My New Nickname For Brian Scalabrine: Scrooge

Shelden Williams Tweeted today a discussion about Santa Claus that he had with C’s teammate Brian Scalabrine:

Brian Scalabrine Tells Daughters Santa Isn't Real

Cruel? Maybe. But if that prevents the two girls from getting within 50 feet of a mall Santa, I’m down with Scal.

Brad Miller’s Buzzer-Beater: Was It Off In Time?

Shame shame if you missed tonight’s Bulls-Nuggets game; it featured one of the closest game-ending calls in recent memory - certainly the closest of the young season. Quick recap to set the scene: Nuggets lead throughout the 4th quarter, only to see the Bulls make up a 7-point deficit late and tie the game at 89. Chauncey Billups gets the ball, gets fouled on the last shot by Kirk Hinrich (it was a good call, if not one that always gets called on the last play of the game), and goes to the line with under a second left. Hits the first, misses the second on purpose, Bulls get it and immediately call timeout. Clock runs out… but the officials put 0.3 seconds back on the clock! So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance! After the timeout, the Bulls inbound from their side of the court, get it to Brad Miller who gets the shot off as soon as he touches it, aaaaand….

Brad Miller Chicago Bulls Buzzer Beater
(…well? Good? No?)

The shot miraculously goes in, and the refs call it good. It’s a celebration, bitches! Naturally, they go to the sideline monitor to review the play, because wow. And they keep reviewing. And keep reviewing. And–look, I’m going to write that over and over until you have to read it for five minutes, because that’s how long it took before the referees called it no good and gave the win to the Nuggets. Video, courtesy of the always-clutch @jose3030, is after the break.

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Speed Read: Yawn, Another Bulls/Celtics Classic

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.

Joakim Noah

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.

Kirk Hinrich and Rajon Rondo square off

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!

Hinrich vs. Rondo was pattycakes compared to some NBA playoff incidents. Which one is your favorite?

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Speed Read: Celtics/Bulls Series An Instant Classic

April is the best month to be a sports fan, and last night was a classic example of why. It was a virtual buffet of scrumptious viewing options. And a really good buffet, too, like the ones you find in downtown Vegas where all the locals eat, not one of those lousy chain buffets where everything from the decor to the food is a monochrome tan color palette and seems to be from the 1970s. (I’m looking at you, Hometown Buffet.)

Paul Pierce

Case in point: Game 5 between the Celtics and the Bulls, which took an already great series into uncharted territory. With their backs to the wall and missing two of their Big Three (Kevin Garnett to injury and Ray Allen after fouling out with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter), Boston found a way to get past Chicago 106-104 in overtime. And that way was Paul Pierce, who made three straight jumpers in the final 77 seconds of OT to carry the Celtics to a 3-2 series lead.

Just how historic is this series? The two teams have set a record with three overtime games in one series - and there’s still as many as two games left to go. (And let’s be honest: anyone who isn’t a Boston fan has to want this to go to seven games.) Bob Ryan of the BOSTON GLOBE believes it’s the best No. 2 vs. No. 7 match-up in league history, and it’s pretty hard to argue the point.

Brad Miller

Of course, there were other heroes who made the win possible for the Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Brad Miller. Yeah, that Brad Miller, the big, vaguely stiffish center who plays for the Bulls. Miller had a chance to send the game into a second OT when Rondo was called for a foul on Miller’s missed layup with two seconds left. But Miller clanked the first one and then failed to hit the rim while trying to miss the second one.

Meanwhile, Dwight Howard is just destroying things. Mainly the 76ers, as evidenced by his 24 point, 24 rebound performance in the Magic’s 91-78 victory to get their own 3-2 series lead. And more specifically, he destroyed the 76ers Samuel Dalembert with an elbow to the head which earned him a technical foul. Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo has said the team has already informed the league about Howard’s foul (in hopes of getting him suspended for Game 6), but since David Stern was actually at the game, the phone call was probably unnecessary.

But like any weapon of mass destruction, Howard can be as dangerous to his allies as his enemies (think of him as the basketball version of Doctor Manhattan, except with less giant blue wang), as proven when he KO’ed Orlando starting point guard Courtney Lee, sending him out of the game and to the hospital with a likely concussion. Which means that Orlando could be very short-handed when heading back to Philadelphia for Game 6. This series is far from over.

New Jersey Devils

Meanwhile, let’s turn our attention to something slightly less violent: the NHL playoffs. Unless you consider death by choking to be too graphic for your tastes. Because that’s exactly what the New Jersey Devils did in their Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes, finding a way to lose in regulation despite having a 3-2 lead … with 80 seconds left.

No OT needed here, just a total and complete collapse started by Jussi Jokinen’s game-tying goal at 18:40 in the 3rd period and completed with Eric Staal’s game and series-winner with 37 seconds left. And keep in mind that this all happened in New Jersey: If you want to know just how quiet a sellout crowd can be, just watch this video of the Hurricanes’ furious rally:

Finally, I guess that Major League Soccer has finally reached the big time. Sure, their attendance is lagging and their TV ratings are at XFL levels, but now they can claim to be on par with a big time league like the NBA in one capacity: a referee game-fixing scandal. The COLUMBUS DISPATCH says that MLS referee Jair Marrufo is under investigation for allegedly accepting an autographed jersey from Chicago Fire star Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the referee’s room after their 2-2 draw against the Columbus Crew on Saturday. (And a hat tip to SOCCER BY IVES for finding the original story.)

Jair Murrafo

Accepting a gift from a player is a pretty awful idea if you’re an official of any sport, much less a professional official at the highest level. But when you add to this the fact that Marrufo called a controversial red card on the Crew’s Gino Padula for a foul on Blanco in the second half, and that the Fire rallied for two late goals against the man-down Columbus side for a 2-2 draw, and things get downright shady.

As someone who has covered the MLS in recent years, I don’t think Marrufo purposefully threw the match; Given the lousy quality of MLS referees (including Marrufo), I don’t think the majority of them have the wherewithal to fix a bowl of cereal, much less a match. It’s more likely the whole incident was a mix of horrible on the field and post-game judgment by an MLS referee, a shockingly common occurrence.

Some more sports news you might have missed while trying to hack that small tree out of your lungs last night:

  • You’ve probably heard by now that as a publicity stunt, the Albany Firebirds of arenafootball2 had offered Michael Vick a contract with a base salary of $200 a week and a $50 bonus for a win. Now here comes the twist: the ALBANY TIMES-UNION says that Firebirds owner Walter Robb is ticked off, because he says the offer was made without his knowledge, and that as a dog lover he “doesn’t want anything to do” with Vick.
  • Michael Vick Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

  • Speaking of people I wish would go away but haven’t quite yet: Please get ready to head to your fallout shelters until the start of the regular season. PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that the Jets have given Brett Favre his release, meaning he’s now a free agent. And Favre’s response to the news (“at this time, I am retired and have no intention of returning to football”) has me feeling very nauseous and woozy.
  • Derek Bell’s World Series ring fails to meet the minimum reserve price on eBay. Everyone assumed it was a fraud, since no one remembers him actually winning the World Series.
  • Some good news, Phillies fans: your team won 7-1 and Cole Hamels only gave up four hits while lowering his ERA. The bad news: he only went 4-1/3 innings before shutting it down after spraining his ankle fielding a bunt. And that new “lower” ERA is still at 7.27.
  • In case you missed it on Monday night, James Jones of the Miami Heat scored eight points in 11 seconds against the Hawks, thanks to back-to-back four point plays. And Miami still lost by about a billion points - imagine how much worse it could have been (OK, eight points worse, but still). BALL DON’T LIE has the video proof of the Reggie Miller-esque scoring outburst:

  • The CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS says former Tennessee OL Cameron Mayo was arrested on charges of sexual assault. The former Volunteer was working at Dalton High in Tennessee as a substitute teacher at the time of his arrest.
  • JOE SPORTS FAN wants you to fondly look back at the wonderful world of obviously posed shots from the 1987 Topps card collection.
  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL TALK says that former Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has fired back in his war of words with Texas Tech boss Mike Leach. Wait, Mike Sherman is still coaching the Aggies? Next you’re going to tell me that Charlie Weis hasn’t been fired yet. HUH?!?
  • In other Red Raiders news, Texas Tech’s baseball team recently had a “Turn Back The Clock” night, so UNI WATCH says their video department decided to make a retro style highlight package. Someone had a lot of fun making this, so please watch:

  • More fallout from the swine flu epidemic: the AP says that CONCACAF has canceled its regional beach soccer tournament scheduled to begin tomorrow in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The good news: if you’re going to be stranded somewhere because of a horrible flu outbreak, at least it’s the beach.

What’s the greatest playoff comeback in sports history?

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Corey Hart’s Daughter A Bit Young For Beer Bath

Ryleigh Hart is a bit young to be taking a beer bath from the Brewers.

Corey Hart protecting daughter from beer bath

• The Atlanta community theater is proud to present “Oklahoma!”, starring Falcons draft picks Matt Ryan & Sam Baker.

• A male synchronized swimmer is angry that he won’t get to join the ladies at the Olympics.

• Meanwhile, another Olympic swimmer isn’t going to let testicular cancer stop him from going to Beijing.

• About time we had another minor league managerial meltdown.

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Brad Miller Toked a Bad Bad Thing (Three Times)

Sacramento Kings center Brad Miller will spend the first five games of the 2008-2009 season in his room thinking about what he’s done after his third offense for (likely) marijuana use and/or flaunting the rules of the program. (If you don’t pee into the cup correctly, you get the same Stern measures as lighting up.)

Brad Miller is happy

Miller immediately apologized profusely, including the following: “I made a mistake. It was an error in judgment and I’m very sorry.” Brad, honey? You made three mistakes, minimum. We appreciate your forthrightness, but candor would also help. That right there? That’s a pattern.
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Miller’s Cornrows Now Guaranteed To Stay Dry

The Sacramento Kings, despite the crazy on-court urges of Ron Artest, were finally starting to find themselves. The club had won five of its last six games, with a renewed Mike Bibby and a slimmed-down Brad Miller as catalysts.

Brad Miller Cornrows

(Lovely cornrows, Bradley!)

But much like an Artest mood swing, suddenly Sacto is once again sullen, thanks to a Miller kitchen mishap.

The SACRAMENTO BEE reports today that Miller, who has two 20-20 performances in his last three games, needed “nine stitches in his right index finger after slicing it with a knife while doing dishes Sunday. He is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Seattle as the Kings look to extend their season-high four-game winning streak.

Every time we hear something like this, we think of late-night informercials. Of which, one out of three features some sort of knife-sharpening apparatus. Don’t those people know that the future of a downtown Sacramento arena is in their hands?