In the doldrums of summer, there's a dearth of new sports activity for true diehards to embrace. The NHL and NBA championships have long passed and the NFL season is still months from truly starting. While MLB's All-Star Game just occurred—with a stirring tribute to retiring Yankee Derek Jeter as one of the hallmarks—the season doesn't get really interesting, even for baseball lovers, for at least another month.
However, there are a couple notable events that are worth the sports fan's attention and effort. First of all, the WNBA has taken to branding itself the “Summer Break” of basketball. While condescending in at least one light, the All-Star Game was played just last weekend, with the East winning in overtime. The story behind the game-winner by Tamika Catchings is worth it even for a casual fan: While Catchings had been ruled out of the WNBA season until July 5, she was still voted into the game by fans and hit the crucial layup. The highlights package of the game includes a look at one of the most surefire locks as a future star in the league—All-Star Game MVP Shoni Schimmel. It even features the circus shot in the 4th quarter with 3 minutes remaining that everyone should be—but probably isn't—talking about.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
Meanwhile, many Americans still feel the sting of having cared about soccer once a quadrennium. And that oh-so-familiar defeat doesn't hurt any less for being so consistent. So Grantland has published a handy guide on how to continue being a soccer fan in America. This is especially useful so we can hope to avoid another spate of articles in approximately three years and 300 days about how this is finally the World Cup where soccer breaks through in America. The MLS may not have a team in New Mexico, but the PDL does—and there may be some exciting news from the Albuquerque Sol FC coming up soon.
Last but not least, it's never too early, especially in a self-billed fishbowl town like Albuquerque, to think about collegiate sports. With Cameron Bairstow signing a contract to play on the Chicago Bulls with fellow ex-Lobo Tony Snell, there's plenty of reason to believe the Lobos will continue to push out great talent. And the Lobo football team looks to continue their upward swing.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs dunks on Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 2014 National Basketball Association has its finals matchup: The two-time defending champions Miami Heat will play the San Antonio Spurs. It's a rematch of the finals from last year, which were seen as the ultimate test of the fans' attention span when the league's most compelling star—LeBron James—battled the team most often viewed as boring—the Spurs. However, there were numerous subplots then, and there are many more this time around.
First of all, let's revisit the narrative from last go-round. The Spurs have seen James in the finals before last year; they swept his Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007. James, however, is no longer the boy he was then. He's a two-time champion. Maligned for his self-promotion on ESPN, perhaps, but The Decision is far behind us at this point. The way he got to Miami might still rankle a few people, but James has ultimately been proven correct. The Heat are on the way to their fourth consecutive finals since The Decision, a feat unmatched by any other teams aside from perennial winners the Lakers and the Celtics. Not even Michael Jordan's Bulls went to four straight finals. The Decision might have been a misstep, but the decision itself certainly was not.
The Heat are on the way to their fourth consecutive finals since The Decision, a feat unmatched by any other teams aside from perennial winners the Lakers and the Celtics. Not even Michael Jordan's Bulls went to four straight finals.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have settled into their roles. and even Mario Chalmers has had sparks of greatness—not only this season, but increasingly as the team has figured out the way to play. However, many pundits claim that this Heat team is not as good as last year's, with the loss of Mike Miller being the most oft-cited component. Ray Allen is still key and coach Erik Spoelstra is only getting better at his job, both of which have to be good signs for Heat fans.
On the other side of the match-up, the always-overlooked Spurs have made it back to the finals after the heartbreak of last season's Game 6 collapse. The Spurs were merely 28 seconds away from yet another odd-year championship. Ray Allen's corner three went down. Game 6 went to overtime. It seemed a miracle at the time that the Spurs were even able to play in Game 7. There was a much-reported dinner where the team seemed to put the loss behind them. But the preparation for Game 7 was ultimately for naught. However, after being dismissed year after year after year as too old, the Spurs have now entered into their first back-to-back finals in franchise history. Their focus in the regular season led them to the best overall record, giving them home court advantage in this year's contest.
The biggest advantage for the Spurs, however, should be the growth of Kawhi Leonard. The third-year forward has show remarkable progress this season, even compared to the accolades he'd already been accumulating last year.
The Spurs' big three have much room to improve, especially Manu Ginobili; his oftentimes out-of-control performance in last year's finals was unlike the improvisational genius basketball fans had grown accustomed to seeing. Tim Duncan (who won his first title in 1999, setting him up for the longest gap between championships in NBA history should the Spurs prevail) missed a chippy in Game 6 last year that he's made at least 100 times since then. Tony Parker, the last member of the Big Three, had been almost completely in control of the offense in the Spurs' previous series, against Oklahoma City. Now, though, he's turned into the biggest question mark of the series on the Spurs side, since he was held out of Game 6 against the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
One of the keys to the Spurs offense missed the second half of a close-out game because of an injury that almost no one knew about. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has always kept his cards close to the vest, but this seemed unprecedented. The biggest advantage for the Spurs, however, should be the growth of Kawhi Leonard. The third-year forward has show remarkable progress this season, even compared to the accolades he'd already been accumulating last year. His shooting percentage for the year is finally above 50%—for the first time in his career—and his assists have jumped while his turnovers have barely changed. Leonard just might be the key for San Antonio's chances.
San Antonio hosts Game 1 on Thursday and Game 2 on Sunday. This year's finals will be the series that returns to the previous 2-2-1-1-1 format, thankfully. The Spurs play the team ball that every coach any player's ever heard speak constantly praises, should bring their laser focus to its most logical conclusion. Tim Duncan claimed that the Spurs still had the bad taste of last year's loss in their collective mouths. It's time for the veterans to prove it. Nothing else matters.
Wherein Weekly Alibi readers write. This week’s feedback was concentrated on APD, psychogeography, graffiti, basketball and Asa Mullins. (P.S. Commenting on alibi.com is easier than ever: Join the conversation.)
A week ago, the NCAA Division I basketball tournament reached its apex. And the University of Connecticut won. Nope, not the men's game, which was fantastic, sure, but the women's game. It was truly historic, and not just according to the wonks at 538, the newly minted sports blog from famed statistician Nate Silver. While there have been undefeated teams ostensibly playing for a national championship before—in college football at least—that's never been the case in basketball.
Many say the latest victory for the UConn women represents an endorsement of their coach, Geno Auriemma. With long-time rival Pat Summitt retired, it seems as though almost no one can stand in the way of the Huskies and their long-running records. Notre Dame fought valiantly for their place as the spoiler, and maybe if they'd had Natalie Achonwa or Ace playing alongside her senior teammates, things could have gone differently.
There's no shame in losing to this UConn team, but there are definitely columnists who have wondered if all those Husky wins piling up are leading to Geno and Co. fatigue. While Mechelle Voepel argues that UConn's winning ways are good for women's basketball overall, there's definitely room for disagreement. Kate Fagan reasons that games are better when they're truly competitive and if Notre Dame represents the best team that UConn had to face, things are getting into a bad place. The bottom line: We need a multitude of better teams, not just UConn.
The takeaway a week later, with almost no one talking about the women's game, despite the WNBA Draft already occurring, is that NCAA Division I basketball is still all about the men's game. March Madness, to most people, means men's games exclusively. Even if—or rather, when—two undefeated teams play, something that has never happened in the sport before, there's very little attention for the women. Something needs to change.
When UNM was tossed from the NCAA Tournament, the Big Dance didn't stop. Last weekend, the tourney was whittled down to the Final Four. The University of Florida Gators, the Wisconsin Badgers, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Connecticut Huskies are the the last four teams left in Division I college basketball. Of these last four teams, there is only one number one seed left: the top team overall, Billy Donovan's crew.
Kentucky has proved the pre-season hype to be justified, defying the odds of an 8 seed. Coach Calipari has coaxed the most out of his powerful, notably Aaron Harrison. Harrison knocked in a 3 ball with 2.3 second left to upset 2-seed Michigan on Sunday night. The Wildcats entered the season with hefty expectations but failed to live up on them for the majority of the slog. With 10 losses, the season could have been seen as a letdown; until March Madness began. After knocking out previously unbeaten Wichita State and intrastate rival Louisville, the team seems to be playing their best ball at the perfect time.
The Connecticut Huskies, on the other hand, may have also been ranked for much of the beginning of the season, but never had the expectations of Big Blue foisted upon them. UConn, content to fly under the radar for much of the season, dominated trendy pre-Tourney pick, Michigan State on Sunday. While the final margin was only six points, UConn seemed to be in control of their destiny for the majority of the game. This has been the case since they needed overtime o take out St. Joe's in the first round of the Tournament. Shabazz Napier, the senior guard from Storrs, has put the team on his back, and his free throws seemed to clinch the game.
The aforementioned, overall number one seed Florida cruised past the previous upset-minded Dayton Flyers. This is nothing new for the Gators, who won it all in 2007 and have been to the Elite Eight for the last three years in a row. Florida's coach, Billy Donovan, has been here before and seems poised – at least mathematically – for a run to the championship.
However, the team that the majority of the nation has rallied around by far is Wisconsin. The Badgers have shown tremendous tenacity and the play of Frank Kaminsky is a big part of their overtime victory against the West Region 1 seed Arizona Wildcats. Although Wisconsin entered the post-season as a 2 seed, most pundits overlooked the team in their predictions of who would be left standing at this time of the year.
The semifinal matches will be played on Saturday night, with both games televised on TBS. The final matchup, for the national championship, will take place on Monday, April 7. If your bracket is busted, take comfort in the knowledge that so is everyone else's and enjoy some quality basketball.
Kendall Williams hits a deep (unadvised) three that pretty much seals the game.
The University of New Mexico men's basketball team is going dancing. There was never any doubt. Not after winning the Mountain West tournament. Not after the automatic bid that comes with that win. The only question was one of seeding. And what of the moment on Sunday afternoon when it was revealed that UNM received a 7 seed and will have to play in the South Region and face a potential match-up with 2-seed Kansas in the second round? Well, it seems like feelings in the land of Cherry and Silver are running high.
New Mexico's first game against 10-seeded Stanford is no walk. And after flaming out against Harvard last year, there's plenty of emotion about facing yet another school known primarily for its academics. Stanford finished their season with a 21-12 record, as opposed to the Lobos' 27-6. The Cardinal plays in the vaunted Pac-12 Conference, where they ended up a pedestrian sixth—but every team that finished ahead of them in their conference wound up in the NCAA Tournament as well.
In fact, spurned Lobos fans, still bitter about many events from last year, are looking way past Stanford. Some are even looking forward to a potential Elite Eight matchup with UCLA—the team that ex-head coach Steve Alford bolted for after New Mexico was bounced in last year's Big Dance.
However, that's putting the cart way before the horse. Stanford will want to make waves by taking out the back-to-back-to-back Mountain West champs. No team goes into a game hoping or expecting to lose. But should the Lobos get past the Harvard of the West, they'll face stiff competition in a Kansas team that many were shocked to see fail to garner a 1 seed. The bit of good news for New Mexico fans is that the Lobos have already played Kansas. The better news is that Kansas was only up 1 point, 39-38, at halftime of that game. The horrible news? The Jayhawks ran away in the second half, finally winning 80-63.
If the Lobos can make it through opening weekend, the tournament doesn't get a lot easier, as they're in the same grouping as overall number one seed, Florida. However, the talent on this team believes they're capable of making a deep run; let's not forget all those #UnfinishedBusiness tweets from the beginning of the year. This is when that follow-through gets to the proving time and first-year head coach Craig Neal continues a proud tradition.
The post-game semi-scuffle between UNM and SDSU begins.
The University of New Mexico Lobos men's basketball team has had a great month. February, with one minor aberration that might come back to haunt the team, was a good time for Coach Neal and his squad. That hiccup—a loss to Boise State University on Feb. 12—was followed up by two quick and easy wins over Mountain West Conference also-rans Nevada and UNLV. However, on Saturday, February 22, things picked up a notch.
San Diego State University—then ranked #6 in the nation—came to visit the Pit, expecting to walk all over the unranked Lobos. The cherry and silver squad, though, quickly ran away with the game. UNM led by as much as 9 in the first half and opened up the second on a 21-2 run that hammered the game out of the Runnin' Rebels' reach. While UNLV did make a run at the end of the game to keep it respectable, it was a huge showing for the Lobos on national television on a Saturday night. The game ended with UNM up by 14, winning the game 58-44.
That win was marred, however, by some pushing in the post-game handshake line, and from there, things got worse. It appears from the video footage that some Lobo fan (or fans) threw something at the UNLV players as they were leaving the court. Coach Neal was unhappy and the Lobos faced plenty of bad press over the ugly incident.
The great game was almost overshadowed by the poor reactions, but on Monday, Feb. 25, the Lobos got the good news they were waiting for: a return to the Top 25. At #25, UNM entered the night's match-up with Utah State heavily favored. The Lobos proceeded to play some terrible first half basketball. When the first 20 minutes expired, Utah State was up one, 27-26. However, in the second half, Coach Neal called upon his son, sometimes-maligned Cullen Neal, ex-Eldorado standout, for a key three pointer. Neal's bucket began a 23-5 run that put the Lobos up for good, stamping out the chances for an upset by the Aggies. The Lobos wound up with a win, 67-58.
inally, as the calendar finally flipped over to March, the Lobos headed up to Nevada on Sunday night. Once again, things looked ugly in the first half. Against a 13-15 Wolf Pack, the Lobos trailed by 4 at half and appeared sloppy at many points. The second half rally got UNM through a middling Nevada squad, but the Lobos have more to worry about than a 72-58 win over a team that is now .500.
In two of the last three games, Cameron Bairstow has scored more than 20 points, but the Lobos have also trailed in two of those last three games at halftime. With a game against Air Force in the Pit as the last regular-season home game, the Lobos need to build some serious momentum on Wednesday night. Why? Their last regular-season game of the season isn't at home emdash it's at San Diego State on Saturday, March 8. The Aztecs, currently sitting at #10, will be sure to have revenge on their minds.
With only those two games left and the Mountain West Conference occurring in Vegas in a mere week and a half, the Lobos are playing great second-half ball, but will need to be able to put together a complete and solid game in order to make the splash that all of Albuquerque wants in the NCAA Tournament.
Witness testimonies begin to pour in on Zimmerman case.
I spy a new James Bond plot: Senior Vatican accountant accused of plotting to sneak $26 million in bags of cash into Italy by stashing them away on a private jet, with the help of a former Italian spy.
The NBA Finals begin Thursday night when the San Antonio Spurs play in Miami against the Heat. The Spurs, idle for nine days after sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies will fight against the idea that they've had too much time to rest. The Heat, who rested only for a third of that time,after grinding out a game seven victory over the Indiana Pacers, look to repeat after winning the Larry O'Brien championship last year.
There are tons of potential plot lines going into these finals, but there's little concrete evidence to aid in a prediction. The teams played only two games during the regular season and they both have enormous asterisks next to their results. Coach Gregg Popovich—himself one of the most interesting subplots insofar as his brusque interview style during games—sent most of his starters home, without notifying the NBA in due time, before the Spurs' visit to Miami on November 29. Then, the JV lineup for the Spurs nearly beat the Heat. And Pop, officially for not giving notice in time, but ostensibly for throwing a nationally broadcast game with the reigning champs, was fined $250,000. David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, said the Spurs organization did a, "disservice to the league and our fans." Fans of the Spurs, on the other hand, saw their second-stringers nearly beat the best team in the league, on their court.
Given the hubbub surrounding their previous match up, when the Heat visited San Antonio four months later, the national media's interest was piqued. This time, the Spurs were near full strength, missing only Manu Ginobili, who sat out with a strained hamstring. The Heat, however, were not. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both out, the Heat still managed to eke out a two-point win in the AT&T Center. It's worth noting that James and Wade were definitely hurt as they had played in the previous game but did not play in the Heat's next, at New York. Coach Pop, feigning surprise and hostility at the news of James and Wade missing the game, was gracious enough to not comment on the fact that the Heat were not fined when their players missed the game.
So, the regular season games are tossed out the window, if not taken with an enormous chunk of salt. What does that leave prognosticators with? James has faced the Spurs in the Finals before. In 2007, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his team was swept by the Spurs. He has acknowledged that he'd love revenge for the loss that came so early in his career. But James was a completely different player and these Heat are not only geographically different from those Cavs - the presence of All-Stars, in Wade and Chris Bosh, a former Finals MVP, again Wade, and the small ball revolution that the Heat fully embraced during last year's championship run - the past history seems just as invalid.
Looking at the paths both teams took results in just as much confusion. The Western Conference was seen as vastly more competitive. But the Spurs swept both their first round opponents, the Lakers, and their Western Conference Finals opponents, the Grizzlies. The Heat were far and away the best team in the East, almost universally assumed to come out on top. After sweeping the first round against the Bucks, though, they gave away a game to Chicago and fought for a five-game victory in that series. Then came the Pacers, who took the Heat to seven games, and had some pundits believing in Indiana's ability to take the series.
So what does it actually come down to? The Heat have the best player in LeBron James. There can be no denying that. But Tim Duncan, the rock of the Spurs for the last sixteen years, is just as good now as he was in the early championship days. The Heat have home court advantage, but the format shifts in the Finals to a 2-3-2, wherein the lower seed gets three games in a row at home. It's a matter of debate who this actually benefits. The Heat will look to run more than they got to against the Pacers, but Tony Parker, point guard for the Spurs, has looked incredible at all speeds. The Heat have the Vegas odds on their side, as well as the majority of the expert picks. They won last year and are a mere four games away from repeating. The Finals start tonight at 7 MST and all games are broadcast on ABC.