Monday, April 19, 2010

Bobcats, NHL, NASCAR and more

** Have to give the Charlotte Bobcats are pat on the back for the way they hung tough against Orlando in their playoff opener on Sunday. Down 22, they looked like they were getting run out of the building, but they kept punching, got Dwight Howard in foul trouble (although several replays after he picked up his 5th foul showed the referees had several options to give him number 6), and played hard, even without Stephen Jackson over the final quarter. Orlando may win this series, but they found out Sunday the Bobcats are ready to go toe-to-toe.

The 2 days between games will help the Bobcats, by allowing Jackson to rest and heal a hyper-extended left knee. Jackson did play in the 3rd quarter, but Head Coach Larry Brown sat him down as a precaution. Brown is thinking big-picture. The series didn't end on Sunday, and he'll need Jackson as healthy as possible. Had Jackson not gotten hurt, I wouldn't have ruled the Bobcats out of a win in game 1. Vince Carter built a small condominium with his 4-19 performance from the field, so it proved anything can happen in the playoffs. I would expect both teams to play better in game 2, which doesn't bode well for Charlotte. The Magic are deeper and more talented, plus they are experienced (Eastern Conference finalists last year). Still, anything can happen.

** The NHL Playoffs are well underway, and some terrific hockey being played all across the league. So far, every team in every series has won at least one game, showing the post-season for what it is: hard to survive and advance. I never produced my series-by-series picks, but I'll say it here. The Stanley Cup Final should match Chicago against Pittsburgh. I would take Chicago in a 6 game series, but that's just a prediction.

** Charlotte Checkers 2nd round series with Cincinnati is tied at 1-1. Checkers dropped game one 4-3, then blanked the Cyclones 5-0 in game 2. Charlotte is the better team, based on what I have seen. Cincinnati used the Checkers aggressiveness against them in game one, and the Checkers responded well in game 2. Checkers should advance to the conference finals to face Reading, as the Royals are up 3-0 over Florida in that series as of Monday.

** No, I haven't forgotten about the NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night. Couple reasons I haven't been trailing that puppy. 1) The Panthers off-season moves are looking more and more like they are going to do what they can to field a team. I know the guys on the roster will play their guts out, but I worry there won't be enough talent to fill the holes left by the departures of several veterans. That's what the draft is for, I know, yet the Panthers don't own a 1st round pick. Their first selection comes in round two (Friday), 48th overall, unless they do a trade to acquire a higher selection. 2) There is enough draft fodder out there to keep the foaming at the mouth football fans happy. 3) I will never profess to knowing as much about the draft as those that only follow the league. That in mind, we hope to have Daniel Jeremiah, from on Sports Night on Wednesday from New York to talk about the draft and what the Panthers might do.

** PGA Tour comes to Charlotte next week for the Quail Hollow Championship. For all that can be wrong in sports, golf reminds us of what can be right. Jim Furyk won the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head on Sunday in a playoff, but only after Brian Davis called a 2-stroke penalty on HIMSELF. Davis clipped a piece of grass found in a hazard on his backswing (a rules violation that you may have committed in our rounds, but probably never called on yourself). To the naked eye, it's nothing, but in golf, the rules are the rules, enforced by the players. Hats off to Davis for upholding the game's tradition and values.

Mike Solarte