he was named first-team SEC last season with seven sacks.

Those may be fair concerns but few players on day three of the draft are without questions, I like Isaiah McGuire a great deal and I think the Browns have helped themselves at a spot that they have often struggled to fill, the defensive end slot opposite Myles Garrett.

That day may not be this year but I do think that there is a chance for Isaiah McGuire to earn that slot in the lineup.

Browns select Dawand Jones

    The Cleveland Browns used the first of their two selections in the fourth round on massive offensive tackle Dawand Jones of Ohio State and I like this choice for more than just keeping a Buckeye in-state.

I had hoped the Browns would take a tackle today as I'm always concerned about the injury history with the beginning-to-age Jack Conklin and 2021 fourth-rounder at the position James Hutson still has more developing to do in order to depend on him as a starting right tackle.

Dawand Jones brings the type of size and dimension that teams dream of for a tackle on either side of the line at 6'8, 359 pounds and as ESPN referenced during the draft, Jones has the same wingspan as NBA centers Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis.

Jones has tremendous pushing power and is pretty light on his feet for a player of his size and Jones is more than just a plodder as he was recruited by Division I schools as a basketball player.

Most projections had Jones as a late first to second-round player and it's surprising he slipped this far but Jones only started for two seasons at Ohio State, hasn't always played to his potential, and might be a player that teams are always going to be worried about his weight getting out of control.

Still, for a fourth-round pick, the Browns addressed a future need with likely the best player on the board with tremendous physical skills.

If the Browns can motivate him, keep him in shape, and teach him a few things (offensive line coach Bill Callahan ranks with the best in the league), Cleveland may have drafted a steal here in Dawand Jones.

Still, offensive linemen of Jones's size are as likely to fail as they are to dominate, so there is a little hesitation on his future but the Browns have to be excited to land a player in round four with this type of potential.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Browns select Siaki Ika

   The Cleveland Browns used the second of their two third-round draft picks on a player that indicated that the player evaluations of the front office may have changed in what they value at one position.

On the surface, when you consider the lack of success that Andrew Berry has with his drafted defensive tackles, it's fair to have a bit of concern but Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika is a different type of DT than previous selections Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai- he's huge and quick!

Ika is 6'3 and 335 pounds with quickness and strength and was first-team All-Big 12 at Baylor last season after being named to the second team in 2021 after arriving from LSU as a transfer.

Ika didn't finish with a sack last season and finished with four in 2021, so I'm not sure what type of an interior rush that Ika will bring to Cleveland but at minimum Ika will bring a wide-bodied run stuffer with quick feet, so its possible that he could develop as a pass rusher.

The grades on Ika were wide as I've seen some draft previews that had him rated as a late first-rounder to early second-round pick with others grading him as a fourth to fifth-round player.

The Browns under Andrew Berry haven't been selecting the massive tackles that help stop the run like Ika and free-agent signing Dalvin Tomlinson.

Instead, they have been using smaller, more athletic players like Elliott and Togiai, which played a major role in the putrid run defense in 2022.

This selection does give me some optimism about Andrew Berry as far as his willingness to change when his process isn't working, which is more than many front-office executives ever do.

Berry, unlike predecessors Sashi Brown and even John Dorsey, isn't sticking to what's not working just because it was his initial evaluation.

Berry's showing growth and maturity in the job and that's a positive for Berry and the Browns.

I wouldn't say I hate this pick but I would have preferred Missouri defensive end Isaiah McGuire, who is still available entering the final four rounds of the draft.

Cleveland will start the final day with six picks, two each in the fourth and fifth rounds and one each in rounds six and seven.

Browns Select Cedric Tillman

   I was leaning towards Zach Harrison of Ohio State as my hoped-for selection with the Cleveland Browns on the clock for the first time in the 2023 NFL Draft but the selection of Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman has me very intrigued.

I listed Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims as my wideout for the Browns and I didn't mention Cedric Tillman for one reason- I figured there wasn't a very high chance that Tillman would be available for the Browns to choose.

Tillman had a tremendous season in 2021 for the Volunteers and was graded to be a potential first-round selection moving into the 2022 season.

An injury suffered to Tillman's ankle in mid-season caused him to miss seven games and seemed to have caused his drop down draft boards because there is little to quibble with if he is healthy.

In the six games that Tillman did play, he caught 37 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns, which isn't shabby for six games.

Tillman is big at 6'3 213 pounds, has excellent deep speed and jumping ability, has good hands, and is noted for his blocking and aggressiveness, which is not a common trait for most wide receivers entering the league.

The only knocks that I have seen on Tillman are that he's not a big yard after the catch receiver and he can be a little stiff coming off the line of scrimmage.

I can't see any other reason for downgrading Cedric Tillman other than the ankle injury that reduced his effectiveness and caused him to miss time or perhaps some teams may have wondered about the current status of the ankle, although he did run at the NFL combine.

Cedric Tillman is a physical and aggressive football player that traits that stand out for a wide receiver and while there is some risk here, I think it's a minor risk.

I would have loved Zack Harrison (who Atlanta selected with the pick following Tillman) to add some pass rush support but by picking at 74 with their first pick of the draft, Cleveland was able to add a player that at minimum was a second-round talent and without the injury, may have been a first-rounder.

Consider me on board with the risk here as the potential reward far outshines the risk.

Devils shutout Rangers

  For the first time in their series with the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils dominated a game from start to finish and snagged the first victory for a home team as the Devils won game five 4-0 for their third triumph in a row to take a three to two lead in the series.

New Jersey was paced by rookie net protector Akira Schmid, who tossed zeroes at the visitors with twenty-three saves.

The Devils received goals in every way possible to score from Ondrej Palat (even strength), Erik Haula (power play and empty net), and Dawson Mercer (shorthanded).

New Jersey could clinch the series with a win in game six Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Hell Raisers

1) Akira Schmid did shut the Rangers down but give plenty of credit to the defense in allowing only twenty-three shots.

Schmid handled everything well but the Rangers only occasionally were able to place him in a dire situation and that's due to a defense that was able to avoid mistakes and pushed a Rangers team around consistently.

2) The third Devils goal was the backbreaker for the visitors as the Devils were shorthanded and with a 2-0 lead, the Rangers were all out to get themselves back into the game.

Instead, it was Dawson Mercer, who took a pass from Erik Haula and fired a one-timer past Igor Shesterkin and you could see the Rangers sag after that goal as the realization that there would be no comeback on this night.

3) Quite a scoresheet standout for Erik Haula, who scored two goals and as noted, assisted on Dawson Mercer's shorthanded tally.

Haula is in the midst of a career season for the proverbial "Crafty Veteran" and sometimes at playoff time, there are veteran players that aren't known for their scoresheet production that suddenly pop up with surprising results.

4) Kevin Bahl was part of a nasty Devils defense and even dropped the gloves against Barclay Goodrow for a second-period rumble.

Bahl's physical play was part of the Devils slow breakdown of the Rangers, physically and mentally, which caused the Rangers to melt down a bit as the game progressed.

5) The above note showed itself in the third when Ryan Lindgren (who looks a lot like former pro wrestler Don Kernodle) cross-checked Jonas Siegenthaler and then in an attempt to entice Siegenthaler into doing something dumb, had his helmet popped off by the Devils blueliner.

Lindgrens succeeded in drawing a penalty for that move but the desperation in the flagging Rangers evening was very clear.

6) Now, back to MSG where the Devils have proven that they can win in the Rangers home and the home crowd will be prepared with their team's season at stake.

What will be fascinating to see is the crowd's reaction if the Devils can start strong.

Will the Rangers crowd turn on them with the possibility of losing a 2-0 series with three home losses or can they will the home team to a rally to keep their season alive?

A quick beginning to game six may be a huge piece of a potential win of both the game and the series.


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Cleveland Browns Draft Preview

   The Cleveland Browns still have needs entering the NFL Draft but will not be plugging them with immediate help from the annual college draft.

The Browns won't be selecting anyone until later on the second day of the draft since they have moved their first-rounder as the latest payment to Houston for DeShaun Watson and their second-round selection to the New York Jets for wide receiver Elijah Moore and the Jets' third-round pick.

That trade does give Cleveland two picks in the third round as the Browns have a compensation choice at number ninety-eight at the end of the third round, so it's possible the Browns could move into the middle to the late second round, should there be a player that Andrew Berry thinks has fallen farther than they should have and provides excellent value.

However, I think it's more likely, especially with the New York pick at 74, that the Browns could decide to move down if they could add some draft capital in the 2024 draft, where the Browns will complete their obligations to the Houston Texans for DeShaun Watson and as of now lack a first and fourth-rounder (Houston) and their sixth-rounder belongs to Atlanta after their mid-season swap for Deion Jones.

Cleveland does own Carolina's fifth-rounder (for Baker Mayfield) and Atlanta's seventh-rounder as part of the Deion Jones trade but I definitely could see the Browns working on something that could gain them a third or fourth in the 2024 draft if the opportunity arose.

The Browns could use a defensive lineman with defensive tackle a higher need with the possible legal issues with second-year defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey.

Defensive end could also be addressed as could linebacker with seemingly every player at the position coming off one injury or another from last season.

Andrew Berry loves to draft cornerbacks and it's often said that one can never have too many good ones.

I'd like to see a safety during the draft as the depth behind starters Juan Thornhill and Grant Delpit can easily be questioned.

On offense, I'd like to see some picks spread around as all of the positions are in a position to be addressed.

I always like seeing a later-round quarterback selected, the losses of Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson would make sense to add to the running back corps, and I still think wide receiver could use some help in-depth with the injury to 2022 draftee Michael Woods.

The Browns signed Jordan Akins to help at tight end but Harrison Bryant may be gone in next year's free agency and it could be a good idea to get his replacement into the fold now rather than later.

The biggest need could be an offensive tackle with Jack Conklin aging and 2021 draftee James Hudson still developing, so another player at the position to compete for a backup role would be a smart decision.

In the end with those third-round picks, I wouldn't be surprised at any positional choice and the Browns under Andrew Berry have been huge believers in the best player available theory.

In this particular case, I would agree with that decision.

There are several positions that could use some help on the depth chart but none has such a glaring need with the possible exception of the defensive line that one could state with certainty that the Browns will take someone at a specific spot with their earliest pick.

I hope to make time to mention a few players that I think would be good selections for the Browns with the third-round pick that they obtained from the Jets that may have a chance to be available.

Cleveland Browns: Persons of Interest- Defense

  The Cleveland Browns won't be picking before the third round unless the Browns make an unexpected move up and they may be more likely to move down than to move up on Day Two of the NFL Draft.

The persons of interest posts are something that I try to do every year before the draft and usually, I'm able to do so, which gives me a chance a few years down the road to see how those players that I liked for the Browns actually panned out in their pro careers.

For the purposes of this post, I'm going to stick to discussing players that have a chance to perhaps be available for the Browns with the choice that they received from the Jets in the Elijah Moore trade in the third round.

I still think that the Browns top need remains on the defensive line, even after their investments in free agency and I could see them going for an edge rusher to be part of the rotation opposite Myles Garrett or a young defensive tackle for the interior line.

Andrew Berry's track record with defensive linemen has been mixed at best, although Jordan Elliott starts for Cleveland, he wouldn't for very many teams and the fact that he does speaks volumes for the defensive tackle group.

Berry has also gotten little production from Tommy Togiai, and Perrion Winfrey has shown more off the field than on it as his draftees at defensive tackle.

The jury is still out on 2022 picks Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas but neither showed anything special as rookies either.

So while that's the need, it's understandable to be a bit concerned considering the draft record for defensive linemen.

Ohio State's Zach Harrison has all the tools to be a terrific edge rusher but in Columbus as a five-star recruit, Harrison was very good but not great which raises questions about why.

I'd take Harrison in a heartbeat should he fall to Cleveland but he's not a sure thing.

Missouri's Isaiah McGuire is another edge rusher that could slide to the Browns that has the tools to be a star but not the production that you would expect and another end that I like is Auburn's Derick Hall.

If the Browns want to have a chance to add a player with the potential to play long-term off the edge, these three might be the final three off the board that can do that and have a chance in round three.

Should the focus be on defensive tackle. I really like Bowling Green's Karl Brooks, who is versatile enough to play end but at over 300 pounds Brooks can be a load inside as well.

Texas's Moro Ojomo and Wisconsin's Keenau Benton each have the potential to be solid starters in the league and I like Mississippi State's Cameron Young if the Browns decide to wait until day three.

Linebacker is also a position to upgrade and my favorite that could be available is Wisconsin's Nick Herbig, who runs to the ball like a maniac and can rush the passer as well.

If Herbig was a bit bigger, he would have no chance of being available for the Browns.

I also like Oregon's Noah Sewell, who has a chance of being a three-down linebacker and as a big physical linebacker, Sewell could be just what Cleveland needs as the Yin to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah's Yang.

The Browns could use a safety for depth and if LSU's Jay Ward is around on day three, I'd love to see Ward selected as he is a dominant special teams player and can be a "Swiss Army Knife" type that can be used all over the secondary and even closer to the ball.

He reminds me a bit of Tyrann Mathieu in that way and could be a day three steal.

Andrew Berry is known for his love of cornerbacks and he could take another one in this draft.

Two cornerbacks that I like that have big corner size but need some refinement are Iowa's Riley Moss and Purdue's Cory Trice.

Should the Browns go in that direction, either would work for me, especially Moss who can return kicks and was known for his special teams prowess at Iowa.

Cleveland Browns Persons of Interest-Offense

   The Cleveland Browns offense is far from perfect but there isn't an obvious need at any particular position.

Still, I do see some positions that could use upgraded- one in particular that the Browns could address with one of their two third-round picks.

Wide Receiver was targeted in free agency when Andrew Berry signed Marquis Goodwin and through the trade market when Elijah Moore was acquired from the New York Jets.

Still, I think the Browns could use another pass catcher that could potentially give the team some leverage when Donovan Peoples-Jones could test free agency after next season.

The player most linked to Cleveland, should he manage to drop to their pick, is Oklahoma's Marvin Mims, a big play receiver that can get deep and can help as a returner as well.

Mims isn't perfect, he's a bit slight at 5'10 and 185 pounds and he won't break many tackles but for a big play performer, Marvin Mims would be a perfect fit.

For raw skills and size, I have always liked Rakim Jarrett of Maryland.

Jarrett is big and physical but does occasionally drop an easy pass.

Jarrett would be a swing for the fences pick but the potential makes him very tempting if available early on day two.

Later in the draft, Tre Tucker of Cincinnati might be worth a flyer as a player that could shine in situational plays, especially gadget plays, and West Virginia's Bryce Ford-Wheaton is a poor man's Rakim Jarrett with his size and ability in the end zone.

Cleveland likely wouldn't draft a tight end but I expect Harrison Bryant to leave via free agency after the season so a day three sleeper that might make sense is 6'7 Zack Kuntz of Old Dominion, who previously played at Penn State.

Kuntz weighs 255 pounds but is better regarded as a pass catcher than a blocker and might create some very interesting matchup opportunities against linebackers or smaller safeties,

The Browns didn't return Kareem Hunt or D'Ernest Johnson as backup running backs behind Nick Chubb and expect 2022 fifth-rounder Jerome Ford to be the backup but I'd still expect the Browns to look at a running back on day three.

Kansas State's Deuce Vaughn isn't an every-down back but he could be incredibly helpful in the passing game and the occasional run.

Minnesota's Mohamed Ibrahim was very productive for the Golden Gophers but carried the ball a lot and it's fair to wonder how much he left on the field in Minneapolis.

Pittsburgh runner Israel Abanikanda could be an excellent runner but struggles to catch the ball and blocking.

I've always liked taking a quarterback in at least every other draft and should the Browns think about this on the final day, three players have some traits that I am interested in.

If Jake Haener of Fresno State was 6'3 instead of six foot, he'd be a first-rounder.

Haener reminds me of a quarterback that might eventually start for someone but will at least be a Case Keenum type as a solid backup for a decade.

The Browns like having quarterbacks that fit their starter's skills and Louisville's Malik Cunningham has some similarities to DeShaun Watson in his game.

Cunningham is smaller but I could see him as a later pick or even an unsigned free agent.

If Cleveland wants a real development project, they could try the Division II Harlan Hill Trophy winner from Shepherd WV, Tyson Bagent.

Bagent has a strong arm and good athletic skills and seems to fit the bill as a player to develop with little risk.

I've thought that the Browns should consider another offensive tackle with Jack Conklin somewhat fragile at this stage of his career and the Browns still don't truly know what they have in James Hudson.

My favorite lineman for day three is Braedan Daniels of Utah, an aggressive player that makes you think of a defensive player rather than an offensive lineman.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Knicks end Cavaliers season in five

  The same storyline occurred in game five of the Eastern Conference quarter-final series as in the previous four- the New York Knicks were just too physical and tough for the Cleveland Cavaliers and just as in three of the last four games, it was the Knicks emerging triumphant in the game 106-95 and in the series, four games to one in eliminating the Cavaliers and ending their season earlier than expected.

Donovan Mitchell led all scorers with twenty-eight points with Darius Garland supporting with twenty-one.


1) It all came down to rebounding and I don't remember who said this first but a paraphrase is this- "rebounding is about effort".

Who wants the ball more and in this series, it was clearly the Knicks who wanted the ball more.

2) Offensive rebound stat- Mitchell Robinson 11 Cleveland Cavaliers 4. Ugh.

3) Cleveland spent the series allowing Mitchell Robinson to resemble the new Ben Wallace and Robinson again bullied Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen in a manner that brought thoughts of Adam Sandler's playground domination in "Billy Madison".

Robinson finished with thirteen points, eighteen rebounds, eleven of those on the offensive end.

4) As for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, the two standouts of the Cleveland frontcourt combined for ten points and thirteen rebounds- each number less than Mitchell Robinson alone from two of the players that the franchise is building around.

5) Donovan Mitchell led all scorers but an underrated problem that I haven't seen mentioned is how Jalen Brunson outplayed Mitchell for the second consecutive playoff season.

Brunson controlled Mitchell last season in the Dallas-Utah series and it's the main reason that Brunson earned such a large contract from the Knicks in free agency.

Now Brunson has convincingly shown that it is not a fluke and while Mitchell may be the superior player, Brunson has something about himself or his game that takes something away from that of Donovan Mitchell.

6) Cleveland's bench was a weak spot all season and it was in this series as well but looking back on the decision, the Cavaliers made two mistakes in evaluating.

The first is placing their eggs in the Ricky Rubio basket so that the veteran would return in the middle of the season and return to the form that saw him play so well in Cleveland last season before the injury.

I'll admit that I thought Rubio would bounce back by playoff time at least but it never happened.

Rubio notched DNP's in two of the five games against New York and in the three games that he did play, Rubio's court time was five, five, and six minutes in those games.

7) The other was assuming that Dean Wade could at least equal what Kevin Love would or could do as a big man off the bench that could add rebounding and three-point shooting.

Wade didn't play in game five and played in only two series games for terms of seven and four minutes.

I am very leery of counting on Wade for next season and somewhat leery of a Ricky Rubio return, although giving Rubio a training camp to return to playing shape will give the Cavaliers more of an idea of what he can do.

8) Another problem that I see for next year is a similar issue that the team had at the trading deadline this season- they simply have few tradable assets of value.

Outside of the four franchise building blocks of Mitchell, Garland, Mobley, and Allen, Cleveland literally has nothing else that can bring them the help that they need to improve.

With the massive draft haul the team sent to Utah for Donovan Mithcell, the team cannot trade a first-rounder for several years due to the "Stepien Rule" and I just don't see Cleveland being able to do a lot in improving the roster a great deal.

They may be in a spot of riding the horses that they have and hoping for the best.

9) While the Cavaliers did return to the postseason and that's a success, it's hard not to feel disappointed by both their play and their early exit.

I'll go further again, Cleveland doesn't know how long they will have Donovan Mitchell other than this season and two more.

Mitchell has another season with a player option at the end of the contract, it's almost a guarantee that Mitchell will refuse to pick up that option.

I think I'm safe in saying this- Cleveland will need to show Donovan Mitchell some improvement with a longer postseason run next season or the following season will become all about the future contract status of Mitchell.

The pressure begins now.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Cleaning out the Inbox: Basketball Passings

The inbox concentrates on recent passings from the basketball world with the first tribute to someone that played a large part in my basketball fandom as a young fan.

Goodbye to Billy Packer at the age of 82.

The long-time voice of the Final Four for both NBC and CBS from 1974-2008, Billy Packer was the point guard in 1962 for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons that reached the Final Four for the only appearance in the program's history.

Packer's Voice was part of the ACC regional network that brought ACC games to networks along the conference's footprint and was such a part of my youth.

Packer with play-by-play man Jim Thacker worked as the top commentary team with Packer often taking the public address microphone to announce the starting lineups for each team with a player at a position meeting at center court to exchange a high five or handshake.

The Thacker/Packer duo on the Jefferson Pilot and later Raycom ACC network brought almost every ACC game to the fans of the league and were for my money the best pairing of the time, even better than Packer's more heralded partners in Dick Enberg and later Jim Nantz.

Packer was known by the national audience for his sometimes crabby disposition concerning the game's issues and for a perceived ACC bias, which made sense considering his playing career and where his broadcasting career began.

I always liked Billy Packer's work, although it could have been that I liked him for the above reasons that many disliked him!

He'll be missed as a bridge to college basketball's past that the game always is in need of.

Goodbye to Terry Holland at the age of 80.

The long-time head basketball coach at Davidson and Virginia as well as serving as athletic director at both schools, is remembered as the coach that gave Virginia its first ACC tournament championship as the 1975-76 Cavaliers swept through the tournament with wins over the top three seeds (North Carolina, Maryland, and N.C. State) after finishing sixth in the regular season in a seven-team league.

Holland also brought Ralph Sampson to Virginia for the best four-season stretch in its history to that date, won the 1980 NIT, and led Virginia to two Final Fours (1981 and 84) with the latter occurring in the first post-Sampson season.

Holland played for Lefty Driesell at Davidson and would replace Driesell as the head coach for the Wildcats when Driesell moved to Maryland in 1969, taking Davidson to the NCAA in 1970.

Holland's 1982 Virginia team may be the team most responsible for the shot clock as in the highly-anticipated ACC final against North Carolina, Dean Smith's Tar Heels held the ball for most of the second half in an attempt to mute the impact of Ralph Sampson in front of a national television audience.

North Carolina won 47-45 but the outcry of so much talent on both teams being forced to play stall ball began the outcry to start college basketball towards adding a shot clock.

Goodbye to Willis Reed at the age of 80.

The center for the last two New York Knick championship teams in 1970 and 1973, Reed was the physical heart and soul of the team and even casual basketball fans remember his dramatic start in game seven of the 1970 Finals when he wasn't expected to play after missing game six due to a severe thigh injury.

Reed started, drilled the first two shots of the game for the Knicks, and played twenty-seven minutes as the Knicks defeated the Lakers to win their first world title.

Reed was voted as the MVP of the playoffs in both of the Knicks title teams during his career, was voted as the league MVP in 1970, and was named to one of the All-NBA teams on five occasions during his ten-year career.

After retirement, Reed served as the head coach at his alma mater, Creighton, and for both the Knicks and Nets along with working in the front office for the Nets and the Hornets.

Goodbye to Billy Hahn at the age of 69.

Hahn was the head coach at Ohio U. and LaSalle for three seasons apiece but is most remembered for his tenures as an assistant coach for Gary Williams at Maryland and Bob Huggins at West Virginia.

It was Hahn's time at Maryland where he was the key recruiter from 1989-2001 where he made much of his reputation as Williams rebuilt the Terrapins program.

Hahn's final year at Maryland saw the Terps reach the first Final Four in program history and when Maryland won the national title the following season with Hahn in his first season at LaSalle, the players that Hahn had recruited to Maryland were the stars of the championship team.

Hahn was given a national championship ring by Maryland for his role in the title season.

Devils tie series- win Game Four

  Jonas Siegenthaler's third-period goal broke a one-one tie and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Jack Hughes scored the game's first goal in the first 2:50 of the game for a lead that would hold up until early in the third when Vincent Trocheck tied the game for the Rangers.

Siegenthaler would score a bit under seven minutes later with the game-winner and Ondrej Palat would clinch the game with an empty net goal.

Akira Schmid stopped twenty-two shots on goal in his second start of the playoffs.

The now-tied series now returns to Newark Thursday night for game five.

Hell Raisers

1) Jonas Siegenthaler also assisted on the Jack Hughes goal, so a tremendous night for Siegenthaler offensively from a player not known for his gifts on the offensive end.

2) Siegenthaler also stood tall in front of the net in a fine defensive performance.

All About The Jersey stated that this may have been Siegenthaler's finest game in the league, I'm inclined to agree.

3) Akira Schmid finished with his second winning performance in goal and once again, Schmid baffled a Ranger team that was dominant in the first games of the series in Newark.

4) Schmid's only goal allowed was understandable when Vincent Trocheck scored after a shot and a rebound were saved previously by the rookie goaltender.

5) What a bizarre series.

The road team has won each of the four games thus far.

The Rangers won their two games with a whopping ten goals, allowed just two, and dominated both games.

The Devils finished their two games with five goals (one in an empty net), allowed just two in games that were determined in overtime, and undecided until a later empty netter.

And yet, they are tied after four games of a series that is now a best of three.

Sports are a funny thing sometimes.


Monday, April 24, 2023

Boxing Challenge: Cordina outlasts Rahkimov,

   The boxing weekend was more than only Gervonta Davis's win over Ryan Garcia as a world title changed hands in Cardiff, Wales and a minor beltholder staked a claim for a possible fall fight to determine yet again a true challenger for a unified champion's top contender position.

Matchroom/DAZN featured a fight that will be in consideration for fight of the year when that time arrives as Joe Cordina outlasted Shavkat Rahkimov via a split decision to regain the IBF junior lightweight title that he never lost in the ring.

The non-stop action swung back and forth between the two with the only major difference coming in the second round when Cordina knocked Rahkimov down briefly and after two, it appeared Cordina was on his way to a short evening with Rahkimov's knockdown and his right eye already showing the start of the damage that would see the eye almost closed by the fight's end.

Rahkimov began to close the gap over the middle rounds with a body attack that seemed to be slowing Cordina and the final two rounds would decide the fight on my scorecard which would appear to favor Rahkimov who has worn fighters down in the past for late round knockouts and his body attack.

Instead, it was Cordina that took control in those final two rounds by edging Rahkimov by being slightly busier and outworking him to win the fight on my card 114-113 and the second-round knockdown made the difference.

The knockdown made the difference on only one card, a 114-113 score for Cordina with the other two cards split at 115-112 for Cordina and a surprising 116-111 for Rahkimov.

Had Cordina not scored the knockdown, the fight would have finished in a draw with Rahkimov retaining the title.

Cordina won the title with a second-round KO of Kenichi Ogawa last June but was stripped last fall after a hand injury required surgery before a planned fight with Rahkimov with the IBF stripping him of the title.

The ruling was a bit harsh in my opinion as boxers take longer time than that in between fights anymore with no measures taken at all.

Rahkimov won the vacant title with a knockout over Zelfa Barrett with the provision that Cordina would receive a title shot immediately upon his return to the ring.

I certainly think a rematch would be acceptable and with the other champions in the division with other promoters (WBA champion Hector Luis Garcia and WBC champion O'Shaquie Foster are with PBC and WBO boss Emmanuel Navarette fights for Top Rank), a rematch with the action in this fight would seem to be an easy sell.

The top two undercard fights from the Davis-Garcia both were fought in the super middleweight division with a dominant first-round knockout from minor beltholder David Morrell taking center stage.

Morrell scored a standing eight count when he sent late replacement Yamaguchi Falcao against the ropes with only the ropes allowing Falcao to remain standing.

Morrell leaped on Falcao with another knockdown with the referee quickly waving the fight off.

Morrell may be pitted against David Benavidez in the fall in a fight that may decide just who the top contender to unified champion Canelo Alvarez truly is.

That was supposed to be decided by Benavidez's recent win over former IBF champion Caleb Plant but I think Morrell is more talented than Plant and while his opponents haven't been top-ten caliber, Morrell's talents and skills appear to be among the best in the division and Morrell could be an even larger threat to defeating Benavidez.

Hopefully, that fight can be signed (both fighters are promoted by PBC) if Alvarez doesn't fight Benavidez first as the winner would have a great claim for an inevitable fight with Alvarez.

Bektemir Melikuziev avenged his only defeat with a unanimous decision over shopworn veteran Gabriel Rosado via unanimous decision.

I haven't watched the fight yet but Melikuziev won with the scores reading 99-91 from all three judges.

Rosado announced his retirement after the fight.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 68 Pts (3)
Ramon Malpica: 63 Pts (2)
Vince Samano: 55 Pts (5)

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Knicks win Game Four, Cavaliers backed against the wall.

 The Cleveland Cavaliers needed a strong game in game four against the New York Knicks in order to even the series.

What they received was an uneven one that allowed the Knicks to hold off a second-half rally and win 102-93 to take a three-to-one lead in the series.

Cleveland will now need to win three remaining games in a row or their season will come to a disappointing end.

Darius Garland led Cleveland with 23 points and ten assists in the defeat.

The series will return home Tuesday for game five.


1) Donovan Mitchell is certainly entitled to a poor performance occasionally and sadly, this one came when the Cavaliers needed him most.

Mitchell finished with only eleven points on five of eighteen shooting and missed all of his three-point attempts.

2) Darius Garland scored only two points and at the half, Garland appeared on his way to his second stinker in a row against the Knicks.

And then the second half started and Garland caught fire, scoring the first fourteen points of the half and twenty-two of their first twenty-four.

Cleveland took the leaf for the first time all game after that run but would give it back by the end of the third period, trailing by two before being outscored by seven in the final quarter.

3) A series-long theme continued as the Knicks kicked the Cavaliers around on rebounds, beating them by fourteen overall and by ten on the all-important offensive rebound list.

I'm not sure how Koby Altman will achieve this considering his lack of resources but I'd consider a player that hits the offensive boards hard as an important need for next season.

4) Isaac Okoro did play seventeen minutes as a reserve, scoring nine points on a surprising nine shots in those minutes.

Okoro did connect on four of those but that's pretty high for a player that is often offensively challenged.

5) Cleveland did use veteran Danny Green, who was signed late in the season for his outside shooting and veteran leadership.

Green played four minutes, didn't attempt a shot, and finished without a stat other than a lone personal foul.

6) I'll save the obvious thoughts until the actual end of the series about the season disappointing Cavaliers fans but I will state this- should the series end in five rather than six and end in Cleveland losing two of three home games in front of their fans, the season will be even more disappointing than losing in six games with the season ending in New York.

It may be only for the dreaded "Moral Victory" but young teams doing things for the first time sometimes need a moral victory or two as part of the maturation process.

Boxing Challenge: Davis knocks out Garcia

   The highly anticpated battle between hard-punching young stars Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia may not have been Hagler-Hearns as they and others proclaimed before the fight but it was entertaining before the evening ended with sort of an anti-climax as Davis crunched a left hook to the body of Garcia that invoked a delayed reaction with Garcia dropping to his left knee, taking the ten count in the seventh round of their Las Vegas showdown.

Garcia fought very well in winning round one and was easily on his way to adding round two to his side when Davis slipped Garcia's right hand and countered with a left that sent Garcia to the canvas.

Garcia wasn't seriously hurt by the knockdown but the fight changed after that as Garcia continued to come forward on Davis but never with the same abandon or aggressiveness as in those two rounds.

With Garcia now respecting the power of Davis, the fight changed subtly as Davis began to counter Garcia more effectively, slipping his jab more often and blunting the more controlled attacks of Garcia, who no longer wished to take chances that could back Davis up but increase the risk of getting hit with power punches.

Garcia would have his occasional moments after round two and the fight was certainly competitive and hard-fought but only the third and sixth rounds were close and while the ending was sudden, it did feel inevitable.

Davis could have several big fights that would be anticipated by boxing fans in the lightweight division, where he is best suited as far as size against the winner of the undisputed lightweight title pairing later this spring between Devin Haley and Vasyl Lomachenko or Shakur Stevenson in what would be a huge fight for the East Coast fan base.

But fights against either man could be difficult to sign with promotional considerations, Davis would have a large size disadvantage against the best junior welterweights, and there isn't really anyone at junior lightweight that would be considered a major fight for Davis.

That leaves Davis as likely to return to facing good fighters that would be heavy underdogs, wouldn't bring him the respect that he craves, and drawing big crowds with sizable paychecks.

Unless Davis is motivated to do business with Top Rank, the best fights for Davis in-house with PBC may be a rematch with Isaac Cruz, who lost via close decision to Davis, or maybe slick boxing Frank Martin, who may be a high risk without a high rate of return.

As for Garcia, he stated that he will stay in the junior welterweight division and there are plenty of fights there for him but with a loss, and a knockout loss that some believe that he could have shown more effort in attempting to continue, Garcia will have to be matched carefully for a fight or two before facing a strong challenge in a big fight.

Garcia's problem is similar to Davis's as a division loaded with talent doesn't have one that is promoted by Garcia's promoter in Golden Boy Promotions.

The WBO title will be with Top Rank, held by the winner of Josh Taylor-Teofimo Lopez, WBC champion Regis Prograis is available but perhaps too dangerous for Garcia right now, IBF king Subriel Matias is promoted by PBC and is a major puncher with a high risk for a fighter coming off a stoppage loss and the WBA title was recently stripped from Alberto Puello and will be fought for between PBC's colorful Rolando Romero and Ismael Barroso.

Adding into the equations former champion Jose Ramirez, veteran contenders Jack Catterall and Jose Zepeda, and undefeated Gary Antuanne Russell and Arnold Barboza, none of which fights for Golden Boy, and it's hard to see Garcia facing a challenge for a while, unless undefeated lightweight contender William Zepeda, who does fight for Golden Boy, could be tempted by a big payday and a chance to defeat Garcia.

In any event, while both fighters are still stars after the fight, I'm struggling to see an avenue that will see either fighter in a test in their next fight unless some rival promotions decide to work together, and since such a fight is likely to lack anywhere near the amount of money made from Davis-Garcia, which is highly unlikely.

I'll be writing about the other boxing challenge fights in a post tonight or tomorrow. 

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 65 Pts (2)
Ramon Malpica : 61 Pts (2)
Vince Samano: 50 Pts (2)

Devils grab OT win in Game Three

    I hadn't written anything about the New Jersey Devils two losses in their series against the New York Rangers.

I watched both games but due to two reasons (work for one game, and the loss of the internet due to a miscue from my provider that wiped out an entire post on game one), I couldn't get anything posted.

Besides, two 5-1 losses at home, the Devils played well in only one period (period one of game two) and didn't lend itself to a massive amount of analysis- happy or otherwise.

With the series moving to the Garden for games three and four, it was fair to consider that the Devils with so many young stars and trade deadline acquisition Timo Meier still working on chemistry if this series could be one that the Devils need for the experience of playing in the postseason and will be building off the series for the future.

Instead, the Devils switched goaltenders for game three as they moved to Akira Schmid from Vitek Vanicek, received a great effort from their young netminder with thirty-five saves, forced overtime when Jack Hughes tied the game at one in the second period with a power play goal (2), and then leaped back into the series with Dougie Hamilton's goal at 11: 36 over overtime for a 2-1 victory that silenced the Blueshirt fans that assumed that their coronation as the series victor was a foregone conclusion.

Hamilton's goal cut the Devils deficit in the series to two games to one and guaranteed at least one more game will be played in Newark for game five but before that will be game four at MSG on Monday night with the Devils attempting to give the road team a victory in each of the first four games and tie the series at two.

Hell Raisers

1) Again my apologies for not writing for the first two games, my work schedule has turned my life upside down and while I have yet to have an issue seeing the games (or the Cavaliers or boxing) yet, finding the time to write has been difficult.

I want to though and the will is half the battle!

2) I didn't think Vitek Vanicek played that terribly in the losses as his defense didn't help him much, and especially in game two when the game became more than chippy, it can be hard to keep focus.

Still, give Lindy Ruff credit for gambling and giving a try to Akira Schmid.

Coaches will mix things up a bit in the playoffs when things aren't swinging in their direction and predictably the results are mixed but this risk paid off for this evening and give Ruff credit for trying.

3) Akira Schmid was tremendous with 35 saves and had Dougie Hamilton not finished with the game-winner with the assist on the Jack Hughes goal, Schmid would have been an easy choice for the star of the game.

In my opinion, Schmid still would have been given my vote, and his performance should keep him in goal for the remainder of the series unless he would be completely shelled in a game that would force his removal.

4) I would stick with Schmid for more than just this win and would have done so even if the Rangers had won.

Schmid is an unknown factor to the Rangers for the most part and without a book on him, the Devils have a small advantage.

Goalies with a limited amount of ice time against teams (or period) have experienced strong playoff runs before and hey, I can dream right?

5) The penalty kill finally played well after the Rangers' success with their power play in the first two games as the Devils killed off all five Ranger power play chances.

A major problem solved for one game at least.

6) Oddball fact, this is the Devils 45th playoff series and the 45th that they have won at least one game.

Only NHL newcomers Las Vegas and Seattle can make a claim of never losing four straight.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Cavaliers drubbed by Knicks

  The Cleveland Cavaliers were underdogs entering game three of their Eastern Conference series in New York against the homestanding Knicks and they promptly showed why as the New York Knicks swamped the Cavaliers 99-79 to give the Knicks a two-to-one lead in the series.

Donovan Mitchell led a listless Cleveland offense with twenty-two points.

Game four returns to the World's Most Famous Arena for a Sunday tussle.


1) Simply an awful shooting night for the Cavaliers, who shot thirty-eight percent from the floor and a terrible seven of thirty-three from beyond the three-point arc.

Not sure how I can make that sound worse but it seemed even worse if you were watching the game.

2) Darius Garland was unable to approach his terrific stats from game two and his shooting in game three was downright brutal as Garland connected only four times from twenty-one shots to finish with an anemic ten-point evening.

Cleveland will need a far better performance from Garland in game four in order to tie the series.

3) Cleveland decided to start Caris LeVert after his strong game two and LeVert finished with seventeen points after starting in place of Isaac Okoro.

4) Okoro did see more court time than in his two minutes in game two, scoring seven points and making both of his shots in twelve minutes of mostly garbage time.

Suddenly, I'm starting to wonder about Okoro's long-term role in Cleveland.

5) Jarrett Allen hit all of his shots and you'd think reading that stat that Allen had a big game.

Allen only shot three times, finished with six points, and five rebounds, and disappeared for most of the game in a disappointing evening.

Allen wasn't alone in a rough night but other than Darius Garland, he might have been the most glaring disappointment.

6) Issac Okoro's seven points equaled the remaining output from the bench and in a blowout, you would think someone would have hit a few shots to post a good stat line.

7) Game four is must win for Cleveland as I just don't think the talent difference is vast enough to win the final three games of the series.

But I think game four is very possible to win for the Cavaliers.

Game three was the return of playoff basketball to New York after a long absence and the crowd was sky-high for the game.

I'm not sure the Knicks or the crows can match that intensity for game four and that might give Cleveland just enough of an edge to even the series and regain home court advantage.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Boxing Challenge

  The boxing challenge is centered around Las Vegas where one of the most awaited fights in boxing will take place without a title as Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia battle at a catchweight between the junior welterweight and welterweight limit.

The battle of two unbeaten bombers with distinct styles and fan bases has been one that has been anticipated for quite a while and what makes this fight even more interesting is that neither fighter has been truly tested by an elite fighter and in Garcia's case, tested by a fighter that was a world champion at all.

Garcia is the naturally larger fighter but other than his seventh-round knockout of former contender Luke Campbell in which Campbell knocked down Garcia in the second round, and his last victory over former minor titleist Javier Fortuna via sixth-round KO, Garcia hasn't fought anyone to be overly impressed with.

Davis is touted as a three-division champion but his titles at lightweight and junior welterweight were minor titles with only his IBF junior lightweight reign considered a true world title.

It was that title-winning fight that might be the best career win for Davis as he bulldozed Jose Pedraza in seven rounds in January 2017 or perhaps it could be his decision win over an unexpectedly difficult Isaac Cruz in December 2021 but other than those, Davis has either defeated puffed up smaller fighters like Leo Santa Cruz, who Davis knocked out in six with a highlight reel knockout, untested boxers such as Mario Barrios and Rolando Romero or faded former stars like Yuriorkis Gamboa as his victims built a resume as a gate attraction and star but left his true quality unknown without a top-notch victory.

Still, Davis has faced a higher quality of opposition and he hasn't been badly hurt in his victories, so he has an edge in that category, while Garcia does have some chin questions.

However, I have a feeling that Davis's style could be tailor-made for Garcia as while Davis isn't a crude brawler, he will have to get on the inside and come to Garcia which could keep him on the end of Garcia's power punches.

The problem for Garcia is that I think Davis has a better chin and that could be the difference in the battle with Davis possibly having to come from behind on the scorecards to score a knockout.

The co-feature pits minor beltholder David Morrell in a super middleweight bout against Yamaguchi Falcao, who is taking the fight on short notice.

Morrell has looked extremely impressive in his short career against not-quite-world-class opponents and looks for another strong outing against Falcao, a former Olympic bronze medalist that has never fought a contender in his nine-year pro career.

In a super middleweight rematch, Bektemir "Bek The Bully" Melikuziev attempts to avenge his only loss in a rematch against aging veteran Gabriel Rosado.

Melikuziev was dominating Rosado through two and a half rounds when Melikuziev advanced to try to finish a hurt Rosado and ran into a Rosado right that felled Melikuziev and ended the 2021 fight.

Rosado has lost all three of his fights since the upset win and Melikuziev has won all of his bouts, so Melikuziev should again be heavily favored.

Earlier Saturday on DAZN and Matchroom from Cardiff, Wales, Joe Cordina will attempt to regain the title that he never lost as he challenges IBF junior lightweight champion Shavkat Rakhimov from Cordina's home base.

Cordina knocked out Kenichi Ogawa to win the title in two rounds last June but broke his hand training for his fall battle with Rakhimov in a mandatory defense.

The IBF stripped Cordina of the title but stipulated that he would receive a title opportunity when he was healthy, while Rahkimov knocked out Brit Zelfa Barrett in nine rounds to earn the championship.

I think this one should be not only close but it could be action-packed to boot.

Boxing Challenge

Welterweights. 12 Rds 
Gervonta Davis vs Ryan Garcia
Ramon Malpica: Davis KO 6
TRS: Davis KO 9
Vince Samano: Davis KO 5

Super Middleweights. 12 Rds
David Morrell vs Yamaguchu Falcao
R.L: Morrell KO 10
TRS: Morrell KO 6
V.S: Morrell KO 3

Super Middleweights. 10 Rds
Bektemir Melikuziev vs Gabriel Rosado
R.L: Rosado Unanimous Decision
TRS: Melikuziev KO 6
V.S: Melikuziev Unanimous Decision

IBF Junior Lightweight Title. 12 Rds
Shavkat Rahkimov vs Joe Cordina
R.L and TRS: Rahkimov Unanimous Decision
V.S: Cordina Unanimous Decision 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Cavaliers even series with Knicks 107-90

    The Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a slow start to dominate from the second quarter forward to defeat the New York Knicks 107-90 in game two of their Eastern Conference series.

Darius Garland led Cleveland with 32 points with Caris LeVert popping in with 24 off the bench.
Donovan Mitchell finished with 17 points and 13 assists to aid Cleveland in their win.

The deadlocked series moves to New York on Friday for game three with game four on Sunday afternoon.


1) Give Darius Garland credit for his drives to the basket and for even attempting a rare slam over half the Knicks frontcourt.

Garland has had a difficult job in unofficially handing over the reins as the team's superstar to Donovan Mitchell and still has handled it with quite a bit of class.

2) Garland scored 26 of his 32 points in a first-half explosion and would finish the game with six three-pointers from ten attempts.

When Garland has an outside shot dropping in, it forces teams to worry about both Garland and Donovan Mitchell, which opens things up for Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen closer to the basket.

It's all a trickle-down from the top.

3) As for Donovan Mitchell, he did finish with "only" seventeen points but added in a playoff career-high thirteen assists and Mitchell was more than effective.

The Cavaliers are best when they have four or five players between 15-20 points rather than Mitchell pouring in 40 plus and I think Mitchell knows that, which is why he's willing to pass the basketball when a player is especially shooting well as Darius Garland was in the win.

4) Jarrett Allen was called for a flagrant foul for a late-game under-the-basket collision with Julius Randle.

While I think the flagrant foul was a fair one, I do wonder why Randle, who entered the series with some wear and tear injuries, was even in the game at that point (Late in the game with Cleveland leading by around twenty), let alone driving to the basket.

5) Isaac Okoro was in the starting lineup but you would never know by the stat sheet as Okoro committed two fouls in the first three minutes, was benched by J.B. Bickerstaff, and never left the sideline for the remainder of the game.

6) This move meant more time for Caris LeVert, who led the team in forty minutes of play and scored twenty-four points on nine for sixteen shooting.

LeVert is a tough player to count on due to his inconsistency but on his good nights, LeVert is a massive help off a Cavalier reserve squad that badly could use his scoring.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Knicks bully Cavaliers 101-97

   The Cleveland Cavaliers had a home-court advantage for their first playoff game without LeBron James since the days of Mike Fratello as coach. 

Yet, in the end, the old barbs from the pre-LeBron days re-emerged as Cleveland was bullied on the offensive boards and couldn't rebound the ball when the game mattered most as the New York Knicks took game one of the Eastern Conference series 101-97 in Cleveland.

Donovan Mitchell led all scores with 38 points with Darius Garland in second spot on the team with seventeen.

Game two will be in Cleveland on Tuesday night.


1) The Knicks needed to be sure of the status of Julius Randle entering game one and it was the Cavaliers dismayed to see Randle in the lineup.

Randle finished with nineteen points and ten rebounds and despite shooting only seven of twenty from the field, Randle was the key to the New York win as he grabbed several big rebounds in the waning minutes of the game with the biggest on the final possession with Randle grabbing an offensive rebound that forced the Cavaliers to foul rather than having a chance to win the game with the last shot.

2) New York savagely pounded Cleveland on the boards, winning that battle 51-38 and especially on the offensive side, where the Knicks grabbed seventeen to eleven but again dominated in that area in the late stages of the game with seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.

3) The rap on the Cavaliers teams of the eighties and nineties was a lack of physical toughness and this team has a similar reputation to prove wrong.

Game one only fed that assumption as the Knicks bullied the Cavaliers around with the arguable exception of Jarrett Allen, who finished with fourteen points and fourteen rebounds.

4) Darius Garland finished with seventeen points but only one assist and disappeared in the fourth quarter.

I'm mildly concerned that Garland is almost allowing too much to be given to Donovan Mitchell and may fall into sidekick mode, which makes the Cavaliers overly dependent on the dynamic Mitchell.

5) Cleveland's bench is one of the weakest in the playoff field and it showed in game one with only Cedi Osman scoring more than three points from the bench with his nine.

Osman played fairly well but Caris LeVert was just one for seven and missed all three of his attempts from three-point range.

Cleveland is depending on their starters to post big minutes in this series but is hoping to receive a big series from someone off the bench.

So far that's only been Cedi Osman.

6)  The Cavaliers suffered from major three-point problems in the loss to New York as they connected on only ten of their thirty-one attempts.

Donovan Mitchell hit six with Cedi Osman and Darius Garland each nailing two but twenty-one misses is a lot for a team that is hoping to open space by forcing the opponent to respect the long range game.

7) Give Cleveland credit for battling back late in the game as they trailed by double-digits and by eight with minutes remaining before a nine-point run put Cleveland up by one with a little over two minutes to go.

But New York would score the next five points to re-take the lead and Cleveland could never get closer than two before the games end.

8) Every playoff game is important in its own way but game two will now carry special importance for Cleveland.

Home court has already been lost unless they win a game in New York to regain the edge later in the series.

With the Cavaliers holding a losing road record for the season, a loss would not only put them down two games with the next two in New York, it would also mean that to win the series that Cleveland would need two wins in the Big Apple to eventually win the series, so it could prove to be the pivotal point in the series. 

Boxing Challenge: Zhang busts up Joyce!

   Joe Joyce has worn down every opponent that he has faced with a straightforward style, a rock-hard chin, and power punches from right field that landed with thudding impact against solid contenders such as Daniel DuBois and former champion Joseph Parker.

And Joyce was expected to do the same to China's Zhilei Zhang in London with Joyce taking punches, falling behind on the scorecards early, and then like rain on cardboard, reducing Zhang's attack and finishing him late in the fight.

And all of those things were falling into place, except for one detail- Zhang's left hand couldn't miss Joyce's face and after five plus rounds, Joyce's right eye was closed, and the expected late rally would never occur as the fight was stopped in round six due to the condition of Joyce's eye.

The Zhang victory gave him possession of Joyce's minor title and more importantly, slipped Zhang into the mandatory position for an eventual title try for the heavyweight titles currently held by Oleksandr Usyk.

While I couldn't quibble with the decision to stop the fight, I do wish the doctor had given Joyce at least the remainder of the round ( or even the seventh) to try to score a stunning knockout.

Joyce deserved at least a round to try to take Zhang out, in my opinion, but it's tough to say the fight was stopped prematurely.

Zhang started fast with a strong first round and staggered Joyce in the second, although Joyce managed to stay on his feet, and Joyce's face was already showing its worse for wear with bleeding from the nose and the swelling around his right eye was beginning.

Joyce had his share of success too and actually landed more total punches but surprisingly it was the punches from Zhang that had the stronger impact rather than the heavy-handed Joyce.

Joyce battled through and his volume could have been turning the tide if his eye had not betrayed him, as Zhang's lead on my scorecard was only 48-47 after five rounds

Still, Zhang's power shots were landing more often than Joyce's and it is possible that Zhang may have been the victor even if Joyce's eye would not have swelled shut.

Joyce has a contractual right to a rematch and he certainly will accept that with the loss of his minor title and top ranking in the WBO but that will take some time as Joyce could have suffered a broken orbital bone which could keep him out of the ring for a few months.

Given that this fight was filled with exchanges and big punches, a rematch will be anticipated by boxing fans, and assuming Joyce's face can hold up longer and better in a return bout, I'd give Joyce a good chance of reversing the result.

However, the lefthanded stance of Zhang gave Joyce loads of problems and Joyce will need to make plenty of adjustments that will enable him to avoid the Zhang straight left that caused so much damage in this defeat.

Boxing Challenge

TRS: 63 Pts (0) 
Ramon Malpica: 59 Pts (0)
Vince Samano: 48 Pts (0)