"The Stack" 4-21-16

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had a big night last night, especially from beyond the arc as they took a 2-0 series lead on the Detroit Pistons with a 107-90 win. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had a big night last night, especially from beyond the arc as they took a 2-0 series lead on the Detroit Pistons with a 107-90 win.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Norman is no longer a Carolina Panther. The Panthers released Norman citing the fact that no long-term deal could be reached. Many teams will seek Norman's services.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not just playoff talk that The Stack is here with on this Thursday.  The NFL made plenty of waves with a trade and a release so let’s get to it all in “the stack” for today, Thursday, April 21st:


Cavs, Heat, Clippers all take 2-0 series leads


It was another night of mostly uncompetitive NBA Playoff action last night.  The Miami Heat used a second quarter surge to build a twelve point halftime lead and they would not relinquish that lead.  Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker did their best to keep the Hornets in the game, but could not get within striking distance.  The Heat are playing really well right now.  I expect the Hornets to win at least one game at home, but it isn’t going to be easy.


The Detroit Pistons started out hot against the Cleveland Cavailers and all five starters finished in double figures.  Once the Cavs got hot from beyond the arc though, the Pistons could not keep up.  Even LeBron James got in on the mix and he isn’t that great of a three point shooter.  J.R. Smith was feeling it scoring all 21 of his points on three point shots.  The Cavaliers were 20-for-38 from beyond the arc.  You won’t beat a team if they are that hot from three.  Awfully impressive performance.


As for the Los Angeles Clippers, they had to work a little bit more against the Portland Trailblazers as it was a three point game in the third quarter, but the Clippers took the game over in the fourth quarter and eventually won 102-81.  The Trailblazers will not go away quietly.  They will win a game or two at home.  The Clippers will need to shoot better from the free throw line if they want to advance far in the playoffs, but that percentage is going to be skewed when DeAndre Jordan goes to the line (he was one-for-six).  Here’s Thursday’s NBA schedule:


Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks 7 PM ET TNT (Series tied 1-1)


Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers 7:30 PM ET NBA TV (Series tied 1-1)


Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets 9:30 PM ET TNT (Warriors lead series 2-0)


Stanley Cup Playoffs update


Three series are very close to being done.  The Washington Capitals could not close out the Philadelphia Flyers last night in Philly, losing 2-1 meaning there will be a game 5 in D.C. where the Capitals will close this series out.  They are up 3-1 in the series.  Nice for the Flyers to win one game.  The Dallas Stars are also close to sending the Minnesota Wild home for good after they took game four in St. Paul 3-2.  The Wild had been great on the penalty kill until last night when they gave up two power play goals to the Stars.  Both goals tied the game and then Jason Spezza scored late in the second period to put the Stars up for good.  Poor Wild L.  The San Jose Sharks also have put the Los Angeles Kings on the ropes after they held on to win 3-2 at home in game four.  The Sharks had a 3-0 lead going into the third period, but the Kings answered with two goalies and tried to rally for the tying goal, but came up just short.  Knew this was going to be a tough series.  The Kings now have to win the final three games to win the series, but considering they once trailed the Sharks 3-0 in a series and came back to win, I wouldn’t discount that they could do it again.


The only game Thursday that now has a tied series is between the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.  Roberto Luongo stopped 26 shots for the Panthers and it was Alex Petrovic’s goal midway through the third period that would help the Panthers prevail to the 2-1 victory.  This has been a very entertaining series.  Thursday’s Stanley Cup Playoff schedule is as follows:


Pittsburgh Penguins @ New York Rangers 7 PM ET CNBC (Penguins lead series 2-1)


Detroit Red Wings @ Tampa Bay Lightning 7 PM ET NBCSN (Lightning lead series 3-1)


Anaheim Ducks @ Nashville Predators 8 PM ET NHL Network (Predators lead series 2-1)


Chicago Blackhawks @ St. Louis Blues 9:30 PM ET NBCSN (Blues lead series 3-1)


Eagles trade up with Browns


There was plenty of chatter amongst NFL circles that the Philadelphia Eagles were trying to trade into the second spot in next week’s NFL Draft and the Cleveland Browns made it known in no uncertain terms that they were interested in trading out.  Naturally, the two sides got a deal done. The Eagles are now picking second in next week’s draft and they received a 2017 4th round pick from the Browns for the 8th pick, this year’s third round pick (77th) and fourth round pick (100) as well as a first round pick next year and a second round pick in 2018.  That is an awful lot to give up for a quarterback the Eagles are only hoping will be there.  They covet Carson Wentz.  Both Wentz and Jared Goff are in the discussion for number one and multiple reports have both guys as the favorite so no one really knows.  Plus the Eagles just gave quarterback Sam Bradford a new deal and say that he is going to be their starter.  They also paid Chase Daniel $7 million to be a backup.  Basically the Eagles don’t know exactly what they are doing.  We know they will draft a quarterback, but they better hope that whoever it is, Wentz or Goff, proves to be the next Donovan McNabb or they will be in trouble for many, many years.


Panthers release Norman


As if a trade for the second overall pick in next week’s NFL Draft was big enough news, the Carolina Panthers released cornerback Josh Norman, acknowledging that they are unable to complete a long-term deal with him.  Plenty of teams will seek Norman’s services.  He is right now the best shutdown corner in the league.  San Francisco, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Miami are all among teams rumored to be interested.  The Panthers, not just their defense took a major hit with this release.  Norman is a pretty special player and he will make a pretty penny on the open market.


Thibodeau heads to Minnesota


The Minnesota Timberwolves, a team ripe with such great young talent including Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins, has a new coach and a new president of basketball operations.  Former Chicago Bulls head coach and way back when former Timberwolves assistant Tom Thibodeau is the new head coach and team president of basketball operations.  Thibodeau is a coach who demands a lot out of his players, but he is great at defense and that is something the Timberwolves drastically need to improve on.  This young team should be responsive to Thibodeau’s message and you can expect the Timberwolves to improve almost immediately.  This was a job that the best in the basketball world coveted.  Thibodeau has landed the job and he is the right man for the job.  The Timberwolves haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, but that will change very soon under Thibodeau’s leadership.


Coming up Friday: NBA & Stanley Cup Playoff reaction 

Listen to this week's "The Sports Block" podcast right here.