Monday, May 31, 2010

Top 10 people who are scoring more than the Phillies right now

The Phillies have been shut out five times in their last eight games, and are hitting .186 since May 22. (And as I write this, they are scoreless in the 7th against Atlanta.) Who else is getting home more often right now?

10) Isaac Newton. A virgin all of his life, mostly due to his crippling desire to have apples rain on his junk. He's dead now, of course, but have you seen Ryan Howard recently?

9) A.C. Green. The NBA's iron man was so chaste that he became famous for it, and his Showtime Laker teammates would send women to his hotel room to test his resolve. He'd read the Bible to them. And not even those hot and heavy Song of Solomon bits. Anyway, Ace is married now, so he's probably crossing home plate a few times a month. Just like the Phils!

8) Morrissey, who went on record as going without for years. What, you thought all of those mopey songs about his girlfriend being in a coma were writing from character?

7) Doug Christie. But only when his accessories match, and he's spent the afternoon making Mrs. Christie those little sandwiches that she likes.

6) Mohandas Gandhi. Non-violence went a long way, folks. Of course, when you spend your time starving yourself to death, you probably aren't thinking about getting it on.

5) Lewis Carroll. Once again, overcoming the disadvantage of death and the creepiness that comes from writing famous children's stories about girls who get more than they bargained for to outscore the Phils. Credit Tim Burton and Johnny Depp for getting him some post-life nooky.

4) J. Edgar Hoover. Proof that you can fight Commies, keep America safe from Demon Rum, and live an incredible double life as a cross-dresser while still not getting any. But in the afterlife, he's a favorite of many of the lower realm's more irony enthusiastic denizens.

3) Britney Spears. Man, that was a long wait to find out that the power of manhood could unhinge someone but good, huh? Anyway, Brit's not preggers at the moment, so I suspect she's pumping away.

2) Muslim suicide bombers. But not in a way that you'd want. Once again, irony is your friend in a punishing afterlife...

1) Jesus. Not to get too close to the hot spot among many of you, but if anyone's earned a little RnR, it's this guy...

Top 10 NBA Finals Puff Pieces

With the Finals starting in just four more days -- what, NBA, so soon? -- the media has a lot of time to kill, and a lot of smoke to push up your ass. Here's what it will taste like

10) The Annual Kobe Bryant Career Whitewash. He's carried his team to three straight Finals appearances, which means he gets to rape as many underaged girls as he wants. (Allegedly.) Also, this means he was right to railroad Shaquille O'Neal out of town (um, well, this one's actually starting to bear fruit), and that he never, ever quit on his team in the playoffs against Phoenix or Boston. Let's just say he's in the same place for Career Deoderant that Peyton Manning was last February.

9) Rasheed Wallace's Veteran Leadership. The most overrated player in NBA history, the maestro of the technical foul and the ill-advised three-point shooting, gets to bask in the glow of his four-week NBA season and talk about what it means to be a champion. Cut the check.

8) Phil Jackson's Smug Salary Drive. Want to win an NBA championship without the Zen Master? Hoping to get his salary in line with the league's burgeoning fiscal unreality? Lots of luck with that. If he gets another ring for his toes, there might not be an arena that fits his head.

7) Doc Rivers Is A Genius. Two months ago, the man's ticket out of town was all but punched, as the Cs completed the biggest case of 50-win fraud ever seen in the Assocation. (Seriously. They played in a divison with the Nets, Knicks, Sixers and Raptors. The Rockets could have 50 games in the Atlantic.) Now, he's the go-to guy on the club that just needed to get healthy, along with the only man on the planet who thought Nate Robinson would be a reason to win. And if he beats Coach Philip for the second time in three years with all of the money in the middle of the table, he'll actually deserve the acclaim.

6) Ron Artest Is Critical. Actually, um, yes. Like LeBron James before him, Testy has the physicality necessary to make The Bully Truth, Paul Pierce, disappear into ineffective jump shooting for games at a time. But only if Testy can keep his head in the game, which is never a sound bet... especially when he's got that Suns Game Five clutchness rolling around in his dome. Say Bensonhurst!

5) Boston Fan Is Intense. Sure, I suppose, when his team is winning. When things aren't going well, there's a lot of boos coming down from the most spoiled fan base in the Association, and the most puling about referee calls you'll see outside of a group of 8-year-olds that think pro wrestling is real. And on the off chance that any of them are reading this, a small note: Your team sets the most moving screens in the league, and Big Baby Davis flops more than any non-European who plays pro hoop. Moving on.

4) LA Fan Is Glamorous. Why, lookit all them stars! They are watching the game, just like us. You and I could not imagine the utter specialiosity going on from the fact that celebrities watch basketball games like this! Let's all speculate on what we'll possibly do when Jack Nicholson is dead, because it's important to think about the ambience of an arena that we'll likely never go to, and if we do, could not possibly afford the good seats, because we've got things like lives and families and common sense. Oooh, lookie, there's another big star! Pinch me, I must be watching the same TV roll for the past 30 freaking years!

3) This Rivalry Is Intense. Because, you see, when other teams play for the NBA championship, it just doesn't matter as much, don't you know. Some championships are more equal than others, especially when you root for the Coke and Pepsi of the Association, who win about every other year, on average. Savoring the bouquet of each individual triumph is in no way douche-tastic; it is just what one *does*, darling, when you are Accustomed to the Finer Things. And this rivalry, you see, is just better than yours. Accept it, peon.

2) It's The Finals That Everyone Wanted To See. Appreciating Steve Nash's career is for cultists. Applauding Grant Hill for his dedication to coming back from ridiculous knee injuries is quaint. Wondering if Vince Carter could ever shed the label, or if Dwight Howard could go to the next level, or appreciating the game of Jameer Nelson a year after he wasn't able to do much due to injury... that's all for people who clearly just wanted the ratings for the Finals to suck. Because what could be better for the long-term benefit of the Association than the same series we always get?

1) This Will Settle It. What, until next June? So long as the Lakers can keep Bryant healthy and Pau Gasol alive, they are the odds-on favorite to win the West. So long as the Celtics can mail in the regular season from living in the softest division this side of the Ivy League, and keep their creaking crafties in playoff mettle (aided, of course, by the geriatric-friendly schedule), they will be the odds-on favorite to win the East. And that's just what happens when terrible franchises (that would be you, Memphis and Minnesota) sell their once-in-a-lifetime big man for pennies on the dollar.

So settle in, America, for Chapter Two of what's likely to be a four to six year run of Coke vs. Pepsi, while the rest of the Assocation's fans pray that LeBron James can get it together, or that someone from the West can pull a Gilhooly on Gasol or Bryant. But on the plus side, chances are good that I can blow the dust off this column and repost it in 12 months. Bonus!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A small note you probably do not care about

For the third time in four months, the site has set a new record for visits and page views. Considering that we've been at this for 41 months now, and that there are roughly 8 billion more sports blogs than there were when we started this mess, it's deeply appreciated and in no way expected.

Thanks go out to the YardBarker and Fox Sports teams for putting us in front of new eyes, the blogs that link to us from time to time, and well, all of you. The traffic also keeps me from being suicidally depressed over my NBA playoff picks, or that we're going to see the Lakers or Celtics win it all for the 33rd time in 63 years... which is to say that if you are a Sixers fan, as I am, over half of the years of the Association's history ends with one of your two least favorite franchises winning it all.

Anyway, thanks. The traffic helps me keep going. That, and the life-changing revenue that one gets from online advertising...

Top Ten Takeaways from Roy Halladay's Perfect Game

10) If he had known that the National League was this easy, he'd have come over years ago

9) No one in Philadelphia will still admit to (ever) preferring Cliff Lee

8) You can safely add footage from this one to his Cooperstown induction video

7) The ball is officially back in Dallas Braden's court

6) If it were not for Cameron Maybin's error in the third, Halladay might not have gotten a win from the start, because that's how good the Phillies offense is going right now

5) Over 25,000 were in attendance today, but over 100,000 Philly Fans will claim to have taken the trip later

4) It almost makes up for the Flyers losing Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, provided you care about hockey

3) If guys are going to keep doing this every three weeks, it's going to stop feeling special

2) After getting shut out for three games in a sweep by the Mets in New York, the Phillies kind of needed this

1) That guy who drafted Halladay in your fantasy league is going to redefine insufferable

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lakers-Suns Game Six: Once More With Dread

I miss the first quarter from kid issues, and it's only the highest scoring quarter of the series. In the second, the Phoenix bench looks good, with Goran Dragic bullying Ron Artest, then Channing Frye doing the same to him on the defensive end. Andrew Bynum turns it on the end line as his nightmare series continues, and we go to commerce with the Lake Show up by 1, 42-41.

After the ads, Bynum fouls Asmundson and appears wronged by life, but the Phoenix bencher misses both. Vujacic with a Stooge turnover in half court, then watches Dragic hit over him. His nemesis answers with a move and make, and Leandro Barbosa can't make on a drive. Bynum stomps through Dudley, then gets rejected by Asmundson, but Frye is whistled for a foul. The makes gives the Lakers a three point lead. Dragic draws a Vujacic foul, and the world so wants these guys to throw down. Stoudemire misses, and he's 1 of 5 so far. Odom feeds Bynum for a stuff, and Dragic misses a three. Farmer hits from the arc, and the Lakers suddenly have an eight point lead and the better bench play. Not exactly encouraging to a seventh game, though I suspect that the Celtics finishing things last night is all of the reason why we aren't going to see that. Sigh.

Stoudemire is erased on a drive, but Kobe misses a kill shot three attempt. Stoudemire with a make, but Artest is now 6 of 9, and his third three pointer. Ouch. When he's hitting, the Lakers really are unbeatable. Bynum gets a foul as Nash draws it; cagey play by the point guard, especially as it gets Nash to the line. Two makes later, the lead is seven, and the home crowd is a little less uneasy. Bryant with a bad bank miss, and the possession ends with Artest stealing it from Frye after finally getting the board. Back-breaker, and Testy might be the best player on the floor right now. Grant Hill blocks Pau Gasol, but Jason Richardson is called on a Derek Fisher flop, and the Phoenix offense is just a mess right now. Odom follows to make it 11, but Frye answers with a corner three. Fisher misses from the top, but Richardson's three is wild and bad, and we go to commerce with the Lakers up 58-50.

Gasol with an easy hook, and the lead is 10 again. Bryant stalks Stoudemire with no awareness, and Phoenix is lucky to keep the ball. Nash to Richardson to net is three points, and Phoenix being down by 7 while hitting nearly half of their three pointers is deadly. Odom drives and gets the old school three on Hill, and the moments where the Phoenix zone defense was giving them trouble are long gone. Odom misses from the line. The Laker defense is lockdown on Nash, and that's another turn. Fisher misses the corner three, and Nash airballs a three in transition as Road Laker Fan chants, and is audible. Bryant hits from 30 feet, and good grief. Richardson's three misses at the horn, and the Lakers have their biggest lead, closing the half with a 23-10 run. It's beginning to look a lot like closeout. Craig Sager is dressed in Laker purple tonight, and he sticks a mic into Testy's grill, hoping for magic. Sadly, no "Say Bensonhurst" moment. The Lakers are not interested in entertaining anyone tonight.

Stoudemire starts the third with a miss. Gasol turns, but the transition three by Richardson stays out. Gasol misses at the end of the clock, and Hill misses on a nice duck-under mid-ranger. Fisher deep in the clock with a make, and it's looking close-outish. Stoudemire misses, but Lopez boards and picks up a foul. The Sun offense is looking terrible right now. Lopez misses in the lane on Bynum pressure. Stoudemire with a steal on the inbounds pass. Nash with a high arc after a long dribble for a make; high effort. Gasol nearly turns it, but Bynum gets the deflection and goes to the line. Two makes pushes it to 14. Nash with a free throw line make. Bryant is patient and makes late in the clock. Frye hits quickly in mid-range. Kobe to Testy, who misses from the arc. Nash again, nice creativity, and it's 11. Bryant gets Richardson in the air and creates contact for the foul. He's got the assassin look to him tonight, and two makes pushes it to 13. Hill on the baseline can't make, but Stoudemire hustles to get another possession as the TBS guys bury him. Hill misses again, and Fisher misses the corner three kill shot. Nash to Stoudemire as Gasol falls, and that's a welcome slam for the big man. Lakers coach Phil Jackson with the immediate timeout to keep Amar'e downcast, and we go to commerce with the Lakers up 11.

Bryant misses a clean look. Stoudemire misses twice inside on good help defense, but he picks up Bynum's fourth foul after an offensive board. Odom in for Bynum as we're halfway through the quarter anyway. Stoudemire makes both, and the lead is nine. Fisher misses, but Testy boards and scores, and he's got 19 now. Yeesh. Stoudemire draws Bryant's first foul, and the Lakers aren't in the penalty yet. Stoudemire misses on a hook. Bryant declines the three and goes inside for a trip to the line, as the Lakers aren't taking the easy way out in this one. He makes both, and Stoudemire has the foul on one end and a travel on the other as the Designated Goat of the Game; he's 3 of 13 now, with only 3 boards.

Bryant misses the heat check three, and Richadson drives and falls heavily for Fisher's fourth foul. Two makes brings it back to 11. A lob from Odom to Gasol is a foul on Stoudemire, who then watches Testy hit his fourth three pointer. Good grief. Stoudemire stays aggressive, and gets to the line for no makes. Woof. Gasol to the line on a Nash foul, his second, and this one is feeling a lot like over. A shame; Phoenix was a lot more fun than this, but the Lakers know how to close. Two makes and it's 16, the largest of the half. Stoudemire can't make from close in, and Gentry needs to go to the bench. Farmar misses, but the o-board is collected, and Testy makes a circus shot over Stoudemire. I'd be very surprised if that wasn't the coup de grace, really.

Footage of Gentry in the timeout shows Nash and Stoudemire not looking very convinced by optimism. Stoudemire with a slam off a screen, and that helps drama. Bryant owns Dudley with mid-range, and he's got 22 now. Barbosa hits a three, and the bench is showing signs of life. Bryant with a ridiculous make, but Barbosa answers. Not sure how you stop Kobe at this point, short of just hitting him. He makes over Frye, and that's insane. Barbosa misses a drive on Odom. Bryant ends the quarter in Super Hero Mode, but Barbosa blocks the pass. The shot clock ends him, so he just steals the inbounds and nearly makes that, too. Ye Gads. Lakers 91, Suns 74.

Sager interviews Gentry, who's looking a little shell-shocked. Odom misses as Gasol hangs on Stoudemire for his third foul. Dragic makes over Vujacic in his personal war, then fouls him in the open court, then takes a technical after a hit and flop. So much for the Sasha Vujacic Career Resurrection, and the Phoenix crowd is suddenly pumped up over Sasha's thuggery. The refs review the play to appreciate Dragic's baitery and acting as Sager goes into the details of the feud; not sure why we're getting delayed here. The call is a flagrant one on Vujacic, and Dragic goes to the line for two free throws and the ball. Two makes cuts the lead to 13, and the trip is worth four points so far. Jackson leaves Vujacic in, and Dragic burns him off the dribble for a layup. Wow. Gasol turns, but Dudley turns it back, and the Lakers fail to convert at the dish. Jackson has seen enough, and goes for Kobe at the next stop. Dragic to the rack like a knife through butter, and that's an 8-0 Dragic Run. Shades of the Spurs game. Farmar stops the magic with a mid-range make at the buzzer. Frye misses a three, and Barbosa airballs one as well, and a camera man is destroyed by Dudley trying to save it. Odd.

Bryant back, but he misses against Dudley. Frye boards. Suns very much alive in the body language, but the Laker defense isn't caving... and Frye makes a tough turnaround. Nine point game. Testy misses a three, but Gasol gets the long board. He can't make over Frye, but the team board goes to LA.

Dudley's cameraman goes out on a stretcher. Yikes. Bryant's straight away three misses, and Odom picks up a cheap foul as well. Stoudemire gives Gasol a beatdown slam, and the lead is 7. Wow. Fisher answers, and he's been huge, then gets a flop foul on Stoudemire, as Amar'e extends a leg like a moron. Fisher is just death to the opponent's momentum. Gasol's tough night continues with a bad miss. Dragic with a nice move in the lane, but he misses. Phoenix with the o-board ends with Stoudemire collecting Odom's fourth foul in the lane. These are critical to cut the lead, and Amar'e gets both to cut it down to seven with 6:37 left.

Bryant misses on good Dudley defense, and Dragic feeds Stoudemire, great look and catch, and the lead is five. Wow. Frye blocks Odom, huge. Frye goes behind the back to Stoudemire, who has to dive to the floor to save it, and he calls time to save the possession. Yet again in this series, it's an unreal comeback against the defending champions, and no matter what happens in the rest of this game, I'm glad the Suns have shown their heart. And there's no way it happens with Vujacic's foul.

Barbosa with a terrible 30-footer at the clock; just an awful possession out of a timeout. Laker turnover. Dragic can't get a three coming back. Bryant at the buzzer, and ye gads. Barbosa with redemption to the rim against Gasol, and it's five again. Bryant misses, but Odom with the o-board; deadly. Fisher with a tough make, and if it seems like I've written that all night, it's because I have. I'm starting to think that the NBA should not have a regular season, since everything you see in it is a lie. Seriously. Fisher just spent the regular season looking like utterly spent. Now, he's great. Frustrating.

Gentry with the starters, and Frye instead of Lopez. Stoudemire gets Gasol's fourth, and if the Lakers lose this game, he's the reason why, along with Vujacic. Amar'e hits both, and the lead is five. The Suns stop Gasol and Odom, but Stoudemire is whistled for an offensive foul on the other end, and that's just an unconscionable call; Gasol hooked Stoudemire into him, then fell down on the contact. Cagey, I suppose; nauseating as well, really. Karmic justice would have been a feed to Stoudemire for a slam over the fallen flopper, but the refs don't see it, and the Lakers will have the ball after commerce. 2:45 left.

Jackson's on Kobe to avoid Hero Mode, and his team to show poise. Fisher misses, and Frye boards. Nash to the rack, easy, and it's a three point game. Bryant with a ludicrous make, and it's five again. Wow. Nash turns, and Kobe goes to the rack for a Frye foul. The Lakes aren't losing, if you look at him, and with two makes, the lead goes back to seven. It's like a steel trap, this guy. Stoudemire gets to the line on a Nash pass, and that's Gasol's fifth, not that this matters. Two makes brings it back to five, but it's hard to see how Phoenix gets stops. Odom off a Bryant pass misses, but Gasol follows for redemption. Stoudemire with a make, but no three point attempts, and the clock is a real problem now. Bryant with an absurd make over Hill at the end of the clock, and he even taps Gentry after the shot to just rub it in. And Laker Fan wonders why people hate Kobe. OK, they don't wonder at all. They just don't care.

As Phoenix Fan beats the traffic -- understandable, though less than what this team deserves -- Stoudemire misses rather than pass out for the three, and Fisher boards and holds to go to the line. This one's over, and the Finals that everyone expected, the one that determines if anything other than Father Time and Mother Injuries can beat the healthy Celtics, is on. It's just my doom to not want to see it, since everyone else seems to want it.

Testy makes one of two, and Nash hits a silly/easy three to make it 5 with 13.2 seconds left, as Gasol gets the blame. If nothing else, Phoenix will not quit. Kobe misses the first to prolong the diary, if nothing else, but makes the second. Nash's three is blocked for an airball, and Bryant snares it with a Frye foul. The final shot is a Stoudemire three that hits the top of the backboard, and your final is Lakers 111, Suns 103. TBS speculates on the future whereabouts of Stoudemire, and how many people were rooting for Nash and Hill to make it to the Finals. But Bryant was too much. Post-game, Bryant tells Sager that he was going to kill Vujacic. I don't think he's kidding.

Game One is next Thursday, and my worst birthday present ever. I will, of course, watch every minute of it, and content myself with the knowledge that one of these fan bases must lose. It's not enough, of course, but it's the burden you bear as a fan of pro hoop, given how this is how the year has ended... 33 freaking times. No, seriously. It's a wonder the league still exists, really.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Celtics-Magic Game Six: On Switch Activated

The talk before this game was how this was Boston's Game Seven, the same way that Game Six against the Cavs was their Game Seven. But sadly for the Magic, the Celtics are never better than when they look terrible, because they've got the most pronounced on/off switch in NBA history. I didn't have a good feeling before the game started, and I didn't have a good feeling during the entire game, either.

Boston takes the early lead, but a Howard slam looks good; unfortunately, a defensive three is a point for Ray Allen from the line, and Paul Pierce adds another free throw on a foul to Jameer Nelson. Howard misses, but Rondo's jumper is terrible. Nelson misfires, and Rondo ges out in transition for the old-school three against Rashard Lewis. The Celtics point guard converts, and it's 10-4 early. Nelson feeds Howard for the flush, then draws a foul on Kevin Garnett, who is irate after getting caught with a ridiculous axe handle smash. I have no idea what Garnett is thinking there, and Rivers pulls him. Howard then slams on two straight possession to tie it, and, um, wow. 10-all. Glenn Davis has shaken off the concussion to return tonight. Pierce misses against Matt Barnes, then gets posted by Lewis for the make and lead. Allen answers with a three, but Nelson finds a clear path to tie it again. Pierce hits a three as well, and they are 3-for-3 out there. Lewis with a three and long miss that leads to Rondo drawing a foul like he's been shot. A lot of that going around in this series, really. We go to commerce with the Celtics up 17-14.

The Lemur comes back with attention to Boston Fan's super crying, because no other city has been annoyed by its teams. Pierce with an airball as Barnes does a nice job. Nelson throws an insane attempt that hits the top of the back board, which Howard collects and makes, somehow. Unreal play. He misses the free throw, and the Magic get another shot at it, but Nelson misses. Davis with a charge as Lewis gets nailed with the elbow; only Boston Fan thinks that a hard elbow is a legal play. Carter misses and Davis does as well. Pierce with a steal leading to a Rondo hoop. Howard misses from beyond his usual range. The replays show Carter as the culprit -- shocking -- and we go to commerce with the Celtics still up three.

Davis with two makes to push the lead to five; they are getting to the line. Howard turns it, and Davis scores at the cup; Magic looking weak, but Nelson hits a mid-range to stop the run. Howard blocks Allen in the mid-court. Pierce with an easy drive and finish as the Lemur fellates the coaching van Gundies. Nelson gets his second on an Allen flop away from the ball, and that's kind of crazy. Jason Williams in, and Lewis with a block to stop the momentum, but the baket has a lid for him on the other end. Rondo shoots at the end of a terrible possession, but Allen draws a hooking foul on JJ Reddick, and if you want to start talking about the Vast Referee Conspiracy To Ensure A Boston Final, I'm starting to wonder. Allen misses the karmic first foul, and makes the second, and the lead is 8.

Reddick misses the three, and Rondo feeds Pierce beautifully at the cup to continue the run. Magic offense looks bad, and Howard works to get to the line on a Pierce foul. Terrible miss on the first, make for the second. Rondo goes to the cup and falls heavily on a Williams foul, and he needs Pierce's Magic Wheelchair. As physical as the series has been, not sure that was one of the worst hits that he's taken, but if you spin on your drive and get pressure at the wrong time, it's not going to end well. Rondo limps to the line and makes both for an 11 point lead. He's also moving fine. Surprise, surprise. Reddick misses, Sheed boards. Rondo misses at the buzzer, and the first quarter ends with the Celtics leading, 30-19. Not looking good for a Game Seven right now.

Tony Allen in for Rondo. Reddick misses off a good Carter pass, and he's 0-for-3 now. Pierce to Nate Robinson for a miss, but the o-board happens and Davis eventually converts. Davis with a steal, but Tony Allen commits a charge on Reddick. The Lemur shows Stan van Gundy doing his silly voice; that has to help, right? Reddick with a make to cut it to 11. Sheed is blocked by Marcin Gortat, but the Celtics get another o-board, ending with Robinson feeding Davis, who misses an easy one somehow. Carter with a strong drive and gets to the line for a couple of makes and van Gundy fellates Robinson for no reason at all. Nine point game... and Robinson makes a three from the mouth job. Mark Jackson applies the final kiss and wet wipe as we go to commerce with a 12-point Celtic lead.

Carter with a make as Pierce goes down off a screen. Robinson to Garnett for an easy one. Howard with an obvious elbow to turn it; he also took steps. Woof. Howard sits as the Lemur decides to talk about players dancing, rather than the game. No, seriously. Reddick strips Tony Allen. Robinson called for a loose ball foul as Nelso slips. Carter misses, and Robinson doesn't. The Celtics are up by 15 as van Gundy gets gooey; he has been huge. Lewis turns, and that's six; Garnett with a tip, and the lead is 17. The Magic call time, and we're not far away from this being over, really.

After commerce, Nelson falls again on pressure from Robinson, and that's yet another turn. Robinson with a miss, and Reddick and Garnett go full luchadore into the crowd. A better crowd would be chanting E-C-W right now, really. Celtic ball, and Pierce makes to push it to 19. It's a wilding right now, and the Magic look beaten as Carter turns it, leading to Robinson drawing Nelson's third foul, a flagrant that really wasn't, but so be it. Robinson makes both to push the lead to 21, and with 30 minutes left in the game, I'm calling this one over.

Sheed misses. Howard with a nice move on Garnett and a make. Robinson makes again, and he's officially on fire; 10 points in six minutes. I'd like to start slapping myself for ever saying anything nice about White Chocolate in my picks column for this one. Carter tries to turn it but gets it back, and goes to the rim for a make and foul. Rondo still on the bench as Carter gets the make following commerce, and it's "down" to 18. Sheed with a bad three at the end of a bad possession, and the Magic get the team board. Sheed blocks Howard, big play, and Robinson makes it 20 again. Pierce fouls Howard near the cup, and the Orlando center hits both. Curious as to why Rondo can't get back on the floor, but Robinson owns this game right now, as Howard gets a weak call on his drive to the cup. That's his third foul, and seeing how he's been one of their better offensive ideas, it's a real issue.

All on Carter now with Nelson and Howard gone, and he can't do it. Shocking. Robinson with a miss, and Williams has a transition three, the first of the game for Orlando, to make it 16 with 3:27 left in the half. Rondo returns after commerce as the Lemur gives us more of the warmth and wisdom of Stan van Annoying. Pierce with a miss, and Gortat boards. Carter to the cup to cut it to 14, and the Lemur needs to get their on court mics away from Boston Fan. Ray Allen with a too-easy drive from a Perkins moving screen. Williams isn't a point guard this trip down, and misses while offending the basketball gods. Pierce gets it deep against Barnes and goes to the line. The Truth makes both, and the lead is back to 18.

Carter to Gortat, and Ray Allen takes a foul; had the Magic had this Vince more often in this series, they wouldn't be facing elimination. Gortat misses the first, makes the second, and it's 17. Allen misses, Lewis boards. Carter hits a three off a Barnes pass, and he's got 12 now; Magic with a pulse. Terriblle possessions from both teams, with a Lewis miss from the arc that would have mattered, and the baskets have lids right now. Carter goes to Hero Mode and gets Perkins' second foul with 12.6 seconds left. Vince now has five free throws in this game, more than the last three games worth. The Lemur fellates Vince as he makes one, and the lead is 13. Rondo misses for the final Celtics shot, and that's the half. If you are looking for drama, the fact that the Magic cut the lead with Nelson and Howard on the bench in the second is what you are clinging to, along with the idea that Robinson might stop being the best player on the floor. But it's a thin hope.

Howard misses; Garnett makes to start the scoring in the third. Howard with good patience and hits a hook over Perkins. Allen bails out the Cs at the end of the clock with a three; backbreaker. Howard can't make the bank over Perkins. Pierce to Garnett to Allen to ground, and the lead has grown by six in just over two minutes. Once again, the Cs are coming out big in the third quarter, and if you doubt Doc Rivers' coaching bona fides, consider how his team routinely turns the opponent into pudding after halftime adjustments.

Mark Jackson fellates Allen's mom and Stan van Gundy pouts like a three year old. Not sure I'm going to mind this series being over, really. Lewis misses from the arc, and Allen finally does as well. Carter misses in the post. Pierce's three makes it 22, the largest lead of the night, and my kids decide to quit on it; can't say I blame them. Pierce misses from the arc as he goes for a kill shot. Howard makes in the lane. Cs now running clock and getting nice looks late, as Rondo catches and misses at the cup on a Barnes foul. His first free throw is terrible, and so is the second. Nelson turns it at the cup; ugly. He's got 4 points and 2 assists tonight, but adds a three after a steal, and when he's the third best point in the game (after Rondo and Robinson), the Magic aren't winning. Garnett makes from mid-range to end the "run". Lewis with another bad turn. Rondo walks as he goes to Globetrotter Mode; the Celtics can only lose this, the Magic can't win it. Howard with a slam and Garnett foul, and there's no way that KG can stay with him. That's why Perkins matters. The free throw rolls in, and it's 16.

Reddick called for the foul as Allen pulls the chair on him, and that's just automatic points for the Celtics. Bad time for the Magic and Reddick to have his worst game of the playoffs. Nelson misses, Pierce gets his eighth board, and Nelson is taking the goat horns away from Carter... but Carter seizes them back with a dumb foul, his third. Pierce with two makes, and the lead goes back to 20 with 17 minutes left.

Garnett erases Carter at the cup with an uncalled goaltend, and Pierce goes into Tragic Diva Mode on a Howard hard foul. With admirable discretion, he avoids the Magic Wheelchair Moment, and makes both as Boston Fan serenades Howard. Howard saves a possession and Nelson hits. Pierce turns on Howard's defensive pressure, and Lewis feeds Howard for a slam as he waves to the crowd. Well, at least go down with flair. Rondo misses, and Reddick's three misses as Rivers calls time. Had the Dookie made that one... it wouldn't have mattered, because this game ended in the second quarter when Robinson destroyed Nelson and Williams.

The Magic are 3-for-12 tonight from the arc, while the Celtics are 8 for 14. Telling. Garnett with a make off commerce. Nelson misses a clean look off a screen by Howard. Allen with a make as Reddick is just horrible tonight; he also misses coming back, Pierce's 11th board. Perkins called for an offensive foul on the never to be taken seriously again Mickael Pietrus, and now that he's close on the technical ban, he's awfully quiet on foul calls. Tony Allen in for Ray Allen. Davis blocks Nelson, who then fouls Pierce, who pushes the lead to 24. This game is going to be so far off, even the Cs won't be able to blow this lead.

Carter with a running make. Rondo turns, the Magic miss from the arc, another turn, and Pietrus finally with a make. Pierce into end of quarter Hero Mode, and Pietrus flops to no effect as the Celtic swingman makes. Brandon Bass misses, and the quarter ends with the Celtics up 82-61. At this point, the coverage is more about hard fouls and possible injuries -- it's not like the Celtics have shown themselves to be very sturdy on their feet -- rather than who will win the series.

Pierce starts the fourth with a three with clock burn, even. It's Coronation Time. Lewis draws an arc foul on Sheed, and Allen fouls Carter out there as well. Carter with an effort tip. Sheed misses, but Allen boards, and Robinson has a quick dumb three that fails to burn clock and misses. Pierce with a foul on Howard. Pietrus with a bad three miss. Williams flops on a hard screen and takes forever to get up; great effor there. Miss leads to Howard getting to the line as Celtic Fan cheers Pierce for preventing the dunk with toughness. Howard misses both free throws, and Celtic Fan could not be happier unless he was taking a chair shot from Sheed. A bad possession burns clock as the Lemur fellates the Magic for not quitting the way they did in Game Three. Woo hoo!

Lewis with a make inside the arc, and it's 20. Davis misses. Perkins stops Howard on a drive, and that's textbook defense. Allen misses after commerce, but Reddick turns; the Cs miss in transition, but Nelson's pass to Reddick is terrible, and that's Yet Another Turn. Eight minutes until this is over. Garnett misses, but they run clock. Garnett fouls Howard quickly, and he makes one as Celtic Fan serenades him. Rondo and Pierce in for Tony Allen and Robinson. Reddick steals a Pierce pass and gets to the lane on a Ray Allen foul. The Dookie makes both, and it's 17. The Cs run 24 seconds of clock and get a Pierce three, their first points in 4.5 minutes, not that the drought matters. Howard with a catch down low and Pierce's fourth foul, but since they get one point at most from him going to the line, not exactly a winning strategy. The second is an o-board leading to a Howard slam, and the lead is 17. Rondo's three at the buzzer doesn't get iron, and with six minutes left... well, the Celtics just have to avoid turnovers, run clock and hit free throws. Honestly, it's not that hard.

Carter's three misses, and the Magic are now 4 for 17 there. Allen's three misses, but Pierce boards. Garnett misses, but Orlando can't control the board, and this is one minute off the clock. Allen misses, and Reddick fakes, goes back behind the arc, and makes to cut it to 14. There isn't enough time, and Pierce makes to ensure it. Reddick to Nelson for a hoop, but that took too much time. Pierce turns it, but Carter doesn't want the three, Nelson can't hit the three, Howard can't save the board, and Rondo makes in transition as Carter is hurt. Just in case you thought this game wasn't over. 16 point lead for Jackson's WWE wrapup, with about 200 seconds left. If it wasn't an elimination game, the starters would have been gone minutes ago.

Howard with a scoop; not sure why you don't foul him. Allen misses, and the Magic get the team board. Lewis misses a contested three as van Gundy tries to make the point that Orlando lost the series in Game One. Well, um, whatever; they lost the series because in four out of six games, they got their heads kicked in. Celtic Fan chants Beat LA, because that's the only team they are allowed to play in the Finals. I give up the diary as the Lemur goes into full We're Not Watching This Game Anymore Mode. Just can't get enough of that mode, really.

So the Celtics are your Eastern Confernce Champions, and they've earned it by taking out the best two teams. Hard to see how either of these teams get back here again next year; the Celtics have to get old and brittle enough to not do this again, and the Magic just got their hearts ripped out for all to see. Which means it's all about where a certain someone goes, but since I'm the only NBA fan outside of Boston, LA and Phoenix who isn't paying attention to that, I won't go there now.

Anyway... congrats to the once and always champions, and the 3-0 lockdown mark is still in effect. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it... ever was...

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Lakers-Suns

10) Pace. Tonight's game was the best one for each team on defense. Both teams scored over 100 points. Basketball is a game of runs and flow, and this series has had both.

9) Heroes And Villains. If you hate the NBA for its star system, and don't think that benches matter, this series takes that lie out back and shoots it in the head. Nearly every member of both teams have had good and bad moments, and there's never been a moment where you were certain who was going to come through. You could be hating and loving just about everyone on the floor, depending on what club you are rooting for.

8) Comedy. These games have been on TNT, aka the only network that should be allowed to televise the NBA playoffs. You get Craig Sager's visible from space suits, Steve Nash hobnobbing with Space Ghost, Ron Artest making Sager say "Bensonhurst" in the middle of his intereview, Alvin Gentry vomiting during the game and gutting it out... and we're not even discussing the post-game bull sessions with Reggie Miller, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson and the immortal Chuckster. Despite the fact that these games go late, I haven't been able to stay away from the full post-mortem, no matter who wins or loses. Kudos.

7) Analysis. Marv Albert and Doug Collins aren't perfect -- the latter's fixation on closing out quarters is positively savant-ish, and does not fill me, as a Sixers fan, with confidence for next year -- but they are miles ahead of their World Wide Lemur competition.

6) Redemptions. In crunch time tonight, Ron Artest went from the most stupid man ever who single-handedly killed his team to the man who saved the season at the buzzer. In the same game, Channing Frye was the second best player on the Suns, after spending most of the first four games looking like the worst player in the Association. If you like your games with a side of story, this series is for you.

5) Slovenian Beef! Suns back-up point guard Goran Dragic and Lakers backup shootuing guard Sasha Vujacic have a visceral dislike for each other. Neither will say why, and both are prone to taking charges and looking like they've been shot on contact. If they ever throw down, it will be the whitest fight in the history of the Association, and the closest thing you will see on a basketball court to a hockey goalie fight. Plus, it allows for one of the greatest fantasy basketball team names ever. SLOVENIAN BEEF!

4) Insanity. Listen to a Testy interview, or watch him get dressed up like he's about to do the Humpty Dance afterwards. Take a good look at the Sideshow Bob mullet that is Robin Lopez. Consider Adam Morrison's homeless cheerleader in a suit act on the sidelines, or Louie Admundson, the backup Suns center who seems to be trying to one-up Lopez for hair humor. And it just keeps coming.

3) The coaching battle. On one side, you've got the greatest coach by the numbers in NBA history, with an unmatched abiity to work the refs both in and out of game. On the other, you've got a guy who won't leave a game despite heaving, who seems to be teaching his team elaborate zone defenses in the days off, and isn't afraid to play bench players in crunch time if they are winning the game for him. For anyone who thinks the Association's coaches don't matter, watch this series and change your mind.

2) Not everyone is into this. To watch this series from the East Coast means grinding out weekday games until midnight, with nearly every game in doubt until late in the fourth quarter. Casual fans aren't going the extra mile, and will watch just the Finals, if anything. They will have no idea that they missed the series of the year.

1) The home team hasn't lost yet. Which means that it could be going to a Game Seven for the right to go the Finals, and a potential game for the ages. So why miss it?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lakers v. Suns Game Five: There Will Be Drama

Kobe Bryant is stripped by Grant Hill on the first possession, but Nash misses the three coming back. Amar'e Stoudemire rejects Pau Gasol twice, then Steve Nash is heady to move into Derek Fisher's static hand to get the arc free throws. Nash makes two of three, and that's the first points. Andrew Bynum gets a foul on Stoudemire with a tangle of feet, and the possession ends with Ron Artest taking a three second violation. Nash hits a three, and that's a fast 5-0 lead, all on defense. Not your father's Suns. Kobe hits to break the streak, and Stoudemire to Hill is awkward and a turnover. I'm of the opinion that you want Kobe scoring early, because that means others won't get in rhythm... but that won't happen, as Kobe picks up his second foul and sits. Laker Fan Is Not Pleased, and Jason Richardson scores in the post to make it 7-2. Fisher misses a three, and the Lakers get the board and remember that they have better bigs by volleyballing it; the result is a Gasol trip to the line, where he makes both. Robin Lopez misses but steals the board, and gets a non-shooting foul. Stoudemire with incredible body control for the old-school three, and it's 10-4 with the Lakers already in the penalty. Lopez with a cheap foul on Fisher on the perimeter, and Channing Frye comes in for Lopez. Artest forces a drive, but the Lakers keep possession. Brown is blocked and the Suns get two three point attempts out of it, but Hill and Richardson miss, and Gasol gets it on the other end. Hill responds with a three, and the lead is seven. If nothing else, by the time this game goes to the bench, the Suns should be ahead... and the bench was dynamite.

Testy misses a three that could have been big. Richardson owns Fisher in the post; 15-8. Brown misses as Nash doesn't lose him 1-on-1. Hill misses deep in the clock. Fisher drives and dives, and gets the call as we go to commerce, and I put the kids to bed. More later.

I get back to an entirely different game, as the Lakers lead 45-28. I guess the light switch has gone on... but the Suns get a Nash jumper and a Hill old-school three, so maybe they just need me to watch. Kobe turns it, and Amar'e gets to the line as Fisher's attempt to draw a charge is too far down the lane. Stoudemire makes the first and misses the second, but the Suns get the board. Artest with a steal, but Kobe's three is long. Hill misses, but the Suns get the board, leading to an Amar'e miss. The Lakers call time, and it's 45-34 with 3:22 left in the half, with the home team clearly doing the job on defense.

Odom with an easy look in the paint, and the lead goes back to 13. Richardson gets it back with a nice drive and reverse. Testy's three spins out, but Odom follows. Two turns follow, and Amar'e drives and scores. Kobe misses in traffic, and Nash hits over Odom to cut the lead some more. Bryant misses, and Gasol is whistled for felling Richardson. The guard makes one, and it's 49-41, with a 13-4 Suns run. Gasol is fed off penetration and gets a Hill foul. Two makes, and the lead is 10. Nash and Richardson miss three pointers around an Amundson board, and Richardson compounds the error with an open court gamble foul on Fisher. Two makes pushes it to 12, and this is going the wrong way for drama. Nash makes a pull up, but when he's not passing, they aren't good. Brown's airball at the buzzer leads to a spectacularly stupid Testy foul, his third, which puts Hill on the line with 0.7 seconds left. Just absolute gift points for the road team there. Hill makes both, and the half ends as Lakers 53, Suns 45. We've got a ball game, even though the Suns look pretty bad.

At the half, the TNT crew cite the contributions of Sasha Vujacic and the Lakers getting back to the triangle against a man to man defense when Kobe was out, rather than the discombobulation zone that's been working for them. It's also telling that the free throw line advantage for the Suns has disappeared, but the real story from what I can tell from the box score is that the Lakers are getting the good Lamar Odom. The most important Laker (in that, unlike Kobe, you never really know what you'll get from him) has 12-6-1 on 5 of 7 shooting in 16 minutes, which means the combined 0-for-6 that they've gotten from Bynum and Testy hasn't been deadly.

Richardson and Lopez get stuffed at the cup, then Bynum gets an Amar'e foul on the other end, and that 24 seconds, in microcosm, is why the Sun bigs aren't able to provide enough. Lopez spins his wheels down low, and Phoenix is looking shaky. Bynum is a bear on skates and ends up burning the clock. Stoudemire makes from mid-range to cut it to 8. Bryant over Nash, and that's too easy for him. Nash answers to trade the hoop. Suns go zone, and after a block, Fisher misses a three for a Suns team board. Nash misses off a Hill pass, and Fisher curls to the cup to make it 10 again. Bynum with a touch foul on Nash at the baseline. Stoudemire gets a marginal call on Bynum for his fourth, and if we do see Celtics-Lakers, the pule off for foul calls from him and Kendrick Perkins will be intense. Two makes, and it's 8 again; just hanging around. Testy with a miss and it would have been two, but Hill's called for a blocking foul. The Suns can't give Testy enough three point looks right now. Gasol is blocked at the cup, and the Sun defense is trying hard. After a miss, Stoudemire can't get the ball away before his foot lands, and that's a travel as the Sun big men miscommunicate. Odom to Gasol at the cup for a flush, and the lead's 10 again; Odom is the best Laker tonight.

Nash trapped and heads it off Fisher with three seconds left. A lob doesn't work, and Fisher takes a foul with an elbow to Amar'e. Frye's three misses, natually, and Gasol makes a flat footed baseline shot. A Richardson turn leads to a Laker fast break as Testy gives it up, and the 6-0 run makes the lead 14. There's no reason to think Phoenix can steal this game right now.

Stoudemire blocked by Testy as the Laker defense looks world-class again. A turn is matched by Testy stripping Nash and scoring, and this one is not long for the world... but Frye hits a three to stop the bleeding. Kobe makes in the trees as the Sun zone looks tenuous. Richardson with a curling make and foul, and misses the extra. Fisher with a make, and when he plays well, the Lakers are ridiculous. Amar'e with a turn as we're in Going Away Time here. Fisher three misses, but Odom boards and Gasol makes, and the second chance points are 16-0 for the Lakers. Kobe blocks Amar'e - wow - and Stoudemire prevents the exclamation point with a block on a stuff after a Frye foul. Odom makes one, the lead is 18, and with just under 16 minutes left in this game, failing a barrage of threes and some Laker boneheadedness, this one is over.

Nash with an impressive three. Heh. Kobe misses, and the Suns are very lucky to keep after good defense and sloppy ballhandling by Nash. Frye with an airball before commerce, which means he'll get to hear it for a good five minutes. So much for Fye, I suspect. It's 74-59 with 15 minutes left.

Luke Walton in with a miss, Odom can't finish on a putback, and the Suns run with Jared Dudley getting the old-school three, and Kobe's third foul. The free throw is missed, but Richardson misses a three that would have mattered, and Kobe responds with a make. Frye hits on pressure, maybe the first time in this series. Walton can't finish, and then Dudley hits a three with Gasol fouling him. Wow. Major spark from Dudley here, and the four point play cuts the lead to nine and quiets the crowd. The run is 11-2 now.

Fisher misses as the courtside mics pick up clear profanity. Nash feeds Hill awkwardly in the open court, and Laker Fan wants vengeance, but it ends with a Leandro Barbosa trip to the line. Two makes cuts it to seven, and Nash gets some rest. Jordan Farmar feeds Gasol on a tricky pass for the slam, but Frye answers with a three, and it's a six point game. Interesting. The final play of the quarter is Kobe in Hero Mode that doesn't work, and he's lucky not to get the technical from the ref displeasure. Looks like we've avoided garbage time, at any rate. 78-72 Lakers at the end of three.

Frye loses Odom, who scores on a re-post layup, then misses a three. Bryant's long three makes it 11 in a hurry, and Goran Dragic misses by a mile, then takes a foul on Fisher as Doug Collins fellates Sasha Vujacic. Gasol misses, but so does Dudley as the refs put the whistles away... that is, until Kobe touches it, and he picks up a Dragic touch foul. The Lakers violate the clock and the audience's eyes. Barbosa's rainbow airball misses, and Frye is blocked by Gasol twice before he gets a foul. Vujacic and Dragic get into each other for a double technical, and it's clear that these guys have something personal going on. Heh. Barbosa makes both to cut the lead to 9.

Bryant's three misses, and Vujacic's fresh scrub legs stops the break. Kobe with a technical as this game's getting sloppy, but Barbosa misses the freebie. Can't have that. Frye with a nice pass to Amunson for a layup, and it's seven. Dragic gets his fourth as Kobe sells the trip. Bryant can't get the jumper to settle, and Frye gets Bynum's fifth on an aggro drive to the hoop. Impressive road game for Frye, who seems to be getting better as the series goes on.

Gentry chastises his team gently. Frye at the line makes just one, and the Suns keep leaving points at the line. Farmar can't get the roll, but Dragic misses and Vujacic hits a three. Dragic responds with a three, and that's big on many levels. Barbosa fouls Bryant, who then hits a tough one; he's been huge. Frye hits another three, and the lead is five, the lowest it has been in some time. Wow. Bryant can't make against monster presure. Dragic overdribbles, misses, and it leads to Bryant to Gasol for a cheapie. Ouch. Six minutes left. Barbosa misses, and Vujacic boards. Bryant nearly hits a bailout three, but it stays out; as good as the Suns have played on defense, the Lakers have also had a half dozen shots just spin out. It's a close game, and you get the feeling that the Lakers could get thieved here... but it's still real hard to see happening. 90-83 Lakers with 5:22 left as we go to commerce.

Dudley at the line makes both, and the lead is five. Suns have missed nine free throws tonight, so you do the math. Fisher hits a corner three that's a back-breaker. Dudley to Amar'e at the cup for a stuff. Can Phoenix get stops? Gasol misses over Frye, and Dudley boards. Nash hits a tough crossover stop and pop, and the lead is four with four minutes left. Kobe with a make as the Suns can't deny him the ball, but Nash blows by Fisher and gets the old-school three, and the lead is now three. Just chip, chip, chip... kind of amazing. Nash with 25 and 10 assists now. 3:30 left.

Kobe misses on Hero Mode; no foul on Richardson. Nash to Amar'e at the end of the clock, and it was ugly but a hit... and then Fisher hits a backbreaker three. Good grief. If the Suns can get Testy to take a shot, I like their chances for stops, but right now it's too much Kobe and Fisher to be denied.

Frye misses a tying three. Bryant to Gasol, who goes to the line on Amare's fourth foul. Unlike the Suns, Gasol makes his free throws, and the lead is five with two minutes left. Nash makes over him, and that was critical. Kobe to Bryant on the baseline for an easy one; back to five. Nash over Gasol again, and the lead is three with 80 seconds left. Can Phoenix get a stop? Testy misses, then takes a three and misses as Laker Fan howls in frustration. Just unspeakable in its stupidity; the Lakers could have taken the clock down to 32 seconds left with a 3-point lead or better. Instead, there are 51 seconds left, and the Suns have the ball. Wow, wow, wow.

Frye's second attempt to tie with a three doesn't connect, but Gasol misses a slam that would have clinched it. The Suns bring it back down the court, and get three attempts at a three -- just unreal -- and Richardson finally hits the longest and most desperate one. Tie game with 3.4 seconds left, which is an eternity for Kobe, but how it ever got to this point is just unconscionably stupid ball by the Lakers.

Odom inbounds, and Bryant misses from distance... but Artest, of all people, gets the board and put back at the buzzer to win it. Un Freaking Real. They review for no reason, as Testy got it off well before the buzzer, and as much as I hate the Lakers and hate Artest... that was pretty amazing. Sure, you can blame Jason Richardson for not blocking him out, but Testy has muscles for a reason, and blocking out close to the rim on long jumpers is not exactly automatic. It's also not the first time in this playoff season that the Lakers have won with Kobe missing and the Lakers converting on a putback. And it's not as if the Suns had the ball in their hands with a chance to win. Your final is Lakers 103, Suns 101.

Can the Suns force a Game Seven? Of course. There's a real chance that Bryant is getting worn down by all of the minutes, and the Suns should get more out of Stoudemire, who only had 19 and 4 here. Had the Suns not missed nine free throws, this could have been a very different game. Phoenix will have to figure out how to get Nash to be a passer again. But it's not as if Gentry hasn't shown himself to be inventive in these games.

Could they beat the Lakers twice in a row? Probably not, of course. There's a reason that the Lakers are the world champions, and Pau Gasol's 21-9-5 tonight tells you all that you need to know about how the Lakers are reacting to the Suns zone. But at some point, you just have to be thankful for the game you watch, because these have become suddenly great. (How great? I'm going to miss a poker game to make sure I see every minute of it. This just trumps.)

Game Six is Saturday night in the desert. See you here then.

Steve Nash and Space Ghost

Can't tell you who I love more. Unless it's Zorak. Or Vitamin Water. (H/t to the great Sportress of Blogitude and You Been Blinded.)

Top 10 reasons why Stephen Strasburg's baseball card is going for over $16,000 on eBay

No, seriously.

10) It's the only one of it's kind, and made out of real cardboard

9) Card will actually be worth more once its service time starts

8) San Diego State alumni just have money to blow

7) Now that the real estate market has cratered, the only sensible long-term investment is in the baseball cards of people who have never played in the big leagues

6) Card comes with a thin stick of extraordinarily regrettable chewing gum

5) Bidders "SStrass" and "SBoras" keep raising each other's bid

4) Over $16K sounds like a lot for a card, but Opening Day Nationals pitcher John Lannan's is going for $40K

3) Card comes in a very rare, one of a kind plastic cover

2) Only goes to show the kind of big money clientele that Strasburg has been working in front of in Harrisburg and Syracuse

1) It's the first time that any member of the Washington Nationals organization has been on a baseball card

Top 10 reasons why the Magic will complete their comeback over the Celtics

10) Stan van Gundy finally found the magic motivator for Vince Carter; sit him for Dookie JJ Reddick

9) Boston Fan hasn't freaked out enough about the Bruins blowing their 3-0 series lead

8) Rasheed Wallace is exhausted after a solid three weeks of trying hard

7) Jameer Nelson no longer taking Rajon Rondo's calls, picking up his dry cleaning, or sobbing into his pillow when Rondo doesn't call

6) Dwight Howard's Jebus keeps smiting his enemies with those "inadvertent" elbows

5) When Rashard Lewis isn't weakened by a viral infection, he's just overpaid and overrated, rather than overpaid, overrated, and absolutely worthless

4) Big Baby Davis just can't stop doing his Ric Flair "Dream Street" stagger routine

3) Any team with Carter is a sure thing in the clutch

2) Paul Pierce won't share his Magic Wheelchair with Davis, Marquis Daniels, Wallace or any of the other walking wounded

1) Vast media conspiracy ensures an Orlando-Phoenix Finals

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celtics-Magic Game Five: Does God Love Us This Much?

A story on the Lemur this afternoon is that the Magic's Rashard Lewis has been playing with a viral infection, and fighting through nausea and weakness. So maybe he's not just, you know, a wildly overpaid and overrated basketball player, but an ill and overpaid and overrated basketball player. But the real problem with this as an excuse is that the length of time before games should have given the Magic enough time to cure anything, with the possible exception of old age. What the hell is wrong with their training staff?

In the first, Dwight Howard is dunking the ball and blocking shots, Vince Carter hits a three, Jameer Nelson does as well... and the Magic still trail, because they aren't taking care of the ball. But the Cs pick up two fouls on Garnett and Rondo quickly, and the Lemur praises Doc Rivers for leaving Rondo in. Considering that Jeff van Gundy praised the now-unemployed Mike Brown for putting Shaquille O'Neal on Garnett last series, you'd be wise to pull Rondo, Doc...

Paul Pierce hits his second three for a 19-17 Celtic lead, and the road team is 3-for-3 from the arc... but Matt Barnes answers from the arc, and does it again later in the quarter as the Magic bench looks good. Body language is all for the home team, Marcin Gortat is active, and they are even making their free throws... but Ray Allen scores and collects a Reddick foul on the final Celtic possession, and ye gads, he's just killing them. The Magic lead, 31-27, and I bail to put the kids to bed.

In the second, the Magic stretch the lead to 8, with the bench doing more good work, and the Lemur expressing confidence in Orlando all of a sudden. Personally, I think you should be up by more than 8 points when you shoot 60% from the arc, but I just have this history of seeing the Celtics win and all. Kendrick Perkins was ejected for some marginal technicals, and he could wind up missing Game Six for it, too. That sound you heard was Celtic Fan pulling his hair out, though it will probably be rescinded later. How will Sheed manage to play actual minutes?

Rondo opens the third with a layup. Sheed blocks Howard, but Barnes hits a three from the loose ball, and it's a nine point game. A Rondo make is matched by Carter getting to the line for the old school three, and that's Sheed's fourth. Heady! With the make, the lead is 10, and this game is starting to look like it could get away from the Celtics. Allen misses, and Glenn Davis picks up his third on a Nelson flop. Howard with a monstrous alley oop dunk from Nelson, and less than two minutes into the second half, the lead is 12, and Boston looks like they are conserving their energy for Game Six. My, how things can change...

Garnett breaks the run with a jumper. Carter misses on a drive and pop. Rondo draws a Carter foul, and so much for the momentum. Rondo is just 1 of 7 from the line after two misses -- wow -- but Lewis is whistled for a loose ball foul, his fourth, and it saves the possession to boot. Rondo with a make over Nelson, and it's eight again with a fresh turn on the Magic point. Garnett makes again, and the run is 6-0. Carter stops it with a drive and make. Rondo tries something ridiculous and misses. Carter misses the three, but at least he seems like he wants to play a little tonight. Garnett can't make it three in a row. Nelson in transition pushes it back to ten. Pierce goes down in a heap as Howard guillotines him -- no way he could avoid him, given where Pierce put his body -- and the Celtics need his Magic Wheelchair, stat.

After commerce, shockingly, Pierce is ok, and makes both free throws. Opera divas have nothing on Pierce in a playoff game, folks. The lead is eight. Howard rattles in a hook over Davis. Ray Allen can't hit on the move. This just in: when you make Allen move before shooting, he's not so damned deadly. Carter can't make as bodies hit the floor. Barnes is physical on Rondo, sending him to the line again, and he finally makes them, cutting the lead to eight. He's got 17 now, and looks a lot better than Game Four.

Barnes and Gortat turn it; yeesh. Rondo posts Nelson for his third foul, and the Magic can't hide Nelson on defense in this series. Rondo makes two more, and it's a six point game. Davis strips Howard pre-dunk, and Nelson hits from 30 as the clock expires. Wow. Davis connects, and give the Cs credit; they stop momentum with makes like that. Howard ends an ugly possession with a hook make, and van Gundy calls it, correctly, offense by accident. Pierce does everything but sing Carmen for a call and doesn't get it. Nelson in transition gets to the line and makes both, and the lead is 11 again for no good reason.

Garnett drives and finishes against Gortat. Nelson with an airball, but Howard catches it, and Davis takes the foul rather than give up the dunk. That's his fourth, and maybe Howard will just foul out the Celtic front line tonight. Reddick turns it as the refs miss a play, but the Magic don't deserve the ball on that anyway. Rondo picks up a charge on Nelson, and that's his third; nice play by Jameer. Howard turns it on an entry pass as Davis does a nice job. It's a nine point lead with 15 minutes left as we go to commerce, and an odd game, really... Boston doesn't really seem all that interested in winning it, but the Magic isn't really playing all that well, either. Except for the three point shooting.

Rondo with a technical as Joe Crawford is in the zone, really. Reddick makes as the Lemur buries Crawford; someone really need to let them know that this isn't the '90s anymore. The teams trade hoops, Nelson and Allen. Gortat with a good entry to Howard, but Pierce straitjackets him before the flush. The second is good, and the lead is 11.

Sheed with the turn to Jason Williams, who finishes nicely at Rondo. Sheed misses the three, but Orlando can't get the board. Davis misses, but the Cs get another board, and a Gortat foul. Shame; after the Williams steal and make, you really got the sense that Magic Fan was building to something. Sheed makes both as Nate Robinson is in for Rondo, and he's officially someone Celtic Fan does not want to see. Williams overdribbles and misses the three. Gortat takes a cheap one, and Sheed goes back to the line on fouls that the Lemur hates, in that they go against the Celtics. Yes, I'm starting to notice the bias from the New England network... Two Sheed makes, and it's a nine point game. Separation, Fail. Robinson blocks Howard, amazingly, and the Celtics play four on five for 14 seconds as Davis looks concussed. Wow, that was scary; he's like a WWE jobber out there. It turns out that Howard gave him a big-time elbow, another one of those inadvertent shots that's going to make Celtic Fan scream out loud. I'd feel worse for Davis if I haven't seen 1,000 flops before this one, and he stays on the bench as Pierce is erased by Barnes on his usual end of quarter Hero Mode jumper. At the end of three quarters, the Magic lead, 84 to 75.

Davis to the locker room. Lewis on a drive and make, and that looked basketbally. Celtics go small, because they have no other choice. Robinson with a three, and he's played well so far; that's a worry. Lewis picks up Pierce's third, then goes into the post on deep sub Marquis Daniels as Robinson goes for another weak side shot block. What an odd player he is; if he could pass, he might actually be tolerable as a sub. Lewis makes one as the Lemur discloses that Davis has a concussion, and won't return; if he and Perkins are out for Game Six, this becomes Highly Interesting. Daniels turns it on the other end, and limps back. The Cs commit an intentional foul to swap him out for the dessicated remains of Michael Finley, and I'm pretty sure that Antoine Walker is looking at his phone right now. Lewis misses, Gortat boards, Williams misses, and the Cs board. Pietrus fouls Pierce on the other end as the Lemur's cameras find Daniels looking punch drunk. Robinson misses from the arc, then fouls Reddick as he reminds America why he doesn't play. Lewis very aggro in the post, and he scores against Pierce; the lead is 11. Rondo misses, and Lewis clears and cans it from the baseline. The lead is 13, there's nine minutes left, and the Celtics look like their regular season selves all of a sudden. It's beginning to look a lot like a series.

Sheed makes to cut it to 11 and keep it a game. An odd possession ends with an ugly foul by Pierce on Reddick, and that just looks like frustration, and a possible flagrant foul. As Reddick is a Dookie, no call. He makes both, and it's back to 13... and if I were Rivers, I'd be looking hard at pulling Pierce if this game gets out of hand, because he's just looking irresponsible right now. A Sheed 3 is an out of bounds airball, and then he takes his fifth trying to deny Howard. The Orlando center misses both. Pierce drives, but Nelson strips him, and the Celtics are lucky to keep the ball. Allen misses on the move, and the Celtics go to intentional fouls on Howard, but as it's Rondo's fourth, this isn't exactly painless. It's also nauseating basketball that rarely works, and Howard makes the second. Wallace hits a three, and it's 11 as Allen hacks Howard. Seven minutes left, and they could be long. Howard hits both; yay. Daniels is out with a concussion, and Sheed makes another three. No hack this trip, and Nelson answers with the three. Big time. The Cs turn, Carter to Pietrus for the slam, and it's a 15 point game; we could be seeing garbage time very soon. 5:47 left.

Garnett misses; no Howard hack, and Nelson hits the three. This one's over. Sheed with a make inside, and now Sheed is doing the grimacing. A minute later he takes a blocking foul on Nelson to take the most obvious exit this side of a WWE ring, and Nelson makes both for a 19 point game. As badly as the Magic quit in Game Three, the Celtics are equalling the lack of effort here. Sheed to the dressing room for his own M*A*S*H work. Short of a brawl, nothing else of consequence will happen in this game, and the Celtics don't have enough guys on the floor to stage a fight, really. Your final is Magic 113, Celtics 92.

Well, the thing about no one ever coming back from being down 3-0 is... someone has to do it eventually. And while I doubt Perkins will be suspended, it's not as if Daniels and Wallace have to be healthy for Game Six, or that Lewis isn't looking like a basketball player again... or that the Celtics aren't suddenly looking old and frail and without heart. I still doubt that God loves me enough to give me two Boston teams gag up 3-0 playoff leads in the same year... but Hope has definitely entered the room.

Jersey Bowling

A quick word about the 2014 Super Bowl being awarded to Northern New Jersey...

That word is... Idiotic.

I get that many people aren't thrilled with the way the NFL keeps the SB in warm weather climates only. There's clearly no reason to give this game to Jacksonville, or Houston, or many of the places that it's been. They aren't particularly fun places to go, the infrastructure isn't up for handling the stress, and there's something just kind of irritating about the idea of some warm-weather and/or dome team having the advantage. Football fans, it is said, can stand being outside in the cold, dammit.

Football fans, by the way, do not go to the Super Bowl. Or, at least, not very often.

No, the people who go to this game are the well-connected, the lucky, or the people making a once in a lifetime move that's going to set them back thousands of dollars. And of all of those people, the only ones that anyone should give a damn about are the last group...

And those are not the people who should be sitting outside in northern New Jersey in February, paying New York prices for everything from food to lodging to entertainment, and having what might be the definining moment of their lives as football fans happen with a more than fair chance of exceptional cold, wind, rain, snow and misery.

Oh, and here's another fine little wrinkle... what happens if, and there's more than a small chance of this, the Patriots, Jets, Giants or Eagles are in the game?

Right, it's a de facto home game. For fan bases that don't exactly need any help -- at all -- for their fan bases in the first place. In a game where a home field advantage has never really existed, and really, never should. (And I'd feel the same way if the game were in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago or any other city you want to name.)

The plain and simple fact is that this game should be in the one place in America that the majority of football fans can all agree on. A place that doesn't have a team, with ample lodging, with a wide range of entertainment options and price levels.



San Diego's lovely, but the stadium is out of code (this being California). Florida's got a ton of teams and a strong home field advantage possibility. Putting the game in Dallas just feeds the greedhead ego that is Jerry Jones. All of these other locations aren't fun to visit.

So let's hope that the game's a nightmare, and that the league gets taken down a much-needed peg or six. It's necessary, really. Much more so than a game that could be a train wreck. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lakers-Suns Game Four: The Bench Shall Rise

In the first half, Phoenix's bench goes crazy Broadway style, with 11 points for Channing Frye as the Lazarus moment of the playoffs. Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom all play well, but the Suns still lead by nine at the half, 64-55. The bench is +40, and ye gads, this is not the script that was expected. Reggie Miller talks about his important it is that Steve Nash is getting rest, and if the games are happening every day. How about it just being important to win games, you big-eared maroon? The Suns are allowed to win a game without Nash being the key to it...

Kenny Smith makes the nice touch that Fisher's lack of penetration and pure point nature is making the Phoenix zone more effective... and it's also making Kobe enter Hero Mode early, which is why, along with Pau Gasol's foul trouble, the Lakers are showing weakness. But whether or not the Suns win this game or this series, we're seeing why the Celtics are going to win the Finals. And why Phoenix just might be a worse matchup for them. But enough of the dreaming.

The third starts with Kobe stuffing Lopez in the paint, and a Jason Richardson miss. Bryant gets J-Rich in the air for the shooting foul and makes both, and it's kind of unfair that a man with his gifts also has such a high basketball IQ. Only the first goes down, but Nash turns it, and Artest finishes at the cup for a quick 3-0 start. Lopez and Amare Stoudemire bully the board in, but Kobe gets it right back to cut the lead to six. Amare goes baseline beautifully on Gasol for the make, and Gasol answers on Lopez. Not exactly a defensive clinic going on here, though to be fair, these are highly skilled teams. Fisher with a foul, then an Amare finish as Phil Jackson tears Andrew Bynum a new one for leaving Gasol out to dry. Well, OK, but that's clearly a matter of Philip not being able to yell at his star big man, really. Eight point game as we go to commerce.

Bryant's straightaway three is money. Yeesh. He's got to get tired at some point, right? Hill's 3 misses, and Bryant hits from the corner arc, and as Marv Albert says, "Uh oh." Gasol with a block as the Lakers begin to feel it and get their crowd going. Nash with a great steal and save on Bynum, trapped on the baseline. Richardson misses on the other end, but Stoudemire boards and gets a Bynum foul. He only makes the second, and it's the first time he's gotten to the line tonight. Telling. Three point game goes to one as Testy misses, but Gasol finishes. Fisher fouls Nash as Kobe mouths off. Stoudemire off the pick and roll gyrates to the cup and misses, but that's a Testy foul, and Amar'e makes both this time. 3 point game.

Bryant is unbelievably smooth, but misses from mid-range. Hill at the end of the clock misses, but Lopez outfights Bynum and Gasol twice for the tip. Kobe's catch and heave three misses and looks gassy, but the Lakers board and get a Hill foul. Gasol misses from mid-range, and the lead is five. Nash's 3 misses, but Amar'e has the board, and Bynum is officially useless right now. I'd be thinking about DJ Mbenge if I were Coach Philip. Stoudemire misses both, which doesn't help. Frye in as Bryant misses from the baseline, and he's suddenly cold, but Stoudemire is called for the foul before the shot. Odom in for Bynum, and Kobe feeds Gasol for a stuff. Three point game again.

Nash to the runner and gets Fisher's third foul, and that's two points from the line. Kobe misses again, but Nash turns it coming back, and Bryant has the make coming back. Fisher hits Nash in the face again, and if this were hockey, I'm pretty sure that someone would be swinging at him by now. Nash makes him pay with two more at the line, and that's Fisher's fourth. Odom misses from three, and Bryant gets away with a foul on Jared Dudley's attempt at the o-board. Lake Show getting chippy here. Stoudemire tries to prove a point, but misses the stuff, and Odom cuts it to three on the other end as bodies hit the floor. Stoudemire is on the end line on the next possession as the home team looks a little shaky, and Bryant goes baseline for the make that's just money. The Suns nearly turn it on a Nash to Amar'e try, but Kobe can't keep it, and we go to commerce with the Suns up one with 2:53 left in the third.

Amar'e shakes and scores over Gasol. Bryant again from the arc, and it's 81-all; he's got 31, with 6 threes. Stoudemire answers for the lead. Bryant feeds Odom for a lay up as the Suns over commit. Frye's three spins out. Testy's three for the lead doesn't go, but the Suns stooge the board, and Gasol gets to the lane. Can't make mistakes against the Lake Show when Kobe's like this. Frye's second foul, and Gasol's make, give the Lakers their first lead in forever, at 84-83, and Bryant takes a seat for the end of the quarter.

Amar'e misses, but Dudley forces a jump ball on good hustle. Goran Dragic is fouled by Jordan Farmar off the tip, and two makes turns the game back to the Suns. The Lakers get the o-board to get the final shot, but it stays out, and Frye's heave misses as TNT fellates him for not caring about his shooting percentage. Honestly, Channing Frye's shooting percentage is way beyond help at this point. The third ends with the Suns up 85-84, and yet again in this series, the fourth quarter will decide things. (And the lesson of that is... that the Lakers aren't *that* much better than the Suns.)

Kobe turns it to start the fourth, as his minutes are elevated against the Suns bench players. Frye misses off a Dragic dish, but Louis Asmundson gets the board... leading to Dragic getting stuffed. Farmar hits a three in a bad possession, and the Lakers take the lead again. Barbosa answers from just inside, and it's 87-all. Not a great possession either. Farmar misses, and Frye boards, with Dudley feeding Asmundson down low for the layup. Kobe misses and howls at the ref, but Phoenix misses on the other end. Shannon Brown misses, and Dragic embarrasses Kobe in the open court, but Barbosa can't hit the corner three; that would have been a massive moment. Phoenix gets the ball back as the Lakers can't keep it in bounds, and if nothing else right now, the Suns are treading water while Nash sits and Kobe sweats. Dammit, now TNT has me thinking about Nash's minutes, too.

Barbosa ends a bad possession by getting a foul. Phoenix is 0 for 8 from the arc in the second, and Dragic gets a Bynum foul; if Bynum were a fight, it would be stopped on cuts. Frye nails a three at the buzzer, and that's immense; 5 point lead and a live crowd. Frye's fourth three of the night. Brown to the rack misses, but Bynum finishes and flushes to stop the run. Barbosa begins another run with a corner three, and the lead is six as the bench is getting it done. Farmar's three misses, and Dragic feeds Dudley for another corner three as Arizona explodes. Wow, wow, wow; nine point game with a 9-2 run in much less than a minute, with Bryant on the pine. Who knew a bench could have this much impact in a playoff season where the games happen every other equinox?

Kobe returns. Fisher's three misses, and Dudley with the board. Dudley misses from the arc on the other end, but Asmundson boards; the Suns wind up with a shot clock violation off a block. We're at the 5:50 mark with the bench players staying in, because Alvin Gentry is smart. Frye blocks Fisher, who traveled but got away with it, and on the other end, Dragic feeds Asmundson, who gets to the line on Odom's third. The Suns keep leaving points on the table from the line, but at least he makes the second. Ten point game with five minutes left.

Odom misses in traffic and looks out of control, but he's able to get the board and go to the line. Doug Collins points out how Bryant and Gasol aren't taking the shots right now, and the fact that the Lakers still don't looks good against a zone is kind of amazing. Odom misses the second, and Asmundson boards. Barbosa hits, and the lead is now 11. Gasol is erased with no call, and Dragic runs clock, spins, ends Fisher's career and finishes at the cup with his off hand with a ballet pirouette finish. Holy Mother of God. That made me laugh out loud; wow. Fisher recovers with a long make late in the clock, and Barbosa runs time, but turns it to Kobe, who feeds Testy for a layup. Gentry calls time to bring in his starters, and have they ever done a job tonight. We are three minutes away from a tie series, and it's all thanks to a bunch of guys that aren't household names in their own household. Suns 103, Lakers 94.

Nash misses from the arc, and the Suns take a defensive three; that doesn't help. Bryant's first point of the fourth (!) cuts it to 8 as Amar'e returns. Testy's three misses, but Stoudemire blows his assignment on Gasol, who flushes to cut it to six. Nash misses, but Stoudemire boards and will go to the line... and, agonizingly, blows the first. That's nine free throws missed by a good shooting team; unconscionably. Gentry goes with all starters as Amar'e hits the second; 7 point game with two minutes left. Odom misses from the arc, and Nash boards. Advantage, Suns Zone. Stoudemire is too quick for Gasol in the half court, and he's going back to the line. This time, he makes both, and the lead goes back to nine with 98 seconds left.

Kobe in Hero Mode, somehow on Nash, and he makes and goes to the line. That's insane. Kobe misses the free throw, then commits a foul on Richardson in transition. Can J-Rich put it away at the line? Two makes says yes, and the lead is 9 again.

Testy's three off a Kobe pass misses, and the crowd can smell it. Nash runs clock, Hill connects, and Phil Jackson takes a timeout to rub his the Laker noses in it. Short of complete brain lock and missed free throws, Phoenix is going back to Los Angeles with the series tied, and it's going to be a best of three to see who goes to the finals.

TNT flashes the graphic that the Suns bench has 54 points tonight, and that Phoenix is up 13 on free throw attempts. Don't expect that last point to evade Jackson's notice in the post game. Kobe slices to the cup for the make. Nine point game as Gentry calls time. Nash gets the inbounds and runs away from Testy for a few seconds before getting fouled, then makes both. It's nice to have a 94% free throw shooter at point, really. Odom finally hits a three, about a half hour too late, but the Lakers can't keep Nash from the inbounds pass, and he's going back to the line for two makes. Ten point game, 34.3 left. Kobe gets a deuce, and the inbounds pass this time goes long to Stoudemire. Fisher fouls him, and the big man gets one. Gasol misses, Hill boards, and the Lakers concede.

Ladies and gentlemen, we've got a series, and if Coach Philip is to be believed, this means that the series hasn't started yet, since the home team hasn't lost. In other news, Coach Philip talks a lot of nonsense, and hasn't gotten his bench to show up tonight, or his team to do a thing against a zone. Can't say it hasn't been fun to watch...

Oh, and here's the Dragic play. It just keeps getting funnier the more you watch it.

Top Ten Reasons Why Tiger Woods Won't Get An Automatic Ryder Cup Berth

10) U.S. captain Corey Pavin just can't say no to current 10th ranked player Matt Kuchar

9) Woods has slept with every woman Pavin has ever known, including close family relatives

8) The U.S. team wants to, um, stick it to CBS on the ratings

7) Europeans would, as a rule, refuse to compete against a known philandearer

6) With her $750 million divorce settlement, Elin Nordegren is buying a controlling interest in CBS

5) Pavin is worried that Woods might take "Ryder" as a verb

4) After Phil "Family Guy" Mickelson's triumph at the Masters, it's clear that players with poor ethics never win

3) Woods totally crushes everyone else's locker room poon stories

2) They don't have enough Stuckey's and Old Time Country Buffets over there to keep him focused

1) Finally will mean that there's enough trim to go around for the rest of the team

Top Ten Reasons Why Phil Jackson Might Coach The Bulls Next Year

10) It's what President Obama wants

9) Officially tickled by the idea that his new GM used to be one of his bench scrubs

8) Knows that his housing dollar would go much farther in Chicago than Los Angeles

7) Will only take the job if he can shave Joakim Noah, and Phil loves the world that much

6) Tired of having to compete in a conference with good teams

5) It's every old man's dream to move out of a warm climate and into a wind-crazed icy hell for his last job

4) Taking over for Vinny del Negro, and coming back to the city where he won a half dozen championships, means that he could dog it more than Don Nelson and still be bulletproof

3) If you had to coach Ron Artest, Sasha Vujacic and Andrew Bynum, you'd be thinking about a new gig, too

2) After nearly two decades as the most successful coach in NBA history, tha Lakers reportedly want him to take a pay cut, and thanks to his relentless heroin habit, really needs the money

1) Hint: It Rhymes With LeBron James

Top Ten Reasons Why The Celtics Didn't Sweep The Magic

10) There's only so many times Big Baby Davis can force a turnover by falling like a drunken sailor in a typhoon

9) Vince "1 for 9, and 3 more points and 2 more boards than a dead man" Carter can only do so much

8) Eventually, Rasheed Wallace's evil twin will show up

7) When you get Rajon Rondo in foul trouble and have to see Nate Robinson take the floor, victory is not exactly assured

6) Boston Fan needed to be reminded about the Bruin collapse

5) Dwight Howard's Jebus finally showed up

4) After watching the Magic miss 13 free throws, hard for the Celtics to stop giggling long enough to close this out

3) Jameer Nelson's failure to call "bank" before his big overtime three pointer disgusted the Celtics with its poor sportsmanship

2) Gives Celtic Haters the olive branch of hope, which will soon come crashing down on on our heads

1) All Father Stern has had quite enough of sweeps, thank you

Monday, May 24, 2010

Magic v. Celtics Game Four - Because The World Demanded More Of This

In the first quarter, Rashard Lewis actually commits acts of basketball, and the Magic shoot 63% from the floor to go out to a 31-26 lead. The body language still wasn't that great, and Paul Pierce was carrying the Celtics, but a couple of quick fouls on Rajon Rondo got the best Celtic in the series off the floor, and that matters a lot, actually. Three more quarters of this, and the Magic can cut down on the amount of time the Celtics have to prepare for the Finals. Lofty goals!

In the second quarter, Rasheed Wallace misses a tying three, and Lewis connects from the arc to push it to six. Doc Rivers goes to Nate Robinson, of all people, which tells you all that you need to know about how well the Celtics would do without Rondo. Dueling travels from Glen Davis and JJ Redick lead to a Robinson miss -- he doesn't exactly take a long time to hoist them up -- and three straight whistles on Ray Allen, Sheed and Davis has Celtics Fan convinced that David Stern has dictated a non-sweep. They might be right.

After commerce, the Cs cut into the lead as Dwight Howard leaves points at the free throw line, Rondo returns, and Ray Allen hits. But Howard answers off a Jason Williams assist -- one suspects that he hasn't enjoyed the last few days of watching Rondo outhustle him -- and the lead is back to six. Mickael Pietrus continues his terrible series by missing from the arc, but Davis misses, leading to a Howard make off a Reddick dish, and the lead is 8 as Rivers takes the timeout. Howard is now 5 for 6 for 12 points and 5 boards, and maybe he's not quite ready to have his season end.

Rondo with a miss, and Kendrick Perkins picks up his second, as the Magic hope grows a little more. Howard even hits the free throws, and Pierce breaks the run with a layup and Pietrus foul, and that ten point lead certainly didn't last long. Pierce completes the old-school three, and Vince Carter comes up small on the jumper. Kevin Garnett with the make, and Howard can only make one of two. Pierce trims it to four, then Perkins blocks Carter -- major momentum change happening now -- and a travel on Pierce keeps the roof on the building. A Brandon Bass miss -- he's getting extended run tonight for some reason --leads to Pierce drawing a Matt Barnes foul, and commerce. Hard to imagine the Magic ending the half with the lead, and they really need to.

I pick up the game again at 56-55 in the third, the Magic having ended the first half up four points. Howard and Garnett get into each other, Carter turns it, and Garnett misses at the line, rather than tie it. Barnes keeps a possession alive as Boston Fan screams, and Barnes has a make. Lewis takes his third foul as Rondo sells it. Perkins picks up his third on a moving screen, which is to say that Perkins gets his third foul for being Perkins. Howard with a nice bank shot to push the lead to five. Garnett flops for Howard's third from an absolute touch foul elbow, and Celtics Fan wonders why people hate his team. Somehow Garnett recovers enough to take a jumper five seconds later and misses. Howard can't convert on the other end, and Carter loses Ray Allen for an open three, which goes down easy. Carter with a miss on the other end, but Howard spikes the follow. Perkins draws Howard's fourth, and while the Orlando center certainly hammered him, the elbow from Perkins on the way up wasn't exactly kosher, either. Perkins bitches about the call to boot, as Boston Fan wonders why the world hates... well, you know the rest. Two makes from the reprobate cut the lead to two, and Howard takes a seat.

Bass with a desperate make at the buzzer. Perkins gets away with a push for the offensive board after a Garnett miss, and Allen hits the open shot. Reddick answers with a massive three, and the lead is five with a broken run. Big, big make there. Pierce with a miss, and Rondo's flop is actually called for his fourth foul as Boston Fan is utterly and completely convinced of the Game Five Conspiracy. Me, I think if flops were called as fouls, the NBA would be an immensely better game.

Barnes with a save, but Nelson turns it, and the Magic look terrible in half court. The Celtics have that knack. Pierce with great body control to score inside against Marcin Gortat. Nelson is mugged for a turnover. Pierce misses as Nelson gives great effort. Barnes is short and sad on a three. Pierce misses the three for a flat footed Sheed board, and Davis eventually has the make. Gortat called for a block on Rondo, and that's the sixth Magic turnover of the quarter. Get your brooms ready, folks; the Magic are starting to get that Dead Team Walking look again as Mark Jackson does his Never, Ever Tired Manly Deep Voice Thing. Please, Mark, do more of your Manly Deep Voice Thing! It's the only thing that convinces me that some players are good!

Twenty two seconds of good Magic defense is undone by a marginal foul call on Williams, and Allen makes both to give the Celtics the lead as Celtics Fan exhales. Williams misses the three badly. Bass blocks Pierce on a great play, and Tony Allen takes a foul as Jeff van Gundy chastises Pierce for failing to heed the wisdom of holding for the last shot. The fact that the Celtics aren't in the penalty for the quarter in a ridiculously physical game? Why, that just shows my anti-Celtic bias, I think. The third ends with Boston up by a point, and that's yet another third quarter the Celtics won handily.

Howard turns to start the third, but the Celtics get every loose board in this series, including this one. It doesn't help, as Tony Allen forgets the clock and dribbles it out. Lewis drives and gets hammered by Sheed, who looks like his lumbago acted up on that one. Reddick feeds Pietrus for a wide-open three that misses, but the Magic save the possession, and Reddick ends it with a three. Sheed picks up a stupid technical -- hey, he's still Sheed! -- to give Reddick an extra point. Sheed's fourth foul is a moving screen ten seconds later, and he's a gift to Orlando right now. Pietrus has another terrible three and miss. Sheed responds with an equally terrible three and miss, but only Davis can collect the loose ball; he ends the possession by forgetting about the clock, then turning it over. Heh. Carter returns with visible goat horns, but it's Reddick with the turnover, and Rondo scores in transition to cut it to one. The Duke product comes back with a three as Tony Allen misses the steal gamble, and it's four again. Garnett can't make over Howard, and Davis is whistled for a foul on an entry pass coming back. We go to commerce with the Celtics looking like the team that played in the regular season. Shame it won't last.

Howard has 23-9-3, the three being blocks. Kind of useful. Carter, on the other hand, isn't, and Davis takes another charge for his fourth foul. Eight minutes left, four point Magic lead, and the corpulent one scores in traffic to cut it to two. Carter's wide open three is bricked, but Howard rebounds one on four, then gets to the line. He whiffs both, and Davis ties it with a jumper. Like we didn't all see this coming.

Carter's pass to Nelson is bad, but his later pass to Lewis is worse, and that's another turnover. If you hate Vince, this has been your series. Garnett with a turn, but the Magic don't push, and Davis turns Lewis on a drive; great defense. The C's play volleyball on the offensive glass but can't get it down, and Reddick eventually controls it. Lewis misses a corner three as the Celtic defense is just going into wilding mode, and Rondo gets to the line before commerce as Jackson slurps every inch of Davis before the break. If the over/under for wet wipes for Jackson per game is 20, I'm taking the over. You've got to admire the man's commitment, as well as his ability to avoid lockjaw, really.

Stan van Gundy talks turnovers, and yet doesn't remove Carter. Orlando has 14 tonight, 10 in the second half as I write this. Rondo at the line used to be a problem, but not anymore, and his two makes give the Celtics another lead. This one's looking on life support, given the Magic offense. Pierce takes a flop and is whistled for it. Nelson feeds Howard, who throws down thunder for the tie. Nice. Reddick steals, can't make the three, but Nelson boards it, then hits his own three. Wow. Magic back up by three with 4:30 left. Pierce gets a bailout call as Nelson keeps getting switched on him, which isn't exactly speaking much to the Magic defense, aka Carter. Two makes cuts it to one with four minutes left.

Lewis gets a call on Garnett, his second, and the Magic are actually going to the line now. Lewis continues his comeback game with two makes, and van Gundy actually swaps out Barnes for Carter. Manly! Pierce goes on Barnes and misses, but he blocks Nelson coming back. The Cs with a bad turn, as Garnett can't connect in the half court. The Magic walk it up, and Reddick feeds Lewis, who misses a relatively easy one. Pierce's three misses, and Garnett gets his third foul for over-the-top body work on the board. With 2:53 left, we go to commerce with the Magic up three and at the line.

Lewis to the line, and he only gets the second. Four point game, Carter on the bench. Rondo misses awkwardly, and Howard boards. Celtic Fan sounds worried, and he's got reason to be, as Nelson feeds Howard on half court pick and roll, and the center flushes it over Davis, and even makes the old school three. Seven point game all of a sudden. Pierce to the rack and slams; ouch. Howard misses on Davis, and the inevitable Ray Allen three makes it a two point game with 101 seconds left. Seriously, do teams in the NBA not watch film, to know that late in the game, the Cs want nothing more than Allen at the arc, and that maybe you should, you know, not lose him there? Gahhh. Reddick on the miss there.

Carter in for Barnes. Hoo boy. Nelson walks it up, then gets to the cup for a Davis foul that's marginal. He only makes the first, and it's a three point game, and that's just pathetic. Pierce on Carter for the old-school three, and it's Nelson's fifth foul to boot. If there's a worse big game player than Carter, I haven't seen him. Seriously, if he's had a good play in this game, I haven't seen it. Pierce ties it at the line with 71 seconds left. Nelson gets turned after overdribbling. Pierce misses over Nelson, but the Magic don't run, and Reddick calls time with 16 seconds on the clock, and 24.3 left in the game.

What option will the Magic choose -- Nelson overdribbling, Carter missing, Lewis turning it over, or Howard missing because he doesn't really have a post game? It's Nelson, and he misses, but Pierce in Hero Mode turns it on the other end without a time out, and if you've seen an uglier last possession in a game, you are one up on me. This sweep won't happen in regulation! Woo!

Carter is on the floor for the overtime. He's got 3 more points, and 2 more rebounds, in 26 minutes tonight than I do. Kudos, Vince. Howard wins the tip to Nelson, who feeds Reddick, and it's a travel with contact. Not encouraging. Allen hammers Reddick for no call, but Howard erases it, then gets to the line on a Pierce foul. Say this for Howard; that's pretty great athleticism for a big man in overtime. But it's not like he's good at the line, and yes, Orlando would have won this game in regulation had they taken care of business at the line. Two misses, but Pierce's three is horrible, and the Magic get the out of bounds board.

Nelson to Howard at the cup, but Perkins erases it. Manly. Lewis fouls Garnett and looks gassed doing it. Pierce takes Carter to the rack, misses, but gets an easy steal coming back. Garnett with a miss after elbowing Lewis in the neck for the entry pass. Nelson with a banked shot three, and that's the first points in the overtime, and pure luck. Allen misses a runner, and Howard boards. Nelson with a monstrous 3 out of a terrible possession, and we're 1:59 away from Game Five. The Magic point guard has the only points in the overtime, and the crowd is quiet in only the way that a spoiled crowd can be quiet.

van Gundy goes to Pietrus, but leaves Carter on the floor. Somehow, the Magic decide to leave Ray Allen wide open at the arc. No, seriously. The three is automatic, and honestly, I don't think the Magic are smart enough to win a basketball game right now. Allen now with 19 and 5, and he's 4 of 6 from the arc. Just a cascade failure of dumb there between Lewis and Barnes. van Gundy calls timeout to scream himself stupider.

Carter feeds Howard down low, who is blocked by Davis, but the second effort is a dunk and a foul. Wow. The free throw is missed, of course. Five point game. Guard Ray Allen? Nah, why do that? He hits a three off a curl, and it's a two point game with 1:13 left. Carter, surprise surprise, doesn't get to the shooter in time as the Lemur fellates Allen's mom. No, seriously. Air sickness bag, anyone?

Nelson walks it up, dribbles for 20 seconds, misses at the cup, but no one blocks out Howard for the putback. Perkins with the goat horns there; how you don't foul the hell out of him, I don't know. Might the Magic guard Ray Allen here? The Celtics are down four with 52.7 seconds left... and yes, they go, and get an unforced Garnett turnover for their effort. 42.7 left. Nelson walks it up, and turns it. Pierce misses two threes, but Nelson can't corral the loose ball, and that's his sixth foul. Just a terrible play on both sides there. 9.6 seconds left, and the Magic have had any number of chances to end this, and yet it's not over... but after the very worst possession you'll ever see, it is. The Celtics inbounded it, had Rondo dribble around like a goober, then settled for a Davis heave with 2 seconds left that missed. And that's that. The Magic avoid the sweep, mostly because Howard had 32-16-4. Howard thanks deities, who probably had more to do with this than Carter or van Gundy...

If you are a creature of hope, a playoff season where the Bruins and Celtics blow 3-0 deficits would be, well, The Bestus Year Ever. But realistically, Rondo won't get into foul trouble again, and Howard's not going to do this three more time in three more games. But a man can dream.

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