The three-day Memorial Day weekend brings intense playoff matchups in the NBA and NHL, a heavyweight title fight in UFC and the return of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ Here’s what sporting events to watch this weekend:
Friday, May 25
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ ; 8 p.m. (EDT); NBC Sports Network
Down 3-2 in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers will attempt to stave off elimination when they travel to Newark to face the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Goaltenders have been at the center of this very physical series. While Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has two shutouts in the series, he’s also given up seven goals in the last two games, both losses. Veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur can get New Jersey to the Stanley Cup finals with a win at home on Friday night. A Rangers’ win forces Game 7 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Saturday, May 26
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
TD Garden, Boston, MA ; Time – TBA; TV – TBA
With this Eastern Conference Semifinal series now tied 3-3, these two Atlantic Division rivals head back to Boston to see if the upstart Philadelphia 76ers can knock out the Celtics in what could be the last game for Boston’s ‘Big Three’ of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The key to a Celtics’ win is point guard Rajon Rondo’s ability to break down the 76ers defense and whether or not Boston can control the tempo of the game. With athletic players like Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia can run the floor well. Look for the 76ers to take advantage of the absence of Avery Bradley, Boston’s best perimeter defender, who is out with a shoulder injury.
Indiana Pacers at Miami Heat
American Airlines Arena, Miami FL; 8 p.m. (EDT); ABC -TV ; *if necessary
The Indiana Pacers face elimination at the hands of the Miami Heat on Thursday night in Game 6 of the teams’ Eastern Conference Semifinal series. If the Pacers can tie the series, Game 7 would be on Saturday in Miami. After trailing the series 2-1, Miami has rallied behind the play of NBA MVP LeBron James. With Roy Hibbert and David West clogging the middle and crashing the boards, the Pacers still believe that they can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, but they need two wins to get there.
Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals
Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO; 7:15 p.m. (EDT); FOX – TV
FOX’s national baseball game of the week is a rematch of two franchises that played an epic, five-game National League Divisional Series last October. The Cardinals used their 2011 upset of the Phillies as a springboard to a World Series title. Despite losing slugger Albert Pujols to free agency and manager Tony La Russa to retirement, St. Louis is in first place in the NL Central as a result of a pitching staff mentored by catcher Yadier Molina. The Cardinals will send Jaime Garcia (3-2, 3.55) to the mound to face the Phillies. Still mired in last place in the NL East, Philadelphia is still hoping its offense will get a mid-season jolt from the return of first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley. Until then, the Phillies need spot starter Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 5.23) to improve on his woeful recent outings and hold the opposition to a minimum of runs.
UFC 146: Frank Mir vs. Junior dos Santos
MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV; 10 p.m. (EDT); PPV-TV
UFC offers up a five-round heavyweight title fight between champion Junior dos Santos and challenger Frank Mir. Current betting lines favor dos Santos by a knockout within two rounds, but Mir is experienced and could surprise dos Santos with a submission hold. Other bouts include Edson Barboza vs. Jamie Varner, Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva and Stipe Miocic vs. Shane Del Rosario.
Sunday, May 27
2012 French Open
Roland Garos Stadium, Paris, France; 5 a.m.; ESPN2 HD and ESPN3 – TV; Through Jun. 10
The red clay of Roland Garos Stadium will play host to the best tennis players in the world, as the 2012 French Open gets its start this weekend. The official draw will be announced on Friday, but for now Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are the prohibitive favorites for the men’s and women’s titles respectively. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer should provide hurdles for Nadal, while Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova will be serious competition for Williams.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, IN; 12 p.m. (EDT); ABC-TV
The 2012 edition of the Indy 500, ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ is scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe leads the field from the pole position courtesy of his four-lap average of 226.484 miles per hour. James Hinchcliffe, who streaked to a four-lap average of 226.481, will start second. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will attempt to join A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser as the fourth, four-time winner of the race. Castroneves starts on the outside of Row 2. Will Power, currently on a three-race win streak, is IndyCar circuit’s hottest racer. He’ll be in the middle of Row 2.
Los Angeles Kings at New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
The Eastern Conference Finals between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils could go to a Game 7 on Sunday in Madison Square Garden, if the Rangers can tie the series on Friday night in Newark. Otherwise, Game 1 of Stanley Cup Finals between New Jersey and the Western Conference champion-Los Angeles Kings could start on Sunday at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC; 5:30 p.m.(EDT); FOX – TV
Among NASCAR’s most anticipated races each year, the Coca-Cola 600 is a major racing event. After his victory in last week’s all-star race, driver Jimmie Johnson has established himself as the favorite in Charlotte on Sunday. With two previous Coca-Cola 600 wins, Johnson knows what it takes to get the checkered flag at the 1.5-mile oval. Expect Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin to be his main competition. Kevin Harvick won last year’s race.
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
AT & T Center; San Antonio, TX; 8:30 p.m. (EDT); TNT- TV
The Western Conference Finals start at the home of the Spurs, who come into this battle on an 18-game winning streak. How San Antonio defends against athletic and talented Oklahoma City duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook may define this series. The Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins need to help stop San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, while trying to neutralize the play making abilities of Spurs’ guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The winner of this best-of-seven series advances to the NBA Finals.
Monday, May 28
NBA Eastern Conference Final
Indiana-Miami series winner vs. Boston-Philadelphia series winner
The Indiana Pacers face elimination at the hands of the Miami Heat on Thursday night in Game 6 of the teams’ Eastern Conference Semifinal. If the Pacers can tie the series, Game 7 would be on Saturday in Miami. The survivor of the Philadelphia 76ers’ and Boston Celtics’ Game 7 in Boston on Saturday will fill out the other half of the Eastern Conference Finals bracket.