Sideline: this week in sports

Chief Keefe’s Leafs are fun again!

Did you know that watching hockey is supposed to be fun and entertaining and not actively take years off your life? I sure forgot! After getting pummeled by Pittsburgh (which was probably the nail in the coffin for Babcock) and a loss in Vegas, Leafs President Brendan Shanahan and GM Kyle Dubas flew out to Arizona and relieved Mike Babcock of his coaching duties.

After all, Dubas never picked Babcock and while he said all the right things despite numerous disappointing playoff series, he finally pulled the trigger and brought in his guy, Sheldon Keefe. Keefe had an incredible run with the Toronto Marlies, including a Calder Cup championship in 2018, where Dubas was the GM and five current Leafs were players (Engvall, Moore, Gauthier, Holl, Timashov).

The turnaround was largely epitomized by Tyson Barrie, who after going goalless in 23 games under Babcock, scored two in two games under Keefe. In Keefe’s first NHL coaching game, the Leafs were able to pull out a 3-1 win, with all three goals meaning a little more than usual. Tyson Barrie ended his draught late in the first period, Pierre Engvall scored the first of his career, while Auston Matthews scored one in his home state of Arizona.

Then in Colorado two nights later, Nic Shore — who is from Denver and went to school there — was inserted into the lineup after being scratched in Arizona because Keefe wanted him to play in his hometown. Shore scored the first goal for the Leafs. The Leafs would go on to score four in the first period, including a power play goal just 20 seconds into Keefe’s first ever power play.

Extremely small sample size, but the Leafs play is night and day since the change. Hopefully it continues.

 

Zach LaVine did what?

While I can happily watch almost any NBA game, excuse me for deciding not to pay attention to a Hornets-Bulls game on Saturday night while the Leafs and Raptors were playing simultaneously. Well, what a fool I was, because to my (and probably everyone’s) surprise, Zach LaVine dropped 49 points, hit 13 threes and completed one of the most incredible comebacks in recent memory.

With Chicago down eight with 45 seconds left, LaVine came inches away from travelling before hitting his 11th three of the night. Then, down seven with 30 seconds left, he crossed the timeline, jacked one from the halfcourt logo and banked in his 12th. Now down five with 15 seconds left, with all eyes on LaVine, a wide open Tomas Satoransky knocked down a three to put them down two with seven seconds to play. After a goofed inbound pass by the Hornets that was stolen by LaVine, he then ran back to the three point line, jacked up a fadeaway three at the buzzer that fell, giving him his 13th three, 49th point and Chicago a win.

Here is a transcript of the Hornets’ play-by-play man during the final possession:

“Trouble … loose! Chicago’s got it! OH NO … YOU’RE KIDDING!”

I love when broadcasters make no effort to hide their homer-ism and bias.

Remember, this was the first game after Bulls’ head coach Jim Boylen benched LaVine for a number of “egregious defensive mistakes”, after which LaVine told the media he felt it was underserved and that Boylen singled him out. Way to play 4D-chess Boylen.

After the game the Bulls tweeted out something like ‘Zach LaVine’s 27 fourth quarter points is second in Bulls history, only behind Michael Jordan’s 30’. It’s so weird to see LaVine’s name next to Jordan’s in anything other than best dunker. Similarly, the record book for most threes in a game now belong to Klay Thompson (14), Stephen Curry (13) and now Zach LaVine (13). Gone are the days of Donyell Marshall’s measly 12.

 

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