Archives for: June 2008

06/23/08

Permalink 09:00:51 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Baseball fans are busy voting for their favorite players for this years' MLB All Star Game. Historic Yankee Stadium is in its' final season and will host the festivities in grand style.

All World All Sports presents our first annual All Star Game selections position by position. National League stars have been selected based on actual performance (fans select favorites for gameday).

All World All Sports National League All Star Selections (click on players names for stats):

Manager: Clint Hurdle, Colorado
1st Base: Lance Berkman, Houston
2nd Base: Dan Uggla, Florida
3rd Base: Chipper Jones, Atlanta
Short Stop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
Left Field: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
Cntr Field: Nate McLouth, Pittsburgh
Right Field: Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis
Catcher: Brian McCann, Atlanta
Designated Hitter: Albert Pujols, St. Louis (*injured*)
Starting Pitcher-R: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati
Starting Pitcher-L: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
Setup Reliever: Taylor Buchholz, Colorado
Closer: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia

*Injury Replacement for DH Albert Pujols - Chase Utley, Philadelphia

All World All Sports National League Starting Lineup
SS- Ramirez
CF- McLouth
3B- Jones
1B- Berkman
DH- Utley
2B- Uggla
3B- Braun
C- McCann
RF- Ludwick
Starting Pitcher: Edinson Volquez

(*Note- these selections are not official. Actual MLB results/starters will differ based on fan voting*).

06/22/08

Permalink 12:01:00 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Baseball fans are busy voting for their favorite players for this years' MLB All Star Game. Historic Yankee Stadium is in its' final season and will host the festivities in grand style.

All World All Sports presents our first annual All Star Game selections position by position. We're selecting our American League starters based on actual performance (fans select favorites). National League starters will be featured tomorrow.

All World All Sports American League All Star Starting Selections: (click on player names for stats)
Manager: Terry Francona, Boston
1st Base: Kevin Youkilis, Boston
2nd Base: Ian Kinsler, Texas
3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez, New York
Short Stop: Michael Young, Texas
Left Field: Manny Ramirez, Boston
Center Fld: Josh Hamilton, Texas
Right Fld: J.D. Drew, Boston
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Designated Hitter: Milton Bradley, Texas
Starting Pitcher-R: Ervin Santana, Boston
Starting Pitcher-L: Cliff Lee, Cleveland
Setup Reliever: Scott Linebrink, Chicago
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles

All World All Sports Starting Lineup:
SS- Young
2B- Kinsler
3B- Rodriguez
LF- Ramirez
CF- Hamilton
DH- Bradley
RF- Drew
1B- Youkilis
C- Mauer
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
(*Note- these selections are not official. Actual MLB results/starters will differ based on fan voting*).

Our All World All Sports American League lineup packs power and a couple of good second chance story lines.
-- Josh Hamilton has survived his battle with drug addiction transforming what was a life threatening situation into baseball stardom. Batting .315, 19 HR's, 74 RBI in less than a half season.
-- Milton Bradley had earned a hot head reputation for on and off field antics. He's found a home in Texas and put up monster first half numbers hitting .329, 20 2B's, 15 HR's.
-- Cliff Lee's 2007 season was a disaster (6.29 ERA). He's been golden this year when team officials originally thought this pitcher might not make the major league club in '08. 10-1, 2.45

It will be interesting to see how New York fans greet arch rival Boston Red Sox All Stars. Will World Champion players be greeted with louder than life boo's or polite cheers? Hey, it's Yankee Stadium at all times so no one should be surprised to hear plenty of Bronx jeers on game day.

06/21/08

Permalink 04:01:01 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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Check out Front Page Sports Sections from around the world!

by Digger

New York Mets fans had been speculating when Willie Randolph's contract would finally be terminated. After his dismal managing job vs Texas this past Sunday (first game of DH), it was very evident New York's manager was soon to be dismissed. Mets GM Omar Minaya had faced a barrage of questions on Randolph's status nearly every day for a month before finally firing his friend and team manager after Monday nights game in Anaheim.

Randolph's Mets never seemed to recover after setting a record for losing during 2007's September pennant drive. NY flat out choked. Once again, this season had many experts predicting great things for the Amazin's. Unfortunately, many of Willie's moves didn't pan out as NY struggled to find consistency from day one. Randoph's strategies had come under fire often. I went to Sunday's game and was surprised Randolph wasn't fired after the Mets terribly managed 8-7 loss to Texas. Jose Reyes had reached base safely in his first two at bats and Willie never once attempted to get him into scoring position. Bunter extraodinaire Luis Castillo never laid one down, nor did Jose attempt a steal. The over used bullpen was summoned to thwart a Rangers rally and failed miserably as had been the case heading into the game. One of the biggest blunders occurred on the basepaths when the Mets were staging a dramatic comeback after trailing 8-2. In the 8th inning with the bases loaded and catcher Brian Schneider on 2nd base, pinch hitter Easley lined a single up the middle. Instead of sending Schneider home with 1 out... and with Texas conceding the runner... third base coach Alomar held him up at third. Next up was Reyes who hit a soft shallow fly to RF and Schneider was gunned down by 3 steps for an inning ending rally killing double play. NY scored 2 in the bottom of 9 before finally falling by one run.

This was typical of Willie's team. Soft fielding, less than aggressive baserunning and bad decision making by all coaches. Randolph can't take all of the blame as many players have underperformed. Beltran, Delgado, Oliver Perez have been shaky. Injuries to Pedro, Alou and Church have taken it's toll. Bullpen inconsistency cost games too. Willie proved to be a very poor motivator & mentor. A change was needed. Willie has been bellyaching over how he was fired. Interim manager Jerry Manuel is at the helm and NY has responded winning 3 of 4. Good riddance Randolph.

Soon to follow suit were the Seattle Mariners. First to go was GM Bill Bavasi who was the architect of Seattle's last place ballclub. Next up, Manager John McLaren (25-47). His team was expected to contend this season after picking up a few key players. Things couldn't have gone much worse for this team. Fielding, pitching and hitting have all been suspect. Even hit machine Ichiro had struggled. Sluggers Sexson and Beltre haven't come thru when needed. Starting pitching has been inept. A complete team meltdown. Players have come out to stick up for their fired skipper by placing blame on themselves. This is a talented squad on paper who never found a grove. Replacing McLaren is former skipper Jim Riggleman who promptly won his first game Friday night. Do not expect a change of managers to improve Seattle's chances this season.

Baseball's third manager to get axed this week was Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons (35-39). Gibby was often controversial. He came to near blows with two former players... once challenging Shea Hillenbrand to a brawl and then exchanging blows in the tunnel with pitcher Ted Lilly after arguing with him on the mound. It's somewhat amazing Gibbons was still at the helm heading into this season. Former Toronto skipper who led this club to back to back World Series Championships, Cito Gaston, was rehired to help turn this club around. Toronto is in baseball's best division. A tough task for Gaston with Boston, Tampa, Yanks and Orioles playing solid ball.

Can these three teams turn it around? Odds are on the Mets to improve. Seattle may have a fire sale. Toronto has talent but not enough to climb the ladder.

Who will be baseball's next manager to be fired?

06/12/08

Baseball's Gambling Hypocrisy

Permalink 01:52:15 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Willie Mays: Hall of Famer was suspended from baseball activities by then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for accepting a job at Park Place Casino (Atlantic City, NJ) as Special Assistant to the President and greeter after he retired (later reinstated).

Mickey Mantle: Hall of Famer also suspended by Kuhn for accepting greeter position in Atlantic City, NJ after he retired (also reinstated).

Pete Rose: All Time Baseball Leader in Hits (4256), Games Played (3562), At Bats (14,053). Denied consideration for Hall of Fame due to baseball related gambling after playing days (manager).

Signs posted in each major league clubhouse scream "No Gambling Allowed"

So tell me why many current Major League clubs accept sponsorship by certified casino's nationwide? Doesn't "no gambling allowed" mean no gambling? Baseball's cardinal rule is players shall not bet or wager on games. Yet, baseball proudly displays tremendous banners... some of which are visible to television audiences from behind home plate... promoting gambling.

Hypocrisy based on what else... the G word again (Greed!). Otherwise, we'd see different sponsored ads or one less.

When Commissioner Selig boasts of how baseball revenues are at an all time high and growing... then why is baseball associating and promoting betting establishments? There is no common sense answer. Granted, sanctioned casino's are legal within the United States and they're not setting up betting lines for fans in box seats. However, there's no room to promote venues which have conflicting interests with America's favorite pastime.

Stadiums from East to West coasts have banners, scoreboard displays, ads in game programs and team yearbooks. Not only is baseball wrong for allowing teams to reap benefits from gambling operators ... they are also wrong promoting gambling to the youth of our country. Every game thousands of kids old enough to read, many of whom are not of legal gambling status, can sit in their seats and have a casino web site blasted before his/her eyes. Perhaps they go on line... maybe via iPod during a pitching change... or at home post game... visits the promoted site... and begins to learn all about gambling. Great marketing ploy by casinos. Thank you Major League Baseball. The seed has been planted.

There's been a sad display of open borders between gambling and baseball in force for years. Nobody seems ready to speak up or strong enough to refuse ads from these groups. Are team owners really starved thinking no other business will step up to pay advertising dollars? I think not.

Hey, this writer is far from an gambling hater. However, everyone should clearly see there's a stark contradiction in play here against something preached for nearly 100 years. Owners proved on numerous occasions ethics means nothing (drug abuse of 80's, steroids from 90's thru recent times, collusion). Recent years have introduced gambling ads to ballparks and soon casino's will run themed restaurants coming to a stadium near you.

The New York Yankees and Mohegan Sun Casino (Connecticut) formally entered into a working agreement. A Mohegan Sun sponsored/theme sports bar will reside in the new Yankee Stadium (2009-11) due to open next season. This sports bar will be located beyond center field behind famous "Monument Park" visible to everyone in the stadium. It also holds 132 ticketed seats located within a glass enclosed section.

Why not hand out a deck of cards and a betting line to every fan in attendance? Maybe quick Texas Hold Em games during the 7th inning stretch are in order?

No betting on baseball... yet, owners infinite wisdom gives up home field advantage by promoting gambling.

Get some balls and wisdom former-owner-appointed-commissioner Selig. When betting on baseball games is not allowed then there's no rationale for inviting gambling institutions to roam the confines of major league stadiums. Besides what's already been typed... could there be any set of circumstances when casino sponsored employees develope direct access to ballplayers and umpires? (Let's not go there).

Hypocrisy.

06/10/08

NBA "Execs" & Refs Manipulated Games

Permalink 10:36:11 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

I've previously chronicled sordid details involving former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's involvement with gambling and potential point shaving or game altering officiating.

Now, new shocking Donaghy allegations have taken on an entirely new direction with deeper severity involving executives of the NBA. David Stern, in typical David Stern fashion, quickly disavowed Donaghy's statements as nothing more than "a desperate attempt to ease his sentence" (Donaghy, yet to be sentenced, faces up to 33 months in prison). From the beginning of Donaghy's shocking allegations and subsequent arrest, Stern has vehemently denied all facets of this case strictly on the basis of involving only one former NBA ref.

Specifically, Donaghy alleges through court documents filed by his lawyer: "...inner-workings" of a plot in which top league executives used referees to manipulate the games. Donaghy claims two referees were "company men" whose job was to extend a playoff series in 2002 to a seventh game." Furthermore... "Personal fouls (resulting in obviously injured players) were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the referees," the document says of the unnamed series. "Conversely, the referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities to Team 6."

What I'd like to see happen at this juncture is another ref lend credibility to these type of shenanigan's which occured in our not too distant past. Better yet, how about a league executive stand up and come clean. These stories may seem wild on the surface... and guess what, they do add up. There are many such circumstances in recent times which lend credibility to these type of allegations.

It boggles the mind of conventional wisdom to suspect only one referee had the power to alter games. Just has Donaghy has previously tried to state, there were many characters in this charade. Stern's initial adamament and super quick denial was the first trigger of something seriously wrong. Why would the NBA Commissioner seemingly cut off any possibility others were involved before a complete investigation could be concluded? One word answer: "conspiracy"

One would think a league Commissioner enough power as to order a full scale internal investigation while cooperating completely with FBI and Justice Dept investigators to snag any and all individuals involved/associated with any wrong doing. When league executives conspire with referee's to determine verdicts of games before they're played is utterly disgusting. And for what? Better television ratings? Perhaps an extra game or two brings in more revenues? What about American families....? The father who worked hard, scrapped together a few hundred dollars so he could treat his kids to a professional basketball playoff game only to later find out the game was rigged?

Should anyone be surprised if this scandal reaches deeper than accusations? ABSOLUTELY NOT. The series in question at the moment was the 2002 LA Lakers/Sacramento Kings Playoff game. Coaches Phil Jackson (LA) and Rick Adelman (Sac) were both irate at officating inaccuracies and still remember the series vividly. Many players and coaches complained about specific games and playoff series. Mark Cuban was one of the more flamboyant team owners (Dallas Mavericks) who had no problem being outspoken in his dissatisfaction with officiated games. Perhaps he'll file for refunds after getting levied heavily for his not so quiet critiques. Now it seems his concerns were justified.

Former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was supposedly informed by a ref not working the playoffs, there was a plan in place to predetermine series lengths and fouls. "I didn't think that really worked in the NBA, but in this case it has," Van Gundy told reporters after the fourth game of the series, according to USA Today. He was later fined $100,000, a record sum for a coach.

The FoxSports.com article detailed: "The document also described other alleged infractions, including league officials telling referees that they should withhold calling technical fouls on certain star players because doing so hurt ticket sales and television ratings."

Now, I'm wondering... exactly how deep does this conspiracy run? Have gamblers infiltrated Official NBA Offices and Executives? Do odds makers, casino's etc dictate to the NBA? Another systematic failure in professional sports created by GREED. Baseball, Football, Hockey and now Basketball.

There have been many questionable series often interfered by one sided officiating. New York Knicks vs Detroit Pistons. Knicks vs Chicago Bulls. San Antonio vs anyone. Houston vs Knicks. Lakers vs Kings. Knicks vs Miami Heat. 2005 Mavericks/Rockets series which Van Gundy received his record fine.

When star players are kept on the bench due to foul trouble... or being given leeway to run up big games... something stinks. Hey, most players often protest calls and non-calls... this is part of competitive sports. However, every basketball fan must have seen at least one instance of extremely poor and lobsided officiating. Perhaps, Donaghy is only the tip of an iceberg? There must be more than one set of circumstances and the NBA knows it full well which explains their lack of action by way of cooperation with investigators or conducting their own.

What needs to happen in this specific Donaghy case is for another referee or league exec to stand up and face the music. Certainly, one can be afforded immunity for such damning testimony. Exactly how deep this list runs is anyones guess... however, Stern circled the wagons too quickly which usually means something is awry and I would not be surprised whatsoever if he had full knowledge of wrong doing.

I'm hoping the FBI has a bombshell of a case yet to be revealed which names names and brings down all those involved no matter where it leads. This has been a story often ignored based on various events of the day taking center stage. This can no longer be swept under the rug and should be dealt with swiftly and harshly.

(view FoxSports.com 06/10/08 article in its' entirety)

06/09/08

Ken Griffey, Jr. Connects for Homer #600!

Permalink 08:48:16 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Ken Griffey Jr added his name to baseball history this evening by hitting career homer #600 against Florida's Mark Hendrickson. Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Sammy Sosa (609) and now Griffey (600) are the only major leaguers to surpass 600 career regular season blasts.

Griffey broke into the league with Seattle back in 1989 and all who watched him play knew this guy had all the tools which make legends. Six times he topped the 40 homer mark for the Mariners including back to back 56 seasons. Injuries interefered with parts of seven seasons. Who knows where his totals would stand had he been healthy for his entire career?

Griffey has done it on both sides of the diamond. Leaping catches, shotgun arm, one time base stealer and prolific home run hitter. He was also lucky enough to play in the same game with his father, Ken Griffey Sr.

Career Highlights:
600 Career Home Runs
13 All Star Selections
1997 AL MVP
10 Gold Glove Awards
7 Silver Slugger Awards
4 Time League HR Champ
40(+) HR in 7 Seasons

Griffey's career seems to be winding down. His numbers have been off so far this season which could be due to the pressure of reaching 600. Hopefully, he'll bounce back and have another Griffey-like season. Junior has also been subject to trade rumors as his Cincinnati Reds have struggled and could be ready to downsize players with larger contracts. Griff's services will certainly be sought after for late season heroics of teams on the playoff bubble. Earlier in May, it was believed to be his former Mariners team inquiring. But, they've long since faded in the standings and probably will not look to take on another big contract. Most logical fits would be NY, Boston, Tampa Bay and Angels. All have young talent and big enough wallets to rent a star for the stretch run.

Dominik Hasek Retiring

Permalink 12:34:51 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Dominik Hasek (43) will announce his retirement from the NHL on Monday. Hasek stood between the pipes for 735 regular season games, 389 wins and a lifetime 2.20 GAA. He will retire the way most athletes would choose... as a world champion. Dominik enjoyed another fine regular season (27-10, 2.14). His 2008 Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup even though he was replaced by a hot Chris Osgood in the post-season.

Career Highlights (1990-91 thru 2007-08):
#1 All Time Save % leader (.922)
81 Career Rular Season Shutouts
14 Playoff Shutouts (6 in 2001-02)
1.99 Career Playoff GAA
.923 Career Playoff Save %
6 Consecutive Regular Season Save % Leader
6 Time Vezina Trophy Winner
6 Time First Team All Star

Hasek was an instant NHL star. His North American career began during 1990-91 season after 20 years playing for Czechoslovakian teams. After coming into to the league as a Chicago Black Hawk, he later played for Buffalo before his stint in Detroit. In Buffalo he led his scoring challenged teams to the Stanley Cup (lost to Dallas 1998-99). Won the Stanley Cup in his first season for Detroit (01-02). Detroit never finished out of first during his tenure in goal.

Hasek played during an era of Hall of Fame to be goalies (Patrik Roy, Martin Brodeur, Ed Balfour, Chris Osgood). His acrobatic saves won many games during defensive slugfests. Highlight material saves every season. Hasek knows it's time and will depart on his own terms. He was one of the goalies emulated by other pipe minders trying to become an NHLer. Hasek, Roy and Brodeur have set the current bar for others to take aim. One can argue these three helped revolutionize the current wave of exceptional net minders now risiding in the NHL.

06/06/08

Milestone: Chipper Jones Smashes #400

Permalink 01:15:05 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Chipper Jones connected for career homer #400 against Florida Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco in the sixth inning Thursday evening. Jones has enjoyed an exceptional career while wearing Atlanta Braves colors. His 15th season and could turn out to be his finest. Jones 400th homer raised his major league leading batting average to an astonishing .418 (previous career high of .337 in '07). Last month, Manny Ramirez connected for #500 and Ken Griffey, Jr. remains one short of 600.

Switch hitting Chipper has been collecting headlines all season long as he flirts with becoming baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams (.406) in 1941. Jones has been a model of consistency during his 15 seasons:

Career .310 batting average
20 or more home runs every year since 1994
100+ RBI 9 times (including 8 consecutive)
100+ RS 8 times
.400+ OBA 10 seasons
.500+ SLG 11 seasons
100+ strike outs/season NEVER
1999 NL MVP
92 post season games

The quest for .400 has seldom been approached. Rod Carew (.388), George Brett (.390), Ichiro Suzuki (.372), Tony Gwynn (.394) had their shots and fell short. 2008 is still young. Chippers swing has been extremely smooth and baseball's must appear to be larger than beach balls.

.

06/03/08

19 Year Braves Veteran Returns to Closer Status

Permalink 12:43:28 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

John Smoltz 19 year career stats .

Career Highlights:
W/L 211-147, 3.25
Saves: 154
Games: 707
1992 NLCS MVP
1995 World Series Champ
1996 Cy Young Winner
2002 Rolaids Relief Man of Year
Post Season ERA: 2.65
40 Post Season Games (24 Playoff Series)

John Smoltz has been a tough as nails pitcher for 19 seasons for the Atlanta Braves. He's pitched on some of the Braves biggest games. After suffering arm soreness this season, Atlanta placed Smoltz on the disabled list. He's 3-2, 2.00 as a starter this year. He's back on active duty now but due to his shoulder woes has requested to return as team closer. Due to his past successes and Atlanta's pitching staff without a true closer... John's the man, at least for now.

This move is out of necessity to Smoltz. It appears, at least for 2008, his shoulder could make this Smoltz final MLB season. It's too early to tell but he must be hurting to request this move after pitching effectively earlier. Shorter stints of 1 inning per game will suit him better than trying to last 7. The emergence of good starters gives Atlanta flexibility to have Smoltz regain his closer status.

Smoltz developed and recovered from previous arm ailments. A 1999 injury shelved him for all of 2000 after 11+ seasons as a starting pitcher. He was a power pitcher who challenged batters in every start. Often playing for weak hitting Braves clubs undoubtably shaved off a few career victories. 1996 was his best as a starter going 24-8 and winning the Cy Young award. After missing the 2000 and better part of 2001 campaigns, Smoltz took over Atlanta's full time closer duties and shut the door on NL hitters to the tune of 154 saves (including 55 in his first full year closing). 2005-07 saw him return to starting pitcher and he was outstanding posting a 44-24 record).

This could be his farewell season depending on his arm. The game I'll never forget was his first World Series in 1991, Game 7 at Minnesota. Smoltz and Jack Morris locked horns throwing shutout baseball. Pitch for pitch, out for out, this game was a nail biter. Smoltz was finally removed after 7.1 sharp innings and Minnesota's Jack Morris pitched the game of his life for a 1-0 10 inning Series clincher. Smoltz was almost always stellar in post season play. Too bad Atlanta endured mostly weak lineups which struggled every game to score runs. Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were the best 1-2-3 starting combination of the 1990's. All contrasting styles with Smoltz representing pure power pitching with a blazing fastball and devastating slider.

Smoltz is one of the few current day pitchers baseball will miss when he decides to hang up his cleats. Seemed like Atlanta had a chance to win every game he started and seldom blew a lead when called on to close. Hopefully, he'll be successful again this season as a closer. New Yorkers hope he doesn't get any opportunities vs Mets (24 career saves).

06/02/08

NBA Finals: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

Permalink 01:47:05 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

NBA Finals Preview

Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

The 2008 NBA Finals tips off in Boston this Thursday (June 5). The Celtics and Lakers have met 10 times in NBA Finals history with Boston winning eight. Both franchises are two of the most storied in all of sports.

The Celtics conquered Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit on the way to their first Finals appearance since getting beat by LA in 1987. Head Coach Doc Rivers completed a masterful season guiding his squad to a 42 victory turnaround from a season ago. Much is this transformation has been due to an excellent off season which produced a new look squad featuring additions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Boston dominated all season long winning 66 games as trio Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce made headlines.

Boston's road to the finals has been challenged, reaching seven games in series vs Atlanta and Cleveland before prevailing in six over Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Leading scorers: Garnett (21.1), Pierce (19.2) and Allen (14.0) had been hounded by stingy defenses this post season. They'll be tested vs LA however, there will be plenty of opportunities in this round. If Boston runs the court and finds a way to stymie Kobe.. then Doc's team will be champions. On defense, it's all about stopping Kobe Bryant. Boston's stellar defense should be able to slow down the leagues MVP often enough for victory.

Head Coach Phil Jackson (976-418, 9 Championships) is one of the NBA's greatest ever. In his first three LA seasons, Phil's teams won three Championships on the heals of three straight while in Chicago. He knows how to prepare his team physically and mentally. He's done a masterful job this season and faces his toughest challenge by way of an energized Boston Celtics team.

League MVP Kobe Bryant guided his team over Denver, Utah and defending champion San Antonio. The Lakers are better rested by advancing in only 15 games. Leading playoff scorers: Bryant (31.9) has often taken over games, Gasol (17.7), Odom (14.7) and Fisher's clutch 3's (.559 3pt%) have provided the punch. Defense has played well late in games but have been vulnerable in first and second quarters. The Lakers cannot expect continued miracles over coming big first half deficits. Boston will not allow it. LA's defense must be in synch for four quarters or this attention creating Finals matchup will not live up to its' billing. On offense, it's all about Kobe. He'll need to hit big shots and dish to open players effectively while double teamed. Kobe's supporting cast will need to take high percentage shots when available off Kobe's passes. I just don't see this team slowing down Boston enough to keep up and win. All wins could be decided in the first half.

These teams met twice during the regular season with Boston winning with ease both times (104-97 & 110-91). After playing the leagues top defenses in early rounds, Boston's offense will find new life and could score at will. It's difficult to see how LA can matchup with Doc Rivers deep and talented squad.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

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