Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs will do something at Wrigley Field on Monday night that most humans haven’t seen in their lifetimes: raise a World Series banner. It’s Chicago’s home opener on the ESPN nationally televised game and it comes against the team the Cubs beat in last year’s National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers. It would surprise few if those two met again in this October’s NLCS as both are favored to win their respective divisions yet again.
One huge flaw on last year’s Dodgers team was an inability to hit left-handed pitching. It’s a big reason why the Dodgers traded a top pitching prospect to Tampa Bay this past offseason for the second baseman Logan Forsythe, as he hits lefties well. Cubs manager Joe Maddon is well aware of the Dodgers’ past problems vs. southpaws and he shifted around his rotation to start lefty Jon Lester, the 2016 NL Cy Young runner-up, in the opener. The Dodgers haven’t been good against lefty starters this year so far, either. “This was so obvious we just couldn’t walk away from it,” Maddon said of his decision to go with Lester in Game 1. The Dodgers go with Alex Wood on the mound.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat
Cleveland has slipped back into a tie for the Eastern Conference’s best record with the Boston Celtics after being swept in a home-and-home over the weekend by the Atlanta Hawks. On Sunday in Cleveland, the Cavs blew a 26-point fourth-quarter lead and lost in overtime. The last time a team blew at least a 26-point fourth-quarter lead and lost was Dallas against the LA Lakers in December 2002. Coach Tyronn Lue wants to rest guys like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving but says he won’t until the East’s No. 1 seed is locked up. Cleveland does hold the tiebreaker over Boston. Miami, meanwhile, likely needs to go 2-0 to close the season and have Indiana and Chicago each lose at least one to get into the playoffs. The Heat could get back guard and third-leading scorer Dion Waiters for this game. He has missed the past 11 due to injury. Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson is questionable after missing the past three.
San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers
This would appear to be a meaningless game for both. San Antonio is locked into the West’s No. 2 seed and Portland into the No. 8. However, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he won’t be resting any of his regulars the rest of the way because they don’t look playoff-ready at the moment. San Antonio was easily handled at home by the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, 98-87. “We already rested everybody, and we have days in between now. It's like the playoffs, kind of. There's no back-to-backs. There's no bad travel or anything like that, so it's time for rhythm and that sort of thing. Hopefully, we'll play better next week,” Popovich said after. Portland comes in off a 101-86 win over Utah behind a career-high and team record 59 points from Damian Lillard. He outscored his teammates by 17. Will Coach Terry Stotts play all his key guys to keep momentum for the playoffs or will he throttle back?