OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: Thanks to a poor showing by the Rockets and an amazing effort from Lebron James, it's Warriors vs. Cavs again

Lebron James was amazing for the Cavs. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

An hour before Game Seven Mike D’Antoni stated the dreadful words for Rocket fans. Chris Paul would not play because of his hamstring injury. D'Antoni said they made the decision because: "He couldn't explode. He couldn't push off of it."

Paul’s scoring, defense, toughness and leadership were keys to all three Rockets wins.

His teammates looked like bricklayers, making 7 of 44 from 3-point range, missing 27 straight.

Even CP3 haters and curmudgeons can empathize with the tough and respected Rockets star being unavailable.

It sucks big time when a player who has worked so hard to get to the Finals, then gets injured in the closing minutes of Game 5 win.  But the reality is some guys just have bad luck.

There is no sense overanalyzing Monday night’s loss.  When you suck doing what you have done successfully all season, and it backfires, there is zero chance of miracles.  

James Harden finished with 32 points, six rebounds and six assists but was only 12-of-29 from the floor and 2-of-13 on 3s.  

In three playoff series since becoming a Rocket, the Beard has delivered a stinko performance his last game of the season.

It will be a summer of what-could-have-been for the Rockets, who couldn't finish off the Warriors without Paul after putting them on the ropes.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey, the architect of the team built to knock off Golden State, has a busy summer ahead. The signing of center Clint Capela to a long-term deal, along with the structure of Paul’s contract, are top priorities.  He must get rid of Ryan Anderson and his bloated contract. You can say goodbye to Joe Johnson, Nene, Aaron Jackson

Once Paul and Capela are signed to long-term contracts, the focus will turn to Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green.

All three players will be free agents this summer and could be salary-cap casualties because of the high cost of the roster.

For Houston fans, once again its wait until next year. For the fourth straight June, it’s the Warrior’s against LeBron and the worst talent he has ever been surrounded with in the Finals.

I have been fortunate to witness some of the greatest individual performances in sports over my career.  None tops what LeBron James did over the weekend

There are not enough superlatives to describe the once in a generation brilliance of LeBron James.  Superstar seems so passé, defining his Game Seven performance against the Boston Celtics.

Wasting time and energy debating James’s place in the history of the game has become a debate for fans and media. However, there’s no debating LeBron dragging a group of average players to the Eastern Conference championship by coming back from a 3-2 deficit and winning a decisive Game 7.  Doing it without fellow All-Star Kevin Love is one of the defining accomplishments of his storied career.

It’s a greater pure basketball achievement than any of his three championships won with super teams put together by Pat Riley in Miami and later when LeBron returned to Cleveland.

It is difficult to compare his performance, through sheer force of will and force-of-nature ability, taking down a better, deeper, younger, more athletic Celtics team. After his 46-point tour de force in Game 6, James had 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in Game 7, while playing all 48 minutes. 

Perhaps, more impressive than James’s domination in the final two games of this series was his stamina. He played all but 114 seconds of the final two games. He outlasted a young Celtics team.

James’ teams have now won six straight Game 7s, and he is 6-2 all-time in seventh games.

This is what LeBron does. He's capable of the seemingly impossible, like a modern-day Superman. It is LeBron's eighth straight Finals appearance.

 This season was unlike any other this decade for LeBron. Kyrie Irving forced a trade in August and the Cavs revamped their roster in February by moving Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose.

James is prone to saying that the two best words in sports are “Game  7.” It is an occasion when the lines dividing success from failure are at their thinnest.

The reality is that’s when the weight and pressure help create unforgettable moments. That’s when the stakes help define legacies. It's when the greatest of stars, like James, don't even look at the bench, when they pour every ounce into one game with the clearest possible outcomes.  The passion, emotion, heart and refusal to lose put the King in a special place in sports history.

But he will be on vacation soon.

Golden State wins in five.

Regardless of where LeBron ends up next year, the Cavs run in the East is done.  In defeat, Brad Stephens’ young Celtics, without stars Gordon Hayward and Irving, should dominate for several seasons.

Verlander dominant

Justin Verlander put on a clinic at Yankee Stadium, beating the Yankees again, slowing down the highest-scoring team in the majors and pitching the Houston Astros past New York 5-1 Monday.  

 Verlander exited in the seventh inning with a major league-best 1.11 ERA., tipping his cap to the thousands of Yankee fans booing him.

 J.D. Davis hit an early three-run homer and Jose Altuve had a solo drive, helping Houston win for the sixth time in eight games.  Altuve broke out of a horrible slump with 10 straight hits, raising his batting average from near .300 to .329.

 In 12 starts this year, Verlander has permitted only 10 earned runs. It seems to have rubbed off on some of his teammates. The AL ERA leaders:

1.

Verlander • HOU

1.08

2.

Morton • HOU

2.04

3.

Cole • HOU

2.05

The Astros have three of the top six leaders in strikeouts, led by former Pirate Gerrit Cole with 13 per game, Verlander is fourth with 11.2 and Charlie Morton is sixth in the American League with 10.9.

Chirp!


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome