UPDATED: THURSDAY AM, 5/10/12:
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Actor Billy Crystal seems to be engaged as he watches the Clippers win Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Memphis on Saturday — the franchise’s first home playoff win in six years.
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals: Clippers vs. Memphis:
Game 4 tonight at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime, TNT;
Game 5 Wednesday at Memphis, 6:30 p.m., Prime, TNT;
Game 6 Friday at Staples Center, 6 p.m., ESPN, Channel 13;
Game 7* Sunday at Memphis, 10 a.m., Channel 7:
Analyze this, Billy Crystal: The T-shirts say that “Clipper Nation” is “All In,” without even an exclamation point. Except the team’s highest-profile courtside season seat holder — long before he before he talked Gheorghe Muresan to be his co-star in “My Giant” (1998) — wouldn’t wear one during Saturday afternoon’s Game 3 victory over the Grizzles. No style points there. If he was at least yelling, Chris Paul heard it, and decided that the energy provided by the rest of the 19,000-plus was the contributing factor in the 87-86 win and a 2-1 series lead. Paul is asking for more. “Our crowd’s gotta come with even more energy,” said the Clippers point guard after a game-high 24 points and 11 assists. “We’re gonna need them even more in Game 4 than we needed them tonight. I’m sure they’ll be ready.” Bring some spare free throws, too. Missing 17 of 30 free shots gave the Grizzlies every opportunity to come back. The Clippers most notably spent Sunday’s practice working more on that part of their game. “That shows how much fight we have, to miss that many free-throws and come away with a win like that,” said Paul. “But we know in order to get to where we want to get to, that’s unacceptable.”
MLB: Angels at Minnesota, 5:10 p.m., FSW:
If Jered Weaver has merely the thought of doing anything Vander Meer-esque, it’s going to happen again against the Twins. His no-hitter last Wednesday night at the Big A — we’re finally allowed to say it happened, right? — included just one walk and nine Ks, but Minnesota hitters also lofted 14 fly balls into the heavy O.C. night. Yet, Weaver (4-0, 1.61 ERA) ended up with a no-decision in Minneapolis a month ago when he left the game after six innings, giving up five runs and seven hits — his worst outing by far this season in six starts. Now, he’ll have faced Twins hitters three times in his first seven starts. “Obviously, facing the same hitters twice, you have to pitch a little different, but it’s hard to pitch different because you have to pitch to your strengths and the opposing team will know that,” he said. A year ago at Target Field, Weaver pitched a two-hit shutout through nine and didn’t get the decision. These two will also play here Tuesday and Wednesday (5:10 p.m., FSW).
MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Channel 9:
That five bucks you’ll save on parking can be invested in some coolies that you can try to smuggle into the park for the cooler bag giveaway on the opener of a three-game series. Tip one back for your new ownership group, and keep your cool in the parking lot. The match up of Barry Zito and Ted Lilly is the first of 18 home games in the next 23 days. The series continues with Clayton Kershaw set to go Tuesday (7:10 p.m., Channel 9) and Chad Billingsley against Tim Lincecum on Wednesday (7:10 p.m., Prime). The Dodgers will miss Madison Bumgarner, who leads the league with five wins.
Series: “Conan,” 8 p.m., TBS:
Metta World Peace, who bailed out on his appearance with Conan O’Brien on the day he was served a seven-game suspension, has rebooked for what the show’s PR people say will be “his first extended one-on-one interview” since the punishment. Other than, of course, the extended interviews he gave with the media after the punishment. Actor Simon Helberg replaced World Peace on the April 25 episode, and said he was at the Lakers-Thunder game when MWP was ejected. After hearing the explanation, that he didn’t see James Harden coming before the elbow, Helberg said: “If that’s the case, then I think he was doing a New Kids On the Block dance.”
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals Game 5: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW, TNT:
The point isn’t to try to extend this thing long enough to Metta World Peace will come to the rescue in Game 7 (set for Sunday at Staples Center, unless they win it early and have to fly to Oklahoma City for the start of the next round). End it now, and there’s time to draw up a gameplan to use against Oklahoma City, which didn’t mess around in its first-round matchup. There’s a Game 6 scheduled in Denver on Thursday if they need it (7:30 p.m., Channel 9, TNT).
NBA playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals Game 5: Utah at San Antonio, TBA:
The Spurs may not even get to this point — they’ve taken a 3-0 lead against the Jazz into Monday’s Game 4, meaning Tim Duncan and his elder statesmen might have the rest fo the week to wait to see how long it takes the Clippers beat themselves up if they last past the first round. No NBA team has come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. If the Jazz are the first, something’s wrong.
Golf: The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., first round, 10 a.m., Golf Channel:
A $9 million purse, and 600 FedEx points to the guy who has the fewest mishits on the meager No. 17, 137-yard island hole. In the final round a year ago, there were only six balls (from four players) hit into the lake, tying the number of lowest final-round No. 17 splashdowns since 2003. Last year’s winner, K.J. Choi, had to play it twice on Sunday: He birdied it with a 10-foot putt in the final round, and then in the playoff, had a par after two puts from 42 feet. In all, there were 40 balls that met a watery ending in the 2011 event — raising the total to 440 in the last nine years, or nearly 49 a tournament. NBC has the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
MLB: Dodgers vs. Colorado, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:
Things line up for 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who wears No. 50 but won’t hit that age until this November, to take a slow walk to the mound and spin his 78-mph fastballs against the Dodgers in the opener. Moyer got a little testy during his last outing, a no-decision in the Rockies’ 13-9 loss to Atlanta, when he claimed the Braves’ Chipper Jones was stealing signs while a runner a second base and relaying them to the batter, Brian McCann. There’s an argument for the ages — Jones is 40 and playing his last season. Moyer (1-2, 4.01 ERA) became the oldest pitcher to win a game when he outlasted San Diego back on April 17, going seven innings and getting career win 268, tying him with Jim Palmer for 34th on the all-time list. The series continues when Moyer wakes up from his nap on Saturday (6:10 p.m., Prime) and Mother’s Day Sunday (1:10 p.m., Prime).
MLB: Angels at Texas, 5:05 p.m., FSW:
You think the Angels match up well against the two-time defending AL champs? Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54 ERA) may have something to say about it, as he matches up against former Rangers’ ace C.J. Wilson (4-2, 2.61 ERA). The networks take over the last two games of the series on Saturday (10 a.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (5:05 p.m., ESPN).
NASCAR: Sprint Cup Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C., 3:30 p.m., Channel 11:
Are the boys chicken to race on Mother’s Day? Instead, it’s a night-time event for the locals. The new name of the event, by the way, is the Bojangles Southern 500, named after a local fried chicken-’n'-biscuits fast-food franchise. “This is probably the most natural sponsorship … since Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Budweiser,” said Darlington president Chris Browning. Yup, once you got drinkin’ and driver matched up, it’s time for watchin’ and eating fried foods. As for Dale Jr., there was a groundswell of support that for some reason, he was going to end his 138-race losing streak a week ago at Talladega in the Aarons’ 499. “I don’t take anything for granted. I know how this sport can be brutal and great, all at the same time,” he said before he started 18th, led for 10 laps, and ended up ninth.
MLS: Galaxy at Montreal, 1 p.m,. KDOC-Channel 56:
Losing twice last week, the Galaxy followers realize that the result of this game against the Impact could impact the rest of the season. Interesting, the defending MLS champion Galaxy (3-5-1, 10 points, 11 goals for, 14 goals against) have almost the identical numbers as the expansion Montreal (3-5-2, 11 points, 11 goals, 15 goals against).
NHL playoffs: Western Conference finals Game 1: Kings at Phoenix, 5 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
The Kings didn’t win the Pacific Division. The Coyotes did. But not by much. Even though Phoenix has the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the Kings were only two points — one win — away from having that spot to themselves, so the fact that the No. 8 Kings had to beat the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds already to get this far is a little deceiving. So it is that this 8-vs.-3 matchup is set up. The Coyotes, coached by former Kings assistant Dave Tippett, split six regular-season meetings with the Kings, but they haven’t seen each other since Phoenix’s 5-4 shootout win on Feb. 21 in Glendale, Ariz.
Cycling: Amgen Tour of California, Stage 1: 2 p.m., NBC Sports Network:
Chris Horner starts defense of his title in the eight-day race event with a 115.9-mile trip through Santa Rosa, before heading to San Francisco, San Jose, Livermore, Santa Cruz, Sonora, Clovis, Bakersfield, Palmdale, Big Bear Lake, Ontario, Mt. Baldy and then to Beverly Hills for the finale some 750 miles later at L.A. Live on May 20. AEG says it had more than 100 submissions from cities throughout the state trying to be the start or finishing spot for what’s become the largest pro cycling stage race in the country. “Our goal has always been to create a route that not only provides a challenging race for the world’s top cyclists, but one that highlights the beauty and diverse terrain that make up the great state of California as well,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the Amgen Tour of California. “Every year we challenge ourselves to raise the bar once again and create a route more challenging than the last.” Santa Rosa, is the hometown of three-time Amgen Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will again do the call. “This is an exciting course with a really tough final few days around Big Bear and Mt. Baldy,” said Liggett. “A lot of the European riders now prefer this race to the Giro d’Italia, as they prepare for the Tour de France, so the field just gets stronger and stronger. In my opinion, this is the best route in the race’s seven years and will provide a real clash of the titans.”
Soccer: Premiere League final day, 7 a.m., Fox Soccer Channel, FX, FSN, Fuel, Fox Deportes, Speed:
The EPL sends all 20 teams out — led by Chelsea and Manchester United — for this 10-match day of relegation and survival, and Fox’s channels are combining (with ESPN2) to carry every game to the U.S. for the first time. At the end of the day, the teams that finish 18th, 19th and 20th are elminated to the second division — and they can lose up to $40 million in the process for the demotion. The top four teams can get as much as $75 million for the right to play in the UEFA Champions League. The breakdown: Manchester City vs. Queens Park Rangers (ESPN2), Sunderland vs. Manchester United (FX and Fox Deportes), Chelsea vs. Blackburn Rovers (Speed), Swansea City vs. Liverpool (Fuel TV), West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal (FSWest), Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham (Fox Soccer), Stoke City vs. Bolton Wanders (Fox Soccer Plus), Everton vs. Newcastle United (FoxSoccer.com), Norwich City vs. Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (Fox Soccer 2Go).