Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spurs - Thunder Game 3 Top 20 Takeaways

20) Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr would have loved to play with Boris Diaw, because fat guys who don't play defense and don't show up on the road are such a joy to play with

19) Manu Ginobili can still look incredulous at home team ref calls, because he has the innocence and long-term memory of a little boy

18) Kendrick Perkins finally found a Spur he can guard -- Ginobili, one one, with a blocked shot in the most improbable play of the playoffs to date

17) Tim Duncan now has more blocked shots than any player in NBA playoff history, which is nice, in that it's one more reason to forget Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

16) When Kevin Durant only outscores Thabo Sefalosha by three points, your immediate thought is not Thunder Rout

15) Gregg Popovich might be the only coach in the Association to expand his rotation in the playoffs, rather than contract it

14) Shockingly, the Thunder bench players were better here than in San Antonio

13) Carrying the ball is OK if you are Tony Parker

12) It is no longer possible to call a clear path foul in the NBA in less than five minutes

11) You will forgive Bulls Fan for really hating the fact that Sefalosha isn't wearing his laundry

10) For the first time in this playoff year, Duncan acted his age

9) Even while making shots, Stephen Jackson continues to show why, exactly, he couldn't get off the bench in Milwaukee

8) Sefalosha had six steals in a playoff game, which gave the national audience the opportunity to hear the name Sedale Threatt

7) When you are getting bailout bank shots at the end of the clock, you are not losing a home playoff game

6) Paddy Mills exists just to prove that wearing Spurs laundry does not immediately turn you into a good shooter

5) Now that the Spurs have finally lost a game for the first time in 50 days, we can rule them out as the best team in NBA history

4) We actually saw Cole Aldrich and DaJuan Blair enter the game, which is to saw, the D League took over with four minutes left

3) I can't believe that the ECF was more compelling than this series for a second straight night

2) Please note, Laker Fan, that when the Thunder scored its 100th point, their fans did not let loose with an unholy surge of excitement for a borderline food product, and their team is still alive in the playoffs

1) If OKC can do this again in Game Four, we will officially have a series

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Celtics - Heat Game Two Top 30 Takeaways

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad KG
30) At some point when Rajon Rondo is dominating, you have to wonder what his game would be like if his jump shot was a consistent positive

29) LeBron James had one rebound in his first 26 minutes, which is the secret sauce of how to limit his effectiveness

28) You will be shocked, shocked to learn that a game after picking up a bunch of technicals, the Celtics got the better of the officiating

27) Dwyane Wade blocking Ray Allen in the open court felt inevitable seconds before it happened

26) Boston built a 15-point lead that in no way felt like much more than an inconvenience

25) When Miami plays without a point guard, they still generally play with Wade, who is more of one than 15 other teams have

24) In the first 33 minutes, the Boston bench scored 2, count 'em, two, points

23) The James punch block leading to the Wade three-point play with 95 seconds left in the third quarter is the epitome of this Heat team

22) In the time that you took to read this, Greg Stiesma committed another foul

21) The Garnett make at the end of the third stopped the avalanche, at least for the moment

20) Rondo is going to get bench time in this series when he begs for it

19) No one in the history of the Association takes a cheap shot and then raises his hands as if innocent faster than Kevin Garnett

18) If Rondo's never going to leave the floor, Miami really needs to sacrifice players and press him on every possession

17) Paul Pierce's defensive goaltend with 6:40 left was so blatant, even Boston Fan agreed with the call

16) Miami's failure to get any meaningful Celtic in foul trouble allowed Doc Rivers to go monster minutes with his starters

15) James' troubles at the free throw line are a strong indicator towards any Heat loss

14) Battier's corner three to tie it with 130 seconds left was the first time he's ever hit a shot like that in a Final Four series, which means he must be clutch or something

13) The Heat gambled and lost for a steal, leading to Allen's tying three, and good God, haven't we seen that move a thousand times before

12) The Heat players were 10 for 48 in close and late situations with 30 seconds left in regulation, and ended it as 10 for 50

11) Why James doesn't give the refs a chance to bail him out on his inevitable end of game miss, we'll never know

10) Had James made either of the clear path foul shots in the fourth, this game ends in regulation for Miami

9) Rondo's performance tonight might make everyone reconsider the idea that he's not the best point guard in the world

8) Wade got away with smacking Rondo on the head, then got an and-one on a leg kick, as Mavs Fan nodded their heads with screaming Celtic Fan

7) After this series is over, the Celtics won't have to break up the Big 3; they can just send them to a hospice for exhaustion and overuse

6) Wade only took 15 shots in 40 minutes on a night where James was struggling with his shot, because Erik Spoelstra is a super-genius

5) While I well and truly hate both of these teams, both showed incredible resilience and gave us an amazing game tonight

4) Pierce left early, possibly to find a magic foul reducing wheelchair

3) Boston showed tonight that they can make this a series, but it's such a thin and old team, it's still hard to see how

2) The world really wasn't prepared for an ECF game to be the best one yet in the final four

1) I don't think I've ever seen a better effort in a losing effort than what Rondo did tonight, and that includes the Dominique Wilkins - Larry Bird battle

Top 10 Ways The Celtics Are Going To Increase Their Physicality Against The Heat

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick...
After last night's game one beatdown, the Boston Celtics have vowed that Game Two will be different, with point guard Rajon Rondo saying that some of the Heat players need to "hit the deck." Using our incredible deep sources, we've found out the Celtics' plans...

10) Rondo planning to dislocate Dwyane Wade's arm in obvious vengeance

9) Kevin Garnett to eat more garlic in pre-game to give his in-game woofing some teeth

8) Greg Stiesma to up his awkward flailing from Spastic White Man to Drunk Uncle at Third Hour of the Wedding Reception

7) Ryan Hollins to start throwing clotheslines on out of bounds plays, rather than his usual pulling guard move

6) Ray Allen to use voodoo to give the Heat ankles like his

5) All players and coaches to make sure that every technical foul ends with a chair shot

4) Paul Pierce to ride past the Heat bench in his Magic Wheelchair and bust up some toes

3) Sasha Pavlovic could definitely throws some bricks in their direction, assuming that the direction is fairly generous in size

2) Keyon Dooling to give them career advice and the number of his least favorite travel agent

1) Whatever it is, it will sure be spooky, veteran and all kinds of ill-tempered and mean, and far more successful than what those younger, more athletic and actually nastier Pacers did a round ago

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thunder - Spurs Game Two Top 20 Takeaways

20) The Spurs are really good, but when Tony Parker is bringing the "A" game, they get closer to historic

19) If basketball assists were like hockey, with up to two given out, the Spurs would have double their number of assists in nearly every game

18) Russell Westbrook's Hero Mode was so obvious, it made the TNT announcers blanche

17) Tim Duncan's second quarter stuff on Serge Ibaka was from at least a decade ago, and kind of jaw-dropping

16) Honestly, there hasn't been a big man in the playoffs that played anywhere near Duncan's level right now

15) The Spurs halftime show, a guy hitting buckets, wouldn't have drawn change in a New York subway station

14) When Boris Diaw is settling down threes and then blowing by his man to get to the rim, you aren't stealing a road playoff game

13) On the Parker 3 that pushed the lead to 20, the Spurs point guard had enough time to order a sandwich, and the Thunder looked like they were taking a standing 8 count

12) After a turnover leading to a Harden transition hoop to cut the lead to 16, Gregg Popovich took the angriest timeout you ever did see, and tore Parker a new one, just because he's that kind of unceasing hardass

11) Scott Brooks took a technical when his intentional foul on Tiago Splitter wasn't called right away, because Scott Brooks doesn't really understand how intentional fouls work

10) Spurs Fan does not appreciate intentional fouling, which is one of your bigger goose / sauce / gander moments

9) NBA refs really should just hand out an indiscriminate number of technicals to whatever team starts intentionally fouling

8) I'm not sure about you, but I kind of love the undisguised contempt that Popovich has for the end of quarter interview

7) Ginobili hits more off-foot insanity than anyone outside of a HORSE hustler

6) Say this for Westbrook; he does not stop trying for anything

5) Laker Fan took some grim satisfaction in Derek Fisher's awful night

4) I love these teams and this series, but someone needs to do something about all of the guys flopping for calls

3) This is the James Harden we all fell in love with, and the fifth foul where he took a shot to the face from Manu was kind of heartbreaking

2) Ginobili's killshot three, and the Thunder not bothering to foul late, killed that Thunder late cover bet that worked so well in Game One

1) At this point, if you gave me the Spurs at 3-1 to end the playoffs unbeaten, I might take it

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celtics - Heat Game One Top 30 Takeaways

30) The first 4 minutes, which saw 8 total points and translates to a 60-48 final, should let everyone know that the East Is Least

29) In going from Elton Brand to Rony Turiaf, Kevin Garnett should really step up in productivity

28) There's a reasonable argument to be made that says that Ray Allen is no longer ever a quality NBA bench player

27) On LeBron James' first steal and slam, no Celtic crossed half court to contest, which made me wonder why he didn't just try the straight on 3 first

26) Miami's athleticism is such an obvious advantage, it seems odd that it isn't apparent on every play

25) If Joel Anthony is going to have utility, this series isn't going long

24) This game was so dull early, the ESPN analysts started talking about pant colors

23) Boston scored 11 points in the first quarter and looked about as good as you might imagine doing it

22) Mike Miller hit a couple of three pointers and grabbed a few offensive boards, and when that happens, this team gets a double digit lead with a quickness

21) Garnett scored 13 of the Celtics first 21 points, which would be more entertaining if it happened in less than 16 minutes of game time

20) Garnett, Rondo and Rivers picked up a technical foul for being themselves, which is to say, they were all deserved

19) I'd have more to say about this game, but the paint on my walls started to seem really interesting by comparison

18) After 21 minutes of ugly, the Celtics drew back to a 2-point game, because that's what's going to happen for this entire series

17) You'd think that, by now, opponents would know not to leave Paul Pierce by himself, or to leave the Celtics hanging around

16) Say this for Miami Fan: they really know how to bring the energy of a preseason game to a playoff to throw off the opponent

15) If you like 90 foot passes for layups, there really only is the Heat

14) The Celtics seemed more interested in fighting the refs tonight, more than the Heat

13) You have to love the clearly audible F-bomb that happened in this one, in that it was a little bit entertaining and unexpected, unlike the rest of the game

12) James blocking Rondo with 3:20 left in the third was only a little bit porn-tastic

11) It's going to be fun to listen to Boston Fan pule about the refs in this one, because they might actually have cause for once, even though they got blown out

10) Good ball movement, when it ends in a mid-range jumper for Udonis Haslem, is not really good ball movement

9) The Celtics seem, at least from the media coverage, to be the only team in the NBA that might break up their team in the off-season

8) I'd kind of hoping that both teams can play better than this, because it was all kinds of dull, really

7) When the Miami offense turns into Spent Guy Misses A Corner Three, they aren't that intimidating

6) Wade took this game over on both ends, but to be honest, when you get as little lift as the Cs get, blocking shots should happen a lot

5) James clowned Garnett with 3:44 left on an offensive board, because he really does care about having America like him again

4) James is the only guy in the NBA who can throw down a 32-13-3 and make you think he's had an ordinary game

3) When Allen and Pierce combine to shoot 6 for 25, the Celtics aren't beating a lottery team, let alone the defending conference champions

2) Miami Fan leaves early, regardless of what's going on in the game, and seeing how his team never trailed, maybe they have a point

1) If we are all very lucky, there won't be many more games of this

Who's Cheating Who?

Since I haven't written about baseball for awhile, let's take a quick moment and revisit a big story from earlier this year. Here's the OPS of a mystery player. I'll keep this to just age and OPS, to keep things simple.

2007 - 24 - 1.004
2008 - 25 - .888
2009 - 26 - .937
2010 - 27 - .866
2011 - 28 - .994
2012 - 29 - .995

Pretty damned consistent, and elite, right? Well, sure: it's Ryan Braun, the controversial 2011 MVP, the guy who skated on a 50-game steroid suspension this last winter under what many people consider to be a technicality.

And, well, I'm going to add something else to the mix here. Braun's games played, from when he became a regular.

2008 - 151
2009 - 158
2010 - 157
2011 - 150
2012 -- 44 (out of a possible 47)

So, we've got a guy who hasn't shown any noticeable performance difference from last year, when his detractors feel like he was on the juice. We also have a guy who, unlike past abusers, hasn't seemed prone to the ordinary aches and pains of the needle boys. We've also got a guy who doesn't seem to be roided out when you just look at him, not that this is a big indicator, really. (Oh, and while we're popping bubbles of zombie dumbness, please note that Braun's performance is remarkably unchanged from the years when he's doing the job with Prince Fielder behind him, and this year, when it's all kinds of folks.)

So, and here's the funny part... is there a point when everyone who went crazy on this guy, demanded that he give the MVP trophy back, and spat venom to the skies that he was a cheating cheater cheater... admits they, well, might have possibly been wrong, and that he could possibly have been innocent beyond the technicality?

See, that's the problem with the current reality of steroids: as soon as you are presumed guilty, you will be that way for the rest of your days. Braun's going to be a steroid cheat for non-Brewer non-fantasy owners for the rest of his days. Dodger Fan, and Kemp's crowd, is always going to think that there man is one MVP award shy of where he should be. (And by the way, I kind of agree with them: Kemp's 2011 was similar or better in a far more difficult home park for hitters, and I've never really gotten the gist of how the best player and the most valuable player are different things, seeing how the best player award doesn't exist.)

Whether, well, he's a cheat or not.

Oh, and here's a fun spanner in the works that I picked up when I was doing the image search for something to go with this little note...

Type in "Ryan Braun Cheat", and Google will suggest "Ryan Braun Cheating Jew."

So maybe there's a little bit more to this, hmm?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thunder - Spurs Game One Top 20 Takeaways

20) Russell Westbrook stuffed Tony Parker, then ran a one-man break and scored, in one of those plays that only he can make

19) If the Thunder are going to force as many turnovers as they did in the first quarter, the Spurs might actually lose a game this playoff

18) Surprising no one, Kendrick Perkins got into early foul trouble, and felt personally aggrieved

17) Steve Kerr posited that a small bird fell out of James Harden's beard, as if the bird would have to be small

16) Both teams showed rust early, which meant the game was only 3X more watchable than any Celtics game

15) Manu Ginobili's buzzer beating three at the end of the first quarter was unholy, and showed James Harden that he is in no way interested in conceding the title of Best Sixth Man

14) Thabo Sefalosha played much of the first half as he was better than his backup, and looks highly relevant for the first time in a long time

13) The Spurs are going to defend Durant anywhere on the floor, which means he's going to have to drive and make, rather than catch and shoot

12) Neither team rained down threes, which is the only reason this one wasn't well over 100 in terms of pace

11) Just to needle Laker Fan a little more, Derek Fisher shot the lights out

10) Tiago Splitter whiffed a free throw so badly, it looked like he was throwing a circle change

9) It doesn't exactly scream out anything good for DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin that Tim Duncan was uncomfortable tonight against the Thunder bigs

8) Gregg Popovich told his team that he wanted some nasty, which seemed a little Freudian, really

7) Tony Parker wasn't very good tonight, but his make and draw of Perkins' fifth was immense

6) Harden's really going to have to wait until Game 3 to get the calls that Ginobili got on him tonight

5) I'm kind of guessing that Serge Ibaka said something horrific to Scott Brooks, given his lack of floor time in the fourth as the Spurs went big in the paint

4) Ginobili's ball fake and make with 1:57 left made Durant look like Elmer Fudd

3) If Manu had played any of the regular season games with the Thunder, people would not be calling this a toss-up series

2) In the final analysis of this game, the Spurs just found another gear and made the adjustments to win, with Popovich over Brooks being the Spurs' clearest advantage

1) If you are counting, that's 9-0 for the Spurs in the playoffs and counting

Your Worthless NBA Conference Finals Predictions

Boston vs. Miami

Like every other league, there's a multitude of things wrong with the NBA -- Michael Jordan owns a franchise when he hasn't shown the ability to own a hot dog cart, the officiating is wildly erratic, David Stern hasn't been euthanized after the lockout or the Chris Paul screw up -- but the single biggest problem is this: more people are going to watch this hairpull of a series than the immensely better Western Conference match up.

You see, these players are Personalities, dammit, and Personalities Matter. Will LeBron James lend himself to more psychoanalysis? Will Rajon Rondo have postpartum depression after the Game Seven delivery against the Sixers? I have 2 or 3 more of these jokes lined up, but it's all too depressing, and ESPN has already started a 14-part series on how body language and 1980s movie references will decide this, and how slow game pace and hard fouls is the basketball fan equivalent of red meat and beer.

It is, of course, all bullsquat, all a media experience of peeing down your back and telling you it's raining. But that doesn't really answer the question of which team will win, why, and in how long, which is the point of the post, after all.

Miami, because they are much better, in five.

Oh, you wanted more?

The Heat are younger and more rested. James and Dwayne Wade will keep Rajon Rondo from controlling the game, and when he doesn't, the Celtics do not win. Boston's bench is as bad as we've ever seen for a Final Four team. The Celtics do not have home court, which they have needed in their first two series. Miami could get back Chris Bosh in this series, and Bosh has played well in the series last year. Boston does not rebound, or take care of the basketball, well enough go keep the Heat out of those deadly Globetrotter-esque runs that have been their hallmark in the James-Wade Era.

I could, of course, be very wrong about this: Miami gagged two games against the Pacers a week ago and looked like they might be spiraling down. If they do that here, the correction won't come as easily, and all of the crazed doubts and silliness will begin again.

But as likely as that seems to happen, this is still a lopsided matchup on athleticism, youth, rest, health and home court. It shouldn't be close. And the sooner it ends, the better for our eyes and sanity.

Oklahoma City vs. San Antonio

First things first: this isn't a toss-up series, no matter how much people want to say it is. One of these teams has many players with multiple rings, crazy depth and home court, along with a few more days of rest. The other is younger, more athletic, with bigger stars and, possibly, a better closing five. That isn't really a toss up, because in the NBA, the old guys win toss ups.

San Antonio should win this series, because they've been playing much better ball, and have rarely even been tested. And while OKC has played better opponents, the Lakers aren't that much better than the Clippers, and the past their prime Mavs were as willing to leave the tournament as the Jazz.

To pick the Thunder, you need to believe that Russell Westbrook will own Tony Parker and Danny Green, one week after both men turned Chris Paul into something ordinary. You need to think that Kevin Durant will get past Gregg Popovich's defensive schemes and waves of quality defenders, that Serge Ibaka will be relevant when Boris Diaw takes him away from the paint, that Kendrick Perkins will stay on the floor long enough to disrupt Tim Duncan, that James Harden, at 22, is smart and cagey enough to overcome Manu Ginobili.

All of that isn't, well, a toss up. It's a half dozen small advantages and incremental edges that should prevent the matchup that everyone wants t0 see -- James vs. Durant in the battle to see who's the best in the world, while Westbrook and Wade actually decide things. Instead, we'll see Duncan and the Spurs end James in the Finals for the second time, and for San Antonio to be a popular team for the first time, well, ever.

But all of that is, well, getting ahead of ourselves, and the hopefully long series that will actually decide the NBA crown, and whether or not OKC can set themselves up as the next empire, or if the Spurs will add one more jewel to Duncan's crown as, perhaps, the best big man of his era, and maybe even forever. And the fact this assessment may come as some kind of surprise to anyone...

Just tells you, really, how invested we are in personalities, rather than wins. Me, I'm going to watch the games.

Spurs in seven.

Year to date: 10-2

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sixers - Celtics Game Seven Top 30 Takeaways

30) The Celtic cheer leaders have neon light up pom poms, which makes the rest of their stripper attire seem tasteful by comparison

29) Paul Pierce can draw fouls while traveling and screaming, which is definitely a veteran skill

28) If you are employed by ESPN as an analyst and do not give athletes and organizations a lot of credit, you will be fined

27) Elton Brand was huge early to keep this a game, and seemed to get younger in every game of this series... but he's not, well, a championship level starter

26) The Celtics are so good at getting injured, Rondo nearly did it to himself on an unguarded layup

25) The refs actually were giving up touch fouls tonight in the first half, which sometimes happens in Game Sevens, mostly when the refs are as nervous as the players

24) Ryan Hollins' foul on Lavoy Allen would have been a flagrant if Allen was a guard

23) No one seems to be able to grasp the idea that the Sixers might get to the line more now because the refs no longer think they suck

22) Andre Iguodala smacked Kevin Garnett in the face, which was fun

21) The Sixers' offensive philosophy seemed to be Find Ray Allen's Guy And Have Him Shoot

20) Garnett blowing a wide-open layup that was denied by age made the announcers, and me, giggle

19) Seeing how the game seven was in Boston, we got history lessons, but not very much Andrew Toney, the most forgotten great player in NBA history

18) Boston Fan knows how to chant obscenities on live television, which is always fun

17) Evan Turner's first bucket came in the third quarter, which isn't what you'd hope for, but that described a lot of his game tonight

16) Philadelphia's half court defense in the third quarter more or less meant that the first 20 seconds of every Boston possession didn't happen

15) One of the more encouraging things from this playoff run has been the fact that Lavoy Allen really does seem like a positive rotation big man, at least on defense

14) The Celtics kept missing from the arc, which meant this kept being a game, but as soon as that stopped, all margin for error was gone

13) Pierce is really good at strait-jacketing guys to prevent and one opportunities

12) On Ray Allen's second three pointer, Garnett could have been called for offensive holding, rather than just a moving pick

11) Thaddeus Young drew Pierce's sixth foul with 4:16 left as Boston Fan absolutely freaked out, but it was a clear and easy call and seemed to inspire Green anyway

10) As soon as Pierce fouled out, you knew that makeup calls were coming for Green, and Brand's fifth certainly qualified

9) Turner falling asleep on Rondo's penetration is, you hope, something he'll outgrow one day

8) When you are getting bailout bombs from a point guard that's known for his inability to shoot, you are going to win a home playoff game

7) At the end of this series, the difference between these teams is just Rondo, and nothing else, but the depressing thing is Rondo is the only Celtic that isn't on the downside of his career

6) For the Sixers to win this game, they really needed to shoot the ball, um, worth a damn, which doesn't really describe 35%

5) The Celtics shot two more free throws and had six more makes, which is more than a little of the difference in this one

4) Having one more turnover than your opponent, when you've made your bread from having a lot less, is not recommended

3) Holiday's 15/3/9 sounds a lot better than his 5 for 17, but it's hard to be mad at someone who tried like mad, was his team's second or third best player, and is all of 21 years old

2) This Celtics team plays the Heat tough, but it's hard to see how they can win four games when Allen's on half an ankle, and Wade and James should be able to make Rondo lose his best player on the floor status

1) While I'm sad to see my laundry go, and really depressed by the fact that Boston Fan is happy, I'm kind of OK with the Heat crushing the Celtics, rather than the Sixers

Friday, May 25, 2012

Everyone Involved With Orlando And Charlotte Have Done Lost Their Minds

Now, perhaps this is all just Internet tomfoolery here, but two quick rumors need to be noted.

1) The Orlando Magic actually considered making Shaquille O'Neal their new GM, and

2) Jerry Sloan would consent, on some level, to being the coach of the Charlotte Hornets.

Now, um, the first.

Orlando, didn't Shaq do enough damage to your franchise when he left the first time?

I've watched the NBA on TNT all year long. I'm not sure that I'd trust Shaq with a lunch order, let alone my franchise. He did not succeed in the NBA on conditioning; he succeeded on freakish athletic ability. His teams, when they lost in the playoffs, fell like redwoods, with many a sweep at the hands of what would appear to be similar, or even inferior, talent. What he says in public, on panels, betrays no great intellect; the TNT show would be vastly superior without him. The track record of NBA stars turned GMs is shoddy at best; for every Joe Dumars title, there's a Darko signing, for every Larry Bird award, there's the utter devastation that Kevin McHale rained down on Minnesota. And didn't Orlando just run off another ex-NBA big man, anyway?

Rather, this seems to be entirely about one thing: seeing if this will keep Dwight Howard. Like one man makes a franchise, or makes one that actually wins more than regular season games. When Orlando made its run, it did so with a deep roster of three point shooters and reasonable defense; when they fell apart, it was because the back-end talent on the roster had atrophied, especially on non-Howard related defense.

Oh, and the big man is currently hurt, and might not be the same when he gets back. Especially if he doesn't rehab things well. What's needed here is a Sam Presti-level of geek value, a Houston Renaissance of found value, and a whole better than its parts trade of Howard to create a team with a new identity. And into all of that, you'd bring in a carnival sideshow, a novelty signing, an utterly inexperienced man who has never dealt, on this level, with agents or owners or media or hiring a coach...

Well, I doubt it's going to happen, or ever was in danger of happening. But you have to admire, really, the ability of Magic Management to debase themselves for our amusement. And speaking of debasement...

Really, Jerry Sloan, you'd go to work for Michael Jordan's utter and irrefutable trainwreck team in the backwash of the ACC?

Didn't the Push Off To Win do you enough damage? Aren't you, well, older than just about anyone else involved in the NBA, with the possible exception of Harvey Pollack? Have you noticed how the Hornets have the worst talent in the league, how MJ has shown no ability in doing anything to attract or inspire talent, how free agents regard playing for Mr. Lockout with about as much appetite as playing in the Third World?

I get that Sloan is a big enough egotist to think he can succeed in any environment, and that after time away from the game, he'd be up for taking just about any gig. I also get that he thinks that he can replicate the late era Jazz teams with his system, draft Euros who have no idea what kind of hole they are walking into, and that the Eastern Conference, at least, keeps him from that recurring Kobe Nightmare he's been living for the past 15 years. But if he couldn't make things work with Deron Williams, who is at least good, how is he supposed to get anything out of DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker?

No, this is just a consequence-free salary grab, a few more million and the loving tongue baths of NBA writers who will regard anything over 12-70 as further proof of his genius, and Jordan just slipping into found money for a year or two, until Sloan can stand no more.

It's sad, but then again, so is everything else connected with Jordan for the past, what, 15 years now?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heat - Pacers Game Six Top 10 Takeaways

10) Both teams stopped complaining about the refs, technicals and flagrant fouls long enough to actually shoot the ball well

9) Pacer Fan chanted "He's A Flopper" at Dwyane Wade, since "He's Got A Ring" or "You Just Killed Us" would have just made their own players feel sad

8) I think we're all kind of depressed that Erik Spoelstra and Frank Vogel didn't throw down

7) Shane Battier went back to not being able to put it in the ocean, and the Heat, not surprisingly, went back to looking like a team that might actually be able to lose a game

6) David West knows his role, and that's to be the go to guy on a team that won't make it out of the second round

5) The narrative of LeBron James is the chokingest choker in chokendom kind of takes a hit when he's closing out teams on the road with clutch fourth quarter buckets

4) We can safely put to rest the sentence Roy Hibbert, Elite Center

3) Seeing how Larry Bird put this roster together, this must make him a secret lover of soft NBA players

2) Tyler Hansbrough can go back to absolute NBA anonymity

1) Wade took 25 shots to score 41 points a week after shouting at his coach and looking like Fred Sanford in shooting guard form, so I guess we're back to the Heat being the best team ever

Please Make Danny Ainge The Celtics' GM For Life

The Boston Witness Protection Program
So after six games of Sixers v. Celtics, a series in which neither team has won conse- cutive games, there's just one thing that has been made painfully clear to me.

Danny Ainge has done a terrible job on acquiring talent for this roster.

In past years, Big Baby Davis is hitting jumpers from the bench and doing his Drunken Seal routine to keep plays alive; he's also keeping Kevin Garnett fresh enough so that the NBA's biggest punk ass bitch can be more of a physical presence. (In a game where Garnett went wrestling cheap heat on the Philly crowd, he had one foul and was mostly a jump shooter tonight. Weak.) Now, that's Ryan Hollins, who is little more than a 10 to 15 minute energy thug, whose specialty seems to be setting picks after made baskets.

Instead of Nate Robinson and Eddie House hitting threes, it's Mikael Pietrus and Marquis Daniels hitting nothing. Instead of Kendrick Perkins stopping penetration and giving the Sixers guards 30+ minutes of pain and glowering, it's Greg Stiesma's hit or miss contributions and zero ref credibility. There's no James Jones, no Jeff Green (harsh, but luck is a product of design), and no Tony Allen to keep Paul Pierce from having to be his team's best offensive and defensive player. There's no Rasheed Wallace to give them three improbable months of big man production. There isn't even a guy that looks like he could develop into a rotation player.

Sure, they have Brandon Bass, who has had the series of his life to date. But not so much lately. And Avery Bradley has a place in the NBA, even if it's better as a 15 minute defensive hammer. But this is about half a roster, for a team with older than dirt stars, and that's all on the GM.

The Celtics had five points from their bench tonight, and that wasn't a mistake or an anomaly.

Davis, Allen and Perkins were all rotation players for playoff teams this year, playing important minutes, and playing them well. Perkins, the trade that's going to haunt them for the next five years at least, is through to the Conference Finals in a vastly superior bracket. Allen is second team all-defense, and Davis was the best player on the Magic at the end of the year.

If you want to be charitable about such things, Ainge is keeping his options for free agency. He didn't see an opportunity this year in the East; he was expecting a roadkill loss to the Bulls at this point, or the Heat getting thugged and distracted. Fans go for single years; GMs are supposed to be about the long term. But man alive, this roster does not look good, and building a reasonable bench was never this hard for them before.

Boston should win this series, and most likely will. They will get the whistles in Game Seven, the extra day of rest is huge at this point, and expecting the Sixers' guards to decisively win their matchups, while Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes fight Bass and Garnett to a draw, is a fool's errand.

But when you have one of the NBA's best point guards, and one of the five best power forwards ever, and home court... you should not be going seven games with the youngest team in the Association, and an #8 seed to boot. The reason they are isn't Doc Rivers, or Garnett, or Rondo or Ray Allen.

It's on their GM.

And I'm really hoping they keep him for a long, long time...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sixers - Celtics Game Six Top 20 Takeaways

20) Allen Iverson presented the game ball to all of the home team's fair weather fans, wearing #23 to fire up Lou Williams even more

19) Rajon Rondo's athleticism is startling, partly in bold relief to the rest of the Boston team

18) The longer this series has gone, the more spry Elton Brand has looked

17) Thaddeus Young saved a possession off Kenyon Dooling's face, which is the first time in this series that Dooling's head has been involved in a basketball play

16 If this series goes long enough, Boston will start fouling Andre Iguodala intentionally

15) Both teams decided to honor Iverson by going into Epic Rock Fight Mode when ESPN gave us the unnecessary in-game interview, and keeping it up for the rest of the night

14) Mikael Pietrus hit a three with 0.5 seconds left in the half to score 8.3% of Boston's first half points... and get the lead

13) If either of these teams had played like this in Game Five, it would have been a 30-point game

12) In a fourth quarter timeout, Pierce hit Rondo on the head to try and reboot him to Point Guard Mode

11) If this Celtic team isn't causing turnovers, they aren't that good defensively, because they have no consistent shot-blocker on penetration

10) When Jrue Holiday is the Sixers' best player, that's usually a really good sign

9) This new confident Garnett is much more likely to keep shooting when he's missing

8) The only way Boston was able to consistently score in this game involved the free throw line, and yet they were still in the game

7) With the exception of a made three late to make Sixer Fan worried, Ray Allen was an open liability in this game

6) When you have to go to Marquis Daniels for his first minutes in the fourth quarter, because you are really missing Avery Bradley, your organization has not given you championship caliber talent

5) Iguodala's made free throws in crunch time felt borderline miraculous

4) If the Sixers had shot free throws in the first 46 minutes like they did in the last 2, this would have been a blowout

3) Doug Collins got his rolodex working with Iverson and Julius Erving coming to the game tonight

2) Boston is now 2-11 in closeout road games, which should temper any undue confidence Philly Fan might be feeling right now

1) Either of these teams is pretty much even money to be swept by Miami at this point

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top 10 Takeaways from Pacers - Heat Game Five

10) In the time that it took you to read this, Tyler Hansborough has suffered some new form of humiliation

9) Pacer Fan will note that the Heat can only win through the injuries to Danny Granger and David West, which would sound a lot better if it weren't for Chris Bosh not playing past Game One

8) The air is going out of the Chris Bosh Is Very Very Important balloon

7) Your leading Pacer scorer tonight had, um, 11 -- woo

6) It was nice of Miami, after all of those late nights with Western games, to get everyone to bed by 10pm

5) Roy Hibbert cost himself a lot of future money with tonight's underwhelming 8/12 game with 3 of 10 shooting

4) Udonis Haslem is likely sitting out Game Six after his two-arm poleaxe routine, which is such a loss to basketball fans that admire his artistry

3) Dexter Pittman elbowed Vern Stephenson with a suspension-worthy assault with 19.4 seconds left, just to prove that you don't have to be an NBA level player to commit an NHL level atrocity

2) If Shane Battier is actually going to make some shots, maybe the Heat can be half as good as they think they are

1) We're two games away from the NBA getting the Eastern Conference matchup they so clearly want, even if it will be mostly unwatchable

It's Laker Elimination Day

No More Of This, Thank You
Today, the sun shines a little brighter.

Today, coffee smells a little bit better.

Today, the smiles and laughter of children are even more delightful.

Today is Laker Elimination Day.

Today is the day when we can safely ignore Kobe Bryant, safe in the knowledge that his rapacious scoring will not end in conquest. Today is the day when I can stop trying to come up with a name that's even more ridiculous than Metta World Peace, or stop looking at his Gollum-like face and absurd babbling. Today is the day when even Laker Fan can be happy, because for once his team left the playoffs without making sure that they start the next year with multiple thugs suspended. And today is the day where we get to stop hearing about how history is more important than personnel, how closing experience matters more than closing ability, and how the way things have always been is the way how things will always be.

Today is the day when the NBA stops televising famous rich people going to games, as if this mattered. Today is the day when we can stop watching Jack Nicholson get airtime for no good reason at all. Today is the day where Jordan Hill can go back to being a domestic abuse suspect, along with Matt Barnes and any number of other malcontents. And today is the day where Mike Brown gets to look around a locker room filled with people who don't want to play with Bryant, and gets to pretend how this will all be better next year, or that they can somehow get value out of a trade that everyone knows they need to make.

But it goes even further than that.

This weekend, the best NBA playoff series of the year starts, with the Thunder going to San Antonio to play a series that's going to be utterly fantastic to watch, and watched only by the people who truly love hoop. It's going to have players that are so good that you can watch them even when it devolves to half court isolation plays, and neither team is going to go for that. The teams are going to have to score over 100 points to win, with big runs; it's not going to be decided by block/charge calls, flagrant fouls and intentional fouling.

It will be glorious, rather than thuggish. It will be four to seven (though probably six to seven) games that I'm going to want to DVR, and I never DVR games. It's going to have bench players that can start, men who can rain threes, the two best point guards in the Association this year, the best power forward in history, and the best scorer alive.

And if you don't like that, or Laker Elimination Day... well, sucks to be you. Not us. You.


Top 20 Lakers - Thunder Game Five Takeaways

Are you there, God? It's me, Unemployed
20) Pau Gasol came out with his He's Mad and Doesn't Want To Be Blamed For Everything face, but he's not in good enough shape or heart to hold that for more than a half at a time

19) Russell Westbrook has adapted well to the lax standards of playoff technical fouls

18) Devin Ebanks gave the Lakers some chasedown blocks tonight, which is to say, something more than Matt Barnes' nothing

17) Kendrick Perkins was in full opportunistic garbageman mode tonight, with Andrew Bynum in foul trouble

16) Thunder Fan loves Nick Collison for more than his impossible whiteness

15) Kobe Bryant is secretly terrible at defense on any number of plays now, mostly because he's saving his energy for offense only now

14) Westbrook's and one make against Ramon Sessions is a candidate for Play Of The Year

13) You will be shocked, shocked to learn that Mealy World Pussbag cheap shotted James Harden after a whistle without getting called for it, which had absolutely nothing to do with his dicey flagrant call later

12) The base rule of thumb for the 2012 Lakers is that when Kobe's scoring and getting no assists, they are a stone cold loser... and he had 42 tonight with zero assists

11) The scary thing about Kevin Durant is how he gets efficient numbers every game, no matter what else is going on for his team

10) You can actually be good in close games while being young, if you make your free throws and, well, have better players

9) Twice in this game, the Lakers lost points at the buzzer

8) In the two minutes that Bryant rested at the start of the fourth quarter, the Thunder stretched the lead from 6 to 14, because that's how little the rest of the Lakers wanted to play in this game

7) Bailout threes from Durant go down so often, they just don't feel like bailouts

6) TNT went to "Kobe's All Alone Now" mode with six minutes left, as if we're supposed to feel sorry for him or something

5) In just 24 hours, we were able to end all of that nonsense about how the Staples Center is the center of pro hoop

4) It was nice of the Thunder to stop playing well with much of the fourth quarter to go, so this wasn't a total mud stomp

3) My joy in this win was tempered somewhat by having to see happy crowd shots from their thieving bridge troll of an owner

2) If there was anything of value to steal in Tulsa, you could have had your pick of it most of the evening, since everyone in town seems to have been at the game or outside

1) The second sweetest day of the year for NBA Fans -- Laker Elimination Day -- is finally upon us

Monday, May 21, 2012

Top 20 Sixers - Celtics Game Five Takeaways

20) Ray Allen started due to the injuries to Avery Bradley, who appears to no longer have shoulders, as part of the Sixer Injury Trail Of Tears

19) This was a better start than Game Four, in that the Sixers scored before going down 14

18) Both teams seemed to react to big men passing, and penetration, as if it were a whole new way of playing ball

17) Greg Stiesma actually had good minutes early, in that it was All Frontcourt Players Score Night

16) The team that started well has lost every game in this series

15) Chris Webber started the Celtic Apology Tour by talking about how hurt they are, as if this was some kind of unforeseen tragedy for the oldest team in the Association

14) Evan Turner really does rebound like a guy six inches taller than he actually is

13) Jodie Meeks and Mikael Pietrus thugged each other, just to prove they deserve minutes

12) Ryan Hollins finally had a good moment for Green that didn't involve running a delay of game block after a made hoop

11) Shockingly, the road team got no free throws for a really long time tonight, and never, ever got close again on that score

10) Doc Rivers sounded really desperate in the first half of this one, when his team was down all of five points, because he understood how much the refs were keeping him in this

9) Andre Iguodala's throwdown as Rajon Rondo was putting bodies all over the floor was all kinds of manly

8) The Turner to Holiday to Brand fast break with a minute gone in the second half was some of the prettiest ball movement you've ever seen from this laundry

7) Brandon Bass should really not be the reason why you lose a playoff game, let alone a series

6) When the Celtics made their run in the third quarter, that's just the difference between a team with an extra gear at home, with the refs in the bag, and one without

5) Regardless of the gift-wrapped goodie bag job the refs did tonight, Philly can't win with this many turnovers

4) It's not like anyone will remember, but Elton Brand really played well tonight

3) We've now reached that point in the playoffs where every win and loss seems like incredible momentum that can't be overcome

2) Chris Webber's orgasmic "Rondo!" call late in the fourth was impressive, since it's tough to make that much noise when you've got Boston Fan's phallus in your mouth

1) I'd like to think there will be a Game Seven, given that the Sixers will be at home and owed a get-even game from the refs, but it's not how you should bet

The Unsatisfying Triumph Of Excellence

The Unloved
First things first: LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, and it's not even really close.

Sure, there are flaws to the game. His free throw shooting is a little dicey. He's prone to turnovers. He can defer too much, especially in late and close situations, possibly due to the free throw worries. But there's no more versatile player, no one better in the open court, no one better on defense, no one more durable or athletic or talented.

He doesn't play for a noxious fan base, or for a franchise that wins so often as to be intolerable. He's never been convicted of a crime, crashed a car, been the cause of romantic distractions or the laundry list of things that lesser lights and intellects have done. He's not even playing, at least so far in this NBA Playoff season, teams that are particularly lovable, or underdoggish, or elegant. He plays for his country in the international games, putting his body and livelihood at risk for minimal money. He plays hard -- maybe too hard -- throughout the game. He pules for calls at a usual rate of NBA superstar, and he does not thug, despite having more than enough opportunity to do so. When he scores, it's not like Shaq in his prime, with borderline rule violations, or Karl Malone who benefited immensely from a great point guard, or

Today, he became the second guy in NBA playoff history to post a 40-18-9 line. Good Lord.

And yet, of course, when he triumphs... it satisfies no one, outside of his regional fan base.

Tonight, the lead for the Heat is how Dwyane Wade hit 11 straight shots, how he's bounced back from the awful Game 3, how Juwan Howard enforced in pre-game and Udonis Haslem made shots and...

Um, people? James just played one of the best playoff games ever. And the Heat want to try and spin this as a team win.

This bothers me, actually.

You see, I try, very hard, to keep my appreciation of sports between the lines. The outside stuff is for dramatists and amateur psychologists, people for whom Game is not enough. And well, Game is enough for me. It really is. The other stuff is good for site traffic and snarkiness, but there's a reason why you see hundreds of takeaways from every NBA playoff game I can see, and similar levels of coverage when it comes to NFL and MLB playoff games.

I like to watch Game, and James is better at that than anyone.

What James did to the people of Cleveland, your opinion of his level of hubris, your irritation with the championship guarantees or the previous playoff failures... well, they shouldn't matter as much as they do.

And yet, of course, they do. And will, and always will.

The Heat could go on a 10-0 run to close out these playoffs and get James his first NBA championship. (Um, they won't. Rest easy, haters.) He could stomp a mud hole through the most hated teams in the Association (i.e., Celtics next round, Lakers in the Finals, though there's a lot of Spurs' dislike out there, too)... and the dominant theme will be how well other guys on the team played, how underrated a coach Erik Spoelstra is, how gritty Chris Bosh might be for coming back, how nice it is for Shane Battier, how Pat Riley can go out with another title and, last and not least, how many people hate the NBA because James finally has a ring.

It is, I think, roughly akin to how people must have reacted to watching Wilt Chamberlain in the day, and more or less unique in the modern era of sports.

LeBron James is, and always will be, punished for doing what he was allowed to do in a capitalistic society. For a decision that a vast majority of people would have made in their own career. In his mid-20s, when lots of people are tone-deaf at best for how they are perceived.

And I realize, of course, that I've changed no one's mind with this, and if my Sixers are lucky enough to get to a third round against the Heat... I'm going to be right with you on the hate.

Because, as Chamberlain himself said, no one loves Goliath. Or, well, LeBron James...

Top 20 takeaways from Spurs - Clippers Game Four

The UnderTimmy
20) It might be good strategy, but the intentional fouling strategy from Greg Popovich ensures the continued ill will of all right-thinking NBA fans, and really needs to be stopped by the league

19) While the Spurs' system makes everyone look better, trust me on the fact that Danny Green is a hell of a player, especially on defense

18) When the Clippers play really, really well, they make runs against this Spurs team that don't seem to scare San Antonio, well, at all

17) Charles Barkley's full-on war against the merits of San Antonio's nightlife and women shows no sign of abating

16) The real problem with trying to beat this Spurs team is just their relentlessly effective offense, regardless of the personnel that's on the floor

15) Eric Bledsoe played the game of his life tonight, and really looks like an NBA starter

14) Manu Ginobili's elbows are so sharp, they actually caused a stitch-worthy cut on Blake Griffin's lip

13) This is the first game of the series in which Chris Paul actually looked like himself, and DeAndre Jordan looked like somebody you could win with

12) If Paul could flop like Ginobili, he'd have been shooting three free throws at the end of the first half, and Clipper Fan might not have so much practice in chanting "Ref You Suck"

11) Tim Duncan played major minutes tonight, in case you were wondering if the Spurs cared that much about ending this in four

10) Clipper Fan marks out so hard for Reggie Evans, it's a little embarrassing, especially when the guy is an auto-turnover when the Spurs go to deliberate fouls

9) For a guy with as much knee trouble in his past as Bledsoe, he sure is willing to fall down a lot to try and draw calls

8) When the Clips went with Kenyon Martin and Evans, it was basically 3 on 5 on the offensive end

7) Duncan's got more left in his tank than most guys will have in their whole careers

6) Paul's make with 2:27 left, an and-one layup in traffic that went off the top of the backboard, defied sanity and physics

5) San Antonio was the first team to 100, which is usually a really good sign of which team will win

4)  Independent of anything else, this was a fantastic game to watch, not that anyone on East Coast stayed up to do that

3) The Clippers' first turnover in the second half came with 13 seconds left in the game, with Paul not being able to run the gauntlet on one last charge down the lane

2) Clipper Fan proved, on many levels, that they are a much better fan base than the Lakers in this game

1) The Spurs have now won 18 in a row, and look for all the world like a team that will make it 26

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Top 10 Takeaways from Heat - Pacers Game Four

10) If LeBron James can just put down a 40-18-9 another 10 times in this postseason, America is sure to fall in love with him all over again

9) Roy Hibbert's fourth foul made the Pacers go to a faster pace, because when you lose your center due to foul trouble, you need to do exactly what your opponent wants you to do

8) Shane Battier is now 2 for 19 for the series, but in fairness, he's much better (2 for 12) from the three point line

7) This was Danny Granger's best game of the series, in that he shot mediocre, rather than godawful

6) Dwyane Wade fell down, tossed a bailout pass, then got it back to hit the silliest three of the NBA season

5) If the Heat go on to win the NBA championship, they clearly need to vote a half-share to Lance Stephenson for making them good and mean, and maybe even Juwan Howard, too

4) Udonis Haslem's 5 for 6 and 14/4 in 25 minutes gives him a big leg up over Ronny Turiaf in the battle to see which Heat big man gets to watch Wade and James from close up, rather than from the bench

3) James' signature play, the chasedown blocked shot, really doesn't seem like something a total egotistical choke artist would specialize in

2) Wade and James combined for 38 straight points at one point, so maybe they can, in fact, play together

1) If this kind of schizophrenic behavior came from the Lakers or Celtics, we'd be talking about the Heat just hitting the on switch

Top 20 takeaways from Thunder-Lakers Game Four

20) James Harden can't wait to go back to OKC, where Kobe Bryant only gets 9 out of 10 calls

19) When your bigs walk downcourt rather than go after an offensive rebound, that's when the Laker bigs have already won

18) Pau Gasol has great post moves, especially when he can hook-and-ladder guys with his elbows

17) Kendrick Perkins took a technical foul for slapping Ramon Sessions, just to show that at heart, he's still a Celtic

16) If you can get the Thunder into a low-turnover game, that's more than half of the battle

15) Kobe Bryant had that No One Else Needs To Show Up look to him in this one, which usually isn't a good sign for the Lakers actually winning the game

14) After watching his third quarter burst, Russell Westbrook should slip and hurt himself more often

13) Since the Lakers have had back to back humanitarian award winners, we can ignore the cheap shots, ref puling and general punk-ass behavior

12) Serge Ibaka blocked two straight shots with incredible hops and the power of hate, giving everyone the hint that the comeback could happen

11) When Metta World Peace is the best player on the floor, it's unfortunate for humanity, and even more so for TNT's over-the-top dignity-crushing outros

10) The Thunder defense when trying to cut the lead under seven was, um, amazing

9) Westbrook has no fear, which might not be a win in the long run

8) Bryant hit a jumper at the buzzer over Harden that was absurd

7) Durant missed two free throws that could have tied it with 2:30 left, which only he is likely to remember

6) The problem for Bryant guarding Durant is that, um, he's six inches shorter and ten years older

5) Perkins' first bucket of the night was fairly well-timed

4) Ibaka's fifth foul on Bryant was straight out of the All Star Collection

3) The last minute of this game defied description on every level, and then Kevin Durant just ended it

2) I'd like to think the Thunder are going to close this out in five, but I'm not really sure the Association's officials are going to allow that

1) Somehow, I'm not quite buying the idea that the Thunder aren't a good half-court team, seeing how they've got the most athletic point guard in the game, and the most efficient scorer

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Top 10 takeaways from Spurs-Clippers Game Three

10) San Antonio now seems to be trying to find new ways to win, which means they are as bored as the rest of us

9) Blake Griffin appears to be a home-only rebounder

8) Exhausted Staples Center workers won't have to worry about more than one more Clipper game

7) If Chris Paul is actually healthy, then he's really not as good as we thought he was

6) Kawhi Leonard has about another two weeks of telling people how to spell his name

5) If basketball games were 14 minutes long, this Clipper team would be right back in this thing

4) Unfortunately for Reggie Evans, Gregg Popovich has found his very obvious and easily available free throw kryptonite

3) The Clippers are now 4-29 in their last 33 games against the Spurs, and the really amazing part of that stat is that they actually have 4 wins

2) Usually it's easy to come up with 10 takeaways about an NBA playoff game, but when the storyline is as clear as ths one, not so much

1) If the Clips and Grizzlies put together a super team, I'm still not sure they win more than a game against the Spurs

Top 20 Thunder - Lakers Game Three Takeaways

20) You will be shocked, just shocked, to hear that Jordan Hill and Metta World War took a post-whistle opportunity to try to get in some cheap shots

19) If you want evidence that Russell Westbrook is growing up before our eyes, consider how well he played after the double technical with World Wide Warped

18) The Lakers got off to a big early lead, which as the Celtics showed earlier in the evening, meant absolutely nothing

17) Kevin Durant scored twice tonight on absurd attempts to just get to the line, because he's that crazy skilled and the refs were crazy crooked

16) Ramon Sessions had that "Oh, he can play at home" playoff game that all borderline starters get

15) James Harden is well and truly hated by the Laker crowd, since it's all his stupid head's fault that World Mourning had to go away

14) Judging by the number of reactions shots, Jack Nicholson has a coaching position on the Lakers

13) Watching Derek Fisher try to guard Kobe Bryant is comedic on many levels

12) It's pretty unfair when the younger team also has the dramatically better bench

11) Jeff van Gundy complains that we're getting too many statistics, because sports and his analysis only makes sense if you can't put numbers or thought to it

10) I'm not saying that the refs were in the bag for LA tonight to get a longer series, but they were wearing Forum Blue and Gold

9) Independent of anything else that happens this playoff series, the Lakers made the right move in ditching Fisher for Sessions and Steve Blake

8) Kobe cost his team a lot in the fourth quarter, but he can still get phantom foul calls on Harden, and everyone else

7) The fact that the Thunder have not been turnover-prone in the playoffs is one more reason to think that the Western winner will sweep the finals

6) If the Lakers got as many second shots early in the game as they get late, they'd be in a lot better shape

5) OKC has no fear of quick shots in crunch time, which is probably a winning strategy, given how hard life gets late in the shot clock

4) If you liked made free throws, this was the game for you

3) The fact that World In Pain got a strip on Durant with 13 seconds left kind of tells you where the refs and league wanted this one to go

2) Serge Ibaka must have forgotten the scoreboard to try for a putback, down 3 with 2 seconds left

1) The first Thunder playoff loss of the season only required the Lakers to shoot 41 of 42 from the line while taking 14 more free throws

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top 20 Celtics - Sixers Game Four Takeaways

20) If you thought the Sixers were going to make a game of this after starting the game down 14-0, you are lying

19) ESPN gave this one Doris Burke, which meant that they really had absolutely no idea it would be a close game

18) The Celtics went into full GlobeTrotter mode all of four minutes into this one, with Rajon Rondo pulling off the showiest uncalled travel you ever did see

17) Every Sixers game ever involves an analyst talking about how they have to stay out of half court sets, as if this wasn't true of every NBA team in the playoffs

16) When the Sixers turn the ball over, they might be the worst team in the Association

15) When Brandon Bass outscores your entire team in a quarter, and your team is not composed of 8-year-olds, that is a problem

14) It only took ten minutes for the ESPN heads to start talking about a more interesting game, or five minutes faster than normal

13) Andre Iguodala had a missed two three throws / missed dunk sequence in the second quarter that made you wonder how he was employed to play pro hoop

12) The refs changed a foul from Brandon Bass to Avery Bradley after ESPN's Dave Pasch sounded pained about him getting his third

11) Perhaps, after all of these years, the refs might actually be watching Garnett for punk behavior

10) This wasn't a game until Garnett's technical, just in case you buy into the bullsquat over how the NBA's biggest punk-ass bitch has Dark Jedi Technical Powers

9) Spencer Hawes got a technical foul for getting delay of game blocked by Ryan Hollins

8) Jodie Meeks hitting a three for the first lead with 10 minutes left was merely the biggest shot of his life

7) If you don't think Boston is getting 20 more free throws than the Sixers in Game Five, you don't know NBA basketball

6) You can really count on ESPN to find Celtics Fan on the road

5) I don't mean to do Doc Rivers any favors, but the guy wearing Ray Allen's jersey ain't him

4) This game shows that Doug Collins' faith in Lou Williams and Elton Brand is occasionally basketball-related

3) Meeks is an odd form of closer, but on a team where the leading scorer is an erratic bench guard, it kind of makes sense

2) When you need to put Kenyon Dooling out there to shoot threes in crunch time, you might not have a good enough bench to win a playoff game after all

1) No matter what else happens in this series, we'll always have this spectacularly gutless Celtics collapse -- the first time in 45 games they blew a 15-point lead -- to keep us warm at night

The Poker Diaries: Are You Brave Enough For Omaha?

Every Omaha Player, On A Draw
For those of you who are just joining the Poker Diaries, this is a collection of free flowing tales, stories and unabashed whining. It's where I seek to make permanent the fleeting moments that spice my life as a home and occasional casino, cash and tournament player. The goal, as always, is to entertain, or at the very least, give my opponents a lot of false information about how much I think about the game, or how bad of a player I am, really. Can't hitch a ride without showing a little leg, after all. Especially if the driver's got issues. Anyway, now that we've done mental damage, let's get into it, shall we?

We are now just a little more than one week away from the next home game here at the Man Cave. It's simultaneously my favorite game, and the most maddening. Yep, it's Omaha Time.

For those of you who like your poker basic, your life predictable, and your poker to never, ever change from the format that 98% of the stuff on the Tee Vee is, Omaha is the form of poker in which the player receives four cards face down, and has to play two with the community five. So it's just like hold'em, except for the fact that it's well, totally not. Big pairs crack like mad, your king-high flush is a routine loser, and if you are good enough to muck a small boat before it crashes you aground, this is so the game for you. It's also all kinds of great, especially if you hate Pre-Flop Shove Fest, or can manage a little discipline in your play when all around you, people are losing their heads for a flopped straight that isn't going to look very good at all after the turn and river.

However, this all has one major hidden bummer factor: getting enough people to play.

You see, nothing scares poker players more than Omaha. Bring it up at a cash game of dealer's choice, and you can get hardened hardcore aggro players to tuck their tails and bail. Put forth the proposition that perhaps their brains are big enough to remember a different set of rules for starting hands, and the lips start to quiver. Bring up the idea that if you aren't good at more than one form of poker, and you may not be very good at poker, and you move officially into Fighting Words. And when you give an out to your regulars over how they don't necessarily need to play the tournaments with Omaha in them to qualify for your Player of the Year side pot (what, your home game does not have a player of the year side pot? I bet it doesn't even have a dork-tastic trophy. How do you live without such things?)...

Well, you turn your 3-table tournament with the possibility of turning people away into a 2-table event where you are begging people to come. Or telling those knocked-kneed players where you go for your tips on how to play the damned game. And those who love Omaha (and really, there's a lot to love, just from the simple fact that there are so many more hands that you can play, not that you necessarily should) really do appreciate having a game for once, especially a tournament one. Finally, there's the simple fact that this tournament is only half Omaha, so if you really want to avoid those hands, you mostly can.

Also, I'm not exactly sure how losing at Omaha is all that more exasperating than losing at anything, really. Last time on the felt, dealing ordinary hold'em, I made a massive misread of a shove and put my pocket 5s against another guy's pocket queens... and watched him flop a house while I flopped quads. That had to hurt more than any Omaha hand ever, really.

So, before we wrap this up, let's review...

1) I'm hosting a poker tournament here at the Man Cave in Central NJ in a week

2) You get to play half Omaha, half Texas hold'em, on speed felt, with good chips, with a tournament clock on a monitor in a private home

3) It's a true mid-stakes game with a hand-picked group of people who generally manage to not behave badly

4) There's soda, beer, booze, light snacks and no rake (but a tip jar, so please, be kind), and

5) Very, very few people at the table who are at all confident about their Omaha game.

Seriously, I'm having a hard time filling the room for this?

Top 10 Spurs - Clippers Game Two Takeaways

Air Diaw
10) From watching these first two games, you'd never guess that Chris Paul is actually any good

9) When Tim Duncan looks quick and comfortable, the Spurs' opponents really don't have a chance in hell

8) If Blake Griffin is going to continue to get one more rebound than a dead man, we're going to really have to start calling him a power forward

7) ESPN cared so much about this game, they didn't notice a bass voice fan who screamed for three second calls all night

6) The Spurs scored the game's first 22 points in the paint, which meant that even when this game was close, it really wasn't

5) The tone of this game was such that with the Spurs holding a 9-point lead with 16 minutes left, in the midst of a Clipper run, the ESPN analysts felt moved to tell the audience that the series was not over

4) Gregg Popovich casually displayed his intellect by intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan, rather than give the Clips the last shot of the first half; two missed free throws ensued as Memphis Fan wondered why the hell Lionel Hollins is employed

3) The Clippers shot very well from three point range and never, ever really threatened, mostly because the Spurs just scored easily whenever they wanted to

2) There's something really wrong with how the Spurs are getting quality minutes out of Boris Diaw, and how that fat sack of French manure has an incredible chance to have one more championship ring than Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor and Charles Barkley

1) I'm not saying that the outcome of this was never in doubt, but I was very tempted to file this list at the end of the third quarter, when every other member of the media filed their game stories

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heat - Pacers Game Three: Top 10 Takeaways

10) While the fault of this loss was clearly on the Heat big men and Dwyane Wade, it's still much more fun to pin everything on LeBron James and his lack of leadership

9) If George Hill is going to be this much better than Wade, it's really not going to be a long series after all

8) In the time it took you to read this, Roy Hibbert has another rebound

7) This game went from tied to a blowout faster than James' hairline receded

6) Wade's sideline hissy fit ensures two full days of ESPN psychoanalysis

5) Danny Granger is very good at pulling on jerseys, which is good, since James has very little hair to hang on to any more

4) It's a little hard to see how this is the upset of the century when the Pacers lost all of four more games in the regular season, and don't have a starter down due to injury

3) Erik Spoelstra started Dexter Pittman at center, which lit such a fire under Joel Anthony that the Heat big man came through with 1 rebound in 27 minutes

2) Heat Fan (humor me that he still exists with this team down in a playoff series) has to be encouraged by Mario Chalmers' game, in that if he can keep playing like this, maybe the Heat can make the series go six

1) We're just two more Heat losses away from the annual national holiday that is Heat Elimination Day

Top 10 Celtics - Sixers Game Three Takeaways

10) This series was a lot more fun before Paul Pierce showed up

9) Kevin Garnett isn't exactly shy about telling you how his day is going

8) So much for home court advantage

7) When Spencer Hawes, Elton Brand and Evan Turner combine for 11 points, the Sixers aren't beating anyone

6) If you want to say Celtics in five now that they are well and truly awake, I can't argue

5) When the Celtics run, good things happen for them, which is to say, the same thing that is true for every team in the Association is true here

4) Doc Rivers clearly missed the Tom Thibodeau lesson of not playing your stars in a blowout against Philly

3) It had been a while since the Sixers showed up in their periodic guise as a bad and overmatched team

2) When Xavier Silas gets minutes for the Sixers, you know that the plan has not been achieved

1) If I'm Doug Collins, I try Andre Iguodala on Rajon Rondo, because I'm not seeing how 10+ assists from the opposing point guard should be tolerated

Top 10 Lakers - Thunder Game Two Takeaways

10) One of these games, the Lakers are going to get the Thunder's stars to not dress goofy in the post-game remarks

9) If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are going to make defensive stops to win games, that's a whole new way for the Thunder to win

8) Andrew Bynum thinks the Lakers did almost everything right tonight while losing, which is further proof that the Lakers aren't doing themselves any favors by letting his near microphones

7) Durant waited until late in the game to remember that he's tall

6) So long as Kobe Bryant continues to think he's the most important player on the Lakers, they are very vulnerable

5) Shockingly, Metta World Poverty didn't come through in the clutch

4) When your coaching matchup is Scotty Brooks and Mike Brown, any useful strategy will stand out for its novelty

3) The Lakers feel like they've let a game slip away, because they are impressively arrogant pricks who can't give their opponent credit

2) If Bryant does this another 20 or 30 times, people might start noticing that he's not the be-all and end-all closer after all

1) Steve Blake is not Derek Fisher

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Top 10 Clippers - Spurs Game One Takeaways

Tulsa or San Antonio, I'm not sure which
10) If you are wondering how Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all healthy in a year where everyone else is dropping like flies, you are not alone

9) Blake Griffin said his knee was only at 80%, which means that the Clippers can look forward to slightly closer losses as he gets closer to full health

8) There is no truth to the rumor that San Antonio is, in fact, the basketball Borg

7) If Chris Paul isn't the best three players on the floor, this isn't a series

6) Gregg Popovich manages his resources better than any coach in NBA history

5) Duncan has forgotten more about basketball than the Clipper big men have ever learned

4) If you are feeling bad about the Spurs advancing past this fun Clippers team, just remind yourself that less money in Donald Sterling's life is a win for humanity

3) The really scary thing about this Spurs team isn't that they are good, it's that they are so good that they blow teams out when not playing all that well

2) Vinny Del Negro didn't have much to do in this one, but playing Paul for 38 minutes in a quasi-blowout doesn't exactly scream out intellect

1) The NBA's Western Finals are going to have those two sterling media metropolises of Tulsa and San Antonio, which should, for once and for all, end the Tim Donaghy conspiracy theories

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