Tuesday, 24 May 2011

No gas pedal in the dustbowl state

I close my eyes for a second and the Mavericks decide to pull a rabbit out of their hat. That had to be it, because a game that OKC had adrenaline pumping through their jerseys and the raucous crowd ready to drill through the core of the earth to fashion thunder from liquid hot magma… well, no, a major comeback by the Mavs could never happen. Could it?

Dirk dropped four-zero like he was shopping for after dinner entertainment. Ain’t no thang to lean back and drill fadeaways that are seemingly pre-natal instincts for the NBA’s most amazing big man. Dirk-a-dirk. Or maybe it was Jason Kidd stealing and dishing dimes like he was on Suns, Nets, or… Mavs? Mavs, the team that drafted and err, traded him to be the floor-general. And he was last night.

Yes, Mavs, the team that plays as a team, passing, sticking together, locking down for key defensive stops, that rallies around a solid-but-never-great coach who focuses them to just win. And owner that displays his brass balls like another outside-the-box owner of different sport, except he's more genius than loon. Just win baby, just win.

There were signs this could happen, as improbably and stunning the comeback was. At the start, the Thunder exploded early, but the Mavericks hung around, and hung around some more through great OKC bench play. Brendan Haywood played like the starter he thinks he is and the Mavs’ depth and size kept OKC reaching deep into theirs for freshness.

Gas pedal nowhere to be found in the dustbowl state. The Dallas Mark Cubans up tres - uno.

Now the question tickles your brain: can either of these western gunslingers shoot out the old-school-brain-battering-body-shattering-nineties-defense of the Miami Heat or if somehow Poseidon were to rise from Atlantis, the Chicago Bulls?

I’m still picking the Mavs because they deserve the win and they play the most beautiful, fluid, team-oriented ball in the league. But the Heat have stumbled onto the age old formula of lock ‘em down, and have a dependable men to knock ‘em down. With LeBron determined like Rockefeller on an oil expedition and Wade a rampaging bull with blood in his eyes… and oh, Bosh playing like an attacking raptor (grow ya hair out again!) on the boards and spinning shots away from the post, who can stop the sun from rising anew in the east?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Ode to the 2011 NBA Playoffs: Chemistry Wars

I’ve been a basketball fan all my life. And when my sports watching days started way back yonder as a kiddie propped on my dad’s knee, it was the hardscrabble 90’s NY Knicks I was glued to. The era of defense and toughness and Charles Oakley carwash commercials. Tangent: his catchphrase, “work hard, be da best” is emblazoned in my brain at any mention of oak, lay, or Oakley; if I ever get a tattoo on my chest, it will be that quote etched over his burly mug.

These NBA playoffs have been gritty, grimy, and plain ol’ great. Yes, the Andrew Bynum flagrant 2 in game 4 of the Mavericks series was vomit-inducing, but other than that tomfoolery, the action has been constant and delightful.

Take the triple OT knockout by OKC over Memphis. These playoffs are showing the diverse talent flourishing in the NBA. Russell Westbrook, you can laugh now, it's ok. You're officially better than everyone thought you were, much better. And the old guns are silencing, LAL, SAS, BOS down next. New blood. And some think Rose will exceed MJ. And he just well might if he developed an automatic outside shot, which he almost has. Not to mention he's the fastest and most exciting player in the league.

Chemistry wars
This has been a year of GM chess. Pat Riley playing the role of Mad Men account mastermind in convincing LeBron to head down to South Beach AND keep Wade happy AND pair them with Bosh who is now showing some clutch talent in the brawny dogfight with Boston.

The matchups are all tight, even if they don't go seven games, and there's a lot of uncertainty in the air, especially now that LAL is out. (I thought they were a lock for a threepeat.) Uncertainty makes for entertaining playoffs.

And back to chemistry--these playoffs are about teamwork. Boston was built as a complete package, but is being taken down by the Heat whose coach has them playing lock-down defense.

The Bulls upgraded almost their whole roster and play old-school Warriors-style 10-man basketball with Thibodeau fielding the massive army. The team plays with fire and energy and may just have what it takes to muscle its way to the crown this year.

The Mavericks' Rick Carlisle has the team playing as a hive mind. Knocking off the Lakers, their confidence is now boundless and their path to the NBA finals paved in gold. These Mavs play the most beautiful basketball in the league, passing crisply, roughhousing when needed on defense, and shooting effectively from every position. If one word coincides with the Mavs playstyle, it's intelligence. That makes them my team for this postseason.

Memphis and OKC are showing the world how good they both are, reaching down to bring out the fire, but also relying on great coaching, and well-balanced rosters. Both GMs should be proud of the lockerooms they've crafted.

Do yourself a favor and indulge nightly in the magic of this current NBA--it's just pretty, so pretty.