-With the Stanley Cup Finals all tied at three games a piece, the Vancouver Canucks will host the Boston Bruins in Game 7 tomorrow evening.
If the Bruins win, it will add to the embarrassment of riches enjoyed by New Englanders who are fans of professional athletics. Of the four major sports in Massachusetts, (NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL) the longest championship drought would be six seasons, held by arguably the model franchise in that region --- the New England Patriots.
-Despite being in last place in their division (nine games out of first) and thirteen games under .500, the Minnesota Twins are generating the most excitement they have all season, which tells you how rotten this year has been. But the club is definitely playing with a little extra bounce in its step having won nine of their past 11 games, thanks in large part to the starting pitchers who have been averaging nearly seven innings per outing. As such, one of the league's worst bullpens is getting a much needed breather while the club anticipates the return of key relievers Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan.
It will be interesting to see what happens if the Twins can somehow crawl above the .500 mark within the seven weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. With Jason Kubel and Denard Span soon returning to the club from the disabled list to go along with the energetic play of rookie Ben Revere, the Twins have a glut of outfielders when you throw in Michael Cuddyer, Jason Repko and Delmon Young. With Cuddyer becoming a free agent after this season, I would not be surprised if other clubs inquire about his availability. It would certainly be a golden opportunity for the Twins to bolster what has been a woeful bullpen.
-I've never much cared for the Dallas Mavericks (thanks in large part to insufferable owner Mark Cuban) but I have to give credit where credit is due. Facing a loaded Miami Heat squad that actually seemed to be living up to the preseason hype, the Mavericks bested them in six games to win their first NBA title in franchise history. To me, the turning point was Game 2 of the series. The Heat were up 15 with about five minutes to go, and looked poised to take a 2-0 series lead. Suddenly the Mavs came alive, as star forward Dirk Nowitzki almost single-handedly led Dallas on a 22-5 run to secure a 95-93 victory, tying the series. And while the Heat squeaked out a win in Game 3, Dallas closed out the series with three straight hard-fought victories.
Prior to Game 2 of the finals, the Heat were tough as nails in the fourth quarter of previous playoff contests whenever they had a lead late. But their collapse after the Game 2 debacle reminded me of what happened to Tiger Woods during (and then after) the 2009 PGA Championship. Tiger had never lost a major championship when carrying a lead into the final round. With a two shot lead over little known Y.E. Yang, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that Tiger was well on his way to a 15th major championship. But Yang ended up going 2-under in the final round, which gave him the title after Tiger shot a shockingly bad +5 on that final day. Almost two years (and scores of infidelity revelations) later, Woods still seeks that elusive 15th major. It's almost as if that air of invincibility is gone.
That's not to say that the Miami Heat will never win a title with the star triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. But their shocking inability to finish off a game in a situation where they had been virtually unbeatable definitely planted seeds of doubt for the rest of the series. As for the Dallas Mavericks' playoff run? 4-0 in "close out" games.
Not hard to figure out which team was more poised.