Knicks 1-2 punch KOs stunned Grizzlies in wild OT comeback

The Memphis Grizzlies contained the New York Knicks’ 1-2 punch for the first three quarters.

But Julius Randle and RJ Barrett came through with the knockout blows in the end as the Knicks pulled off a stunning comeback win, 133-129, in overtime on Friday night at The Garden.

Barrett scored a combined 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

He hit three pressure-packed free throws in the final 37 seconds and his barrelling layup against Ja Morant with 8.8 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime. Then with 1:15 remaining in the extra session and the game tied at 124, he knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer off a Randle kick-out pass.

“That’s winning basketball. You force the defense to collapse and hit the open man,” Tom Thibodeau said of the game’s biggest play that has become more frequent since the All-Star break.

Barrett’s clutch baskets came more than a week since Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards dissed him for missing a potential game-winner in Minnesota.

Barrett said in response that he couldn’t wait for the next chance to take another last-second shot.

He made sure not to blow it tonight.

“It always comes back around,” Barrett said. “We’ve been playing our butt off the past couple of games. It’s been close games, and today we were able to get this one. It just feels good to know we’re doing the right thing, keep working hard and keep working together, and it will pay off.”

Randle, who didn’t score his first field goal until the 3:16 mark in the third quarter, finished the game strong.

After going 1-for-7 through the first three quarters, Randle made three of his last five shots. He collected 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season.

It was a much-needed win for the Knicks after losing five of their last six games, with three of those losses decided by two points or less.

For three-fourths of the way, it appeared the Knicks wouldn’t break the slump as they stared at a 13-point deficit with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter.

“We needed it bad. This is the way to break out of that little slump or whatever you want to call it,” Randle said. “Guys stepped up. This is how we had to get out of it.”

Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley combined for 58 points off the bench as they kept the Knicks in the game when their 1-2 punch was struggling.

New York drew 72 points from its bench while Memphis could only cough up 35.

“The bench came in and gave us a big lift,” Thibodeau said. “Memphis has been playing well in their last 10 games, and we had to fight the whole game just to where we got the position to win. That’s what I like about the team. I thought our fight was terrific, the perseverance, and in the end, we made things go our way.”

It was a one-sided slugfest at the start, with the Grizzlies leading by as many as 15. The Knicks had to scrap and claw their way back behind their bench that played more minutes than the starters save for Randle and Barrett.

Rose did most of the damage in the first half, scoring 13 of his 19 points in his most productive performance since the trade.

Quickley crushed the rookie wall with 20 points and four triples. He’s been on a slump, shooting just 31 percent in his previous seven games. He sank 7-of-12 tonight.

Burks added 19 points, nine in the overtime.

After losing the last two games on the offensive glass, the Knicks were locked in on crashing the boards.

The Grizzlies came into the game as the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league. And the Knicks did a good job keeping them away from the glass.

New York won the battle of the boards, 48-43, and had more offensive rebounds, 11-10. The Knicks ended up with two more second-chance points than the Grizzlies.

Taj Gibson was the Knicks’ unsung hero. The 35-year old veteran center played an almost no-relief job in the fourth quarter and kept Jonas Valanciunas from the glass. Valanciunas finished with 14 rebounds but only had one in the entire fourth quarter.

Gibson chipped in six points and eight boards, five from the offensive glass, before fouling out.

The Knicks improved to 26-27 overall and 15-10 at home, with eight of their next 10 games at The Garden.

On the other hand, the Grizzlies saw their four-game winning streak came to an end despite all their starters scoring in double figures led by Morant’s 26 points.

The Knicks will host the shorthanded Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Ryan Bader dominates Lyoto Machida at Bellator 256

Ryan Bader

In the main event of Bellator 256, we saw the opening matchup of the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. Former light heavyweight champion and current heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader (27-6), was looking to get revenge against Lyoto Machida (26-10).

These two first met back in 2012 when both men were still fighting in the UFC. Machida was able to score the second round knockout that night. However, it was Ryan Bader who was the massive betting favorite heading into tonight’s contest.

The last time we saw Ryan Bader in the Bellator cage he lost his light heavyweight title to Vadim Nemkov. However, that was Bader’s first light heavyweight fight since 2017 and he didn’t look very fluid in the cage.

He was needing to have that light heavyweight rust knocked off tonight to beat The Dragon. Lyoto Machida has lost two in a row leading into Bellator 256. However, both of those fights were very close split decisions.

Despite being almost 43 years old, Machida still looks like he can hang with some of the best in the world. Bellator 256 was going to be a huge indicator on what Machida has left in the tank.

Bellator 256 Recap

Round 1

The Bellator 256 main event kicked off with a touch of the gloves. Bader immediately looked to press the action on Machida. However, he quickly backed off and both men started gauging the range.

Machida opened the striking with a good leg kick. A nasty body kick lands for The Dragon. Bader tries to push forward, but Machida slides out of the way. Another solid body kick lands for Lyoto Machida.

Bader tries to answer with his own kick, but it doesn’t land. The Bellator heavyweight champion lunges forward with a wild right that misses and Machida counters with another solid body kick.

The counter for Machida were on point early. Bader again tries to close the distance, but Machida counters and slides out of the way again. The ribs of Ryan Bader were very red from the kicks of Machida.

Bader is finally able to get inside and land a couple of shots after he gets Machida against the fence. A big high kick lands for Machida and Bader looks wobbled. Machida presses forward, but the round comes to a close. 1-0 Machida at Bellator 256.

Round 2

The second round opened and the Bellator heavyweight champion looked a little less confident. Machida tries to open with another headkick, but Bader blocks well. However, Machida lands a nasty body kick after.

Bader throws a powerful kick, but it didn’t land flush. Another big body kick lands for Lyoto Machida. Bader is pressing forward, but he’s not landing much here in the first two minutes of the round.

Machida looked extremely composed as Bader continued to try and press forward. Bader had Machida’s back to the fence and started to look for big shots. However, he wasn’t able to land clean.

Machida lands a nice superman punch and Bader explodes into a takedown. He rushes Machida against the fence and gets the takedown. Immediately Machida started to use the fence, but Bader was landing good shots.

This is where the Bellator champion wants to be. Ryan Bader continued to land some solid left hands along the fence. The round comes to a close and it’s all even after two at Bellator 256.

Round 3

There appeared to be a bit more pep in the step of Bader to start the third round. Machida tried to start the round with one of his blitzes, but Bader evaded. However, Machida did land another good body kick.

Bader moved forward and again, Machida found his back to the fence. Machida continued to circle trying to keep Bader from cutting him off. A big shot lands for the Bellator heavyweight champion and Machida is looking tired.

Some deep breaths from Machida and Bader lands another big shot. He chains that shot into a big double leg and he gets Machida down. Bader immediately started going to work with big ground and pound.

Machida tried to work a couple of escapes, but he’s exhausted. Bader started dropping massive shots on Machida, but The Dragon took them well. Machida was able to work back to his guard.

One minute left in the round and it’s all Ryan Bader right now. Two more clean shots land for Bader and Machida looks busted up. Bader continues to pepper Machida and the round comes to a close. The momentum is all Ryan Bader at Bellator 256.

Round 4

Entering the fourth round at Bellator 256 and Lyoto Machida wasn’t looking so good. Bader immediately presses forward as the fourth round begins. Machida tries to throws his best power shots at Bader and a couple of clean shots land.

However, nothing seriously hurt Bader. Bader stayed composed and he countered Machida’s attack with a takedown. The Bellator heavyweight champion again had Machida against the fence and he started working his ground and pound.

Bader continued to softened Machida with shots as he looked to pass the guard. Two clean elbows land for Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida wasn’t looking great on the bottom.

Machida was looking hurt and didn’t appear to have the energy to try and get back up. Bader continued to land big shots in the final minute. The fourth round comes to a close at Bellator 256 and it’s all Ryan Bader.

Round 5

Entering the final round and Lyoto Machida needed a miracle at Bellator 256. The two touch gloves and Bader immediately goes back to the pressure. Machida lands a couple of kicks, but Bader shoots in and lands another takedown.

Bader opens his ground strikes with a vicious body shot that got a reaction out of Machida. Machida was trying to defend, but he just didn’t have the energy. He briefly got to his feet, but Bader immediately dragged him down.

Bader continued to pepper the face of Machida with big shots on the ground. However, there was no quit in Lyoto Machida. Bader pressed Machida against the fence and continued to land big shots.

Bader gets to the back of Machida along the fence. Machida tried to use that moment to get to his feet, but Bader was so heavy on the pressure. Bader immediately pulls Machida right back down.

One minute left at Bellator 256 and Machida needed a miracle. Bader started pouring it on trying to finish, but Machida defended well. The final bell sounds and Ryan Bader will pick up the win and advance in the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Ryan Bader def. Lyoto Machida by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 49-45, 49-45)

New York Giants: Manning brothers join the digital art “NFT” craze

Everyone knows by now that former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is getting into television after his retirement, but it looks like he and his brother also have something else they’re working on this year. And that’s something that isn’t the first thing you’d think of as a business venture for two former NFL quarterbacks: the digital art space.

You might have heard by now about the NFT bubble, which is somewhat related to the cryptocurrency space but not the same thing. You might also be confused, but essentially, the technology allows for the sale of art digitally.

It aims to imitate the world of physical art sales, allowing someone to buy an “original” piece of art instead of a copy. The trend has reached the news because of many high profile sales, some worth millions of dollars.

Celebs are starting to take note and it looks like that includes the Manning brothers. According to Adam Schefter, Peyton and Eli Manning are the first former NFL players to join the trend and will do so by launching their own collection on MakersPlace.

The collection is set to go up on the 16th of this month, and a portion of the proceeds go to charity. If you check out the home page of the auction site, you’ll find plenty of types of art ranging from the traditional to more abstract pieces. It will be interesting to see just how the Manning collection does on the market when compared to the rest of the selection.

If you want to buy anything from it yourself, though, you’ll probably have to be prepared to pay up. There’s a recent trend of NFTs going for crazy prices, and the Mannings have the celebrity status that helps with starting a bidding war.

UFC: Aljamain Sterling to have neck surgery which will sideline him until the end of the year

UFC fans are going to have to wait for the rematch between Aljamain Sterling (20-3) and Petr Yan (15-2). The bantamweight champion told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he’s set for neck surgery on April 15th.

The surgery is to address a medical issue that Sterling has apparently been dealing with for the past ten years. There had been whispers of a summer rematch between Sterling and Yan, but that is now off the table. Sterling won the title by disqualification last month.

The UFC champion told ESPN, “They told me I will heal in three months, and can start doing cardio to get myself ready. They wouldn’t want to see me take a fight until they see everything has fused in my neck correctly. Five months would be ideal.”

Sterling went on to say that he doesn’t believe that the UFC should make an interim title. He pointed out that Yan went the same amount of time between winning the title and their matchup at UFC 259.

What’s next for the UFC?

Sterling told ESPN that in an ideal world he would defend his title in either late October or early November. So, what does the UFC do and will Petr Yan sit on the sidelines for that amount of time?

I’m really not sure what’s going to happen because this surgery screws up the entire timeline. The UFC wanted Sterling and Yan to rematch in the summer. The plan was to have the winner of TJ Dillashaw – Cory Sandhagen fight for the title in the fall.

However, with Sterling out, all bets are off. If I had to guess, I think the UFC is going to make an interim title. I could be dead wrong, but something tells me that they will.

My guess is that the winner of TJ Dillashaw – Cory Sandhagen will fight Petr Yan in the summer for the interim title. The winner of that matchup would then fight Sterling for the undisputed UFC title in the fall. Might not make sense to Sterling, but that’s the direction I think the promotion goes in.

New York Rangers pick up an Important Victory over the Islanders

After a difficult loss on Thursday night, the New York Rangers rebounded to defeat the New York Islanders by a score of 4-1. Alexandar Georgiev was outstanding in goal after not seeing action for the last 11 games.

The Rangers are the second NHL team that has earned a regulation win at Nassau Coliseum this season. The Islanders came into the game with a 17-1-2 home record on the season. They have won each of their last five games at Nassau Coliseum, dating back to Feb. 16, 2015.

Alexis Lafreniere opened the scoring for the Rangers by scoring at 6:05 of the first period.

Colin Blackwell scored the second goal for the Rangers, extending his goal streak to three games, which is a new career-high. He ranks third on the Rangers in even-strength goals this season with nine.

K’Andre Miller scored the third goal for the Rangers as Mika Zibanejad added an empty-net goal to finish up the Blueshirts scoring. Miller now leads all rookie defenders in scoring.

Artemi Panarin had two assists on the night. He has 93 career assists, passing Mark Messier for the most assists by a player within his first 100 games with the franchise.

Georgiev was a big factor in the New York Rangers win.

The young Russian made 31 saves on the game, only giving up an Andy Greene goal in the second period. Georgiev hadn’t started a game since March 19.

“I haven’t played for a while,” Georgiev said in his post-game Zoom conference. “But I felt comfortable coming into it. I just did my job, the same as I usually do. It felt like kind of like a playoff game and it was really fun to take part in it.”

Georgiev gave credit to Ranger’s goaltending coach Benoit Allaire for keeping him ready while he waited to get his turn in goal. “Every practice I would come out early and spend with Benny,” Georgiev said. “A lot was more mental, trying to be better every day. Tried to take it one day at a time to make my game better.”

Head coach David Quinn was very pleased with his goaltender’s performance. “I liked a lot about his game tonight. I thought Georgie was sharp, as he usually is against the Islanders. It is not easy to sit as long as he has and come out and play the way that he did.”

The New York Rangers will face their cross-town rival again on Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UFC Vegas 23 Preview: Mike Perry – Daniel Rodriguez

Tomorrow afternoon on the main card of UFC Vegas 23, we will see a fun scrap in the welterweight division. The polarizing “Platinum” Mike Perry (14-7) is back as he takes on Daniel Rodriguez (13-2).

Mike Perry is quite the character, but he’s been a PR headache for the UFC. 2020 was filled with outside of the octagon issues with Perry, but after the birth of his son, he says that he’s a changed man.

He definitely seems more serious about tomorrow’s fight than his previous matchup. Perry took on Tim Means back at UFC 255 and badly missed weight. Means would go on to outstrike Perry to win a decision.

This could be a do or die fight for Mike Perry. While he’s never in a boring fight, he’s also just 3-6 in his last nine trips inside the octagon. He’s got a big test in front of him and he’s fighting for everything tomorrow.

Daniel Rodriguez also fought at UFC 255 where he lost a decision to Nicholas Dalby. That loss snapped a nine-fight win streak for Rodriguez. D-Rod made his UFC debut in February of 2020 and won his first three fights prior to the loss to Dalby.

UFC Vegas 23 Prediction

One thing that makes me very intrigued by this UFC Vegas 23 matchup is the game plan of Mike Perry. He’s been training down at MMA Masters with the likes of top contender, Colby Covington.

We’ve seen Perry use his wrestling at times, but he’s mostly happy to just strike and brawl with his opponents. That’s not going to be a wise strategy at UFC Vegas 23.

I believe Rodriguez has the cleaner striking and I think he has more pop on his shots. We’ve seen Rodriguez get drawn into brawls as well, but his better technical skills could play here.

If I’m Mike Perry’s corner, I’m telling him to wrestle. If he comes heavy with the wrestling and mixes in occasional striking, I believe he can win a decision here. However, I don’t have faith that’s going to happen. I think these two stand and ultimately, Rodriguez will get the better of Perry at UFC Vegas 23.

Prediction: Daniel Rodriguez by Unanimous Decision

New York Giants: Offensive playmakers to target in the middle rounds

New York Giants, Amari Rodgers

The New York Giants spent big in free agency this offseason to give quarterback Daniel Jones a competent stable of offensive weapons. New York gave Kenny Golladay a massive contract to be the Giants’ new alpha dog receiver. They also signed Kevin Rudolph to be a reliable tight end with the ability to make plays in the red zone.

But many get the sense that the Giants are not done adding playmakers this offseason. With three weeks until the 2021 NFL Draft, many still believe that the Giants will spend their first-round pick on an offensive weapon if the right one is on the board. But even if New York goes another route in round one, there are plenty of options on offense for them to consider adding in the middle rounds.

Mid-round offensive playmakers

Dyami Brown

UNC’s Dyami Brown is an intriguing option for the Giants to consider. This 6-foot-1, 185-pound wide receiver has drawn comparisons to Giants route technician Sterling Shepard. Dyami Brown is a dynamic outside wide receiver that racked up over 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons for the Tar Heels.

Brown’s draft stock has him projected to go in the second or third round of the draft. Dyami to the Giants in round three would be an absolute steal if he falls to them. But taking him in round two is a safe bet. Primarily playing the X receiver role in college, Dyami Brown is an outside, vertical threat that has elite upside. He does not have any slot experience, but his skill set of great route running and physicality could translate and allow him to thrive in that role at the next level.

Dyami Brown is a playmaker. He hauled in 20 touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons. Per Pro Football Focus, Brown averaged 3.11 yards per route run last season, 14th among 68 qualifying draft-eligible wide receivers. Dyami is an intriguing wide receiver prospect that could turn the New York Giants’ offense into a dominant machine.

Brevin Jordan

Miami tight end Brevin Jordan had a disappointing Pro Day that could cause him to slip in the 2021 NFL Draft. But on film, Jordan is one of the more explosive tight ends in this draft class. Brevin Jordan has elite abilities after the catch with the ball in his hands. According to PFF, Jordan racked up 845 yards after the catch in his collegiate career.

Brevin is an undersized tight end that is a dynamic matchup weapon. But his Pro Day left a lot to be desired as Jordan’s RAS score came back at a lowly 4.52 out of 10. This is concerning considering many viewed Jordan as more “big athlete” than an actual tight end.

Brevin Jordan’s disappointing Pro Day could indicate a few things. It could indicate a fall in draft stock, causing him to slip and be a solid value selection for the Giants in the later middle rounds. But it could also indicate that Brevin is not the athlete many thought he was, or that he was not able to keep himself in shape and train properly for his Pro Day. If Jordan does have athletic or training problems, he could struggle to make it in the NFL. But there was enough electric play by Brevin Jordan during his collegiate career to make him a valuable mid-late-round pickup for any NFL team.

Amari Rodgers

The New York Giants cut veteran Golden Tate this offseason to save salary cap space. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Giants could replace Golden Tate with his clone in Amari Rodgers. The two wide receivers have a near-identical playing style, a style that Daniel Jones greatly enjoyed playing with during his 2019 rookie season.

Golden Tate was a YAC king with a shorter body and a stocky frame. Amari Rodgers is in many ways the same. He has a running back build paired with quality route-running skills and an impressive catch radius for his size. Amari Rodgers thrived in 2020 as the primary receiver in Clemson’s explosive offense, racking up 1,020 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns.

Amari Rodgers’s draft stock has hovered around the third or fourth round. Despite finding great success in an SEC offense, many have questions regarding Amari’s frame and how his skill set will translate to the NFL. Some have suggested that Amari moves to running back at the next level. But as a low-cost player for the Giants to take a flier on in the middle rounds, it is hard not to see the young Golden Tate similarities and fall in love with Amari Rodgers’s fit in New York.

New York Yankees Recap: Double digits as the Yankee pitching struggles in loss to the Rays

New York Yankees, Nick Nelson

Today the New York Yankees started their first away series of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in Tampa, Florida. It was the home Opening Day for the Rays. The Yankees had to sit by and watch the Rays celebrate their 2020 pennant win. After the Opening ceremonies, the Rays sent Rich Hill to the mound to face the Yankees. Hill bombed in his first start of the season, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings of work. The Yankees started 2 times Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Fans watched how the two teams that don’t like each other played at the start of the season.

DJ LeMahieu led off for the New York Yankees; he struck out.  Slotted in the number two spot was Giancarlo Stanton because Aaron Judge still rested for left soreness. Stanton ground out. Aaron Hicks popped out for a 1-2-3 half for Hill. Corey Kluber took to the mound in the bottom facing Yoshi Tsutsugo, who struck out. Austin Meadows singled to left field. Randy Arozarena hit into a double play to end the inning. No score.

At the top of the second, Gleyber Torres led off, flying out to left. Jay Bruce lined out. Gary Sanchez struck out and caused the Yankees to go down in order again. At the bottom, Brandon Lowe struck out. Yandy Diaz reached on an errant throw from LeMahieu. Joey Wendle singled, and Diaz went to third. Willie Adames hit one off the centerfield wall, Diaz scored, and Wendle went to third base for the Rays early lead. Brett Phillips flew out, but Wendle scored for the 2 run lead. Mike Zunino popped out to the infield. Rays 2 Yankees 0.

Clint Frazier led off the third, striking out looking. Mike Tauchman struck out, and Tyler Wade singled. LeMahieu doubled for a tough break for the Yankees as it bounced into the stands, not allowing the speedy Wade to score. Stanton had a two-run single to tie up the game at 2 apiece. Hicks homered to deep left field, driving in two more Yankee runs, all of this action with 2 outs. Torres popped out, but the Yankees scored 4. At the bottom, Tsutsugo singled, while Frazier’s rocket arm prevented him from advancing. Meadows walked for two on and no outs. Arozarena singled, scoring Tsutsugo to score. Arozaren stole second. Lowe struck out. Diaz walked to load the bases, and that was the end of the day for Kluber. Nick Nelson replaced him.  Wendle hit one off the wall above Tauchman’s head, driving in two runs. Adames popped out. Phillips ground to Wade, but the Rays picked up 3 runs. Rays 5 New York Yankees 4.

Hill still on the mound, Bruce led off striking out. Sanchez ground out. Frazier struck out for the quick half for Hill. At the bottom of the fourth will Nelson on the mound, Zunino was hit by a pitch and advanced to first. Tsutsugo walked. Meadows singled with a man on first and second, loading the bases with Rays with no outs. Arozarena struck out. Lowe doubled, clearing the bases. Lowe singled scoring Arozarena as the Rays poured it on, scoring 9 runs off Yankee pitching with only one out in the fourth. Wendle struck out, but the ball got by Sanchez, and Lowe moved to second. Adames struck out for Nelson to finally get out of the inning. Rays 9 Yankees 4.

The Yankees lead off the fifth trying to recover from the Rays onslaught, with Hill still on the mound. Tauchman flew out. Wade ground out to the shortstop. LeMahieu ground out to second. At the bottom, Lucas Luetge took to the mound facing Phillips, who ground out. Zunino ground out to short. Tsutsugo doubled to far left field. Meadows flew out to Hicks for the first quick inning for both teams.

Hill, still on the mound in the sixth with 71 pitches, faced Stanton, who flew out to left-center. Hicks went down on strikes. Torres popped out to end the half. Arozarena, with Luetge still on the mound, struck out. Lowe struck out. Diaz doubled. Wendle flew to left-center, and Tauchman made a diving catch to end the inning. Jays 9 Yankees 4.

Hunter Stickland faced Jay Bruce at the top of the seven, striking him out. Sanchez walked. Frazier, with one on and one out, struck out for the third time in the game. Tauchman, who made that beautiful diving catch in the sixth, popped out to the third baseman. Luetge out for his third inning allowed a home run by Adames. Phillips flew out. Zunino struck out looking. Tsutsugo went down on strikes, but the Rays picked up another run, Rays 10 Yankees 4.

Tyler Wade led off the eighth, facing Strickland, striking out. LeMahieu hit a home run, his first of the season just over the left-field wall. Stanton ground out to short for the second out. Hicks, who hit a homer in third, flew out, but the Yankees scored a run in the half. After three innings for Luetge, Luis Cessa took over the Yankees’ pitching. Meadows doubled. Arozarena struck out. Lowe hit into a double play ending the inning.  Rays 10 New York Yankees 5.

With last licks on the line, Gleyber Torres singled. Jay Bruce hit into a double play for two outs. Gary Sanchez who stuck out three times lined drove to left field avoiding the Sombrero. Frazier grounded to short to end the game with the Yankees losing the first game of the three-game set.

The Tampa Bay Rays hitting that really struggled in the first six games of the season came alive in the first game against the Yankees. The Yankees had two home runs in the game but just couldn’t get the job done. The Rays had 13 hits in the game for10 runs. The final score was Tampa Bay 10 Yankees 5. The winning pitcher was Rich Hill and the loser was Corey Kluber.

 

‘It’s like breakfast!’ RJ Barrett credits teammates for improved shooting

new york knicks, rj barrett

New York Knicks‘ second-year wing RJ Barrett’s chip on his shoulder is getting bigger by the day.

All-Rookie Team snub.

ESPN’s Best 25 under 25 snub.

Anthony Edwards’ mockery of his missed game-winning shot.

But each time Barrett is getting snubbed and mocked, he rises.

The 20-year old Barrett has blossomed to become the New York Knicks’ No. 2 option behind All-Star Julius Randle from a questionable third overall selection after his uneven rookie season.

“My game speaks for itself,” Barrett said Friday ahead of his matchup with last year’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. “You know you can go and look at my numbers and our team’s success. It doesn’t really matter as long as I keep getting better as a player every day. I’ll be happy.”

For the first time in the last seven years, the Knicks are playing meaningful games this late in the season, and a big part of that is because of Barrett’s much-improved play.

His numbers have all gone up.

Entering Friday’s game, he’s averaging 17.5 points on 45/38/74 shooting splits with 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists against only two turnovers in 34 minutes.

Last season, he averaged 14.3 points on 40/32/61 shooting splits with 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists against 2.2 turnovers in 30.4 minutes.

His questionable jump shot has become a vaunted weapon in his arsenal.

“During the summer, I made little tweaks and adjustments, but I’m just getting reps,” Barrett said.

But he was quick to add: “All credit to my teammates. You see, Julius gets in there. Sometimes he’s halfway into a shot and kicks it out, and I get wide-open shots, wide-open looks. I mean, when you get wide-open looks like that from your teammates, it’s kind of like just breakfast.”

Since the All-Star break, Barrett is averaging 20 points on 47/44/75 shooting splits.

According to NBA.com tracking data, his three-point attempts increased from 3.3 to 4.3 per game, with two of those attempts coming from a Randle pass. During the same stretch, Barrett has been the top recipient of Randle’s playmaking with 19.5 percent frequency resulting in 11.9 passes and 2.3 assists per game.

In contrast, Barrett only ranked second (16.5 percent) to Elfrid Payton (25.8 percent) among recipients of Randle’s passes during the first half of the season.

The improving chemistry between the Knicks’ top two guys has pushed Barrett to take another leap. Barrett is making 53.3 percent of his three-point attempts coming directly from Randle since the All-Star break.

In the Knicks’ most recent twin losses in Brooklyn and Boston, Barrett has only missed two of his 12 three-point attempts.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised because I see the time he’s put into it,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And when we’ve been home, he usually comes in every night to shoot and get extra shooting in. He’s really worked hard improving the shot, and I think he’s gotten real comfortable behind the line. And I also think his teammates are also doing a good job looking for him. We’ve had good rim reads and a lot of spray-outs, so they’re good-rhythm 3s.”

His game-tying three-pointer with 54.6 seconds left in their loss to the Celtics came off a Randle kick-out pass underneath the basket.

“He’s coming into his own and knowing who he is as a player,” Randle said. “Down the stretch, he’s getting to his spots. He’s playing well. Very comfortable and continuing to grow as a player.”

It was a catch-and-shoot, wide-open shot—the kind of shot Thibodeau wanted his team to take.

This season, Barrett has been shooting 38.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3’s, a significant uptick from 33.8 percent last season, per NBA.com. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting it with much better accuracy at 43.3 percent on four attempts per game.

For Thibodeau, it’s not only about the volume of outside shots. It’s the quality.

“We just don’t want to take any three. We want to make sure that they’re good threes, where it allows us also to get back and get our defense set,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a combination of the two things, but I’m very pleased with his overall progress, and I think he’ll continue to grow.”

That clutch 3 in Boston was Barrett’s redemption after his unforced error over the previous play that led to a Jaylen Brown fastbreak layup.

“After I had that turnover in the game against Boston, during timeout I went to the bench, and the whole team, everybody picked me up,” Barrett said. “I have to get it back. And then, you know, the next play, I made the shot and tied the game. So it’s great to have vets like that around.”

Thibodeau’s player development revolves around accountability. He doesn’t dole out playing time like it’s a gift.

Earned, not given.

It’s the opposite of the rebuilding that some teams and fans prefer, much like in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder management decided to shut down Al Horford and shipped away their other veterans to develop their rookies with a long leash on the floor but without veteran guidance.

Rookies Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski, the undrafted sophomore big man Moses Brown and the Thunder young core have been putting insane numbers. But have also been routinely losing by a wide margin.

Barrett prefers the Knicks’ current rebuilding style, where they have a shot at winning each game, learning from pressure-packed situations.

Thibodeau and the Knicks front office have surrounded their young core with veterans who they can lean on and learn from.

“Most definitely,” Barrett said when asked if he’s benefiting from playing and sharing the floor with veterans. “They know a lot. The coaching staff knows a lot. So you know I’m kind of like a sponge every day. I’m going in and getting the chance to grow and make mistakes and keep learning. So it’s great to have vets. They always pick you up.”

Barrett made it known he wasn’t happy with the snubs. He laughed off Edwards’ comments.

So let the snubs and mocks keep on coming because Barrett likes to turn those chips into fuel. Like the wide-open looks. Like it’s breakfast.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees injury news doesn’t get better as Gio Urshela is scratched and Aaron Judge remains a mystery

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

With the New York Yankees scheduled to take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday evening, they will be without two of their primary starters. Right fielder Aaron Judge has been dealing with a mystery injury as of late, and skipper Aaron Boone has failed to offer a reasonable explanation for his absence.

The second player to miss Friday’s game is Gio Urshela, as he is experiencing side effects after being vaccinated on Thursday.

Gio Urshela scratched:

Per the Yankees:

  • Placed INF Gio Urshela on the COVID injured list due to side effects from vaccination.

Aaron Judge remains out with mystery injury:

Judge reportedly has pain in his left side, and whether it be his oblique or a lower-body issue, the Yankees refuse to offer any explanation for what’s going on. This might be part of their new approach, trying to keep the media away from making any egregious assumptions, or they simply are unsure where the pain is stemming from.

“Just felt like I wanted to wait another day,’’ Boone said Friday. “We’ll see where he’s at in 24 hours. It’s simply wanting to play the long game and not force anything.”

Ultimately, the Yankees desperately need Aaron Judge in the lineup, as he could’ve been the catalyst in their most recent loss to the Baltimore Orioles that went to extra innings. Judge played in just 29 games out of 60 last year and 28 in 2020. His injuries have significantly dampened the overall mood surrounding a potential long-term extension in the future. When available, he’s easily one of the best hitters in baseball, but sometimes the best ability is availability.