The Indianapolis 500 was Sunday, something that would have gone completely without notice if not for the fact that digital channel guides exist, such is the state of IndyCar in general these days, and such is the state of the world because the pandemic knocked the race out of its traditional spot on Memorial Day weekend.
It was actually shaping up to be a classic finish, as Scott Dixon tried to chase down Takuma Sato, with Graham Rahal and Santino Ferrucci also closing in as Sato was slowed by the traffic of some lapped cars. But with five laps to go, Spencer Pigot spun out, bounced off a wall, and slammed hard into a barrier by pit road.
The yellow flag came out, and there wasn’t enough time to clear the wreckage before they ran out of laps to run, so Sato cruised home to his second career Indy 500 win, while Dixon settled for his third career second-place finish at the Brickyard.
The fact that Dixon has been runner-up three times and they’ve all been in yellow-checkered finishes should give IndyCar a hint as to part of the reason why its popularity is lagging. Nobody wants to watch 490 miles of racing, only to have a 10-mile parade before some guy drinks a bottle of milk.
It’s not like this is a hard problem to solve. NASCAR already has it worked out with its green-white-checkered overtime system, which guarantees racing to determine the winner. If a race is going to finish under caution, they restart it, make sure at least one lap is completed under green, and then the next flag — checkered or yellow — after the white flag is the end of the race. If caution comes out on the first of the two overtime laps, they do it all over again, as many times as they need to.
Would Sato have been able to hold off Dixon, Rahal, and Ferrucci on a restart? We’ll never know.
Not that NASCAR’s restart on Sunday at Dover wasn’t agonizing in its own way. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time Cup champion who’s racing his final season, grabbed the lead with pit strategy during the final caution, taking two tires. But Johnson got passed on the restart with 17 laps to go by eventual winner Kevin Harvick, as well as Martin Truex Jr.
With one race left in NASCAR’s regular season, Johnson is four points out of the final playoff spot.
Dover is the last place Johnson won a race, back in 2017… under caution.
Jamal Murray scored 50 points in a playoff game. That’s amazing! Except, Donovan Mitchell scored 51 in the same game and Murray’s Nuggets lost to the Jazz, 129-127, to fall behind 3-1 in their first-round series.
It’s the first time an NBA player has scored 50 points and had his team lose a playoff game since… last Monday, in Game 1 of this series, when Mitchell scored 57 in the Jazz’s only loss so far. Incredibly, six of the last 11 times that someone has scored 50 in a playoff game, their team has lost, although this is the first time it’s happened twice in the same year, let alone twice in the same series.
Mitchell is the first player with two 50-point games in the same series since Allen Iverson in Games 2 and 5 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, which is also the last series in which there were three 50-point efforts, because Vince Carter also did it for the Raptors in Game 3. Those teams all won those games.
This is the first time anyone has had a 50-point game in both a win and a loss in the same series. Murray might have to join Mitchell with that feat in Game 5 to keep the Nuggets’ season alive. Certainly the win part, anyway.
It’s generally not a good idea to make decisions based on a small sample size, but the Washington Capitals took it to another level with the firing of coach Todd Reirden.
“I think there was frustration throughout the organization with how we performed in the bubble,” said Capitals GM Brian MacLellan, whose team lost its first-round series to the New York Islanders in five games.
To be fair, Reirden also cited, “how we finished up the last 20 games of the season,” during which Washington was 8-9-3. But to be fair, Reirden had the Caps in first place in the Metropolitan division at 41-20-8 when coronavirus stopped the season.
Managing to lead a division with a starting goalie who had an .897 save percentage would be thought of in most circles as pretty good. And Braden Holtby wasn’t much better in the bubble, posting a .906 mark. Semyon Varlamov, whom the Capitals traded away in 2011, and just beat them with the Islanders, has a .934 save percentage in the bubble playing for the coach Washington let walk two years ago after winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, Barry Trotz.
There was actually a lot of cool stuff on Sunday. It still all feels very weird and wrong, but, hey, highlights are nice.
- Luka Doncic hit a three-point buzzer-beater in overtime, tying the Mavericks-Clippers series at two games apiece. Doncic had 43 points, 17 rebounds, and 13 assists, which would be 34 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists more than Paul George, who’s been such a disaster, he’s getting roasted via emoji graphic by ESPN’s NBA Twitter account — and roasted much worse by the rest of NBA Twitter.
- Kingsley Coman headed home the only goal of the Champions League final, giving Bayern Munich its sixth European title — tied with Liverpool for third all-time behind Real Madrid (13) and AC Milan (7) — and first since 2013.
- The Bruins, between the regular season, round-robin, and playoffs, have now played 79 games in 2019-20. David Pastrnak now has 50 goals. Also, the Bruins haven’t lost a game since Tuukka Rask checked out of the bubble and now lead the Lightning, 1-0, in their Eastern Conference semifinal.
- Roman Reigns returned to WWE and punched Bray Wyatt a lot. Fun.
- Dansby Swanson is no Sid Bream, apparently. The Atlanta shortstop tried to come around with the tying run in the ninth inning, but a perfect relay from Roman Quinn to Didi Gregorius to Andrew Knapp nailed Swanson at the plate for the final out of the Phillies’ 5-4 win.
- Fernando Tatis Jr. made a ludicrous catch, and also went 2-for-3 and scored the go-ahead run on Manny Machado’s two-run homer as the Padres overcame being on the wrong end of a 54-mph Zack Greinke eephus pitch, finished a three-game sweep of the Astros and ran their winning streak to seven. So, yes, this really is becoming a daily Padres appreciation moment.