FALCON POINTS

IF the NBA and NHL come back, here is a proposal for a World Cup-style tourney to determine the champs

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Let's face it; we probably aren't getting sports back any time soon. Baseball has no shortage of plans, including this intriguing one, and football still has some time. The NBA and NHL might simply just be screwed at this stage.

But there might be a way to at least crown a champion in each league by doing something somewhat radical. Why not a World Cup/Olympic style single elimination tournament in each? If the leagues worked together, the elimination rounds could be on separate days, so fans would have almost two full weeks of sports. Obviously there would be no fans, but the TV numbers would be huge. The single elimination (after a round robin first round) would make every game meaningful. It would appeal to the NBA's desire to have some kind of in-season tournament, only this time it would be there to determine a champion. For the NHL, it would create in some interest in a sport that is desperate for it.

HOW IT WOULD WORK

First, this is purely speculation. I realize there is almost no way this could work. but for the sake of having a little fun, In our format, there would be four, five-team World Cup style "pods." You would start with the 16 teams currently in the playoffs and add the next two in each conference to get to 20. Each "pod" would feature a four-game round robin, with seedings for the elimination rounds based on the results.

From there, you play a 16-team, single elimination tournament. Each round would have a day off in between, where the other league would play its games.

Each round of games would take place in one venue.

HOW THE NBA WOULD LOOK

You could not really match pods by current seedings, because you would want things as geographically close as possible, so that the first round matchups could be played in one place. Based on the standings when the season ended, your pods would look something like this:

WEST A (Staples Center)

Lakers

Clippers

Utah

Portland

Denver

WEST B (American Airlines Center, Dallas)

Oklahoma City

Houston

Dallas

Memphis

New Orleans (wins tiebreaker over Sacramento based on head to head)

One team in each pod would be eliminated. The second round single elimination would feature:

WA1 vs. WB4

WA2 vs. WB 3

WB2 vs. WA3

WB1 vs. WA4

Ideally, all the remaining rounds would be at one venue, likely Staples Center, although California law might require Dallas to be the site. It really doesn't matter where, as long as they are all in the same place.

You would play down to one team, which would face the East champ, which would go through the same process. Here is how the East would look:

EAST A (TD Garden, Boston)

Toronto

Boston

Philadelphia

Brooklyn

Washington

EAST B (Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee)

Milwaukee

Indiana

Miami

Orlando

Charlotte

The knockout round would be as follows, ideally one spot, perhaps Madison Square Garden? Again, no fans, so it really doesn't matter:

EA1 vs. EB4

EA2 vs. EB 3

EB2 vs. EA3

EB1 vs. EA4

Is it fair that some of these pods feature more good teams than others? Not really, but keep in mind everyone advances except for one team, and the first round is for seeding. Obviously the West A and East A groups are tougher, but that happens in the World Cup all the time. This way, you keep the conference model, and your one-game championship features the West champ vs. the East champ.

HOW THE NHL WOULD LOOK

Keep in mind, exact same format, sticking primarily to the divisions:

EAST A (BB&T Center, Florida) (Insert your, Panthers are the perfect host for no fans because joke here)

Boston

Tampa

Toronto

Florida

Carolina

EAST B (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia)

Washington

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Columbus

NY Islanders

Knockout round:

EA1 vs. EB4

EA2 vs. EB 3

EB2 vs. EA3

EB1 vs. EA4

WEST A (Pepsi Center, Colorado)

St. Louis

Colorado

Dallas

Winnipeg

Nashville

WEST B (T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas_

Las Vegas

Edmonton

Calgary

Vancouver

Arizona

Knockout round:

WA1 vs. WB4

WA2 vs. WB 3

WB2 vs. WA3

WB1 vs. WA4

In both leagues, the 1-4 winners face the 2-3 winners, then the semifinals, then the finals. Vegas would be the perfect host stadium.

One you are into the elimination rounds, imagine the intensity of those games. Sure, you could ride a hot goalie all the way to a championship. But that has happened in the Olympics as well. Is it perfect? No. Is anything these days? But if it makes sense from a health perspective, it might be a nice way to crown a 2020 champ NCAA tourney/World Cup style, give us a little taste of sports and not mess up scheduling for the 2021 season. Plus, from a selfish standpoint, it gives us something to watch (and bet on). Practice time would not be a huge issue, because you use a week to get in shape and then the round robin is also used somewhat as practice.

Would the champions be comparable to winners of four seven-game series? No, and in a perfect world, that's what we would get. But if you haven't noticed, this is pretty far from a perfect world.

Anyway, it will never happen, but it is always fun to speculate. Besides, what else is there to do right now?

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After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

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