|05.06.10 at 7:09 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Bill Madden in the New York Daily News is concerned that the Yankees, despite their fast start, are vulnerable due to injuries to three of the “Core Four.” Andy Pettitte has elbow inflammation, Mariano Rivera has stiffness on his side and Jorge Posada has a mild calf strain. Joel Sherman in the New York Post writes that it’s the same “age-old problems” for the Yanks.
♦ Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, writing on ESPN.com, says the boycott of her state because of a controversial immigration law is misguided. This comes after the Suns wore jerseys that read “Los Suns” for Wednesday’s night’s win over the Spurs.
♦ Christine Brennan in USA Today writes that the tragedy at the University of Virginia, where a men’s lacrosse player is charged with murdering a women’s player, could have been prevented.
♦ According to a story in Connecticut’s Norwich Bulletin, the Patriots are taking some heat for taking part in a program encouraging youngsters to be healthy then not sending any players to a school as allegedly promised.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On May 6, 1918, Babe Ruth, then with the Red Sox, started a game at a position other than pitcher for the first time in his career. Which position did he play?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was just one of those games when you see a lot of shots, you feel comfortable, you’re not making any extra moves and you’re standing there and everything seems to hit you.” — Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, after Wednesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Flyers
STAT OF THE DAY: 0-5 — The Angels’ record in May, the first time the franchise has opened the month with that many consecutive losses
‘NET RESULTS: Jack Nicholson let the referee know that he did not like a call in Tuesday night’s Lakers-Jazz game.
The Orlando Sentinel paid tribute to Magic big man Dwight Howard with this “Dwightmare on Elm Street” commercial.
Impressive bicycle kick soccer goal.
If you think falling down is funny, here’s one for you.
TRIVIA ANSWER: First base
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Bob Seger is 65 today.
|05.05.10 at 7:39 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
NHL playoffs: Bruins at Flyers, 7 p.m. (VERSUS)
MLB: Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
MLS: Chivas USA vs. Revolution, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Sam Farmer in The Los Angeles Times and Mike Vaccaro in the New York Post write about the problem of fans running onto the field, inspired by the Phillies fan being tasered. Meanwhile, some Phillies players weighed in, with Shane Victorino saying: “If he was on the street running from a cop, doesn’t the cop have the right to tase you because you’re fleeing from the cops? … Why are you going to treat the situation different because he’s in a baseball stadium rather than a street?”
♦ In the San Diego Tribune, Tim Sullivan writes about baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s dilemma in dealing with Arizona’s immigration law.
♦ In the Chicago Tribune, David Haugh writes about Bulls general manager John Paxson, who gave a heartfelt apology for his confrontation with fired coach Vinny Del Negro.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On May 5, 1904, which pitcher tossed the first perfect game in modern major league history and the only perfect game in Red Sox history?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “David’s fine. He’s one of our teammates. It could’ve been me that hit into a double play. It happens to everybody, man. He’s had 60 at-bats. A couple of years ago, I was hitting .170 and everyone was ready to kill me, too. What happened? Laser show, so relax. I’m tired of looking at the NESN poll, ‘Why is David struggling?’ David’s fine. He’s one of our teammates. We believe in him. He came out of it last year, he’s going to come out of it this year.” — Dustin Pedroia, after Tuesday night’s win over the Angels
STAT OF THE DAY: 120 — Pitches thrown Tuesday night by Jon Lester, a season high for Red Sox pitchers
‘NET RESULTS: When he played, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was known as a guy who would do anything to win. Apparently, he hasn’t lost that edge. During Monday night’s game in Cleveland, Ainge, sitting just to the side of the basket, threw a towel in the air in an attempt to distract J.J. Hickson, who was shooting a free throw. An NBA spokesman said “The situation is under review.”
John Calipari attempts to defend his University of Kentucky team’s academic embarrassing performance. Short version: He wishes the players would have done better, but he’s proud of the way they handled all the things that were thrown at them last season. Oh, and their privacy may have been compromised (that one’s from the Rick Pitino playbook of trying to turn the tables).
TRIVIA ANSWER: Cy Young, with a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Athletics
SOOTHING SOUNDS: On this date in 1955, the musical “Damn Yankees” opened on Broadway.
|05.04.10 at 7:30 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ The mother of football player Dez Bryant told AOL FanHouse that she wants an apology from the Dolphins executive who asked if she was a prostitute. Meanwhile, The Dallas Morning News reports that Angela Bryant has had two run-ins with the law in the last two years, including an arrest last year for selling crack cocaine.
♦ Lenn Robbins in the New York Post looks at the Tim Welsh situation at Hofstra and writes that college basketball coaches are going to be held more accountable for their actions.
♦ With the Celtics routing LeBron James and the Cavaliers, Jim Ingraham in The News-Herald of Northern Ohio writes about the Most Valuable Elbow and how it could be signaling doom for the Cavaliers. Dan Wetzel at Yahoo!Sports writes that the Cavs don’t seem to have the right mindset after Monday’s blowout.
♦ John Branch in The New York Times writes about Vermont snowboarder Kevin Pearce, now recovering at home after his near-fatal snowboarding accident in late December.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On May 4, 1974, which Red Sox player tied a major league record by making three errors in his major league debut?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Everybody can be [expletive] happy when you’re [expletive] 30-1, but what is everybody going to do when we’re 12-and-14. Are you going to show up to work the next day and write an [expletive] story. Hell no. You’re going to write the best story of your life. We’re going to try and play the best [expletive] game of our life tomorrow. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re 12-14. Don’t put your head down and mope. Grind it out. You believe. That’s what we’re built on.” — Dustin Pedroia, after the Red Sox’ win over the Angels Monday night
STAT OF THE DAY: 19 — Assists for Rajon Rondo in Monday night’s win over the Cavaliers, tying a Celtics playoff record
‘NET RESULTS: The Ontario Hockey League championship series got a little testy.
Don Cherry “resents” having “e-mails from jerks on Hockey Night in Canada.”
TRIVIA ANSWER: Shortstop Rick Burleson
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Nick Ashford of Ashford & Simpson is 68 today.
|05.03.10 at 12:48 pm ET|
It was quite the return for Marc Savard in the Bruins’ Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Returning from almost a two-month layoff after the vicious hit by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke that sidelined him with a concussion, Savard played the hero in the Bruins’ 5-4 overtime victory at TD Garden. He blasted a shot past Brian Boucher just over 13 minutes into overtime to give the Bruins a leg up in their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.
It was a great play, and it might go down as a better story. When the Bruins needed a goal at a critical juncture, Savard showed no rust in netting the game-winner. Savard joins the list of great first-game comebacks from an injury layoff by Boston athletes. Here are a few other memorable performances.
One pitch almost cost Tony Conigliaro not just his career, but his life.
On that fateful day in August of 1967, as the Red Sox were in the midst of their Impossible Dream season and facing the California Angels at Fenway Park. Conigliaro, the young star from Revere and St. Mary’s High in Lynn, was up at the plate for Boston in the fourth inning and facing Jack Hamilton. And then, all of a sudden, he was down for the count. Hamilton’s pitch hit Conigliaro just above the left cheek bone, causing a facial fracture and damage to his retina. Instantly, Hamilton became an infamous villain in Boston and the Sox lost their most popular player.
It was remarkable enough that he survived, but even with blurry vision Tony C desperately wanted to make a comeback. It was an arduous journey — Conigliaro wanted to come back that season, but he ended up missing the rest of the year and all of 1968 as well. He finally made it back on the field for Opening Day on April 8, 1969. And he returned with some of the old magic that Sox fans were used to, belting a two-run homer in the 10th inning and scoring the winning run in the 12th inning of Boston’s 5-4 win over the Orioles in Baltimore.
Before Jon Lester was being counted on to be at the top of the Sox rotation, he was the Sox’ top prospect in 2006. He made his Major League debut in June of that year and went on to win his first five decisions. The future seemed bright for the 22-year-old left-hander.
And then things started to unravel. In his next seven starts, Lester went 2-2 with an ERA of 7.75 (it had been 2.38 in his previous outings.) He did not look comfortable, and he complained of back pain in August. By early September, the youngster was faced with terrible news: He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The cancer turned out to be treatable, and Lester was back on the mound in spring training in 2007. But he had to work his way back to the big leagues, starting in Class-A Greenville and working his way up through the minor league system. He finally made his return on July 23, 2007, less than a year after he first found out he had cancer. And he helped the Red Sox earn a 6-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians, allowing two runs in six innings and striking out six.
If that wasn’t enough, Lester would end his comeback on an even higher note, getting the win in Boston’s World Series clincher against the Colorado Rockies. It was a fitting way for Lester to end the year, beating the National League’s best just like he had beaten his disease. It was a remarkable comeback story, and ended with a fitting tribute: the Tony Conigliaro Award.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Fresh off signing a record 10-year, $103 million contract, Drew Bledsoe thought he might have a chance to lead the Patriots to the playoffs. But then he met Mo Lewis, and his fortunes, and the Patriots’ as well, changed forever.
Backup Tom Brady came in and led the surprise Patriots to the playoffs, in the process supplanting Bledsoe as the starter. But for one moment, Bledsoe got the chance to relive his glory days.
Replacing an injured Brady, Bledsoe came in and helped lead the Patriots to an upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2002 AFC championship game. Four plays after replacing his former understudy, Bledsoe threw an 11-yard TD to David Patten to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead. They would jump out to a 21-3 margin and hold on for a 24-17 win.
That renewed fervor in the Bledsoe-Brady debate that had been an ongoing discussion throughout the season.
But Brady returned to help the Pats win the Super Bowl, and cemented himself in Patriots lore. Bledsoe was traded to the division rival Buffalo Bills that offseason, but for one brief moment he played a key role in helping the Patriots win their first Super Bowl.
The Patriots’ remarkable 2007 season ended in heart-wrenching fashion in Super Bowl XLII. Their 2008 season started off in much the same fashion.
With one blow, Bernard Pollard knocked Tom Brady out for the year and put the brakes on any hope of a repeat performance from his MVP campaign.
Much like Brady in 2001, unheralded backup Matt Cassel came in and shockingly led the Pats to an 11-5 record, just missing out on a playoff spot. Any thoughts of a quarterback controversy were quickly put to rest, however, when the Pats traded Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. There was no way they would be getting rid of their three-time Super Bowl winning signal caller.
But it was not known how Brady would play after his return. There was a lot of talk about how he would mentally prepare to be hit again and whether his knee would withstand the rigors of a full season. He put all those concerns to bed, however, in the 2009 opener.
With the Pats down 24-13 in the fourth quarter, Brady threw two touchdowns to Ben Watson in the final 2:06 of the game, leading the Patriots to a shocking 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills and proving that he hadn’t lost the ability to perform in the clutch when he missed almost all of the 2008 season.
Sure, Brady needed help from Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin, with his disastrous fumble on the kickoff return, but the QB finished the day with 378 yards passing and the two scores (he also had a terrible pick returned for a TD —hey, we can’t all be perfect) in his first meaningful performance since the Pollard hit. Not a bad way to get back into the swing of things.
|05.03.10 at 7:53 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
NHL playoffs, Sabres at Bruins, 7 p.m. (VERSUS)
MLB: Angels at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN/ESPN, WRKO)
NBA Playoffs: Celtics at Cavaliers, 8 p.m. (TNT, WEEI)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ In a story that likely won’t surprise anyone, John Calipari’s University of Kentucky basketball team had an embarrassingly low team grade-point average, the worst among all 20 of the school’s sports teams. In the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Jerry Tipton takes a look at the situation and includes this comment from school president Lee T. Todd Jr.: “I was disappointed.”
♦ T.J. Simers in The Los Angeles Times writes that the Lakers are underachievers, despite the fact that they appear headed for another NBA Finals appearance.
♦ Bob Raissman in the New York Daily News looks at Reggie Jackson calling into to a sports radio program to defend Alex Rodriguez — and then calling back to defend himself for being ridiculed.
♦ Dan Le Batard in The Miami Herald continues the examination of the Jeff Ireland-Dez Bryant controversy, looking at the Dolphins’ explanation for asking the receiver if his mother was a prostitute.
♦ Heather Timmons in The New York Times writes about YouTube and its future broadcasting sports events.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On May 3, 1999, which Red Sox catcher hit a grand slam for his first major league hit — and only home run of his brief major league career?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re going to have to regroup in a hurry and figure it out.” — Red Sox manager Terry Francona, after his team was swept by the Orioles over the weekend
STAT OF THE DAY: 0.87 — Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon’s career ERA against Baltimore before coughing up the winning run Sunday
‘NET RESULTS: Amazing trick basketball shots. How does this guy even come up with these ideas?
During Game 6 of the Nuggets-Jazz series, Camelo Anthony travels before he dribbles the ball, then takes FIVE steps after dribbling it but does not get called for traveling.
Johns Hopkins lacrosse player Kyle Wharton literally rips the net with a shot.
A Los Angeles Dodgers fan films himself catching a home run ball in the bleachers.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Creighton Grubanich, who played a total of 18 major league games, all with the Red Sox in 1999
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Frankie Valli is 76 today.
|04.30.10 at 2:42 pm ET|
The times of the games were finally announced for the Celtics-Cavaliers series, and now we know when the world will stop turning in the NBA. This will be the series to watch in the second round, not just for Boston and Cleveland fans, but for the rest of the NBA.
Why you ask? Other than the intense rivalry, LeBron James has a banged up elbow, and everyone will want to know what his status will be in this series and maybe beyond. The Celts might have a hand in that, though.
Doc Rivers sure thinks he’s fine, and the rest of the Celtics have to feel that way. This will be the story to watch, because LeBron is the center of the universe for the NBA and Cleveland’s title hopes depend on him.
This series is for the NBA championship. … Wait a minute. There is NBA life outside of the Celtics-Cavaliers series? This isn’t the NBA Finals? Other teams are still playing?
Dallas just got upended by San Antonio? You’re kidding. Mark Cuban is going to have a field day, and he may just lose a little more hair off of the top of that head of his.
Milwaukee is leading the Hawks? No way. You’re pulling our legs. Not the Hawks team that went 4-0 against the Celtics in the regular season. The high-flying, loud-dunking, trash-talking Atlanta Hawks are down to the Bucks? Come on.
Oklahoma City is going toe-to-toe with the defending champions? Wait, there is a team in Oklahoma City?
These are just some of the questions that new NBA fans outside of the Celtics-Cavs spectrum might have, and we are here to answer them for you. Let’s get everyone caught up to speed on what’s going down in the NBA Playoffs. Read the rest of this entry »
|04.30.10 at 7:43 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
NHL playoffs: Flyers at Bruins, 12:30 p.m. (NBC)
MLB: Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. (NESN, WRKO)
NBA Playoffs: Celtics at Cavaliers 8 p.m. (TNT, WEEI)
Red Sox at Orioles, 1:35 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ The state of Arizona’s new immigration law — under which a person can be detained if he or she does not have identification — has been a big topic of discussion nationally, and the Diamondbacks have been caught in the middle of the controversy. One of the team’s owners is a donor to the Republican party, which opponents of the bill blame for its passage, and that led to a protest of the team outside Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Plus, Hispanic major leaguers, including some on the Diamondbacks, wonder if they will be affected. Jeff Passan at Yahoo!Sports looks more closely at the situation.
♦ According to a Sports Illustrated poll, 24 percent of Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour competitors think he used HGH or other performance-enhancing drugs.
♦ Will Leitch at New York Magazine writes about Major League Baseball cracking down on its employees’ Twitter posts.
♦ Jeff Miller in The Orange County Register writes that the Los Angeles Lakers’ arrogance is justified.
♦ Dan Rosen at NHL.com looks at hockey’s topsy-turvy Eastern Conference playoffs, in which the three lowest seeds advanced to Round 2.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 30, 1974, which Red Sox player was hit in the head by a Nolan Ryan fastball, knocking him out of the lineup for two months?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m not mad at Michael Ryder. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s not just his fault or anybody’s fault. It was a bad hit, a bad play. I’ve got no problems with anything that went on. Had it been me, maybe — it’s different demeanors for different guys. I’m not the strongest guy or the toughest guy in the world. Would I have jumped somebody? Maybe, but that’s just different guys.” — Bruins center Marc Savard, appearing on the Dennis & Callahan show, on his reaction to his team’s non-action following the March 7 hit that gave him a concussion
STAT OF THE DAY: 68 — Number of teams in the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament, after the expansion was approved by the NCAA’s board of directors Thursday
‘NET RESULTS: Watch closely on the replay to see just how egregious this soccer player’s tackle is. And yet he only gets a yellow card.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Second baseman Doug Griffin
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Willie Nelson is 77 today.
And Bobby Vee is 67 today.
|04.29.10 at 7:24 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
No local games
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Greg Cote in The Miami Herald defends Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who has been taking heat for asking draft prospect Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Mike Ditka does not offer any support for Ireland, suggesting that “somebody ought to whack him in the head.” Meanwhile, the Dolphins owner and the league are looking into the matter.
♦ Tracee Hamilton in The Washington Post writes that Alex Ovechkin’s reputation as the world’s best hockey player took a hit with Wednesday night’s loss to the Canadiens.
♦ E.J. Montini in The Arizona Republic writes about how the Diamondbacks are being caught in the middle of the controversy about the state’s controversial immigration law.
♦ John Romano in the St. Petersburg Times writes about the Rays continuing to struggle with attendance despite their success on the field.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 29, 1986, Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in a game at Fenway Park. But he was losing the game 1-0 after a home run by Gorman Thomas in the top of the seventh inning. Which Red Sox player hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning to make Clemens a winner?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Yeah, I think the first couple of days I was out there I was like, ‘Jesus, this is going to take awhile.’ I am not going to be a savior or anything and go out, you know, and get three goals in the first game. I would like to, but I don’t think that it is going to happen.” — Bruins center Marc Savard, on returning to action
STAT OF THE DAY: 1 — Wins at home for the Washington Capitals in their series vs. the Canadiens that ended Wednesday night with Montreal beating the regular season’s top home team in Washington for the third time
‘NET RESULTS: NBA referee Joey Crawford got a little confused on this foul call in the Trail Blazers-Suns game.
Interesting (and successful) strategy on a penalty kick in a Japanese soccer game.
Here’s a soccer goalie who isn’t afraid to let a teammate know he screwed up.
One more soccer clip — this time a dive so bad the guy should be given a red card.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Dwight Evans
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Tommy James is 63 today.
|04.28.10 at 7:58 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
MLB: Red Sox at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. (NESN, WEEI)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez chose not to respond to Curt Schilling’s comments that he belongs in the weaker National League, but he did talk about his slow start in a conversation with the New York Post.
♦ Some former Bruins are among the current and former NHL players involved in a $25 million legal dispute with a golf course developer who happens to be a friend of Roger Clemens. The New York Daily News has the story.
♦ The Lakers routed the Thunder Tuesday night, but Kobe Bryant takes some hits in this piece from Gregg Doyel at CBSSports.com. Doyel accuses Bryant of sacrificing Game 4 by not shooting for the first 15 minutes while his team fell into a deep hole. This came after he received some criticism after hoisting 29 shots in LA’s Game 3 loss.
♦ George Diaz in the Orlando Sentinel writes that Broncos coach Josh McDaniels officially has emerged from Bill Belichick’s shadow and has become his own man with his drafting of Tim Tebow.
♦ John Hickey at AOL FanHouse looks at declining attendance at Major League Baseball games.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 28, 1990, the Celtics set a team record for points in a playoff game in a 157-128 rout of which team in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference opening round?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He’s an elite player and he’s been chomping at the bit to play. The fact that we were able to clinch and allow time for him to get acclimated and a little practice I think is going to be very beneficial to Savvy and the team.” — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, on center Marc Savard
STAT OF THE DAY: 1 — Playoff series Doc Rivers-coached teams have won in five games or less, after the Celtics eliminated the Heat in five games Tuesday night
‘NET RESULTS: Bango, the Milwaukee Bucks mascot, does a backflip dunk off the top of a ladder. Definitely do not try this at home.
And here’s Bango with a message for Hawks fans.
Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett shops for tampons and Barbie Band-Aids for his opponents.
Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks gets some revenge on a fan who talks trash to him while he’s in the penalty box.
TRIVIA ANSWER: The Knicks
SOOTHING SOUNDS: On this date in 1988, the musical “Chess” opened at Imperial Theater in New York City (it was a slow day).
|04.27.10 at 10:30 am ET|
Dwyane Wade was simply unstoppable Sunday afternoon.
Whether he was yelling at his hands or splashing in 3′s, Wade did it all in Miami’s Game 4 win over the Celtics, helping the Heat stave off elimination for at least one more game. The Celtics had no answer for Wade’s offensive showcase, as the Miami guard outscored the Celtics in the fourth quarter by himself with 19 points to help the Heat seal the win. Wade’s 30 second-half points helped him finish with a playoff career-high 46 on the day.
It was a performance that can stand up to some of the best in playoff history. But where does it stack up against the best playoff games by an opposing player against Boston teams? Here is a breakdown of some of those performances. You be the judge as to where Wade’s stands.
‘It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.’
MJ had some of the most memorable playoff performances ever. There was the “Flu Game” vs. the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals and “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo in round one of the Eastern Conference finals in 1989. But his best performance might have come in a losing effort in Game 2 of the 1986 first-round series vs. the eventual NBA champion Celtics on the hallowed parquet of the Boston Garden. Jordan, who had been limited to just 18 regular-season games in his second year because of a broken bone in his foot, came back at the end of the regular season and willed the Bulls into the playoffs. Then he put on a show unlike anything anyone had seen in playoff history.
In the Celtics’ 135-131 double overtime win, Jordan was a force of nature, breaking Elgin Baylor’s playoff record with 63 points and almost single-handedly carrying his team to a victory over arguably the greatest team of all time. None other than Larry Bird compared His Airness to God, and it was just the beginning of Jordan’s ascension to the best player of all-time.
‘The Shootout’ — ‘Nique vs. Bird
The Atlanta Hawks were a force in the late ’80s, continually putting up 50-win seasons. Their only problem was they kept running into the Celtics in the playoffs and losing. In 1988, it appeared they would suffer a similar fate in the second round of the playoffs. The Celtics had stormed out to a 2-0 lead at home in the Eastern Conference semifinals, only to see the Hawks come back and win three straight, including Game 5 in the Boston Garden. But Boston came back and edged Atlanta for the win in Game 6 and the stage was set: Game 7 and a trip to the Eastern Conference finals on the line.
And on the biggest stage, two of the game’s best delivered iconic performances. Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird engaged in one of the best duels in playoff history. The “Human Highlight Film” lit up the Celtics for 47 points on an astounding 19-for-23 shooting display. The only problem for the Hawks was Larry Bird was up to the task of matching their star. Bird scored 20 of his 34 points in a back-and-forth battle with Wilkins in the fourth quarter, helping the Celtics earn the 118-116 win.
We’ll let current Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who was an All-Star point guard for the Hawks and played in that game (though he did not play particularly well in that one), sum it up.
“Bird and ‘Nique were in a different world. Late in the game, I was trying to get back in and I just kneeled there and watched them go back and forth.
” ‘Nique was great in Game 6 and 7. He just decided we weren’t going to lose that last game. Unfortunately, Bird had decided the same thing, and only one of them could be right. Bird may have won the game, but Dominique won the duel.”
Twenty years later, Doc would be on the sidelines for the Green to witness another classic duel in an Eastern Conference semifinals Game 7: Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James.
El Duque dazzles
For all the recent playoff battles between the Red Sox and Yankees, it is easy to forget that the first time the two rivals met in the postseason was in 1999. The Yankees, who would go on to win the World Series, cruised through the playoffs, including dispatching the Red Sox in five games in the ALCS. The MVP of that series? Orlando Hernandez.
The leg-kicking Cuban starter was on the top of his game in the decisive win in Game 5. Pitted against Kent Mercker (if you remembered that, you are clearly a diehard Sox fan) for the second time in the series, El Duque kept the Sox bats in check all night. He tossed seven shutout innings and struck out nine batters before Jason Varitek homered in the eighth, ending his chances of a shutout. Still, his performance was enough to have everyone from Staten Island to the Bronx doing the El Duque.
Godzilla helps Yanks smash Sox
Every Yankees fan would like to forget the 2004 ALCS. At least the last four games, anyway. But if the series had been best-of-five, the Yankees would have gone out with a bang with their 19-8 demolition of the Sox in Game 3, and it would have largely been thanks to Hideki Matsui.
All the Yanks cleanup hitter did in that one was deliver a five-hit, two-home run performance, finishing the day by knocking in five of his team’s astounding 19 runs. It all started with a two-run shot off Boston starter Bronson Arroyo, who was lifted after Matsui doubled off him in his second at-bat. The man they call Godzilla then capped his night with another two-run blast in the top of the ninth inning, leaving fans at Fenway Park reeling.
Of course, the Red Sox would be the ones who left New York fans stunned after coming back from a 3-0 hole to win the series. But try not to let that overshadow what Matsui did in Game 3, if that is possible.
Brodeur gives Bruins a devil of a time
It’s not like Martin Brodeur hasn’t flummoxed a cast of NHL teams. When you are the all-time leader in the NHL in wins and shutouts, it is safe to say that you have stymied plenty of opponents.
But Brodeur’s performance in the 1995 playoffs was special, even for him. The Devils came into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference after the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. But Brodeur’s strong play helped the Devils stun the hockey world and win the Stanley Cup.
It all started in the first round against Boston. Brodeur was simply superb, recording three shutouts in five games in the best-of-seven series, becoming just the fifth goalie to accomplish that feat, and the only one to do so in as few as five games. It got so bad for the Bruins that they were left wondering if they would ever score a goal. Of course, they scored more than one in a 3-2 win in Game 3, only to see Brodeur come through with his third shutout in a 1-0 overtime victory for the Devils. The only consolation for the Bruins was that no other team that had much luck against Brodeur in his second “full” season. He didn’t have any more shutouts, but he was the main reason his team went on a run that ended with an emphatic sweep of the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings in the finals.
And now, after a disastrous playoff campaign for New Jersey, people are wondering if Brodeur is washed up. Even if that is a case, he is still arguably the greatest netminder in NHL history.
Say what you want about Terrell Owens. Go ahead, none of it can be disputed. But there is no doubting that his performance against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX was remarkable.
After suffering a severe ankle sprain and a fractured fibula when he was horse-collared by the Cowboys’ Roy Williams on Dec. 19, Owens missed the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. But he vowed to come back for the Super Bowl, and thanks to a hyperbaric chamber and a miracle, he did just that.
Owens dominated the Patriots secondary despite playing with the injury. He finished with nine catches for 122 yards and would likely have been the MVP for the Eagles if they had completed their comeback, or if Donovan McNabb didn’t end up puking in the fourth quarter. Despite the 24-21 loss and Deion Branch’s 11-reception, 133-yard day overshadowing Owens’ accomplishments, it was still a memorable performance from someone who likely should not have even been on the field.
Heisman Howard does in the Pats
Before Super Bowl XXXI, Desmond Howard was best known for the video below.
But he certainly made sure that fans in New England remembered why he won that Heisman Trophy. Howard become the first special teams player to be named the MVP of the Super Bowl after his 99-yard touchdown return in the third quarter sealed the 35-21 win for the Packers. Howard was the most dangerous man on the field, finishing with 154 kickoff return yards in the game as well as a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards, for another record of 244 combined net yards.
Taylor runs over New England
Before he came to New England, Fred Taylor was the Jacksonville Jaguars. And those Jaguars had a habit of running into the Patriots in the playoffs. In 1996-97, two years before Taylor came to Jacksonville, the Patriots beat the upstart Jags to earn the AFC championship. And the Patriots beat Taylor and Jacksonville on two other occasions, in 2005 and 2007. But for one year, in 1998, the Jags had the Patriots’ number. And it was all thanks to the legs of Taylor.
The rookie ran all over the Patriots in the teams’ wild card matchup, helping Jacksonville earn a 25-10 win. Taylor had 162 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries in one of the best performances from a rookie in the playoffs.
Manning, Colts shock Pats
The Colts-Patriots rivalry is the best in the NFL. And there were so many instances when Bill Belichick’s team came out on top. But in the two meetings prior to the AFC championship game in 2007, the Colts had finally gotten the better of Tom Brady and the Patriots.
However, nothing could have prepared the Patriots for what happened in that game. Peyton Manning would not let his team lose, finally shedding the label of not being able to win a big game. He led his team to an unbelievable comeback after the Patriots built up a 21-3 lead in the first half, and the Colts earned the trip to the Super Bowl with a 38-34 win.
The Patriots become the first team in NFL history to lose a conference championship game after leading by 18 points, thanks in large part to Manning’s turnaround. Twice the Patriots took the lead after the Colts stormed back to tie the game at 21, only to see Manning engineer another comeback. He finished the day with 349 yards and a touchdown through the air while also adding a 1-yard score on a QB sneak. It all culminated in a perfectly executed drive at the end of the game by Manning, which was capped off by a 3-yard Joseph Addai score.
Since that meeting, the Colts have won two of the last three contests between the teams in close affairs, including last year’s “fourth-and-2″ game.
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