LAst Night's Action: Lakers Sweep Away the Jazz
LA Lakers defeat Utah Jazz 111-96. After a first quarter where both teams felt each other out, the Lakers had enough and sealed off everything for the Jazz. Not one Jazz player entered the paint without being harassed, and all the passing lanes were closed off leading to a total of eight Jazz first-half turnovers. They opened up a 22-point lead before relaxing a little allowing Deron Williams to enter the paint to shoot a floater. But a Jerry Sloane coached team never raises a white flag, and the Jazz managed to get the deficit down to five points in the third quarter. The Lakers went on a 10-2 run to end the quarter with a 13-point lead. The first half of the first quarter saw the Jazz pulling closer and the Lakers pushing the lead back, but as time was winding down with the Jazz making desperate jump shots the Lakers iced the game away pulling back out to 20 points. Pau Gasol led all scorers with 33 points and 14 rebounds while Kobe Bryant added 32 points. Andrew Bynum all but disappeared for the second game in a row with six points and seven rebounds, but Derek Fisher had 10 key points and Shannon Brown came up big with his 12 points. This marks the first time the Utah Jazz have been swept in a best-of-seven playoff series. The Lakers now wait a week and face division foes Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals.
LA Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks 7-3. With a 4-11 record on the road and 6-3 against the NL West, albeit at home, something had to give. James Loney got things off on the right foot for the Dodgers belting a solo homer to left centerfield in the second inning for the quick 1-0 lead. Chris Young responded in the bottom off the second with a solo shot of his own, but the Dodgers reestablished themselves quickly in the third inning when Manny Ramirez singled Russell Martin home for the 2-1 lead. DBacks starter Rodrigo had a tough time at it going six innings giving up four runs on seven hits including Andre Ethier’s two-run double in the fifth inning to give the Dodgers the 4-1 advantage while also walking four and striking out three. Chad Billingsley only went 5 1/3 innings giving up two runs on three hits and four walks while striking out seven. He left in the sixth inning after giving up a walk to Adam LaRoche and a double to Stephen Drew. Ronald Belisario came in and got a ground out that scored LaRoche cutting the Dodger lead to 4-2. The Dodgers blew it open in the ninth with three runs while Ramon Troncoso gave one back before ending the game inducing a double play. Martin leads the team with 15 walks and has hit in five consecutive games.
LA Angels defeat Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 (11 innings). A day after being perfected the Rays had a difficult time against Angel starter Joel Pineiro. Sure they got some hits, but they just couldn’t score runs. In fact it took them until the eighth inning to get their first run in 23 innings. Unfortunately by that point Rays’ starter Matt Garza had given up four runs. However the Rays didn’t give up scoring three times on Angels’ closer Brian Fuentes with a Willy Aybar solo shot and an Evan Longoria two-run double to tie the game. Kendry Morales led off the 11th inning with a single off of Rays’ reliever Grant Balfour. Reggie Willits’ sacrifice bunt moved Morales to second which set the stage for Juan Rivera. During Rivera’s at-bat, Balfour made a wild pitch that sent Morales to third. After Rays’ manager made the five-infielders move, Rivera hit a walk-off sacrifice fly.
SHARKS LIE IN WAIT. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, interesting things are happening. First of all I have to apologize to the San Jose Sharks. After Dan Boyle’s own goal in overtime in Game 3 of their first round series against the Colorado Avalanche that got them down 2-1 in the series, I said that the playoff choke of the Sharks had begun fully expecting them to go down to the eight seed meekly for the second year in a row.
Since that point, they have only lost one game: Game 4 of their series against the defending Western Conference Champions Detroit Red Wings. As we are all waiting for see if the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and Chicago Red Wings can win one more game each to make it to the Conference Finals, San Jose is resting up waiting to see who they will face.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have finally shown up in a postseason series for the Sharks, but the biggest players have been Joe Pavelski and linemate Devin Setoguchi. Pavelski along with equally surprising Montreal Canadiens’ forward Mike Cammalleri sit atop all players in the playoffs with nine goals. While he gets all the publicity, Setoguchi has emerged in these playoffs jacking shots like he was playing for Mike D’Antoni. He’s been the catalyst for getting traffic to the net which is oh so important in the game of hockey.
This is only the second time in franchise history they have gotten out of the second round and into the Western Conference Finals, but at this point it would surprise no one if they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash with his eye swelling shut. AP Photo/Eric Gay
NASH HEROICS. We’ve seen players battle injury before in the NBA Playoffs. Willis Reed did it in the 1970 Finals with a torn quad. Michael Jordan did it in the 1997 Finals battling the flu and dehydration. I guess now we have the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash playing the fourth quarter with only one eye. After getting an inadvertent elbow by the San Antonio Spurs’ big man Tim Duncan in the third quarter, Nash got six stitches on his right eyebrow as a shiner developed on his eye swelling it shut as the game progressed. With the game close with the Suns having a chance to sweep the Spurs out of the series in San Antonio, Nash played the entire fourth quarter scoring 10 of his 20 points to help propel the Suns to their 107-101 victory. This is nothing new for Nash who was opened up by Tony Parker in the same round of the playoffs in 2007 bleeding from his nose throughout the game. However Nash’s heroics will not be remembered like Reed’s or Jordan’s if the Suns do not win the NBA title, and they have quite an obstacle in their way in the form of the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers. But isn’t it remarkable that a guy from hockey-crazy Canada manages to get hockey-type injuries in the NBA?
LA Dodgers (15-17) at Arizona Diamondbacks (14-19). John Ely (0-1, 4.26 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (4-1, 4.04 ERA). 6:40 pm FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.
Tampa Bay Rays (22-9) at LA Angels (14-19). Jeff Niemann (2-0, 2.23 ERA) vs. Scott Kazmir (2-2, 7.11 ERA). 7:05 pm FSWest, AM 830 KLAA.