The Chicago Cubs were never in it. They didn’t choke, didn’t have bad luck, they just never showed up. Saturday’s 3-1 victory by the Dodgers complete the three game sweep of yet another Cubs team with high expectations. Their Championship drought now stands at 100 years as Lou Piniella’s playoff record with the Cubs drops to 0-6.
“This is six games I’ve managed now in the postseason and we have scored just 12 runs. That doesn’t get it done”, said Piniella according to ESPN.com.
For the other side, the Dodgers have a much different story. Counted out for much of the year their 2nd half resurgence, thanks in large part to Manny Ramirez, has put them in position to shock everyone in their path. Manager Joe Torre seems to have this Dodgers team focused and motivated. Torre is no stranger to postseason play with now 79 playoff wins under his belt. The first 76 of course came with the Yankees. His last three however remind you more of his first postseason go around with the Yankees in 1996. That team not yet a super star ladened lineup were more the underdog than favorite. Either way if Torre and the Dodgers have their way, Torre will be celebrating his 87th postseason victory come the end of October.
MLB Playoff TicketsDodgers Playoff Tickets
The Chicago Cubs, the “best team in the National League” find themselves on the brink of elimination in the NLDS. Despite having the home field advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs have looked woeful at home in games 1 and 2. Game 2 was especially bad for the Cubs defense. Every infielder had an error and the Cubs found themselves down 5-0 because of it at the end of the 2nd inning. Four of those five runs were un-earned. According to ESPN.com, Manager Lou Piniella was anything but impressed.
“It wasn’t good baseball. In fact, the last two days, that’s probably been the two worst games we’ve played all year. It wasn’t fun to watch, I’ll tell you that.”
The Cubs now face the uphill battle that only the 2001 Yankees have overcome in Division Series play. Their focus however is only on the next game. In game 3 in L.A. they will send Rich Harden to the mound to face Hiroki Kuroda. If the Chicago Cubs are eliminated, it will put their Championship drought at 100 years.
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If history has an impact on their emotions, I’m sure the Angels were quite disappointed to draw the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Despite winning eight of the nine games between the teams this year, the Angels have been swept by the Red Sox in their last two playoff matchups in 2004 and 2007 and have won the last 10 overall playoff games since 1986. You could see history repeating itself last night as the Red Sox continued their playoff dominance with a 4-1 victory in Los Angeles.
Jon Lester got the win for the Red Sox with a masterful 7 inning performance with 7 K’s and 6 hits. John Lackey took the loss for the Angels despite pitching really well. Lackey’s lone mistake was a two out, two run homer to Jason Bay. Bay’s go ahead homer was good enough for the win but the Sox were able to tack on some insurance runs in the 9th inning. Jonathan Papelbon got the save for the Red Sox.
Game 2 of the series is on Friday night and will feature Ervin Santana for the Angels vs Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Red Sox. The series will shift to Boston’s Fenway Park on Sunday and Monday (if necessary) for games 3 and 4. Red Sox playoff tickets are available for these games and all potential Sox playoff games including the World Series. You will get a full refund on any tickets purchased for playoff games that are not played.
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The Dodgers piled on the runs to defeat the Chicago Cubs in game 1 of their NLDS. Trailing 2-0 in the 5th inning, James Loney hit a grand slam to give the Dodgers the lead for good. Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin would later add solo shots to pad the Los Angeles lead. The shocked Cubs crowd was silent throughout the onslaught. The Cubs are hoping to shrug off the obvious stat that the team that wins game 1 in the division series often goes on to win the series.
The Cubs send Carlos Zambrano to the hill on Thursday night and hope to even things up in front of the home crowd at Wrigley. With the best record in baseball this year, there are high expectations for this Cubs club.
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With the Tampa Bay Rays taking the top spot in the American League East and the Sox taking the AL Wild Card, Boston will face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first round of the postseason. The Sox were 1-8 against the Angels this season, winning only their first matchup at Fenway, back on April 22nd. Sox Ace Josh Beckett was scratched from game one, and pushed back to game 3 on Sunday in Boston due to an oblique injury. His counterpart, Angels hurler John Lackey, does not seem to be in good shape himself either. Lackey was roughed up for ten runs in just 2.2 innings by the Texas Rangers.
The Sox will send John Lester to the mound to start game 1. Lester has had an impressive year, going 16-6 in 33 starts; 5-1 in his last 6. The Sox also have question marks in Mike Lowell and JD Drew, both of which who have been bothered by injury. They are both assumed to be on the ALDS roster, but Lowell is still considered a game-time decision.
Pitching MatchupsGame 1 @ LA – 10/1/2008 – John Lackey vs Jon Lester
Game 2 @ LA – 10/3/2008- Ervin Santana vs Daisuke Matsuzaka
Game 3 @ Boston – 10/5/2008 – Joe Saunders vs Josh Beckett
Game 4 @ Boston – 10/6/2008 – TBA vs TBA*
Game 5 @ LA – 10/8/2008 – TBA vs TBA*
Boston Red Sox ALDS Roster
Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Paul Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Tim Wakefield
Jason Varitek, Kevin Cash, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, Sean Casey, Alex Cora, Mike Lowell, David Ortiz, Jason Bay, Coco Crisp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Kotsay, JD Drew, David Ross
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ALDS Roster
John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Jon Garland, Jered Weaver, Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Darren Oliver, Jose Arredondo, Kevin Jepsen.
Erick Aybar, Brandon Wood, Jeff Mathis, Chone Figgins, Garret Anderson, Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera, Gary Mathews Jr., Mark Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero, Robb Quinlan, Mike Napoli, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Reggie Willits.
Boston Red Sox Playoff Tickets for all rounds are available for purchase now – full refunds for any games that are not played.
Hiroki Kuroda’s first year in the MLB has been a rollercoaster ride. His solid perfomances were generally bookended by abysmal ones. Kuroda’s June started and ended with 6-run, 2.2 inning outings… with a 4-hit complete-game shutout in between.
Kuroda did not seem to be fazed by giving up the hit, his focus was on the score of the game.
“My main concern was that he was the leadoff hitter in that inning, it was a 2-2 count and I didn’t want to walk him because I didn’t have that big of a lead,” Kuroda said through a translator. “I was concentrating more on not allowing any runs. I wasn’t really nervous, but I felt the pressure from the fans because they were expecting something big.”
Kuroda settled down, not allowing any more baserunners on the night. With the win, the Dodgers moved into a tie for first in the NL West with Arizona.
Kuroda spent 11 years playing for the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Central League before signing with the Dodgers in December of 2007.
Golden State Warriors guard Baron Davis has opted out of his contract for next year. Davis had reportedly been frustrated by the team’s inability to sign him to a long term deal, as well as their issues re-signing young guns Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis.
“[Opting out] was a difficult decision, to say the least,” Davis’ agent Todd Ramasar said. “The past couple years, he’s had a lot of success with the Warriors, and I think they’ve had a lot of success with him. But he had gotten to the point that we were at a crossroads and it was something we had to address. … With no extension or deal in place … [opting out] was a bit unexpected but something that I advised Baron to do.”
Unless he does a “sign-and-trade” deal with Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers are the most likely new team for Davis. The only other teams that currently have cap room are Memphis and Philadelphia, neither of which has as urgent of a need at guard as the Clippers.
The Warriors have not commented on any future plans to negotiate with Davis.
Since the 2005-2006 season, Davis has an average of 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game.
The Boston Celtics rollercoaster ride of a postseason continued Thursday night as they overcame a 24 points first half deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-91 in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals. In one of the gutsiest team performances in Finals history, the Celtics were able to prevail over a hostile Staples Center crowd, the hometown officiating and a disgusting first half shooting display to pull out only their third road win of the 2008 playoffs.
In a game that for all intensive purposes should have been over at halftime, Boston was somehow able to find a way to dig down deep and come together for what could go down as the best come from behind Finals win ever.
“Some turnaround in that game. The air went out of the building,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was asked what he told his club afterward. “Well, it’s not over. This is not over. The series is not over.”
On paper, he’s right, the series is not over. Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday night at 9:00pm EST. However, no team has ever been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
All throughout the first half, the Lakers possessed a sense of urgency and attacked the hoop possession after possession. Lamar Odom, who had been a non-factor in the first three games of the Finals, provided an early spark hitting his first 7 shots and at one point was out scoring and rebounding the entire Celtics team.
At the end of the 1st quarter, the Lakers led 35-14.
The Celtics were able to make up a little ground in the 2nd quarter but a Jordan Farmar 3-point heave at the halftime buzzer killed any momentum the Celtics had established and they trailed 58-40 at the break.
Boston fans watching the game were disheartened. They knew that the C’s had lost a golden opportunity to steal a win in Game 3, and were now in the locker room trailing Game 4 by 18 points, on the road to Kobe Bryant and Co. Things just weren’t looking good.
And then something happened.
Maybe the water boys added a little something extra to their bottles for the 2nd half, but the Celtics team that came out of that locker room looked nothing like the rag-a-muffin bunch that had moped around the court for the first 24 minutes of play. This team looked inspired, as if it suddenly hit them that they have a once in a life time opportunity to do something special. They looked hungry with the need to feed, their only prey wearing yellow and purple.
Paul Pierce led the attack scoring 20 points, 14 coming in the 2nd half. He was fearless out of the court, demanding the ball in the right situations and creating for his teammates when his shot was not there. His play lifted the Celtics up and together they were able to cut the Lakers 18 point halftime lead to a 73-71 score by the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the comeback was the largest in the Finals since 1971, and that before last night, no team had ever come back to win a game after trailing by more the 15 points in the first quarter.
Boston tied the score at 73-73 on a Leon Powe jump shot with 10:13 remaining on the game clock. It was the first tie since the game was knotted at 2-2, 28 seconds into the game. Each possession became more important than the previous and both teams tried to pick up their defensive intensity. For the first time in the finals, the officials finally took a step back swallowing their whistles, allowing both teams to play without ticky-tack foul calls.
Three times the Celtics would tie the game only to see the Lakers score the next possession to regain the lead. It wasn’t until Eddie House nailed a long jumper on the wing that the Celtics took their first lead of the game, 83-82 with 4:07 remaining in the action.
Boston would not trail again.
“It’s definitely a great win, one that you’re going to put up there in the library and break back out one day for your kids to watch,” Pierce said. “But I want nothing more than that ring right now.”
With the Game 4 victory, Pierce and the rest of the Celtics find themselves one win away from their first NBA Championship since 1986.
But honestly, did that win really happen? Did the Lakers manage to blow a 24 point lead, on their home court where they had yet to lose a home playoff game and been winners of 15 straight? Where was Kobe during “Kobe Time” late in the game? And did Brian Scalabrine’s hair get redder during the Celtics huge 3rd quarter run?
Seriously though, the comeback was amazing, but the collapse is the real story here. After a huge Game 3 win, the Lakers had a chance to even the series and really take the advantage because they would be able to host Game 5 with a chance to take the lead and put the pressure back on Boston.
One problem, they forgot to play basketball in the second half of Thursday’s game.
You can’t even say that LA choked because they simply stopped breathing. Had they gone to the emergency room, they would have been declared dead upon arrival. This team that had so much energy and life in the first half took their large lead for granted and it came back to ultimately kill them.
If this sounds all too familiar that’s because the same thing happened to the Celtics in Game 2. Big lead, sloppy play and lack of effort equaled a 41 point Lakers 4th quarter and a few near heart attacks by Bostonians watching the whole debacle.
The only difference between the two comebacks was that the Lakers made their run in the 4th quarter and merely ran out of time on the clock where as the Celtics pulled close in the 3rd, swinging the momentum their way to take over the game in the 4th.
Even Kobe couldn’t save this one for his team.
“They were determined not to let me beat them tonight,” said Kobe Bryant in a post-game interview. “I saw three, four bodies every time I touched the ball.”
Bryant still managed to score 17 points and dish out 10 assists in the loss, but was never really able to kick his game up a notch during crunch time, which is usually one of his many specialties.
The stage for Sunday’s Game 5 is set. For the Lakers it’s simply win or go home. The Celtics, on the other hand, will try to win the organizations 17th overall championship on the road. If they can’t pull out the victory in LA, they now have the luxury of returning home with not one but two chances (if they need them) to raise another banner in Beantown.
All the Los Angeles Lakers needed was a bit of hometown loving, and that’s exactly what they got in Tuesday nights 87-81 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in downtown LA. Kobe Bryant scored 36 points and led the Lakers to a key victory pulling the series to a 2-1 Boston edge. The win improves LA’s home record during the 2008 playoffs to a perfect 9-0 and again forces the question about whether the Celtics road struggles will continue.
Last night’s display by Bryant clearly showed any doubters why he is in fact the reigning MVP of the NBA. Boston knew the man could flat out play, but they had yet to see him take over a game the way he did Tuesday. When he was given space, he’d nail the open jumper. The minute the double teams came flying his way, he was able to distribute the ball to teammates for high percentage looks. On the defensive end he was able to shut down Paul Pierce, holding him to only 6 points on a 2-14 shooting effort.
The clutch performance could not have come at a better time because no team in the NBA Finals has even been able to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a championship.
“What I tried to do with my teammates is just stay calm,” Bryant said. “It wasn’t the end of the world. They did a great job of defending home court. We knew we had to come here and do the same. They feed off of my confidence and I have all the confidence in the world that we can come here and win.”
During the first quarter, neither team jumped out to a large lead and both looked a little jet lagged coming out of the gates. The Lakers missed their first five shots from the floor while the Celtics started the game only 1-8 from the field. After a huge free throw discrepancy in Game 2 in which Boston attempted 38 compared to LA’s 10, the Lakers were able to get to the line 14 times in the first quarter, setting the tone early.
“We just wanted to play,” said Bryant, whose only blemish on the night was an 11-of-18 performance from the foul line. “I don’t think anyone was feeling desperate.”
With 4:01 left on the clock in first half, Kobe calmly knocked down an 18 foot jump shot which opened up the Lakers largest first half lead making the score 40-29. The Celtics were able to put together a little run to close the quarter and the halftime score had LA on top 43-37.
Boston was able to control play in the 3rd quarter outscoring LA 25-17 to take a 62-60 lead heading into the last frame on play. Ray Allen paced the Celtics scoring 10 in the quarter and finished with 25 on the night hitting five 3-point shots, but it was not enough to overcome Kobe and the Lakers 4th quarter effort.
“As bad as we played, we still had opportunities,” Allen said. “That’s the positive. We can look at it, but I don’t think on either side of the floor we were good. We had so much more room for improvement.”
For the first five minutes of the 4th quarter both teams traded bucket for bucket. The momentum would shift on a pivotal shot that came from Bryant with 6:55 left to play. With the Celtics leading by two points at 68-66, a slow defensive rotation left the MVP wide open at the top of the key. Kobe hadn’t been this wide open since he participated in the 3-point shoot out competition a few years ago during the All-Star weekend. Knowing the importance of the shot, he was able to completely collect himself before draining the 3-point trey which would put LA up for good.
A quick spurt capped by a Pau Gasol tip in would make the score 77-70 in favor of the Lakers and things began looking grim for the Celtics. Coming out of a timeout, Boston was able to roll off six quick points and trim the score back to a two point game, 78-76 with 2:41 left to play.
After a missed 3-point attempt by Sasha Vujacic, the Celtics had the ball with a little over 2 minutes left to play and a chance to tie the score. A broken offensive set resulted in an off balance runner by reserve PG Eddie House that did not fall. The Lakers made them pay for the poor choice in shot selection on the next possession. Vujacic redeemed himself and nailed a 3-point jump shot right in front of the Celtics bench, putting LA back up by 5 with under 2 minutes to play.
With lots of playoff experience, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was able to calm his young roster down and help them hold on for the Game 3 victory.
“Kobe was fantastic but I thought Vujacic was the key to the game,” Jackson said. “I said before we are going to have to win a game when Kobe Bryant plays well. We know that. But when that happens, we have to shut off the other avenues.”
L.A’s defensive intensity improved dramatically with the change of coasts. In Boston, LA had allowed the Celtics to score an average of 103 points per game in Games 1 & 2 of the Finals. Game 3 they limited the Celtics to 81 points and held them to a .349 shooting percentage, their 2nd worst percentage in 23 games of the 2008 playoffs.
The Celtics certainly had plenty of chances to steal this game but every time they pulled close, Bryant was able to take matters into his own hands.
Even though Bryant’s performance was an unbelievable effort, some C’s fans may still have a little bone to pick with coach Doc Rivers. Before last night’s game, reserve PG Eddie House had seen exactly 10 seconds of action over the course of the Celtics four previous playoff wins. Rivers had been using Sam Cassell for the most part in the role of back up PG to starter Rajon Rondo. For whatever reason, Rivers decided to call House’s number last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Nothing against Eddie House, he’s a great set shooter and can certainly knock down a 3-point shot when he’s open and has the time to set, but what was Doc thinking putting him in the game last night and giving him the green light to fire away? House attempted a ridiculous number of 8 shots in 19 minutes of action. It may not sound that bad if you haven’t been following the C’s playoff run, but here’s some food for thought. Before last night’s game, House had only attempted 6 shots in the previous 8 games in only 17 minutes of combined action. That’s .75 shots and 2.125 minutes per game.
Did we miss something Doc? Was your plan all along to save Eddie for the big game pressure situation with everything on the line? Does that mean you’re thinking about sending Brian Scalabrine in there for Game 4?
One thing is for sure, for the Celtics to win in L.A. they are going to need the Big Three to all produce. In the Game 3 loss, Pierce and Kevin Garnett both had sub par outings and that cannot happen if Boston expects to win. Lets be realistic, Leon Powe is not going to score 21 points a game, nor is Rondo going to dish out 16 assists every night like their Game 2 lines.
The environment in LA is hostile and nothing like that of Boston, but that’s no excuse. Now is the time for the Celtics to simply make the necessary adjustments and shake off the road loss. They’ve shut down Kobe and the Lakers four times already this year, last night he merely got the best of them.
Hats off to Kobe, but lesson learned, don’t let it happen again.