Heat embrace villain role as playoffs continue


Heat embrace villain role as playoffs continue

If anyone saw the events of Tuesday night coming, in which the Heat again embraced the villain's role in their second-round series with the Pacers, it was the Bulls. In their final regular-season trip to Miami, the Heat was the aggressor and perhaps went over the line in a string of incidents, including reserve James Jones' flagrant foul on Joakim Noah and subsequent ejection, All-Star guard Dwyane Wade's virtual tackle on longtime rival Rip Hamilton and league MVP LeBron James' unnecessarily hard screen on the diminutive John Lucas III.

While Miami's chippiness appeared to catch the Bulls somewhat unaware, the Pacers established themselves as a physical team in last spring's first-round series, which is why situations like backup big man Lou Amundson's unintentional elbow to Heat counterpart Udonis Haslem in Sunday's Game 4 and Tyler Hansbrough's flagrant foul on Wade in Tuesday's game weren't unexpected. Nor was Haslem's retaliatory flagrant on Hansbrough, although the onus should be on the game officials for not upgrading the call after review and possibly ejecting Haslem.

However, with upwards of a 30-point lead, only deep reserves on the court, the game in hand and the Pacers looking thoroughly defeated in the game's waning moments--recently-named NBA Executive of the Year Larry Bird called his team "soft," but more than an identity crisis, Indiana should be worried about the health status of starting forwards Danny Granger and David West for Thursday's Game 6--massive center Dexter Pittman leveled Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in the throat with a flying forearm. Now, Stephenson being the target is no surprise after he was caught on camera giving the choke sign during Indiana's Game 3 win, but Heat veteran Juwan Howard already confronted Stephenson before Game 4 and to make matters worse, Pittman was caught winking on camera after the dirty deed, which led to post-game concussion tests for Stephenson and could ultimately result in a broken collarbone.

Miami, still without All-Star forward Chris Bosh, looks primed to advance to the conference finals now that Wade has rediscovered his game and James has taken his own to another level. There, they're likely to face an experienced, yet banged-up Boston squad--future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, not to mention defensive stopper Avery Bradley, are dealing with injury concerns--which has the chance to close out pesky Philadelphia in a Game 6 matchup Wednesday, setting up a series between two teams with a chip on their respective shoulders that shouldn't lack for physical play and verbal confrontations.

Meanwhile, the West is comparably tame after the Spurs swept Vinny Del Negro's Clippers and the Thunder dispatched the tumultuous Lakers in a relatively easy five games, giving both teams plenty of time to rest and prepare for what should be a tremendous conference finals. With all of the flaws in the remaining East teams, the two Western Conference juggernauts appear to be head and shoulders above their potential NBA Finals competition, though in the postseason, nothing is set in stone.

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series schedule

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series schedule

The 2016 World Series is set: Cubs vs. Indians.

The Cubs are on the main stage for the first time since 1945 and the Indians are back since 1997.

The first game will be played on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at Progressive Field.

Cleveland will host Games 1 and 2 since the American League won the All-Star game this season. Then the series will head to Wrigley for Games 3-5, and if necessary, head back to Progressive Field for Games 6 and 7.

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Check out the complete schedule below:

Date Game Time / TV Matchup
Tue, Oct. 25 Game 1 7 p.m. CT on Fox Cubs at Indians
Wed, Oct. 26 Game 2 7 p.m. CT on Fox Cubs at Indians
Fri, Oct. 28 Game 3 7 p.m. CT on Fox Indians at Cubs
Sat, Oct 29 Game 4 7 p.m. CT on Fox Indians at Cubs
Sun, Oct 30 Game 5* 7 p.m. CT on Fox Indians at Cubs
Tue, Nov. 1 Game 6* 7 p.m. CT on Fox Cubs at Indians
Wed, Nov. 2 Game 7* 7 p.m. CT on Fox Cubs at Indians

**CSN will air a postseason edition of Cubs Pre- and Postgame Live an hour before the first pitch and immediately following the final out.

How Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw to move on to World Series

How Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw to move on to World Series

Two quick runs off the best pitcher on the planet on Saturday night afforded the Cubs exactly what they needed to snap a 71-year-old drought.

Already confident after consecutive offensive outbursts in the previous two games, a two-run first inning against Clayton Kershaw had Cubs hitters in a positive frame of mind.

They rode the surprising rally and a dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks to a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. The win earned the Cubs their first NL pennant since 1945 and on Tuesday night they’ll seek their first World Series title since 1908 when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1.

“It’s huge for the confidence, the positive momentum from LA, to carry over back home,” left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “Those were the biggest moments in the game early on to help everybody keep pushing and that we got this thing -- that we’re in charge of the game early. That’s a huge momentum builder.”

The Cubs did a little bit of everything in the first inning against Kershaw, who dominated them for seven scoreless frames in a 1-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2 on Sunday night. Some hitters took a more aggressive approach against the three-time NL Cy Young winner while others remained patient. The one constant throughout the 30-pitch frame was that Cubs hitters took advantage whenever Kershaw made a mistake.

Dexter Fowler started with an opposite-field double on a 1-1 slider and Wrigley was rocking when Kris Byrant singled him in to make it 1-0. Andrew Tolles’ error on Anthony Rizzo’s gapper to left center put runners on second and third. Zobrist took advantage and put the Cubs ahead by two with a sac fly to center.

“I think the boys were just ready to go,” Fowler said.

The confidence gained from 18 runs scored in the fourth and fifth games of the series was evident before the Cubs ever took the field. Players looked loose during pregame warmups, whether it was Albert Almora Jr. and several teammates banging air drums to Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’ or Javy Baez pumping his fist to a loud beat mere seconds before the Cubs took the field.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The confidence carried over as the two runs represented the first time all season that Kershaw had allowed a pair to score in the first inning.

“They jumped on it,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “They were all over his fastball and they spit on his breaking ball.

“We felt good coming into the game knowing that we were facing the best pitcher on the planet. But we felt good about ourselves because we got the lead.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts thought the key was that the Cubs took advantage of Kershaw’s mistakes as opposed to his previous start when he allowed two hits. Addison Russell kept the pressure on Kershaw when he ripped a hanging slider for a leadoff double in the second inning and he later scored on Fowler’s two-out single to left.

Rookie catcher Willson Contreras crushed a hanging slider for a solo homer in the fourth inning to make it a 4-0 lead.

“They had a great game plan tonight,” Roberts said. “And there was a couple mistake sliders that they took advantage of. But they were running counts, they used the whole field, and there was traffic all night for Clayton. And he gave it everything he had, but when they did -- when he did make a mistake, they made him pay.”

Rizzo gave the Cubs an even bigger lead when he hammered a 1-1 fastball from Kershaw in the fifth inning for a solo homer and a 5-0 lead. Combined with the dominance of Hendricks, the cushion made any talk about curses or billy goats or five outs seem downright silly.

“It felt really good, amazing,” Rizzo said. “We were on the board and I tell our pitchers all the time, ‘If you don’t let ‘em score, it’s impossible (for them) to win.’ ”