Spurs were white-hot Tuesday

By Steve Sell
June 11, 2014

Wednesday’s ramblings while preparing for some R & R the next five days, including a three-day golf tournament in the old hometown...

• SPURS ON FIRE — The first 15 minutes of Tuesday’s third game of the NBA Finals between San Antonio and Miami were unlike anything I have ever seen.

The Spurs were the ones who should have been called “The Heat.” They were beyond white-hot, draining 19 of their first 21 shots. Kwahi Leonard, who had shot it crooked the first two games, made jumpers like they were layups.

As their lead spilled over the 20-point barrier, I made a remark to an observer that “this is the NBA. Everybody makes a run. Miami will get it to five at some point before the night is over.”

Of course, San Antonio eventually leveled off and the Heat did make a charge. Miami got as close as seven (not quite the five I predicted), but the Spurs spurted and pushed it back out for a comfortable victory.

That was a huge win for the Spurs. They knew in the new 2-2-1-1-1 format that they had to steal a game in South Beach. Now, look for the Heat to bounce back Thursday and even the series. This one has seven games written all over it, with San Antonio the Game 7 host if it gets that far.

• BACK TO .500 — With eight wins in their last 12 games and a resounding 9-5 victory over division rival Cleveland on Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals finally have scratched their way back to .500 at 32-32.

It seems like when the Royals reach the break-even mark, they immediately go into a skid that sends them back to three or four under.

In this 12-game stretch, the Royals have scored 56 runs. While good but not great, that’s an offensive feast for this run-starved team. Eric Hosmer, who seemingly swings at every single pitch, has hit two homers in his last three games after hitting only one in the first 61. Billy Butler is still looking like he’s 38 instead of 28 and if he could ever warm up, this team might start to take off. Even the much-maligned Mike Moustakas had a blind squirrel moment Tuesday when he banged a shot off the fair/foul pole, part of a season-high three homers for the Royals.

The pitching has always been there. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura have looked better in recent games, while James Shields and Jason Vargas have combined for 13 of the 32 wins (while losing only five). Jeremy Guthrie has been competitive and despite giving up a lot of hits, he’s been keeping the Royals in games, he just never seems to get any support.

With prohibitive favorite Detroit floundering, this division is begging for someone to get hot and take it over. The Royals are as good as Cleveland, Chicago and Minnesota, now they just have to find a way to beat Detroit as they are 0-5 against the Tigers this year. The teams meet for three in the Motor City beginning June 16.

• OPEN STARTS THURSDAY — The U.S. Open Golf Tournament begins Thursday at famed Pinehurst No. 2 and perhaps the sport’s most prestigious major is in desperate need of some star power.

Tiger Woods will be missing his second straight major due to injury. That right there probably takes away the casual golf fan who normally only watches to see how Tiger is doing.

That leaves the spotlight showered on Phil Mickelson, who has never won this tournament but has finished second a record six times, some of them in the most heart-breaking of fashion. Lefty needs to win the U.S. Open to complete the career grand slam, but Father Time is starting to catch up with him, plus he’s wild and can’t keep it on the course.

Making matters worse, Mickelson is the subject of a federal probe regarding his alleged involvement in an insider trading scandal, though he denies any wrongdoing.

Rory McIllroy’s game has been all over the map. Hotshot youngster Jordan Speith has yet to win anything top-shelf and is a couple of years away from being a household name. Ernie Els has gotten old and while Adam Scott is ranked No. 1 in the world, he's often seen as bland and mechanical.

But The Open is still The Open, which means I’ll watch no matter who’s in contention.

• CHECKING IN WITH FOX — I checked in this week with new McPherson College football coach Steve Fox to see if recruiting was winding down.

Fox, who had been the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator before being elevated to the head job following Pete Sterbick’s resignation, said the roster situation is still fluid at this point. Right now the Bulldogs are near the 80 mark, but Fox is awaiting on some transfer transcripts that could push the number up. The Bulldogs are a little shy in the backfield, with McPherson High grad Austin O’Bannon and Terrance Jones currently the primary carriers, but there’s still a chance Fox will add one or two more if the transfers are eligible.

Fox is like most coaches in that he doesn’t want to talk about any newcomers until they actually arrive on campus in August.