"The Stack" 5-19-16

Steph Curry was his sharp-shooting self Wednesday night, scoring 28 points (17 in the third quarter alone) as the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-91. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Steph Curry was his sharp-shooting self Wednesday night, scoring 28 points (17 in the third quarter alone) as the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-91.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Surprise! Jeff Hornacek is the new head coach of the New York Knicks.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves fired manager Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday, a move that should be come under fire if the Braves were expecting anything better than the 9-28 start they got off to with the team Gonzalez had to manage.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Stack is here on this Thursday ready to talk playoff action from last night plus some coaching news so let’s get right to “the stack” for today, Thursday, May 19th:


Warriors silence Thunder, even series


The Golden State Warriors knew they had to play better in game two so as to avoid a 2-0 series deficit heading to OKC for games three and four of the Western Conference Finals.  They played like the team that won 73 games in the regular season and much of the postseason with a resounding 118-91 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to even the series up 1-1.  Unlike in game one, the Thunder could not answer and come back from a halftime deficit and Russell Westbrook was silent for the most part in the second half.  All it took was a 17 points effort by Steph Curry in the third quarter and the Thunder were done.  Westbrook had just one rebound.  One!  Curry gave Warriors fans a scare when he dove for a loose ball and went flying into the stands, but he appeared to be alright as evidenced by his hot shooting.  Curry finished with 28 points and the bench was huge for the Warriors chipping in with 50 points.  The game was slightly closer than the final score indicated, but make no mistake about it, the Warriors were the far better team Wednesday night.  The ball movement was spectacular and now they go into OKC with momentum and perhaps those people who thought the Thunder would win the series have shifted back to the Warriors.  Tonight is game two of the Eastern Conference Finals.


Toronto Raptors @ Cleveland Cavaliers 8:30 PM ET ESPN (Cavaliers lead series 1-0)


Penguins pummel Lightning


The Pittsburgh Penguins outplayed the Tampa Bay Lightning in game two.  Had it not been for goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning would have lost that game 5-2 or 6-2.  Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy again had to stand on his head as the onslaught of shots by the Penguins began.  They had more energy than the Lightning.  They definitely had more shots.  They had better scoring chances yet they could not get one by Vasilevskiy until with ten seconds remaining in the second period when Phil Kessel took the puck and started on a breakaway or at the very least an odd-man rush.  Kessel got the shot on net and Vasilevskiy made the save, but Carl Hagelin was right there with the rebound and put it in the net to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.  The Lightning were fortunate to only be down 1-0 after two periods.  Kessel would get his five minutes in on a nice shot to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead, but the Lightning responded 14 seconds later when Tyler Johnson put one under the arm of Penguins goalie Matt Murray.  The Penguins would not be intimidated though.  Braydon Coburn took a bad penalty for the Lightning and Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal to put the Penguins ahead comfortably.  It’s the second straight game Crosby has scored a goal.  The Penguins went on to win 4-2 and now have a 2-1 series lead.  The final score doesn’t indicate just how much the Penguins outplayed the Lightning.  They outshot them 48-28.  In fact in the last two games the Penguins have put up 89 shots.  Vasilevskiy has played out of his mind to give the Lightning a chance, but it doesn’t appear they have any answer.  The Penguins should win this series.  Tonight is game three of the Western Conference Finals.


St. Louis Blues @ San Jose Sharks 9 PM ET NBCSN (Series tied 1-1)


Jeff Hornacek is new Knicks coach


The New York Knicks have a new head coach…and it’s not the name very many people expected.  Jeff Hornacek will be the new head coach.  Not Kurt Rambis.  No former Laker.  No former Bull.  Nobody that ran the triangle for Phil Jackson.  It’s Jeff Hornacek.  The move is puzzling.  Hornacek was OK with the Phoenix Suns and he had to deal with a lot of injuries this year in Phoenix this year contributing to why he was fired with that poor record.  I don’t know how Knicks fans will feel about this, but it sounded like they weren’t thrilled with the prospect of having Rambus as a head coach.  So what do they want?  Maybe they just don’t want Jackson running the team anymore.  As mentioned, Hornacek doesn’t fit Jackson’s ideology of basketball all the way.  We’ll see if things pan out, but it sounds like most of the basketball world is confused and perplexed by this decision.


Fredi Gonzalez fired


Mentioned yesterday that I would have more thoughts on the Atlanta Braves firing Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday.  It’s a freaking joke.  The Atlanta Braves front office made the collective decision based on their actions last season and this past offseason that they are in full on rebuilding mode.  They’ve traded almost all of their good players away.  What is a manager supposed to do?  Yes the Braves have some veterans like Nick Markakis and A.J. Pierzynski, but those guys are towards the end of their careers.  The Braves feel like a minor league team playing in the majors.  They just don’t have the talent at this point to compete with the rest of Major League Baseball.  The Philadelphia Phillies the last three or four years have been really bad as they’ve built towards something respectable this year.  The Houston Astros also went into full rebuilding mode and were terrible for three or four years.  The transition to the American League didn’t help either.  The Braves are perhaps doing Gonzalez a favor so he doesn’t have to manager this disaster of a season.  What more can he do?  If the Braves front office expected something better than the 9-28 record Gonzalez had this season, they are sorely delusional and living in some fairy tale or imagination land with constant sunshine, unicorns and lollipops.  What an embarrassment!


Coming up Friday: NBA & NHL Playoff reaction plus Preakness pick and more