Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Bulls and Celtics Will Make It A Best Of Eight

Anyone want to still argue with me on how this is the best series ever?

Tonight in Chicago, the teams went to extra time for the fourth time in six games, which now means they've played seven periods of overtime, or an extra 35 minutes of basketball. After the triple overtime game 7 (what, you think it could possibly be shorter?), they'll have an extra game from just the overtime.

I have no words, really, for how absurd this series has become, how much these teams really hate each other by now, how often the rest of the NBA playoff schedule has been pre-empted by this razor dance, or many times when a team has needed to make a big shot to prolong the drama, they have.

How crazy are these teams? Ray Allen had 51 points in 59 minutes, with any number of flat-out crazy makes in the extra time. Paul Pierce was diving into the stands for loose balls with two minutes left in the third overtime. Brad Miller canned two critical free throws in the second overtime, with the weight of the memories all over him. You got 21 lead changes, 17 ties, nearly four hours of time on the clock, and I'm not even sure this was the best game of the series, because they've all started to melt together by now. The Celtics can't possibly have the legs to win this by now. The Bulls can't possibly complete the upset on the road in Game 7 with such paltry post-season experience. And there's dozens of other ways to talk about it, really. I'm giddy.

With 40 seconds left in the third overtime, Joakim Noah made a steal on Paul Pierce, made it all the way to the rack, and collected the slam with Pierce's ejection foul. The kind of play that, if this is the beginning of the end for the Celtics, will be the signature moment of fail.. but because this series is something that would get you laughed out of an office had you put it in a screenplay, Eddie House then scored for the first time in the game to tighten it right back up. It led to a block for the ages from Derrick Rose on Rajon Rondo that should have ended it, but hell no -- still a one-point game, because this series is just that way. Rose then missed what would have been clinching free throws, but Rondo misses from 40 at the buzzer, and that's your ball game. Bulls had 'em all the way.

How does Rose get that lift for the block in his 59th minute of playing time in this game? How can he then miss the free throws? What was Pierce thinking to commit his sixth foul on the Noah steal and dunk? How much is Brad Miller feeling it for going back to the line repeatedly in overtime and converting over and over again? When did John Salmons become a basketball player, could be possibly do that on the road?

And over and over and over and over, series without end. I hate both of these teams, for the most part, and I still feel like I could write a book about this series. It's been just that good.

I'm sorry for people who aren't NBA fans, when it comes to this series. As much as I love the MLB and the NFL, there just isn't anything that compares to this kind of series, just building and building on itself. Football can't get this level of knowledge of each other as teams, since you can only play the same team three times in 19 games. Baseball doesn't have this level of lather-rinse-repeat hate, since the pitchers constantly change. The closest you get to this is hockey, especially with the extra time, but since so much of that is dependent on your goaltender, and the goalies never face each other directly, even that's not the same. This series is so good, I was almost grateful that my team stopped playing tonight, because even I was having a hard time watching that series over this one, especially at the end.

People talk about how NBA players lose their legs after 1,000 games; by that standard, I'm pretty sure both of these teams are going to still be gassed from this when the 09-10 series begins next November. They also talk about how, if the Bulls somehow survive Game 7 in Boston, how they will have become the mystical Team That No One Wants To Face, because they clearly are about as much fun to face as the Spartans in a tight space.

But all of that is for another day. We're getting a Game 7 for the best series ever, the way we're supposed to, and even the fact that the rest of the NBA playoffs will be anticlimactic after it doesn't matter in the here and now. See you Saturday.

The Internets Are Going To Put A Hurt On Local Biased Announcer Guy

H/t, Deadspin. Take a listen to selected cuts from Hawks Radio covering last night's Game 5. They are, um, interesting. Yes, interesting. (And no, I don't really care who wins this series; they are just going to be Cleveland speed bumps anyway.)

I'm not saying that I want to poo-poo on the rights of local media guy to play to the home town listeners -- lord knows, if the rest of the world ever caught Merrill Reese's act, Philly Fan would be even more hated than he already is -- but the field *might* want to start checking themselves. If, for no other reason, then the fact that NBA superstars tend to have posses, and radio announcers do not...

Carmelo Anthony Now Better Than Tracy McGrady

In that his Nuggets have moved on to the second round (against Dallas in the Not Going To Win The West portion of the bracket), and congratulations to the notorious choke artist that has never had a moment of important success, provided you don't remember him punking the Kansas Jayhawks, or being on the 2008 US Olympic team. I like to remember the former, especially since site contributor The Truth is a Kansas guy, and I went to the 'Cuse. Once again, sir, Ha Ha.

I don't want to let the Nugs go without noting this lovely quote from one of the more aggravating people in the NBA, head coach George Karl. "I thought we could be a good team. But I never thought we could be this good."

Well, sure, in that you didn't realize that you were going to luck into the best energy guy in the NBA this year (the Birdman, Chris Anderson), or that you were going to face a team (New Orleans) that was going to react to the presence of James Posey as if he were Stephon Marbury.

We've also officially moved into the Coach Blood portion of Chris Paul's maturation as an NBA superstar, in that I'm not really prepared to believe that the same Chauncey Billups that got owned by a baby Daniel Gibson -- Daniel Gibson! -- could be the best point guard on the floor by a wide margin... but heck, I wasn't sure that the Nugs got the best of the deal when they sent the same broken-down Chaunce west for Allen Iverson. So let's just say that Paul isn't the only point guard to quit on the coach here.

In any event, Byron Scott is Dead Coach Walking, and I'd say more about the Bugs, but I don't want to give them any more effort than they gave me (for picking them to win this series in the first place). And since there are series with both teams trying tomorrow/tonight, we'll just move on.

A Problem With No Solution

In the halftime analysis of Rondo-Miller Gate, the TNT crew got the call from last night's game right, while the NBA didn't. "He hit a guy in the head and made him bleed," as Chuck Barkley said, and it just had the Chuckster's be-all and end-all air of simple fact.

But there's more, really. I'd also like to point out the hopelessly arbitrary nature of this, for the record, by having you imagine how the play would have been called if:

1) Miller's the guard, and Rondo's the big man.

2) Miller goes to the ground and stays there for five minutes, apparently concussed.

3) The play occurs in Boston, with the game conditions reversed (i.e., Rondo driving to tie, Miller fouling), and

4) It's an elimination game, rather than a Game 5.

(No, seriously, think what it means if this is how Game 7 goes down. Great googly moogly. I hope I didn't just call the shot.)

You see the problem; all of these changes don't really make a difference in the play, but they dramatically change the likelihood of the flagrant foul being called.

That's because, on some level, the flagrant foul call is completely arbitrary and judgmental, and yet, it has a huge impact on the game. No other sport has this kind of physical issue that impairs the judgment of the referee; if a small or big pitcher hits someone with a pitch, the batter takes first base. If a small market NFL team's cornerback gets tangled up with one from a large market on a game-changing pass interference call / no-call, the NFL doesn't lose tens of millions of dollars in lost ratings if the call goes to the non-plus market.

There is, of course, no way to "fix" this situation; it's just the nature of the beast in basketball, a non-contact sport where the best teams use contact to win. It's also going to come up only when the games are being watched the most, which is to say, close games among big market teams. Hopefully, that situation continues, because it's just a better problem to have, since it means we'll continue to have great playoffs. Anyway, moving on.

205 Drop: Top 10 Qualifications For A Flagrant Foul And/Or An Ejection

The drop contains many actual new jokes, I think, but it's late and I just made the mistake of realizing that there's at least 5,000 words of the Bad Tooth tomorrow that will somehow justify everything the Celtics do while taking a thousand-word piss on my Sixers, all while giving me just enough useful insight into the rest of the Association that I just can't ignore it.

The Lemur... it's a controlled psychological experiment designed to shorten my life! (Especially now that I know they read the site. Hi, guys!)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Hawks Do Not Care That You Are Bored

Tonight in the early game in Atlanta, we got to see the ugly side of physical playoff basketball. On a fluke play in the open court, Dwayne Wade had his head smacked off the court, causing him to leave the game for a while. On return, there were three more plays with questionable intent, and Al Horford wound up leaving the game as well with a sprained ankle, and all of this might have mattered more if this game had been at all close. With Wade slowed before the game even started with back problems from hard fouls in previous games, and perhaps just the Hawks being a lot better in the final analysis, this was a genuinely dull game; the closest it got in the second half was 13, and in comparison with how amazing the Association has been for most of the last week, it really was strikingly meh. Eventually Wade got back to a little closer to his old self, finishing with 29, but the outcome was never in doubt, and the Hawks are now up 3-2.

And that's exactly that, really. The number of Heat and Hawks fans are pretty minuscule, really, and for those people, I'm sure this game was a source of pride and outrage, depending on your laundry preference, when the game was close and physical early. For the rest of us, it was sloppy, sluggy ball, devoid of any drama beyond wondering if there was going to be more ugliness later.

Because that's the thing about physical basketball, and why no one is nostalgic for the early days of the Association, or the way the game was before the ABA opened things up. Eventually, when there is too much, the players you want to watch stop being fun to watch. Along with everyone else.

The Hawks go for the kill shot on Friday in Miami. Odds say it goes seven with the Heat holding serve, but they've lost 2 in a row going away now, and it's not like Wade's getting any healthier here. Or, really, that anyone needs to see too much more of this series, really...

205 Drop: Top 12 things I've learned from anonymous commenters

The drop is more educational than most, but still snarky, so take a click. (A troll, for those of you who aren't versed in Web vernacular, is someone who trashes a site and/or its contributors in the comments section; basically, it's shorthand for anyone who seems to take delight in abuse.) The list is one of my better ones, if I do say so myself; go give it a look.

Rather, I want to deal with anonymity at this point. Nothing sets the teeth of an established journo to grind faster than the mostly anonymous nature of Web writing, especially when someone who isn't using their real name gets credit for breaking a story. (Or, more commonly, a black mark for running something that turns out to be wrong.)

I'm anonymous because this isn't my Real Job, and my Real Job is much more important; so the fact that I keep Eric Blair's name out of this is just a professional courtesy. Also, a matter of simple security for any future job search; I don't particularly want to spend time in some future interview talking about my 2008 record against the spread, my poker habit, the fact that I still get teary over the loss of Harry Kalas, or a million other things that have nothing to do with what I'll do to, in the words of the ex-President, put food on my family. The site does well enough in search engine traffic that this isn't paranoia on my part, and my career is something that involves consulting and networking. Besides, many people in this world fail to root for my laundry, and losing a paid gig over that would just stink on ice.

That is, I think, the right kind of anonymity. The wrong one is where trolls become trolls, I think; using the anonymity to say things that they wouldn't want attached to their actual selves. There really isn't much that goes on here on the blog that I'm not a little bit proud of, or that I wouldn't put my name to if it weren't for the career consideration. If that makes me a hack in the eyes of some troll (who, of course, doesn't see themselves as a troll)... well, whatever.

In the long run, I'm sure that I'll eventually be outed if the blog gets enough traffic, because people like puzzles and this one wouldn't take too long. If the site's getting enough traffic, maybe it's not even a professional problem, though I'm not holding out any hopes for that. This is, after all, a relentlessly unpopular sports blog. But hope springs eternal, and all, and as a Sixers / A's / Eagles fan, I'm more or less resigned to noble failures of faith.

We welcome, as always, your thoughts on trolls in the comments, or how right you are for not liking this blog and reading it anyway.

An incredible day of sports *needed* just one more thing...

Tuesday saw...

> Game Sevens in hockey (sorry for not covering those, but blame site contributor and actual hockey watcher Dirty Davey for not taking care of that)

> The end of the Spurs

> The Blazers prolonging things with the Rockets (I'd say something about that, but we need *one* of these first round series to go to seven games under the radar, don't we?)

> My own team's probable end (but hey, maybe the Association will put Dwight Howard in the hoosegaw for Game Six)

> A full slate of MLB games with a very encouraging start for Phil Hughes, who suddenly looks like the most important Yankee after the Wang Disaster, and the first Red Sox loss in weeks...

and what trails across the Lemur ticket but our old go-to. Thank heavens, I hadn't written about him in so long!

The Most Important Player Ever was released by the Jets today, which means that if -- if? -- he chooses to un-retire yet again, he'll be able to sign with anyone he chooses.

And if you think he won't entertain the possibility, or that Viking Fan won't demand the possibility later, or that Jerruh Jones won't come calling if/when Tony Romo gets hurt/ineffective and Jon Kitna is discovered to be Jon Kitna, perhaps just in time for a big Thanksgiving Day media ballwash...

Sorry, folks. I just can't help myself. And neither can he. Neither can he.

How Great Is Your Foul

If you're just reading that the Celtics survived another epic battle against the Bulls tonight, go catch some highlights; it's not to be missed. But if you have, read on.

I'm not sure what the Celtics and Bulls do at this point for an encore, really. But the idea that the fourth game in five that goes to overtime, between teams that are clearly so even that "Coin Flip" does not begin to describe the whisper of difference that they've seen to this point... it's been, um, tight really.

Tonight's game is going to get lost in the storm of whether Rajon Rondo got the foul call he should have for bloodying up Brad Miller on what might have been a tying drive in overtime, leading to Miller missing the critical free throws. The trouble is that how you see that call is tied up in what laundry you want to win; my general Masshole antipathy tells you that while I don't really care that much for the Bulls, I'm still going that way. But no one is arguing that it's a flagrant unless Miller is bleeding, which he did. Rondo could have concussed him and it would have looked better. And if you're going to take down the champions in their building, even in their weakened fever state, you have to be more than a coin flip better.

As for the rest of the fourth overtime in five games -- and just by writing that, this has gone far beyond the Are You Kidding stage...

> Um, not to take anything away from Paul Pierce and his team-carrying ways in the clutch, but especially after Ray Allen was on the bench with foul trouble, how do you let him keep shooting the same shot, from the same location, to keep beating you?

If it's my team, I've seen this movie before. I'm tripling the Truth to get anyone else to take the shot instead. Given how scared Stephon Marbury seems of The Moment now, and how genuinely cursed Tony Allen appears to be, the fact that Pierce was able to do his usual late-game magic has to be driving Bulls Fan crazy by now. At the end of this series, the critical difference between these teams might have just been Vinny del Negro at coach, which wouldn't be the biggest possible surprise.

> It was nice, as a Sixers fan who knew John Salmons when he was useless, to see that some things don't change. 17-5-3 in 49 minutes isn't exactly scintillating, and neither is 5 for 15.

> As close as the Bulls came to winning tonight, when you shoot 40% from the field and your opponent shoots 48%, that's just a losing play. Yes, the Bulls got to the line more and made more threes, but that's just too much brickwork to overcome, especially on the road.

> If you don't think this one is going to Game Seven, I've got a bridge to sell you. First off, this Celtics are slaves to the drama, as last year's Hawks and Cavs tilts show. Second is that the refs are going to wrap up Game Six with a bow after the Rondo foul. Third is that the Association is going to want to wrap up the best first round ever with the biggest Game 7 ever. Don't be surprised if the Celts just start the bench players and run the white flag in Chitown.

End of the road

Tonight in San Antonio, the Mavericks finished what international basketball and Father Time had started with a three-point aided kill shot over the Spurs. Your final score was 106-93, and while Spurs Fan can bemoan the loss of Manu Ginobili all he wants, expecting the Argentinian to actually play at this point is not exactly building your house on stone. Nor, for that matter, is trotting out the supremely old Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley, the supremely physically limited Matt Bonner and Kurt Thomas, or the supremely not ready for prime time George Hill and Roger Mason. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker just weren't enough, not for their lack of trying, especially with Dirk Nowitzki finally having a decent game.

Note, also, that this was the first time in *eleven* first-rounds that the Spurs lost with Duncan on the floor. But it's not like Dallas doesn't hold peculiar match-up wins with the Spurs -- Josh Howard, in particular, seems to relish seeing this laundry -- and when you lose 4 games to 1, with a 6-point difference per game...

Well, it's not like the Spurs are going to do something crazy, not with Duncan still pretty great and the economics of the NBA being what they are. But at least they are in better shape than most to add talent.

As for Dallas, the Nuggets await in the second round once they finally sweep aside the sad people wearing Hornet jerseys, which should happen any minute now, really. They aren't going to enjoy the step up in athleticism, or the fact that the Nugs actually have bench players who could play for other rotations in the NBA; on the other hand, getting away from Parker has got to make Jason Kidd less of a liability on the defensive side of the ball.

Oh, and this also means we get at least two more weeks of Mark Cuban. Just because the Association is great, folks, doesn't mean it doesn't come without a cost.

But we have time to talk about all of that later. For now, let's mark the end of the Spurs, a team that casual NBA fans loathed, but real NBA fans respected. They never beat themselves, they never gave anything less than complete effort, and if your own laundry behaved this way, you could not ask for anything more. But man alive, do they need some more talent. (And if you really want to be bitter about it, bring up Luis Scola to Spurs Fan. Sometimes, acquiring talent, even if it doesn't have an obvious role, is good, if only because it keeps you from looking at Drew Gooden later.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sixers-Magic Game Five, Second Half

Seeing how this is likely to be the last important game for my team this year, I'm going to micro-blog it for the memories. It's what I do; read or skip.

The Sixers announcing crew is convinced that Howard could get suspended for elbowing Dalembert in the ear in the first half. I'd be more hopeful about this if elbowing Sam was like elbowing a real NBA player, but who knows; maybe that's what the NBA does to ensure a Game 7.

Redick still in for Lee, hope still very much alive. The quarter begins sluggishly, with a good Miller steal not getting converted, but an Iggy running prayer goes. The half-court game is not causing much confidence. Sixers going with Ratliff right away, rather than Sam, and Iggy is doing what I've hoped for with a steal and a drive to the line. A make cuts it to four, but Rafer Alston hits a three to give them their largest lead, and it's made worse by a Howard dunk in transition. Another turnover for the black shirts, and this is that third quarter fade they did in the first two Orlando games.

Miller with a great steal from Howard, but he's called for a charge on the other end on a marginal call, and it's gutcheck time, especially after Thaddeus Young picks up his fourth foul while harassing Howard. DiLeo chooses to leave him in as Superman makes the second for their first double-digit lead. Iggy gets no zebra love on a drive, but Redick walks in transition. Green hits; he has 14 now, but it's answered by a ridiculous lob to Howard. Man, it must be nice to have a dominant big man. Young misses a bad three late in the clock, and when it looks Very Bad, Miller steals it *again* from Howard from the weak side, and Young makes the old-school three to cut it to 7. Huge play there; breaks the mood.

Alston makes a hard runner, and Miller turns it over; maybe that 3-point play wasn't so big after all. Lewis makes over Ratliff in the post, taking advantage of Green there; that can't be the right defensive sub. The lead is now 11, the game's largest.

Out of the timeout, an alley oop slam to Theo from Iggy, but again, the defensive boards don't come on the other end, and Miller is gimpy now. Two misses from Mikael Pietrus helps. Iggy draws Howard's third: useful. Iggy's makes bring it back to seven, and for as scary as this quarter has felt, that's not many. Alston misses, Lewis board and airs it, and on the drive back, Iggy scores and gets the Lewis foul call. Another make, and it's four. Wow. My Team Has Heart!

Theo picks up his fourth, and both centers have four now. Where's Matt Geiger when I need him? Mareese Speights might have to play, and that's probably not good. Howard misses on a good double-team, Miller can't make, but Lewis shuffles his feet on a catch for another turnover. Long quarter. Theo sits for Reggie Evans, and Green owns Redick to cut it back to four. That doesn't last long, as Howard tips in an easy one. Green misses on a drive, and Alston goes And One in the lane to make it eight. Iggy with a three that should have also gotten a call, but the Turk goes to the line again off a drive. Iggy now has 17 on 9 attempts. Useful.

Iggy finally misses a free throw, and it's 66-60 with two possessions to go... and if the Turk wants to make threes like that, the rest of this series isn't going to be very much fun. My team fights, but it's 69-60 at the end of three, and unlike the first three games of the series, the Magic appear to have a fully functioning Turk. Dammit.

Orlando has won every quarter tonight. Not cheery. Royal Ivey misses a three, but Iggy wills the board and gets Lewis to commit his fourth. Green's three finds a lid on the rim, and Lewis scores inside as both teams have gone small. Young does the same thing on the other end. Turk misses, Gortat blows an easy one, and that helps, but the subequent Iggy miss doesn't, and neither does a goaltend on Donyell Marshall on Gortat, who has six points for his career playoff high. He is, still, a breathtakingly ugly white boy.

Howard back at 9:35 to go. Iggy makes two to cut it to 9. Lewis gets a rattle roll on a deep 3, and for the first time this series, they are making those. The lead is a dozen. Magic have a 38-27 lead on the boards right now, and the home team is 8 of 17 from the arc. This is the way the series was supposed to go.

Miller turns. Lou Williams takes a contact foul. Howard makes from in deep, and we keep saying Largest Lead; it's 14, but Miller makes one of his equinox threes. Lewis makes a runner because the defense just isn't up to it right now. Crowd is sensing the kill shot now. Young misses. Miller steals the entry pass to Howard as Magic Fan howls for a palming violation. Miller gets to the line and makes the first; he has 15, and might be the only effective defender on Howard tonight. Iggy misses a three in transition badly; it's 80-68 with 6:36 left. Lewis tips it to the backcourt, and it winds up being a shot clock violation. Running out of time for mistakes now, and that's their 15th turnover.

The Turk draws his fifth on a drive, and he can't kill you late if he's on the pine with foul trouble. Stan van Gundy goes to Redick. Another really good defensive stand by Howard and Orlando stops Howard; on the other hand, Ancient Anthony Johnson gets a goaltend. That's this game in a nustshell. Dalembert hits over Howard for points Three And Four! Wow! Thanks, Sammy! Miller gets called on a post by Lewis. It's 82-70 with 4:47 left, and if they've got a run in them, I'm not seeing it right now. But I've been wrong about this team before...

Alston misses; Miller rolls in a sweet drive. The Turk returns with four minutes left, and Alston misses a deep bad three. Iggy gets to the line for attempts 12 and 13, and that's Howard's fourth. My team was sixth in the NBA in free throw attempts. Please, next year, make more... but Iggy gets both, and it's down to 8. The Turk misses a corner three, leading to a great Miller pass to Iggy at the rim, and that's an 8-0 run to cut it to six. My team has heart. Enough to make you weep, really.

Lewis gets deep and Sammy spikes it, but it's a clear goaltend. Dammit. Miller misses on an attempt to get to the line. Redick misses a quick bad three, but Howard erases the mistake, and a Lewis miss is followed by Howard's 20th freaking rebound, and Dalembert's fifth. 2:16 left, 8 point game, and the difference is Howard, Howard, Howard.

My children need to go to bed, but NBA commercials wait for no one. Lewis crushes Young, and he's posted the Sixers silly on his way to 22 points tonight. Another Howard board on an Iggy miss, and it's bed time for all. Redick with another early bad three. Iggy turns it. The Turk misses from distance as the Magic try to pad their stats. Miller misses, Howard another board. At least the game ended fast... and Miller commits a foul for no reason, down 10 with 33 seconds left. I'm going to miss the end of this.

The Magic finally lead this series, and can close it on Thursday. I think they will, but I think it'll be hard. And next year... well, that's for another day. Magic 3, Sixers 2.

Sixers-Magic Game Five, First Half

The first quarter is, once again, a big ball of worry, as the Sixers stay close only through the good work of Willie Green. Let's just say I'm not confident that will continue. As usual, the Magic are scoring easier than the Sixers, but my team is battling, but when the Magic is giving minutes to JJ Redick, scoring should be easier. And hey, Sam Dalembert seems to care tonight! After an Iggy three for his first points of the game, it's 28-25 Magic with 8:43 left in the second.

I missed the first few minutes of the game from an emergency attendance of the Shooter Eldest's third-grade orchestra performance. This is usually the Shooter Wife's play, but with the Youngest still having Plague, I had to pinch-hit. I got their just as the band was ending (a darn shame!) and got home to catch the end of the first. I'm Clutch Today, Kids.

Dwight Howard knocked Courtney Lee out of the game on a failed block. That could be helpful later, especially if it means more minutes for Redick. If there's a worse defensive player in half court in the NBA this year, I haven't seen him. When Andre Miller converts a runner, it's a tie game with five minutes to play.

Orlando Fan has a lot of hate for the zebras here, but Howard already has 11 rebounds, and while Theo Ratliff will fight the good fight, he's still, well, Theo Ratliff. But at least this is tight, and after another Green make (Willie!) on a swooping make that I didn't think he had in him, they even lead on Howard's second foul. 35-34, Sixers.

Hedo Turkoglu slashes to the hoop and scores, and it's followed by a rare defensive breakdown for a fast break bucket. It's 45-39 in a blink, and that's what's so tough for this team; those blinks don't generally happen for them. In this half, you've got Turkoglu shooting 2 for 8, Lee hasn't returned from injury, and they are still down 6, and after a clean Marshall miss from the arc, that's the half.

The Sixers are making the Magic play a game they don't like much: very few clear looks at 3, not much in transition, lots of having to go to the line on good looks for guys that just don't shoot free throws all that well. But just like in Game 4, they just aren't shooting well enough, or keeping Howard away from the rack, to lead.

There's also this: they need a lot more from Andre Iguodala. Like, being the best player on the court. That'd be nice.

The Lemur Loves Me

Sorry I made you break up, Ms. Sage Steele. (About 40 seconds from the end, for the impatient.) And thanks so much for mentioning us on SportsCenter this morning. That's nice. Especially after all the nice things we've said about you over the years!

205 Drop: Top 11 Questions After Watching The NBA Playoffs This Weekend

Today's drop over at Editor Scrap's House Of Tits (admittedly, a less useful URL than what he uses) contains at least 30% new material from the omnibus NBA posts you've scrolled over this week, and it's short, so by all means, go and click. But I'm going to poach the #1 question here for a little more grist for the bloghole. (Oh, and longtime site readers know there's an extra Easter egg moment in the names of the photos. Today's is very nice for people who have suffered through enough Philadelphia media, and amuses me like no end when it creates site traffic for searches like Pervert Howard Eskin. But I digress.)

1) Why does Burger King want to sell kids' meals with cardboard asses?

There are, of course, reasons for this. Brand marketers want to do anything that gets them free impressions, of which both this post and the 205 drop are guilty, guilty, guilty. Whenever you can get people scolding you in public, that's almost always a plus in the long run, as it gets more young eyes thinking cool things about you. And finally and most regrettably, what they are doing with this campaign is perfectly in the wheelhouse of something that's made money in this country for my whole damn life: making us all think and buy (buy, buy, buy) like we're teenagers.

What is grafting sex on top of Spongebob, really, but a mocking teenage-style graffiti, maybe in a notebook or a school desk? What is adding tits and ass where they don't belong, but a nodding snigger to the back of the room?

I've got daughters, nine and three, and the speed in which people want my kids to grow up is astonishing, of course... but only to a certain point. If you get them to think about things to the point where they see the flim-flam show going on (and that's not a constant thing, but hopefully she's a little more aware of the con game than most), I think you're doing your job as a parent... rather than, say, keeping them totally isolated from this nonsense.

But there is, finally, this. I don't want my kids to see the ads that come on during my games (not that I really want to watch them either, but that's another matter). So on a very easy level, I don't really want my kids to watch games with me. So they don't. Despite liking Spongebob, and Burger King, and having parents that are not perfect when it comes to nutritional choices, and having a franchise within a mile of the house with a big damn Spongebob on the top of it that my youngest waves at when we drive by...

Well, we drive by. Nice brand marketing job there, asshats.

The Hawks and Heat Want Drama, Too

Just to make sure that the majority of NBA playoff series go long, it's the Heat giving up their hard-won home-court advantage with an 81-71 loss to those pesky Hawks. I'd say more about this, but the plain and simple fact of this series is that when Dwayne Wade plays well, the Heat win going away; when he doesn't, as has happened in Games 1 an 4 of the series, they lose going away. It's compelling ball just because when Wade's on, he's one of the most watcahable players on the planet, but from a strategy standpoint, it's just that simple.

Tonight, Wade was 9 of 26; the Heat lost despite getting 20 from Jermaine O'Neal and 19 from James Jones. A whopping 2 points from the 4 bench players didn't help matters, and neither did 25 from the Hawks bench... but just save yourself the trouble and check Wade's night. This series is just that simple. (And for the record, I think he has 2 out of 3 good games in the remainder of this series. Joe Johnson hates this matchup, folks.)

Top 10 Post Peak Oil MLB Changes

I was perusing the Old Gray Lady last week, as one is won't to do while it still exists, and the story was of an environmentalist movement that talks about transitioning after Peak Oil. This mostly dystopian concept holds that oil is running out, alternative fuels and technology won't be enough to compensate, and the future is going to be a lot less fun when it comes to, you know, travel and shipping and a million thins we more or less take for granted. It's all kinds of cheery, really.)

So the idea is to start working out now how we'd all manage in such a world. Sure, you can plant crops to help raise your own food, but how do you get your excess to market to trade for gingham and the like? And so on. If you are the kind of guy who likes to work out doomsday scenarios and overplan for an unsatisfying future in which you have no real control - in other words, if you are just about every Eagle Fan I've ever met, and we are really not that unique -- well, have at it, really.

So, with that in mind, the following list of ways MLB could change to lower their carbon footprint.

10. Club cars. Calling to mind the old school millionaire rail cars of a century ago, this is where traveling teams ditch their private jets for their own railroad car. Considering the delays and misery that is every airport, I suspect this is a change that many players would actively encourage, especially if more high speed rail came into play. Besides, don't you want to see those MLB+ team trains steaming past you while you wait for your own podunk regional line?

9. More day games. Whether or not it actually makes sense on an ecological scale is debatable -- after all, tens of thousands of people sharing one light has to be better than them all being in their homes, right? -- but since you can sell 'em this way, that's what you'll get.

8. Enforced divisions. Those cross-country trips to play the least meaningful games on the schedule, just so your fans have the opportunity to see every other team in the league... Well, that's what satellites are for, right? And from there, we get...

7. Separate leagues.
Pacific, Atlantic, North and South, with travel miles taking priority over tradition. On the plus side, you'll have much better shot at seeing your team on the road. Take the train with them!

6. Overfishing in regional markets. It's not exactly news that if a town is big enough to support an MLB+ franchise, it's probably big enough to support two... or, in the case of New York with its huddled masses, four or five. Brooklyn and Long Island get teams first, one in each league, maybe as moves from Florida and Tampa, just to keep the air miles down. Philly adds an AL team, Boston an NL market. And so on. If you think the Lemur overcovers teams from this region now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

5. Longer homestands and road trips. Again from a pure carbon standpoint, it's very wasteful to have so many back and forth trips, when you could simply keep teams on the road longer and set up the schedule to be more conducive to lowered traveling costs. Especially for teams visiting the other coast, you could easily see a month-long trip to knock it all out at once, rather than make 3-4 trips during the year.

4. Regional drafts. If regional rivalries get more important, than so do regional players, and it makes sense to encourage such things by skewing homegrown talent to stay with teams close to where they developed. I actually think this is the better way to go on many levels, especially if you want to try to make college baseball more interesting for things other than waiting to see if someone dies from a batted ball off an aluminum bat. (And speaking of such things, let's make sure those things are made from recycled metal, of course.)

3. Fewer rain outs. This isn't to mean that there will be less rain; hell, if the environment goes to to dystopia, there will be more. But if you go to more day games, there's just more chance to get a game in, since you can wait out the weather and get it in at night. Remember as well that if the make up game, especially for teams from the other coast, are harder to achieve, there's also just more incentive to get the game done that day. (For that matter, you can also count on more partial games; as is, there are relatively few games each year called and logged in the books before the full nine is played.)

2. Less money. It's just a simple fact that we can dress up if we like, but will still be with us: there is a bubble that needs correcting here, and that bubble is the amount of money involved in the games. If everyone involved is spending less (and, sigh, probably having less), that means there have to be less money from advertising sponsorships, and ticket prices eventually falling, because the market will eventually correct itself. You will, eventually, pay less for your ticket; you also probably aren't going to be too happy about it. (Oh, and this will also really hit all of those teams that have to suddenly live with less Yankee and Red Sox games on the schedule, and higher travel costs.)

1. No more outsourcing. Short and sweet: enjoy those players from overseas, folks, especially from markets like Japan that can put up a fight for them. When the travel costs to bring them in get nasty, you'll just see less of them.

The Lakers Sure Had To Try Hard

Can a team be bored while winning a series? Yes, easily, which is what the Lakers were tonight in sending Utah to their room. The Laker crowd never seemed too into this, which, given how often they do this trick, is easily understood; the Jazz just hold no terror for this Lakers team, especially on the road. Tonight's confetti bucket moment came when Kobe Bryant tripped over referee Steve Javie on a break, then still corralled the loose ball and scored anyway. Just sad.

I don't think it says any less of me as NBA Fan that the second half of this game put me under, even as the Lakers were stretching their third quarter lead from 15 to 22 in a heartbeat while Jerry Sloan let the game play on, probably thinking that it was more important to teach his younger players to play through a run, rather than call too many timeouts.

Either that, or he wanted to get to the off-season as fast as Laker Fan wanted him to get there.

In any event, the Lake Show moved on with a 107-96 win that wasn't the complete coronation that was expected, only because the Big 3 of Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom didn't get a fourth wheel to add more than Trevor Ariza's 12.

With the notorious NBA first round schedule slowdown, the Lakers have just bought themselves many days off, and it's probably best that they didn't sweep the Jazz, just because having this many days off at this time of the year usually leads to trouble. Hanging over the entire wildly entertaining NBA playoff schedule is the fact that the Cavs and Lakers are just much better than everyone else, and each had no problem showing it in the first round. But hope springs eternal, and injuries do happen...

Do the Hornets have to play Game Five?

After losing a 58-point squeaker at home tonight, the New Orleans Hornets have served very clear notice that they really don't like trying very hard to win playoff games while Byron Scott is coaching them. Either that, or they all have swine flu, or binding golf and fishing commitments for the weekend. How else do you get punked like that, on your home floor, in a game that could have tied your best of seven series at 2-2?

I wrote the other day that Detroit might have been the worst playoff team I've seen in some time, but after tonight's Turd Taco, I'm willing to reconsider for the Bugs. Tonight, they turned the ball over twice beyond an acceptable amount, played as little defense as you'll see outside of Phoenix, and lost by over a 2-to-1 margin in every quarter but the second.

Normally in a blowout loss, the teams trade buckets in garbage time. Not tonight. Up 88-50 after three, the Nugs kept the pace up with a 33-13 final quarter barrage, as Chis Anderson continued to have his revenge, and the Hornets showed that their bench players shared the starter's commitment to excrement.

NBA teams generally have some heart, and Paul hasn't gone down with a Kobe-esque fade-out no-care effort in an elimination game. But there's a first for everything, and if this is his, Byron Scott should't take too much time in packing up his FEMA trailer. He's lost his team, and considering how good they were just a year ago, that's a terrible thing to lose.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bronco Fan's Year Just Keeps Getting Better

Let's just make this very clear, Bronco Fan: the 2009 season is not going to go well for you. The schedule involves the NFC East, which will roll you. The Chargers get Shawn Merriman back, which means their defense will have some bite. The Chiefs can't be that bad again, especially now that they have a coach that isn't named Herm Edwards. The Raiders... well, OK, there's still the Raiders. Your big move on defense was to bring in a high-priced safety that can't run well enough to do pass coverage anymore. Your big move on offense was to shoot yourself in the head by alienating your franchise quarterback, then to draft a running back when your system has proven that anyone with a pulse can put up numbers in that position. Your coach is responsible for the QB exile, and is way too damned young and arrogant to win at this level.

But on the plus side, you'll also be wearing this for two games next year. Yes, the consensus choice for the worst uniform in sports history, with some kind of Mutant Mustard Man with bumblebee socks. But on the plus side, the colors match what a young child will produce (I change enough diapers to know where I speak).

On some level, you have to wonder if this entire thing is meant to be a psychological stress test on new safety Brian Dawkins. I get that the man is sleeping on a bed of stupid money, and is basically a year or two from retirement, but this can't be what he signed up for, is it? A nice little 8-8 year, maybe a playoff game or two, media mouth jobs giving him the John Lynch Love-In and with Tony Gonzalez leaving KC, Antonio Gates not really being himself anymore and the Raiders being the Raiders, that's not the worst retirement in the world. But instead, he gets to wear these clown clothes. I think the man's going to hurt himself on purpose by Halloween.

But anyway, back to the matter at eye. How bad are these jerseys? The first time the team tried to use them, the players burned them. They might want to try that again this year. Just make sure McDaniels is in the gear when you fire 'em up...

I Can't Say Goodbye To This Man

I just looked in the mirror fellas and I said you know I'm 41 years of age, I've got a little cash stashed away…I'm a proud single daddy no question about that, but it's just one of those things, man, where I just reached a point where at age 41 with about 20 to 25 years left in this business me doing my speaking engagements around the country, me representing the communities specifically the African-American community throughout this country being one of the preeminent voices out there... if this is where I stop, then at age 41, I'm not growing anymore and I couldn't live with that. -- Stephen A. Smith, somehow confusing himself with a civil rights leader, or something
Thank the stones, I was beginning to fear that the man was going to have some dignity without the Mouse's hand up his back. (And really, when it comes to the SAS Puppet, do not take second-best.)

Um, Stephen A.? You know what, I was going to take you to task for being a one-trick minstrel show that made the rest of NBA fandom kind of hard, since the rest of the world just cringed every time you opened your mouth about the Association.

But... QUITE FRANKLY... I miss you! I want to hear the over-the-top outrage on things you probably didn't care less about, the way you'd support and then turn on the flashy dumb moves that Isiah Thomas made, and the way you gave each and every sports fan on the planet an Instant Comedy Go To, since all you had to do was say HOWEVAH or QUITE FRANKLY.

Besides, Obama's the President now. My people need some fools to feel good about themselves, and your people need some to know they can still compete. Come on, TNT, make our man an offer! Everything he says is important!

205 Drop: Top 10 things Yankee Fan does not want to hear right now

The 205 link today is a nice thing about being an A's Fan (yes, there are nice things) is that when the Yankees *or* the Red Sox lose, you're happy.

The down side is that happiness is somewhat tempered by the fact that the other is usually winning when that happens.

But hey, take what you can, right?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rockets-Blazers Game Four Is Yet Another Great Game

Three playoff games in one day decided by three points or less: first time that's happened since 1985. There's a reason why I watch so much hoop, folks -- and it's a simple one. It's really, really good this year.

Take this Western Conference series, for one. Despite coming on at unfortunate times for the Eastern seaboard -- and really, even I am tapped from watching the fourth game of the day here -- it's just compelling hoop, with two wildly athletic teams dueling away at each other.

Houston has lockdown defenders at several positions with Shane Battier and Ron Artest; it also has a mostly awful on the ball guy at center with Yao Ming, but he's damned useful at off-side shot blocking, and a great offensive player. Artest is fascinating by his lonesome; never has an NBA guy had bigger show muscles and less interest in rebounding, but when his jumper is falling, he's one of the forty best players in the league, and a better passer than you'd expect from a psychopath. I've discussed Luis Scola on the blog before, and he's, well, useful. (Think the Spurs would rather have him than Drew Gooden right now?)

As for Portland... you'd think that they'd find Houston to be a good matchup, since the way to beat the Blazers is to exploit the fact that they give Steve Blake starter minutes at the point, and Aaron Brooks wasn't on anyone's radar before this series. But for all of Portland's tasty athleticism and intriguing parts, they live and die by jump shots and don't do enough on defense to create easy scoring opportunities. That's why the town and team spend so much time trying to pump Greg Oden up; he's the only way they go from a 45 to 50 win team to something actually dangerous. But he's not -- what he is, unfortunately, is the second coming of Cookie Monster Stanley Roberts, at least in terms of being an Incredible Fouling Machine -- and they ain't, and I'm kicking myself for not seeing it before the playoffs started.

Tonight, both teams played great, and Portland was up four with ten minutes to play, mostly on the strength of making all of their free throws, while Houston had bricked a few. The first half was rhythm offense, while the second half was grinding half-court offense, and the road team got their lead on second chance points and a surprisingly quiet Houston crowd. It basically came down to which team had the best player -- Houston with Ming, and Portland with the criminally underrated Brandon Roy. But while Ming makes his teammates better (especially Luis Scola), mostly by commanding a constant double-team and getting them easy hoops in the half-court game, Roy does not; he's got that classic hot and cold guard game that gets him to the line and makes him look unstoppable when he's on, and like he's not getting enough help when he doesn't.

The last five minutes of this one was another great finish. Roy made huge shots; the Rockets answered with second-chance opportunities leading to Battier threes. I kept waiting for Bad Artest to show up and screw the pooch, but it didn't happen. Carl Landry made a huge jump shot and got yet another offensive board. In the final minute, it was LaMarcus Aldridge passing up the shot, Blake missing a jumper, and Joel Pryzbilla rockheading a ball into the backcourt, causing a crucial turnover. A Testy miss off a killshot corner three was pulled down by Roy. The Blazers gave it to Roy, who got blocked by Battier while committing a charge against Chuck Hayes, on the floor because Rockets' coach Rick Adelman is smart enough to switch Ming out for defense late. Brooks hit one of two, giving the Blazers another chance, but Travis Outlaw missed from forever. After another 1 for 2 free throw trip, Rudy Fernandez prolonged the suspense with a long three with 2.3 seconds left. Kyle Lowry then added even more suspense by missing the first free throw, then also the second, and Roy's full court heave was after the buzzer and short. Rockets 3, Blazers 1, and that's your first Game Four win in a playoff series for Houston since, well, forever.

I don't see the Rockets winning this in five games; Portland does have heart, and Yao was on the floor forever tonight. But I do see them closing this one out in Game Six, probably in another great game in a post-season that's been just filled with them. Just put on any game, you'll get a good one. (Oh, and ha ha, Paul Allen. I haven't forgotten our little start-up, you turd.)

Blogrolling Never Had A Problem Until He Started Blogging

Jon Pyle, who you've all known and loved (in the Biblical sense) for Pyle of Lists, has a new blog called Decleater. Check it out.

The Onion with the goods on the Jackie Robinson from the Homo League. Come to think of it, isn't Jackie kind of a...

Nick Underhill sits down with Dontrelle Willis. At this point, I'm thinking that Nick's slumming, but your mileage may vary.

YardBarker, aka the people who help keep me in pennies from their ads on this here site, asking Dirty Sanchez the question that Jets Fan really wants to know. In his secret, special place.

Finally, did you know that Milton Bradley never had a problem in his whole life until he started playing baseball? Well, um, gosh Milton... why not stop, then? Oh, right. The great gobs of money. So glad we got that cleared up.

Is there any wonder...

that so many people of my generation are genuinely disturbed, when this was deemed as suitable children's entertainment?

Good luck getting that out of your dreams. I'm off to the medicine cabinet.

Sixers-Magic Game Four

All kinds of worry here in the first half, as the Sixers have (a) shot well from three-point land, (b) gotten a large number of offensive rebounds, (c) forced Orlando turnovers and (d) haven't really scored worth a damn, as the half ends even at 36-36.

Thankfully, Dwight Howard missed some free throws, Hedo Turkoglu continues to look like he left his legs in March, and the first half was as ugly as the series was supposed to be. You'd like to see the underdog and home team have a lead here, and be the clearly better team; if you are going to pull off the upset, at some point you have to actually start to look like the better team, rather than just the even one.

During the halftime, I cook buffalo steaks on the grill and learn that Bea Arthur is dead. It's nearly as random as the play in that first half, really.

Sam Dalembert actually makes a good play early in the third quarter. I had kind of forgotten that he played for the team, really... and then he turned it over again, and all was right with the world.

Early in the third, the Sixers still can't shoot, but the Magic are beginning to heat up, and those eternal doubts that you have when you are the sixth seed start to crop up. No one can score here! The Magic will rain threes for 10 straight quarters and win in six, with blowout wins the rest of the way! And well, when a jump-shooting team is making, it's just that way. The eldest daughter sits next to me playing her Nintendo DS, and I swear, the run is all her fault.

Is it any wonder why Tiger Woods dominates the golfing world, when he gets to talk to animals and drink from magic multi-colored fountains? If I'm another guy on the PGA Tour, I'm calling foul.

We come back from commercial to learn that they make cheese steaks in Philadelphia. Thank you, TNT, I had forgotten.

As the third quarter progresses, my team starts playing with more urgency on offense, but aren't able to sustain a big run, the way they do when they are at their best. Willie Green bricks two free throws -- have I mention how little use I have for Willie Green? -- and the lead stays five as the Magic keep drawing charges. Grr... and this meat grinder continues, with Rashard Lewis causing me no end of worry by waking up for the first time in the series. After yet another Courtney Lee drive to close the quarter, it's Magic 64, Sixers 55, and this series is 12 minutes away from going back to Favorites Control. When you shoot 36% from the field, it's a wonder that you're this close, really.

The fourth starts with missed threes and offensive rebounding, and Lou Williams finally hits after a minute of clock is ran off. Orlando gets three points back easily, with Howard going to the line, blocking a shot and scoring in transition. Once again, my team has to work a lot harder to score than the opponent; this is not new to the franchise's recent history. (Oh, how I long for the team of my youth, with Julius Erving and Moses Malone and Andrew Toney and any number of other guys who could fill it up.) Howard then erases Miller on the defensive end, then follows with a putback slam. It's a 6-point game, but the home team isn't getting stops.

Theo Ratliff picks up his fifth with 7:12 left, and given how little Dalembert has given them this series, that's a big problem. Howard continues to stake his claim as game MVP everywhere but the line, and then Lou Williams makes terrible plays at both ends -- first a turnover, then a late useless foul to give Lewis a three-point play. Just brutal. 10 point game for the Magic with 6:53 left.

Iguodala to Dalembert for a slam, and the forks are kept at bay for a little while longer. The stats say that the Magic are shooting 33% from the field for the quarter, but I can't really believe it. The Shooter Eldest babbles about aliens and monkeys and I blame her, silently, for Rafer Alston hitting a jumper. Miller misses a three, like he should ever try them, and Lee answers with a layup. It's 10 again, the way it's been the entire second half, with less than five minutes left. This series is about to go south. Literally.

Williams with a make from the corner; he has 9 points today, but at least six of them are in the fourth. Lee answers, and man, I'm hating that guy. He has 15 now, all of them back-breaking. Iggy gets to the line; he's got 10 on 3 of 10, and misses from the line; he really needs to get better at that if he's going to take a step up. Williams again from the corner cuts it to 7 after a Lee turnover, and after Alston misses a three, Iggy hits one in transition, and we're suddenly at a a four point game with three minutes left. We are in Fist Pumping Mode Here in the Man Space as once again, My Team Has Heart!

Lewis misses, and Miller takes it all the way; 2 point game, but Turkoglu remembers he's a fourth quarter guy and goes all the way to the hole for a bucket. At least he misses the free throw. Dalembert's fifth foul. Iggy misses a three, which really didn't help. Lee misses, and Miller runs a break and gets to the line on Alston's fourth foul. 88 seconds left, a four point game. Andre makes both, because he's just that kind of man. Two point game.

10-2 run for the home team in the last three minutes. They unfurl their best defensive stand of the game where Dalembert pokes the entry pass away from Howard, a three attempt is blocked, and Howard misses a desperate turnaround at the buzzer.. Miller doesn't get the call and it's 81-79 still. Lewis misses, Dalembert rebounds as my family has some kind of turmoil -- don't they understand it's the end of a playoff game? -- and you're in that situational end of game madness that takes forever and grinds your teeth to sharp edges. 24 seconds left.

You really need to get something good and quick here in case you need to foul... and nothing is better than a slam dunk, which is what Dalembert does after Iggy finds him down low. Tie game, and it's on the defense to force overtime, with 14.8 seconds to go.

Historically, Turkoglu is the Magic's guy here, and.. goddamn it, he delivers. A simple step back three from 27 feet, just canning it over Young, and my hat's off to him, that was just immense. Just over a second left, and it's miracle time to prevent a tied series. Dammit, dammit, dammit. The Magic should not let a shot get off here; it's much better to make the opposition hit a free throw, miss the second and tip in the miss, but that's a hard thing to engineer, especially when with this little time on the clock, the opposition is much more likely to miss a 40 footer. Iggy is fouled while shooting his three, but it's not called and it bangs off the rim. Tie series.

Sigh. Just because I called the Magic to do exactly this -- albeit in five games, not six -- that makes it no easier to take. Off to go punt the cat; and perhaps later, catch the end of Rockets-Blazers. Dammit, dammit, dammit.

But remember, Joe Dumars is still a genius

Here's how much the Cavaliers were worried about the Pistons coming back from a 3-0 deficit to make a series of it today in Detroit... as Mo Williams was leaving the court at the end of the first half with his Cavs up 51-42 and the arena evenly split between traveling Cavs Fans and the Pistons faithful, he actually talked about catching the Hawks-Heat game, since the winner of that tilt is who the Cavs get next.

Let's just say he's not too worried about closing the deal here. Or me, for that matter, seeing how I finished up this post a long time before Game 4 was put to bed.

And, well, why should he be? This Pistons team is as bad as you are going to find in a playoff. It's best frontcourt scorer, Antonio McDyess, left his knees behind in the Clinton Administration. It has guards that can dominate, but rarely integrate. The holdovers from the championship team (Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince) have a hard time going through airports, with the big fork action. And if you want to wonder what this team might look like with a Carmelo Anthony, a Chris Bosh, or any number of other actual basketball players from the Darko Mistake. I realize the Pistons have their ring, but they could still be contending for them had they not boned their pick in a way that makes Portland taking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan (or, shh, Greg Oden over Kevin Durant) look excusable by comparison.

I'm not sure it would have mattered, given the Cavs' ability to turn it up on defense and get points whenever Bron Bron wills it. They'll have to try harder to get past the Hawks-Heat survivor, and they will. But at least they kept us from watching any more Pistons basketball, and for that, all NBA fans -- even, one suspects, Pistons Fan -- thank you.

Ellis and Hobbs

More wheeling and dealing at the NFL Draft, where my Eagles have moved a couple of fifth round picks to the Patriots for starting cornerback and Sheldon Brown Go Away Jersey Ellis Hobbs. Hobbs has been starting for the Pats for years now, and while he hasn't looked anything like a #1 corner despite making good money, he's probably a better option than Publicly Pouting Sheldon, and if nothing else, the team has an absurd number of return options in special teams, with DeSean Jackson and Quentin Demps coming back from last year's team to compete against first round pick Jeremy Macklin and Hobbs.

If you want to think negative about this, there's the fact that Hobbs has trouble with bigger receivers, which hasn't been a strength of the team in recent years. However, it's also something of a misnomer that, at least in the division, this is the biggest worry you'd have. Terrible Owens is in Buffalo, Plaxico Burress is unemployed, and the Redskins go at you with smurfs. The trouble comes outside of the division, where you can easily see Hobbs and Samuel struggling against a Marques Colston, an Antonio Bryant, or, um, that Fitzgerald fellow in Arizona. Not that I'm not still seeing that in my nightmares.

Finally, there's this... I get that this is a good and deep draft, and that cheap rookie talent makes the world go around, especially if the economy starts making NFL teams worry about making payroll. (Unlikely.) But there's something to be said for taking a guy that you know can play in the league over some folks that you are choosing that weren't good enough to be named in the first 100 selections. Just sayin'.

The greatest NBA playoff series ever

I want to hate this Bulls-Celtics series; honestly, I do. With Boston Fan being so damned self-involved, I don't want to watch this; I don't want to get sucked in. And yet, it's just ridiculous.

After a legitimately great Game 1 overtime win in Boston, the Bulls-Celtics series had settled down into a case of Champions Schooling Children, the way that just about every neutral observer might have guessed. Game 2 was a tight game in which Ray Allen got the better of Ben Gordon, and Game 3 was an absolute spanking by the road team.

Today in Chicago, both teams played a game for the ages, going to double overtime and more or less making Cavs-Pistons Game Four unwatched outside of its home markets. You had it all: Actual Unpleasantness between Brad Miller and Big Baby Davis (seriously, the latter has absolutely nothing on Vlade Divac; he was right up there with Soccer Player in terms of going down from minimal contact), astonishing defensive lapses from the young home team, startling clutch shots, etc., etc. Finally the home-town team outlasted the older team in double overtime, 121-118, and we've got a 2-2 series.

Let's start with what the Association's haters and Hockey Fan will notice: the fun of hearing Bulls Fan chant Bull S*it, along with Jeff van Gundy (shockingly!) going in favor of the ugliness. Kudos, also, to the game's refs, who reacted to the Davis Flop by ringing up fouls on the road team; frankly, when your team has a player that does something like that, you should get the next half-dozen calls against you on general principles. (Actual telecast transcript: "Rondo does a good job falling down." Yes, good job, there. That's what basketball should be about -- selling fouls.)

You start with the point guards. Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo are wonderful to watch, and while Rose's game appeals to the purists more, Rondo is the better player, at least this year: when you throw down a triple double with no turnovers, you make up for your lack of a reliable mid-range jumper. Ben Gordon made an unconscionable shot to give the home team the lead with just over 30 seconds to go. Allen replied from distance with just under 10 second left, as the Bulls decided that guarding him at that point in the game might keep them from a longer off-season vacation.

I want to hate this. I'm not a fan of either team. It's not like it's the only good series in the Association this year. It's a first-round series, not a second, third or fourth. It's between two teams that have absolutely no chance of playing for the championship in six weeks. (And before you start, Celtics Fan, your team had Brian Scalabrine playing meaningful minutes today. Next.) At the end of it, I'm still convinced that we're going to have a hard-fought but absolutely predictable Celtics win, more or less how everyone saw this coming before it started.

When I'm watching Kendrick Perkins dueling Sideshow Bob Noah down low, I'm really not thinking that this is something that I'm going to telling my kids about. When I see John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich failing to stop Paul Pierce, I don't think Pierce is going to put this on his highlight reel as one of the defining highlights of his life. When I see Vinny del Negro pacing the sidelines, I don't think Lemur Classic. Sorry.

And yet...

You've got a young team beating on an old one. You've got a champion getting scared out of their jock in the first round. You've got rookies serving notice, live crowds filled with hate, and just enough scumbags on both sides that you expect to see violence before it ends. Watching Kevin Garnett in a suit makes me smile, and if you don't enjoy watching Scalabrine cry over a clear path foul call, you don't have a pulse. It's freaking great.

It's also teeth-rattlingly frustrating, because I'd really like to play the Resentment Card on this. While this is going on, my little 6 Seed That Might (your Philadelphia 76ers) is up 2-1 against the Magic. Unlike the Celtics series, every game has been competitive to the final whistle. Unlike the Celtics' series, the games have seen crazy comebacks (Philly came from 18 down in the first two games to win the first and make the second competitive, and in Game 3, the Magic rallied from down a dozen to make it a single-possession game). In my team's series, there has been two last-second game-winning shots by Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young. You've got the best power player in the Association (Dwight Howard), one of the best three-point shooters (Rashard Lewis), one of the best all-around guard duos (the Andres, Miller and Iguodala), and a potentially emerging second-year man in Young.

And what did the Bad Tooth say about this series? That it was the worst in the East this year, if not the worst playoff matchup in decades. That Philly Fan didn't care about his team, and hated them, because they dared to make the Elton Brand Move, which is something no team's fans could ever forgive, giving how incredibly stupid it was to overpay for a low-post scorer and rebounder for a team that desperately needed low-post scoring in its first -round playoff loss last year. Oh, and just for good measure, he also pissed all over the AI 2000 series against Milwaukee, resurrecting the hoary chestnut that the Milwaukee Bucks' kitten-soft jump-shooting team led by Furious George Karl, Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassels and Allen were robbed, robbed I say, by a team with superior team defense and the clear Most Valuable Player.

Honestly, life is annoying enough for Philly Fan; he gets to hear how wonderful New York History is, how someone else's rivalry just always matters more, how wonderful Boston Success is, and how awful he is, really, for daring to boo people who deserve it, or for caring enough about the outcome of the game to try to influence by making the visiting team's supporters and players uncomfortable.

But none of that matters when it comes to what it is in front of you, which is Celtics 2, Bulls 2... and who knows, maybe the double overtime was just enough extra minutes to finally take the starch out of the champions; the game did take over 3.5 hours, after all. We Shall See.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Things I've learned while in a diseased state

Last night after my poker game wound up (lost in the tournament on pairs versus overs, lost in the cash game late on some donkey plays), I was puttering around and playing a computer game. I then felt a stronger reaction than usual to the bad poker playing regrets, and have spent the time since dealing with illness and staring dully at NBA playoff games, NFL draft coverage, and my fantasy baseball teams, all while clutching my stomach and moaning. Good times! It's also been long enough now that I can actually sit up and type without feeling like I'm going to see that Friday Night Salsa again. Ow. Owwww. Owwwwww....

> Avery Johnson might have the most annoying voice in television history.

Actually, scratch that. Maybe just the most annoying person. Even when the guy is saying something I agree with on the Lemur's coverage, I kind of want to hit him in the face with a brick.

> When you find yourself switching off from what might be the most important day of the year for your NFL team to 2007 poker highlights... well, let's just say that when you're ill, the last people you want to spend time with are Chris Berman and Mel Kiper, Jr.

> HDTV is doing Nancy Lieberman no favors. And the Lemur knows it to near comical levels, as they have her turn halfway around and step out of the shot during interviews, and cut away as fast as possible on her little quotes. It's almost endearing, really.

> When Tony Parker, Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant want to score, they do. And yet the Spurs have so little else -- basically the last dregs of Tim Duncan and a superb coaching job to make guys like Matt Bonner, Bruce Bowen and Drew Gooden appear to be part of a playoff rotation -- that the Mavs are winning this series, going away.

> The ugliest fan in the NBA is Utah Fan, and on some level, I really enjoy the annual show of Bryant sticking it to them hard. You live in Utah, your beloved dead owner was a homophobic turd, and watching your bitter old man coach lose is always serious fun. But by all means, tell me how Deron Williams is better than Chris Paul some more, and how much you respect Matt Harpring. That's always fun. (At least Sloan admits that they have no answer for him.)

> If Lamar Odom got to play against the Jazz every game, he'd be an All-Star. Carlos Boozer is the guy with the paycheck and the statistics, but Odom just eats him, and every other forward the Jazz throw at him, alive.

> New Orleans did everything possible in the last minutes against Denver to end the series by going down 3-0, but Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups couldn't seal the comebacking deal. Normally, you'd still give the edge to the Nuggets to close it out, because the Hornets keep giving minutes and shots to Peja Stojakavoic, and he's utterly terrible right now. But it's not as if the Nugs don't have their own chuckleheads on the roster, or any kind of playoff track record of success (Melo has never been out of the first round).

> Rooting for the Raiders must be like caring for an aged relative that refuses to, well, accept their limitations. Today, they spent their first round pick on a WR with the best time in the 40 yard dash (rather than, say, the best WR), and their second round pick on a guy that even the Lemur had no film of. His name is Michael Moore, and I was able to find a picture of him on the Internets, which is posted above.

Seriously, at what point can the NFL take this team over and make Al Davis go to the home? (Oh, and thanks once again to them for allowing the Eagles to have a playoff run last year. Good on ya.)

> Speaking of my Eagles, I'm a little puzzled as to why you take a WR in the first round when you (a) have reasonable depth at the position, (b) probably need a running back and tight end more, and (c) might have a glaring problem at cornerback if Sheldon Brown is going into Operation Shutdown Mode. But, well, they know more than I do about such things, and when your draft doesn't make the Lemur heads assume the position (ooh, Mark Sanchez, your leadership skills and intangibles make me weak in the knees!), you are probably doing something right.

> Not sports and all, but is there anything that shows the utter irrelevance and navel-gazing ways of the Meedja than the relentless Obama's First 100 Days coverage? I'm on board with the guy, and even I don't give what passed out of me this morning. But by thunder, there's nothing that's going to stop this wanking, so grab it with both hands and go, you utter... well, moving on.

Friday, April 24, 2009

205 Drop: Top 10 reasons to envy the old

Today's link is another in a series of happy moments where I stare down the barrel of mortality and tell all of you punks how it's all going to hell in a handbasket. Good times!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clue. Less.

"They're off to a very good attendance start. One team is averaging 44,000 -- the Yankees are at 44 -- and the Metsies are averaging 37,000. So it would be hard if I went to Pittsburgh or somewhere today and tell them, gee, you know, those two New York clubs are really struggling."
Bud, let me explain this slowly, using small words.

New stadiums in MLB+ markets should not, under any circumstance, have issues in filling any part of the stadium in the first *year* of operations.

The fact that both of the NY franchises are not getting those seats sold right now, when they are flush with curiosity for the new yards, is not good. Especially with both teams showing sizable flaws that could take them out of a pennant race (which would be, for a NY hater like myself, just fantastic). By the way, those flaws would be the starting pitching rotation for both teams.

And who said the recession was no fun?

205 drop: Top 11 things I've learned from watching the NBA Playoffs on TNT

Sorry for the lateness of the link, but it was Take Your Daughter To Work Day, which quickly became Figure Out Just What The Hell To Get Your Vomiting Daughter To Home Day. All kinds of happiness, really. It's a good list, if only for the fact that the word "minstrel show" is used.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The series the NBA wanted you to watch begins

Tonight in Atlanta, the Eastern series that everyone wanted to see went to Game Two after such a terrible Game One, many had lost enthusism for the whole thing. But instead of showing up and performing like they had little if any idea of how to play this game of basketball, the visitors from South Beach rained down threes en route to a big and consistent lead, and played a dramatically better game in tying the series up.

(Why the bird photo? It's the Hawks mascot, which went off script and delayed the game. Feel free to drawn your own parallels here, really.)

Atlanta is fed by the best-kept secret in the NBA -- i.e.., the only sports fans in Atlanta that are worth anything -- to stay in it, and heaven knows this Heat team isn't bright enough to put the hammer down. When your team loses track of the 24-second clock, that's bad. When they do it out of a timeout, that's telling. A lot. But when you shoot nearly 60% from the arc, you should win, and will. It was 108-93, but a hell of a lot more entertaining than that.

Beyond a great number of made long shots, why was Miami a semblance of a basketball team tonight? Credit will go to Dwayne Wade for his 33-4-4, including a ridiculously lucky banked three (Wade in the post-game interview: "I had to pull something out my butt") with one second on the clock. But he battled foul trouble and wasn't on the floor for some of the biggest moments of the fourth quarter.

You also have to give credit to Jermaine O'Neal. The almost universally disdained starting center for Miami gave them 19 and 5 with 4 blocks, one of them an immense stuff on a fast break for Flip Murray that would have torn the roof off the building during a Hawk run.

You can also throw some love to Daequan Cook, who made 20 points and 6 of the Heat's 15 three-pointers to give the visitors a huge edge in bench scoring (37 to 20). Udonis Haslem also made two huge buckets to keep them afloat during the Heat run, had his own monster block on Murray, and picked up a couple of big boards to kill clock. Wade was great, but tonight, he also had teammates.

For the Hawks, until the last three minutes when they more or less went on auto-pilot and let the final score creep, they just didn't seem like the worse team tonight; just one that wasn't very bright. The knucklehead plays -- dumb fouls, missed free throws, careless turnovers and wide-open shooters -- just overwhelmed their crowd and athleticism. But land o'goshen, they are just absurdly athletic, and their crowd is crazy into it. There is no way this series isn't going deep, because Miami can't shoot like that every night, and Atlanta can't make that many mistakes.

And maybe this series really isn't all that meaningful in the long run, seeing as how Cleveland lurks in the background to just out trump either of these squads... but this Wade guy? You should watch him. He's good. Same with Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith when his brain is in his head, and a load of other players who are dynamite in the open court. There's a reason everyone wanted to watch this one; it's amazing, even if flawed.

How You Lose

Tonight in Orlando, the Sixers missed a chance to put a hammerlock on their series with Orlando, and the home-court Magic knotted the series at 1-1.

If you want to be positive about it for the road team, there is this.

> They came back again from 18 down to make a run, this time cutting it to 6;

> Dwight Howard didn't eviscerate them this time around, limiting to him to 11 and 10 and 30 fouled-out minutes

> Andre Miller, who has to dominate his matchup over the course of the series if the Sixers will steal it, took down a 30-7-3 line

> Thaddeus Young looked as good as he has since getting hurt, with 20 on 9 of 15 shooting

> Andre Iguodala continued to come up big with a 21-8-7 line, shooting 50% from the floor with 3 steals

If you want to feel less happy, there's this.

> Howard fouled out with 3 minutes left and the game in the balance, and the teams more or less traded buckets after that

> Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic's most important player in tight games due to their reliance on him in the fourth quarter, went 16-6-3 and also looked the best he has since injury

> They haven't had an answer for Courtney Lee in two games, and Lee's young enough that he might not know that he shouldn't show up on the road

> The Magic only shot 6 of 23 from three point land and still won by 9, thanks to a 22 to 12 advantage in made free throws

> They got out-rebounded despite Howard being in foul trouble, and continue to get next to nothing from Sam Dalembert

> The bench, after a huge Game 1 led by Donyell Marshall's fourth quarter heroics, had 12 points on 5 for 20 shooting from six players, none of whom had a good night, and finally

> It's the playoffs. You lose the game, you don't get to feel happy.

Game Three is in Philadelphia on Friday, and with Flyer Fever at low ebb, maybe they get a crowd. I'm not sure they've done enough to get over the skepticism. But in any event, if they lose that game, they'll lose the series. (And if you're noticing certain parallels to last year's Doom With Honor first round exit against Detroit, shh. We're trying to stay positive here.)

Ads In This Size Rule