Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM
Here's a strange-but-true Major-League Baseball factoid:
When you awoke yesterday morning the Boston Red Sox owned the longest current winning streak in the bigs at five in a row.
So why is that so strange?
Hey, haven't you been paying attention to the first month-and-a-half of this MLB season?
The Red Sox - just 17-19 and still lodged in the basement of the American League East while heading into last night's tilt in Tampa Bay - have been a running soap opera ever since first-year manager Bobby Valentine took control in spring training.
Whether it's been Valentine's not-so-subtle jabs at veteran 3B/1B/DH Kevin Youkilis or the RHP Josh Beckett golf outing a couple of weeks ago or blowing that 9-0 lead at home in a 15-9 loss to the hated New York Yankees back on April 21st, there's been a whole lot happening (mostly bad) in Red Sox Nation but now the dark clouds appear to be clearing.
Maybe - just maybe - the folks in Cape Cod, Stockbridge, Jamaica Plain and up in New Hampshire and Vermont too will enjoy this 2012 baseball season after all!
The Red Sox won the last three games of last weekend's four-game set against Cleveland and then put the cherry on top with the two-game series home sweep against Seattle and did you happen to notice that Boston allowed a grand total of eight runs during this five-game stretch while starting pitchers Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard, Jon Lester and the aforementioned Beckett each snagged important victories - and even with the five-game home winning streak the Sox improved to only 9-11 inside the friendly confines of 100-year-old Fenway Park.
The $64,000 question is can Boston avoid any further drama (okay, so that may not be entirely possible with Valentine who this year is even doing a weekly radio show on a New York all-sports station) - and make itself a factor in either the AL East or in the now two-team wild card chase?
Keep in mind that as poorly as the Red Sox played till the past handful of days, they are only 5 ½ games back of AL East frontrunners Baltimore and Tampa Bay (tied at 23-14 while entering Wednesday's action) and keep in mind how so many other "name" teams are down in the AL Central and AL West - we're talking to you, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels) and you know that if Valentine really rights the bullpen than this could be a rags-to-riches in-season neat story near Kenmore Square.
THE NBA PLAYOFFS - TONIGHT'S ACTION FROM INDIANA AND SAN ANTONIO
The red-hot NBA Playoffs roll on this evening: Can Miami bounce back from its bitter Game 2 home loss and what's still left in the tank for the Los Angeles Clippers who try and knot things up at a game apiece with the mighty San Antonio Spurs? Here's our Jim Sez game previews:
MIAMI at INDIANA - Series tied 1-1; Game 3 is at 7 p.m. ET
Is it us or has Miami G Dwyane Wade become a totally unlikable guy? Maybe it was fate - or justice - that Wade missed that potential game-tying lay-up from the left side of the rim with just 16 seconds remaining in Indiana's hang-on-for-dear-life 78-75 win at Miami this past Tuesday night but between Wade's flagrant foul on an unknowing Darren Collison and his post-game comments that he "noticed" how the Pacers carried on right after winning the game and thus evening up this best-of-seven series it's become crystal clear that Wade is a sore-loser and someone easy to root against ... just sayin'!
The fact of the matter is Wade shot just 8-of-22 from the floor in that Game 2 loss but it sure seemed like MVP LeBron James (game-high 28 points) took the brunt of the South Beach criticism for both missing a pair of free throws in the game's final minute of play and for dishing off to Wade instead of taking the game-tying shot late.
In any event, the Heat now knows it's in a series and Erik Spoelstra's guys also know that F Chris Bosh (abdomen injury) ain't coming back to the court anytime too soon and so here in Game 3 the visitors need that "third scorer" and gotta figure PG Mario Chamlers - who nailed just 2-of-10 field goals in Game 2 and missed a key jumper late, to boot - must hit some perimeter jumpers to loosen up an Indy defense that is clearly an underrated strength of this team.
Note that Miami shot 27-of-78 from the floor in Game 2 for a 34.6 accuracy rate - hey, this series could be fun stuff as there already is lots of bad blood between the sides.
Here's how the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-13||MIAMI||- 8.5||Indiana||MIAMI 95-86|
|5-15||MIAMI||- 6.5||Indiana||Indiana 78-75|
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS at SAN ANTONIO - Spurs lead series 1-0; Game 2 is at 9:35 p.m. ET
Who said anything about "rust"?
The NBA's Western Conference top seed had some concerns heading into Game 1 of this series two nights ago as San Antonio hadn't played a "real game" in eight days but there was Gregg Popovich's crew banging out yet another double-digit playoff win (the Spurs are 5-0 in these playoffs while winning by a per-game scoring margin of 16 points an outing) and who knew that in Game 1 the club would set a playoff three-point mark by making 13 triples (in 25 tries) while winning without much offensive help from superstar PG Tony Parker who finished 1-of-9 FG shooting for 7 points.
The ball movement that the Spurs exhibited for huge chunks of this Game 1 win was incredible as rookie Kawhi Leonard (3-of-3 on trifectas) and G Danny Green (3-of-6 triples) combined for 31 very important points and "The Big Fundamental" was his old self as Tim Duncan filled up the box score with 26 points and 10 rebounds to go along with a couple of steals, two blocks and two assists.
How can the Clippers now even this series with San Antonio playing in mid-season form and with all the banged-up body parts on the LA side?
Forward Blake Griffin - who has turned into quite the complainer on the court this post-season (you get plenty of calls, Blake!) - has an aching knee that had him slowing down in Game 1 en route to a soft 7-of-17 FG game for 15 points and even PG Chris Paul (3-of-13 FG shooting in this playoff round opener) didn't seem himself even though he didn't offer up any post-game excuses. Good for him!
If the Clips - an 11-point pup here in Game 2 in the Alamo City - are gonna steal this one than both Griffin and Paul have to have headline games plus the bench that saved the team's season with that Game 7 win in Memphis last Sunday afternoon has to be a major plus.
Yes, guard Eric Bledsoe's 23 points in 27 minutes were awesome the other night but whatever happened to G Mo Williams (see 3 points in 21 minutes in Game 1)? Somebody send out an Missing Persons Report!
Here's how the Clippers-Spurs Western Conference Semifinal Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-15||SAN ANTONIO||- 11.5||LA Clippers||SAN ANTONIO 108-92|
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will prove once again to be the champions of the NBA Playoffs as they continue to shine this post-season and remember the playoffs will run straight through the end of June plus there are loads of winners this 2012 Major-League Baseball season too and so sign up today and get it all - Hoops and Baseball every day and nights! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.
NOTE: Catch up with all our NBA Playoff coverage plus get a peek at this weekend's key MLB Interleague Series too in the next edition of Jim Sez.