The Jock

by Tom Weppel

From watching the two Conference Championships being played out in the NBA, it seems to me that it isn’t working as easily as we thought it would for Kobe and Lebron to make it into the Finals. Both Denver and Orlando have given the Cavaliers and Lakers problems, respectively.
We’ll start with the Eastern Conference.
When this series started, I think a lot of folks felt like Lebron and his boys would have no problem with the Magic. Cleveland had swept their first two playoff series, leaving them time to rest up and be ready for an Orlando team that went seven games with the defending-Champion Celtics. But damn if the Magic have come out and given the Cavs fits. Orlando has caused some match-up problem with Cleveland, making it that much more difficult for the Cavs to defend Orlando. The Magic have been hoisting threes like its no big deal, and making them! Orlando also like to run a little from time to time. Couple that with the fact that a lot of the Cavaliers are simply giving the ball to Lebron and letting him work on offense, which is not necessarily a great thing, and you’ve got the reason why Cleveland lost three straight games in this series, to go down 3-1 to Orlando. We’ll see how the series plays.
Meanwhile, while the Nuggets showed us solid play in their first two series, no one expected them to give the Lakers a problem. L.A. had dominated Denver, during the regular season and beyond. Many thought the Lakers would cruise through this series and get back in to the Finals. And then, after their first four games, its still all even at 2-2.
There are some that are suggesting Los Angeles is a little lackadaisical at time during some of these games. They’ll go on a strong tear as a team, and then we’ll see them pull back after a while. That was especially the case in Game 4 in Denver, when the Lakers lost by 19.
There are many who still believe Denver and Orlando are simply pawns in this whole fray. In fact, a Denver/Orlando Finals match up is still very possible, although the ratings for a series like that would be quite low.
One other note to make involves the physical play being displayed during these games. Without question, here has been a tremendous amount of elbowing, pushing, shoving, tripping, etc. It has made things extremely taxing on the officials calling these series. The toughest aspect has been in establishing a level of consistency.
These two series are about to close out. The remaining games should be rough, physical, and certainly, entertaining.

While the Penguins and Red Wings were ‘favored’ to get back in to the Stanley Cup Finals, it certainly wasn’t a given. But Pittsburgh came through, sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes. The Penguins seem to be perhaps a little more focused and determined, especially after losing to Detroit in the Finals last season. While the Pens didn’t have the greatest of regular seasons, they have certainly been on an upswing, from the end of the regular season, through the playoffs. They are certainly firing on all cylinders.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings are using their experience and talent to upend the fledgling Blackhawks, who were very happy simply to get in to the Western Conference Finals. After getting their ass beat by Detroit, they will take it all in and be that much more ready for next season.
And there will be nothing wrong at all with this re-match. These two teams have full pedigree on their rosters. They are primed and ready to go after each other. And I’ll be damn curious to see if the Penguins can overcome the veteran Red Wings and turn them back from whence they came. It will certainly be an interesting series, without question.

It has been said for decades that this sport is indeed full of streaks of all kinds. For teams, it comes down to winning and losing, as we all know. And so far in these first two months, we have certainly seen some fairly long winning and losing streaks played out. Just recently, we’ve seen winning streaks put together by the Yankees (9) and Padres (10), and losing strings played by the Blue Jays (8) and Cubs (7). We also saw the Dodgers open the season with a 13-game home winning streak. Streaks like this can change the standings in no time flat. And while we se certain teams performing well and cruising along, the reminder is that this is a long season, with a lot of baseball left to be played.