Garden of Eden: Randle, MSG roar back to life as Knicks tie series

A quiet place no more.

The Garden became Eden once again on a magical Wednesday night as the New York Knicks climbed from a 13-point halftime hole for their first playoff win in eight years.

The Knicks tied the series after a riveting second-half comeback to pull out a 101-92 win before their adoring fans.

From celebrities to LeBron James, millions were glued on this game as the Madison Square Garden rocked until the buzzer.

 

This time, the Knicks made sure there will be no Trae Young game-winner to quiet the crowd.

Derrick Rose, playing with 32-year old legs, turned back the clock in a throwback showdown against the Hawks’ 22-year old star that kept the Knicks in the game.

Then everything clicked once Julius Randle found his mojo back in the second half.

Randle recovered from a 0-6 start and poured in 13 of his 15 points in the final two quarters to rally the Knicks.

Reggie Bullock also regained his shooting form and locked up Young in the fourth quarter.

Young had a second consecutive 30-point game in The Garden, but he was limited to 1-of-3 shooting in the final quarter.

After a soaring first half where they led by as many as 15 points, the Hawks were grounded in the second half.

New York roared to life in the third quarter with a 17-5 run that tied the game at 72 all. The Knicks grabbed their first lead since the first quarter on a Randle fallaway jumper with 1:45 left. They never let go of that lead.

With Randle struggling in the first half, Obi Toppin electrified the crowd with quality minutes off the bench.

Toppin reprised his role at the start of the fourth quarter. The Garden turned into bedlam when Toppin rose for an alley-oop dunk that extended the Knicks’ lead to six, 81-75, with 10:55 to play. His mother, Roni Toppin, turned emotional as the crowd chanted his son’s name.

The Knicks erected their largest lead, 88-78, at the 8:34 mark. But the Hawks charged back with a 9-0 run to close the gap.

Bullock gave New York a four-point breather, 91-87. Atlanta refused to give up and tied the game at 91 all. The Knicks’ defense shut the Hawks down in the final 5:06, limiting them to just one free throw.

Rose summoned his MVP form 10 years ago as he pumped in 26 points on daredevil drives, short jumpers, and three-point bombs in a season-high 39 minutes. He added four rebounds and four assists.

Tom Thibodeau went to Rose to start the second half, signifying that he’s had enough of Elfrid Payton’s lackadaisical play. Payton only saw five minutes in the first half and never returned. He was a plus/minus -7. Taj Gibson also stepped up as Nerlens Noel couldn’t keep up with Clint Capela. Noel (2 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes) had the worst net rating among all Knicks players with plus/minus -14.

Gibson, Thibodeau’s most trusted veteran big man, played 30 minutes and delivered more than his stat line — six points, seven rebounds, one assist, three steals, and one block — screamed.

But the story of the game was Randle, who couldn’t shake off the playoffs jitter and the Hawks’ double-teaming schemes in the first six quarters of the series.

A rhythm 3 to start the third quarter was all he needed to loosen up. Randle went 5-for-10 in the second half.

“Obviously, we were disappointed with the way we played in the first half, but I knew in the second half there’d be a great fight, and there was,” Thibodeau said.

“And I think Julius hitting that shot, Julius is not going to go away. He’s going to keep coming. He’s got a great will, great determination, and he’s a fighter.

Randle matched his 15-point output in Game 1, but he returned to his old self — the first-time All-Star and the league’s Most Improved Player. His inspiring turnaround in the second half rubbed off on the team.

Bullock, who didn’t hit a single 3 in Game 1, went 4-of-7 this time and put up 15 points.

The Knicks bench came up big again with 55 points. Alec Burks added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Toppin had eight and three boards.

New York limited Atlanta to just 35 points on a 28 percent clip in the second half. In contrast, the Knicks shot 48 percent (22-of-46) in the last two quarters.

The series moves to Atlanta on Friday with a throng of Knicks fans expected to fly.

The “F*ck You Trae” chants in Game 1 was replaced by “Trae is balding” that didn’t deter the Hawks star in the opening half. Young almost scored at will with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including four treys.

But once Randle and the Knicks regained the menacing form that catapulted them to the fourth seed, Young could no longer shush the crowd. Instead, the Knicks silenced him. And The Garden roared back to life.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

UFC books headliner between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez

The UFC has finalized a sensational headliner in their featherweight division. Dana White broke the news tonight to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the promotion had finalized a main event between Max Holloway (22-6) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC).

The matchup will headline a UFC Fight Night on July 17th. This is by far the biggest opportunity in the career of Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez has had a ton of hype surrounding him since he joined the UFC a few years ago.

His flashy style and highlight reel knockouts made him an instant fan favorite. However, he was rushed to the top quickly and Frankie Edgar completely dominated him at UFC 211. That loss alone forced Rodriguez to stay away for over a year.

Once he made his UFC return, Rodriguez knocked out Chan Sung Jung in the final seconds of their fight. A year after that matchup, he defeated Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision.

The problem for Rodriguez has been his activity level. Since the Frankie Edgar loss at UFC 211, Rodriguez has only fought three times. Due to a suspension and injuries, this fight against Holloway will be his first since October of 2019.

The former UFC champion returns

Back in January, Max Holloway fought in his first non-title UFC fight for the first time since 2016. The former champion was coming off back-to-back losses to Alexander Volkanovski and he was looking to make a statement.

Standing in his way was Calvin Kattar. Kattar played the part of sacrificial lamb as Max Holloway put on a performance like we’ve never seen before. Holloway set virtually every UFC striking record as he battered Kattar for five rounds.

The Max Holloway we saw in January looked like the best featherweight in the world. After that performance, it looked like Holloway would get his title shot in the summer.

However, Alexander Volkanovski got COVID and his UFC title fight with Brian Ortega was pushed back. So, Holloway was left with either waiting things out or taking another fight. When the UFC offered him this main event, he jumped at the chance. If you’re a fight fan, you should be pumped for this one.

Knicks: Thibodeau sticks with Payton as starter for Game 2

New York Knicks, Elfrid Payton

Embattled New York Knicks’ point guard Elfrid Payton will keep his starting job for Game 2.

Tom Thibodeu has decided to stay the course and will roll out the same starting unit against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

Young toyed around the Knicks’ backcourt in Game 1 scoring a game-high 32 points and handing out 10 assists in an auspicious playoff debut. The Hawks star guard scored the game winning floater with 0.9 seconds left steal one in New York, 107-105.

Payton’s minutes was further reduced as he went scoreless again in eight minutes, missing all his three attempts and was a plus/minus -2. He’s the one of the two Knicks’ guards who had a negative net rating. The other was Frank Ntilikina who played only 31 seconds and as Young’s defender in the final play.

“We looked at the game, we look at what’s going on. It’s a two-point game and it comes down to a loose ball. Just get out there, get the job done, play defense, run the team. We’re going to use everyone,” said Thibodeau before the game explaining his decision to stick with the same starting lineup.

Thibodeau was referring to Bogdan Bognadovic’s three-pointer that tied the game at 103 all with 55 seconds left. RJ Barrett initially swiped the ball but Bogdanovic gathered control as the Knicks’ wingman lost his balance. That shot set up Young’s heroics.

The Knicks have managed to take out Young’s three-point shot (1-of-3 in Game 1). But the cold-blooded guard went 11-for-23 from the floor and was 7-for-12 from close range.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young scored 32 points on a variety of floaters including the game winner against the New York Knicks in Game 1.

Thibodeau had a game plan that could have led to a Knicks’ victory in Game 1 as they neutralized Clint Capela’s lob threat. Capela wound up with only nine points on seven shots. Thibodeau’s calculated risk, however, backfired with Julius Randle playing one of his worst games and Bognadovic hitting the crucial 3 off a loose ball. Randle missed 17 of 23 shots for just 15 points, way below his average.  

And it didn’t help the Knicks’ guards were too relaxed on Young giving him enough space to operate inside.

Derrick Rose earlier said they’ll make it tougher for Young in Game 2.

“Well, I can say we played too relaxed. Tonight we’re just going to play our normal way of playing,” Rose said after today’s shootaround ahead of Game 2. Aggressive and playing smart. He’s a smart player. He knows how to use angles. We just got to make sure we stay into the ball and make things harder for him. Last game we didn’t do that.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Giants: Kenny Golladay a top-three deep threat in the NFL, says PFF

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants went into the 2021 offseason with a clear mission: get Daniel Jones some playmakers. The Giants did exactly that, loading up on offensive weapons for Danny Dimes as he enters his third season.

New York made a cannonball splash in the 2021 free agency period when they signed the market’s top receiver Kenny Golladay to a huge deal. Golladay and the Giants inked a four-year $72 million contract. The Giants got themselves an alpha-dog outside wide receiver in Kenny Golladay.

Kenny Golladay is the quintessential “go up and get it” wide receiver. He’s a big-body outside receiver, standing in at 6 feet 4 inches. Golladay is a contested-catch king and one of the best vertical receiving threats in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, there are only a couple of wide receivers in the NFL that threaten the long ball like Golladay.

Kenny Golladay, one of the NFL’s best deep threats

Pro Football Focus put sports media in a tizzy last week when analyst Anthony Treash made a hot take claiming that Tyreek Hill might be the best deep threat in NFL history. Uh, hello? Randy Moss? Ever heard of him?

Treash admitted Moss is the deep-ball king. However, he doubled down on his claim and expanded on it, saying Hill is the league’s best deep threat currently and has the potential to go down as the GOAT of the long ball. Anthony Treash then dove into the NFL’s best deep threats and listed the New York Giants’ very own Kenny Golladay as the third-best deep threat in the league.

The two deep-threats listed ahead of Kenny Golladay were Tyreek Hill (duh) and DK Metcalf. Fair enough. Kenny G ranked number three because of his production over the past three seasons. Per PFF, Golladay ranks fourth among NFL wide receivers in deep receiving yards over the past three years, and he was just nine yards behind third-place despite playing in only 5 games in 2020.

Kenny Golladay has the second-highest contested catch rate in the NFL since 2018 (PFF). His ability to body inferior cornerbacks on vertical fifty-fifty balls is what makes him so special. And it is the reason why he is such a perfect fit with Daniel Jones and the New York Giants.

Daniel Jones was PFF’s third-highest graded passer on deep balls in 2020 with a 95.6 passing grade. Kenny Golladay’s 628 yards on deep passes ranked second in the league in 2019 (PFF). Danny Dimes has elite deep-ball accuracy and now he finally has an elite deep-receiving option. Time for Jason Garrett and Daniel Jones to get the nuclear launch codes out and say “bombs away!” in 2021.

Yankees get some crushing injury news on Luke Voit

The New York Yankees just can’t catch a break with injuries. Just when they thought they had their first baseman back for good, Luke Voit suffered another injury that will keep him sidelined for a significant amount of time.

The Yankees’ slugger is headed to the injured list with a Grade 2 right oblique strain, several outlets reported on Wednesday afternoon.

The initial estimates have Voit missing about a month with the ailment, but that’s not a given, as the injury is extremely unpredictable. Erik Boland explained that right fielder Aaron Judge missed 54 games in 2019 after suffering a similar injury.

Voit had already missed most of the season with a partially torn meniscus that required surgery, and just when he needed at-bats to gain some timing and rhythm at the plate, the unfortunate injury occurs.

Voit was hitting .182/.280/.250 since coming back from the injured list, with one home run and a 57 wRC+ in 12 games and 50 plate appearances for the Yankees.

What will the Yankees do at first base now?

Now, after this news, the Yankees will either have to rely on first baseman Mike Ford to cover the position while he is out, or go to the trade market in search of help. Sliding DJ LeMahieu to the first sack is also an option.

Voit is one of the Yankees’ most valuable performers. It was evident during his absence to start the campaign that no first baseman on the roster can supply the power and patience he is capable of providing.

Last year, Voit led Major League Baseball with 22 home runs during the shortened season, and the Yankees’ lineup has been missing that power element.

The Yankees will have to endure yet another crucial injury after the Corey Kluber one that took place on yesterday and several others they have had to deal with in the season.

Yankees: Corey Kluber injury news not as positive as hoped, lengthy recovery ahead

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The New York Yankees were hoping for better news regarding Corey Kluber and a shoulder issue he picked up on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. Kluber has been pitching lights out as of late, recording the first no-hitter of his career last Wednesday against Chicago.

Kluber experience shoulder tightness which removed him from the game, but he initially believed it wouldn’t be too serious, nothing compared to the injury he suffered last year that kept him out for virtually the entire season.

The 35-year-old veteran currently hosts a 3.04 ERA, picking four wins over 10 games pitches. This is the most he’s played in over two years, recording 53.1 innings of action the=is season before the injury.

 

A subscap train is defined, according to Healthline:

The subscapularis is a muscle in your shoulder that helps you internally rotate your arm. When your arm is internally rotated, it means that your palm is facing back, behind your body. The subscapularis is the largest muscle in the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles that attaches your upper arm to your shoulder. These muscles help you lift and rotate your arm. The subscapularis connects from your shoulder blade to your humerus, or upper arm bone.”

The Yankees must no find a way to supplement Kluber’s loss:

We can expect Kluber to be out at least four weeks, and then he will have to ramp up his pitching once again after the injury subsides. This could keep him out for 1.5-2 months potentially, which will force the Yankees to supplement his loss with players like Deivi Garcia at the bottom of the rotation.

Luckily, the Yankees have some depth in the category, and it is even possible that Luis Severino’s return will be right around the corner when Kluber makes it come back to. Gaining both starters back should aid in the Yankees’ playoff hopes, but they must remain healthy elsewhere otherwise, things could spiral out of control rather quickly.

Mets Game Preview: (5/26/21) vs. Colorado Rockies (19-30)

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets look to make it two in a row over the Colorado Rockies in the third game of the four-game set. It features a terrific pitching matchup which should once again feature a game with very limited scoring. The first pitch is set for 7:10 p.m., but there could be some rain throughout the night.

Before the game, the Mets added some much-needed outfield help by trading for Billy McKinney. He is still only 26-years old but is still looking to make an impact with his bat, hitting just .207 in his career. This entire series has featured a lack of offense as the winning team in both games only needed to score three times. The Rockies are known for their struggles outside of Coors Field and only have eight hits along with just two at-bats w/RISP.

Ryan McMahon is the one Rockie who has been able to muster some offense. He only has two hits in the series, but both have been for home runs. Luckily, the Rockies have not been on base often, which resulted in both homers only resulting in one run.

Pitching Matchup

Marcus Stroman takes the mound for the Mets and looks to put together back-to-back good starts for the second time all year. Stroman’s first three starts gave him a terrific 0.90 ERA. He has a 3.90 ERA in his last six starts with some up and down outings. His best start of the season came against the Rockies at Coors Field, where he held them to one run in eight innings.

German Marquez has struggled in May but hopes to replicate his April start against the Mets. Marquez pitched a complete game (7 innings) and held the Mets to two runs while striking out six. In 19.2 innings during May, Marquez has a 5.95 ERA and uncharacteristically walked 11 batters.

Matchups To Lookout For

German Marquez vs. Jonathan Villar: 4-for-10 (.400), 2 Doubles, Strikeout

German Marquez vs. Brandon Drury: 3-for-16 (.188), 2 Doubles, Home Run, Strikeout

Marcus Stroman vs. Ryan McMahon: 0-for-6 (.000), Strikeout

Michael “Venom” Page eying a move to the UFC

One of Bellator MMA’s biggest stars is eyeing his exit to jump over to the UFC. Michael “Venom” Page (19-1) has been fighting for Bellator since 2014 and that’s where he’s blossomed into a star of the sport.

MVP is known for his funky yet elite striking that often bewilders opponents. Page has won five fights in a row and four of them have come via knockout or TKO. Whenever MVP fights, there are fans that will tune in to watch.

MVP has always been a loyal Bellator fighter, but he’s always had the UFC in mind. Page told Michael Bisping this week that the UFC was the reason he got into MMA and he believes they are the reason the majority of athletes decide to train in MMA.

While the UFC has always been Page’s inspiration, they’ve yet to be a destination for the English striker. However, Page is eyeing a potential move to the UFC once he’s finished up with some business in Bellator.

The main thing for Page is winning the Bellator welterweight title. His lone career loss came against Douglas Lima and he wants to get that back. If he can get that back and win the Bellator title, he will be ready to jump to the UFC.

MVP in the UFC?

Page told Bisping this week, “Yes, I enjoy Bellator and I enjoy where I’m at. But, I definitely feel like I need to touch the UFC at some point. There’s some great matchups to be made over there… I don’t know when, but I definitely see myself going there.”

It’s pretty clear that Page wants to make the move to the UFC once he accomplishes his goals with Bellator. MVP stated that he wants to challenge himself and seemed to clearly indicate that the biggest challenges were in the UFC.

That was one of the main deciding factors when Michael Chandler decided to make the jump last year. As of right now, I believe that MVP will be getting the winner of the Douglas Lima – Yaroslav Amosov title fight that’s in a few weeks.

If MVP grabs the Bellator title, it will just be a matter of time before we see him venture over to the UFC. To me, MVP inside the octagon is a when and not an if at this point.

UFC: Jon Jones isn’t planning on fighting anytime soon

UFC, Jon Jones

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) isn’t planning on making his way back into the octagon anytime soon. Jones took to Twitter yesterday and made it clear that he’s in no rush to come back.

Last week, Dana White said that the UFC was moving on from Jon Jones in terms of the heavyweight title picture. White told TMZ that Jones’ fighting future is strictly up to Jon Jones.

Heading into 2021, it was clear that Jones would get a crack at the heavyweight title this year. At UFC 260, Francis Ngannou (16-3) knocked out Stipe Miocic (20-4) to become the heavyweight champion.

Immediately fans started getting excited about the possibility of a matchup between Jones and Ngannou. However, immediately after the fight was over, Jones and the UFC were at odds in terms of compensation.

After some back-and-forth both over social media and behind closed doors, the two sides couldn’t come to terms. As a result, Derrick Lewis (25-7, 1 NC) is going to be getting the next shot at the title. The UFC is trying to finalize the matchup for August.

Jones’ UFC Future

With Lewis being granted the shot at Ngannou, Dana White suggested that Jon Jones fights Stipe Miocic. This would be a fun matchup between arguably the greatest of all time and the greatest heavyweight of all time.

White’s logic was that this fight would truly establish a number one contender after the UFC title fight in August. However, Jones came out and said that the only fight he wants is the heavyweight title fight.

Since then, White has said that Stipe Miocic would be getting the winner of the matchup between Ngannou and Lewis. Stipe will likely get his shot at the end of the year or in early 2022.

With that, it will be another year where we don’t see Jon Jones in the UFC. His last fight came back in February of 2020 so we are likely looking at a two-year layoff for the all time great. Jones said on Twitter he doesn’t mind the wait, and thinks it might actually be a good thing.

Mets bring outfielder via trade to patch up injury-ravaged roster

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets are going through one of the worst injury crisis that a professional team has had to endure in recent memory, in all sports. They had up to 16 players on the injured list earlier in the week, more than half the size of a major league roster.

And while Jacob deGrom made a successful return to action on Tuesday, the Mets received bad news on Michael Conforto, Carlos Carrasco, and Jeff McNeil respective hamstring injuries – all of them are now expected to take until late June to heal – and also on Noah Syndergaard’s right elbow, as he suffered a setback last night on a rehab start.

The outfield has been ravaged by injuries, as well. The Mets are currently without Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora Jr., Johneshwy Fargas, Conforto, and others.

That’s why the Mets decided to go to the trade market and bring a warm body to take some of the available playing time while the injured players recover from their respective ailments.

The Mets acquired Billy McKinney

The Mets acquired outfielder Billy McKinney from the Brewers late Tuesday night in exchange for Minor League pitcher Pedro Quintana, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.

Mets’ acting general manager Zack Scott had stated this week that he was on the phone virtually all day trying to field a competitive, healthy roster, and he didn’t dismiss the possibility of going to the trade market to do so.

McKinney, the author of one of the catchers of the year so far in Major League Baseball, has some pop, as evidenced by his 21 homers in 511 MLB plate appearances. But he also has issues making consistent contact and has a.226/.285/.422 line in the Majors.

To clear roster space for McKinney, the Mets will likely place Fargas on the injured list.

Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell had praise for McKinney. “Players want opportunities. Players like Billy, sometimes it feels like they don’t get a ton of opportunities, and you don’t know when they’re coming. Being able to deliver on those opportunities is easier said than done, but that’s what Billy’s doing. He’s been an impactful player. He’s played really good defense. He’s been a spark.”