Knicks fall in Denver on Jokic MVP flex, Rivers’ revenge game

It was one of those rare nights this rejuvenated New York Knicks team didn’t have it. Or it could be the Denver curse, too much Nikola Jokic, and retribution. Or just a combination of everything. 

Jokic, the MVP frontrunner, outscored the entire Knicks team in the first quarter, 24-12, as the Nuggets steamrolled to a 113-97 rout on Wednesday night.

It was the Knicks’ first loss in their West Coast trip after they opened it with two straight wins in Houston and Memphis.

Jokic took out the Knicks’ fight early as the Nuggets extended their mastery over the Knicks in Denver to 13 straight games dating back to 2006.

The Knicks came into the game as the hottest team in the league, winners of 12 of their last 13 games.

But Austin Rivers, the spurned former Knick, was hotter on this night. He had his revenge game.

Rivers, whose promising start with the Knicks cut short by the Derrick Rose’s signing, played his best game as a Nugget. He went off for a season-high-tying 25 points.

The Knicks trailed by as many as 31. They put up a token resistance in the third quarter when RJ Barrett hit back-to-back threes, cutting the large deficit to 16. But Rivers caught fire from beyond the arc.

After hitting one of his six three-pointers, Rivers looked towards the Knicks bench. Tension flared up in the fourth quarter when he and Julius Randle jawed at each other after a loose ball scramble.

The loss was a huge setback for the Knicks as the Atlanta Hawks (37-30) closed the gap after soundly beating the Phoenix Suns, 135-103, earlier in the night.

It will be a dogfight in the desert when the Knicks try to bounce back against the Suns on Friday night in Phoenix.

Jokic dominated the Knicks’ thin frontline with a complete line — 32 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks — in just under 30 minutes.

If there’s any silver lining, the Knicks saw how feisty and scrappy Argentinian guards are in anticipation of the arrival of Luca Vildoza.

Vildoza’s teammate at the Argentina national team and Euroleague rival Facundo Campazzo outplayed the Knicks backcourt. The 5-foot-10 Campazzo had a masterful performance, scattering 16 points, nine rebounds, four assists, five steals, and two blocks.

The 25-year old Vildoza, who is confirmed to join the Knicks, had succeeded Campazzo as the Finals MVP in the Spanish ACB league last year.

Immanuel Quickley led the Knicks with 18 points off the bench.

Randle, the freshly minted Eastern Conference’s Best Player of the Month, was a big letdown in his showdown against Jokic. He had a quiet night with only 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. 

Barrett added 15. He missed his first seven shots in the first 20 minutes before hitting three triples in the third quarter. It injected some life into a lethargic Knicks’ offense. But it was short-lived.

Rivers finished what Jokic has started and delivered the final blows. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Medical staff will handle Saquon Barkley return date

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The return of Saquon Barkley is one of the most anticipated dates for the New York Giants this year. The team was forced to play most of last season without their top offensive weapon, and it showed in their performance. The running game struggled despite Wayne Gallman having his best season, and it looks like Barkley returning is a prerequisite for the Giants offense getting up to full speed.

However, there’s no definite timetable for that yet. It looks like Barkley is most likely to come back in week one, but the team is being careful with his recovery and head coach Joe Judge can’t confirm anything.

Judge spoke with Carton & Roberts on WFAN and, while he was impressed with Barkley’s progress, also said that things would be left in the hands of the medical staff.

No return date yet for Saquon Barkley

“I’m not a doctor. I’ll trust our training staff and the medical professionals to tell us when he’s ready to go. I just know he comes to work and does everything he’s asked to do. He’s getting better day by day,” Judge said. “Now, when they say he’s ready to go? That’s when we’ll put him on the field. But I want to make sure he’s ready to go, 100 percent, before we throw him out there.”

He also said that he can’t give a hard timetable because the staff itself doesn’t have one yet.

A lot is resting on Barkley coming back fully healthy, especially as last season’s top rusher Wayne Gallman is now in San Francisco after the Giants didn’t give him a second contract.

Devontae Booker was signed to fill Gallman’s role, but new running backs outside of Barkley have always been a shot in the dark for the Giants in the past few years. There’s no guarantee Booker is a backup of the same quality.

Barkley had a great rookie season but has dealt with injuries in two out of three years overall. This has largely kept him from reaching his full potential, and with a mega-deal potentially looming on the horizon after his rookie contract, getting it in gear this season and putting on a good performance will be important for Barkley’s career.

Despite there not being a recovery timetable, it doesn’t look like there’s much reason to worry. His recovery has been going well according to all reports, and not much has come out to indicate Barkley won’t be ready for week 1.

Mets Reserves Lead The Way in 7-2 Victory Over Cardinals

It only made sense that in this odd season for the New York Mets, their backup players lead them to a good win. Francisco Lindor and James McCann got the night off, and Jordan Yamamoto pitched, but despite that, the Mets won 7-2.

The Mets enlisted Miguel Castro as their opener for the first time, and he bent but did not break. Castro kept the Cards scoreless in the first and set the table for Yamamoto to make his Mets debut. Yamamoto performed perfectly as a spot starter as he held the Cardinals to just one run in 2.2 innings and allowed the bullpen to finish the job. The final four relievers allowed just one run in the final 3.1 innings of the game.

After a wild pitch and Tomas Nido‘s two-run home run got the Mets a 3-0 lead, the “-illar” duo took care of the rest. Jonathan Villar recorded two hits, two RBIs, and a homer, and Kevin Pillar recorded a double and two RBIs. Dominic Smith also joined the hit parade with two singles of his own. The trio of Villar, Pillar, and Nido is unlikely to produce like this every night, but all of them played well enough to earn a start in the final game of the series.

The final game of the series features Taijuan Walker against former Met prospect John Gant. The first pitch from Busch Stadium is an early 1:15 p.m. ET start.

New York Yankees Recap: Superman Giancarlo Stanton powers Yankees to second win over the Astros

Yesterday the New York Yankees met up with the Houston Astros in the first game at Yankee Stadium since it was revealed that the Astros cheated in the 2017 season, including the playoffs. Last night it was electric at the Stadium as the fans booed the Astros players. The Yankees won the game 7-3. Tonight the Yankees’ Jordan Montgomery faced the Astros Luis Garcia in the game two matchups. Montgomery wasn’t great but the Yankees won the second game 6-3.

Jose Altuve received the loudest and most constant boos to start the game, faced Montgomery in the momentary heavy rain, and led off with a single to left field. Michael Brantley faced Monty and hit into a double play. Alex Bregman flew out to Aaron Judge in right-center. At the bottom, DJ Lemahieu struck out swinging. Giancarlo Stanton struck out. Aaron Judge was struck out by the rookie Garcia to end the inning.

Montgomery, in the top of the second, struck out Yordan Alverez. Gorrea went down on strikes. Yuli gurril struck out for the strikeout of the side for Mongomery. Gio Urshela led off the bottom of the inning by walking. Gleyber Torres popped out first. Mike Ford hit sharply to Altuve to end the quick inning for both pitchers. No score.

The top of the third inning saw Aledmys Diaz started by singling to left. Myles Staw had a back-to-back single to open up the third. With two on and no outs, Jason Castro hit into a double play, but Diaz moved to third. Altuve ground out to first to end the inning scoreless. At the bottom, Gary Sanchez led off by flying to center. Gardner struck out. LeMehieu was hit by a pitch. Giancarlo Stanton hit this 11th straight hit in a game with a home run to the left-field bleachers. Aaron Judge went down on strikes, but the Yankee pulled ahead. New York Yankees 2 Astros 0.

The fourth inning was led off by Michael Brantley, who singled. Bregman followed with a single to center. Alverez singled to load the bases with Astros. Gorrea, with the bases loaded, got a force at second, but Brantley scored. Gurril hit a long one to the left, but an excellent play by Gardner prevented Alverez from scoring. Tie game. Gurril moves to second with no one covering. Diaz doubled to left to give the Astros the lead in the game. Staw flew out to Hicks, but the Astros scored 3 runs on five hits in the inning. At the bottom, Gio Urshela dribbled back to the mound for the first out. Gleyber Torres flew out to center. Ford struck out on a questionable call to end the inning. Houston Astros 3 New York Yankees 2.

At the fifth, with Montgomery on the mound, Castro struck out. Altuve lined out  to center. Brantley struck out to end the half. Aaron Hicks popped out to lead off the bottom of the inning. Gary Sanchez struck out on a ball. Brett Gardner reached with a single. LeMahieu walked. Stanton came up and singled driving in Gardner. Yankees 3 Astros 3.

Moving on to the seventh inning. Gurril lined out. Diaz flew out. Staw walked but went to second on a wild pitch. Castro struck out to end the half. At the bottom, LeMahieu singled to center. Stanton, who had driven in all the Yankee runs, walked. With two on and no outs, Aaron Judge struck out for the fourth time in the game. Gio Urshela hit into a double play to end the inning. Yankees 3 Astros 3.

At the top of the eighth inning, with Jonathan Loaisiga on the mound, the Astros had the top of the lineup at the plate. Altuve struck out to the delight of the Yankee crowd. Brantley ground out. Bregman ground out for a 1-2-3 inning for Loaisiga. The bottom of the eighth with Torres at the plate, he with Brooks Raley on the mound led off with a single. Clint Frazier walked. Aaron Hicks, with two on and no outs , Tyler Wade came in to run for Frazier, Hicks singled driving in Torres for the Yankee lead. With Sanchez due up, the Astros made a bullpen change. Joe Smith hit Sanchez loading in the bases. Gardner had a sac fly for the 5 to 3 lead. LeMahieu, with a chance to break it open for the Yankees,  got a 3 6 force, bringing up Giancarlo Stanton, who singled to drive in another run, Hicks scored. Aaron Judge struck for the fifth time on the night to end the inning, but the Yankees went ahead in the inning 6 to 3 over the Astros.

With last licks on the line for the Houston Astros and the New York Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound, Alverez struck out on a 101 mph Chapman fastball. Gorrea ground out to second. Gurril struck out for the Yankee win of the second game against the Houston Astros for the Yankee’s fifth win in a row. The winning pitcher was Jonathan Loaisiga, the loser was Brooks Raley, and the save went to Aroldis Chapman.

New York Rangers lose to the Washington Capitals in a penalty filled game

The secondary story of Wednesday night is that the New York Rangers fell to the Washington Capitals by a score of 4-2.

The main story is the aftermath of the Tom Wilson incident from Monday night. If the NHL was hoping that nothing would happen after just fining Wilson for his actions Monday night, they were sadly mistaken.

The action started right from the face-off as Colin Blackwell, Phil Di Guiseppe, and Kevin Rooney all square off with the Capital’s starting forwards. Brendan Smith later took on Wilson when skated for his first shift. The sides combined for six fights and 72 penalty minutes just over four minutes into the heated contest.

Wilson did not return after the first period. The Capitals reported that Wilson had suffered an upper-body injury.

After all was said and done, both teams racked up 141 penalty minutes.

The New York Rangers fall in a penalty-filled game

Lost in all of the Wilson business is that the Capitals T.J. Oshie returned to play after the passing of his father. Oshie responded by getting a hat-trick in the contest.

Morgan Barron scored his first NHL goal to close the gap to 4-2 after Oshie’s empty netter. Alexis Lafreniere scored the Ranger’s first goal.

Probably due to the high level of emotions that came with this game, the Rangers took quite a few non-fighting penalties.

Pavel Buchnevich received a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for a cross-check to the head of Anthony Mantha. This came in the second period after Buchnevich took a slashing penalty against Wilson and a high-sticking call against Zdeno Chara late in the first period.

Ryan Strome received a 10-minute misconduct penalty after taking a tripping call.

The Rangers go right back into action on Thursday night when they travel to Boston to take on the Bruins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DeJong Burns the Mets in 4-1 Loss in Game One of the Doubleheader

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

Paul DeJong has turned into the modern-day New York Mets killer and flexed his muscle again in the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 win. DeJong’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning put the game away as the Mets were once again incapable of doing anything on offense.

Francisco Lindor has done nothing to help the Mets offense and figured he might as well help out someone else’s. His throwing error prevented the fifth inning from ending and allowed DeJong to torch the Mets again. Lindor went hitless again to push his slump to 24 straight at-bats without a hit. Despite, the slump manager Luis Rojas rolled out another one of his bright ideas and batted him leadoff.

Stroman’s Outing

Marcus Stroman pitched much better than his line suggests. He went five innings, allowed four runs (two earned) while striking out six. In a pivotal fourth inning, a leadoff error followed by a single put Stroman in a first and third situation. Stroman responded by striking out the next three batters he faced, but it did not come without drama.

Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner visited the mound after the first strikeout, but Stroman wanted nothing to do with him. Stroman walked off the mound in the middle of the visit and said, “just let me f–king pitch man.” Even though he survived the inning, Stroman and Rojas spoke in the tunnel when he came off the field. Rojas let Stroman hit in the fifth inning despite being down by one in a seven-inning game in an even more surprising move.

The Mets had the same amount of errors as hits in what might have been a tribute to fired hitting coach Chili Davis. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and went the final three innings without a hit. Lindor will get the second game off as Jonathan Villar will take his place at shortstop. It would fit the Mets logic to have their best offensive output in the game Lindor does not play in. Miguel Castro will face Johan Oviedo in game 2.

New York Rangers Dismiss both the GM and President: Report

The fallout from the Tom Wilson incident continues for the New York Rangers.

The Rangers have fired team president John Davidson and general manager, Jeff Gorton, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports.

It was not immediately clear if the dismissals were related to the statement the team released Tuesday, which strongly criticized the NHL for not suspending Capitals forward Tom Wilson for his role in a brawl that injured Rangers star Artemi Panarin during Monday’s game.

Freidman also reports that that long-time assistant general manager Chris Drury will replace both Davidson and Gorton as president and general manager.

Freidman also tweeted that both Gorton and Davidson were unaware of that statement until it was released.

“The New York Rangers are extremely disappointed that Capitals forward Tom Wilson was not suspended for his horrifying act of violence last night at Madison Square Garden. Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely,” said the statement, which was not signed.

“Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL Head of Player Safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.”

Gorton was promoted to the general manager role in July of 2015 after working for three years with the organization as an assistant general manager. His tenure with the Rangers was highlighted by the addition of Panarin in free agency and draft lottery wins to add forwards Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere with top-two draft picks in 2019 and 2020.

Davidson was named president of the Rangers in May of 2019 after holding the same title with the Columbus Blue Jackets for seven years.

 

 

Report: Knicks, Vildoza agree in principle to 4-yr deal worth $13.6M

Luca Vildoza, knicks

The New York Knicks have successfully lured Argentinian guard Luca Vildoza to take his act to NBA.

Vildoza has agreed to a four-year, $13.6 million with the last three years partially guaranteed, according to an ESPN report.

The 6-foot-3 guard will fly to New York once he clears immigration protocols. While there’s no clear timetable yet, he is expected to fully participate in the next NBA Summer League and training camp.

Vildoza, last year’s Finals MVP of the Spanish ACB, will also suit up for Argentina in the Tokyo Olympics, giving Knicks more time to evaluate him.

Vildoza averaged 10.1 points, 3.5 assists with Baskonia in the Euroleague this season while hitting 38 percent of his threes.

ESPN’s noted draft analyst Mike Schmitz praised the signing, adding that he’s a huge fan of Vildoza’s game.

“The Luca Vildoza signing is a huge deal for the Knicks. The 25-year-old Argentinian PG has been one of the most coveted guards in Europe for some time. Excellent pull-up game, creative PnR passer, feisty defender. Brings the Argentinian spirit to the floor,” Schmitz tweeted.

 

The Knicks plan to convert Jared Harper’s second 10-day contract into a two-way deal to make a roster spot for Vildoza.

The 25-year old Vildoza will follow the footsteps of Argentinian legend Pablo Prigioni, who was a member of the last Knicks team that went to the playoffs.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Mets’ Pete Alonso cried upon finding out about Chili Davis’ dismissal: ‘It doesn’t make sense’

Late on Monday night, the New York Mets decided that hitting coach Chili Davis and his assistant Tom Slater would no longer be part of the team. Despite the team’s obvious offensive struggles to open the 2021 season, it was a surprise to see them let go. After all, the Mets’ offense was competent in 2019 and among the best in 2020 under Davis.

And the players like and respect him. He has often been credited for JD Davis’ breakout season in 2019 and has a good relationship with most of the Mets’ offensive stars, including Pete Alonso.

According to Savannah McCann of MLB.com, when Alonso found out about the Mets’ decision regarding Davis, he went to his locker and started crying. Befuddled, the Polar Bear went to talk with acting general manager Zack Scott.

“Our team has broken records, we’ve done a lot of great things,” said Alonso, who said he didn’t expect Davis’ dismissal and that the ‘appearance’ of fictional approach coach ‘Donnie’ Stevenson was by no means a shot at him. “It’s confusing for me, and listen, I respect everybody who made that decision. But to me, it just doesn’t make sense right now. I know that the people who are in charge in the office, they want to win, everybody wants to win. I guess from a results standpoint, from two, two and a half years, the results have been there. And to me, it still doesn’t make sense.”

The Mets’ first baseman is sad and upset to see Davis go

Alonso considered Davis and Slater family.

“There’s a personal connection there, but that aside, professionally they’re outstanding individuals,” said Alonso. “For me, how I’m looking at this is, I can’t be upset that it’s over. I just have to be happy that I was able to have them, and they had an impact on me. And I know that I’ve had an impact on them. And that those two guys have had a tremendous positive impact on everybody in that clubhouse.”

The Mets held a meeting that included players, coaching staff and manager Luis Rojas, partly to talk about the changes.

“[It was a] typical team meeting where everyone gets to talk, and guys share their thoughts or their emotions and get to vent,” said Rojas. “We can talk as a family in there, and what was said in there doesn’t need to be shared. But the guys [were] sharing their thoughts and us talking as a group. Also, to shift gears and go after this game tonight, that’s the purpose of the meeting.”

After a quick win at UFC Vegas 25, what’s next for Giga Chikadze?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 25, Giga Chikadze (13-2) competed in the co-main event against Cub Swanson (27-12). It was a huge opportunity for Chikadze who was looking to take that next step in his UFC career.

Chikadze stepped into the cage on Saturday night riding a seven-fight win streak. In addition, he was a perfect 5-0 inside the octagon. Having started out that well, a win over Cub Swanson would vault Chikadze in the UFC‘s featherweight division.

Immediately when the fight started, we saw why there’s a ton of hype surrounding Chikadze. He came forward with vicious kicks and his striking looked incredibly fast. You got the feeling that Cub Swanson could be in some trouble at UFC Vegas 25.

Then, just about a minute into the first round, Chikadze landed a massive body kick that crumbled Swanson. Chikadze looked hesitant to attack because he could tell that the fight was over. However, he went in for the kill.

Chikadze followed up with a few shots and the ref called a stop to the action. This win improved Chikadze to 6-0 in the UFC and he just netted the biggest win of his career.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 25?

Given his frame and his style of striking, Chikadze can be a huge problem in the UFC’s featherweight division. After the fight was over, Chikadze said that it would be a dream to fight Max Holloway, but he would settle for Calvin Kattar next if possible.

Calvin Kattar could be an option, but I think the UFC goes in a different direction. One possibility could be paring Chikadze up with Arnold Allen (17-1). Allen had competed a few weeks earlier and won a decision over the talented Sodiq Yusuff.

Like Chikadze, Allen is also unbeaten inside the octagon. Allen has gone 8-0 since making his debut in the UFC and he’s currently ranked seventh in the division. If the UFC wants to see which prospect is ready for the top five, they can pair those two up.

Another option would be the winner of the UFC 262 matchup between Shane Burgos (13-2) and Edson Barboza (21-9). Whoever wins that matchup next weekend would be another great option for Chikadze next.

I don’t know about you, but Chikadze against any of those options makes for a sensational fight. I’m a huge fan of Chikadze and I think he’s going to be a major player in the UFC’s featherweight division for years to come.