by TOM WEPPEL
As these playoffs series continue to be played out in the Western Conference, we’re seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs going after each other for the Western Conference title.
Unfortunately, not a lot of fans care about either team, especially on a nation-wide basis. Both the Thunder and Spurs play in a small market…San Antonio and Oklahoma City aren’t huge draws, by any means. That said, it means the popularity of the Western Conference series title will not be that strong by any means.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat are trying their best to survive and emerge as the team of choice in the East. With Lebron and Dwyane Wade going after it, and Chris Bosh still injured but waiting in the wings, the Heat have a chance to come through and move into the next round of the playoffs. We shall see, however, as they are still challenged by the Indiana Pacers, who have done a formidable job overall with their play.
We shall also see how moves on between the 76ers and the Celtics, who are playing in a decisive Game 7 coming up in a few nights…
NHL/Stanley Cup playoffs…
With all the major professional sports played here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A., the chances of a lower-seeded team playing well, succeeding, and getting into the Finals of their sport is very, very rare.
Except, of course, in the NHL.
And that is now being proven, once again, with the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings, who got into the Stanley Cup playoffs this season as the #8 seeded team in the Western Conference, are simply blowing out their competition, dominating opponents, and putting together a postseason like very few other teams have done!
In the first round, they were up against the #1 seed Vancouver Canucks, who had come in with the best record in the League during the regular season. But the Kings went up against the Canucks, and beat them handily, 4-0, to move into the second round. Vancouver, meanwhile, was left wondering what happened.
The Kings then were matched up against the #2 seed St. Louis Blues, who had played quite well throughout the regular season themselves. But the Kings didn’t even give that a thought, going in and sweeping the Blues, 4-1. Once again, the Kings simply ran roughshod over their opponent, dominating play in a decisive, efficient manner. They are obviously showing their confidence level to be almost untouchable, it seems.
And now, Los Angeles went up against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals. They played them quite well, also, dominating their play, to win their series, 4-1.
And so the Kings have won the three series necessary…beating the Canucks, the Blues, and the Coyotes (#1, #2, #3). They are now in a period of rest and recuperating, as they seem set and intent on continuing their play, to move right into the Stanley Cup Finals.
They will now wait to face either the New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils, who are battling a tough matchup in the Eastern Conference. These two squads are fairly even, as we are seeing. It should be interesting to see, once either squad emerges, how they will fare against the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Heading into the holiday weekend, we are seeing some surprises at the top of each Division.
In the American League, not too many expected to see the Orioles at the top of the East Division, and the Red Sox and Yankees at the bottom. Baltimore has come through with a savvy group, led by OF Adam Jones, who is among the leaders in BA, HR, and RBI. The Orioles also are doing well with their starting pitching. Their overall team ERA is second in the AL, which says something. This weekend they host the Royals for a series. We shall see if they can sustain their level of play.
While Baltimore has done well, New York and Boston have struggled. Both teams have team pitching ERA’s over 4.00, which hurts. They will need to make adjustments to get back on a winning track.
Another team providing a surprise of sorts is the Cleveland Indians in the Central. The Indians have come through with great play at opportune moments, especially individually. Starting P Derek Lowe has a 6-2 record, with an ERA close to 2.00, which is quite solid. They are the only team in the Division with a record above .500, and we’ll see if they can keep it all together.
But the class of the AL is the Texas Rangers, who sit on top of the West Division. They are led by OF Josh Hamilton, who has done superbly with his hitting and run production. He leads the AL in BA, HR, and RBI, and is among the leaders in Slugging pctg., hits, and runs. He will be a key to the Rangers continuing their level of play…
In the National League the Nationals and Braves lead the east Division, while the Cardinals still have a hold on the Central. The key for St. Louis and Atlanta is their hitting, as they lead the NL in that category. And Washington lead the National League in team ERA, as their starting pitching has been phenomenal.
Most attention, though, is totally focused on the Los Angeles Dodgers, who reached 30 wins faster than any other team in the Majors. They offer a great pitching staff, sporting a team ERA below 3.00. Their hitting as a group is among the leaders in the National League. They have been very lucky to play a majority of their schedule at home, where they sport a 19-4 record, heading into their home series this weekend against the Astros. If they can keep this pace, they will be very tough to challenge…