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Yankees’ Gerrit Cole fumbles over answer to sticky Spider Tack question

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Yankees' Gerrit Cole fumbles over answer to sticky Spider Tack question

Gerrit Cole didn’t have a good answer to a question from the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff in his Zoom press conference on Tuesday afternoon, mostly because there wasn’t a good answer available for the Yankees’ ace. The veteran columnist point-blank asked him: “Have you ever used Spider Tack while pitching?”

If he said “yes” he’s possibly setting himself up for a suspension, as MLB prepares to crack down on pitchers who use illegal substances to increase spin rates on their pitches. If he said “no” he would almost certainly be lying (there’s no proof of that yet, but lots of evidence and testimony that says he has). And the truth almost always comes out in situations like these. 

So Cole gave a long pause, then said, “I don’t quite know how to answer that, to be honest.”

He answered without answering, of course. 

Watch for yourself: 

Maybe the most surprising thing is how caught off-guard Cole looked when he was asked the question. It’s a bit stunning, actually. The topic has been dominating baseball conversations the past week or so, and even if Cole himself chose to tune out the outside world during the baseball season — possible, sure — someone with the Yankees had to give him a heads-up that this topic would be broached. 

Remember what Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson — a former MVP — said a few days ago?

“Is it a coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor-leaguers got suspended for 10 games? Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe,” he said. “At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”

Zero chance this wasn’t going to be brought up. 

Here’s the truth of the situation: Cole almost certainly has used Spider Tack or something similar to improve his grip on the baseball and increase his spin rates, making the ball move more and, therefore, making it harder for batters to make contact. But he’s certainly not the only one. Although we don’t have numbers, it’s absolutely plausible — likely, probably — that more than half of the pitchers in baseball use something MLB would categorize as “illegal.”

Because here’s another truth: Baseball has long turned a blind eye to the “rule-breakers” on the mound. As long as pitchers weren’t too obvious about it, as long as they tried to hide it, the practice would be allowed. The powers-that-be ignored the issue until it could no longer be ignored. 

That sounds familiar, right? In baseball’s “steroid era,” no definitive action was taken until the home run record started to fall. And not just the “most players to hit 40 homers in a year” record, but when the fabled 60-home run mark started to be bypassed in early to mid-September, something was finally done to effectively address the issue.

Same thing here.

Spin rates have gone through the roof, and batting averages have plummeted to historic levels. Baseball has never been a thrill-a-second sport, but an excess of strikeouts has started to make even the most hard-core fans grow weary. I mean, we’re a week into June and seven starters have sub-2.00 ERAs. And how about this fact: 29 starters are averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Nolan Ryan, the strikeout king of all strikeout kings, only topped 11.0 in two seasons in his epic 27-year career. Yeah. Historic things are happening, and MLB is finally preparing to take action. 

This might have been the first time Cole was asked point-blank about using an illegal substance, but it will not be the last. And he won’t be the only one. 

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn’t apply on Deandre Ayton’s dunk

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn't apply on Deandre Ayton's dunk

Back in December 2017, the Suns and Grizzlies found themselves in a down-to-the-wire contest. Phoenix had the ball with just 0.6 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 97.

So what did then-Suns coach Jay Triano do? He unveiled a play that he had kept in his back pocket for years.

MORE: Chris Paul reacts to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk

While standing on the sideline near the Grizzlies’ bench, Dragan Bender threw a pass toward Tyson Chandler that floated directly above the rim, giving Chandler the opportunity to slam it through the bottom of the net. Wait, you can do that?

“You cannot goaltend a ball that isn’t going to count,” Triano told reporters after the game.

More than three years later, Triano’s words were once again ringing throughout Phoenix Suns Arena. Coach Monty Williams drew up a similar play on Tuesday night, and his players executed it perfectly to give the Suns a stunning 104-103 win over the Clippers and a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

Look at this beauty:

OK, let’s break down what NBA TV’s Matt Winer called “The Valley Oop.” (Great work, Matt).

First, notice the positioning of DeMarcus Cousins. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue made a smart move by putting Cousins on Jae Crowder in order to make an inbound pass more difficult, but Cousins is squared up to Crowder, opening up the passing lane Crowder needs.

As for the action in the paint, Devin Booker sets a terrific screen on Ivica Zubac, allowing Deandre Ayton to break free. Could Nicolas Batum have bumped Ayton and recovered? Possibly, but he is understandably concerned with leaving Booker.

(NBA)

Once Ayton gets a step on Zubac running toward the basket, it’s on Crowder to put the ball in a spot in which Ayton can score. As you can see from the angle below, Crowder just narrowly avoids the backboard. The placement here is simply incredible.

“That’s definitely Jae’s game-winner,” Ayton said after the game.

deandre ayton suns play
(NBA)

Now, you may still be asking, “But why isn’t that a goaltending violation?”

As the NBA explained in its Last Two Minute Report from that December 2017 game, “Goaltending rules do not apply because (Chandler) makes contact with the ball off of a throw-in and not a live ball that has already legally been touched on the playing court.” Scott Foster, who served as the crew chief on Tuesday, offered the same explanation when asked about Ayton’s dunk.

Sometimes less than a second can be all the time in the world. Just ask any Suns fan.

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

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Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

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Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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