sports blog by andy shenk

Updates: Week of April 30-May 6

In Carleton, Cincinnati Reds, Lokomotiv-Kuban, Northfield Knights, Russian Basketball, San Antonio Spurs, Tottenham Hotspur on May 1, 2012 at 8:25 PM

Last week passed in a blur, as my wife and I shuttled between our apartment and our house-sitting job on the other side of town the first three days of the week, then packed up both places and traveled to Appleton, Wisconsin for the four-day weekend to attend the Western District Synod of the Moravian Church. Too bad, because my teams went a combined 11-8, punctuated by perfect records from the Spurs (4-0), Spurs (1-0) and Anzhi (1-0). Only Lokomotiv Kuban and the Carleton Knights struggled, with a combined record of 1-6, but each loss came to a quality opponent and was to be expected.

Throughout the week, what little free time I had was spent focused on the Spurs. They closed the season on a 10-game winning streak, or 38-7 in their last 45, depending on how you want to look at things. In fact, if you subtract the two losses suffered on the road to Portland and Utah when Coach Gregg Popovich sat Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs could have finished the season on a 40-5 tear. The first playoff game, Sunday’s cruise-control victory over Utah, provided these delightful moments: Ginobili 1 and Ginobili 2.

3 more from last week:

1. I enjoy categorizing, quantifying, comparing, and contrasting my sports indulgences. My most recent epiphany came this week when I realized that my two soccer loves, Tottenham Hotspur FC and FC Anzhi, both suffered similarly bizzare and crushing losses at the end of seasons in which they had overachieved and made it to the cusp of greatness: Anzhi’s 2-1 loss to Torpedo in 2000 on a dubious 95th-minute penalty when even a tie would have given them the bronze medal in the league (watch for yourself – do you think the Anzhi player (green) had a handball at 1:32?). Anzhi suffered relegation two years later. The last two years have completely revitalized Anzhi, but they’ve still never medaled in the top flight of Russian soccer.

Tottenham Hotspur’s infamous food-poisoning scandal in 2006 prior to their final match against West Ham potentially deprived them of a lucrative trip to the Champions League the following year. Instead, hated rival Arsenal was promoted at their expense. It would be four more years until Spurs finally qualified for the Champions League.

2. Samuel Eto’o’s goal in the 91st minute against Lokomotiv put Anzhi up 3-1. Check out his celebration after scoring: Eto’o! (0:28-0:35). I have a decidedly negative opinion of Russian policemen after all the abuse I, my family, and many friends have suffered at their hands. This is the first time in my life that I’ve associated positive emotions with them and their navy blue uniforms.

3. Lebron James is wearing a special mouthpiece during these playoffs. Like Lebron, I have also been fixating on the number XVI. Should the Spurs win out, they would hold a 26-game winning streak going into next season, 2nd-longest in NBA history. They could also take the title of most dominant NBA Playoffs team from the 1999-2000 Lakers, who finished 15-1 in the postseason. With the first-round series now a best-of-7 affair, the Spurs could even afford to lose once and still best the Lakers by finishing 16-1. I’m not blowing steam, either. This analysis plugged the Spurs as favorites over the field to win the NBA Finals, while WhatifSports.com gives them 36% odds to win it all, twice as good as the next closest team, the Miami Heat.

I have a new Bold prediction this week: The San Antonio Spurs will not lose en route to a Western Conference Championship.

In a Bold update from last week, Anzhi is one-fourth of the way to making me look like a genius, after their 3-1 victory over Lokomotiv last Saturday. To repeat last week’s prediction, I’ve plugged Anzhi to win out in the Russian Premier League (3 matches remain) and finish at least 3rd in the table.

Bold Record: 0-1 (2 predictions pending)

Basketball

San Antonio Spurs, 50-16, 1st place in Western Conference during regular season. 1-0, Spurs vs. Utah Jazz, 1st Round NBA Playoffs

1) Wednesday, vs. Utah, 6:00 PM, 1st Round NBA Playoffs, TNT; 2) Saturday, at Utah, 9:00 PM, 1st Round NBA Playoffs, TNT

Lokomotiv Kuban, 9-9, 4th place in Russian Professional Basketball League (PBL) during regular season; awaiting 3rd-place best-of-three series in PBL Playoffs; qualified for Final Four of VTB League Playoffs

Lokomotiv lost three times last week, once inconsequentially to Unics Kazan, and twice to CSKA Moscow in the semifinals of the PBL Playoffs. As a result, Lokomotiv will await a consolation series with the loser of the Khimki-Triumph semifinal to determine 3rd place in the PBL. On Wednesday, Lokomotiv takes on Unics Kazan in the semifinals of the VTB League Playoffs, held in Vilnius, Lithuania. Should they win, they will play Thursday in the finals against either CSKA or Leituvos Rytas.

1) Wednesday, vs. Unics Kazan, VTB League Playoffs Semifinal, 10:00 AM

Baseball

Cincinnati Reds, 11-11, second place in National League Central Division

The Reds drew 53,483 for their weekday series with San Francisco, and 93,543 for the weekend series with Houston. I’d hoped for at least 150,000 during the week, but 147,000 isn’t bad. Last year, a comparable week in late April saw 139,000 pass through the turnstiles. It’s not much, but a 1300-1400 ticket boost in attendance each game does translate to over 100,000 more tickets sold during an entire season. I hope the Reds will do about 200,000-300,000 better than last year, however. They will, too, if the team is in the hunt for a playoff spot down the stretch.

1) Tuesday, vs. Cubs, 6:10 PM, POSTPONED; 2) Wednesday, vs. Cubs, 6:10 PM; 3) Thursday, vs. Cubs, 11:35 PM; 4) Friday, at Pittsburgh, 6:05 PM; 5) Saturday, at Pittsburgh, 6:05 PM; 6) Sunday, at Pittsburgh, 12:35 PM

Carleton College Knights, 13-20 (5-11 MIAC), tied for 9th in MIAC

Tough week for the Knights, as they dropped two to #2 St. Thomas, and split with Macalester 1-1. With a playoff berth now out of reach, the Knight will be playing for pride, as they take the field six times this week.

1, 2) Wednesday, at Bethel University, MIAC, 2:30 PM; 3, 4) Saturday, vs. Central College, 2:00 PM; 5, 6) Sunday, at St. Mary’s University, 1:00 PM

Soccer

Tottenham Hotspur, 62 points, 4th in English Premier League

Spurs relieved their supporters with a workmanlike 2-0 home victory over Blackburn Sunday. Now, two huge matches await: home to Bolton and away to Aston Villa. Should Spurs go 2-0 this week, they look very good to claim the final Champions League spot over Newcastle and Chelsea. A slip-up now, however, and they could miss even Europa League play next season.

This week: 1) Wednesday, vs. Bolton Wanderers, Premier League, 2:00 PM; 2) Sunday, at Aston Villa, Premier League, 8:00 AM

FC Anzhi, 66 points, 5th in Russian Premier League

Two impressive victories for Anzhi in two weeks. First, the 3-0 demolishing of Spartak in Moscow. Now, Sunday’s comfortable 3-1 stroll over Lokomotiv in Makhachkala means that Anzhi is only 3 points off the chase for 2nd and a spot in the Champions League. With two matches this week against the 8th-place Kuban and 7th-place Rubin, Anzhi have everything to play for.

1) Wednesday, at Kuban Krasnodar, 11:45 AM; 2) Sunday, vs. Rubin Kazan, 10:00 AM

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