With Thursday night’s loss to the Mets and Colorado’s subsequent choking against Philly, the Braves NL East lead has been shortened to two games right as we enter the home stretch here in September. While I am still fairly positive about the Braves postseason chances, we saw some of the same recurring Braves struggles tonight. Those struggles primarily being a lack of consistent offense and poor fielding. The Braves rank 3rd from the bottom of MLB with 103 errors and it is a trend that has persisted throughout the season. The biggest problem with the offense remains a lack of consistent power from the three-four-and five spots in the lineup. Brian McCann is a power-hitter by catcher’s standards, but it is not a good thing that he leads the team with 20 HR’s with 28 games left in the season. First base remains a black hole for production as Derrek Lee has failed to produce anything resembling power numbers since joining the team and Troy Glaus has been miserable, save for his tear from May to mid-June. Freddie Freeman likely won’t have an impact until next season, although he may be forced to if these veterans keep slumping. The biggest problem is that it seems the Phillies have finally started playing like they’re capable of, with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley hitting bombs recently, and Shane Victorino finding a hot streak
Phillies First-Baseman Ryan Howard hits yet another home run.
What I’m really trying to emphasize is the Braves’ offense has to pick up, as the pitchers can’t win game by themselves. The bullpen has clearly fatigued, with a noticeable decline in the performance of Johnny Venters and Peter Moylan, and the starters aren’t showing the consistency of previous months. The offense may not need to step up to make the postseason but they’re going to have to pick it up if this team really wants to make a run come October, which they are capable of doing. Most importantly, if the Braves are going to rely on pitching to determine their outcome the rest of the year, THEY HAVE TO START PLAYING BETTER DEFENSE. This is a team stacked with veterans who have “been there” before, but the veteran players have had too many mental lapses with fielding the whole season and ultimately, this will be the Braves’ great undoing if they don’t clean up the fielding.
I only say this because I know that I, as well as the rest of the Braves nation, would like to see Bobby Cox go out on top. This Braves team has a special aura to it, leading the MLB in walk-offs and comeback wins, but they could have another few wins this season if they had better fielding. With the Phillies getting hot, the Braves have to fix this issue to really cap this season off like they are capable of and doing so could be key in the Braves’ chances at a pennant.
I’m back just in time to cover the pennant race and college football kickoff! I’d like to welcome the newest addition to the Sports ALL DAY writing crew, Thomas Duggins. Thomas is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, studying Journalism and Electronic Media. His first post will be up shortly, on the current state of the NL East, so be sure to check that out! Also coming later, the countdown is over for Georgia State University’s football team and they showed Thursday night what two solid years of preparation can yield.
Playing with the same poise and perseverance that carried them through the regular season the Atlanta Hawks notched a 102-92 win at home against the Milwaukee Bucks. Many people have questioned the Hawks’ legitimacy as playoff contenders, but any uncertainties were put to rest in the first half when Atlanta came out firing and went into halftime with a commanding 62-40 lead over the visiting Bucks.
Joe Johnson led the steady Hawks attack with 22 points as well as notching 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Josh Smith contributed a 12 point 10 rebound effort while pacing the Hawks on defense with four blocks and on offense with his usual intensity and rim-rattling dunks. The real story of the night was the rebirth of Mike Bibby as a staple of the Hawks’ offense. Missing only one shot all game long, Bibby shot eight for nine from the field including three for three from behind the arc to end up with 19 points. In his first career playoff game, Jamal Crawford once again established himself as THE Sixth Man of the Year, coming off the bench to score 17 as well as helping contain Milwaukee’s dynamic duo of Brandon Jennings and John Salmons.
The Bucks put up a fight in the second half, outscoring the Hawks 52-40 but it was simply not enough as Jennings’ 34 point effort was wasted in the series opener. Expect the same intensity and sense of urgency from the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, as they look to extend their home winning streak to 14 games and secure a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Bogut-less Bucks.
Coming later, the first no-hitter of the season and first in franchise history for the Rockies in Atlanta. Also, a look into the first day of the NBA Playoffs and what to expect tomorrow.
David Beckham truly has the best of both worlds. After months of back and forth negotiations between the Los Angeles Galaxy and AC Milan, they have come to an agreement on where Beckham’s will be playing in the coming months. The deal allows Beckham to play for AC Milan until June 30th, upon which Beckham will return to the Los Angeles Galaxy and the MLS. This has been a major topic of conversation among people in the soccer community. Will Beckham be back in the U.S. or will he continue to enjoy himself and enjoy the game of soccer once more in Italy? Only time will tell.
This Sunday, Atlanta was faced with an arduous task, slowing down the Blazers and star shooting guard Brandon Roy. Roy put on a show scoring 29 points, dishing out five dimes and capping that off his spectacular performance four boards. But I guess Roy hasn’t heard the saying “Anything you can do I can do better,” because Joe Johnson went off on the Blazers. For the fourth straight game, Joe scored more than 30 points, with a grand total of 35 before going to the bench to allow the bench players some playing time. He also added an impressive seven boards and six assists to his scoresheet, showing that he is a versatile, all-around team player that is a force to be reckoned with on the court. Three other Hawks scored in double figures, led by Josh Smith with 19 points and 8 boards. Al Horford contributed 13 points and 5 boards while Mike Bibby was making himself useful at the point-guard position with 5 assists, also scoring 15 and grabbing 4 rebounds. This was an all-around great win for the Hawks, making it five in a row, all on their home-court. They were able to send their reserves in with time still left in the game, ending the game with a final score of 98-70. Blowing out Portland is great, but the Hawks need to keep on their guard for Sacramento. Although Sacramento has the worst record in the NBA, they are a dynamic team that can unexpectedly bring their A-game on any given day. Let’s hope that the Hawks will bring their A-game on Tuesday in Atlanta against the Kings to extend the winning streak to six games.
“I’m back!” Those were the first words out of Manny Ramirez’s mouth at his “welcome back” press conference for the return of the outspoken super slugger. Ramirez is happy to be back in Los Angeles for at least another two seasons after signing a lucrative 2-year $45 million contract with $25 guaranteed in the first year. Who wouldn’t be happy getting paid a salary like that? Oh yeah, Ramirez a week earlier when he initially turned down the contract. Who in their right mind would turn down $45 million, especially when $25 million is guaranteed and it is only a TWO-year contract? Goes to show that no matter how talented you are, you can still come off as completely arrogant and overpaid.
On the other end of the baseball spectrum back on the East Coast, the Yankees have problems of their own with their superstar, Alex Rodriguez. Weeks after coming out with the story of his steroid use, Alex Rodriguez has opted to have surgery to fix his torn labrum. Unfortunately for the Yankees, this surgery will have A-Rod out for at least 6-9 weeks, or at least that is what they are planning. Reports have said that a torn labrum can take up to 4 months or longer to heal after surgery, so the two month time-frame that the Yankees are giving Rodriguez is absolutely ridiculous. Why risk injuring their star player further by not allowing his injury to heal properly? The answer is simple. Without A-Rod in the lineup, the Yankess face the daunting task of replacing him at third base with their less than stellar backup infielders. This unfortunate news comes weeks after A-Rod’s disheartening confession to steroid use. What a month it has been for Rodriguez and the Yankees. They can only hope that the coming months will bring relief to a Yankees squad that is in desperate need of a pennant come October. With the Red Sox reclaiming the throne as the American League East powerhouse, the Yankees have been left searching for answers.
In light of this, baseball is still going strong, with teams from all around the world competing in the World Baseball Classic. Early favorites Japan and the United States have jumped out to 2-0 and 1-0 records respectively. After losing their first two games, China blew out the previously undefeated Korean team with a humbling 14-0 victory. Look out for the unprecedented amount of talent in this incredible baseball tournament, you might not see anything like it again.
Coming later, David Beckham back with the Los Angeles Galaxy for good?
After several days of heated debate on where the illustrious wide receiver would end up, the answer became apparent on Saturday. Terrell Owens will be in the market for some boots and winter coats, as his new team happens to be the Buffalo Bills. Who would’ve ever thought that the outspoken Owens would end up with a team as problem-plagued as the Bills? Owens put rumors of his signing with other teams to rest when he signed a one-year, 6.5 million dollar contract with the bills. All of that is guaranteed money, which is a big bonus for Owens.The signing off Owens is definitely a high-risk, high-reward type situation for the Bills. He could potentially bring that intensity and pure talent that could light up the field in Buffalo. However, he could also bring his negative attitude that has tarnished his reputation with his three previous teams (49ers, Eagles and most recently the Cowboys).
The major question here is can T.O. really bring the change needed to transform this lackluster ball-club into a season-long contender? He has a long road ahead of him, as a majority of the Bills offense could land on his shoulders. This is due to the possibility of running back Marshawn Lynch’s impending suspension due to his possession of a loaded firearm in his vehicle. Lynch’s actions have landed him with 36 months of probation and 80 hours of community service, all of which must be completed by September 1st. If Lynch misses games due to suspension as he is expected to, Owens will have to carry the offense on his shoulders, something he is used to and looks forward to once more. After complaining about the lack of passes targeted to him this past season, Owens should find no shortage of passes coming his way come September.
The looming question that hangs over the clubhouse in Buffalo is will Terrell Owens continue to cause problems and be a hindrance to team chemistry? Or will he bring a presence that has been long-sought for in Buffalo that will help them overcome their three straight 7-9 seasons? The answers still up in the air, and come pre-season we will find out. Until then we will just have to hope that an old dog can learn some new tricks, because Owens’ old tricks will certainly not suit him here.
More coming later today on the decision of Alex Rodriguez to proceed with surgery on his torn labrum.
In a day of comebacks, homecomings and clinched playoff spots, perhaps the most thrilling game of the day took place in South Beach. The high-scoring affair pitted Phoenix and All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal against Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat at home. It was a homecoming for Shaq, who called Miami home for a few seasons before being traded to the Suns. Dwayne Wade went off on Phoenix, putting up 35 points, 16 dimes and 6 boards en route to an impressive 135-129 win. The Miami Heat bench, fueled by rookie phenom Michael Beasley and hot-shot 3-point shooter Daequan Cook supplemented the incredible performance by Miami’s starting 5 by going off for a combined 55 points. This sealed the deal for Miami, who after facing struggles in recent games was able to finish this one out and get a good win against a talented Suns squad led by Shaq. Dwayne Wade, who has averaged 37.3 points per game over his last 6 games has come alive for the Heat, who are trying to fight for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.
One team that no longer has to worry about their chances of making the playoffs are the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, fresh off a win in Miami took complete control at home and cruised to a 91-73 against a sub-par Milawaukee Bucks team led by Richard Jefferson. The Cavs are the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot, but that won’t be enough for them. Look out for Lebron and the Cavs to keep fighting for that number one seed and ideal homecourt advantage. With games against Boston, Miami and Phoenix coming up within the next week, the Cavs will have their work cut out for them.
Coming off a two-game skid, the Celtics were in desperate need of a win, and they managed to scrape one out against Devin Harris and the New Jersey Nets. Led by Paul Pierce’s 31 points and 5 assists, the Celtics were able to overcome a Nets 4th-quarter comeback to win 115-111. Vince Carter’s 34 points and 4 assists was just not enough to propel the Nets against the defending champs, so the Nets will look to rebound against Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic. Meanwhile, the Celtics will have to buck up because they are facing a surging Cleveland Cavaliers squad at home Friday, the Orlando Magic on Sunday and Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat on Wednesday. Without KG, Boston will have to find some answers in order to keep their dreams alive of repeating as NBA champions.
Other teams around the NBA had some hard-fought games tonight as well. The Hawks fought back in the 4th quarter against the Knicks at Madison Sqaure Garden but came up short as they lost the game 109-105. Despite the valiant efforts of Tony Parker and his 37 point performance, the Dallas Mavericks were able to withstand the furious onslaught by the San Antonio Spurs to win 107-102. The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off an 88-83 win against the struggling Washington Wizards due to a balanced attack from their 5 starters, all who ended up scoring in double figures. The Chicago Bulls completely demolished the Golden State Warriors, having six players score in double figures on their way to a 110-88 victory at home. The Portland Trailblazers were able to capitalize on an impressive 28 point performance by Brandon Roy to beat the Indiana Pacers 107-105. The Pacers continue to miss All-Star Danny Granger, who has been sidelined with a foot injury since February 19th. The Utah Jazz were able to pull of a 101-94 victory against the ailing Houston Rockets, who are without Tracy McGrady for the remainder of the season. This win marks their 9th in a row, which poses the question can anyone stop them? We will get the answer to that when they face off at home against the Denver Nuggets. The Memphis Grizzlies got a good win against the Los Angeles Clippers. Not that it matters for either team, as they are both clearly out of the playoff races with Memphis having 16 wins and 44 losses and the Clippers having 15 wins and 47 losses. Rudy Gay was the shining star of the night, putting up 35 points and 8 boards to go along with Marc Gasol’s near triple-double effort of 20 points 10 assists and 8 boards. Tomorrow, the New Orleans Hornets face off against the Dallas Mavericks, who are fresh off a huge emotional victory against the San Antonio Spurs. Later in the night the Nuggets take on Brandon Roy and the Trailblazers in an attempt to continue their quest for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Tomorrow I’ll be covering the NFL Free Agency, including Terrell Owens being released by the Dallas Cowboys. Also will be covering the GHSA basketball state playoffs and Manny Ramirez signing back with the Dodgers.
On this day 47 years ago, Wilt Chamberlain put on the single-greatest showcase of scoring in the vast history of the NBA. All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Lebron James have put some scoring showcases of their own on this season, and last night was no exception. In a battle of two of the NBA’s elite, Dwayne Wade made the tragic mistake of trying to slow down Lebron James. I guess he didn’t get the memo that this feat, as of late, can not be done. As of last night, these two stars were the NBA’s two leading scorers and they provided clear evidence of this in their games. Wade made a valiant effort, putting up numbers some players would die to see in their box score: 41 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and a career-high 7 steals. However, it was just not enough to prevail against King James. Wade and James went back and forth all game, 3-pointer for 3-pointer, tomahawk dunk for tomahawk dunk. At the end of the game though, it was James’ Cavaliers that emerged victorious with a hard-fought 107-100 win on the road and Lebron’s performance was nothing short of extraordinary. In 43 minutes of play, he notched 42 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. James has emerged as a leading candidate for the MVP award, averaging 31 points a game in February including two games with more than 50 points. This game marked his 7th 40-point performance of the season. If that is not evidence that he is as deserving of this award as anyone else in the race, I’m not sure what is.
For now, he will look to continue his phenomenal play against upcoming opponents Milwaukee, Boston and Miami. Boston will be a tough stage for Lebron to perform on, as the Celtics are one of the top defensive squads in the league. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way and if Lebron can find a way to break out in that game, both he and his team will find great success. A pivotal game will be the Miami rematch on Saturday at home. With Dwayne Wade and the Heat looking to avenge their loss, Lebron and his team will have to protect their homecourt to maintain the intensity and confidence that has guided them so well throughout the season. The next chapter in this great rivalry between King James and D-Wade is just waiting to be written next Saturday night, and the fans are waiting to experience it.
Tomorrow I will delve into the depths of the free-agent pool in the NFL and discuss the major changes being made and that should be made in the offseason.