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SPORTS DIGEST: Warriors jumped off to 2-0 start last year, too

For those of you thinking the NBA Finals are over with the Golden State Warriors up 2-0 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, think back to a year ago.

The Warriors got off to 2-0 lead then, also. Cleveland then won four of the next five games and walked away with the championship. (This is being written Wednesday morning, eight hours before game three starts.)

That’s not saying the Cavaliers are about to stage another comeback. Judging by how the Cavaliers have played in their first two games, I’m not sure they are capable of winning a game against Golden State right now, let alone two or three, but stranger things have happened in the NBA Finals.

After two games, though, it is easy to see that the Cavaliers can’t keep up with the Warriors. If they are to win a game they will have to slow down the Warriors.

That means passing the ball around and looking for a good shot while using as much of the 24-second clock as possible. Then the Cavaliers have to make that shot.

So far, only LeBron James and Kevin Love have been able to put the ball in the net consistently.

J.R. Smith, the Cavs, shooting guard, made the first basket of the series. He hasn’t scored since.

Point guard Kyrie Irving has made only 40 percent of his shots and has had only nine assists in two games.

Backup point guard Deron Williams hasn’t scored yet in the series and Kyle Korver has scored only eight points, all in game two.

Starting center Tristan Thompson has scored only eight points and added eight rebounds in the two games.

Steph Curry, the smallest player in the Warriors lineup, has more rebounds than Thompson.

The Cavaliers have tried to run with the Warriors in the first two games and lasted until early in the third quarter. If they are going to win more than a game they have to slow the tempo, which means not turning the ball over, and taking (and making) high percentage shots.

The Warriors have four all-star starters: Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Cavaliers have three in James, Love and Irving.

The Cavaliers big three have scored 144 of the team’s 204 points so far. They need more help.

Curry and Durant have picked apart the Cavaliers defense in the first two games. After a nearly flawless first game when they only turned the ball over four times all night, the Warriors kicked it around a bit in game two, turning it over 20 times.

It didn’t matter.

Durant had 33 points, Curry added 32, Thompson had 22, Green had 12 and reserves Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark each added 10.

The Warriors have more depth and they’ve used it to full advantage in the first two games.

After setting an NBA record for most wins in a season last year, the Warriors are trying to make amends for losing the last three games of last year’s finals.

They also are chasing history again. They are the first team to win 14 consecutive playoff games in one year.

The Lakers in 2000-01 went 11-0 in sweeping the first three series to get to the finals. In game one of the finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, were feeling a little full of themselves and let Alan Iverson go off for 48 points and the Lakers lost in overtime.

That woke Shaq and Kobe up and the Lakers swept the rest of the series for a 15-1 post-season record, the best postseason ever.

The Warriors can surpass that mark with a sweep of the Cavaliers, who have much more firepower than that Sixers team had.

That could be all the suspense we have left. Or the Cavaliers can get their act together and make this a rubber match worth watching.

The Dodgers unveiled this statue of Jackie Robinson during ceremonies in April. The Rose Bowl has announced it will unveil its own Jackie Robinson statue, this time in a football uniform, some time this fall. Robinson played football at the Rose Bowl during his junior college days at Pasadena City College. (Photo by Nick Koza)

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rose Bowl is finally joining the party and will start placing statues outside the stadium. The first selection is a natural for the Pasadena landmark: hometown hero Jackie Robinson.

Robinson was recently featured in the first statue unveiled at Dodger Stadium. That statue had him sliding into home plate.

The one outside the Rose Bowl will have Jackie in a football uniform. It will be installed right outside the Rose Bowl’s main gate and will be ready for unveiling some time this fall.

Robinson played at the Rose Bowl in 1937 and 1938 when he played at Pasadena City College. He then completed his football career at UCLA, which played in the Coliseum in those days.

Funds for the statue were donated by the Tull Family Foundation to Legacy Connections, the private nonprofit fundraising arm of the Rose Bowl. Thomas Tull was a producer of the 2013 film biography of Robinson, “42.”

Speaking of Jackie Robinson, UCLA has announced the creation of the Jackie R. Robinson Centennial Scholars Endowed Scholarships that will support students participating in the four sports Robinson played while attending the school.

The $1 million scholarship fund will offer support scholarships to students involved in men’s baseball, track-and-field, football and basketball.

The scholarship fund was created through donations by “local philanthropists” and funds from the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match.

“Jackie Robinson was a difference-maker on so many levels, and he continues to inspire and touch the lives of generations to come,” UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. “His famous quote — `A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives’ — could not ring more true, and these generous gifts are proof of that. To be able to honor his legacy while supporting the education of student-athletes its truly remarkable, and we are grateful to all those involved who made this happen.”

Robinson was a four-sport athlete at UCLA from 1939-41 before breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947.

Tennis star Serena Williams is one of six athletes nominated for the best women athlete in the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards, which will be presented in July. Williams is also nominated in two other categories, queen of swag and best cannon. (Courtesy photo)

Who are today’s favorite athletes among kids? According to nominations for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards to be presented in July at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, the favorite male athletes are soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chicago Cubs standout Kris Bryant, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

The most popular women athletes are tennis star Serena Williams, swimmer Katie Ledecky, soccer star Alex Morgan, skier Mikaela Shiffrin, gymnast Simone Biles and Los Angeles Sparks basketball star Nneka Ogwumike.

Online voting for the awards is at www.Nick.com. All told there are 14 voting categories.

Race driver Darrell Wallace Jr. makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series this week in Pocono, Pennsylvania. Wallace will drive the famed number 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR.com)

There will be an unusual sight at the NASCAR race at Pocono, Pennsylvania, this weekend. The race will feature a black racer, Darrell Wallace Jr., only the eighth black driver to race in NASCAR’s top cup series.

Wallace is replacing the injured Aric Almirola

Wallace has been racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for car owner Jack Roush.

Wallace has five years of experience in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, and has five wins and 20 top-five finishes.

The son of a white father and black mother, Wallace has been supported by his father, who owns a cleaning business, through most of his career.

He began driving for Joe Gibbs’ racing team in 2012.

At the Pocono track, he will be driving for Richard Petty Motosports, driving the familiar numer 43 car once driven by Petty himself.

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