Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear me out...The toughest golfer in the world and NBA Playoffs talk

 

April 14, 2018

COURTESY/ MGN

I know winning the Master's was an incredible achievement for Patrick Reed last weekend. But Reed slipping on the green jacket was the second most impressive highlight at Augusta National, the first belongs to Tony Finau.

What's so impressive about a guy that finished tied for 10th you ask? Well, Finau played all four rounds on a severe high ankle sprain after he dislocated his ankle during the Par-3 Contest the day before the Master's started.

Finau dislocated his ankle, popped that sucker back in, got cleared by the doctor, walked up and down the hilly course of Augusta National for four-straight days battling against the world's best golfers and still found a way to place in the top 10.

That level of internal fortitude is reserved for the likes of 300 Spartans. I wouldn't be surprised if we get a movie out of this one day with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing Finau. You might think that's ridiculous but both are of Samoan decent and Johnson does not turn down a role offered to him.

Seriously, Johnson doesn't say no to anything.

This weekend his movie "Rampage" opens, and it's based on a video game series where you play as one of three massive creatures with the goal of smashing major cities to bits. Personally, "Rampage World Tour" on the N64 was my favorite. There's a loose plot happening in these games, to put it nicely, but ultimately the goal is about smashing cities. How they got an hour and 47-minute runtime out of so little, is beyond me and might be the only reason I watch the movie.

I'm not taking shots at Johnson either, it's all about cashing them checks and he's among the best at it.

Back to Finau, I did a quick Google search on Augusta National and how many miles one walks when playing a round there. An average golfer will walk eight to nine miles per round, so given the fact that these are pros I'm guessing they walk six to seven. So that's 28-24 miles in four days on a high ankle sprain.

I used to think golfers were a bunch of ninnies but Finau might have single-handedly changed my mind of that fact. His performance should be up there with Michael Jordan's flu game; that spelling bee kid passing out only to pop back up and spell his word correctly; or gymnast Kerri Strung landing her vault with a sprained ankle to give the US the gold.

NBA PLAYOFFS

The NBA playoffs start today and this year I've watched far less NBA than I would have liked. Part of that could be my Chicago Bulls were a disaster and found ways to be terrible but also hurt their chances at a top 3 pick by winning too much. The Bulls season perfectly encapsulates the front office, when they were a top-five team they were good but not good enough to be a serious title threat. Now when they're bad, they're not bad enough to land a top-three pick and that franchise player.

While I haven't been able to watch as many games as I'd like, I have followed the NBA by the usual means of the ESPN's Zach Lowe, The Ringer, different podcasts and the talking head shows. And I agree with those experts and personalities that this first-round is going to be entertaining.

The first round has been a drag ever since the league switched the first round from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven series in 2003. Occasionally, we'll get some great matchups like we had last year or with the Celtics-Bulls in '09, Spurs-Mavs in '14, Trailblazers-Rockets in '14, Clippers-Spurs in '15, but for the most part there are a lot of duds and the playoffs really don't begin until the second round.

This year's series have legitimately entertaining matchups that can go six or seven games. (Watch now that I have said that, six of the eight series are going to be sweeps or only make it five games)

There's a lot to be excited about, even the Rockets-Timberwolves series should be interesting. I don't expect the 'Wolves to beat the Rockets but they can steal a game or two if Karl Anthony-Towns and/or Jimmy Butler have a monster games in them.

The Rockets are among the favorites to win this season but Vegas currently has the Warriors as the favorite to be the final team standing. There is caution with the Rockets and rightfully so, their two best players James Harden and Chris Paul don't have a track record of success during this time of year. Paul has never made a conference finals and Harden is notorious for being a no-show in big games.

At some point in these playoffs when a series starts that narrative is going to come into play for Harden and Paul. I'm sure they will play it off and say they don't pay any attention to that noise but that is a lie. Hell, Harden started trying on defense because the internet relentlessly mocked him for his horrendous defense.

Be on the lookout for that.

Staying in the West, the Thunder-Jazz series is going to be fun, physical matchup. I fully expect to see Russell Westbrook try and murder Jazz center Rudy Gobert at the rim at some point, and Carmelo Anthony will win the Thunder a game but also cost them a game by going 4-20.

The defending champion Warriors are going against the Spurs without Steph Curry. The Spurs roster consists of LaMarcus Aldridge, guys you're surprised are still in the league and dudes you've never heard. Yet, Gregg Popovich being the wizard he is somehow got this team to 47 wins and into the playoffs while his best player Kawhi Leonard has been AWOL. The Warriors should take this series in four or five but if by some miracle Leonard decides he wants to play, this series becomes a must watch.

The Blazers-Pelicans series is going to be a lot of fun, heavy on the offense and light on the defense. Rajon Rondo is returning to form and "Playoff Rondo" is a real thing; he and Jrue Holiday can raise hell for Blazer guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Then with sneaky MVP candidate Anthony Davis finally hitting the level we've all wanted him to hit, I'm calling it now, the Pelicans will upset the Blazers.

Over on the East, it's going to be a two-team race between Cleveland and Philadelphia. Cleveland has been a mess all season but they still have the best player on the planet, LeBron James. Things could get tricky for them in the first-round though, the Pacers can steal a game here and there while some of the Cavs who haven't played in a playoff series before, get their feet wet.

The second round won't be much trouble for the Cavs, it's either Toronto or Washington and neither is going keep LeBron up at night.

The Sixers are 22-5 since the All-Star break and are currently on a 16-game winning streak. Although I'm not sold on the winning streak, 12 of those wins came against losing teams or teams that have been actively tanking.

Still, I really like this Philly team to take a shot at the King. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are their two best players and are matchup nightmares. Embiid is still out right now but is expected to return at some point during the Miami series.

The Sixers are the sexy pick to make the Eastern Conference Finals and sexy picks tend to flame out, yet this group feels different. The Heat will push them sure, but after that, they need to beat either the Celtics or Bucks. Neither of which has the firepower to take down the Sixers.

The Celtics have the next great wizard coach Brad Stevens but he doesn't have the players to stop Philly. And the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo but no coach to help him get past the second round.

The Cavs-Sixers ECF is going to be wonderfully entertaining with so many narratives flying around it's going to be like an episode of "LOST."

But, until that point though, enjoy this first-round of the NBA playoffs!

 
 

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