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

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!


 

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How Texans' CJ Stroud got the last laugh on Panthers entire organization

When Bryce Young and CJ Stroud were drafted with the first two picks of the NFL Draft, we knew they would be compared to one another for years to come.

And here we are just 11 games into the season and one quarterback has already seen his head coach fired. Panthers owner David Tepper spoke to the media on Wednesday and discussed his decision to fire Frank Reich, and also set the record straight on how they arrived at the decision to draft Young.

In so many words, Tepper basically blamed the Texans for how the top of the draft played out. He mentioned Stroud by name and said the Panthers were ready to draft him at No. 2 overall until the Texans backed out of the three-team trade with the Bears.

Tepper made a point of saying everyone in their building had Bryce Young as the top player on their draft board, despite rumors about Frank Reich preferring Stroud.

CJ Stroud and the Texans have been so much better than Bryce Young and the Panthers that Tepper clearly felt it was necessary to defend himself, and the decisions he's made for the organization.

In the end, the person that gets the worst end of the deal is Bryce Young. Coaching changes can be very difficult on young quarterbacks. And it looks like he'll have to learn a new offense in his second year when the Panthers hire a new coaching staff.

How fortunate we are as Texans fans to have DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud leading the team moving forward.

With all of this in mind, is there a reason Texans fans haven't fully bought in to the new-look Texans? JJ Watt was a guest on The Pat McAfee Show this week and was asked about the team's inability to fill the stadium on Sundays.

As a former player for the Colts, McAfee always thought Houston had the loudest and best fans in the NFL. And while the Texans are 9th in attendance this year according to ESPN, even CJ Stroud has asked for the fans to fill the stadium.

So there is something to it. You can see the empty seats in photos. So why aren't the Texans packing NRG with a shiny new franchise QB?

We believe the recent history of the team is why fans are slowly coming back. McAfee wasn't here for:

Bill O'Brien cussing at fans during games

Trading DeAndre Hopkins away for next to nothing

The Jack Easterby disaster

Deshaun Watson allegedly blaming ownership for why he wanted out

The Deshaun Watson scandal

Firing back-to-back coaches after one season, and the list goes on.

Don't miss the video above for the full conversation!

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