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Mike Shalin's Working Press: It's The King vs. the home team

By MIKE SHALIN
May 26. 2018 10:35PM
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Danny Amendola keeps his eyes on the football during the Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Wednesday in Davie, Fla. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)



OK, don't say you weren't warned.

The King is NOT dead and he kept his team alive Friday night in Cleveland.

Even with Kevin Love lost in the first half, LeBron James, getting some help from his friends, forced Game 7 tonight at TD Garden.

The Celtics are 10-0 at home in the playoffs and have won 11 straight on the parquet. They lost all three road games to Milwaukee and advanced. They have lost all three games in Cleveland and can still advance.

But, that man, The King, is in the way.

Back in 2012, with the Celtics leading the Miami Heat 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern final, James went for 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a Game 5 win before his 31 points and 12 rebounds back at home sealed the series.

He is averaging 34.7 points per game in Game 7s and had 45 against Indiana in this year's first round Game 7 (at home).

ESPN had a chart showing the top four scoring averages in elimination games, minimum five games. James is at 34.0 points and has gone 13-9. Then came Michael Jordan (31.3/6-7), Kyrie Irving (31.2/4-1) and Wilt Chamberlain (31.1/12-11).

"Best player in the game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after Friday's game. "Special night tonight and special night in Game 4 . I can't say enough good things about him."

Now, we'll see if he has played the last home game of his second tour in Cleveland.

"We have one game to be able to compete for a championship; what more can you ask for?" James said after the game - his seventh 40-point game in 17 tries in this postseason.

One game.

"It's about just winning the game now," said Boston's Marcus Smart. "It's not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can't go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight.

"We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied, we got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied, we have to come out ready to fight."

On the line

James' coach, Ty Lue, told his players before the game: "Three, three, three," meaning his team had three hours, three days or three weeks left in their season. The three hours is out of the picture.

For the record, James has averaged 39 points per game in the three home games and 27.7 per at TD Garden. He did have a triple-double - 42/10/12 - in Game 2.

From a historical perspective, the Celtics are 37-0 all-time when leading a playoff series 2-0, including the first two rounds this season.

Hanley gone

The Red Sox made huge news Friday when they designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment, ending his stay in Boston.

This move was about many things, but money is the root of the whole thing. Ramirez had been well on his way to the 497 plate appearances that triggered next year's $22 million guaranteed. The plan was not to let him get that far but when he started the season well it was generally considered he would get to the option.

He ended his stay on an 0-for-21 but was still on pace for a 90-RBI season. He had 10 RBIs in his last 13 games, but manager Alex Cora didn't think he would be a good fit on the bench with Mitch Moreland getting more time at first base.

Once he clears waivers, Ramirez will get another job, the Red Sox will pay most of his salary and the $22 million option will go away once the contract is voided.

Ramirez thanked the fans after getting the news, going to Twitter to say, Thank you #RedSoxNation. It's been real. Love you always."

Thanks to the MLB Network for pointing out Ramirez ($15-plus million) joins Pablo Sandoval ($41.5 million) and Rusney Castillo ($37.8) as players being paid to NOT play in Boston.

Oh, and Ramirez is a .273 lifetime hitter with 15 homers and 40 RBIs in 65 career games against the Yankees. But in six games this season, he went 7-for-18 with three homers and nine ribbies.

By the way, it was fitting Moreland homered to cap a 6-2 victory over the Braves Friday night, keeping the Red Sox ahead of the Yankees.

With people saying Ramirez might be missed in the clubhouse, Cora said, "Honestly, I do feel that guys might open up because you don't have that presence, you don't have a guy that's been in the big leagues for X-amount of years."

Not juiced, but ...

A study revealed the baseballs are not juiced. However, quoting USA Today, "A study commissioned by Major League Baseball indicated that baseballs used from 2015-2017 were not juiced, but that 'changes in the aerodynamic properties of baseballs' resulted in greater carry and a home run surge during that period.

"While no definitive reason was given for the shift, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a list of recommendations Thursday that the league will follow, most notably exploring whether humidors will be used to store baseballs in all 30 ballparks."

The carry of the baseballs is one thing, but the sport has to be concerned about the number of strikeouts hurting the game. Double-digit Ks are commonplace and make the games less interesting.

Receivers impress

It didn't take Danny Amendola long to impress the Dolphins with his intensity. It didn't take Brandin Cooks long to impress the Rams with his speed.

Amendola was upset at himself for a couple of plays at Miami's OTA's.

"He's a competitor. A perfectionist," coach Adam Gase. "He's going to compete whether its Day Two of OTAs, or Phase Two in the weight room. That's just how he's been. He's the guy that beat the odds because he was told he'd never play in the NFL."

Rams coach Sean McVay, watching Cooks, now with his third team in three seasons, burn it up during workouts, was overheard telling a group of coaches, "How fast is Brandin Cooks?" He said to another coach after another play, "How about how fast Cooks looked on that strike?"

McPhee's finals

The Golden Knights and Capitals open the Stanley Cup Final Monday night in Las Vegas, with George McPhee a proud papa of both teams.

McPhee was the general manager who put together this Washington team and is now running the expansion Knights.

Last season, when the Caps were again eliminated by the Penguins, McPhee said, "I was disappointed that people were pointing fingers at Alex (Ovechkin)," McPhee said. "Because Alex does nothing but show up every year, produce at an elite level in the playoffs and in the regular season, hits like a truck and doesn't miss games, plays through everything. And I was disappointed that people were pointing fingers at him."

Neither the Knights or Caps followed the tradition of not touching their conference title trophies. In Touching moment

The Rockets honored victims, survivors and first responders of the Santa Fe massacre prior to Game 5 Thursday night. They then went out and defeated the Warriors - the latest example of a team doing something special for the community.

The Texans' JJ Watt, a Houston hero following the devastating hurricane there last season, is paying for the funerals of the Santa Fe victims and was right there courtside sitting with Justin Timberlake.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they won the game and lost Chris Paul to a hamstring injury. They played Game 6 without him Saturday night and he had a look on his face as he walked off that this would be more than a one-game thing.

They are ahead in the series even though James Harden missed his last 20 3-pointers over the wins in Games 4 and 5.

Brad Stevens on the Celts' Aron Baynes: "We've got a lot of tough guys on our team, but I think they will all tell you Baynes is one of the toughest we've been around."

Baseball jottings

The pitching-strapped Rays are doing it again this weekend: reliever Sergio Romo is starting two straight games. Last week, the Angels' Zack Cozart was unimpressed, saying, "It was weird. It's bad for baseball, in my opinion ... It's spring training, that's the best way to explain it."

Oh, and the Mets were talking about doing the same thing Monday, in the second game of a day/nighter in Atlanta. As far as a decision, manager Mickey Calloway said Friday, "Not yet, we'll ride out the next couple of days and see where we are at. (Jacob) deGrom will start the first game, other than that we're not sure."

The Rays also continued their tanking by shipping closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to Seattle on Friday. "They're going to fit in our clubhouse and really fit too to what we think are critical needs," said Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto, who had some money to spend because of the $12 million being forfeited by the suspended Robinson Cano. "The fact we were able to do it and maintain another four, five months of their contribution for this year, it's so much different than an ordinary in-season or July-type of pick up."

The Cubs are playing a night game at home Sunday and then visit the Pirates at 12:35 on the holiday Monday. Make sense?

Through Friday, Vlad Guerrero Jr. of your New Hampshire Fisher Cats was batting .435 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs in 43 games. His minor-league days appear to be numbered.

Shohei Ohtani, doing what no player has done since Babe Ruth, will NOT face Japanese countryman Masahiro Tanaka as a pitcher today at Yankee Stadium. He DHd Friday night and is scheduled to pitch again next week.

Friday was the 37th anniversary of Carl Yastrzemski joining Ty Cobb, Stan Musial and Henry Aaron as the only players to play in 3,000 MLB games.

Aaron Judge didn't hit a home run against the Angels Friday night, but the big right fielder did throw a pair of runners out on the bases, including Kole Calhoun at home plate in a 2-1 win. The throw home was clocked at 100.5 mph.

Jose Bautista made his first contribution to the Mets Friday night with a game-tying pinch single in the ninth inning. But the Brewers won the game in the 10th as AJ Ramos walked both batters he faced to force in the winning run. "I haven't been doing my job, plain and simple. I haven't been very good," the struggling Ramos said after the game.

A Derek Jeter rookie card, graded a perfect PSA 10, sold for $99,100 via eBay auction, the highest price ever paid for a modern-day card.

Oakland's Sean Manaea has a 5.67 ERA in six starts since no-hitting the Red Sox last month.

Finally, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and the Indians bullpen gave up 11 runs to the Astros in the last two innings to lose Friday night's game. That dropped Cleveland to 24-25 - a game and a half ahead of the Twins atop the AL Central.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL