Dwyane Wade, Heat come alive in 4th to eliminate Bulls
NBA – Conference Finals Start
The NBA Playoffs conference finals kick off this week. The Indiana Pacers completed the line-up by beating the New York Knicks in Game 6 thanks to a strong fourth quarter display. Meanwhile, the veteran Carmelo Anthony led Knicks into the offseason with huge question marks and salary cap concerns. Will New York find a way to re-sign J.R. Smith?
The San Antonio Spurs dominated every aspect of Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies while defending home court with a 105-83 victory. Expect Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and the Grizzlies to hit back in what is a critical Game 2. The Spurs have been a tough road team all season long and are loaded with veteran talent led by the ‘big three’ of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan; if they take a 2-0 series lead it would be tough to bet against them closing the series out. Also look for game 2 to be more physical and for Memphis to bring their best defensive game. San Antonio knocked down 14 three-point shots in Game 1. They can’t count on a repeat of that effort and will need to find a different way to score if they are going to claim a 2-0 series lead.
The Eastern conference finals series between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers doesn’t kick off until Wednesday night, but the war of words has already started between the two rivals. Indiana head coach Frank Vogel described the Heat as just ‘the next team’, an expression that sparked a retort from Miami star LeBron James asserting that the defending champions were quite a bit more than that. Last year’s semi-final series was physical and got pretty nasty. The same is very much expected this time around.
Few people give the Pacers any chance of winning two games against the Heat, let alone actually winning the series. However, Dwayne Wade’s health is a looming question mark for Miami. Wade definitely isn’t healthy. If he loses the ability to step his game up when necessary, then the Heat might have more trouble than most people are predicting.
NFL – More Bad News for Gronkowski
The Super Bowl hopes for the New England Patriots are looking shakier with every surgery that Tight End Rob Gronkowski has. The 24-year old has shown himself to be one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the NFL, when healthy. He possesses a remarkable combination of size, speed and great hands. When put on a team with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the tight end – who can block like a lineman and run like a receiver – could develop into one of the biggest stars in the league, but he has to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, injuries have prevented him from having a significant impact in each of the past three postseasons. The news this week that ‘Gronk’ was having a fourth surgery on his forearm is not a good sign for a player whose durability is under serious question. There is also a possibility that he will undergo back surgery as well. The Patriots lost Wes Welker in free agency this offseason and clearly need Gronkowski to be a healthy and impactful part of this offense.
College Football – Is Saban the ‘devil’?
A former assistant coach of Nick Saban’s, Tim Davis, has described arguably college football’s top coach as ‘the devil’. The suggestion has been met by widespread disapproval across the sports world and Saban even reportedly described the comments as ‘disappointing’.
When you are on top of the world, as Saban undoubtedly is, everything that happens to you becomes a major story. It seems unlikely that Davis actually meant that Saban was the devil. If you’re the best in the game, you are bound to receive the odd negative comment. Hopefully his four national championship titles will offer him some comfort.
Andrew Wiggins Commits To Kansas
Wiggins will not be joining the nation’s top recruiting class in Kentucky and he will not be heading to Florida State to that program’s savior. Instead, he will head to Kansas to play for Bill Self as the big star for a school that is a perennial national title contender.
Playing for Self and the Jayhawks should be great for the nation’s top recruit. Wiggins is fully expected to declare for the NBA draft in 2014 and has already been described as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James. That’s a lot of expectation to live up to for a Canadian who clearly prefers to steer clear of the limelight.
MLB – AL East Focus
This week’s MLB divisional focus is the AL East. Things might actually be looking up for the Toronto Blue Jays right now.
R.A. Dickey was strong through eight innings on Monday giving up just three runs and registering his second consecutive win of the season. The knuckleballer, who won the Cy Young Award with the New York Mets last season, has struggled in Toronto early in the season going 4-5 with a 4.50 ERA. Monday was only the second game that Dickey had pitched seven innings or more. The Blue Jays are now 8-5 in their last 13 and still have time to save their season after a poor start. They will need their pitching to step up to have a real shot.
Joe Girardi’s remarkable New York Yankees remain a game and a half ahead in the division after an impressive victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. Travis Hafner hit a game tying home run in the ninth and Vernon Wells won the game with a go ahead ground rule double in the 10th. It was the third straight win for the Yankees. They are 7-3 in their last 10. This New York line-up is overachieving and probably won’t keep their current run going, but they won’t need to because reinforcements are coming. It’s always dangerous to rule out the Yankees.
NHL Playoffs Round-up
The Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Monday. The Blackhawks started the series as major favorites after winning the President’s Trophy, but they now find themselves in pretty serious trouble after falling behind 2-1 in the series. Game 4 is in the Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night and is almost a must win for Chicago.
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers’ playoff hopes are effectively on the line tonight when they face-off against the Boston Bruins in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are 2-0 down in the series. They showed terrific home form against the Washington Capitals in round one and will need to repeat that in Game 3 after conceding eight goals in the first two games of the series in Boston.
The defending champions Los Angeles Kings travel to face the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 on Tuesday. They currently hold a 2-1 lead. The Sharks showed terrific resolve to win Game 3, but a loss tonight would probably put the aspirations of Joe Thornton and co to bed.
The final series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators continues on Wednesday with the Penguins currently holding a 2-1 advantage. Daniel Alfredsson scored a game tying goal in the dying seconds of Game 3 and Colin Greening got the winner in double overtime as the Senators pulled a game back in the series on Sunday.
Check back next week, and every week for The SkyBox Weekly Wrap-up!
By Sebastian E-Read
May 21, 20113 at 8:42am