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GOLDEN STATE LOOKS TO CONTINUE DYNASTY RUN

The-NBA-Finals-2019-300x193Since winning their first NBA Championship since 1975 by defeating LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers back during the short reign of head coach David Blatt, the Golden State Warriors, behind the always entertaining antics of Stephen Curry, have pretty much dominated professional basketball in North America.

The Warriors are the new kids on the block, although Golden State actually won the NBA title way back in 1975. The Cleveland Cavaliers have hung around to challenge the Warriors for every NBA Finals series since 2015, until now. For the first time in a long time, the Cavs did not even make it to the NBA playoffs and have been home watching the finals on TV, which must seem very strange to some team members.

The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers for the 2015 title then Tyronn Lue took over as head coach in Cleveland and the Cavs managed to beat the Warriors in an exciting 7 game series in 2016.  2017 and 2018 saw the same bill of fare at the finals with Golden State winning and maintaining the NBA title both years. A championship they are now bound to defend yet again.

Now, four years hardly constitutes a bona-fide dynasty, but it’s off to a very good start.  The storied franchise of the Boston Celtics holds the mark for the most NBA titles at 17.  More impressive yet is that the Celtics did it 8 times in a row from 1959 until 1966.  We will see how the Warriors stack up to that record.

The Lakers of Los Angeles have contested the title more than any other team since the Finals were began back in 1947 with 31 appearances, the most recent of which came from 2008-2010 under head coach Phil Jackson.  Oddly enough, the Golden State Warriors have never faced their in-state rival Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Now the Warriors have punched their ticket to the final round of the 2019 NBA Finals while the Lakers, the Celtics and the Cavaliers are long gone. Golden State staged another of its famous second half comebacks to eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers, and the younger Curry brother, from competition.

The Warriors are a little banged up having lost both super-star Kevin Durant and his buddy Andre Iguodala to calf injuries. Even so, they are a formidable basketball team displaying both speed and agility as well as an exceptional basketball I.Q. every time they take the court.

The remaining core of the Warrior team consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to whom double and even triple doubles are becoming commonplace.  The pinpoint shooting accuracy and smothering defense of Golden State put away an excellent Portland team lead by Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in four straight matches.

So now the Warriors are resting up and awaiting the winners of the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptor series.  While Las Vegas oddsmakers are listing the Raptors at +1000 and the Bucks at Even money, wagering on Golden State requires that the bettor must risk $450 to win $100.

So, odds are, the Warrior dynasty is likely to continue for another year at least.

THE PREAKNESS STAKES AT PIMLICO

Preakness17HeroEclipseThe 2019 Kentucky Derby was a mess.  Messy track, messy horses, messy jocks and messy finish. Controversial to say the least.  Articles are still being written about the Derby finish over a week after the event.  The Maximum Security camp is still sure that they won the race and were robbed of the victory. The Country House camp is counting their blessings and holding pat.

But the Triple Crown must go on and the second leg is set to run this weekend at Pimlico Race Course outside of Baltimore.  Funny thing is, neither Maximum Security nor Country House will be running in the 2019 Preakness Stakes.  In fact only four horses that participated in the Kentucky Derby this year will be running at Pimlico.

The Preakness is a mile and three sixteenths long race that falls between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in both time and the length of the race. The purse this year will be around $1,500,000, which is a lot of money.

Such is the importance of the Triple Crown races that NBCSports will air a total of 7 hours of coverage from Pimlico featuring stakes-rich race cards and culminating in the running of the 144th Preakness Stakes. Post time for the big race is set at 6:50 EST, preceded by all the pomp and circumstance relegated to such a dignified event.

Those in attendance at the race will be ‘dressed to the nines’, as they say. The lucky ones will have ‘paddock passes’ which will allow them to walk through the paddocks where the horses and kept and prepped for the races.  Walking among these magnificent creatures at rest and feeling the pent up energy all around them is one of the more unforgettable race day experiences for many, and to some, more fun than the race itself.

Of course, the favorites for the Preakness are the top horses remaining from the derby entrants.  Improbable ran strong in Louisville but was blocked for most of the way around the back stretch.  He is picked as the favorite at 5-2 to win at Pimlico as legendary trainer, and 2 time Triple Crown winner, Bob Baffert, will coach both horse and jockey to maximum effort to win the second leg of the 2019 Triple Crown.

Close behind comes another veteran from the Derby, War of Will, who was embroiled in the bumping controversy with Maximum Security.  The longer track should tell the tale for trainer Mark Casse and War of Will who is currently listed at 4-1.

This year at Pimlico they have a local favorite running in the Preakness by the name of Alwaysmining coming off of six straight wins at Laurel Park and going off at 8-1 with strong local support.

So, grab a Daily Racing Form, study up and place your wagers for the Preakness Stakes for 2019.

UNEXPECTED RESULTS FROM THE NBA DRAFT LOTTERY

PELS LOGO 2The Pelicans head coach went into the sequestered Hilton conference room just off Lake Michigan knowing that his New Orleans basketball team was about to win the number one spot in the 2019 NBA lottery and thereby receive the number one pick in the actual draft.

No one else did, but 64 year old Alvin Gentry was confident.

He wore a special Zegna silk tie with a history in NBA draft rooms going back to the Cleveland Cavaliers minority owner Jeff Cohen, who wore the tie both times the Cavs won the number one draft pick two years in a row back in 2013 & 2014.  Those picks yielded Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins.

But even with his magical tie, Gentry’s Pelicans only stood about a 6% chance of walking away with the number one pick.  Still, the coach was not worried.  As he took his seat in the Hilton conference room, Alvin Gentry pulled a piece of NBA logo paper to him and wrote in caps, “THIS IS OUR MOMENT”.

Brand new Vice President of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Pelicans David Griffin now has a pocketful of options to work with that he probably didn’t even dare dream about before the draft lottery.  The Pelicans could actually draft and hire Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson, who is considered to be one of the top draft picks coming available in recent years.

Now it has been widely reported that Williamson had visions of himself on the big stage in the ‘Big Apple’ playing for the New York Nets, whose chances at the number one pick were much higher than those of New Orleans. The glitter and glam of New York City and all the legendary teams to have come out of there is certainly attractive, but young Zion might just find out the he will end up much better off down in the ‘Big Easy’ rather than the ‘Big Apple’.

Three words to keep in mind Zion, Jambalaya, Etouffee and Gumbo!

As soon as the lottery results were announced, long suffering, die hard Pelican fans began to speculate on the wonders of having the new guy, Zion Williamson, teaming up with their All Star power forward Anthony Davis. However, Davis has already announced that he wants to be traded out of New Orleans and has made no secret that he would prefer to end up in Los Angeles with the Lakers.  Hope remains that he will reconsider staying in New Orleans if Williamson is coming to be his teammate for next season.

There is an expression down in New Orleans that goes, ‘Ya know, but ya neva know”.  New Orleans is a city full of all sorts of magic, so good things might be coming to the Pelicans at last.

THE NBA FEARSOME FINAL FOUR

nba logo 2019James Harden and the Houston Rockets knew that they had a chance to beat the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA semi-finals this year, and they played like it, right up until the fourth quarter of game 6 on their own home court when super star Seth Curry took over in a whirlwind of flash and speed and accuracy the likes of which we have seldom seen before.

Curry curiously went scoreless for the entire first half leaving fans wondering if he was injured or ill.  He wasn’t, not at all.  After halftime Curry went on to score 10 points in the third quarter and then, with the conference championship on the line and a chance to eliminate, for the fourth time in 5 years, his arch rival Houston Rockets, Curry went into one of the most impressive runs ever witnessed on a basketball court by most of us mortals and scored 25 points in the fourth quarter to shut down Houston’s chances for yet another year.

So, the Golden State Warriors move on to meet the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA’s version of the Final Four for a seven game series to determine who will meet the winners of the matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors for the 2019 NBA Championship.

It took the Milwaukee Bucks just 5 games to eliminate the mighty Boston Celtics after being blown out on their own home court by the Celtics by a score of 112-90 in the first game of the series. Milwaukee is considered among the favorites in the tourney, even getting the nod from TV commentator, and former NBA great, Charles Barkley to win it all.

But first the Bucks will have to finish off the scary Toronto Raptors who took the Philadelphia 76ers to the full 7 games before defeating them on their home court.  The Bucks will be a bit more rested; the Raptors will have the edge still honed fine.  Look for this series to go down to the wire.

Out west, two of the best backcourt tandems in professional basketball, Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson for Golden State, and Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum of Portland, will take to the court at the Oracle as this best of seven series gets underway on Tuesday.

The Warriors will be without star forward Kevin Durant for at least the first games of the series with a calf injury. Look for Seth Curry to fill that void in style as he did against the Rockets of Houston. Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to believe that the Warriors will prevail in both the semi-finals, where they are at      -570 to Portland’s +435, and for the overall 2019 NBA Championship, where Golden State sits at -250 with Milwaukee at Even money.  The Toronto Raptors are at +500 and the dogs of the series are the Portland Trailblazers at +800.

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