Take 5: Pirates, playoffs, PGA tour



The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James on the court against the Miami Heat in Miami March 27. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

By The Pitt News Staff

There are just two weeks left in the semester and classes are winding down at Pitt. The same can’t be said for news in the sports world. The Pitt News staff is back with a weekly roundup of this week’s best.

More of the same

Are the Houston Rockets leading the West? Yes. Have the Cleveland Cavaliers spent much of the season in disarray and trailing the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics? Yes. Does that matter? No. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will play again in the finals.

The Rockets are a great shooting team, but here’s a little secret: so are the Warriors. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson make up arguably the best shooting backcourt in NBA history and Kevin Durant is a former MVP and scoring champion who releases the ball three inches above the rim. You don’t beat the greatest shooting team of all time with shooting.

In the East the Cavs still have the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron James. James has shown his extra gear in the postseason before, and he will show it again. The Raptors have repeatedly choked. LeBron will not lose to a Celtics sans Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Even with an injury to Curry, Durant can carry the Warriors. LeBron’s ability to carry the Cavs is well documented. We will see Cavs versus Warriors IV this spring.

— Stephen Cuddy, Staff Writer

Buc on top

Through the first week of the MLB season, the Pittsburgh Pirates sit atop the National League Central division, in sole possession of first place with a 4-1 record. The team has already shown it can win in a variety ways, from a 13-10 overtime slugfest over the Detroit Tigers to a 1-0 shutout victory— against those same Tigers— in which relatively-unknown pitcher Trevor Williams impressed with a no-hitter through six innings.

The Pirates came into this season with low expectations after club management over the last few years dealt the team’s most productive players — former All-Stars Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen — for a handful of prospects and minimal cash. The moves drew the ire of Pittsburgh fans, who saw it as a collaboration between owner Robert Nutting to protect his financial interests and general manager Neal Huntington to embrace the dreaded tanking process.

Now, the Pirates’ unlikely hot start has given fans something to be excited about. But some perspective is necessary to temper any outlandish expectations — three of those four wins came against the lowly Detroit Tigers, the worst team in 2017, and 157 games remain on the schedule to separate the contenders from the pretenders. So, Buccos fans, enjoy the success while it lasts, because it may not be long.

— Trent Leonard, Staff Writer

Playoff shakeup

March Madness has officially come to an end, which means I have to find a new excuse to not do my homework. The NBA playoffs will hopefully fill that procrastination role. Recently, there has been talk that the playoff format will switch to a tournament style similar to the NCAA.

Essentially, conferences would not matter for playoffs and the best 16 teams in the NBA would be seeded accordingly and there would be a bracket style competition for the NBA championship.

This plan has come under a lot of backlash from some players, including LeBron James. When asked about the possible change, LeBron laughed it off and called it “corny” and “wack.”

But a new playoff format is much needed. The Western conference has been the best conference for a long time, with teams often missing the playoffs with records that would have guaranteed them a low seed in the East. I don’t think single-elimination would be a good format, but getting rid of conference seeding for the playoffs would make May and June in the NBA exponentially more exciting.

— Jon Shaiken, Staff Writer

Same old Rory

Coming into the Masters, Tiger Woods had reclaimed the hearts and minds of golf fans everywhere with a couple top-five finishes over the last month. After the first day of competition, it’s Jordan Spieth who holds the lead at the tournament he won three years ago and he is now the favorite going forward.

Everyone seems to have forgotten about Rory McIlroy, who just four years ago was supposed to be golf’s next generational super star.

McIlroy hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship and he has never won the Masters, but if there were ever a time for him to re-enter the conversation for best golfer in the world, it’s now.

He is currently putting better than ever before — ranking in the top 10 in putts per round for the first time in his career — and he’s coming off of a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a little over two weeks ago. McIlroy currently sits tied for fourth at the Masters. Don’t be surprised if he stands alone at the top on Sunday.

— Grant Burgman, Sports Editor