THE HANGOVER: DRAFTSTARS WEEKLY WRAP
We were just witness to one of the most remarkable weeks of sport. Nobody in the world could have predicted what happened in the Champions League or in the two game sevens between Denver and Portland and Toronto and Philly.
Four hugely consequential results were defined in fleeting moments- whether it was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick thinking with his quick cross to put Liverpool into the Champions League final, Lucas Moura’s goal with the final kick of the game to overcome Ajax against all odds or Kawhi Leonard’s four bounce rim-rattling buzzer beaten to condemn the 76ers to a second consecutive conference semi-finals loss- it was a good week to be a sports fan.
Even Australia, thousands of kilometres from the fantastical narratives of the UK and US, provided us with some gobsmacking finishes. Both A-League finals made headlines for different reasons. Perth Glory secured a home final for the first time in A-League history by way of an incredible penalty shootout win and Sydney stunned the Victory 6-1.
And while the AFL didn’t set the world alight, the finish between Gold Coast and Melbourne was unprecedented.
Where the Dees pinched one in a thriller, the Melbourne NRL variety had a match on completely different terms, with the Storm annihilating Parramatta 64-10 to send a message to the rest of the competition.
AFL ROUND EIGHT
It was a week of near enough is not good enough. Each losing side either had their chances throughout the game or were considered favourites before underwhelming performances… cough… GWS… cough… Freo.
Essendon were not exempt from the wrath of favouritism after going down to the second-bottom Swans. In just his fifth game, Swans forward Nick Blakey proved to be a match winner slotting an important goal and laying a huge chase down tackle with only seconds on the clock. In the best game of his short career he accumulated 82 DS points from 17 touches.
The Doggies claimed another victory in Ballarat, this time at the expense of the Lions. Again, Aaron Naughton was immense but Josh Dunkley was the top dog. Having built nicely into the season he launched this week with 127 DS points from 36 touches and a goal.
A near boil-over was prevented by Brodie Grundy (149 DS points) and the Pies as they wrestled back an 11-point deficit deep in the final quarter against the Blues. Their stars fired, naturally, but most encouragingly Callum Brown seems to have taken a huge stride in his AFL career. His 21 disposals and two goals earnt him 109 DS points and was a point of difference in DS contests.
The Dees came from a goal down to win in 49 seconds. Clayton Oliver kept the Dees in the game all day, and when it came to winning the match, his clearance work helped Melbourne over the line. 38 possessions and 15 tackles led Oliver to a staggering 161 DS points and the highest score of the round.
The honourable losses are starting to mount for the Saints after another 50/50 game went begging against the Eagles. Liam Ryan has been threatening to go to the next level all year and, but for his goal kicking, this would have been the game in which he went there. He had 17 critical touches and he constantly threatened to tear the game with 1.4 on the scoreboard and 85 DS points.
The Showdown was the most talked about match of the week after Damian Barrett made it his darling in the media. And for good reason, it is the biggest rivalry currently in the AFL. Port threatened to make it another instant classic but Adelaide were able to hold them at arms-length to win by 20. In a losing side, and with a virtually unknown status, Jarrod Lienert played a blinder as he racked up 26 touches, 10 marks and 113 DS points.
Tim Kelly may well be the best player in the AFL this season, particularly after repeatedly lifting the Cats to eventually overcome North Melbourne. He was simply unstoppable on Sunday as he eased his way to 36 touches, seven tackles, two great goals and 141 DS points. This man is a match winner and a contest winner.
Nobody saw the Hawks beating the Giants but, in Clarko we must trust. He threw Jarryd Roughead on the discard pile, restructured his side and came back from a disappointing loss to the Demons. Only 14 thousand fans attended the match which was dour in a number of ways, including on the stats sheet. Ricky Henderson (125 DS points) continued a fine season in the wing and James Cousins (108 DS points) showed his potential after returning from suspension.
Freo were finally backed in to take a big scalp as the hosted Richmond, but, as has been their story for a while now, they crumbled miserably. After half time they never looked like winning as the Tigers kicked away. Shai Bolton played the best game of his career and threatens to become a superstar player. He snagged 101 DS points from 16 touches, seven tackles and four majors.
NBA CONFERENCE SEMI-FINALS
The conference semi-finals have been a real treat. Other than the Bucks/Celtics series, the one which was hyped the most, they have gone way past the excellence that was promised. The Blazers series victory after a final quarter shootout with Denver cannot be understated. Their core consists of two stars and other role players picked up off the scrap heap.
After Dame personally destroyed the Thunder in round one, CJ McCollum stepped up against Denver. The man does not provide much other than offense but he is a walking bucket. The Blazers bat deep though, so when looking for value outside of stars, keep an eye on the Blazers bench.
The Warriors defied the loss of Kevin Durant in game five to defy the critics and win game six in Houston to take the series. Not that it could not be seen coming but Klay and Steph took over with the latter leaving it until late before exploding in the second half with 33-points.
While KD was the man for the majority of this series, Klay reminded the world of what he can do when given touches. He is a risky choice in your contests but when he goes off he is a difference maker.
Giannis and the Bucks clearly took a Paul Pierce quote of “this series is over” after they went down 0-1 after game one to heart. From then on they never wavered, never looked like losing and coasted to the easiest series win of the semi-finals.
May God have mercy on your soul if you opted for Kyrie Irving as your number one man in any of his associated contests. In the conference semis he took 104 shots and scored 102 points as his side were annihilated. Giannis was your man, and you should not have bet against him.
And the final conference semi-final was fought out between Toronto and Philly. It was the best series anyone could have hoped for. The momentum swings were extreme and it came down to how the final shot bounced off of the rim. Philly are good, Jimmy Butler was huge. But they did not have Kawhi.
Kawhi scored 243 points in the conference semis, the third most of all-time. He averaged 35 points on 59% from the field and 41% from deep, 10 boards and four assists. It was one of the best performances in history. AND, for the most part, he was a one-man show.
Let us relive his unbelievable performance in game seven, including his series clinching buzzer-beater.
Written by Brin DugganAFL, NBA, NRL