Monday, May 22, 2006

A Monday with a twist

If you have plans tonight, shelve them.

Why?

The NBA Western Conference Semifinal deciders: Two Game 7s.

The battle of underdogs in the desert: Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. The battle of Titans in Texas: Defending champion San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.

Lines are drawn. Strategies are in place. The details have been chalked out. Only the executions wait.

Nature tells us there could only be two winners, and you are invited to witness.

That's why.

Not yet convinced? Consider this:

Cliffhangers

Do you enjoy rides on a roller-coaster -- the ones that go through your mind and emotions? Do you enjoy the moment when your heart pumps blood faster, your mind races through the universe and you stop blinking because it takes less than a blink for wonderful things to happen?

If your answer is yes, continue reading.

Excluding Game 2 of the Spurs-Mavs series, the other five games saw a combined victory margin of 14 points.

That's less than a three-point differential per game. Now look closer: two games were decided by one point, one by two points and one in overtime. In other words none of the games were decided till the last moment, last possession, and the last shot.

Conventional wisdom runs for cover

Example 1: Phoenix wins when they score 100+ points, that is, if you want to win you better keep them below 100.

Counter example 1: In Games 4 and 6, the Suns scored 106 and 107 and lost. Wait. There is more. In Game 3, they scored 94 and still won!!

Example 2: Defense wins in the playoffs.

Counter example 2: The Suns-Clippers series. They don't play D. They simply outscore each other, and both teams are averaging 100+ points. Expect another mythbuster in Game 7 with fresh legs after three days of rest.

Example 3: You have two 7-foot players and so you run plays through them. You keep at least one of them on the floor always. Right? Wrong.

Counter example 3: The Spurs are obviously running their offense through Tim Duncan. But that's about it. The other 7 footer, Rasho Nesterovic, is idling on the bench, barely seeing a minute or two.

Digging out from 3-1 hole, forcing Game 7 and a chance to win

As recently as in the first round, the Phoenix Suns became only the eighth team in the league history to win a series after falling behind 3-1 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Now the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to become the ninth.

Point to prove

For Steve Nash: the reigning MVP. His awards are questioned. His defense carries multiple asterisks. Yet the little Canadian fought through the odds carrying the team on his shoulders. When you realize what he's achieved with his team in the playoffs without Amare and Kurt Thomas, you know he's very very special.

For Sam Cassell: The 36-year-old running the point for L. A. Clippers is the only Clipper who's been there, who's done that. He keeps barking at the officials with the same ease he hits big shots from his days at Houston Rockets. Yet he gets traded all the time.

For Tony Parker: Mr. Eva Longoria was phenomenal during the regular season. In the playoffs, he's streaky and Greg Popovich's most important concern.

****************

The hardest part of being a witness is that I know two teams will be going home. And I don't like it.

Why don't I want any team to lose tonight?

Because if the Suns lose, their style is the loser. They haven't won a championship yet but they have won a lot of hearts. They made a lot of new friends. At best they are a bunch of dream weavers and at worst they are better than the best Rick Carlisle team.

Because if the Clippers lose, that ends a fairy tale. And I love fairy tales and Grimm Brothers. No one expected them to be here. Yet here they are. No guarantees. Just balls.

Because if the Mavericks lose, that makes Mark Cuban upset. That makes his incessant whining on officiating a lost cause and no more fines from David Stern. That means no more money to the charities this season.

Because if the Spurs lose, it becomes personal. I will miss Tim Duncan hitting the sweet bank shots. I will miss Ginobili curling his way to the basket from nowhere. I will miss Robert Horry netting his signature daggers. And I will miss Ms. Eva Longoria because they show her regardless of a Tony Parker clank or swish.

But as always, I know Nature prevails.

My picks: San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers both win and meet in the Western Conference finals.

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