I have to get something off my chest. I pledged my allegiance to the Lakers a long time ago based on the club's history among other things. I've been told recently based on this allegiance, I am supposed to hate any other club the Lakers have a rivalry with and by defacto, not associate with any fans of said club when they meet. I know sports fans are a superstitious bunch, but I think this is taking it a little too far. I remember when I was with "Off the Record" on TSN, we did a show on reverse racism in sports and I think this is exactly what this debate is about. Think about it. A friend of mine is a Boston Celtics fan. With the impending possibility of a Celtics-Lakers final, does this mean I am supposed to sever all ties with said friend? Disassociate with them based on the colour of their jersey? Smells a bit like racism to me. I don't care what team you cheer for, you and I can be friends. Just don't get in my face about Nash and Stoudemire and be all cocky and annoying about it. I will come out swigging just like Kobe, Gasol and the gang in game four of the Western Conference Final tonight. We'll talk about this, Orlando hanging on for dear life and Mike Brown hitting the high road in Cleveland. Let's get it started.
A Rumble in the Jungle - Suns are on board (2-1 series for Lakers)
You've heard it before in boxing, "a rumble in the jungle" but never before in basketball, right? How many times does Nash have to get smashed in the face before we start confusing the basketball court with a boxing match? In Sunday night's game, a fourth quarter foul on Nash broke his nose and you could see him on camera trying to reset it. He also has no plans for protective equipment or a tape job - just oh natural for Nash. And who said basketball players weren't tough?
Amar'e Stoudemire is certainly proving to be. He was playing aggressive and positioning himself to really connect on key plays. He had 42 points on the night to Kobe's 36 and outplayed the Lakers on THEIR two man game, 118-109. Nash and Stoudemire are really in sync and proved on Sunday they are not going to take this series lying down. I think the Lakers missed the little things and got out of their rhythm. They left Robin Lopez alone twice and twice using the same play, Lopez scored. And unless he comes right out and says it, I don't think he elbowed Derek Fisher in the head on purpose. I know some thought he should have got a technical foul but I don't think so. Good call. Really, this series has been all about who's on fire at any given moment. On Sunday, it was the Suns. Tonight, I hope it's the Lakers.
Keeping the Dream alive in Orlando (Boston leads series 3-1)
Rip the band aid off. Pull the plug. Put them out of their misery. Monday night's game was painful to watch. It dragged into overtime for the first time in these playoffs. This would have been cool if the series were tied or close to it. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 series and I seriously doubt the Orlando Magic will be the team to break that record. If we take a look at the scoring stats from Monday's game, they are pretty even: Pierce with 32 points, 11 rebounds; Allen with 22 points, 5 rebounds and Garnett with 14 and 12. Pretty comparable to Orlando's top scorers: Howard at 32 and 16, Nelson at 23 and 5, Lewis at 13 and 5. So with no star or one player really dominating consistently, what was the difference in this game? Again, we need to look at rhythm, here. I think Garnett broke their focus with the technical foul he received in the 3rd quarter and Boston didn't gain any real momentum. It's not like they were outplayed - this game could have easily ended in their favour. Take a look at the final scores so far in this series. None have broke 100 and have only been won a handful of points - except for game three when Boston won by 23. Compare this to the Western Conference Final and you'll see each score is over a hundred and each game was won by more than ten points. Which means we have top scorers in both conference finals, but maybe in the Eastern final, they are concentrating on defensive strategies more and their top scorers are a little more consistent and even. If Boston doesn't want another repeat of Monday night's game, they need to start the game firing on all cylinders on Wednesday.
"As the World Turns" in Cleveland
You've done it. I've done it. You flip on your television and catch yourself watching a soap or some other emotionally salacious drama where someone knows their partner is on the way out and thinks a high stakes gesture is the band aid to fix it. Puleeze. This is exactly what is happening in Cleveland. General Manager Danny Ferry and the rest of the Cavs' big brass know Lebron James may be leaving Cleveland and also knowing Lebron's relationship with Mike Brown isn't exactly a match made in heaven, they turf Brown. I know part of the reason they did it Monday was to avoid paying him next year's salary had they waited any longer to fire him. Not sure if I agree with how they did it - no real announcement to explain why they made their decision, so it begs me to wonder what they are hiding. How are they going to attract a high profile coach at this point when they are not sure if Lebron will be there? Or Danny Ferry for that matter since his contract expires in June and there are no guarantees he will be around either. And what about Cleveland's assistant coaches? What a complete mess going into the draft and free agency season. No coach, possibly no GM and the likelihood of Lebron on his way out. To Cleveland Cavs fans everywhere: my heart goes out to you during this difficult time.