NBA playoffs, MLB, Champions League, UFC: The sports world is certainly trying to make up for its 4-month hiatus during the Big Rona, and I for one am not complaining. This week provided us with a taste of all the things that make sports intriguing and addicting. We saw underdogs and longshots alike pull off some big upsets, superstars doing superstar things, and legacies decided. Here to recap this past week and bring you the most exciting action in the week to come is your faithful servant, BTB.
Surprise Results in Champions League
COVID-19 forced UEFA to change up their Champions League plans this year, moving away from the home-and-away leg format for the knockout rounds, and instead moved the teams to a bubble in Lisbon, Portugal and made the quarterfinals and semifinals one leg, winner-take-all affairs. The results from this past week were four exciting and surprising events. First, Neymar and PSG rallied late with 2 goals in the 90th minute and added time to skate by Atalanta. We then saw RB Leipzig pull off the upset over Atletico Madrid, and help BTB cash a huge 2-1 exact score bet. However, the final two quarterfinals brought the most entertainment. Friday saw Bayern Munich absolutely dismantle Messi and Barcelona 8-2 in a game that Bayern dominated the entire time. After blowing a 3-0 first-leg lead to Liverpool in last year’s Champions League, Barca looks like they’ll need some major changes to get back to Champions League contention. Saturday’s capper featured 7th place French side Lyon against tournament favorites Manchester City. Though Lyon took an early lead, when superstar Kevin De Bruyne tied it up with just over 20 minutes to play, Man City looked certain to score again and move onto the semis, but 10 minutes later Lyon’s super-sub Moussa Dembélé netted a go-ahead goal. Then in the 86th minute, Raheem Sterling missed a goal that I could have scored by inexplicably launching a tap in over the goal, and a minute later Dembélé sealed it for Lyon with his second goal. Lyon were +1050 underdogs heading into the game, and while they will be massive dogs again vs. Bayern this week, it was exciting to see a Cinderella keep dancing in a major sports tournament, something we missed out on with the cancellation of March Madness. Look forward to PSG v. Leipzig on Tuesday and Bayern v. Lyon on Wednesday this week.
Dame Time Begins as Trail Blazers Clinch Final Playoff Spot
The NBA restart certainly produced a lot more excitement than I anticipated. Everyone, including me, thought the NBA was going to do whatever it took to get the Pelicans in, but the Pels went 2-6 in the bubble and were never really in it. Everyone, I included, thought the Suns would come to the bubble for a Disney vacation, and all they did was go 8-0 and make a legit run at the 8th seed in the West. And everyone, including me, thought Dame Lillard would ball out and figure out a way to get the Trail Blazers into the playoffs, and well, he did. After averaging over 37 PPG in the 8 restart games and scoring 51, 61, and 42 in the team’s last 3 games to get them into the play-in tournament, Dame scored 31 to lift the Blazers over the Grizzlies and into the Western Conference 8th seed. While the consolation prize for this spot is a first-round series with Lebron and AD’s Lakers, I’m hopeful Dame can produce some more magic and make this a competitive series. In general, I think the NBA bubble atmosphere will create a lot more parity among playoff teams and we will see more upsets than year’s past in this current postseason. Nuggets v. Jazz kick off the playoffs on Monday at 1:30 PM.
Stipe Miocic Wins Trilogy Against Daniel Cormier
The fight for the greatest UFC heavyweight champion was this past Saturday, with Stipe Miocic winning in a unanimous decision over Daniel "DC" Cormier. For two big hitters, the fight was not as exciting as some had anticipated, with Stipe’s flurry at the end of the 2nd round being the closest thing we came to a knockout. The respect between the two fighters was apparent, but apart from the first round, I thought Miocic decisively won every round and was a deserving champ. With DC retiring after the fight, my hope for the future of the UFC heavyweight division is that Francis Ngannou fights and knocks out Miocic, Tyson Fury signs a contract with Dana White, and we get a Fury v. Ngannou title fight next year. A guy can dream.
Fedex Cup Playoff Begins
Most of golf’s big names took this past weekend’s Wyndham Championship, with most of them having clinched their spot in the playoffs and looking for a little rest before the next three weeks. Jim Herman saw this as a great opportunity to make some noise, and the 500-1 underdog cashed in big on his opportunity with a one-stroke win on Sunday. After being 4 holes from missing the cut on Friday, he snuck into the weekend and shot a torrid -16 over Saturday and Sunday. While he earned a spot among the big hitters in the three-week FedEx Cup Playoff, starting Thursday, he’s not expected to be among the contenders for the $15 million dollar prize. Personally, I like Xander Schauffele as a sleeper pick who could make some noise in the coming weeks.
MLB Continues as Standings Take Shape
While the MLB season could be off to a more auspicious start, fans will likely agree that some baseball is better than no baseball and hope that the season will actually finish without too many more hiccups. When teams are actually able to play without being exposed to dozens of COVID cases, the action has been exciting, and a few surprise teams have emerged as playoff contenders. As of today, the Marlins lead their division, the defending champion Nationals are out of the playoffs, and the Orioles and Rockies will be playing in October. It's tough to gauge where we are in the season, as I don’t think its as simple as saying 1 game is equal to 2.7 in this format, but with the majority of big-league teams playing at least 20 games, we are now into the heart of the season and teams will have much less time to turn it around. In terms of how things will shape up at the end, I’m predicting the Marlins make the playoffs. They’re used to no fans in the stadium and literally have nothing to lose. I also think having the other team think that they might get infected with COVID by Marlins players is definitely a competitive edge for the squad.
Enjoy the NBA playoffs today and look out for some PRTY Favors later in the week.