Coming into Sunday's final round of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods was at 3-under with a one shot lead. Woods had been plagued by his knee that was surgically repaired, yet still was able to cap-off Saturday's third round 18-holes with a few Eagle puts and simply baffling (even to him) shots. Woods surrendered the lead early, double bogying the first hole and bogying the next, dropping him a few shots behind Rocco Mediate. And then, on the final hole Woods came through, recovering from his blunders on the front nine by chipping in a long birdie putt to send it to an 18-hole playoff, which will be concluded today.
Like Tiger Woods, the Los Angeles Lakers gave up a lead Sunday night in the Staples Center. L.A. torched the C's with 39 first quarter points, jumping out of the gates shooting 65% and Kobe Bryant nailing four three-point shots. Then, as it had been done before in Game 4, the Celtics scratched and clawed their way back into the game on the back of total team defense and efficient trips on the offensive end. But, also like Tiger Woods, the Lakers returned the blows and fired off just enough shots in the closing minutes to lengthen the series and give them two more shots at winning a title.
Speaking of Kobe -- who scored 15-points in the opening period last night only to finish with 10 for the remainder of the game -- played overall solid basketball despite struggling by his standards. Bryant put up a series high 36-points in the Lakers Game 3 win over the C's, which put them down 2-1. But then in Game's 4 and 5, Bryant combined for only 42-points. He continues to get others the ball and contribute well on defense (see steal-to-jam last night) but the last two contests for Bryant have been hard to watch. Boston's defense has been stellar in defending him, with much credit going to Doc Rivers in allowing Paul Pierce to go one-on-one with him since the second half of Game 4. Bryant must shell out at least 30-points a night for the next two games if he wants to win a title in Boston - and I won't be surprised if he does. As far as winning: eh.
Bryant's Stats: 26 PPG, 43%, 6 RPG, 5 APG, 3.6 SPG
If the series had ended last night, I personally think the Finals MVP could've rested in the hands of either Paul Pierce, or my choice, Ray Allen. He's been the most consistent Celtic averaging 19-points per-game, along with rebounding the ball well and playing his role on the defensive end. Allen put up 25-points in Game 3 when Garnett and Pierce only contributed 19-points, and helped close out Game 4 with a drive to the basket over Sasha Vujocic. (also remembered for some of the worst one-on-one and help defense I've witnessed)
Allen's Stats: 20 PPG, 49%, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 1 BPG
Another guy who's been a key part to his team's success is Pau Gasol, who's sort of had an up-and-down series. Gasol averaged 16-points in Boston, which wasn't enough for his Lakers when they really needed an alternate threat from Bryant. And in Game 3, Gasol didn't show up at all, only scoring nine-points. In the last two games, though Gasol has averaged a double-double, most recently on Sunday night where he battled all-night long on the boards.
Gasol's Stats: 15 PPG, 47%, 11.6 RPG, 3 APG
His counter-part in the series, Kevin Garnett has also had his ups and downs, like last night when he nearly fouled out. It took a few games and really coming to the Staples Center for Garnett to finally establish himself in his post-up game, and it has been something he's gone too much more than what he did in Game's 1-2: the jumper. He put up a double-double this week, but knowing him his point total isn't satisfactory.
Garnett's Stats: 14 PPG, 41%, 12 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1 BPG
Like it was said before, if it isn't Ray Allen for the Celtics it's Paul Pierce, as far as the Finals MVP goes (if they hold on). Pierce got himself into foul trouble in Game 3 and only notched up six-points. In the last two games, he's averaged 29-points; sadly only a record of 1-1. Pierce was monumental in helping his Celtics finish off their comeback in Game 4, and in Game 5 was the undeniable force for the Celtics both when finishing off drives to the basket, or cutting off drives and creating steals. Going back to Boston, it's obvious that the Celtics will push to go back to their pedigree: team defense and scoring from the Big 3. Pierce has got a hand in both of those plans.
Pierce's Stats: 21 PPG, 37%, 6 APG, 5 RPG, 1 SPG
NBA Player of the Week: Kobe Bryant
Statistically, he's the best of the bunch - anyone who's been watching the series knows he's not playing his best ball.
It's good news, bad news in Yankee land. A-Rod is hitting the cover off the ball and they're over .500 by four-games. The bad news is, Chien-Ming Wang had to leave due to an injury yesterday against the Astros; a game the Yanks won 13-0. Wang actually sprung his ankle while running the bases, forcing him to get onto crutches after the game. But at least someone in the clubhouse was feeling good. A-Rod chipped in with a home run and three RBI's on Sunday, topping off a fantastic week for him.
Rodriguez' Stats: 8/20, 6 R, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 2 HR, .400 BA
Wang's Stats: 12.1 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2-0
Speaking of fantastic weeks, Ken Griffey Jr. reached his milestone of 600 home runs. Now he's giving his Cincy fans a present by reportedly considering waving his no-trade clause for a deal to the upstart Tampa Bay Rays. He hits number 600 one day, throws around the idea of leaving the next. Then again, it might be smart for him. He's 38 and yet to win a championship. Send him to an AL team where he can play DH, limiting his chances at getting hurt - prolonging his career and increasing his shot at more home runs and records - and maybe he can lead a young team to the post season. Don't know about a World Series, though.
J.D. Drew knows a thing or two about the World Series and coming out on top. Drew is scorching hot right now for the Bo-Sox, something that team desperately needs with Ortiz on the DL and in games like yesterday when Manny didn't start. Drew cranked out three-dingers this week, totaling up 11 on the season for him.
Drew's Stats: 7/20, 9 R, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 3 HR, .350 BA
And if there's anyone who knows a bit about Drew and his post season play, it's C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia was part of that Indians team that allowed the Red Sox to go on a three-game tear in the ALCS last season. C.C. started off poorly this year, seeing his ERA balloon well over 10. Now he's gotten his groove back coming off two successful starts this week where he pitched past the seventh inning in each.
Sabathia's Stats: 17 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 15 K, 2-0
Ozzie Guillen tore into his Chi-Sox the other week, resulting in a sweep of the Minnesota Twins who are still in second place behind them. The Sox have since dropped a few games, allowing the lead to go from 6.5 games to 4.5. The Twins nearly swept the Brewers this week, scoring 19-runs in the first two games before being shut down yesterday in a 4-2 loss. Justin Morneau has been a catalyst for anything crossing the plate in Twins games as of late. He's hitting over .300 and his week that he had only padded his stats.
Morneau's Stats: 12/29, 6 R, 7 RBI, 1 BB, .414 BA
MLB Player of the Week: C.C. Sabathia
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had not won a race in his last 76 tries coming into Sunday. The sports most popular driver went through a team and sponsor change during the NASCAR offseason, something that fans hoped would propel him to greener pastures. On Sunday, he finally cashed in on his new course in his career with a victory, surely sending a nation of "Little E" fans into hysteria.
Earnhardt sailed into Victory Lane at the Sprint Cup stop in Michigan Sunday, under a caution flag and with next-to-nothing left in the tank. A win's a win, even when a crash is what sparked it. Congrats to Jr. for winning his first race in over two-years.
It would've been nice if the U.S. Open had ended yesterday. I could've not only featured it today, but may have had a definite SIFS Player of the Week. But Tiger Woods, the guy I'd hoped to have delivered, delivered in a fashion not expected by pushing for an 18-hole playoff today with Rocco Mediate. We'll have to wait and see how things unfold as they've already tee'd off. Last Update Mac Saw: Through three-holes, Rocco's got a one-shot lead.
SIFS Player of the Week: C.C. Sabathia