And so it did for the Breakers last night, as they fluctuated between sheer brilliance and hopeless ineptitude in a match that was breathtaking in its intensity. Incredible three-pointers for both sides at moments when the game was surely lost to them will be what the match is remembered for, and the Breakers will be thankful there is a reasonably long break until the third and final match, for otherwise the Taipans would certainly have the confidence and momentum overwhelmingly on their side. Leading by three with less than three seconds left in the first period of overtime… to lose from there was extremely painful, but this Breakers side is definitely strong enough to bounce back and win the decider. Fingers crossed all week.
Lots to get through today, so it’s round-up time.
Man U, after yet another jammy win in a season full of them, are almost assured now of winning a record breaking 19th league title. The fact that they have been so average for so much of a campaign that will see them break Liverpool’s record is testament to the weaknesses of the chasing pack. Chelsea stopped playing between November and February and then paid ￡50 million for a statue of Fernando Torres; Arsenal capitulated entirely after their League Cup Final loss; Man City are still unable to play like a coherent team unit for more than two weeks in a row; Sp*rs have learnt the hard way that Champions League qualification places an immense burden on a club’s squad in terms of depth of quality; and Liverpool’s big-time Charlie’s refused to listen to Roy Hodgson due to their overwhelming arrogance (yes, I’m talking to you Stevie “Play Fuc*ing Phil Collins You C*** Or I’ll Nut You” Gerrard).
So the Mancs will walk away with the title on a plate. But what’s going on down the bottom end of the table? Madness. It looks very much like it’ll go down to the last weekend, with six clubs fighting to avoid the three relegation positions. Unfortunately for Kiwis, two of the clubs feature All Whites, with Winston Reid’s West Ham looking particularly bad again. The Hammers went through a short revival in 2011, but in the last few weeks have gone back to their bad old ways- so poor last weekend that even the Torres statue managed to score when one of the pigeons on its foot attempted takeoff at an especially fortuitous moment. Ryan Nelson’s Blackburn- whom he won’t play for again this season due to a knee injury- must get something from their match against City tonight and kick on from there. Looking at the run-in for the clubs involved- Wigan, Wolverhampton, Blackpool and Birmingham make up the other four contenders- it is the three W’s that look in the most precarious position. However Wigan have found some form of late, and with Blackpool continuing to go backwards it still could come out differently, and with any luck Birmingham will get pulled down into the mire too. More on this as it develops.
In terms of promotion from the Championship into the Prem, QPR are just one point away from securing the first automatic promotion spot, and it looks like Norwich and Cardiff will fight for the second. With three games remaining, Norwich have the easier fixture list and look the better chance. In terms of the four teams to playoff for the last remaining promotion spot, Cardiff, Reading and Swansea look assured, and any one of Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Burnley, Millwall or Hull could take the remaining position. We’re really looking forward to the playoffs, and are hoping for a Reading or Forest success.
The clay court phase of the season has proceeded along fairly predictable lines with Rafael Nadal winning everything in sight as he builds up to the French Open. David Ferrer, another Spaniard, has also been in good form, as has last year’s beaten semi-finalist Jurgen Melzer from Austria, but aside from that no other real strong contenders have shown their hands. Novak Djokovic is still unbeaten this year, but is only competing in his first clay court event this week, in his home tournament in Belgrade. Juan Martin Del Potro also plays his first clay tourney of the year this week and it’ll be very interesting to see whether his early season form on the hard courts carries over onto the slower surface. Andy Murray has been in poor form, and Roger Federer too has struggled in the brief amount of time he’s been on the red clay. Other top ten or thereabouts players like Robin Soderling, J.W. Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic and Fernando Verdasco have also struggled for consistency, so at this stage the French Open looks like it’ll be Nadal’s to lose. Which is not really surprising, all things considered.
After a thrilling Chinese Grand Prix a week or so ago it is now beginning to look like the changes made to the cars which we outlined to you pre-season are having the desired effect of increasing the excitement of F1 racing again. Of the three changes made to racing this year, the new Pirelli tyres seem to be having the greatest influence on events, with the extreme rates of degradation (in layman’s terms how quickly they wear out) being the most significant factor. With two different compounds (tyre types)- hard and soft- being used, and with each driver being allocated a certain number of each to be used over the race weekend, tyre strategy looks like the single most important variable for teams to consider this season. Sebastian Vettel will rue the decisions that led to his Red Bull car being overtaken by Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren in the closing stages of the Chinese race as the Red Bull, struggling along on an old set of the hard tyres, was overhauled by Hamilton who was racing on a fresh set of the super-quick softs. Everywhere throughout the field similar events were taking place during the course of the race, and this trend will surely continue as the drivers head to Istanbul in early May for the first of three races in Europe.
Just a quick note on one of the other changes to the cars this year, the Drag Reduction System, or DRS (for a full explanation see our blog here, or for Michael Schumacher’s version, try here). Basically, DRS is working well, and increases the ability of drivers to overtake, which is all well and good. But it can only be used once a lap at this stage, and we reckon that on courses that contain the right conditions for it to be used repeatedly, i.e. more than one long straight, the powers-that-be should enable this. They admit that it’s a brand new system and that they’re learning as they go, so hopefully at some stage in the future multiple usages will become a reality.
- we spent some time watching the Liege-Bastonne-Liege race last night as preparation for our sleep-crushing coverage of the Giro d’Italia starting on May 7th. We didn’t actually pay much attention to the race last night, but there is nothing more soothing on a Sunday night than watching the peloton cruise through pristine countryside. More on the Giro as we get closer to the first stage.
- where for art thou Jamie Joseph?
- it is now safe to mention the Australian Rules Football Season after St. Kilda finally got their first win. The filthy Collingwood Magpies, who share a moral alignment with Man U and whichever team Dick Cheney supports, look very strong again, as do Geelong. Any Comments from Melbourne residents would be appreciated on this front.
- and lastly, the NBA playoffs are ongoing, and we’d love to hear from anyone who is following them. Also the IPL is underway, and we don’t want to hear anything about it at all from anyone anywhere for any reason.
Take care all, and stand strong Indiana Bill.