A few days ago, I thought that nothing could in the Celtics vs. Bulls series could top Boston’s wild OT victory over Chicago in Game 5, featuring Paul Pierce playing out of his mind to carry Boston to the win, Kirk Hinrich getting tripped by Rajon Rondo and smashing his face on the floor, or Brad Miller almost getting his faced ripped off (again by Rondo) before missing potential game-tying free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory for the Celtics.
But after last night’s Game 6 in Chicago, I was clearly very, very wrong, as the Bulls’ 128-127 win in triple OT has not only pushed the series back to Boston on Friday for a deciding seventh game, but pushed the series from “epic” to “best ever” territory. And we can forget the qualifiers like “best ever first round series” or “best ever non-Finals series” - based on the series so far and what we can expect on Friday, this might be as good as an NBA series can possibly get.
Just to recap some of the highlights, the fun started when Rondo and Hinrich got into it again early in the first quarter, with Rondo basically slinging Heinrich into the scorer’s table, with Heinrich immediately popping up looking for blood. Cooler heads prevailed and no one was ejected, but it sure served warning about what was to come.
Keep in mind that this game - and the series - should have all rights been over midway through the fourth quarter as the Celtics used a 25-2 run - 25-2! - to turn a 12-point deficit into a 99-91 lead with just under four minutes to go. In most series - hell, in any other series - a 25-2 fourth quarter run by the defending champs is enough to put an end to things.
But there were the Bulls, seemingly unable to grasp just how screwed they were, using their own 10-2 run to take the game to overtime. And from there, it was on. Taking the role of one-man team for the Celtics last night was Ray Allen, who scored 51 points including a game-tying three at the end of the second OT.
Even Allen wouldn’t be enough to fend off a wave of Bulls, all looking to be part of the heroics. One minute, it was John Salmons suddenly becoming unstoppable while scoring 35 points. The next it was Joakim Noah screaming down court after a steal for a ferocious dunk that led to a three-point play and Pierce fouling out with 35 seconds left in the third OT. And finally, Derrick Rose turning in the defensive ply of the season by blocking Rondo’s potential game-winner with three seconds left.
The series has been exhilarating, frustrating, ridiculous and incredible. But as Jalen Rose wisely pointed out on ESPN after the game, the Bulls will have people over the next two days congratulating them on their win, while the Celtics will be stewing on the anger of dropping it, which could be all the motivation they need. Remember what happened last season when the Celtics were pushed to a first-round Game 7 by an upstart team? For the good of sports, I hope history doesn’t repeat itself - sports fans deserve a classic game to end a classic series.
Meanwhile, Bill Simmons’ “Ewing Theory” - where a team inexplicably plays better without their star player - seemed to be alive and well elsewhere in the NBA playoffs last night. Despite having Superman grounded with a suspension after his hard foul on Samuel Dalembert, the Dwight Howard-less Magic were able to drill the 76ers 114-89 to close out their series.
Howard spent his time Twittering during the game, and I can tell you that I understand absolutely nothing he wrote. (Except for something about the Polish Hammer, which makes me wonder why he’s writing about former WWF wrestler Ivan Putski.) Not Twittering was Howard’s teammate Courtney Lee, who was too busy recovering from surgery on his sinus cavity which could cause him to miss the first few games of the Magic’s second round series to “tweet”.
The other example of the Ewing Theory came from out West, where the Rockets’ 92-76 victory over the Trailblazers clinched their first playoff series win since 1997. This was all done, of course, with Houston star Tracy McGrady on the shelf for the season since late February recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee. Coupling the Rockets’ success with Denver’s closing out of New Orleans - giving Carmelo Anthony his first playoff series victory - and there’s now no question who is going to be known as the Best Player Never To Have Won A Playoff Series.
Meanwhile, I’m sure you’ve taken the time this week to butter up your friend with the illegal cable box, since there is a big-time boxing match coming up this weekend as giant killer Manny Pacquiao takes on Ricky Hatton. Since there’s only two days to go until the fight, the fighters have shut up as the hype machine ramps up to sell PPV buys and tickets, meaning that everyone has to get their two cents in about the fight.
That includes the trainers, who seem to be threatening to become the bigger story than their charges. Hatton’s new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. has been defending claims that his combative presence has created problems in the Hatton camp - tough to do when you remember what a jerk Hatton’s father/trainer could be. Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is telling people that Mayweather was a “poor choice” to train Hatton and that he would have been better served making a different choice of trainer - like himself.
And with any big fight, the media has to track down some brain-damaged, washed-up former champion to give their bleary opinion on who is going to win the fight. God knows where they find these poor sods, but I hope they at least bought them breakfast. People like this sad case named Oscar De La Hoya, who drooled out an opinion for the DAILY TELEGRAPH:
“Hatton can confuse you, offset you, and especially with the Mayweather factor in the corner in this fight,” he told Telegraph Sport. “I know Mayweather, what he is capable of, what he plants – those little details he plants in your head.
“I’m crossing my fingers that Mayweather and Hatton can go undefeated for many years to come. There will be a chess match going on mentally and physically between both camps but, with all due respect to Freddie Roach’s training ability and his team, Mayweather is the better trainer.”
“I’m speaking from experience. He is more technically sound. He teaches you the craft, the art of boxing. He’s old school – an amazing trainer – yes, he’s one crazy son of a gun, but mentally he plants those little details in your head for you to become King Kong inside the ring.”
It sounds to me like De La Hoya’s fight against Pacquiao should have been stopped about eight rounds earlier than it was; clearly the 200 straight blows to the head he took during the fight have rattled his brain to the point of no return. And think about this: if De La Hoya thinks Mayweather Sr. is a better trainer than Roach, what would have happened to him if Mayweather Sr. had trained Pacquiao instead of Roach? Yikes!
- I never had a reason to want to live in Atlanta instead of Los Angeles, but thanks to BUSTED COVERAGE I do now: according to her Twitter, NBA TV hottie Melanie Collins goes to the same gym as ESPN goddess Erin Andrews. Good God. Does anyone know someone who specializes in surveillance cameras in the Atlanta area who is very discreet and good at their job?
- Want to mail a love letter to Casey Blake? Still trying to send HGH shipments to Eric Gagne in LA? MLB.COM says it’s time to update your address book, as Dodger Stadium gets its own ZIP code.
- In case you missed it, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says the A’s Ryan Sweeney had the catch of the (very short) season yesterday, robbing Texas’ Ian Kinsler of a three-run homer and preserving Oakland’s 4-2 victory.
- The College Football Hall of Fame has announced this year’s inductees, and the AP has the list. I guess he has to get in there because he won the Heisman Trophy, but seriously…Gino Torretta is in, but Deion Sanders isn’t?
- Finding new and exciting ways to screw up, the WASHINGTON POST says the Nationals gave up five runs in the ninth to the St. Louis Cardinals to turn a 4-4 tie into a 9-4 loss. But at least they got their uniforms right this time.
- Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for rallying from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Now about those last two they gave up to lose 5-3, as the CHICAGO TRIBUNE reports.
- Meanwhile, Rangers head coach John Tortorella tells the NEW YORK TIMES that he is really, really sorry that
he got suspended whenhe dumped water on a fan and brandished a stick at him during Game 5 of their series against Washington.
- The WASHINGTON TIMES reports that former All-American turned NFL bust Mike Williams is trying to get down from 450 pounds to 370 and make a comeback with the Washington Redskins. We’re talking about the ex-Texas tackle, not the roly-poly former USC wide receiver.
- PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that the San Francisco 49ers have signed former Ohio State OT Alex Boone to a free-agent deal, despite that whole “running from the cops while drunk and pounding on garage doors” deal.
- Joe Paterno tells ESPN.COM that he wants to see the Big Ten expand from its current roster of 11 teams to 12. He’d then like the see them change their name to the Bigger 12, just to get under the skin of those damned Okies from the Dust Bowl.