Because of a short-attention span and a long-weekend, here are the many sports items that are on my Monday Morning Mind - so many, I do believe we will need a machine gun like burst to go in many directions all in one blog entry:
• The Mavs Playoff Push: Without question, the item that was front and center from Friday night to Sunday afternoon was the plight of the Mavericks. The object of the game was to avoid a first-road date with the Lakers. First on Friday, the Mavericks beat the Hornets with a very impressive performance from Josh Howard. I have been very impressed with the Josh Howard of the last week. He makes me remember what we all saw in him to begin with. He reminds me that at full strength he is a very special player. On Friday, he did not settle for jump shots, and took it strong to the rim. And, Erick Dampier was ready to play with an impact-filled effort that saw him get points, rebounds, and actually give David West some issues on defense.
I certainly didn’t love the Sunday effort against those same Hornets, but our bar has been lowered so far that when they only lose by 10 on the road, we are just excited that they weren’t blown out. Chris Paul should really be considered for MVP. I am amazed that a guy who has that little around him has so much success, and cannot get in the discussion for the league’s most valuable player. Isn’t it shocking that those Hornets are in such dire financial straits that they traded Tyson Chandler ? Now that he has been forced to stay in New Orleans for health reasons, it is altogether shocking how bad their other options in the paint are; Sean Marks, Marvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong? That is enough to make Dampier look dominant at times.
Anyway, after the split with the Hornets that reminded me how much I strongly dislike James Posey, it appears the Mavs have their table set for the #7 seed. They have to win 2 and the Hornets must lose 2 for the Mavs to get to #6. But, if they slip up against Minnesota tonight or Houston on Wednesday at home, they can still be caught by the Jazz. But the Jazz are playing so poorly that they are the focus of my next item:
• A big portion of the Mavs nice weekend is that it does appear that they have escaped from the #8 spot unless they wet the bed in the next 2 home games. Why? Partly because they took care of business all week against the Suns, the Jazz, and the Hornets at the AAC. But, let’s not forget the Jazz and their role in all of this. They have lost 6 of their last 7 games. We know how bad they have been all season on the road, but now they have lost back to back home games against Minnesota and Golden State. They are giving up absurd amounts of points on defense. And now, the most humiliating thing that could happen; Saturday Night, they were beaten at home by a team that was filled with anonymous journeymen.
Golden State arrived in Salt Lake City Saturday with 7 players. Here they are: CJ Watson, Anthony Morrow, Kelenna Azubuike, Rob Kurz – who are all undrafted free agents, and then 3 guys who were at least worth a draft pick: Ronny Turiaf, Andris Biedrins, and the promising young Anthony Randolph. Those 7 players were all Don Nelson had to work with. No problem. Those 7 went into Salt Lake and beat a desperate Jazz team that needed a win so badly to avoid their date with the Lakers. But the Jazz cannot beat anyone right now. Anyway, for once, Don Nelson did us all a favor.
• The Masters were awesome as per usual. The golf majors always deliver (ok, almost always deliver) if you just give it a chance. Watch the back 9 on Saturday, and the entire round on Sunday of any major and I guarantee the drama, tension, and excitement will always grab you by the neck. Sure, I want Tiger to emerge like Michael Jordan before him, and if not, I would sure love to see Phil Mickelson come from way back to the top of the leaderboard. But, they were both stymied by too much entering Sunday. 7 shots back is just too much, although we could easily make the case that Phil, in particular, gave that major away. When he visited Ray’s Creek on 12 with an inexplicable wet tee shot, he had a realistic shot at a 62 or 63. But, that 5 on the par 3, followed by a close putt on 15 for eagle and another short putt on 17 gave 4 shots back to the leaders. Nick Faldo asked “What is he doing?” a few times.
I honestly think Phil has a little Brett Favre in him. As great as it gets, but their over-aggressive play at the tense times of the big moments seems to often lead to unforced errors. There is no question that Mickelson and Favre are awesome, but how much glory do they leave out there because of the wrong mistake at the wrong time?
So then, it was down to the unlikely trio of Angel Cabrera, Kenny Perry, and Chad Campbell. Campbell, of Lewisville, had posted a 12 under score as Perry was on 17 with a 2 shot lead at 14 under. Perry had a 2 shot lead with 2 to play on the 17th and 18th holes where birdies are extremely rare. Basically, that means that Perry could only be caught if he moved backwards, and sure enough, he moved backwards. Bogey on 17 when he totally skulled a chip. Then on 18, he puts his tee shot in the sand which left Faldo screaming “Why???”. Any chance that the oldest majors champion ever was about to be Kenny Perry (48 years, 8 months, 2 days) vanished. In the playoff, Campbell yakked on himself on the first hole, and Perry’s confidence was gone. Cabrera, El Pato, just survived all day long. He grinded and grinded, and in the end, won his 2nd major (2007 US Open) for his native Argentina by basically surviving while the others eliminated themselves.
Bottom line, give a golf major a chance, it will not disappoint you. It never does.
• The NHL Pairings are in for this week’s exciting blast off of the NHL Playoffs . Our poor Stars will not make the show, but Ducks vs. Sharks in round 1? And the Blackhawks return to the playoffs against Mike Keenan and the Calgary Flames? Yes, please. In the East, Sean Avery and the Rangers will try to trouble Ovechkin and the Caps, and the battle of Pennsylvania has the Penguins vs Flyers. It won’t be the same as last spring around here, but it will still be good for those of us who have a hockey addiction.
• The Rangers played on (I know you wouldn’t know from reading this blog due to our lack of Rangers posts) and the weekday optimism has dried up a bit after 3 groin kicks that progressively more painful as the weekend developed. Friday, not so bad – we weren’t going to win them all, right? Saturday, wow. Do we really have to watch 33 Matt Harrison starts where there are ducks on the pond every inning? And Sunday. Sunday was brutal. Millwood was absolutely awesome with that sweet breaking ball falling into the dirt as another Tiger waves at it. But the 8th inning is another sign that this bullpen is just not very good. I fear where this will be headed unless the Rangers decide to plug one of their talented young arms on the farm with electric stuff into that 7th or 8th inning role. The pitching staff has to miss bats more often, and when you have Millwood pitch his tail off, it is a shame that the Tigers send 11 batters to the plate in the 8th and deflate all of North Texas. If you want the truth, I think it was the baseball gods who decided the Rangers deserved punishment with the goofy winter baseball hats they insisted on wearing this weekend. Seriously, Elvis – I love you kid, but it is 50 degrees out there. You aren’t going to get frost-bite on your ears when it is 50. Wear a normal hat, or expect the wrath of the baseball gods.
• Finally, my parents were in town this past week, and that meant on Saturday Afternoon my Dad was riveted by the Nationwide Series race in Nashville. I don’t mind racing, but I will only watch the Sprint Cup boys, so I retired to another tv to watch the Masters. Dad did come get me, though, for a big-time highlight late in the race. Front Row Joe Nemechek pulled off a maneuver I had never seen before – except Days of Thunder – when he executed the pretty sweet “car flips onto your roof and then back to its wheels and keep driving” trick. Check it out:
All in all, a pretty salty sports weekend that capped off one of the busiest 10 days on the sports calendar. But, do you think there is a break? NHL Playoffs and NBA Playoffs start this week, the Orioles are in town tonight, and the NFL Draft is 12 days away. So, no break for you.