Friday, April 27, 2007

Thursday Night Wrap-Up

What started out as a thrilling first round of the NBA Playoffs is starting to get pretty boring. I can only hope that the NBA stops scripting the action long enough that we get a good weekend of games. For instance, it would be nice if there was SOME suspense tomorrow in Miami. Instead, based on the last few days, we have every reason to expect that the Bulls will shoot 10 free throws, Miami will foul with impunity, and the series will be 2-1. Anyway, here is the wrap-up:

Most. Boring. Series. Ever.

We've got the "yawn, when is the first round over?" Pistons taking on the "wait, how did we make the playoffs?" Magic. Let the good times roll! Detroit won another methodical game tonight and now lead the series 3-0. Even the NBA's desire to extend every series and squeeze ever last ad dollar out of network telecasts can't help Orlando. Next.

Lid on the Rims

Strong night from the Rockets as they set franchise playoff records for fewest points (67), fewest points in a half (25), and fewest field goals (27). Not only that, they set an NBA playoff record by only having four guys score. And it's not like Utah was much better, shooting 38%. The Jazz just got 21 more shots, thanks to fewer turnovers and offensive rebounds. It is worth noting that Okur had another strong defensive game, forcing Yao into 8 turnovers. Memo's offense? Not so much. As for Houston, they need to start making some shots. They have yet to crest the 40% mark in the series and it is amazing that they are even up 2-1.

Not on Our Watch!

Despite the Lakers' best efforts to get swept, it isn't going to happen, thanks to Kobe Bryant and the officials. Kobe had one of his strongest games of the season, going 13-for-13 from the line, 15-for-26 from the field, and posting 41-6-6. Other than his five turnovers, he was pretty much flawless. Good decision making, big shots, the whole thing. Of course, once again, it is hard to truly appreciate such an effort, because the officiating was so poor. After what happened in San Antonio last night and L.A. tonight, it appears that the new favorite NBA referee tactic is to simply refuse to call anything on the home team. I'm shocked that no one for Phoenix lost a limb tonight, because the Lakers were pretty much allowed to do anything they wanted on defense. Amare Stoudemire got fouled, by my count, nine times in the game ... and he shot two free throws. Two! The Suns as a team shot just 12 and two of those were on illegal defense calls. It was just weird to watch an NBA game that looked more like rugby. Credit both the Spurs and Lakers for realizing that they were getting a free pass and taking advantage by getting their hack on, but isn't anyone else perplexed and/or bothered by this? As Bill Walton would say, "Why even have a rulebook?"

We all know Phoenix is going to win the series, but the NBA is so desperate to squeeze a few extra games out of Kobe that you get a blatant trickle-down effect to the point where the action on the court doesn't even resemble basketball anymore. There was a play late in the game in which Amare went up for a shot, got hit in the back by one guy and slammed in the shooting arm by the other, his attempt went flying off the backboard, and there was no call. He could hardly even argue because he was so shocked. Another play saw Nash go down the lane, get the ball ripped out of his hands and knocked out of bounds (by virtue of a rake across the arms). The call? Off Nash, Lakers ball. You could see Nash argue something along the lines of, do you think I would heave the ball into the ninth row? I mean, it was a joke.

All of which means I will be calling my buddies in Vegas tomorrow and having them lay down my life savings on the Heat (which, granted, isn't much). Because with the league's vested interest in keeping Wade and Shaq on the tube for a few more games, I can PROMISE you that Miami will be handed this game on a silver platter. It might be hard, because the Bulls are clearly better, but even if it takes a free throw disparity of 57-to-5, these top notch officials will get the job done. Expect a vintage Wade 22-free throw attempt game tomorrow.

Yes, I'm bitter. Sports should be unscripted. I think this is why I like baseball's postseason so much better, because while the umps can impact the game, they can't dominate it.

(And for all of you Lakers/Spurs/Mavs fans who think I'm somehow railing on your team, you can leave your complaints at the door. This has nothing to do with who is winning or losing the games and everything to do with the fact that I KNOW who will win before the jump ball. It just isn't any fun.)


Branden Higa said...

Yeah, i feel the same way, its kind of like the whole Tony Stewart/NASCAR thing. Although my theory is that NASCAR has a switch they can push that will randomly cause cars to start dumping parts on the track or spin uncotrollably.

Sorry to bring this fine blog down with talk of the most popular spectator sport in America.

Adam Hoff said...

Higa, I've long contended that you are the most rational Lakers fan I've ever met. This only furthers that claim.

As for the Tony Stewart reference, his comments reminded me of Van Gundy a few years ago, when he basically accused Stern of rigging the playoffs. I actually don't think the games are rigged, but I definitely think external forces (beyond just a lathered-up home crowd and aggressive home team) influence referees. I wonder if Stewart will get slapped with a $100K fine ala Beetlejuice?