Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Toronto Raptors Even Series & Rain Delays at Roland Garros

The Toronto Raptors managed to take a second game in a row from the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers, who entered this series having swept to victory in each of the previous two rounds. Cleveland won the first two games at home in this series as well, which meant that they were 10-0 in these playoffs as the series shifted to Toronto.

A lot of sports pundits were less than thrilled, and said that Toronto just did not have the kind of talent to make a competitive series possible. And given that LeBron James had predicted that his Cavaliers would enjoy a perfect run through the postseason en route to a championship, people were perhaps beginning to believe it.

But all of that came crashing down when the Raptors blew out the Cavaliers in Saturday night, thus dashing the hopes of James and the Cavs of a possible run of perfection to the elusive title.

Then, last night, the Toronto Raptors looked ready once again. They were playing well, but really took over the game with a super solid second quarter.

However, the Cavaliers, to their credit, came out on fire in the final quarter, and even managed to erase what had once been an 18-point lead to take the lead briefly themselves.

Still, Toronto managed to make the big plays when they absolutely needed to, and were able (just barely) to secure the win and tie the series. Bismack Biyombo was particularly impressive with blocks of both LeBron James and Kevin Love.

No one is saying that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will fail to make it to the NBA Finals, which would be a record sixth straight NBA Finals appearance for James individually. Maybe they will even win the series and clinch a title for the championship-starved city of Cleveland.

However, they sure did not look as dominant as James' boasting in the last two games, and should get back to simply playing basketball now. An undefeated streak, or other levels of historical dominance, are not always great allies for the team having achieved it once the postseason rolls around. The winningest season in NHL history did not help the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, when the Colorado Avalanche managed to eliminate them in six games. It certainly did not help the 2007 New England Patriots, when they were on the verge of completing the perfect season, only to watch the New York Giants wrestle the title away. And don't look now, but currently, the Golden State Warriors are down 2 games to 1 in that series, and are looking decidedly more vulnerable than their 73-9 regular season suggested they were.

Likewise, the undefeated streak is over, and on some level, Cleveland should be glad, since they can dispense with thoughts of perfection, and can instead begin focusing on simply winning the next game, taking things a little bit easier.

Roland Garros/French Open

Not much to report yet at the French Open, as rain stalled play, which is actually rather typical for Parisian weather.

It is strange to think that this is the first Grand Slam tournament that Roger Federer has missed since 1999! Weird nowadays to think of such a major tournament in which he is not competing.

On the tournament's website, they were remembering the semifinal run by Pete Sampras 20 years ago. Yes, he reached the semifinal, and he also one other time reached the quarterfinal, but that was it for Sampras, as the French Open remained the one glaring omission in an otherwise legendary, nearly perfect, career. Like Wimbledon with Lendl, or like the French Open right now with Djokovic, the failure of Sampras to rise above previous limits and win this major on clay casts a shadow on his career, and is easily the reason that Andre Agassi, who only won eight Grand Slams himself (impressive, but falls considerable short of the 14 held by Sampras) is sometimes thought to be better than Sampras, while Federer and Nadal, the other two men who have won career Grand Slams since then, are also considered generally greater than Sampras.

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