Hope you had a great Memorial Day! It was an extremely busy Memorial weekend in the sports world. Here are a handful of thoughts on all of the big stories and action from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The Boston Celtics are headed back to the NBA Finals for the 21st time in team history as they defeated the Orlando Magic 96-84 to win the series 4-2. The Celtics jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the series only to see Orlando battle back to win two in a row. The Celtics showed their experience and talent by closing out the series and nipping all of Orlando’s momentum in the bud.
I think Dwight Howard is sick and tired of seeing Nate Robinson. First, Robinson gave Howard fits in the 2009 NBA Slam Dunk contest. Now, Robinson sparked the Celtics with 13 huge points in second quarter that essentially blocked Orlando from rallying after falling behind in the first.
Orlando will now go home a step short of returning to the NBA Finals. They will ponder a number of topics this offseason ranging from the success of essentially replacing Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee with Vince Carter to the effectiveness of head coach Stan Van Gundy. As for those two topics, I think the Magic should have kept Turkoglu and Lee and they would be crazy to ditch Van Gundy.
When is a three homerun game by a player not enough to win the game? Apparently when the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics are involved. Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera went 3-4 with 3 homeruns and 4 RBIs against the Athletics on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Tigers, none of the other players contributed much offensively. Oakland would win the game 5-4.
On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 111-103 to win the Western Conference Finals 4-2. The Lakers entered the fourth quarter up 91-74, but again relinquished a large lead as the Suns cut the deficit to five at 95-90. The finish was all Kobe Bryant. His stretch to end the game was amazing. He hit a series of some of the toughest shots I have seen. You can’t blame Phoenix for those Kobe buckets because their defense was all over him. Simply put, Kobe is the best closer in the game today. Period.
The Suns have a lot to be proud of in their season. Prior to the All-Star break, this team was going to be broken up as they appeared headed to a second straight season without playoff basketball. Instead, they rallied, posted a great post All-Star break record, and pushed the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
The NHL Finals started on Saturday Night and someone forgot to tell the teams to play defense. The Chicago Blackhawks won game one over the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 in an offensive explosion. There were five lead changes and tons of excitement in the game. I agree with ESPN Hockey analyst Barry Melrose who said the Blackhawks stole game one. I, too, thought the Flyers were the better team on the ice in game one. I loved Melrose’s line that the Blackhawks should have conducted their post game interviews wearing ski masks. I may have to save that one for later use at some point.
Not all was bad in Philly though as Roy Halladay pitched the 20th perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Halladay posted 11 strikeouts in no-hitting the Florida Marlins. Needless to say, it was a dominating performance by Halladay. It was the second perfect game of the season (Dallas Braden, A’s) and the third no-hitter of the season (Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies).
The Anaheim Angels lost first baseman Kendry Morales to what could be a season ending injury. Morales fractured his left ankle while making a celebratory jump onto home plate after hitting a game winning homerun. It appeared teammates pushed Morales down as he was landing from his jump onto home. Either way, it brought backs shades of former Arizona Cardinal placekicker Bill Gramatica’s season ending celebration after a field goal against the New York Giants.
In MMA, Rashad Evans scored unanimous decision win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. For those who didn’t know, Jackson is the actor reprising the role of B.A. Baracus in the new A-Team movie. I always thought no one could play the role of B.A. Baracus outside of Mr. T. Now, I can also say I pity da fool that replaces Mr. T. and then loses to Rashad Evans.
Andy Roddick was upset in the third round of the French Open. No surprises there. Roddick has never made it past the fourth round of the French Open and sports a career record of 9-9 at Roland Garros.
On Friday, Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera hit three homeruns in a losing effort to the Oakland Athletics. On Sunday, Albert Pujols hit three homeruns in a winning effort against the Chicago Cubs. In an interesting coincidence, Pujols also only had four RBIs. Neither the Tigers nor the Cards cold take huge advantage of the great power games.
Dario Franchitti not only won the Indianapolis 500, he dominated it. Franchittie led 155 of the 200 laps which ranks as the fourth most dominating win in Indianapolis 500 history. A great driver and he is married to Ashley Judd. Props to Dario on both!
Well, it did not take long for Amar’e Stoudamire to look toward his future after the Suns season ended. Stoudamire has invited himself to the “free-agent summit.” Why don’t we call it what it really is. Minus Dwyane Wade, it is a meeting of players who simply can’t lead a team to a title. It is a meeting of players who go small when it comes to the post season. James had a great team and floundered. Stoudamire has played with Steve Nash and goes small, especially on the defensive end. I didn’t see Joe Johnson do anything against the Orlando Magic. Dirk Nowitzki, if invited, goes home after the first round quite often despite Mark Cuban bringing in big time talent. Chris Bosh had additional help this year, but didn’t make the playoffs. All this meeting, if it occurs, will lead to is a number of players fighting over where they want to go and who they want to play with. These guys, minus Wade, may win titles, but let’s not confuse them with the likes of Bryant, O’Neal, and Duncan from the past decade.
Andy Murray and Venus Williams were upset victims at the French Open on Sunday. It was a disappointing result for both, but especially for Williams. She was playing better than she has in a few years and was rolling.
The Chicago Blackhawks took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals with a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Both goalies played much better this time around. Again, the Flyers seemed like the better team on the ice, but Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi was great. The Flyers were pressuring him like crazy and Niemi made some huge saves to preserve the win. The Flyers can hold out hope as the series heads to Philadelphia as they have played the better in the first two games. Chicago can have confidence because they won two games while not playing their best hockey. They are also a better road team than home team.
#7 Sam Stosur defeated #22 Justine Henin 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals of the French Open. Many media outlets are calling this an upset because Henin is a four time French Open Champion and had won three French Open Championships in a row before taking two years off starting in before the 2008 French Open. However, I do not see this as an upset. Stosur has an outstanding game, especially on clay. She made it to the semifinals last year while Henin was on the sidelines for the last two. This was not an upset to me.
In a great pitching matchup, The Colorado Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez outdueled The San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum as the Rockies defeated the Giants 4-0. Jimenez was spectacular again. He pitched a complete game, four hit shutout with 9 strikeouts. On the season, Jimenez is 10-1 with a 0.78 E.R.A. with 70 strikeouts. Wow.