sports blog by andy shenk

Updates: Week of April 23-29

In Anzhi, Carleton, Cincinnati Reds, Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russian Basketball, Russian Football, San Antonio Spurs, Tottenham Hotspur, Xavier on April 23, 2012 at 10:25 PM

My bold prediction last week fell completely flat. The Reds did not sweep the Cardinals, nor did they even come close, losing two of three to division-leading St. Louis. Nonetheless, I remain in high spirits, riding the euphoria of San Antonio’s recent dominance in the NBA and Anzhi’s 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow.

5 things from last week, plus one more bold prediction!

1. My wife and I watched the Spurs throttle the Lakers on Friday night. Perhaps like no other team in history, this year’s Spurs know how to Zip ‘Em Up.

2. Check out this astonishing fastball from Spurs magician Manu Ginobili.

3. After a busy Sunday afternoon my wife and I biked up and over the St. Olaf hill to the far north corner of their campus to watch our alma mater, Carleton, take on St. Olaf in the second game of a baseball doubleheader. Unfortunately, we arrived just in time to see Carleton lose the game 4-3. That put us 1-6 on the season in Carleton-St. Olaf match-ups. Women’s cross-country defeated St. Olaf at the MIAC cross-country championships. Otherwise, men’s cross-country came up short in the same meet, the men’s basketball team lost twice in overtime, men’s soccer fell in extra time in the MIAC Championships final, and now the baseball team came up short 4-3. We truly do love our school, but perhaps we should quit attending these crosstown rivalry games.

4. Sad news…Xavier redshirt junior, Mark Lyons, announced that he will not be returning to the school for his final year of eligibility. Here is my favorite memory of the guy: Mark Lyons’ windmill

5. Quotes from a press conference with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich before last Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers:

“There’s been a lot made of Kobe sort of being more of a coach on the sideline (while injured). Do your players do that when they’re on the bench? Have they ever tried to draw plays or anything like that?”

“Duncan doesn’t let me say a word most of the time. He’s been a thorn in my side for 15 years and I don’t know how much longer I can take it.”

“How have you managed to tolerate all that?”

“It’s just I’m a helluva guy.”

Bold prediction: Anzhi will win its remaining four matches of the 2011-2012 season, to secure at least third place in the Russian Premier League.

Bold record: 0-1


Basketball

San Antonio Spurs, 48-16, 1st place in Western Conference

With Monday night’s win over Portland and the Spurs’ 5-0 record last week (W’s against the Lakers (2), Kings, Warriors, Cavaliers), the Spurs have officially clinched 1st place in the Western Conference, ensuring home-court advantage up until the NBA Finals. Impressively, the Spurs’ average margin of victory during their current eight-game winning streak is about +22. Only two games remain…will the Spurs notch 50 wins, to go along with three double-digit winning streaks this season? Tune in to ESPN on Wednesday night and TNT on Thursday night to find out!

1) Monday, vs. Portland (Won: 124-89), 7:30 PM; 2) Wednesday, at Phoenix, 9:30 PM, ESPN; 3) Thursday, at Golden State, 9:30 PM, TNT

Lokomotiv Kuban, 9-8, 4th place in Russian Professional Basketball League (PBL); qualified for Final Four of VTB League Playoffs

Lokomotiv responded in dramatic fashion to their blowout loss to Triumph in PBL play two weeks ago with a thorough dismantling of Spartak St. Petersburg last week in the Final Six of the VTB League Playoffs. Lokomotiv began the best-of-three series with Spartak at home with a 71-57 win, then finished the series off in St. Petersburg, 69-60. Loko will face fellow Russian squad Unics Kazan in the semifinals on May 2, site still to be determined. Unics Kazan, as it turns out, is also Lokomotiv’s opponent this week, in the last PBL game of the season. It will provide a good warm-up for the upcoming semifinal game; neither Unics nor Lokomotiv can affect their position in the PBL standings with this game.

Lokomotiv still await their first-round opponent in the semifinals of the PBL Playoffs, either BC Khimki or CSKA Moscow. The semifinals will be contested as a best-0f-five series, beginning on April 27 and concluding by May 7.

1) Tuesday, at Unics Kazan, PBL, 9:00 AM

Baseball

Cincinnati Reds, 7-9, tied for second place in National League Central Division

Cincinnati lost two of three to first-place St. Louis at the beginning of the week, then scratched out a series win in Chicago against the Cubs to finish the week. Still two games under .500, the Reds hope to notch a winning week with the Giants and Astros coming to town. Should be interesting to see the attendance numbers for baseball in Cincinnati in late April. Last year the Reds drew 48,000 for a weekday series against Arizona and 94,000 for a weekend series against Florida near the same time of the year. I’ll hope for at least 50,000 and 100,000 this time around.

This week for the Reds: 1) Tuesday, vs. San Francisco, 6:10 PM; 2) Wednesday, vs. San Francisco, 6:10 PM; 3) Thursday, vs. San Francisco, 11:35 PM; 4) Friday, vs. Houston, 6:10 PM; 5) Saturday, vs. Houston, 3:10 PM; 6) Sunday, vs. Houston, 12:10 PM

Carleton College Knights, 12-17 (4-8 MIAC), tied for 8th in MIAC

Last week Carleton baseball swept its first four games, two against Crown College and two against 2nd-place Augsburg College, to move into MIAC playoff contention. After four days of rest the Knights took the field on Sunday afternoon against last-place crosstown rival St. Olaf College. Staged at Olaf’s beautiful Mark Almli Field, Carleton took two on the chin, and, in the process, snapping their winning streak at five. Still tied for 8th place, the Knights sit three games out of the last playoff spot with eight games to go.

This week the Knights visit first-place St. Thomas and host fifth-place Macalester: 1, 2) Tuesday, at University of St. Thomas, MIAC, 2:30 PM; 3, 4) Saturday, vs. Macalester College, MIAC, 1:00 PM

Soccer

Tottenham Hotspur, 59 points, 5th in English Premier League

The struggles at White Hart Lane continue, with Spurs falling 1-0 on the road to relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Spurs now appear to have lost hope of catching London archrivals Arsenal, but still maintain hope of overtaking fourth-place Newcastle United for the final Champions League spot. Of course, the losing must stop immediately if that is to become reality. Otherwise, Spurs have every chance of dropping to sixth behind hard-charging Chelsea by season’s end.

This week: 1) Sunday, vs. Blackburn Rovers, Premier League, 1o:00 AM

FC Anzhi, 63 points, 6th in Russian Premier League

Following the home loss to Dinamo it was difficult to foresee what would happen in Luzhniki against second-place Spartak Moscow. Moreover, Spartak celebrated its 90th anniversary during the match, inviting former players and coaches to the game and honoring them with an emotional half-time ceremony on the pitch. Anzhi, however, let neither the gravity of the game nor the weight of Spartak’s ninety years of dominance in Russian football affect them as they romped to their most convincing win yet of 2012, 3-0. The win moves them one spot up in the standings and pulls Anzhi within six points of second-place Dinamo and Champions League qualification.

This week Anzhi hosts Lokomotiv Moscow. Lokomotiv defeated Anzhi 1-0 at home in March.

1) Saturday, vs. Lokomotiv Moscow, 6:45 AM

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