Even with the Orlando Magic leading the Boston Celtics by 17 midway through the fourth quarter in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, you may have had an uneasy feeling in your stomach that it was a big set-up to a massive, heartbreaking, Stan Van Gundy-firing collapse. Of course Boston was going to make a run - especially with Dwight Howard sitting with five fouls. The only question was how badly would the Magic collapse.
After all, they had blown a 14-point lead in Game 5 of the series, and almost let a 28-point cushion slip away in Game 1, so why not save the “best” for last? And sure enough, after Ray Allen hit a three-pointer with 4:12 to play, the Celtics had cut the lead to 12 and were poised to make something happen. So, of course, there was only one man the Magic could turn to in their hour of need.
That’s right, Mr. Pizza Man himself, Hedo Turkoglu. Maybe the grease on his fingers from his pregame meal of pizza put extra spin on the ball, but he was out of his mind in Game 7, especially when the Magic needed him most. He responded to Allen’s three-pointer with one of his own, and then hit a fallaway jumper on the next possession to get the lead back to 17. Maybe he’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and pizza is his spinach?
After that, it was time for the Celtics to pull Allen and Paul Pierce for a final round of applause, and bring in the scrubs. (Otherwise known as “Gabe Pruitt Time!”) As for the Magic, they haven’t been this far since the Shaq and Penny days, so you can excuse the people of Orlando if they don’t exactly act like they’ve been there before.
So the NBA didn’t get the Cavaliers vs. Celtics match-up they were craving, but their consolation prize is nice: the most dominant big man in the game (Dwight Howard) vs. the most dominant anything in the game (LeBron James). As for Bron-Bron and the Cavaliers, you can see that they were clearly concerned about who they would play:
Let’s see Van Gundy draw up a defense for that.
As the NBA’s reigning champs were dethroned, the current NFL champs get ready to enjoy one of their spoils on Thursday: the traditional meeting with the President in front of the White House. But NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison won’t be joining them. No, he doesn’t have a pressing personal emergency, and it’s not a political protest. His reason is a little more complex than that:
“This is how I feel — if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, he [Obama] would’ve invited Arizona if they had won,” said Harrison.
So let me get this straight: Harrison is upset because he thinks that Barack Obama is playing favorites and only inviting the Steelers because they won the Super Bowl and not because he’s their biggest fan? Apparently he didn’t see the bitchin’ helmet tattoo that the President got before the playoffs, or the new paint modifications he made to Air Force One once he took office:
Finally, the Stanley Cup playoffs started their conference finals on Sunday, and the Detroit Red Wings gave the upstart Chicago Blackhawks a welcome to big time hockey with a 5-2 thumping in Game 1 of their series. But the big story was almost something far darker, as the Blackhawks’ Adam Burish narrowly escaped a Richard Zednik/Clint Malarchuk moment when his neck was clipped by the skate of teammate Ben Eager.
Unlike the other two players, Burish only received a minor nick that didn’t require stitches. Still, he knows how lucky he was:
“I don’t know how my head was still connected there,” Burish said. “I saw his skate. It was like he did a figure skating move. He lifted his skate up and I just watched it go over my neck.”
If only they made some sort of device that could protect hockey players in case a blade happens to catch them in the neck. A “neck protector,” if you will. But I guess that’s just crazy talk.
- THE STATE says South Carolina baseball player Casey Rihn allegedly learned the hard way why you don’t keep hitting the back of a police car with your hands when you are walking around drunk at 2 a.m.: you can wind up arrested after the cop in your car turns your face into Hamburger Helper on the ground.
- I guess that Usain Bolt’s OK after the foot surgery following his car crash: The AP says that in his first meet back in Manchester, England, he set the world record in the 150 meters at 14.35. Yeah, he even has the world record for a race no one runs now.
- Walls? After you’ve been through the kind of hell Josh Hamilton has, walls are nothing. Actually, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says that the wall was a pretty decent adversary for the Rangers’ outfielder, as he suffered a mild groin strain while making a game-saving catch against the Angels.
- Dear Bruno Junqueira: Thanks for qualifying our car for the Indianapolis 500 - we really appreciate it. But we hope you don’t mind that we’re pulling you from the ride and replacing you with Alex Tagliani. It’s nothing personal - it’s just that he’s our main driver and all, and he failed to qualify. Best, Conquest Racing. P.S. Please return your driving suit to us by 5 p.m. or you lose the deposit.
- Manchester United wrapped up the English Premier League crown this weekend, but the biggest story might be the plight of former soccer heavyweights Newcastle United. As the TELEGRAPH reports, their 1-0 loss to Fulham puts them on the edge of relegation to soccer’s minor leagues, as they need a win in their final game to stay in the EPL.
- NFL fans who don’t get the NFL Network might finally be in luck: SI’s Peter King says that the league is closing in on a deal with Comcast to make the network available on the regular digital cable package. Finally, I won’t have to pay a premium for my daily dose of Rich Eisen.
- TROY NUNES IS AN ABSOLUTE MAGICIAN sat down with new Syracuse football coach Doug Marrone for an interview, but not during breakfast if their arteries know what’s good for them. After all, Marrone claims that he once ate “42 pancakes with two sticks of butter…or a stick and half of butter…no, two sticks of butter and a thing and a half of maple syrup. I take pride in what I can eat.”
- As if the Colorado Rockies didn’t have enough problems with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking two of three against them over the weekend, BUGS & CRANKS says that they even had to dodge bats kicked at them by the umps.
- It was apparently “Dress Like A Banana Day” in San Francisco for the Giants’ game against the Mets, but THE SPORTS HERNIA says that Jon Miller was the only person in the ESPN broadcast booth to get the memo:
- What’s more American than baseball? The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER has an answer: beer and baseball. Since a local ordinance was changed allowing them to sell beer on Sundays, the minor league Charlotte Knights have seen attendance for Sunday home games go up by 30 percent.