NBA Playoffs: From Quarters to Semis
- If the Verizon Center was a strip club, then three Cleveland Cavaliers made it rain on Friday night. With Lebron James scoring a triple-double (27 points, 13 boards and 13 assists), along with Wally Szczerbiak's 26 points and Daniel Gibson getting 22 from the bench, the Cavs advanced to the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row, 105-88, over the Washington Wizards.
- Another team that ended its series in six were the Utah Jazz. Even though Tracy McGrady led the world with 40 points, his Houston Rockets were too much for Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer's double-dip of at least 15 and 10 each in the Jazz' 113-91 series clincher.
- Many thought the Boston Celtics would end their series with the Atlanta Hawks that same night in the ATL. However, the Hawks managed to edge the Cs, 103-100, to knot the series at three games apiece. Thus, two days later, they would have to win Game 7 at home. The Celtics, led by double shots from Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, blew out the Hawks, 99-65, and advanced to the Eastern Conference semis and a date with the aforementioned Cavs.
- Even though that last series had yet to finish, the playoffs still entered the conference semifinals. The first game saw the New Orleans Hornets enter into and survive a near dogfight with the defending world champion San Antonio Spurs, 101-82. David West led the way with 30 points, while Tyson Chandler was Mr. Windex, cleaning the glass – how else can you explain five more rebounds than points?
- Before Sunday's opener against the Jazz, word got out that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant would be honored with his first-ever NBA MVP award. Soon after, he showed Kirilienko and Co. what made him the best of the best, dropping 38 on the Jazz. Add to that an 18-10 double-double from Pau Gasol and you've got yourself a 109-98 win.
- So much for that first-round playoff romp; the Orlando Magic came down to earth on Saturday with a 91-72 loss to the Detroit Pistons. All thanks to 19 points from Chauncey Billups and 17 from late-season addition Theo Ratliff.
- Meanwhile, in Europe, Russian basketball club CSKA Moscow won their sixth Euroleague title with a 91-77 win over Israeli squad Maccabi Elite. Ramūnas Šiškauskas (last name pronounced shish-KAUS-kuhs), part of last year's championship squad at Panathinaikos, was named the MVP with 13 points and four boards.
- Chien-Ming Wang continues to be a bright spot in the New York Yankees' otherwise mediocre starting rotation; further edification comes with a six-inning performance wherein he gave up only one earned run, scattered three hits and struck out five in a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners to improve to 6-0.
- Brandon Webb, last year's Cy Young winner, looks poised for a repeat. Even though his start on Sunday wasn't exactly like Wang's, he upped his record to 7-0 in the D-Backs' 10-4 win over the New York Mets.
- The last time the Tampa Bay Rays squared off with the Boston Red Sox, they helped send the Olde Towne Team into a brief losing skid. Well, you know that saying about payback? The BoSox dished it out with a sweep of the Rays over the weekend.
- The Midwest's version of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, that between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, was on display from Friday to Sunday. And there certainly was some to discuss:
- Friday saw once-great youngster Rich Hill take the mound, and while it wasn't a spectacularly bad outing, Hill was taken out after only two-thirds of an inning and surrendering an earned run and walking four. Hill would be demoted to the minors the next day, but Friday's hero was Skip Schumaker, who sent the Cards faithful home happy with a walk-off tater in the bottom of the eleventh, 5-3.
- The North Siders got into the win column on Saturday, 9-3, behind strong pitching from Ted Lilly, who recorded his 1,000th career strikeout.
- ESPN's Sunday night telecast wasn't a whole lot to write home about, as both teams engaged in small ball, with the Cards taking the series, 5-3.
- The Chair would like to wish a happy, lengthy, and well-deserved retirement to Julio Franco. The ageless wonder, who was playing in the Mexican League, decided to finally hang it up at age 49.
- It, like Franco's career, had to end sometime, but the Los Angeles Dodgers' winning streak ended at eight games with a 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
NHL Conference Semis wrap up
- The Philadelphia Flyers are our Dudes of the Week (sorry to put my appreciative mug this early in the proceedings) because they have gone from chumps to near champs in one year's time. Case in point: their 6-4 series clincher over the Montreal Canadiens.
- The Eastern Conference Finals can also be dubbed the Battle of the Keystone State, as the Pittsburgh Penguins got their ticket punched thanks to a Marian Hossa overtime winner on Sunday afternoon, 3-2, over the New York Rangers. This is seemingly terra incognita for the Pens, as they haven't been this far into the quest for Lord Stanley's Cup since 2001.
- The San Jose Sharks also need the extra session on Friday to beat the Dallas Stars, 3-2, via a goal from Joe Pavelski. But, over fifteen minutes more of hockey were needed two nights later, and the Sharks' season ended on a Brenden Morrow winner, 2-1, just over three minutes into the fourth overtime. The Stars' series clincher was the eighth-longest playoff game in NHL history, BTW.
Triumph and tragedy at the Derby
Big Brown came into the 134th Kentucky Derby undefeated, and Richard Dutrow's horse left Churchill Downs as such after coming from near the back of the 20-horse field to win the Run for the Roses with Kent Desormeaux. However, it was anything but for the owners and anyone else connected with the second-place finisher, as it dwarfed Big Brown's accomplishment.
After the race ended, NBC's cameras saw the image of horse keeled over on the track in pain. It was later revealed that it was Eight Belles, the first filly to run in the Derby in nine years, and also that she had broken both of her front ankles. Determining that the horse was beyond recovery, Churchill Downs vets decided to put her down, the biggest tragedy to affect the first of the three Triple Crown races probably by far.
Normally, this section looks at action from across the Atlantic. But, we decided to start this section Stateside:
- David Beckham did something on Saturday that he had never done before in his brief MLS career: score more than one goal in a match. Becks provided both goals in the LA Galaxy's 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake.
- Over the Pond we go, where Beck's former mates from years ago (temporarily) regained the top spot in the Premier League. Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo proved why he was named Footballer of the Year for the second year in a row, scoring the Devils' first two goals in a 4-1 win over West Ham.
- Meanwhile, Arsenal beat Everton, 1-0, on a 77th-minute goal from Nicklas Bendtner. Meanwhile, the Toffees' cross-town rivals, Liverpool, bested Manchester City by that same score thanks to Fernando Torres.
- In the much-anticipated battle from the basement, Fulham shut out Birmingham City 2-0. The Blues have Reading, victims of a 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur, as company in the drop zone heading into the final weekend of play.
- Clint Bowyer managed to head off a late charge from Mark Martin and Kyle Busch to take the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Richmond, Virginia. Bowyer assumed the top spot after a spinout by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. near the end of the race.
- By this time last year, Valentino Rossi had been the only winner not from Australia. In 2008, he scored his first win of the year at MotoGP's stop in China. Rossi became the fourth different rider to win this season – how's THAT for parity?
Handing out the honors
Dude of the Weekend
Already mentioned; see above
- Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson: The latest addition to the NFL's police blotter, who has had his share of on-field issues during his brief career, was arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated. Benson, who was maced while the five-oh slapped the cuffs on him, was taken ashore and held from late Saturday night to early Sunday morning, where he was released on bail. As Carlos Mencia said, "Dee-dee-dee!"
Go back in time
- An undefeated streak snapped, unlike Big Brown – Barbaro's only shining light and Moaning at the Bar
Finally, that's it and that's all
Until next week, let's all be good sports...