Speed Read: Moral Victory Leaves Magic Down 2-0

If Game 1 of the NBA Finals seemly confirmed the suspicion that the Orlando Magic didn’t belong on the same floor with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least the Magic put an end to that on Sunday night in Game 2. They remembered how to shoot (at least two of them did), played some (at times) stingy defense, and generally were a total pest in pushing the Lakers to overtime.

Kobe Bryant

Unfortunately for the Magic, what they didn’t prove is that they could beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals, as the home team held on for a 101-96 victory to take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Orlando for the next three (probably?) games. But they came tantalizingly close at the end of regulation. Hedu Turkoglu found Courtney Lee cutting to the basket behind Kobe Bryant on an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left and tossed him a lob that reached Lee but forced a midair adjustment, causing his lay-in to be just off the mark, bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired.

Courtney Lee

While the Magic might not admit it, they seemed drained by the missed opportunity in overtime, although their inability to stop Pau Gasol in the extra period was just as crippling. The Spaniard scored seven of his 24 points in overtime, including a three-point play with 1:14 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable six point lead.

As for the Magic’s shooting: Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu were outstanding, with Lewis hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers en route to 34 points, while Turkoglu added 22 points including three three-pointers. The rest of the team? Not so much, as the Magic weren’t helped by Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combining to go 2-for-17 for the game, including a woeful 1-10 from behind the arc. Also not helping: that J.J. Redick was anywhere near the floor for any length of time, much less 27 minutes. For all the great coaching Stan Van Gundy might have done in Game 2, that can’t be considered his finest hour.

Right now, it will take an amazing comeback for the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Title. (Before the 2006 Miami Heat did it, who was the last team to go down 2-0 and win the NBA Title? The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.) But perhaps they need to take a clue from famous local resident and occasional Magic fan Tiger Woods, who had some Magic of his own on Sunday, no overtime needed. Woods came from four shots back to win the Memorial Tournament in front of host Jack Nicklaus with one of his most impressive final round performances, shooting a 65 while hitting every fairway in regulation.

Tiger Woods

The performance was awe-inspiring enough to prompt Nicklaus to cave in Woods’ surgically repaired knee with a nine-iron after the match in an attempt to prevent Woods from reaching his record of 18 major championships, before standing over a fallen Woods and shouting a Ric Flair style “Woooooooo!” Actually, that’s a lie; in fact, Nicklaus remarked that it would “greatly surprise” him if Woods didn’t win major No. 15 in two weeks at the U.S. Open.

Finally, it’s kind of hard to fault the San Diego Padres’ Josh Wilson for giving up the go-ahead three-run homer to the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds in the 18th inning of Arizona’s 9-6 win on Sunday. Sure, Wilson might have had extra motivation for pitching against the team that released him earlier this season, but he really shouldn’t have been out there anyway. Wilson is an infielder, and was only pitching after Padres manager Bud Black ran out of pitchers in bullpen. So he sent Wilson out there, who got fastballs up to 88 mph and mixed in a few change-ups as well.

David Eckstein

Also, when you are relying on David Eckstein to homer to take the game into extra innings, you really should consider yourself lucky to be there in the first place, which is what the Padres needed in the ninth inning to erase a three-run deficit. Then again, the Padres really didn’t do much after that against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, getting no-hit for all nine innings of extra baseball.

  • THE SPORTS HERNIA wonders if Pau Gasol might be missing Game 3 after some…explosive rectal issues?
  • Pau Gasol

  • Chicago Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly has a message after watching the Cubs slog to a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday: “If there are any Little Leaguers watching, turn the TV off.”
  • Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn tells the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER that he was taking more than 100 painkillers a day before being caught forging prescriptions and getting clean. Or as Elizabeth Taylor would call that, lunch.
  • What could bring together Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former head coach Jimmy Johnson? How about a concert headlined by George Strait and Reba McEntire to open the new Cowboys Stadium?
  • Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Nationals, DC SPORTS BOG checks in with this: they had a malfunction during their fireworks display, and the debris just happened to fall on the D.C. fire chief. Proving that the Nationals really have turned into a bad 1970s sitcom.
  • Mike Brown proved that his WEC featherweight title victory over Urijah Faber in November was no fluke in the rematch on Sunday, going into Faber’s hometown of Sacramento, CA and winning a unanimous decision that left Faber in the hospital after the match.
  • Among the “highlights” of the ongoing court battle over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes: the Phoenix suburb of Glendale (where the Coyotes actually play) is suggesting that coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky is “overpaid” and should have his salary cut by more than $6 million. Because going after The Great One is a winning legal strategy in Canadian courts.
  • David Wells says that Jose Canseco offered HGH to him when they were teammates on the Chicago White Sox, but he declined. Instead, he dropped 30 pounds by giving up beer in the offseason and actually working out. Also, is there anyone Jose Canseco hasn’t offered performance-enhancing drugs to in baseball at this point?
  • HOME RUN DERBY casts a discriminating eye at the reverse negative error baseball card, the bain of beleaguered Topps photo editors everywhere. (Well, specifically at the Topps offices, I guess.)
  • Long Island high school athlete Ryan Harrigan uses his abilities to chase down a would-be purse snatcher while working his after-school job as a grocery store employee. Would you like paper, plastic or handcuffs, Sir?

What was the most impressive performance yesterday?

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Speed Read: Nuggets Put Hornets In Their Place

So much for more than two decent NBA series. Just when it looked like a Chris Paul-led New Orleans team might be primed for a run, the Nuggets come out and put a near-record licking on the bugs … in New Orleans. How bad was it? Bad enough that the Nuggets led by nearly 60 points in the third quarter, and the Hornets fans who packed the arena for tip off were already busy down on Bourbon Street.

new orleans hornets fans

How could New Orleans possibly have had that bad a game, and played that poorly at home? It’s an incredible mystery. What isn’t a mystery is just how bad the Hornets were. New Orleans turned the ball over an astounding 27 times, and it shot only 30 percent from the field. The  58-point loss tied the all-time NBA playoff mark, matching a Minneapolis Lakers win over the St. Louis Hawks. That’s pretty much all you need to know: Neither one of those teams still exist in that context. After all, L.A.’s a heck of a lot warmer.

In fact, as FANHOUSE points out, the Nuggets’ margin of victory in Game 4 alone nearly matched the entire series worth of margin of victory in Cleveland’s dominant, four-game sweep of  the Pistons.

Empty seats, thy name is New Orleans. Now, about moving that team if they don’t get a new arena …

Meanwhile, there was one other loss that was equally ignominous as the one New Orleans put out there. With their season on the line — again — the top-seeded San Jose Sharks, winners of the President’s Trophy for best regular season record, bowed out to the Anaheim Ducks, the final seed in the West. What’s more, the game wasn’t even close.

joe thornton sharks

There was buzz that, after forcing a Game 6, San Jose finally might come into its own in the playoffs. Instead, the Sharks capitulated the only way they know how: By failing to play any defense after they got an early lead. The Sharks scored first, halfway into the first period, then they never scored again. In fact, they only kept that lead for two minutes.

From there out, it was all Ducks, which has been a pretty strong recurrent trend for the Sharks in recent years. Funny how that used to happen with the Bruins when Joe Thornton was stalking those sidelines, isn’t it?

There were two other games in the NBA last night — the Lakers finished off the Jazz while the Hawks tied up their series with the Heat — but the other big basketball story was all about a team that isn’t even in the city where the turmoil rages on.

clay bennett thunder

That’s right sports fans, the Sonics aren’t walking back through that door. In fact, any chance of a resurrection in the Pacific Northwest officially went out the window when the city of Seattle turned down an opportunity to re-make Key Arena by paying only 25 percent of the cost. The rest of the funds would have been brought in by hotel taxes, area businessmen and, most significantly, from the team’s personal anti-christ himself: Clay Bennett.

That’s right, Seattle had a chance to avenge losing the Sonics by making the man who stole them away pay for the upgrades that would land the city another team. Instead, they turned down the opportunity solely because it would have raised the tax cost of hotels and rental cars.

Sonics owner Clay Bennett Halloween mask

Is it short-sighted? You better believe it. Then again, it’s also probably a statement of just how rough the economy is. When a city turns down a Big Mac of revenge to save $0.99 of taxes that tourists, not they, will pay, you know that people are afraid to spend money on anything.

zlexei cherapanov blood doping rangers

  • Did Ozzie Smith cop a feel on Alyssa Milano? You decide with the pics below, courtesy BUGS & CRANKS:

ernie banks alyssa milano ozzie guillen

ozzie guillen alyssa milano

 

Which NBA team has been the biggest playoff disappointment?

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Speed Read: Women’s NCAA Tourney Still A Sham

I understand the need to get a**es in the seats for the women’s NCAA Tournament, but the notion that forcing higher-seeded teams to play true road games in the tournament should be seen as some sort of reward for a great season is ludicrous.

Michigan State women

Last night, #1 seed Duke was blown out by #9 seed Michigan State in the second round — a game played at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Spartans ended the game on a 16-2 run. Think the home court might have had anything to do with it? The crowd was even extra riled up to boo Duke’s current coach, Joanne P. McCallie, who spent seven years as MSU’s coach before bolting for Durham in 2007. Think this was “coincidental” from the tournament committee? Shouldn’t Duke be completely livid about this? For now, the DETROIT FREE PRESS is there to rub it in McCallie’s face.

Meanwhile, other top seeds Connecticut (as if they need any more help) and Maryland got to play their first two games at home, and both cruised to easy wins. The last #1, Oklahoma, was sent to Iowa City but avoided a matchup with the Hawkeyes, who lost in the first round. In another upset, seventh-seeded Rutgers obliterated second-seeded Auburn by 28 points on the Scarlet Knights’ home floor in Piscataway.

We could debate the relative merits of women’s basketball for days here, but one of the reasons that the men’s tournament works so well is that there’s some semblance of neutrality. Sure, UNC gets to play in their home state all the time and Villanova somehow was able to play in Philly. But you would never see, say #9 Siena getting to play #1 Louisville on their home floor in Albany (and wouldn’t that home-court advantage have been enough to lift the Saints to the upset win?).

Siena nun

(Her team might’ve had a prayer in Albany)

Would a Duke-Michigan State women’s game have drawn even 2,000 fans if it were played in Boise or Lubbock? No, and I guess that’s the point. The competitive balance isn’t as important to the NCAA in this tournament as selling tickets, which is just an admission that it’s not something that people really want to watch outside of the markets that are directly involved. But why not just give all of the top two or three seeds home court advantage in the first two rounds? There are ways to do this that don’t involve screwing over teams that work hard all year to earn a high seed only to have to play for their tournament life on the road.

Duke women

On to the NBA, is there a sadder franchise than the Detroit Pistons right now? I know everyone is injured now, but a team that once looked destined for a dynasty is now reduced to running Kwame Brown and Walter Herrmann out there for key minutes. And that whole Iverson thing has really worked out well. He’s not playing, and now his bank account is about to be $260,000 lighter.  They lost again last night, this time to Chicago, and now are tied in the loss column with the Bulls in the playoff race. Which means that there’s a very real possibility they’ll be playing the Cavs in the first round, and it was just two years ago that Cleveland stunned Detroit in the East finals. Now, it would be a shock to not be a Cavs sweep.

Rasheed Wallace

(”Can someone please eject me so I don’t have to watch this anymore?”)

• Minor-league outfielder Jose Tabata has some problems. His wife allegedly kidnapped a two-month-old baby on Monday, then was arrested when she turned the infant in yesterday. Oh, and by the way, Jose is 23 years younger than his wife (she’s 43 and he’s 20). And that’s not the worst part — he was traded from the Yankees to the Pirates last year. I think the one of the few things worse than being married to a cougar who kidnaps infants is having to deal with that while playing for the Pirates.

• the WAYNE FONTES EXPERIENCE touches on the passing of George Kell, who was as well known for his days as a play-by-play man for the Tigers as he was for his 14-year Hall-of-Fame playing career. Kell was a 10-time All-Star who hit .300 nine times.

• Wait, so was Ric Flair really injured by Chris Jericho in Monday night’s RAW telecast, or was that just a fake gash, like Massive Head Wound Harry? Or was it supposed to be a fake injury but turned into a real one? Somehow, Flair ended up with 12 staples in his head, according to PWTORCH.

Massive Head Wound Harry

• WTA CEO Larry Scott is leaving his post to become the new commissioner of the Pac-10, according to the L.A. TIMES.

• WPXI says some members of the Pittsburgh Penguins delivered pizza to construction workers who are building the team’s new arena.

• Making a 75-footer to win a Collegeinsider.com Tournament game is kinda like winning Powerball when it’s only $500,000. And since it’s the CIT, you get to watch Bradley’s win over Oakland from the classic local news baseline camera angle:

• The NFL has adopted some new rules that will make it illegal to ever tackle Tom Brady again. Specifically, there’s a rule that penalizes defenders for lunging at a quarterback’s legs, as Bernard Pollard did last year.

• It looks like Ty Lawson is going to play in Friday night’s Sweet 16 game against Gonzaga. Bobby Frasor has done a nice job filling in, but UNC is up against a talented and confident Zags team that can play with anybody. The Lawson-Jeremy Pargo point guard matchup could be a classic.

George Gillett, who owns the Montreal Canadiens and a controlling stake in NASCAR’s Richard Petty Motorsports, is thinking of selling the hockey team because it’s just too mind-boggling that someone could possibly be involved in both of those things. FULL THROTTLE says Gillett is looking to cut his losses.

Pele thinks Robinho is on drugs. And no, Pele is not the guy who invented the Smurfs, he’s the soccer player. Robinho is not taking kindly to any of this and is considering a lawsuit against the legend, according to THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT.

How much of the NCAA women’s tournament do you watch?

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Jessica Simpson Jaws About ‘Boys Beating Eagles

Jessica Simpson decides to talk a little smack at the Philadelphia Eagles. What could possibly go wrong?

Jessica Simpson

Vince Young still feels a bit down - maybe a shrink can help him out.

Curt Schilling won’t share in New York’s elation over Tom Brady’s injury.

• Wooooo! Ric Flair gets beaten up by his daughter’s boyfriend, yet it’s the daughter who gets arrested for assaulting the cops.

Pete Carroll won’t play around with your conference call phone pranks.

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Ric Flair Learns That Not All Punches Are Fake

Wondering how retirement’s been treating Ric Flair lately? Great! He gets to spend a lot more time with his family. Specifically, doing things like getting into drunken brawls with his daughter’s boyfriend while she gets arrested for assaulting an officer after the cops show up. The family that fights together stays together.

Ric Flair

WTVD reports that cops came to Ashley Fliehr’s apartment to investigate after neighbors complained about a scuffle in the parking lot in the wee hours of Friday. The AP says that when they got there, they followed a trail of blood to Fliehr’s apartment, where they found The Nature Boy laying in bed nursing his wounds while his daughter’s boyfriend cooled off.

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Wooo! Congresswoman Moves To Honor Ric Flair

Your tax dollars at work: PRO WRESTLING TORCH slams down news that U.S. Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC) spent time on the congressional floor Tuesday to read a statement honoring the recently retired Ric Flair:


Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ric Flair speech without the “WOOO!”, which Myrick happily supplies at the end of her pontification at the podium.

But those that follow pro wrestling know that Flair’s permanent retirement from the ring is about as likely as Brett Favre really bidding a final farewell to football. Just ask Terry Funk.

Blog-O-Rama: Red Sox Nation Lost In Translation

• JOE SPORTS FAN comes across a sign from Red Sox fans in Japan that gets a little lost in translation.

Park Fenway Red Sox sign

• Michael David Smith of AOL FANHOUSE follows up that McDonald’s is off the hook in regards to Brandon Marshall’s arm injury, but now Vince McMahon may be to blame.

• AWFUL ANNOUNCING reports that Erin Andrews will be in Gainesville with the ESPN College Gameday crew for Florida’s spring practice game. But she was just there!

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Blog-O-Rama: Ric Flair Retiring? Go Figure (Four)

• WOOO! The CHARLESTON (SC) POST & COURIER slams down news that Ric Flair may be retiring from the ring.

Steve Spurrier Ric Flair

(The Nature Boy Ric Flair with the Call-To-Nature Boy Steve Spurrier)

• The BBC boogies over word that soccer players in the Ivory Coast like to celebrate goals by jiggling their gluteus maximus.

• GIANTS FOOTBALL BLOG looks for a new moon over Lambeau Field, as Brett Favre may be favoring Randy Moss.

• Meanwhile, Mike Sando of ESPN’s HASHMARKS examines the riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a mystery that is the (for now) Patriots receiver.

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Blog-A-Roni: Sharapova Fooled By Mosquito Nets

ON THE BASELINE serves up word that Maria Sharapova’s promise of a new tennis facility may have been the victim of a Vietnamese joke.

Maria Sharapova shorts smile

ESPN’s HASHMARKS knows of one NFL combine combatant not afraid to get his Kenny Chesney on.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK hikes over word that the Saints have made an offer to Zach Thomas.

JOE SPORTS FAN needs a friend, as Kelvin Sampson is pretty unpopular with Facebook users.

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