SPORTS w/The Jock 5-6-11

by Tom Weppel
Without question, the NBA and NHL Playoffs have given us some different wrinkles, as opposed to the status quo of the past.
In the NBA, we saw the #1-seed San Antonio Spurs lose their opening series to the #8-seed Memphis Grizzlies. It is very, very rare indeed for a #1 seed to lose their series in the first round to the lowest seed in their Conference.
San Antonio had a strong regular season and were looking to make a strong run in the playoff, with a good possibility of getting to the Finals. On top of that, the Grizzlies hadn’t done much of anything in their postseason play as a franchise.
But Memphis came out and subdued the Spurs on their home court, surprising them, and the rest of the League. That gave Memphis the confidence to come out and play that much better against the Spurs. The main gun for the Grizz has been Zach Randolph , a guy a number of teams have either cast off, or simply not gotten along with because of his attitude and behavior.
But Randolph has meshed with the atmosphere and the roster in Memphis, and he’s showing he can produce.
Combine that with what seems like the aging of veteran Tim Duncan, and now the Spurs are on vacation, wondering what could’ve been, while there is pure joy in Memphis.
The other surprise so far has been the Atlanta Hawks. In the past, the Hawks have been nothing more than a decent NBA team in a market that doesn’t seem to have the enthusiasm or the support for pro basketball.
The Hawks were up against an Orlando Magic squad that had beaten them handily in the past few years, both in the regular season, and in the playoffs.
But Atlanta was able to come out and shut down the Magic, limiting most of the roster around Dwight Howard. Led by Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, Atlanta was able to bring a team effort to the court, as they won their series with Orlando, while the Magic are now wondering how they messed up the championship run they, and their fans, were ready for.
And so it’ll be interesting to see how things continue to shake out in the NBA. Upsets could continue to be prevalent…

In the meantime, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a complete mess! Depending on who you’re rooting for, that’s either fabulous, or devastating! Seems so far its been all about the visiting team beating the home team, and also the plethora of games going to Overtime!
When the away teams are beating up the homeboys, it takes the air and swagger completely out of the players, and their fans. That’s not a good thing. In the first 46 games played in the opening round series, the visitor had a 25-21 record! In any other professional sport, that would be considered almost surreal! Yet the visiting teams have been playing such good hockey, it has turned tendencies on their ear. You simply cannot count on home ice advantage anymore!
Meanwhile, postseason contests have proven to be quite competitive, with games ending regulation with a tie score. In playing the first eight opening-round series, five of them had at least two games go into OT! While that’s great for the competitive spirit of the NHL and TV viewing, and it can also drain the fans of their enthusiasm and spirit, especially if those games end with the visiting team prevailing!
In three of the four second-round series, the away team has won the first two games, giving them a strong, dominating advantage. It led to the Tampa Bay Lightning sweeping the #1-seed Washington Capitals!
That said, watching the NHL playoffs has been an adventure! There is no such thing as a tendency, and it is almost impossible to predict who will come out on top. If there is one area of play that can lead to a ‘W’, it almost exclusively comes down to goaltending. The better Goalies have helped tremendously in leading their respective teams.