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🏀Miami Heat, LA Lakers to face off in NBA Finals, Starting Wednesday

September 28, 2020
SOURCE: ESPN STATS & INFO/TWITTER
SOURCE: ESPN STATS & INFO/TWITTER

The GIST: The stage is set. The LA Lakers and Miami Heat have punched their tickets to the NBA Finals.

How’d they do it?: Heading into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last night, the Heat had a 3-2 lead over the Boston Celtics. Despite a close game, the Heat were unstoppable in a wild fourth quarter, putting up 37 points to win 125–113 and snag the series and the Finals berth.

What about the West?: The LA Lakers won the Western Conference title on Saturday night after knocking out the Denver Nuggets with a 117–107 Game 5 win.

  • With his 10th ticket to the Finals, superstar LeBron James becomes the fourth NBA player in history to reach double digit Finals appearances, playing in 13.5% of all NBA Finals ever (or 27.8% of the NBA Finals since he’s been alive). Talk about an overachiever!

What’s next?: Now LeBron gets to face his former team, with whom he won two NBA Championships in 2012 and 2013. Oh, the drama! The Finals begin on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.

And the WNBA?: The Seattle Storm easily locked up their spot in the finals yesterday after sweeping their semifinal best-of-five series against the Minnesota Lynx. Storm legend Sue Bird put up 16 points while Storm legend-in-the-making Breanna Stewart led with 31 points in the 92–71 win. Holy.

  • If you’re looking for more drama, the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun are bringing it to a deciding Game 5. The Aces tied up the series with an 84–75 win yesterday, so it all comes down to tomorrow night’s do-or-die at 7:30 p.m. ET.

🏒Corey Perry Keeps Dallas Stars Alive

September 28, 2020
SOURCE: DALLAS STARS/TWITTER
SOURCE: DALLAS STARS/TWITTER

The GIST: The NHL is getting their money’s worth this season. Although many assumed we’d have a Stanley Cup champion by now, the Dallas Stars, unlike us, just aren’t ready to give up on 2020 yet.

Why’s that?: Heading into Saturday night’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars were down 3-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and though the Lightning have been heavily favored to hoist the Cup this year, veteran Corey Perry’s double overtime (OT) winner proved the Stars are one tough team to beat.

  • Even though Perry’s game-winner was, well, messy, it was one of the most jaw-dropping goals of the postseason — considering it saved his team from losing the Stanley Cup.
     
  • The Stars have been the underdog throughout most of the postseason, so they’ll look to keep the chip on their shoulder to try to win the next two games.

And what does Tampa need to do?: Tampa needs to find a way to beat Stars’ goalie Anton Khudobin, and they’ll need to do it without captain Steven Stamkos. After spending seven months on the injured/reserve list, Stamkos rejoined Tampa in Game 3, scored on his first shot (NBD) but then re-aggravated the injury and won’t be playing the rest of the series. Not great.

  • History should be on Tampa’s side, though. The Lightning haven’t lost back-to-back games in this postseason, so they’ll be fired up and ready to win the Cup when the puck drops at 8 p.m. ET for tonight’s Game 6.

MLB Playoff Picture is Set

September 28, 2020
SOURCE: HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Nothing like saving it to the last minute. With 15 games scheduled on the last day of the MLB regular season, the full postseason picture was finally set yesterday. Nothing like playoff baseball!

How’s the postseason set up?: The MLB is divided into two leagues: the National League (NL) and the American League (AL). Those leagues are further divided into three divisions: the East, West and Central. For this year’s playoffs, a total of 16 teams (up from the usual 10) will make the postseason: the top two teams from each of the six divisions, as well as the next two best teams in each league (who would usually face off in a single-elimination Wild Card game to move on to the next round).

  • This year, all teams will play in a best-of-three Wild Card series (which will be played in the higher ranked team’s home stadium) to earn a spot in the best-of-five Division Series (which will take place in a bubble).

So who’s in?: In the AL, the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Oakland A’s won their divisions, and the league-best LA Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs led their NL divisions.

  • Ahead of yesterday's smorgasbord, there were just two remaining playoff spots — both in the NL — with four teams fighting for them. In the end, the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers came out victorious in the MLB version of musical chairs. For a look at all the playoff-bound teams, check out this bracket.

What happens now?: Four Wild Card series are set to start tomorrow and eight games are scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday. Get all your screens ready!

Toronto Blue Jays Rely on Youth in MLB Postseason

September 28, 2020
SOURCE: TORONTO BLUE JAYS/TWITTER
SOURCE: TORONTO BLUE JAYS/TWITTER

The GIST: After the untimely postseason losses of the Toronto Raptors and almost every Canadian NHL team, us Canadians now have an unlikely playoff team to get behind: the Toronto Blue Jays.

The team: The Jays were meant to be in a rebuilding year and weren’t really supposed to make the playoffs, but here we (thankfully!) are. With hot new pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu (who joined Toronto in a blockbuster deal last December) and some heavy-hitting second-year sluggers, the Jays have been relying on their youthful confidence to get them to the postseason.

  • The Jays are the youngest team in the postseason, with an average age of 25.9, and are making history as the only team to ever enter the playoffs without a single player who has at least 10 years of MLB experience. Experience shmerience.

The players: Off the mound, look for Teoscar Hernández, Randal Grichuk and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to hit dingers and run up the score. Meanwhile, look to Bo “The Flow” Bichette and Cavan Biggio to hold things down on defense.

The postseason: The Jays finished eighth in the AL, so they have a tough matchup against the No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays’ roster is virtually unrecognizable since they last made the playoffs in 2016, so here’s hoping that youth outweighs experience in this one. Game 1 starts tomorrow at 5 p.m. ET. Play ball!

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#Baseball#Canada
🏒🏀

Stamkos Returns; MLB Playoffs Near; WNBA, NBA Postseason Coming to a Close

September 24, 2020
SOURCE: BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos knows how to make an entrance. After battling an injury since February, he finally made it back to the ice...and during the Stanley Cup Final, no less.

Tell me everything: Stamkos made his first appearance in nearly seven months in last night’s Game 3 against the Dallas Stars, and he made his presence known right away, scoring on his first shot of the game.

  • The goal gave the Lightning the push to pull off a 5–2 win. Unfortunately, Stamkos wasn’t in it for the long haul and didn’t return to the game in the second period, but here’s hoping he can make it back for Game 4, slated for tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET.

What about basketball?: The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat faced off in a spicy Game 4 last night in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. With a 112–109 win, the Heat are now up 3-1 in the series and will nab a spot in the NBA Finals with a Game 5 win tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. ET.

  • In the Western Conference finals, the Denver Nuggets showed signs of life in a 114–106 win over the LA Lakers on Tuesday. They’re only a game behind in the best-of-seven series, and Game 4 is set for tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
  • And for those wondering when the new season will begin (even though this one is still raging), NBA commissioner Adam Silver said yesterday that a January start at the earliest is his “best guess.” No Christmas Day games? Bah humbug.

And the WNBA?: After a few inconclusive COVID-19 tests (don’t worry, everyone’s fine!) pushed the series from its original Sunday start, Tuesday’s Game 1 ended up being a thriller. With the Storm leading most of the game, things got shaky when the Lynx mounted a fourth-quarter comeback.

  • Tied with seconds left, it all came down to a buzzer-beating rebound from Storm star Alysha Clark, who won it for her team 88–86. Unreal. Game 2 is set for tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.
  • The other semifinal matchup wasn’t as close but was still fun to watch. The Las Vegas Aces took Game 2 83–75 over the Connecticut Sun, tying up the best-of-five series. Their Game 3 is also tonight with tip-off at 9:30 p.m. ET, and then both series continue on Sunday. Follow the full schedule here.

Any other playoff news?: But of course! There are four more game days left in the MLB regular season, and like a high-stakes game of musical chairs, there are 12 teams fighting for six remaining playoff spots. Check out the full standings and playoff bracket here.