This Week In Sports: All Three Teams Shine As October Begins

As we enter the month of October, the push for a championship is starting to heat up for the Lakers & Dodgers while the hot start for the Rams continues. As the Dodgers just entered the postseason stage this week, the Lakers have been in the postseason for over a month and remain one of the two teams left in the NBA Bubble. Meanwhile, the Rams looked to keep their groove this week against the New York Giants after dropping a crusher to the Buffalo Bills last week. Just like a well-oiled engine, these teams are humming and it all started with a fairly familiar sight: playoff baseball at Dodgers Stadium.

Dodgers Pitcher Walker Buehler launches a fastball to former NL MVP Christian Yelich. (Photo by Robert Gauthier of the Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES, CA– As they have in so many postseasons, the Dodgers started this very unique postseason hot. The playoffs this year are vastly different from other years due to this unprecedented season. In other postseasons, there would be 10 total playoff teams (5 per league) with only two teams playing in one wild card game in both leagues. However, in this postseason, there are 16 total teams (8 per league) and every one of those teams has to play in a best-of-3 wild card series. For the Dodgers, since they finished with the best record in the National League, they got the number 1 seed and got to play the number 8 seed, Milwaukee Brewers. In Game 1, the Dodgers saw their biggest offseason addition shine as Mookie Betts started things off with a leadoff double and would score later in the inning off a walk. Walks were the story of the beginning as LA got two of their 4 runs off a walk. Betts would then have an RBI in the 2nd inning to give the Dodgers the 3-0 lead. The Dodgers would clean things up with a Corey Seager home run and take Game 1 with a score of 4-2. 

In Game 2, it was Pitcher Clayton Kershaw who shined under the postseason lights. Kershaw has notoriously played his worst in the postseason (career postseason ERA of 4.43) so it was beyond encouraging to see him step up to the plate and deliver a groundbreaking 13 strikeouts. With Kershaw locking up the Brewers offense, the Dodgers scored all 3 of their runs in the 5th inning. Catcher Austin Barnes hit an RBI early to give LA the 1-0 lead while Right Fielder Mookie Betts had a double RBI to extend the lead to 3-0. The pitching of Kershaw allowed the Dodgers to not give up a single run and they would ultimately win the series in 2 games. Given the way Kershaw just looked, Dodger fans have to feel confident going into the NLDS against the San Diego Padres.

The Lakers enjoyed their return to the Finals with great performances from LeBron James (23) & Anthony Davis (3). (Photo by Kim Klement of USA Today)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL– This week for the Los Angeles Lakers will be a week no fan will forget. For the first time in 10 years, the Lakers were back in the Finals against the impressive Miami Heat and they did not disappoint. In the most unique NBA Finals in history, the Lakers came out unphased by the unique circumstances because they’re used to life in the Bubble as they’ve lived there for nearly 90 days. In Game 1, the Lakers had a historic night shooting. They made a shattering 11 3-pointers in the first half that ultimately put the game away before the 2nd half started. As much as LeBron & AD dominated (59 combined points), it was the role players who were the stars of the game, particularly Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, and Alex Caruso who all scored in double figures. It was crushing for the Heat and to make matters worse, they lost two key players in Guard Goran Dragic & Center Bam Adebayo to injuries. With the help from the role players along with the usually suffocating defense, the Lakers won Game 1 116-98 over the Heat.

While the Heat was able to get closer in Game 2, it was the same for the Lakers. The Lakers’ defense wasn’t as dominant as they were in Game 1, but the offense was more explosive. Both LeBron & AD scored 30 points each while 3 more Lakers scored in double figures. The story in the series has been rebounding, specifically maximizing them if you’re the Lakers and limiting them if you’re the Heat. In Game 2, the game within the game went to the Lakers as they had 16 offensive rebounds compared to the Heat’s 6. With Center Bam Adebayo out, the Lakers took advantage of that opportunity and completely dominated the boards. Miami was able to score more efficiently in Game 2 compared to Game 1, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers as they dropped Game 2 to LA 124-114. After two dominating games, the Lakers took the commanding 2-0 series lead and looked unstoppable. Through two games, this Finals looked as good as over. It seemed as though the Lakers were walking the red carpet towards their 17th championship, but that all changed in Game 3.

LeBron James (23) looks for the physical finish against the tough Miami Heat.
(Photo by Wally Skalij of the Los Angeles Times)

Game 3 saw one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history. Without Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic, the Heat was able to pull off the massive upset with a 115-104 Game 3 win. The loss comes as a reality check for the Lakers, but they need to remember to keep calm. LeBron James was visibly upset during the loss that he left the court before the game was finished. It was controversial to see James leave the court without his team or shake hands with the Heat. LeBron’s antics towards the end were reflective of the frustrations the Lakers experienced throughout Game 3. Anthony Davis struggled noticeably as he posted only 15 points, had 4 fouls, and had an efficiency rating of -26. Beyond Davis though, the Lakers came out sluggish in Game 3 similarly to their Game 3 against the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. Dropping Game 3 certainly puts a sour taste in the Lakers’ mouth, especially given the way Heat star Jimmy Butler performed. Butler had a monumental performance, scoring 40 points and registering a triple-double in the process. With Butler’s leadership and resiliency, the Heat suddenly has new life in this series. Weirdly, this bodes well for the Lakers. However, with a leader like LeBron James, Laker fans can rest assured that there’ll be a different performance in Game 4. The best thing the Lakers can do is shake it off, remember they have a series lead and go dominate. 

The Rams survived a potential stunner against the Giants with opportunistic plays from their defense and Quarterback Jared Goff (16). (Photo by Robert Gauthier of the Los Angeles Times)

INGLEWOOD, CA– After last week’s roller-coaster game against the Buffalo Bills in which the Rams were able to come back from 28-3 only to lose the game 32-35, the Rams were still feeling the heavy mental, emotional, and physical effects from last week as they almost dropped a shocker to the New York Giants. In the National Football League, teams will take any win they can get no matter how ugly. Ugly indeed it was for the Rams, but a win is a win and they were able to muster the 16-9 win over the Giants. The defense was able to rebound from last week’s performance when they allowed Bills Quarterback Josh Allen to throw for 300 yards & 4 TDs. This week, the Giants Quarterback had no such performance against the Rams defense as LA held Jones to under 200 yards passing with no touchdowns. The Rams held the Giants outside the endzone through both the air and ground. While the Giants aren’t much of an offensive threat, the Rams have to be confident about their defensive rebounding from last week. One of the biggest plays of the game came from the defense when Cornerback Darious Williams made his second interception of the season at the most crucial time, as the Giants were driving towards the red zone down 8 with less than a minute left. Such a clutch play from the defense reflects the strides they have made compared to last season.

An unusual sight for the Rams, though, was an inconsistent offense. Granted, last year there were definite stalls, but through 3 games this year, the offense looked different compared to last year. The issue for the offense in this game was their inability to keep drives alive by converting on 3rd down. The Rams were only 5/13 on 3rd down and that inefficiency can largely be pointed towards the ground game. Despite having Darrell Henderson & Malcolm Brown, the Rams were only able to rush for an abysmal 2.5 yards per carry. The offense certainly did not start poorly, they scored on their opening drive with a short-yardage run from Tight End Gerald Everett on a unique tight end sweep. From there on, however, every point would be a struggle. The Rams only scored 10 through 3 quarters but it could have easily been more had Gerald Everett not fumbled to give the Giants a field goal. Still, when the Rams needed to make a play, they made it. On a critical 3rd & 3, Goff hit Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp over the middle when Kupp made a cut and turned on the jets as he outran the Giants secondary for a monster 55-yard touchdown. It was Kupp’s consecutive week with a touchdown catch and his big-play efficiency shows he earned every penny from the massive extension.

The Rams move to 3-1 for the 4th time in 5 seasons. The Rams are certainly no stranger to early-season success, and it isn’t all that indicative of how the Rams season will play out. For example, the Rams started 3-1 in 2016 & 2019 yet they missed the playoffs in both seasons, including a 4-12 finish in 2016. Granted, the talent on this Rams team compared with the talent of the 2016 Rams isn’t comparable, but it serves as a reminder to stay humble through this hot start. That being said, this 2020 season for the Rams is looking a lot more promising than their 2019 season. The offense looks confident, the defense is playing with swagger, and the upcoming schedule is very much manageable. It’s an opportunity the Rams certainly will want to take advantage of, and they’ll get their chance next week as they will travel to the Nation’s Capital to take on the Washington Football Team @ 10 am on FOX.

Rams Tight End Tyler Higbee (89) gives props to fellow Tight End Gerald Everett (81) after his rushing touchdown. (Photo by Robert Hanashiro)

This upcoming week is a huge one for LA sports. The Dodgers look to continue their postseason run in the NLDS against the San Diego Padres, the Lakers seek to add a 17th championship to their accolades, and the Rams search for their first 4-1 start in the Sean McVay era.