From major comebacks to major upsets, the past week provided stunning losses for postseason favorites, but also the return of a fan favorite. The Sixers were challenged by the upstart Brooklyn Nets and Tiger Woods made a triumphant return to the Masters. The WWE also showcased some intriguing matchups and a potential title challenger.
On the Prowl
On Sunday, Eldrick “Tiger” Woods completed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of sports by winning the annual Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. It had been 11 years since Woods had won a major and 14 since he had won at Augusta. For the past ten years, he’s battled back problems and surgeries, drug use and an ugly public divorce, but Sunday’s win once again placed him on top of the world, if only for a brief moment.
It’s actually highly unlikely, in fact improbable, that Woods’ incredible win is just a brief blip in his historic career before he sinks back down. Before his decade’s worth of drama, he had been chasing Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major tournament wins. After Sunday, he again has a shot at the record and appears to be more than equal to the task.
It won’t be easy. Woods faces stiff competition from young mainstays such as Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth as well as polished pros like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. At 43 years old, time isn’t exactly on his side. Four more wins will require an incredible amount of work, patience and maybe a little luck.
But Sunday proved that Tiger is capable of handling the pressure. He placed shot after shot with perfection, combining solid drives and putts for some truly spectacular golf. It seemed inevitable that Woods would take the top spot.
Woods’ status as one of golf’s all-time greats will only grow further if he stays at the top of his game. And stay he will. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods is back and will break the Majors record, and golf will be more exciting because of it.
Sixers stars need to shine in Eastern Conference playoffs
The Philadelphia 76ers, who entered this year’s NBA Playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, experienced mixed results through their first two playoff contests against the Brooklyn Nets. In game one, the Sixers were outplayed in almost every way, but Game two was a different story. After a slow start, Philly ripped off over 50 points in the third quarter alone and secured a 22-point victory.
What was the difference? It was quite simply the performance of two of Philly’s stars, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Simmons, in his second NBA season, was a non-factor in game one, but made his presence felt with a triple-double on Monday night. For a young player who notably struggled in the playoffs last season, that type of performance must be refreshing for the Sixers front office, who expect a deep postseason run from this year’s team.
Harris was acquired from the Sixers via trade in the middle of this season and was immediately productive, but his shot went cold over the final weeks of the season. He broke his slump Monday night, recording 19 points and hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
Simmons and Harris will be imperative to Philly’s ability not just to survive their current series against Brooklyn, but to get past more complete teams like Toronto, Milwaukee and Boston down the road. Philadelphia is Finals or bust this season, and Simmons and Harris need to produce if the Sixers hope to live up to expectations.
Lacey Evans has the “woman’s right” to back out of the title picture
Lacey Evans officially debuted on the WWE main roster at January’s Royal Rumble, but didn’t do much after that. Sure, she regularly appeared on television, but only to walk down the ramp, wave to the crowd and then leave. This charade went on for far too long, as Evans only recently had her second ever main-roster match Monday — and a No. 1 contender match for Becky Lynch’s Raw Women’s Championship at that.
She defeated Natalya Neidhart for a shot at Lynch’s belt, and it just feels very forced, especially given CEO Vince McMahon’s preference for tall blondes. Raw lost a lot of great female talent during this week’s Superstar Shakeup, but still has plenty of women more deserving of that opportunity than the inexperienced Evans.
During her match Monday, Evans chose not to end things with her traditional “woman’s right” finisher — simply a right hand punch to the face — and instead used a moonsault off the top rope. In the video you can literally see Evans’ knees crashing down on Neidhart’s midsection and her genuine reaction of pain after the pin. If a performer can’t even execute their own finishing move correctly, there is no way they should be in the championship picture.
While I’m not her biggest fan, Sasha Banks has never successfully defended the Raw Women’s Championship during any of her stints with it and deserves a lengthy heel run with the belt. Neidhart would also make a great veteran champ to give the title some credibility again after Ronda Rousey’s disrespectful run with it.
Never-nervous Nets will win in seven
The Brooklyn Nets don’t consider themselves an underdog, and have proven it on the court.
The Nets defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 111-102 away from home to kick-off the 2019 NBA Playoffs, despite the Sixers being heavy favorites. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert propelled them to victory by scoring 26 and 23 points, respectively. Power forward Ed Davis grabbed 16 rebounds to cover for a lack of production from center Jarrett Allen.
The Nets shot 42.3% from behind the arc while the 76ers shot an atrocious 12%. Brooklyn was also more effective at the free throw line, outshooting Philadelphia 92.3% to 69%.
But that was just game one of a seven game series though. The 76ers were able to bounce back and win game two 145-123, putting game one in the rearview mirror. Guard Ben Simmons and forward Tobias Harris both avenged their awful game one performances by scoring 18 and 19 points, respectively.
Guard Jimmy Butler and center Joel Embiid both have put up solid performances for Philadelphia to start the series. The 76ers front court has the star power to make it a competitive series, but 3-point shooting and free throws will win this series for the Nets. Game one was just a taste of how the rest of the series will unfold.
At the end of the day, the 76ers do not have the three-point shooting and bench depth to keep up. Philadelphia will steal game three in Brooklyn, but the Nets will end up winning the series in seven games and move on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Hoisting the Cup is a Pittsburgh pipe dream
Hockey fans are heartbroken in the Steel City. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ postseason wrapped up on Tuesday night when the New York Islanders defeated them in Game Four. Their efforts were disappointing and quickly dashed any hopes of advancing to Round Two.
It all started on defense, which lagged behind that of their opponent. The Islanders boasted a strong defensive team and it showed on the ice.
Sloppiness also plagued the Penguins, demonstrated through Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang’s inability to protect goalie Matt Murray. The communication between players seemed to be off, and their decisions were poorly executed.
When the Penguins did have the puck, it was not for very long. They were cornered multiple times, and the Islanders were able to force turnovers. In overtime for Game 1, Kris Letang had the puck in the Islanders zone and was outnumbered by his opponent’s defensive members. What should have been a goal-scoring attempt turned into a turnover and an Islanders game-winning goal.
Forward Jake Guentzel scored 0:35 seconds into Game 4, the first sign of action on Sidney Crosby’s line in the series, but Jordan Eberle for the NYI scored one of his own a minute and a half later. When the Penguins thought they had a grasp on the game, the Islanders were quick to put them in their place.
The last time the Islanders won the Stanley Cup was 1983. The last time the Penguins won the Cup was in 2017. Their ambition certainly caused the Penguins to stumble and second-guess each play. The Islanders appear unstoppable.
“It’s a tough loss for us, but we have to learn,” Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin said. “Next year, we need to understand there are young guys, they’re hungry. Every team tries to win. We’re not champions anymore.”
-Laura Sosovicka, For The Pitt News