Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday Night Wrap-Up

Another wild night of playoff basketball.

Is Utah the Team of Destiny?

I'm starting to think Utah has some magic aura this year. They are winning games that just boggle the mind. Here are ten thoughts on Derek Fisher Night:

1. Obviously this will be remembered as Fisher's night and that works for me, because of the way he handled and overcame an awful family tragedy, and then made all of the clutch plays down the stretch. It was like a bad sports movie ... but in a good way.

2. Not to throw cold water on everyone here, but I think we saw one of the worst no-calls in recent playoff history. Very few people will mention this because it involved Fisher (I feel like a real bastard right now), but I don't understand how there can be no foul call on the play with 25 seconds left, when Baron got called for stepping out of bounds. Fisher gambled on a steal and absolutely crushed Davis. He knocked him 10 feet backwards, forced him to scramble (because of the eight-second rule), and caused that out of bounds call. You just can't let that kind of foul go. It totally undermines the game, which reminds me ...

3. This was a great game, but for me it was tainted a little bit. I know that sounds crazy, but I just don't like watching rugby. These teams shot 70 combined free throws and probably should have shot 170. And it is because across the board, the officials are calling the game differently. So much physical contact how been allowed the first three weeks of the playoffs - especially for "physical" or "tough" or "defensive-minded" teams like San Antonio, Utah, Detroit, and Cleveland - that we are literally seeing a different sport than the one I watched for 82 games during the regular season. So much for all the rule changes and the "don't breathe on D Wade" culture of last year's Finals. Basketball is back to being a collision sport again and it is starting to drive me crazy. More than anything, I would like to know why. Changing the rules from the regular season to the postseason doesn't make any sense. That said ...

4. The officiating didn't decide the game. The Baron call was awful and the way the games are being called is disturbing, but GSW lost because they shanked free throws down the stretch. They got five multiple shot trips (11 total attempts) late in the fourth quarter and the amazing thing is that No Elbow Biedrins is the only Warrior to make both his freebies. J-Rich went 2-for-5, Pietrus bricked a pair, and Baron split his at the end. 5-for-11 isn't going to get it done.

5. I mentioned this in the comments section of a previous post, but Utah is starting to look like they can win it all. They can beat anyone in the East (strangely, the Cavs might be tougher for them than the Pistons) and they might be the only team outside of the state of Arizona that could beat San Antonio. They were 2-0 at home against the Spurs this year, are now 5-0 at home in the playoffs, and have the depth, versatility, and Next Gen Duncan/Parker (Boozer and Deron "The Kingpin" Williams). Plus, they now have the Hollywood storylines going. I know that people won't believe me, but I almost picked them to win it all. I've thought they were better than anyone else would give them credit for all year, dating back to the "sports bar preview" that Jack and I threw together to start the season. I went back and forth on that Houston-Utah series for about 20 minutes, knowing that I would take the winner all the way (because I liked the winner's chances against "Dallas" and refused to pick my nemesis Spurs or an Eastern Conference team). I ultimately chose the Rockets, but it wasn't easy.

6. Baron's rough finish overshadowed yet another amazing performance. He is banged up and being swarmed by the defense, yet still went for 36 and 7 with 4 steals on 13-for-22 shooting. Ridiculous.

7. Hopefully Dee Brown is okay. An injury like that is always really scary. Plus, he really stepped up when given a chance and doesn't deserve this terrible luck.

8. I find it amazing that Golden State could play so poorly (outrebounded by 28, missed 25 threes, shot just 42%, missed 11 free throws, and got doubled up in the assists category) and still have the game in hand with under a minute to go. Barnes went 3-for-12 and Jackson 4-of-18 ... and they still should have won! Maybe I shouldn't start talking about Utah in the Western Conference Finals just yet.

8b. Speaking of Barnes, he finally had a bad game but still found redemption when he hit that UBC (ugly but clutch) pull-up jumper late in the fourth. I know he's getting lumped in with past free agent late (and brief) bloomers like Jerome James and Bonzi Wells, but I think Barnes' great play is more about heart, fit, and the evolution of the game. He probably does deserve someone's midlevel. That said, he should do whatever he can to stay with Nellie in Oakland.

9. For my most competitive fantasy hoops league (a keeper league run by my buddy Josh Stump) - should I hang on to Luol Deng or Mehmet Okur? I traded an injured Joe Johnson (keeper eligible) to make a run at a title (that was ruined when my squad was the first victim of the suddenly healthy and dominate Richardson/Baron combo), which left me with Redd and a Player To Be Named Later. I have C Okur, F Deng, and we'll throw in G Kevin Martin. Any thoughts? I'm open to suggestions.

10. How weird is this: Okur having his foot on the line might have saved Utah's season. If that shot is a three, the game is tied 112-112 and the Warriors have 9 seconds to take the final shot. It is hard to imagine that the Jazz could have stopped Baron with that much time. If he scores or draws a foul, G-State wins and takes a split back to Oakland and probably wins the series. Kind of amazing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing when Okur's foot was on the line. GSW isn't a very reliable free throw shooting team and even if they did make them both, Utah could go back to Okur for a game-tying three. But tying it with 10 seconds left would have left them in real trouble.