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May 31, 2016

No Philly teams, but still compelling reasons to watch NBA, Stanley Cup finals

Although there are no local teams involved, both the NBA and Stanley Cup finals offer the sort of sports drama to draw some of your television attention away from Game of Thrones.

It’s been a very long time since a local pro team has played for it all for a chance to win a trip to the White House – which is where the Villanova basketball team spent Tuesday afternoon.

But Golden State/Cleveland and San Jose/Pittsburgh each offer a real reason for you to make sure you are in front of your TV for the opening tip-off/faceoff.

The Penguins provide the obvious reason to watch, as most Flyers fans – as well as many other hockey fans around the country – will be watching to see Sidney Crosby get beaten. It did not start well for those rooting against Crosby as the Penguins won the first game, but the Sharks, with their long playoff beards, will be difficult to beat three more times.

As for the NBA, it doesn’t get much better than LeBron James – trying to finally win a title in Cleveland – and Steph Curry, who is trying to cap off a ridiculous regular season and a comeback from 3-1 down against Oklahoma City.

It is a magical matchup of a star like James who is trying to further enhance his legend, and Curry and his teammates, who are attempting to complete what would be one of the greatest seasons of all time in any sport.

There might not be a local team, but there is plenty of reason to watch with a rooting interest.


While Ryan Howard has struggled mightily in what are likely his final days with the Phillies, the other half of the right side of the Phils’ championship infield has prospered In Los Angeles.

Chase Utley once again claimed the national spotlight over the weekend when he responded to an early “message” pitch behind his back. The pitch got Mets starter Noah Syndergaard tossed from the game, and by the time it was over Utley had two home runs – one of which was a grand slam.

It was no secret that the Mets were still upset at the take-out slide Utley used in last fall’s playoff series that broke the leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, and resulted in a rule change by Major League Baseball. The Mets waited until this weekend to respond, and what they did not count on was Utley’s own response.

Bang. Bang.

Two home runs … and two more stories added to his legacy – this time in Dodger Blue.


The Flyers lost another member of their legendary Stanley Cup teams this week when Rick MacLeish died. For all of the talk of the Broad Street Bullies and their physical style, what is often lost in the discussion is the raw talent on the team.

MacLeish was the club’s first 50-goal scorer and he tipped home the winning goal to beat the Boston Bruins in the Flyers’ first Stanley Cup win. MacLeish had a patented move across the zone and then zapped a shot cross zone at full speed.

It has been a tough stretch for the Flyers with the deaths of Chairman Ed Snider and now, MacLeish. Those Flyers teams have earned a very special place in the hearts of Philadelphia sports fans which is why events such as these are literally dealt with like a death in the family.


The Phillies are in the midst of what is likely to be the toughest part of their schedule. The stretch got off to a rough start in Chicago, as the Phillies were swept out of town before they returned home and fell, 4-3, to the Nationals on Memorial Day.

After scraping through April and much of May by winning one-run games, the Phils are now seeing the law of averages – as much as their own batting averages – work against them.

The Phillies have given Howard every opportunity to show some of the prowess of his past, but time and again he has come up short. The net result of this is that the Phils are likely going to have to make a decision as to whether they should try and rejuvenate their offense by making a trade for a bat.

How the Phillies fare in these next games against top-level competition will likely be a key determining factor on whether or not they make that move.