The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the team everyone in the NFL had their eyes on in week one during their matchup with the New Orleans Saints. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers struggled to find their stride early in the game with Brady throwing two interceptions and looking to not be in sync with his receivers. However, the second half would be a different story for the Buccaneers. Brady was able to get the offense moving and the Buccaneers were able to score 16 second-half points. However, the Buccaneers wouldn’t be able to rebound after a slow start against a championship-caliber team like the Saints, losing 34-23.
In week two all eyes will be on Seattle on Sunday night when Cam Newton and the new-look New England Patriots take on Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in prime time. Newton and the Patriots showcased a physical and tactical running game in their season-opening win against the Miami Dolphins. Week two could be a different story however as they take on the perennial powerhouse Seahawks who picked up an impressive 38-25 win against the Falcons in week one.
The Los Angeles Lakers were able to beat the Houston Rockets in game five 119-96. The Lakers were once again led by Lebron James who scored a team-high 29 points but the Lakers also had great depth scoring with six players scoring in double figures. After eliminating the Rockets from the playoffs the Lakers move on to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2010.
In the other Western Conference matchup, the Los Angeles Clippers were up in the series three games to one on the Denver Nuggets. However, in games five, six and seven Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic would lead the Nuggets back from double-digit deficits and come back to win the series four games to three against Kawhi Leonard and the heavily favored Clippers. The Nuggets became the first team in history to come back from a three to one series deficit twice in an NBA playoff run.
The Lakers and Nuggets will meet in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009. The series will hinge on the play of Murray and Jokic and if they can match the output of James and Anthony Davis for the Lakers. The Western Conference Finals is set to get underway tonight for game one.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics were able to defeat the Toronto Raptors 92-87 in a hard-fought game seven. Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 29 points and 12 rebounds to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Miami Heat.
Game one of the Eastern Conference Finals saw the Celtics shoot out to a big first-quarter lead but the Heat clawed their way back into the game to be tied at 55 points at halftime. Tatum and Marcus Smart once again led the Celtics to a lead in the second half when they scored a majority of their 30 and 26 points. Led by Jimmy Butler the Heat once again fought their way back in the fourth quarter and outscored the Celtics 35-23 to get the game to overtime. Tatum would try to take over for the Celtics in overtime but he missed his last seven shots and opened the door for the Heat to take the lead and they did, taking game one 117-114. Game two on Thursday night was more of the same early on as the Celtics had a 17 point lead in the first half and led by 13 points at halftime. However, once again the Heat would not be denied as Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo would take over the game. Robinson made six three-pointers through three-quarters of play and Adebayo asserted his dominance in the paint and in the pick and roll game. The Heat would use the efforts of Robinson and Adebayo to outscore the Celtics 37-17 in the third quarter and take control of the game that they wouldn’t relinquish, winning 106-101. The Celtics will need to play a full 48 minutes in game three on Saturday night if they want to have any chance of climbing out of their two games to none hole.
As the playoffs near in the MLB, teams are trying to hit their stride or climb into a playoff spot. One team that has come out of nowhere is the Cincinnati Reds. At the beginning of the year, the Reds were a lot of analysts' dark horse pick to make a playoff run but a lackluster start to the season seemed to derail any hopes for the Reds. However, after the trade deadline, the Reds have quietly been one of the league's hottest team’s with their excellent starting rotation led by Trevor Bauer and a bullpen that has made night and day improvements, turning into one of the best in the league with a cumulative 3.30 ERA since August 13. Reliever Archie Bradley was a huge addition to the Reds bullpen at the trade deadline and in his 6.2 innings pitched for the Reds he has an ERA of 0.00 while only giving up three hits. Impeccable starting pitching and a stellar bullpen could once again make the Reds the team no one wants to face in the playoffs.
The Dallas Stars were able to eliminate the Las Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-2 in game five. The Stars have been carried by goalie Anton Khudobin who had been the backup for the Stars most of the season, before taking the reins in the playoffs and never letting go. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars will need Khudobin to continue to be at the top of his game.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Islanders were able to stave off elimination with a 2-1 win in game five. The continued physical style of defense that the Islanders play was problematic for the Tampa Bay Lightning and without center Brayden Point, the Lightning weren’t able to create much offense. The team’s battled deep into double overtime before Jordan Eberle broke the deadlock for the Islanders to force a game six. Game six on Thursday night saw Point return for the Lightning and his presence created a complete change in the series momentum. The Lightning outshot The Islanders 48-27 and while the Islanders were able to hang on by the thinnest of margins and even score in regulation to help force overtime the Lightning were too much to handle and Anthony Cirelli was able to beat Semyon Varlamov in overtime to send the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Stanley Cup Finals begin on Saturday night. The Stars are making their first appearance since 1999 when they faced off against and beat the Buffalo Sabres. Success for the Stars this time around will be predicated on a complete team game with depth scoring and complete team defense. In 2015 the Lightning appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. If they want this trip to the Finals to end with a championship they’ll need their star players to shine bright and take over the series.