If anything, the Islanders’ playoff run has given the hockey world an inside look into what’s been brewing on Long Island.
And that has been a major step toward building a consistent, championship-caliber franchise, according to Barry Trotz.
“Organizationally, I think it’s really important to see what’s happening on the Island,” the Islanders coach said on a Zoom call prior to a potentially season-ending Game 5 against the Lightning on Tuesday night. “The change, obviously with [general manager Lou Lamoriello] coming in, the facilities, what the Island is all about, obviously excitement of [UBS Arena], a permanent home for us, the type of character that represents the Islanders, just a lot of good things.
“Any time that you can go deep in the playoffs for any organization, what it does is there’s experiences of going deep for your organization that you can’t get any other way.”
From locking down the naming rights to their new arena, signing goaltending prodigy Ilya Sorokin — and using a playoff roster spot to begin integrating him into the team despite the fact that he’s ineligible to play — to the impact that Lamoriello’s trade-deadline acquisitions have had on their run to the Eastern Conference finals, the Islanders have certainly captured the NHL’s spotlight.
But more importantly than the heaps of attention the organization has received, the players have earned invaluable playoff experience that could serve them well in the future. To Trotz, it’s priceless experience that will particularly benefit the team’s younger players.
“For a number of our players, they have not been to a conference final ever before. They maybe got past the first round once or twice and that’s been about it,” Trotz said. “We’ve gone deeper and everybody thinks about the physical grind, I think the mental grind is a lot harder than the physical grind. The physical grind you get every game. You’re putting out effort and all that, but you’re getting banged up and every team is taking a piece of you every game.
“How you restore those pieces, how you focus on the next game, how you focus with success and more importantly, how you focus with defeat, how you pick yourself up after a tough loss or a game that doesn’t go your way individually or collectively. That’s what builds winners or champions.”
As one of the lone New York sports teams to succeed recently, the Islanders have seemingly drawn more and more interest as their playoff run has continued. But that interest can only build if the Isles keep winning, and Trotz noted how there’s never been a Cinderella story without some hardship.
“There’s very few teams in any sport that have put a group together and they’ve won a championship right away without maybe a little bit of failure on the way,” Trotz said. “You look at some of the great dynasties and you look at the dynasty of the Islanders when they won the four straight, there was a lot of hardship on the front end before they ran four in a row.
“There’s a lot of lessons on the way and understanding those lessons and being able to deal with them, those are invaluable for organizations and individuals in your organization.”
I’ve grown since time with Indians
The first time Gio Urshela played in the postseason, he was an all-field, no-hit third baseman for the Indians who went on to make two key errors in the 2017 ALDS that helped the Yankees advance.
He’s back in Cleveland for the Wild Card Series, firmly established as a stellar defender and one of the Yankees’ most consistent threats in the lineup.
Asked prior to Game 2 at Progressive Field how he’s grown since his time with the Indians, Urshela said, “I guess a lot. I feel like a different player [with a] different mentality.”
The improvements have come on both sides of the ball and persuaded the Yankees to stick with Urshela even after Miguel Andujar returned to health this season.
And he continues to impress his teammates, including DJ LeMahieu, who likened Urshela’s play at third to Nolan Arenado.
LeMahieu played with the perennial All-Star and Gold Glove-winner in Colorado before coming to The Bronx before last season.
“He’s a special defender,’’ LeMahieu said. “I’d put him in the Nolan category defensively. Offensively, it seems like he hits the ball hard every time up. He’s been big for us all year. He’s just a really good player. I really respect his game.”
It’s a long way from 2018, when Urshela was designated for assignment by the Indians and then traded to the Blue Jays in May. Later that season, Toronto shipped Urshela to the Yankees for cash considerations, about $25,000.
The investment has paid off for the Yankees.
He hit sixth in the lineup on Wednesday against Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco after hitting a double, scoring a run and driving in another in the Yankees’ Game 1 win.
He was also his usual solid self at third base.
“He’s a tremendous fielder,’’ LeMahieu said. “He makes some acrobatic plays you think he has no chance on and is consistent on balls right at him.”
Aaron Boone, who played third base throughout his career, has marveled at Urshela while managing him the last two seasons.
“He has a really strong and really accurate arm from a lot of different angles,’’ Boone said. “He has good hands. And I feel like this year, his range has ticked up. He’s special at third base. It’s fun to watch.”
And while the defensive metrics haven’t always agreed that Urshela is well above average at the position, Boone said the Yankees’ internal measurements have shown an improvement.
“He’s pretty elite over there,’’ Boone said.
Lakers vs. Heat live score, updates, highlights from Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals
Folks, we’ve finally reached that point: It’s time for Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals.
Almost a full year after the 2019-20 season began, the Heat and Lakers are prepared to battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The ride to get here has been bumpy to say the least — cue the virtual fans nodding in agreement — but these teams earned their spots in the series. Don’t even start with that asterisk talk.
Will LeBron James and Anthony Davis lead the Lakers to the title? Or can Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and the Heat pull off one more upset?
Sports Grind Entertainment is tracking live scoring updates and highlights from Lakers vs. Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. Follow below for complete results from Game 1.
Lakers vs. Heat score
Follow SN’s live scoreboard for NBA updates
Lakers vs. Heat live updates, highlights from Game 1
(All times Eastern)
End of first quarter: Lakers 31, Heat 28
9:40 p.m. — After falling behind early, the Lakers rally behind a strong opening frame from Anthony Davis, who has 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
9:25 p.m. — The Heat offense is cooking: 9-of-12 on field goals and 3-of-3 from 3-point range. Miami has a 13-point lead halfway through the first quarter.
9:15 p.m. — And here we go! Jae Crowder and Anthony Davis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the scoring.
9:05 p.m. — The starting lineups for each team…
Lakers: Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard
Heat: Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Bam Adebayo
8:45 p.m. — Dwight Howard will be the starting center for the Lakers in Game 1, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. He is expected to defend Heat star Bam Adebayo throughout the series.
8:25 p.m. — The Lakers are feeling the love from other pro sports teams in Los Angeles. Teamwork makes the dream work.
NBA Finals Game 1 start time
- Date: Wednesday, Sept. 30
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
The NBA Finals will start at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 30. As has been the case throughout the playoffs, there will not be any fans in attendance outside of select guests of players.
Below are the dates, times and TV channels for every NBA Finals game between the Lakers and Heat.
NBA Finals schedule 2020
(All times Eastern)
|Sept. 30||Game 1||9 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 2||Game 2||9 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 4||Game 3||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 6||Game 4||9 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 9||Game 5*||9 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 11||Game 6*||7:30 p.m.||ABC|
|Oct. 13||Game 7*||9 p.m.||ABC|
* If necessary
‘What are they going to say now’
MINNEAPOLIS — Shaken up by a scandal before the virus outbreak shrunk the season, the Houston Astros barely played well enough to reach the playoffs — with the rest of baseball actively rooting against them.
Well, they’re not ready to leave yet.
Carlos Correa hit a two-out, tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning for the Astros, who produced another stifling pitching performance and swept Minnesota over two games with a 3-1 victory Wednesday that sent the Twins to a record 18th straight postseason loss.
“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?”
Nine months after Houston’s rules-breaking, sign-stealing system was revealed, the Astros advanced to the Division Series in Los Angeles. As the sixth seed, they’ll face the Oakland Athletics or Chicago White Sox in a best-of-five matchup starting Monday at Dodger Stadium.
“I don’t think they necessarily thought that they had anything to prove. They just had to play ball,” said manager Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs and advanced for the first time in seven rounds since winning the 2003 NL Division Series with the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins are 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their Division Series at the New York Yankees on Oct. 5, 2004, a total of seven rounds lost. Since that date, the Astros are 43-35 in postseason play, winning 10 of 15 rounds with three trips to the World Series.
Kyle Tucker hit two RBI singles for the Astros and made a key throw from left field for the inning-ending out in the fifth.
Rookie Cristian Javier worked three hitless innings in relief for the victory in his postseason debut and Ryan Pressly pitched a perfect ninth against his former team, giving the Houston bullpen a total of 9 2/3 scoreless innings in this wild card series with three hits allowed.
“From the very beginning, we envisioned ourselves back in the playoffs and playing real well,” Tucker said. “So we never counted ourselves out at any point.”
Nobody on this Twins team has had a hand in more than six of the playoffs losses, but for the second straight year one of baseball’s most potent lineups limped through a brief postseason cameo. In a three-game division series sweep by the Yankees last year, the Twins totaled seven runs and 22 hits. Against the Astros, they mustered only two runs and seven hits.
“We put a lot of balls in play, it seemed like, but they were up in the air and, yeah, it seemed like we played into their trap,” said Max Kepler, one of four starters who went hitless in the series. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done.”
Nelson Cruz gave the Twins an RBI double for a second straight game, this time in the fourth inning against starter Jose Urquidy. Luis Arraez aggressively tried to score from first base, but Correa took the throw from Tucker and fired home to beat Arraez to the plate to preserve the tie after third base coach Tony Diaz waved him in.
“I don’t know why he sent him,” Correa said.
Then in the seventh against losing pitcher Cody Stashak, Correa drove a 1-0 slider into the tarp-covered seats above right-center field for his 12th home run in 52 playoff games.
After winning 101, 103 and 107 games in the last three regular seasons, winning the 2017 World Series and losing the championship in seven games to the Washington Nationals last year, the Astros stumbled through the 2020 season at 29-31 under Baker and new general manager James Click with a slew of injuries after the COVID-19 pandemic cut the schedule to 60 games.
They had the third-worst road record in the major leagues, too, but none of that mattered this week against the third-seeded Twins, who were out of sorts in their two biggest games this year.
José Berríos was one of the few who were locked in with five strong innings to start, with just two hits allowed. His two walks were costly, though, issued right before Tucker’s single in the fourth.
“I don’t think anyone was ready to leave, to end this way,” Cruz said. “That’s life.”
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