Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
Golf: The Players Championship, first round: Thursday, 10 a.m., Golf Channel:
The TPC Sawgrass track at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., hasn’t been one of Tiger Woods’ favorites. Fear of water on every hole? The 2001 winner has never missed the cut there (in 13 starts), but he withdrew from the final round last year with a neck tweak, and he’s only made the top 10 once there in the last eight trips. Still, he says he’ll be there after resting up an injured knee that kept him from last week’s event in North Carolina. Golf Channel has the second round Friday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), with NBC on the weekend (11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Channel 4).
MLB: Dodgers at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., Prime:
Speaking of the Pirates . . . seen the new trailers for “Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides”? Why wasn’t San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson cast as Jack Sparrow’s new protagonist, Blackbeard? Think of the MLB cross-promotion possibilities. As Andre Ethier tries to extend his hitting streak to two games, this otherwise shipwrecked four-game series pushes forward to Tuesday (Channel 9), Wednesday (Prime) and Thursday (Channel 9), all at 4 p.m., before the Dodgers sail home.
MLB: Angels vs. Chicago White Sox, 7 p.m., Channel 13:
Here’s what White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen tweeted before his team took on the Seattle Mariners on Sunday: “Happy mother (sic) day.” Gotta love a guy who’s so controversial with social media. He’ll have plenty of more opportunities to review the restaurants around Anaheim after games Tuesday and Wednesday (both at 7 p.m. on FSW).
NBA playoffs, Western Conference semifinals Game 4: Oklahoma City at Memphis, 6:30 p.m., TNT:
Pau Marc Gasol-led Grizzlies are two wins from getting to a place the Lakers probably thought they’d be — in the Western Conference finals. And they’d be the first No. 8 seed to make it that far. “Nobody thought we’d be in this position up 2-1 in the second round, so I think we’re just enjoying it,” Shane Battier said. “Enjoy the ride, enjoying competing and we just want to play as long as we can.” Despite the flooding in the area, this game appears to still be on. Looking ahead, Game 5 will be Wednesday at Oklahoma City. A need for a Game 6 in Memphis (Friday) or a Game 7 in Oklahoma City (Sunday) is to be determined. If this thing ends earlier, Sunday will be Game 1 of the Western Conference final between either the Grizzlies or Thunder at the Dallas Mavericks.
NBA playoffs: Eastern Conference semifinals Game 4: Miami at Boston, 4 p.m., TNT:
The Heat’s 97-81 loss in Game 3, cutting their lead to 2-1, means it has stumbled 11 times in a row at Boston, including three this season. “We understand now fully how difficult it is to take down a champion,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Champions of what again? We’re not even sure of Shaq will be back for a Game 5 on Wednesday at Miami, but Game 6 goes back to Boston on Friday. If we need a seventh, it’s pushed back to Monday, May 16, back in Miami.
NHL playoffs: Western Conference semifinals Game 6: Vancouver at Nashville, 5 p.m., Versus:
It’s dj vu for Le Canucks. The best in the West had a 3-0 lead over Chicago before having to go to a seventh game and win that series in overtime. Their 3-0 lead over the Predators, complete with a 3-1 lead in Game 4, is looking shaky again as Nashville has won the last two to force this sixth game. The Canucks are 1-4 when trying to finish off an opponent in a series. If we need a seventh game, it’s back to Vancouver on Wednesday.
NBA playoffs: Eastern Conference semifinals Game 5: Atlanta at Chicago, 5 p.m., TNT:
Where does the Bulls’ Joakim Noah find his mojo? “My mom is probably the most inspiring person in my life,” he said of Cecilia Rodhe, the 1978 Miss Sweden who married his dad, former French tennis star Yannick Noah. But he also calls former Bulls forward Dennis Rodman “my hero when I was growing up. I liked the way he played with passion, got into his opponents’ heads and entertained the crowd. I draw a lot of inspiration from him.” That explains everything. Noah’s six-points (and a minus-16 in the plus/minus category) during a Game 4 loss to the Hawks means the Bulls have a Game 6 set for Thursday in Atlanta, with Game 7 on Sunday back in Chicago if needed.
NHL playoffs: Western Conference semifinals Game 6: San Jose at Detroit, TBA, Versus:
The Sharks had a 3-1 lead in Sunday’s close-out game, but didn’t come close. Meaning, their 3-0 series lead is now down to 3-2, going back to the Hockeytown. A Game 7 would be Thursday in San Jose, which isn’t called Hockeytown.
MLS: Galaxy at Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., FSW:
The Union has managed four wins and a tie this year by scoring a total of five goals. They’ve only given up three in seven games. That could tie the Galaxy’s offense up in knots. The Galaxy follows this one with a match against Kansas City at Home Depot Center on Saturday (7:30 p.m., FSW).
It could have been Game 6 of the Lakers-Mavericks series …. Time to catch up on the “Khloe &-Lamar” reality show that’s been sitting on the DVR?
MLB: Dodgers vs. Arizona, Dodger Stadium, 7 p.m., Prime:
Believe it or not, there are two teams in the NL West playing more poorly than the Dodgers. Kirk Gibson’s D’backs are one of them. Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to face Joe Saunders in this opener. Fox takes Saturday’s game (4 p.m., Channel 11), leading into Sunday’s series finale (1 p.m., Prime).
MLB: Angels at Texas, 5 p.m., FSW:
Jered Weaver, now trying to end a two-game losing streak, stifled the Rangers with a complete-game, 4-1 win back in Arlington, Tex., on April 20. Two more day games in Arlington end this one: Saturday at 1 p.m. on FSW and Sunday at noon on FSW.
Soccer: FA Cup final: Manchester City vs. Stoke City, 7 a.m., Fox Soccer Channel:
Get stoked for this one. The annual David vs. Goliath matchup — without David Beckham — goes back to 1872, giving a chance for their “minnows” from the lower divisions to become “giant-killers” at Wembley Stadium.
Boxing: Andre Ward vs. Arthur Abraham, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m., Showtime (delayed at 10 p.m.):
The Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinals pit Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) and his WBA super middleweight title against the German star Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) in this made-for-Showtime tournament. “(Ward) reminds me of Sugar Ray Leonard — tough as nails, classy, charismatic with matinee idol looks,” said promoter Dan Goossen. On the undercard, heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola faces Nagy Aguilera of the Dominican Republic.
MLS: Chivas USA at New York, 4 p.m., Prime:
L.A.’s other kickball team has been impressing some, despite a 2-3-3 mark so far. Win in New York, and someone should notice.
Cycling: Amgen Tour of California: Stage One: 2 p.m., Versus:
It starts with a circle around Lake Tahoe. By the time it winds through Sacramento, Modesto, Livermore, San Jose, Paso Robles, Solvang and Mt. Baldy, climaxing in the Santa Clarita-to-Thousand Oaks final stage, there’s limited time to buy up the much-necessary T-shirts, caps and racing shirts on the official tour website (linked here). Could we interest you in the Moen Large Bell (#33841, just $30)? It’ll make a lot of noise, and call attention to yourself quite nicely. Although we’d suspect you could go to the Schwinn store and find one of those handlebar ringers for quite less. But it wouldn’t be official.
There’s also a silver-etched travel mug (#8081, $26), which, for that price, must be real silver. The alluring product description includes: “Easy to close and open travel mug opening.” And if the $6 rubber magnent or $5 lanyard isn’t appealing enough, try the Plush T-Shirt Bear ($8). Although it says the version in yellow and brown are out of stock. You can only get black. We’ll have to get Lance Armstrong on that.