BOB MATTHEWS SPORTS TALK
Weeknights 6:00PM - 8:00PM
on WHAM 1180
Email Bob here.
For over 25 years, Bob Matthews has held the title of Rochester's most popular sports writer/commentator. For over 20 years, Bob has hosted WHAM's nightly sports talk program...consistently ranked at the top of his time slot!
From 1978 to 2012, Bob Matthews was a sports columnist for the Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle and a regular "As the Sports World Turns" contributor to the Gannett News Service. He is the only person to be selected Press-Radio Club Sportswriter of the Year (five times) and Sportscaster of the Year, and was a pioneer inductee into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
A Rochester native, Bob graduated from Brighton High School where he played varsity baseball, basketball and served as student council V-P. Bob is also a veteran, serving his country in Vietnam.
Always opinionated and outspoken, Bob's proudest accomplishment is advocating for Frontier Field. His all-time favorite athlete...former Red Wing Luke Easter. One of his sports regrets……not being around for the glory year of the Rochester Royals.
MIAMI PUTTING THE HEAT ON THE 1971-72 LAKERS
BILLS NOT GAMBLING IN FREE AGENCY
SABRES, BILLS, KNIGHTHAWKS NOT GETTING MUCH RESPECT
SABRES COULD SAVE DARCY REGIER’S JOB
IS WESTBROOK THE ALL-TIME QUICKEST NBA PLAYER?
The winning streak of the Miami Heat is the top story in North American sports today, unless you believe news that Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are dating is a bigger deal.
The Heat have won 23 straight games, the second-longest streak in NBA history. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers won an incredible 33 games in a row.
Miami looks like a cinch to stretch its streak to 27 straight victories. The next four games are in Cleveland (22-45 record; stars Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are sidelined) Wednesday night, home against Detroit (23-46) Friday, home against Charlotte (15-52) Sunday and at Orlando (18-40) March 25. The combined record of those four outclassed teams is 78-192.
The Heat have 16 games remaining in the regular season: 10 games against teams below .500 and 4 games above .500.
The most obvious potential streak-buster is host San Antonio Sunday March 31. If Miami enters that game gunning for 30 wins in a row, the TV ratings could set regular-season records.
Miami’s streak is a terrific development for the NBA. You don’t need to be an NBA addict to appreciate this accomplishment. The pursuit requires immense skill, dedication and focus.
The Heat realize they have a legitimate shot at one of the NBA’s most impressive records. There is a league champion every year. Miami has a chance to do something that has never been done – 34 straight wins in the NBA.
LeBron James, who deserves to the NBA’s unanimous MVP this season, appears determined to make history with this streak. Even Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls never won 23 straight games – let alone get a crack at 34 straight.
James has never been better and he needed a top effort in Monday night’s game in Boston to help his team rally from a 17-point deficit to pull out a 105-103 victory. The crowd was pumped up and the classy Celtics gave a superlative effort in defeat.
The Heat are far from a cinch to win their next 11 games. I don’t think they'll do it. But with James playing at the highest level of his brilliant career, and with teammate Dwyane Wade playing his best basketball in years, I can’t count them out. They have the most talent in the NBA and no team is playing with more energy and focus. That’s a tough combination to beat.
The 1971-72 Lakers won their 33 straight games from November 5 through January 7. The starters were Wilt Chamberlain (led the NBA in field-goal percentage -- .649 – and rebounding --19.2 per game); 14,8-point average), Jerry West (25.8-point average), Gail Goodrich (25.9-point average;), Jim McMillian (18.8-point average) and Happy Hairston (13.1 points and 13.1 rebounds per game; took the place of Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, who retired nine games into the season at age 37). The reserves were Flynn Robinson, Pat Riley, Keith Erickson, John Trapp, Leroy Ellis and Jim Cleamons.
The Lakers had a 12-3 record in the postseason and won their first NBA championship since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
Here’s how the 1971-72 Lakers and 2012-13 Miami Heat (entering Wednesday night) compare:
Record – Lakers 69-13 (.841)…Heat 52-14 (.788)
Home record – Lakers 36-5…Heat 30-3
Road record – Lakers 31-7 (2-1 neutral sites)…Heat 22-11
Points per game – Lakers 121.0…Heat 103.5
Points allowed per game – Lakers 198.7…Heat 95.9
Point differential per game – Lakers +11.65…Heat +77.6
Field-goal percentage – Lakers .490…Heat .496
Free-throw percentage – Lakers .734…Heat .762.
BILLS RELYING A LOT – TOO MUCH? – ON THE DRAFT
The Buffalo Bills are doing their best in free agency to live up to general manager Buddy Nix’s mantra that the NFL draft is by far the most efficient way to build a successful team. That would be a sound philosophy if the Bills hadn’t done such a poor job in the draft during the team’s current 13-year non-playoff streak. And if the Bills were more savvy in retaining their best picks (for example, Andy Levitre).
The Bills have been nearly invisible in free agency so far this season.
Here are the moves by the four AFC East teams so far on the free agent market:
BUFFALO – Added free agent LB Manny Lawson…Retained free agents QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Leodis McKelvin, LB Bryan Scott…Retained free agents TE Mike Caussin, TE Dorin Dickerson, S Jairus Byrd, C Colin Brown…Lost free agents QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (cut; Tennessee), WR Donald Jones (cut; New England), David Nelson (cut), G Andy Levitre (Tennessee), G Chad Rinehart (San Diego), S George Wilson (Tennessee), LB Nick Barnett (cut)…DE Chris Kelsey and DE Shawne Merriman retired.
MIAMI -- Added free agents WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe, E Dustin Keller, LB Philip Wheeler, WR Brandon Gibson..Retained free agents WR Brian Hartline, S Chris Clemons, QB Matt Moore, G Nate Garner…Lost free agents OT Jake Long (St. Louis), RB Reggie Bush (Detroit), LB Sean Smith (Kansas City), TE Anthony Fasano (Kansas City), QB David Garrard (Jets).
NEW ENGLAND – Added free agents WR Danny Amendola, RB Leon Washington, WR Donald Jones,, S Adrian Wilson, OT Will Svitek…Retained free agents CB Aqib Talib, CB Kyle Arrington…Lost free agents Wes Welker (Denver), S Patrick Chung (Philadelphia), RB Danny Woodhead (San Diego), G Donald Thomas (Indianapolis),
NEW YORK JETS – Added free agents DL Antonio Gary, RB Mike Goodson, G Willie Colon, QB David Garrard...Retained free agents LS Tanner Purdum, FB Lex Hilliard, LB Josh Mauga, PK Nick Folk…Lost free agents DE Mike DeVito (Kansas City), TE Justin Keller (Miami), RB Shonn Greene (Tennessee), S Yeremiah Bell (Arizona), LB Aaron Maybin (cut; Cincinnati), S La Ron Landry (Indianapolis).
MAYBE THESE TEAMS WILL SURPRISE THEIR CRITICS
The Buffalo Sabres are 29th (out of 30 teams) in this week’s ESPN.com NHL Power Rankings, with the comment “season of blown leads.” The Florida Panthers are 30th….The top five teams are Chicago, Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Boston…The Rangers took the biggest drop (11th to 21st).
The offensively-challenged Rochester Knighthawks are 7th (out of nine teams in the National Lacrosse League) in Brian Shanahan’s weekly Indoor Inside Lacrosse NLL Power Rankings: Toronto, Edmonton, Washington, Calgary, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Rochester, Colorado and Minnesota.
The Buffalo Bills are 28th (out of 32 teams) in ESPN.com’s Pre-Draft Power Rankings, with the note, “The Ryan Fitzpatrick era is over after a disappointing 20 wins in 4 seasons.” The teams below Buffalo are Arizona, Oakland, Jets and Jacksonville. Not good company…The top 10: Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, New England, Green Bay, Houston, Super Bowl 47 champion Baltimore is 8th, Indianapolis (“picked up five starters on defense in free agency”) and Cincinnati.
CAN THE SABRES SAVE REGIER’S JOB?
Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has displayed uncommon patience during his team’s poor start this abbreviated NHL season.
If the Sabres fail to make the playoffs, Regier figures to be fired – and justifiably so. If the players justify his faith in them and squeeze out a playoff berth, they could save his job.
From the franchise’s start in the NHL in the 1970-71 season through the 2000-01 season, the Sabres made the playoffs 25 times and missed the playoffs only 6 times. No Stanley Cups but commendable consistency.
But from the 2001-02 season through the 2011-12 season, Buffalo made the playoffs only four times and missed the playoffs six times. If the Sabres fall short this season, it would be the fourth time missing the playoffs in the last six seasons. That simply isn’t good enough.
Regier clearly has stuck with too many players for too long.
IS WESTBROOK THE ALL-TIME QUICKEST NBA PLAYER?
Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook ‘s greatest of his many basketball assets is quickness. You have to see it to believe it. The NBA is loaded with quick players, but he leaves them all in the dust.
Some observers are calling him the quickest player in NBA history. I won’t dispute that but I offer three blasts from the past who deserve to be mentioned in any discussion: Niagara legend Calvin Murphy, former Buffalo State and Buffalo Braves superstar Randy Smith and Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who in the 1972-73 season became the only player to lead the NBA in scoring (34.0-point average) and assists (11.4 per game) in the same season.
As much as I enjoy watching Westbrook play, I still don’t like the fact that he takes more shots than teammate Kevin Durant. Here’s how they measure up:
Points per game – Durant 28.4…Westbrook 23.4
Field-goal attempts made/attempted – Durant 613/1215…Westbrook 563/1280
Field-goal percentage – Durant .505…Westbrook .440
3-Point FG percentage – Durant .403 (120x298)…Westbrook .331 (83x251)
Free-throw percentage – Durant .907 (584x644)…Westbrook .801 (383x478).
Oklahoma City has a fair chance to win this season’s NBA championship. Durant leads the league in scoring and has a very good chance to win his fourth straight NBA scoring title.
If Westbrook shot slightly less and Durant slightly more, I believe the Thunder’s title hopes would improve and Durant would be a lock to win the scoring title.
LEGGIO DESERVES AHL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER CONSIDERATION
The Rochester American pulled out an important 3-2 shootout victory in Oklahoma City Tuesday night. Amerks goalie David Leggio now is 6-1 and has stopped 32 of 540 shots in shootouts this season.
Leggio probably won’t earn season-ending AHL all-star honors this.
Playing behind a young defense on an offensive-minded team, he is too far down the list in goals-against average (2.63; 26th in the AHL among goalies with at least 1,200 minutes played).
Leggio clearly has been Rochester’s MVP and merits serious consider for AHL MVP based on his iron-man play.
He leads AHL goalies in games (52), minutes (3149.27), victories (32) and saves (1,592…Cameron Talbot of the Connecticut Whale is 2nd with 1,294 saves).
Leggio also has three shutouts.
Leggio has never played in the NHL but it will be a surprise if he isn’t in the NHL next season at the latest – with Buffalo or with another team. He’ll be very difficult to replace in Rochester.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, 37, apparently decided that backing up Andrew Luck in Indianapolis was a better option than battling for the starting job with Buffalo.
Ryan Fitzpatrick chose a good team – Tennessee – in his bid to remain a starting quarterback in the NFL. Jake Locker has yet to become a fan favorite and Fitz figures to get a shot to start before his two-year contract expires.
Samuel Deduno, a 2012 Rochester Red Wing and a possible 2013 Red Wing, was the starting and winning pitcher for the Dominican Republic in Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic championship game in San Francisco. He was 2-0 in the Classic with a 0.69 ERA. Robinson Cano was Classic MVP: .469 batting average (15x32) with 2 doubles, 2 HRs, 6 runs, 6 RBI and sparkling defense.
The Buffalo Sabres were 1x4 on the power play in Tuesday night’s clutch 3-2 overtime victory in Montreal but the power play overall is a major reason why the Sabres are in danger of missing the playoffs.
Buffalo is 30th and last in the NHL on the power play (13x108; 12.04 percent). The Sabres have allowed 5 short-handed goals…Anaheim is No. 1 at 24.7 percent (21x81).
(Bob is on vacation Thursday and Friday…His next column will be Monday).