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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

This Week in Sports: June 13, 2012

I offer my humble apologies.  Vacations, travel and grown-up responsibilities have kept me away from the weekly update for far too long.  And, it's been a big couple of weeks.  So, without further ado, let's get to it.

The Week That Was:  Holy smokes, it was a busy week!  The Stanley Cup was awarded.  The King got a step closer to the NBA crown.  The last leg of the Triple Crown was run.  And the Pac Man lost the title ... sort of.

NHL:  On Monday night, the Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.  The Kings were the 8th seed in the Western Conference and cruised through to the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Kings then jumped out to a 3-1 lead over the New Jersey Devils.  The Devils showed heart when they staved off elimination in Game 4 in LA.  The Devils then made the series interesting when they won Game 5 at home to make the series 3-2.  But then the Kings exploded for a 6-1 win in Game 6 to capture the Lord Stanley's Cup on their home ice.

NBA:  An entire round of the NBA playoffs took place since I last published this column.  The Eastern and Western Conference Finals were both epic for their own reasons.  The Oklahoma City Thunder captured the West.  The Thunder are a very young team, but they battled their way through three veteran teams on the way to the Finals.  They had to defeat the Mavericks, the Lakers and the Spurs.  And the Thunder only lost three games in those three rounds.  In the East, LeBron James willed his Miami Heat past the Boston Celtics in an epic 7-game series.  So, the Finals will feature Kevin Durant, the reigning scoring champ, against LeBron James, the reigning MVP.  Game 1 took place last night in Oklahoma City.  The Thunder captured the first game despite a solid 30-point effort from LeBron James.

The Belmont Stakes:  The 144th running of the Belmont Stakes had a chance to be one of the most memorable horse races of the century.  I'll Have Another had the look of a horse poised to capture the first Triple Crown since 1978.  Then, the day before the race, a sore tendon caused I'll Have Another to be scratched from the race.  And so, what would have been appointment television in the sports world, became an afterthought on a busy Saturday.  But, those who did tune in to the Belmont, were treated to a wonderful race.  Union Rags made an electrifying run up the rail to beat Paynter by a head at the wire.

Boxing:  Saturday was a huge sports day.  After the Belmont and a Game 7 in the NBA, there was a title fight in Los Vegas.  And not just any title fight.  The wildly popular Manny Pacquiao defended his many title belts against an undefeated American named Timothy Bradley.  Everyone who watched the fight said that Pacquiao controlled the entire match.  Well ... everyone, that is, besides the two ringside judges who awarded a split decision to Bradley.  And, really, those two are the only people whose opinions mattered.  As usual, the Pac Man accepted the decision with poise and class.  The media, celebrities on Twitter and the gamblers that lost reacted a little more harshly.  The WBO is going to conduct a pseudo investigation into the proper scoring of the fight, but it's unlikely that any real action will follow.  This controversy will put to a test the old adage that "any publicity is good publicity."

The Week Ahead:  We're headed into the summer doldrums for sports.  But, this week, golf and basketball will keep sports fans in good spirits.

NBA:  The NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder are underway.  The casual fan may be surprised to know that OKC is actually favored over Miami in this series.  The Thunder won Game 1 on their home court.  Game 2 will also be played in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.  Then the series will shift to Miami for the next three games.  The 2-3-2 format of the NBA finals make it imparative that the Heat steal Game 2.  If not, they have no chance of clinching the series at home and would almost certainly be forced to win at least one elimination game on the road in Game 6 or 7.  All games will be broadcast in prime time on ABC.

The U.S. Open:  The U.S. Open is the 2nd major on the golf calendar.  But, it's Wild Banshee's favorite.  Sure, the Masters has the most pristine grounds.  And the British Open has its history and weather.  But, the U.S. Open is always played on a course that brings the greatest players in the world to their knees.  The rough and pin placements are set up in such a way that we get to see our heroes put snowmen on their cards.  For this reason, the U.S. Open is every bit is as much a mental test as it is a physical test.  The 112th U.S. Open will be played this week at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, CA.  Even though it has been 4 years since we last heard Tiger's roar in a major championship, he is the Vegas favorite to win this weekend.  The first round begins on Thursday.  During the 4-day event, there will be 32 hours of television coverage on ESPN and NBC.

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