THE PALLILOG

Charlie Pallilo: Plenty to see at the NBA Finals, what's next for the Rockets and Astros-Red Sox

Charlie Pallilo: Plenty to see at the NBA Finals, what's next for the Rockets and Astros-Red Sox
What Lebron has done is incredible. Gregory Shamus

So, do you care about these NBA Finals? If not and you are a basketball fan you should, despite the major letdown of knowing it was sooooo close to being the Rockets against the Cavaliers. Alas, it’s the Cavs-Warriors quadrilogy. A lot of basketball fans probably have had enough of Cleveland-Golden State, but you know what? Meritocracy rules. They earned their way back, so deal with it. Or ignore it. It’s the first time ever in big league sports the same teams play for the championship four years in a row. Game 1 was a doozy. The almost incomparable LeBron with 51 points, but the Warriors got the victory aided by an all-time NBA moronic moment courtesy of the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith.

Versus the Rockets Golden State was a 2-1 favorite. The Warriors were better than 7-1 favorites over the Cavs. The Warriors are bidding to strengthen their dynasty stature with a third title in four years. James is trying to add for a fourth title to his personal dynasty. That would still be two shy of Michael Jordan’s six ring haul, but James has led his team to nine NBA Finals, three more than did Michael. And Jordan never took a team with as weak a supporting cast to the Finals.

Before you say “the East stinks, LeBron has had it easy!” consider the following: What other player at his current playing level if swapped for James over the last eight seasons would be making an eighth straight Finals appearance?  Durant? Curry? Davis? Harden? Stop it already. The correct answer is there isn’t one. Jordan himself may well have done it. But it’s not as if MJ slayed all sharks while LeBron has beaten only guppies. Those Knicks teams Jordan battled in the 90s? One Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing. The Pacer teams? One Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller. And the Jordan Bulls never in the Finals faced a team with at least three (maybe four) future Hall of Famers like this Warriors team has, or an individual opponent as great as Tim Duncan.

If James pulls this off, as unlikely as it is, he will very arguably have had as great an NBA career as Jordan.

On the Rockets…

Phenomenal season, hugely disappointing ending with the unanswerable what if…Chris Paul’s hamstring didn’t give out? But be real, that the Rockets definitely would have won with a healthy Paul is silly. They may well have won. Just as if Golden State hadn’t lost Andre Iguodala, it’s plausible the Warriors would have wrapped the series in five.

Going forward, Paul is not worth a full maximum contract.  His skill level remains sensational. But 5 years about $205 million for a 33-year-old point guard with a history of breaking down physically? Not smart. Daryl Morey is smart. The most Paul could get from another team is four years a little over $150 mil. No way should the Rockets offer beyond that.

Clint Capela is not worth a max contract, but with his restricted free agent status the Rockets are at the mercy of any team crazy enough to offer him one (or close to one). Capela’s max would start at about $25 mil the first season. Still, the Rockets almost have to match whatever comes Capela’s way. At least he’s only 24 years old.

Battle with Boston

It would have been a lot of fun to have Rockets-Celtics games one and two going on here while the Astros and Red Sox were playing up the street. Still, Astros-Red Sox as a stand-alone HTown-Beantown battle is pretty good. The Sox rolled into Minute Maid Park as the best team in baseball. Mookie Betts is the only other player in the Majors on Mike Trout’s level this season, and Boston’s addition of former Astros’ prospect flop J.D. Martinez has been brilliant. Betts-Martinez is the best one-two punch in the bigs this year, and to this point there isn’t a close second.

The Astros gave up on Martinez in spring training 2014, and not unreasonably so. J.D. had stunk for two years, was 26 years old, and offered little value beyond whatever his hitting ability was. Since then, you don’t need a third hand to count players who’ve been better in the batter’s box. Context: this will be the fourth time in five years Martinez’s OPS is higher than Jose Altuve’s. We can’t reasonably presume that if given more time Martinez would have figured it out as an Astro.

Buzzer Beaters

1. June is busting out all over. Good chance Carlos Correa will too. Despite homering in the last game of May Correa’s batting average for the month was just .192.  2. The Capitals-Knights Stanley Cup Final thus far has been spectacular. Watch some! 3. Tastiest sugary cereals: Bronze-Frosted mini-wheats Silver-Lucky Charms Gold-Raisin Bran.

 

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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