This past weekend was wild for sports. Crazy high scoring affairs in baseball, like the Yankees 12-11 game in which the Yanks made three separate comebacks including a walk-off single by Johnny Damon. The Cubbies are still one of the best in the bigs and the injury list for the Red Sox continues to grow, this time with new names like Jacoby Ellsbury. Chipper Jones reached his milestone of 400 HR's while we still await Griffey Jr.'s, and the Phillies' Chase Utley is still hitting like a MVP. And then Roger Federer, the number one player in the world in Tennis, went down to Rafael Nadal. Once again, Nadal won the French Open, and this time he even apologized to the crowd for winning so easily. And this all happened before Sunday night's instant classic in the Garden.
The NBA Finals finally got under way this past Thursday, featuring a renewed rivalry that dates back to the 60's-80's of the League's history. A rivalry that boasts names like Russell, Magic, Kareem, Bird, Wilt and Worthy, the Lakers and Celtics got it going in 2008 to the tune of a tight opening game that resulted in a 1-0 lead for the C's.
Beantown has gotta be the best sports city to be living in right about now, much like it was last Fall. Then, it was the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics that were the talk of the sports world. The Pats were undefeated and well on their way to a Super Bowl winning season, the Sox were tops in the AL and the C's were tops in the NBA. Now, the Pats are still staring at their fingers wondering where the ring is, the Sox are getting into brawls and have a hefty DL list, and the C's are still tops in the NBA as they have a 2-0 lead on the Lakers in their first NBA Finals in 20-years.
The last time the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met in a NBA Finals series was twenty years ago, where the Magic Johnson led Lake Show continued their own recent trend of winning the Finals and doing it over the Celtics who had won eight straight in years past over the Lakers. This year's edition of this incredible rivalry began in Boston on Thursday night.
Boston took the first game by a score of 98-88. Boston held Kobe Bryant to only 24-points and fed off a Paul Pierce spectacle in the 3rd Qtr. In Game 2 Sunday night in the Garden, it was a different type of game all across the board. Boston took a 12-point halftime lead into the locker room on the back of 16 first half points by Paul Pierce and solid defense that held Bryant to nine points and forcing over eight Laker turnovers. The 3rd got going, and that's where the Celtics put on the gas. The defense began to clamp down, and led by Leon Powe on offense the Celtics built their lead to as much as 22-points. Into the fourth the game went and the lead to 24, only before the game got under eight minutes did that lead dwindle. And dwindle it did, considerably.
LA hit a NBA Finals record seven three-point shots during the course of that 4th Qtr, narrowing the lead to as little as four-points. Bryant helped erase the lead with 13-points, alley-oops to Ronny Turiaf and with great assistance from three-point shots out of Radmanovic, Farmar and others. The time was the only thing stopping them and it did, as the Celtics barely were able to hold on winning 108-102 going back to the Staples Center on Tuesday.
Despite my own issues how he's getting his points and how well the Lakers have defended him, Kevin Garnett has produced and done a good service for his Celtics so far in his first NBA Finals. Garnett has been doubled a lot and kept away from the post to the point where the majority of his field goal attempts and makes are from jump shots; and yet, he's still boasting a double-double for the first two games of the series.
Garnett's Stats: 20.5 PPG, 39%, 13.5 RPG, 1 SPG
One guy that is having issues scoring in ways he'd like to is Kobe Bryant. The Celtics have done a great job (outside of the 4th Qtr of Game 2) in holding down Bryant, making him score elsewhere than inside the paint. Bryant has been forced to take jump shots, a lot of the time tough fade aways with two guys on his hip and in his face. Kobe only put up two-points in the 4th of Game 2, being completely harassed and frustrated. In Game 2, he saw the same defense yet again, only was able to break through it to put up 21-points in the second half and nearly lead his Lakers to an improbable victory.
Bryant's Stats: 27 PPG, 41%, 7 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2 SPG
While Bryant has had to fight to get his point production, Paul Pierce has been able to slip and slide all across the floor almost scoring at will. In Game 1, after limited time in the first half due to foul trouble and only three-points to show for it, Pierce scored seven quick points in the opening 1:20 of the 3rd Qtr before going down with a then sprained knee. Less than two-minutes game time later he came hopping back out of the locker room and dropped another eight-points in the quarter before leading his C's to victory - pretty much making that injury look like nothing, making guys like me expect Lebron to pop up in a suit yelling "Dude's fakin'!" Game 2 was a different story as Pierce scored early and often and never had much of a gap. Pierce was four-for-four from three-point land, and was part of a huge Celtic route in the 3rd/4th Qtr's. Next time, though, he'll have to make sure his team doesn't let up off the gas like they did late in Game 2.
Pierce's Stats: 25 PPG, 62%, 5 APG, 4 RPG, 1 SPG
Looking ahead to Game 3, with the result of Game 2 still in my mind, things look good for my Lakers in seven prediction. It'll more than likely take seven games for the Lakers to win, but it could be done with the confidence they may have gained during that ferocious comeback they put on the Celtics. They nearly stole a game playing some of the worst basketball they've played all year. I cant wait to see how Kobe and the Lakers play in their first game back in the Staples Center.
NBA Player of the Week: Paul Pierce
Warning: If you Hate Either the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, or Even Both, Skip This Portion of the Blog. Or At least Skip to the Part Where it Features the MLB's Player of the Week.
What a week it has been for the Boston Red Sox, eh? Manny Ramirez coming off his 500th home run continues his trend by lighting up opposing pitchers for three more dingers, en route to a .381 average. The Sox are still without Dice-K and after a brawl against the Rays on Thursday, no longer have the services of Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury; Coco for suspension, injury for Jacoby. And to add to that, Ortiz is still on the DL. And yet, the Sox are still winning as they are still atop the AL East at 40-26. (1.5 Gm Lead)
Ramirez' Stats: 8/21, 6 R, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 3 HR, .381 BA
From one home run record chaser to another, Alex Rodriguez was an absolute beast this week. He tore up pitchers he faced like Rosie O'Donnell on a chocolate cake. A-Rod and his Bronx Bombers look to be peaking at the moment, as they've gotten over the .500 mark winning four of their last five. In those five games, the Yanks averaged nearly seven runs per-game.
Rodriguez' Stats: 11/24, 6 R, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 2 HR, .458 BA
The other biggest reason next to A-Rod, the return of Posada and big hitting by Matsui and Giambi for the recent great play for the Bronx Bombers is Johnny Damon. Damon had an unimaginable week for a lead-off hitter.
Damon's Stats: 18/32, 6 R, 6 RBI, 3 BB, .563 BA
Sadly for Damon, Manny and A-Rod, Joe Crede had a nice week too. Ozzie chewed out his offense recently, and his Chi-Sox answered with 33-runs in their last three games. In the opening three-games of their home stand against the Twins, the Sox have outscored them 33-10. Joe Crede during the recent stretch of games has been one of the hottest bats in all of baseball, even hotter than Damon.
Crede's Stats: 11/18, 9 R, 12 RBI, 3 BB, 5 HR, .611 BA
MLB Player of the Week: Joe Crede
Rafael Nadal clinched his fourth straight French Open title Sunday as he rolled over the world's number one player, Roger Federer: 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.
It was the worst loss in Federer's career of 173-Grand Slam matches. Nadal owns Federer not only at Roland Garros but nearly every time they take the court together. Nadal as a death grip in their one-on-one play record and this is conceivably his most decisive victory.
I guess teams should listen to their manager a little more often, at least in the case of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox are still a first-place team in the AL Central, holding a 5.5 game lead over the Twins who they just took three straight games over. Ozzie Guillen ripped his lineup during interviews, throwing out words his mom wouldnt be proud of left and right. And apparently, that's all his Chi-Sox needed to finally start scoring. They're playing extremely well as of late, hitting it to all fields and especially the long ball. Even Paul Konerko got his fifth career triple. Joe Crede is easily the biggest reason in the past few games for their pounding of the baseball.
SIFS Player of the Week: Joe Crede