I am done. Done with this emotional roller coaster the Lakers are putting me on. It's funny how James and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to these things. Being a fan and becoming emotionally attached to a team is like being in a relationship. If a team doesn't keep up their end of the bargain by playing well and being entertaining at the very least, do we start the slippery slope of the "break-up" check off list? All I am saying is I am having doubts and I am wondering if it would just be easier if I was a "single" fan of the game. Then I would be free to cheer for Lebron or Nash or even Durant without feeling guilty. In any other professional sport, I'm single. No ties to any team, just a love and admiration of the game, free to follow and support any player I choose. Much easier and stress free. Let's check in with my Fab Four match-ups to see how things are going and talk about some NBA headlines.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Series tied at 2-2)
The first thing I noticed in this game and I am not sure if this was a conscious coaching decision or not, but Kobe wasn't always taking on the offensive leadership position during this game. Alvin - a friend of mine and the Dinonation - posted on my facebook page that Kobe needed to sport a cape and come out flying like the superhero of this series or else the Thunder might roll on through to the next round. He's got a point. The Lakers were trying to play from the inside out and it obviously didn't work. They weren't paying attention to detail and lost a game that was pretty much decided in the first quarter. The final score (110-89 for Oklahoma) did not reflect that a multi-NBA Championship powerhouse was present. The Thunder are becoming a serious threat for the Lakers. Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said they had a meltdown. Take a look at the stats for this game and it becomes clear. In the transition, the Thunder just out ran the Lakers 24-2. They were good on the fast break and held the Lakers to a 29-17 lead after the first quarter. Most of the starting Lakers were on the bench in the fourth quarter and Kobe left the game (not to return) to begin treatment on his knee. Are they giving up? Are they getting old? Not sure. But whatever it is, they need to step out of it before there is thunder and lighting in Los Angeles.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers (Phoenix leads the series 3-2)
This game made be happy. It's funny. The playoffs are generally a time when coaches tell their reserves, "No offence but you may not see a lot of playing time". The stars of the club take over and conduct the business of winning games. With their starters on the floor, Phoenix allowed Portland to take an 18-4 lead to begin with Monday night but dug deep into their proverbial bench pockets to pull out a remarkable 107-88 win. Two notables? Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Channing had a career playoff high 20 points and 8 rebounds on the night with Jared at 19 points. Nice to see players step up and get to contribute coming off the bench. But let's not forget Brandon Roy. He had no real impact on this particular game but to come back so early from knee surgery - EIGHT days after. You might have heard this sort of thing happening in the NFL but in the NBA? Basketball players take a special kind of pounding on those knees and need them to be in tip top shape. A testament to Roy's character and work ethic.
Speaking of character, the Suns' Grant Hill picked up his third Joe Dumars Trophy as announced Monday. This award is given to players in each division who deserve to be recognized for their sportsmanship qualities and is voted on by the players. Hill joins Atlanta's Al Horford, Boston's Ray Allen, Cleveland's Antawn Jamison, Denver's Chauncey Billups and Houston's Luis Scola. This has to be the best piece of NBA hardware to have in your collection. It means people think you are cool to play with and against and admire for your character and not just your basketball skills. The MVP or any of the other accolades you can receive as an NBA player means you are good at what you do but it also means you are hard to defend or shut down and that might mean you are not as fun to play against. It means a lot more to receive recognition for something when it comes from your peers and especially when the talent being recognized is sportsmanship.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls (Cavs lead the series 3-1)
They are done. Chicago - that is. I hate to say it, too because Chicago has so much going for them. But it was certainly a Lebron show, giving Chicago fans a new image for the number 23. On Sunday, Lebron James finished with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists - a nice triple double. And that third quarter buzzer-beater bomb from just inside the half? Unbelievable. It seemed as effortless as if it was made from 2 feet away instead of 34 feet. Even Joakim Noah described James as the best player in the world. It's no wonder that Cavs fans at the game started chanting "M-V-P! M-V-P!" I think that one game that Chicago took gave their head a shake and made the Cavs realize this wouldn't be a series sweep. Derrick Rose rolled his ankle on Shaq Sunday - a nagging, on going injury that may or may not prevent him from playing in game five. Chicago needs all the help they can get. I hope they do everything to challenge the Cavs and not just participate in the Bron Bron show. Would love to be a fly in the wall in the Bulls pre-game chat.
Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats (4-0 Series Win for Orland0)
Our first series sweep of the playoffs. The Orlando Magic is the first team making it to the next round and are anxiously awaiting who their opponents will be: the Hawks or the Bucks. I will give credit to Charlotte. This was their first trip to the playoffs and kept themselves in the game. The 99-90 win for the Magic could have gone the other way. Charlotte cut the lead to a single point at 77-76, one point in the game, but two drained 3's by Mickael Pietrus kind of killed any momentum the Bobcats had. The Bobcats are still learning how to play playoff basketball. And it is certainly a different game. It's no sprint to the finish. It's a full-out marathon and only the mentally and physically fit will survive.
On that note, let's touch on the rumours I have been hearing about Bobcats Coach Brown. You may have heard too, that he's toying with the idea of a front office job with Philly or the Clippers. He says he's not coaching anywhere else but in Charlotte but that doesn't quash possibilities of taking another position somewhere else. He's almost 70 and he could just be weighing options. I think based on his close relationship with Michael Jordan, an offer to leave Charlotte would have to be pretty darn good.
Kevin Restani and Franklin Mieuli - R.I.P.
Whether they were an architect of the game or just contributed whatever they had, it is always sad to see someone from leave the game permanently. Kevin Restani died in San Francisco after returning from Milwaukee where he was at game three between his former Bucks and their opponents, the Atlanta Hawks. Restani was a power forward with the bucks in the mid to late 1970s. He was nicknamed "Big Bird" by then Bucks play-by-play announcer Eddie Doucette. The Bucks aren't saying how he died Saturday night, but nonetheless will be sadly missed.
Franklin Mieuli was on of the most colourful figures in the NBA. He owned the Golden State Warriors for 24 years until he sold them in 1986. He won an NBA title with the team the year I was born (look it up..ahem 1975) and was the club's only championship in almost fifty years in California. This is one guy I would have loved to have a chat with about the game. He had such a passion for the game of basketball and just threw his heart into it. Fans loved him mostly I think because it stuck with a struggling team for so long. He died of natural causes on Sunday in San Francisco. He was 89.