Last Week's Best: The Top Five Games (6/2-6/8)
A lot of exciting games this week, some of the comeback variety, others of the failed comeback variety. Each game on this list had fans at the edge of their seats, and any of them could have deservedly held the top spot.
But, when you win the most prestigious trophy your sport has to offer, odds are you are going to garner the No. 1 place on this list.
5. MLB: Yankees 12, Royals 11 (6/7).
Many baseball games could have made the list this week—in fact, more than one dramatic Yankee comeback could have made the list—but this game takes the cake as the best of the week.
The Bronx Bombers fell behind 5-1 early, then 10-6 late, but just kept scratching and clawing their way back into the game. They didn’t use the big inning, instead scoring two runs in the seventh, two in the eighth to tie the game, and then, after David DeJesus gave Kansas City the lead with a ninth-inning home run off Mariano Rivera, two more in the bottom of the ninth to win in dramatic fashion.
The hero was Johnny Damon, and not only because he hit a walk-off single, plating Wilson Betemit to complete the dramatic victory. Damon had five other hits in the game, tying an American League record for most hits in a nine-inning game with six. He added a run scored, 4 RBI, and a stolen base (side note: How a lead-off hitter gets six hits in a 12-11 game and only scores one run is beyond me).
Yanks pitcher Andy Pettitte, on the hook for the loss after giving up all ten runs—and all earned, for that matter—could finally breathe a huge sigh of relief. The Yankees must hope this will finally be the sparkplug that gets their season going.
4. Soccer, Euro 2008: Czech Republic 1, Switzerland 0 (6/7).
A relatively mundane first weekend of Euro 2008 (there has yet to be a game in which both teams have scored) did include this gem, in which the host Swiss side proved quite the threat to the favored Czechs throughout.
After a slow first half, which culminated in a devastating injury to Swiss captain Alexender Frei (he is out for the rest of the tournament), the home side began to pick up the pace of play in the second half, challenging the Czech defense with incisive passes. The crowd grew more excited as their heroes pressed closer to a goal.
It was the Czechs, however, who struck first off of a set piece. After the Swiss back line was unable to effectively clear a free kick, a brilliant headed ball sent substitute Vaclav Serkos clean through on goal. He finished brilliant, burying a half-volley from the outside of his right foot in the bottom right corner.
The Czech Republic had very much scored against the run of play, but nonetheless it was Switzerland who now had to press further. And press further they did, creating several fantastic opportunities, the best of which resulted in a volleyed rebound that bounced off the top corner of the post and out.
Two or three times late, questionable Czech play in the box resulted in cries of handball from the home side, but there was neither penalty nor goal to be found. Switzerland deserved better, but they now must get a result against Portugal if they are to be active hosts beyond the first week.
3. NBA Finals Game 2: Celtics 108, Lakers 102 (6/8).
I basically stopped watching this game late in the third quarter. It’s a good thing I left my TV on in the background.
It was very much a tale of two games Sunday night. Luckily for Boston, theirs lasted 40 of the total 48 minutes, and they won it 95-71. A furious L.A. charge cut the 24-point lead to two in the final minute, but the Lakers could not quite pull off what would have been a miraculous comeback and another defining moment in this historic rivalry.
But not all was lost for the Lakers, who early in the fourth quarter looked like they did not deserve to be on the same court as their counterparts from Beantown. Albeit aided by some overconfidence from the Celtics, the Lakers now very much know they are capable of outplaying Boston, and they were exposed to a rough blueprint of how to do so.
Kobe Bryant finally looked like Kobe Bryant again in the fourth quarter (and really in the whole second half), picking when to score, when to assist, and when to simply facilitate. And the Lakers shooters got hot just in time to leave the gym, but at least going home there is reason to believe they will stay that way.
Most importantly, though, the Lakers began to figure out their transition game. One would assume they pushed the ball madly up the floor because they absolutely had to score quickly, but given how effective the tactic ended up being you would have to think the Lakers would look to create more transition opportunities, especially at home, especially in front of a home crowd.
The Celtics have shown a lot of talent, discipline, and defensive aptitude so far. But the Lakers are still younger, quicker, and can play some good basketball themselves. This series isn’t over yet.
2. NHL, Stanley Cup Finals Game 5: Penguins 4, Red Wings 3 (6/2).
The most dramatic game of the week finds itself nestled in the No. 2 slot. After spotting Pittsburgh a quick 2-0 lead, Detroit began to methodically outplay the Penguins, scoring a goal in the second and adding two more in the third to take a 3-2 lead.
They would hold that lead for what looked like the rest of the game, and were poised to clinch the Stanley Cup in the game’s final minute
But the Penguins would have their last words: Not Yet. Maxime Talbot’s goal with 34.3 seconds left sent the game into overtime, putting the Wings’ celebration on hold. For just how long was not yet certain.
It turned out the answer was at least two more days. After two grueling, scoreless overtime periods, Petr Sykora finally struck halfway through the third OT. His slap shot from the right circle beat Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, sending the series back to Pittsburgh. It was the Penguins’ first win in Detroit in the series.
Pittsburghgoaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a remarkable game, as his team was outshot 58-32. Fleury made 55 saves, and with the series headed back to the Steel City, the Penguins suddenly had new life.
But for how long would it last?
1. NHL, Stanley Cup Finals Game 6: Red Wings 3, Penguins 2 (6/4)
Two more days, apparently. The plot of the game was pretty similar; halfway through the third period, the Red Wings led 3-1. Marian Hossa scored a power play goal for Pittsburgh with 1:27 left, setting up yet another dramatic conclusion.
But this time there would be no miracle. It was close, real close—Hossa sent a puck sliding through the crease literally as time expired (replays showed that, had the puck gone in, the goal probably would not have counted). It might have been his last act as a Penguin, as he is a free agent this summer and Pittsburgh may very well lack the funds to re-sign him.
Hossa’s contract situation notwithstanding, the Penguins are ready to re-load and make another run at the Cup next year. As are the Red Wings. Much can happen in a year, but there is a decent chance we will be seeing a re-match in 12 months’ time.
Even though the Wings have their share of young players, Detroit’s storied hockey tradition and Sidney Crosby’s mantle as the future of the NHL would have made a Pittsburgh victory in the series a passing of the torch of sorts.
Suffice it to say, the torch has not been passed.
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