May 18, Week in Sports
:: Lakers Top Rockets in Seven; Celtics Fall to Magic (Pro. Basketball)
:: Detroit Red Wings Beat Anaheim Ducks to Face Blackhawks (Hockey)
:: Rachel Alexandra Wins Preakness (Horse Racing)
L.A. CONFIDENT: LAKERS ADVANCE TO CONFERENCE FINALS
On Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers pummeled the Houston Rockets 89-70 in Game 7 of their playoff series. The Lakers now advance to the Conference Finals, where they will play the red hot Denver Nuggets.
Going into the 2009 post-season, the Lakers were expected to cruise to the Finals, especially after the Rockets lost their star center, Yao Ming, to injury. However, that perception changed significantly as the Rockets fought back, forcing the series to seven games and raising questions about the strength and heart of the Lakers team–especially after Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson appeared to be indifferent after an ugly Game 6 loss in Houston. Now the Lakers face an extremely tough opponent in the Denver Nuggets, who are appearing in the Conference Finals for the first time in over two decades.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the Boston Celtics fell to the Orlando Magic in Game 7. The Celtics won the NBA Finals last year, and while nobody expected them to repeat that achievement given the injury to Kevin Garnett, it was still a bit of a surprise to see them defeated at home. The Orlando Magic are now slated to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Finals. The Cavs are the best team in the playoffs this year, and NBA analysts have all but penciled them in as this year’s champions. If the Magic were to knock them off, it would be a huge upset.
Quote of the Week: “We just had to come home, put the last game behind us, and play well…. We’ve got our hands full with [the Denver Nuggets]–we know they’re rested, we know they’re ready…but we will be too.” — Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Further Reading: “Gasol, Lakers overwhelm Rockets in Game 7 ” — Associated Press, via ESPN
HAWKS AND RED WINGS DROP THE GLOVES
The Detroit Red Wings pulled off a Game 7 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, advancing to play their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, in the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Red Wings beat the Blackhawks in Game 1 of that series by a score of 5-2.
The Red Wings, who won the Stanley Cup last year, have been one of the most dominant teams in professional sports over the last decade, and they are just as good as ever. Led by veteran stars Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Nicklas Lidstrom, the Red Wings are a well-oiled machine, one of the deepest teams in the league, and a perennial favorite to win the Cup. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, have had a very different path to this series. After fading into irrelevance in Chicago during the past 15 years, the Blackhawks, led by young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, have resurrected the franchise this year. Since the arrival of Toews and Kane a year ago, the Hawks have gone from being one of the worst teams in the league to being one of the fastest, most explosive teams in the country. The last time the Blackhawks made it this deep in the playoffs was in 1995, when they lost to the Red Wings.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings are two of the “Original Six” teams in the NHL. The other four teams from the “Original Six” are the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens.
Quote of the Week: ”Hockeytown USA? Some would argue that’s on the West Side of Chicago now, even if the Red Wings have hilariously trademarked the phrase.” — Jon Greenberg, ESPN Chicago
Further Reading: ”Chi-town and Motown, facing off again ” — Jon Greenberg, ESPN Chicago
BOYS CLUB? NOT AT PREAKNESS
On Saturday afternoon, Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness, edging out Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. The Preakness is the second leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing.
Rachel Alexandra was the favorite to win the Preakness, so in that sense, her victory was the expected result. However, it was still an unusual day in Baltimore for a few reasons. First of all, though Rachel Alexandra was not the first filly to win the Preakness, the last time it happened was 85 years ago. Rachel Alexandra was also the first horse in 134 years to start in the 13th position and win the race.
However, the strangest part of the race had to do with the jockey. The jockey that guided Rachel Alexandra to victory today was none other than Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird. Never before has a Derby-winning jockey switched horses for the Preakness. In this case, the decision paid off handsomely for Borel. Meanwhile, Mine That Bird finished in second place.
Quote of the Week: ”Like I told everybody up front, she’s the best horse in the country right now, bar none. I can’t go back on my word. I won’t go back on my word.” — Calvin Borel
Further Reading: ”Rachel Alexandra holds off Mine That Bird, wins Preakness ” — Bob Velin, USA Today
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
:: PRO. BASKETBALL: The Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs begin this week. Check out the schedule at www.nba.com.
:: HOCKEY: The Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs continue this week. The most anticipated matchup of this round is between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Check out the rest of the schedule at www.nhl.com.
:: TENNIS: The French Open, the second of the four Grand Slam tournaments, begins this week. It runs from May 24 to June 7.
MLB (Pro. Baseball): The 2009 season is underway, and it runs through October. [Official MLB Website]
NBA (Pro. Basketball): The 2008-09 NBA playoffs are currently underway. [Official NBA Website]
NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL (College): “The Tournament” is now over. The University of North Carolina won the 2009 national championship over Michigan State. [CBS Sports]
NFL (Pro. Football): Now that the NFL Draft is over, things will be relatively quiet until training camp begins in the middle of July. [Official NFL Website]
NCAA FOOTBALL (College): The college football season is now over, with Florida defeating Oklahoma in the national championship game. [NCAA Football, ESPN]
MEN’S GOLF: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Major Championships: The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open (The British Open), and the PGA Championship. The next Major Championship is the U.S. Open. [Official PGA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson
NHL (Pro. Hockey): The Stanley Cup playoffs are currently underway. [Official NHL Website]
MEN’S AND WOMEN’S TENNIS: While there are professional tournaments throughout the year, the most important tournaments are the four Grand Slam tournaments: the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. The next event is the French Open, which takes place in May. [USTA Website]
NOTABLE PLAYERS: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic