In a move slightly more disastrous than most of their personnel moves over the last 10 years, singer Phil Collins was hired today as head coach of the Chicago Bulls. The hiring was seen as controversial, since Collins' only professional sports experience has been lead musician for every promo during the 2005 NBA finals and wrestling the Ultimate Warrior.

John Paxson was in a jovial mood when defending the much-debated hiring earlier today. "Now I can't dance, but the Bulls fans can feel it in the air tonight. Against all odds, you can see coach Collins' true colors, even for just one more night. (Collins) may be older, but he has an invisible touch, and he can turn it on again. It's time for another day in paradise!" Paxson later admitted he didn't know what a Sussudio was.

ESPN analyst John Hollinger was also optimistic on the hiring. "Scott Skiles may have been an abrasive character, but Phil Collins can't stop loving you. And that's crucial, since you can't hurry love. He's an easy lover. He'll get a hold on you, believe it. He's like no other." Hollinger also prepared an algorithm proving rock group Genesis had a higher PER following the departure of Peter Gabriel.

The Bulls are in the land of confusion, and John Paxson is in too deep and may be throwing it all away. That's all.

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Bless Red Auerbach and his curmudgeonly soul. He was an early advocate of the fast break. He invented the concept of the sixth man. He fined his players for eating pancakes after midnight -- five bucks, payable directly to him -- and he wouldn't let them drink water during practice (he thought it weighed them down). And, for the record, that mixture of innovation and folk wisdom led to eight straight championships, and nine in 10 years. Not too shabby.

Even more awesome than all of that, though, was the fact that he hated floppers before it was fashionable to hate them. I take this to mean that he and Manu Ginobili would not have been the best of friends. (Okay, Red would have eaten his spleen for breakfast.)

[Hat tip to Deadspin and TrueHoop, via Bullets Forever.]

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Sorry there's no Worst of the Night post today. Let's just say that the Lakers making it back to the NBA Finals was the worst thing that happened last night -- for me, anyway -- and leave it at that.

Instead, here's some semi-anguished man love between Sasha Douchavic and Vladimir Radmanowhatever. Looks like Sasha isn't too happy about being the catcher. Memo to Sasha: Always establish a safe word. Thanks to everybody who sent this one in; you know who you are, you sexy bitches.


Chub-tastic extra: Here's Sasha experiencing some wingardium leviosa in his man region over a little old-school man love between Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I guess man-on-man affection is storied a Laker tradition. It's enough to give me Forum Blue and Gold balls.

Laker shorts

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Flip Saunders + Om nom nom nom = This quote: "[Kendrick] Perkins is eating us up."

As Basketbawful reader Jimmy said: "Maybe he should keep his private life to himself."

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Joey 2

Well, the NBA finally got it right. Unfortunately, they got it right about a day and one crippling loss too late for the San Antonio Spurs.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank has officially admitted what my eyes and huge, throbbing brains had already told me: Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry. And it should have been called. Said Frank: "With the benefit of instant replay, it appears a foul call should have been made."

Of course, this statement followed a totally contradictory assertion by league spokesman Brian McIntyre, who had previously claimed that referees Joey Crawford, Joe Forte and Mark Wunderlich may have been following a league guideline in failing to make a call. "There is an explanation in the rule book that there are times during games when the degree of certainty necessary to determine a foul involving physical contact is higher. That comes during impact time when the intensity has risen, especially at the end of a game. In other words, if you're going to call something then, be certain."

Riiiiight. Because Fisher jumping into the air and landing on Barry is something that's really hard for a crack officiating crew to be "certain" of. As they said over at College Humor: "Fisher's hip slammed Barry in the ear. How is that not a foul? (Interesting fact: Fisher's hip is like a seashell; if you put your ear to it, you can hear the sound of Jazz fans booing.)" And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich smells something brown and stinky.

"It's a very strange thing. If you talk to an official, the official will tell you that the game is called at the end of the game exactly like it is during the meat of the game. That's their story and they're going to stand by it. In reality, personally, I don't think that's true and I can give a thousand examples that things are called differently down the stretch where I think most referees feel -- and I agree with them -- that things need to be more definitive before you're going to make a call. A referee is going to be hesitant to make a call that could decide a game at the end unless it's really either gross or obvious. So, that's why I said, if I was an official, I would not have called that a foul at the end of the game."

Thanks for staying classy, Gregg. So, anyway, it appears that although they Spurs will probably get knocked out of the playoffs tonight because of that now officially incorrect no-call, they at least get the moral victory from knowing they got jobbed. Too bad there's no such thing as the Moral NBA Finals.

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Boston Celtics: Yes, they won. But they also failed to hold onto a 17-point lead and barely held on to win at home. That didn't exactly instill me with a lot of confidence, even if Ray Allen's jumper finally came home.

The Boston reserves: It was shades of 1987 all over again. No, Larry didn't steal the ball. I'm talking about the lousy bench. The Beantown auxiliaries were "good" for 3 points (1-for-5), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, and 4 fouls in 30 minutes know what? That doesn't even count as lack-tion. Bravo to Sam Cassell for avoiding a two trillion by throwing the ball away once. Still, that wasn't as bad as...

Eddie House: E-Money must have been munching on magic mushrooms before the game, because he transformed into -- jrrp jrrp jrrp --Super Mario! (Five Basketbawful bucks to any reader who can come up with a better phonetic sound effect for the Super Mario transformation.)

Rajon Rondo: The kid had a great floor game (13 assists, only 1 turnovers) and active hands on defense (4 steals), but his shooting was sucksational: 3-for-14. And those numbers are actually worse than you think: He was 0-for-4 on jumpers and only 3-for-10 on layups. Greg Kite is a bigger scoring threat for the Celtics. And I don't mean the Greg Kite from 1984, I mean Greg Kite right now.

Kevin Garnett: It's hard to pick on a guy who scored 33 points (11-for-17) and hit the game-clinching freethrows, but I think I'm up to the challenge. Here's what KG during that last desperate stretch when the Celtics almost choked up their lead. 6:48 - Turnover. 5:51 - Turnover. 5:08 - Missed jump shot. 4:04 - Two made freethrows. 3:32 - Two made freethrows. 2:38 - Missed jump shot. 0:18 - Missed jump shot. 0:03 - Two made freethrows.

So basically, in clutch time, KG was 0-for-3 from outside and bobbled the ball away twice. He did add four important freethrows, as well as the two game-clinchers off the forced foul...but still. That wasn't exactly a clutchtastic performance.

Not-so-fun fact: Hoffman from Ballerblogger has pinpointed KG's Achilles' heal. And while it's not "I've grown a second, evil head!" shocking, the numbers are pretty revealing. "KG has attempted more shots (68) than any other Celtic in the Conference Finals. He's also leading 'Boston’s Big 3' in field goal percentage (.515). But 55 of those 68 shot attempts have been outside of the paint. Fifty-two percent is a good shooting percentage but it pales in comparison to the 69% (9-of-13) KG is shooting from inside the paint. This is why Kevin Garnett was the Defensive Player of the Year and not the MVP this season. He's either incapable or unwilling to impose his will upon games and lead his team to victory on both ends. Someone needs to remind Garnett that he’s a power forward!" Incapable or unwilling? Well, we know what Bill Simmons has to say on the subject...

Detroit Pistons: They once again waited a little too long to start playing with a sense of urgency. Do you realize how often that last line could have been used for this team over the last few years?

Rasheed Wallace: 'Sheed got his sixth technical foul of the playoffs -- a seventh will mean an automatic one-game suspension -- and then went supernova on the officials after the game. "All that (expletive) calls they had out there, with Mike (Callahan) and Kenny (Mauer) you've all seen that (expletive). You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they're calling that (expletive). That (expletive) ain't basketball out there. It's all (expletive) entertainment. You all should know that (expletive). It's all (expletive) entertainment."

You know, that last quote could be the first-ever Rasheed Wallace Mad-lib. Just replace every "expletive" with a funny word, like "fart" or "vagina" or "Magellanic Cloud." NBA Action: It's (expletive)-tastic!

Man-love insert: Basketbawful reader Charles spotted 'Sheed going in for a grabful of A-cup Allen. I'm sure that cat was just floppin' though...

Sheed grope

Rodney Stuckey: The kid's not here because he shot 3-for-9 and missed all three of his layups. He's here because he accidentally made a freethrow he meant to miss with four seconds left and his team down three. Who knew that missing a freethrow could be so hard. And the look on his face was classic. Can anybody find a picture or some video of that?

Antonio McDyess: In Game 4, he hopped in the WABAC Machine, returning to his 1997-98 form for a 21-point, 16-rebound performance. But he apparently came back to the future last night: 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers and 6 fouls in 28 minutes. I guess he really did leave it all on the floor in Game 4.

Theo Ratliff: He did about as well as anybody could hope for last night: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 foul in almost 14 minutes. But that's not good enough for some people (and by "some people" I mean "everybody who's rooting for the Pistons"). And so was born! (Thanks to John L. for the link.)

Yahoo!: This just in: The Celtics are going to the NBA Finals! I mean, they won Game 6 last night, right...? Oops. (This message was brought to you by the eagle eyes of Sky Flakes.)


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Kobe quote

Beware the Mamba's forked tongue...and his desire for bukkake: "If we were going to go down with him shooting, I wanted to make sure he was shooting in my face." Yowza. I'm pretty sure I heard Jenna Jameson say that once.

Thanks to Big Tuna for spotlighting this quote.

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One little tap of the Stern Button and the Spurs are on the brink of playoff Armageddon. But while Timmy Duncan is facing it down with his typically stoic calm, Luke Walton is...wetting his little pink princess panties in abject terror. And he's not even on the same team. I mean, Luke is making funny faces we've never seen from anybody -- from any planet. And that's terrrrrrrible!


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The Duncan face? Effective. It can move planets, turn back the sands of time, and subtly alter the molecular composition of David West's back. The Tony Parker face? Based on the way his wife beat him down for that "A mouth is a mouth; what's the difference?" comment: Not effective. Just ask Joe Forte.

Tony face

Today's pictorial evidence of the sad futility of the TP face was sent in by Basketbawful reader Tree, who said: "Not sure if you saw this picture, but it pretty much sums up the Spurs in my mind. I can just hear Parker saying 'I implore you sir, how can that be a foul, he wasn't even rolling around in mock agony for 5 minutes? How did he fool you?'"

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OK, so we all know the refs got it wrong at the end of the Spurs / Lakers game 4. And sadly, we all know the refs usually get it wrong. Let's be honest, even the refs know they're getting it wrong, but...

...whose fault is it? The refs are now regularly doing whatever it takes to keep the scrutiny off themselves. It is human nature to do so, and I don't have any particular faith in NBA refs to behave otherwise. For years, refs have put the whistle away for the final 5 seconds or so of any big game, because there is a notion that the "players should decide it." Thunderdome, apparently.

Unfortunately, the way the NBA is set up, either the refs are forced to decide the game either way (by awarding a player "gimmie" free throws or completely ignoring a mug job like they did). Almost universally, refs have decided to go the "ignore the foul" route, because this method has become an accepted - even anticipated - part of the game (just listen to the resigned post-game comments of Popovich and Barry - they know how this works).

You think the foul would have been called if Brent had gone straight up and forced harder contact? I don't. I think Fisher would have had to sucker-punch Barry at the end of that game to for a foul to be called, and I think Fisher - wiley veteran that he is - knew that too.

The Solution?
How about this. If a player is fouled in the final, let's say, 5 seconds of a game, the remaining time goes back up on the clock and instead of free throws, the offense can re-run the play (How many times could a team be fouled? Indefinitely - why? There's no incentive to keep allowing a team more chances at a game winning shot. And after each foul, the offense automatically gets 20 seconds to draw up a new play.) This shifts the advantage to the offense, but it would help ensure far fewer last last-second no calls, far fewer last-second fouls that everyone knows aren't going to get called, and would likely result in a lot more last-second game winning shots...sound exciting, Mr. Stern?)

This idea may not be perfect, but I think it has merit. If this change is made, the refs would no longer have to worry about "being responsible" for game-deciding free throws. Would it be sad to have to institute such a policy because referees don't have the intestinal fortitude to call games well? Yes, but it's a way to eliminate at least a little of the very flawed human nature out of NBA refereeing.

- Evil Ted

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Officiating: Quick quiz: What time is it? Quick answer: Zebra hunting time. Last night, Joe Crawfordy, Joe Forte, Mark Wunderlich and David Stern (in absentia) were The Four Horsemen of the Spurspocalypse. I mean, seriously, the no-call to end last night's game was completely, utterly and in all other ways inconceivable. I'm not even going to argue the point. The bottom line is this: Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry. Marv Albert and Doug Collins knew it. Johnny Ludden knew it. Henry Abbott knew it. You knew it. I knew it. Nostradamus knew it way back in 1562. Helen Keller, Zeus rest her soul, would have known it. My 85-year-old grandma called me in the middle of the night to ask "What was up with that lousy no-call in the Spurs game?!" It's crazy.

Here's the video. It speaks pretty well for itself.

Now some people -- Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili among them -- believe that if Barry had gone straight up for the shot and tried to "sell the contact" (read that: flop), he would have gotten the whistle. I call shenanigans. Joey Crawford, who had the best line of sight on the play, wasn't going to toot his horn for any reason. And neither were his lackeys. Clearly, a choice had been made before the ball was ever passed inbounds: The players are going to decide the final outcome. Which would be fine if this was a pickup game at the YMCA. But this was a pro game, a big one, and there are referees for a reason. And that reason is to keep stupid incidents like this -- which, make no mistake, disgrace and dishonor the game -- from happening.

And let's face it, that grand faux pas wasn't an isolated case. Not historically, and not even in this particular game. The refs did not impress last night. Kobe Bryant managed to play 41 minutes without making a single trip to the charity stripe -- his series total for freethrow attempts is six -- leading Phil Jackson to quip: "It is impossible to take 29 shots and not be fouled, but tonight was one of those exceptions, I guess."

But wait, there's more! Before the foul that wasn't a foul even though it really was a foul, the Lakers had the ball and a two-point lead with 28 seconds left. L.A. dribbled out most of the shot clock before Fisher jacked up a baseline jumper that missed almost everything and got knocked out of bounds by Robert Horry with 5.6 seconds left. The official call was that the shot didn't hit the rim and so only two seconds were left on the shot clock. However...the replays sure made it look like the ball skimmed off the hoop. If the Lakers had gotten a new 24, the Spurs would have had to foul and the game would have been over. Instead, Kobe had to force up a shot that missed and fell right into the hands of the Spurs, who were left with 2.1 seconds to make a miracle happen.

But it didn't. The refs saw to that.

Random non-awful note: Kudos to the Spurs players and coaching staff for staying so classy about this whole thing. Most teams would be freaking the hell out about the injustice of it all. The Spurs were actually very Zen-like about it. Barry said: "That's not going to get called in the Western Conference finals. Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn't be called in the Western Conference finals." Gregg Popovich said: "If I was the official I wouldn't have called that a foul." And Duncan simply said: "Obviously we're in a hole and it's 3-1. It's one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series." I guess you can never underestimate the inner-peace of a champion.

David Stern and the NBA: "Hm. Let's see. It's a critical playoff game between the Spurs and Lakers. Who should we get to officiate it? I know! How about the guy who was suspended for last year's playoffs because he ejected Tim Duncan for laughing! That'll make everybody totally forget about the Tim Donaghy scandal. Brilliant!"

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker: Other than Brent Barry -- who followed in Antonio McDyess' footsteps by having a 23-point turn-back-the-clock performance -- Timmy (29 points, 17 rebounds) and TP (23 points, 7 assists) were the only two Spurs to made a real offensive contribution to last night's losing effort. However, I'm sure you sense a "but" coming, don't you? Well, Timmy missed 16 shots and missed five layups. Mr. Longoria missed four layups.

Now, mind you, the Lakers were playing -- and were allowed to get away with -- an aggressive and physical defense. But instead of adjusting to that, Duncan and Parker kept flailing at contact, lobbing the ball at the rim, and looking around for a call that was never going to come.

Were they getting pushed around and hit on their shots? Sure. But I would have preferred to see them -- especially Tim -- do a better job at adjusting to how the refs were officiating the game. Especially in the first half.

Manu Ginobili: I guess that arthritic ankle is hurting him worse than we thought. Manu, how played like the Incredible Hulk in Game 3, transformed back into puny Bruce Banner for Game 4: 7 points, 2-for-8 shooting, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 fouls. More than the officiating or anything else, Ginobili was the reason that San Antonio lost this game and is likely to lose the series on Thursday night.

The rest of the Spurs: Holy god, the Spurs roleplayers -- Barry excepted -- sucked. Francisco Oberto: Zero points, 0-for-0, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 21 minutes. Michael Finley: Zero points, 0-for-2, 1 turnover, 8 minutes. Robert Horry: 2 points, 0-for-2, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 15 minutes. Ime Udoka: Zero points, 0-for-0, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 foul, 8 minutes. Kurt Thomas: A mario. All I can say is that I hope the Spurs get a bulk discount at the NBA graveyard this summer.

Old legs: Was it just me, or did the Spurs look old and tired last night. They were a step slow to loose balls and they couldn't keep the Lakers off the boards. L.A. outrebounded San Antonio 46-37, which doesn't sound all that bad until you realize they enjoyed a 26-4 edge in second-chance points. Wow. I take it back, Manu. I guess it's not your fault after all.

Derek Fisher, quote machine: Here's Fish's explanation of the already infamous no-call: "I think we met simultaneously, and there was contact for sure. But I don't think I ran through him." Uh huh.

Sasha Vujacic: Well, if the Lakers had to win, at least Sasha blew chunks: 4 points, 1-for-6, 1 rebound, zero assists, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls.

Trevor Ariza: It's inspiring and everything that he's finally back from an injury, but I'm still going to mock his lowly one trillion.

Lakers fans: First off, they should not be allowed to sit near The Admiral. Second, they should be stuffed into an airtight capsule and launched into space for taking their picture with The Admiral without his permission.


Note on submissions: Due to technical difficulties, I haven't been able to check my e-mail today. So I apologize for omitting any worthy submissions. Hopefully, we'll get this blatant attack by Lakers fans taken care of shortly. (I'm kidding, Lakers fans. I know you don't have that kind of power.)

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Prepare for the kind of awesome that might very well blow an appendage right off your body. This old Sprite commercial was submitted by Basketbawful reader Wild Yams, who said: "Speaking of awful commercials, I'd like to present my all-time favorite worst basketball commercial in which Kobe and Tim Duncan square off against each other with their posses for a rap-off, then Missy Elliot shows up to take over while Kobe and Tim play a game of one-on-one."

He is so not kidding. But I guess this is how you had to obey your thirst back in 1998.

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Piston fan

Sorry this is late, folks. Even I need a holiday, apparently.

Spurs-Lakers Game 2

San Antonio Spurs: The seven-game series with the Hornets, that night spent sleeping on a grounded plane, the devastating choke job in Game 1 of this series, their was like all of those things caught up with them at once in Game 2. The Spurs shot 34 percent as a team -- including 6-for-23 from three -- and they got slowly and methodically crushed in the second half en route to a 30-point rout. The champs were a step slow everywhere, especially on defense, where they allowed the Lakers to shoot 55 percent.

Manu Ginobili: Manu was San Antonio's worst player in the first game, and he was just as bad -- maybe worse -- in Game 2. Shoeless Joe Ginobili was 2-for-8 from the field, 0-for-4 from distance, and finished with 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, and 2 fouls in 23 pointless minutes.

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker: The other two members of the Spurs' three amigos were better than Ginobili...but not by much. Timmy had a double-double (12 points, 16 rebounds), but he shot 6-for-14, missed all four of his freethrows, and put on his invisibility cloak in the second half. TP finished with 13 points on 15 shots and had a game-high 4 turnovers. Like Duncan, Parker was a non-factor in the second half and he never figured out a way to crack L.A.'s interior defense.

Fabricio Oberto: I could easily include Oberto in every "Worst of" post based only on his various hair crimes against humanity. Seriously, is that hairstyle cool anywhere? Well, from what I saw on, I guess it is. Anyway, Fabulous Fabricio is here because of his team-worst +/- score of -26 in only 22 minutes of lack-tion (he grabbed only 2 rebounds in that time).

Robert Horry: The line: Zero points, 0-for-5, 4 rebounds in 14 minutes. Every time I see Cheap Shot play these days, I hear an egg timer going off. Translation: He's done.

Damon Stoudamire: Mighty Mouse finally got into a game, thanks to the glories of garbage time. But apparently, Damon can't even handle that; he scored zero points on 0-for-5 shooting and dished 1 lonely assist in 9 minutes. On the bright side, he outrebounded Oberto 3-2.

Ronny Turiaf: Straight. Up. Crazy. (From Odenized.)

Pistons-Celtics Game 3

Detroit Pistons: After stealing Game 2 in Boston, the Pistons were in the driver's seat in this series. They then drove their playoff car directly into a tree, losing Game 3 at home 94-80. Detroit was 28-for-73 (38 percent) from the field and 1-for-13 from beyond the arc. They also got outrebounded 44-28.

Chauncey Billups: Mr. Big Shot continues to struggle, whether because of his gimpy hamstring or, as Flip Saunders has suggested, because he's out of synch from the missed games against the Magic and the layoff that followed. Whatever the case, Billups finished Game 3 with 6 points on 1-for-6 shooting and had the worst +/- score on the team (-25). At this point, I wouldn't blame Saunders for benching him in favor of Rodney Stuckey (17 points, 4 assists, 4 steals).

Tayshaun Prince: Prince or pauper? Tayshaun scored 4 points on 2-for-11 shooting, and his +/- score of -23 was barely worse than Chauncey's.

Amir Johnson: Since Aaron Afflalo got a DNP-CD, Amir stepped in to submit Detroit's nightly mario.

Boston Celtics: The Leprechauns probably would have won Game 3 by 30 had they not gone into the NBA-equivalent of the prevent defense for most of the fourth quarter. This allowed the Pistons to cut a 20-plus-point lead to single digits before finally succumbing. Why would Doc Rivers go away from what had been working? Instead of pushing the ball and trying to extend the lead, the Celtics started walking the ball up, dribbling 23 seconds off the shot clock, and then rushing up several forced shots that didn't have a prayer. It was ugly, and stupid, even if it did "work."

Rajon Rondo: He had more turnovers (5) than assists (4). Not good for a starting point guard.

Sam Cassell: Dude wasn't even letting the ground touch the ball. (From Odenized.)

Spurs-Lakers Game 3

ESPN Daily Dime: From Basketbawful reader PickNPop: "Today's poll in ESPN's Daily Dime jumped the gun on Stern's fairytale script of a Lakers/Celtics Finals by insinuating that the Lakers already won a game in San Antonio this series." Oops. But I'm sure it was just a semantic mistake.

Dime poll

Los Angeles Lakers: I expected the Spurs to play better at home in Game 3 than they did on the road in Game 2, but I didn't expect the Lakers to totally self-destruct. But that's what happened. The L.A. defense got roasted from the field (where the Spurs shot 51 percent) and especially from distance (where the champs were 10-for-18). They also forgot how to pass the ball, which would explain why they had only 13 assists on their 35 field goals.

Lamar Odom: From Game 2 hero to Game 3 goat, Lamar shot 2-for-11 from the field, 3-for-8 from the line, and committed a game-high 5 turnovers. But I guess that's what happens when your last name is an anagram for "doom."

Sasha Vujacic: Remember all that great defense he was playing on Manu Ginobili? Didn't happen this time. Manu finished with 30 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including 5-for-7 from downtown (although, to be fair, Manu was burning pretty much everybody). Sasha wasn't much help on the offensive end, either, finishing with 4 points on 1-for-5 shooting.

Kobe Bryant: The MVP scored at will (30 points, 13-for-23) but he set a bad precedent with his passing, which was equal parts stingy (1 assist) and errant (4 turnovers).

Damon Stoudamire: After his stunningly awful Game 2 performance, Matt Bonner got Mighty Mouse's garbage minutes in Game 3. Matt Bonner.

Charles Barkley: He thinks San Antonio is fat. Doesn't he know people in glass houses sink ships? Or something like that.

Pistons-Celtics Game 4

Boston Celtics: They went back into "Road Mode" for Game 4, shooting 31 percent from the field and 1-for-9 from The Land of Three. They also had more turnovers (14) than assists (12). Their defense also surrendered 51 percent shooting and forced the Pistons into only 7 turnovers. Oh, and they let Antonio McDyess (21 points, 16 rebounds) have his best playoff game in over ten years.

Ray Allen: After a brief reunion, Ray-Ray's jump shot has left him once again. Allen was 2-for-8, and he even boned two straight freethrows late in the game that killed what little hope the Celtics had left.

Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell: Boston's two-headed point guard attack apparently needs a third head. Rondo finished with 4 points (2-for-8) and 4 assists, while Sam-I-Am had zero points (0-for-3) and zero assists.

Paul Pierce: The Celtic captain finished with 16 points and 8 boards, but he shot 3-for-14, missed all three of his three-point attempts, and committed a game-high 4 turnovers. Oh, and three of his shots got stuffed.

Eddie House and Tony Allen: They got put into the game for garbage time, and they each submitted a garbage-worth one trillion.

Kendrick Perkins: From Odenized: "At 0:20, Kendrick Perkins says, 'f*** these fools,' referring to the Pistons. Does Perkins act with too much cockiness or is his confidence his greatest strength?" Uh, I'm gonna go with the former rather than the latter.

Chauncey Billups: He did hit a big-time three in the fourth quarter to help finish the Celtics off, but that hardly made up for the rest of the game, during which he scored 7 points on 2-for-11 shooting. He and Ray Allen need to find a missing jump shot support group.

Tayshaun Prince: He played more minutes than anybody else on either team (40), but you could barely tell based on his line: 7 points, 3-for-12, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 fouls. Of course, he did play a big part in Detroit's stifling defense.

Flip Saunders: Yeah, it's hard to criticize a coach too much after his team wins a big playoff game by 19. However...Flip made a decision in the third quarter that still has me shaking my head. When Rasheed Wallace got into foul trouble, Saunders replaced him with the creaky Theo Ratliff (2 points, 2 rebounds) instead of the on-fire Jason Maxiell (14 points, 6-for-6). Why?

Stupid people: Look. For the love of all that's holy. Kobe didn't jump over a moving car, and he certainly didn't jump over a pool full of snakes. I mean, why do some people need to have this stuff explained to them. Enjoy the viral video for what it is, but come on...

Idle hands: From Basketbawful reader 80s NBA: "Looks like Steve Nash and Baron Davis need to find some better off-season hobbies." Well, you know, they aren't in the playoffs or anything...

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I always got a kick out of this 2003 Nike commercial starring Paul Pierce and Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal. On opposite sides during a pickup game, the two men step up to the challenge by ignorning the absolute living hell out of their teammates and going one-on-one until everybody else just stops playing. Not sure what kind of message Nike was trying to get across, other than "Just Do It (Be A Selfish Bastard)!"

Also, this would be a lot funnier to me if I hadn't been in so many pickup games that devolved into something like this...

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Pucker up, Ray! Your jump shot may be cheating on you with Jason Kapono, but Lindsey Hunter has something special for you: It's called the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction. Which is just Einstein speak for kissy-face.

Mucho thankias to Karl for sending in this mantastic photo.

Ray kiss

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Boston Celtics: The Leprechauns were playing at home, where they had been virtually unbeatable since November (and completely unbeatable in the playoffs). Kevin Garnett played big (24 points, 11-for-19, 13 rebounds, 2 blocked shots). Paul Pierce was The Truth (26 points, 9-for-16, 4 rebounds, 5 assists). And Ray Allen even broke out of his three-month-long slump (25 points, 9-for-16). And...they lost anyway. Now they have to win a road game, which suddenly seems like Mission Impossible.

The worst part is: Boston really didn't play all that badly (well, minus some defensive slipups and Doc Rivers letting Ray Allen get into foul trouble, and that unforgivable boner on the Pistons' inbounds play with 20 seconds left). Detroit was just better. And that's got to be depressing if you're a Celtics fan. (Like me.)

Rajon Rondo: The kid had a decent game. Hell, he almost had a triple-double (10 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals). But his shooting returned to liability status (2-for-9) and he couldn't contain Chauncey Billups (19 points, 5-for-10, 7 assists).

The Boston bench: Holy 1986-87 flashback! Where's Darren Daye when you really need him? The Celtic reserves combined to play about 55 minutes. In that time, they scored 8 points on 3-for-11 shooting, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished 2 assists, and committed 5 fouls. Rodney Stucky came off the Pistons bench and had more points (13), assists (3) and steals (2) by himself.

I mean, check it. P.J. Brown had 4 points and 2 boards in 18 minutes. James Posey scored 3 points on 1-for-5 shooting. Eddie House had -- as Basketbawful reader Eimaan pointed out -- one of those Catch-and-Shoot-22 nights (zero points, 0-for-3, 1 foul, 7 minutes). Big Baby Davis needed his binky (1 point, 1 foul, zero-for-everything-else). Tony Allen had 1 fouls and 1 missed shot in 4 minutes. And Leon KA-Powe had 2 boards in 2 minutes.

The home crowd: As Basketbawful reader Charles pointed out: "Don't you think the Boston fans should be in the WotN? No noise whatsoever in the final minutes. Was it me? I just didn't hear them during the game or even when Ray Allen made that three in the end or when Rasheed Wallace was shooting those free throws." No. It wasn't just you. They seemed to lose faith at the end. And let me tell you, it sure wasn't like that back when Larry Legend was playing. Personally, I blame Tom Brady and his boytoy for sucking the life out of the crowd.

Doc Rivers, public relations master: The Celtics coach used the spin cycle to make it sound as if losing at home might actually be a good thing for his team. "I fully believe, and I've said it many times, at some point we're going to have to win on the road. We've gotten away with it thus far. That's been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that's just the way it is."

Doc Rivers, blasphemer: Doc boned things pretty well in the third quarter by leaving Ray Allen in the game after he picked up his fourth foul. Shortly thereafter, Ray-Ray picked up number five and got some extended bench time. But Doc wasn't ready to take all the blame unto himself. "It's sometimes the basketball gods. Things are going pretty well and then he picks up his fourth and fifth. I took a gamble on it and actually lost."

Rasheed Wallace, quote machine: After the game, 'Sheed had this to say: "[The series] is even. We don't sit back and say, 'Oh, look. They are undefeated at home,' or 'They didn't win a game on the road.' A lot of teams they played in the postseason and regular season were scared of them, as far as KG and Ray and Paul. They are good players, but we have good players, also." As Dread commented on my NBA Closer column, "When did /Sheed start talking like a balding, portly white guy?"

Rip Hamilton, quote machine: The Phantom of Auburn Hills explained the advice he gave Mr. Big Shot before the game. "One thing I told Chaunce [sic], you ain't got to be overaggressive out there. You can take your time and be the captain of our ship, and we'll try to do a good job of helping you out." I don't know. That quote just made me laugh. I think Rip should buy Chauncey one of those big admiral hats and maybe a rubber ducky. Okay, I'm done.

The Detroit bench: Take away Rodney Stucky's production and clutch shots, and Detroit's reserves were just as sucktastic as Boston's. Theo Ratliff 4 fouls and 2 boards in 14 minutes of lack-tion. Lindsey Hunter had 4 points and 2 assists in relief. Jason Maxiell was 1 personal foul away from a four trillion. And let's not forget...

Arron Afflalo: He played 12 seconds last night. It was his second straight mario (not counting DNP-CDs), and his third of the playoffs.

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Basketbawful reader ari responded to today's Spurs-Lakers love post with the following comment: "You missed one crucial man love incident, but I couldn't find a picture for you. Duncan was close to getting a technical for arguing, and Pop came over and grabbed him by the front of his shorts, right on his junk, and pulled him away. If you could find this picture...oh man. Or maybe somebody recorded the game and could get a still shot? I think it happened in the 2nd quarter."

I knew exactly what ari was talking about, and I'd been looking for a picture -- with no luck -- all day. Then reader Trev stepped up to the plate and got me the money shot. Note that Timmy looks totally mesmerized. Could grabbing his junk be the secret to stopping him? Only Popovich knows for sure...

junk grab 1

Trev also found a bigger, clearer picture of the incident on

junk grab 2

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There was a whole lotta man lovin' going on in last night's Spurs-Lakers game. Package grabbing? Check. Ass grabbing? Check. Suggestive lip smacking? Check, check and check. (I apologize if I missed a submission or forgot to credit someone. If that's the case, email me or leave a comment and I'll get it fixed up quicker than a Tony Parker flop.)

First, eljpeman (via the Yahoo! Sports NBA page) showed me "How the West is Won." (Apparently, winning the West has something to do with Kobe's genitals.)

Kobe and TP

Then emma noticed that Timmy seems to have a fixation on Pau's "fertile Spanish valley." And Pau say the least.

Pau and Timmy

Mico pointed out that the only way for Ronny Turiaf to stop Ginobili is by grabbing for his Mini Manu. Which, of course, is exactly what Ronny did. Note the great look on Sasha's face.

Manu and Ronny

But joel let me know that Manu can do more than just take it. He can also dish it out. Or is that more of a scoop?

Manu grab

Basketbawful reader ishlifyhead -- who hails from from Manila, Philippines -- got an, uh, interesting screen grab of Mamba during his postgame comments. I guess Kobe had the fever for the flavor of some man love.


And finally, here's Robert Horry reaching for Lamar Odom's man region. And getting unreasonably excited about it, I might add.

Horry and Odom

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Loose ball

Manu Ginobili: In today's NBA Closer column, I called Manu "Shoeless Joe Ginobili" because it sure seemed like he was trying to throw the game: 10 points, 3-for-13 shooting and 4 turnovers. And at least three of those turnovers came during critical stages of the fourth quarter. Manu kept running into traps or jumping into the air with nowhere to go and then just throwing the ball up for grabs. During the postgame press conference, Ginobili said: "There's no excuse for how I played today." He's not wrong.

Tim Duncan: If you checked Timmy's line in the box score -- 30 points, 18 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 blocked shots -- and/or stopped watching the game with four or five minutes to go, you'd think he had a spectacular game. But Duncan was just as guilty of choking down the stretch as Manu was. Maybe it was fatigue, but the Lord of the Rings sure looked scared in those final, fateful minutes: Scared to attack Pau Gasol's defense, scared to take open jumpers, scared his team was going to give up their lead and lose the game.

Seriously, at one point Timmy passed up an open 15-footer to force the ball into Tony Parker underneath the hoop, only the Lakers came away with it and, naturally, scored off of it. This is the same guy who broke the Suns' will with a game-tying three-pointer in the first round? Really?

The San Antonio bench: Thanks for next-to-nothing, guys. Ime Udoka was the "best" Spur reserve, and he finished with 7 points (3-for-7), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover and 4 fouls in 25 minutes. Michael Finley played 21 minutes and had zero points (0-for-5), 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. Brent Barry (2 points, 1-for-3), Robert Horry (zero points, 1 block, 1 foul), Kurt Thomas (2 points and nothing else) were next to useless. And Jacque Vaughn -- who notched a five trillion -- was completely useless. But I guess that's what happens when most of the guys on your bench qualify for the senior citizen discount at McDonald's. (Thanks to Charles and Paul from France for alerting me to Jacque's five trillion.)

Update! The Spurs and Basketbawful: Did I mention San Antonio's ginormous collapse? I didn't?! Gak. Well, good thing Silly Bitch was around to do it. "I would hate for someone to come across this site not having watched the game and assume that this was just an average loss by the Spurs. You completely forgot to mention how they blew the 20 point lead they had halfway through the 3rd quarter. I know the Lakers are good but 20 points?? That's like letting a fat kid steal your cake when all you had to do was run!"

Derek Fisher: He shot 1-for-9 and finished with more fouls (5) than points (4). At times, he made even the Spurs look young and healthy. Which I guess is a pretty big accomplishment, but still.


Lamar Odom: Did he leave one of his bags behind in Utah? Because if so, his shot must be in it: 8 points on 3-for-12 shooting for Lamar.

Fun fact: Lamar was named after the gay nerd from Revenge of the Nerds. (Okay, I can't back that up. But he totally was.)

Pau Gasol: His transformation into one of the Geico cavemen is almost complete.

Luke Walton: Everybody who's suddenly all up in Mitch Kupchak's jock should remember two things: First, David Stern made the Grizzlies give up Pau Gasol so there would be a Lakers-Celtics Finals. I will always believe that. And second, he signed The Son of Walton to a six-year, $30 million contract extension last summer. I'm just sayin'. (Luke played 10 minutes last night, missing both of his shots and scoring zero points. He did have three rebounds, but man...those are expensive rebounds.)

Update! Kobe Bryant, quote machine: Basketbawful reader Jimmy shared a nice out of context quote from the Mamba. "I can get off at any time. In the second half, I did that." That's...quite the handy ability there, Mr. Bean. I don't suppose you could, you know, teach me that?

Charles Barkley: On Inside the NBA, Charles said that Reggie Miller was the best shooter he ever played with (the two played together on the 1996 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team). Mind you, Barkley also played with Larry Bird and Chris Mullin on the original Dream Team. So, you know, I guess this is just Chuck's week for vast and drastic overstatements.

Reggie Miller: So much for humility. Rather than correcting Chuck's outrageous ignorance, he responded with: "I always said that only Drazen Petrovic had a better shot than me." Wow.

Look, I'm as big a Reggie Miller fan as anybody, but, yeah, I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree all the way around. But, you know, Reggie has been going a little crazy these days.

Update! Reggie Miller, Part II: An anonymous commenter left the following golden nugget of awesome. "How about the latest Reggie-ism? Last night he said something like 'It's amazing how well the Spurs played in lieu of their flight delay...' That's twice I've heard that -- someone needs to tip him off."

Update! Yahoo: Rob from Upside And Motor noticed something amusing from our good buddies at the Y. "The Yahoo! Sports basketball NBA front page has the following headline: 'Bulls likely to draft Rose or Beasley." Groundbreaking stuff coming from the newsrooms of AP and Yahoo these days." I know what you mean. I was pretty shocked to read that the Bull were likely to use the number one pick on one of the two guys who are considered to be the consensus first and second picks in the draft. My world is freaking rocked. If they want to report some real news, they should mention how John Paxson is likely to screw this one up by once again passing up on a scoring big man for a speedy, shoot-happy guard. Because I personally would love to see a starting lineup of Kirk Hincrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordan, Larry Hughes and Derrick Rose.

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Kapono jumper

Note: This letter is a response to Ray Allen's love letter to his long lost jump shot, as dictated to Basketbawful reader Justin.

Dear Ray,

I'm sorry I have to break it to you this way, but really, I think it's best to be honest after all we've been through.

I'm leaving you.

Actually, I left you. For Jason Kapono. Before you say anything, yeah, I know. He'll never be the player you were, he'll never be able to carry a team, he'll never really be able to actually dribble, but man! Have you seen his hair? The moment I did, I was infatuated. Every morning I'd wake up with you, ol' balding Ray-Ray, a little past his prime and I'd fantasize, Ray, I really would. I know I should have said something before I left but I didn't want to hurt you. I hope we can remain the best of friends. I'll invite you to the wedding.


Kapono's Jump Shot

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Ray Ray

Dear My Jump Shot,

Hey, baby. It's me. Your wittle itty Walter Ray bear. It's been so long since I've seen you, baby. So damned long.

Look, I don't know why you walked out on me or where you went. Maybe you're rotting in a dumpster somewhere in Dorchester or Roxbury. Maybe you're chained in a dark basement, all wearing a leather hood and getting regular colonoscopies from some dude named Zed. I don't know. I kind of hope it's one of those two things, because I'd hate to think you left me on your own. Your brutal death and/or abduction and torture would sure make me feel a lot better about myself.

I know times have been tough. I don't stroke you as often as I did in Seattle. I know that. But Baby, times change. We aren't 19 anymore. I can't be strokin' you 20-25 times a night. But those 10-12 times, well, they're quality. Hey, it's more meaningful when you've got to cherish each one, you know?

Look. I'm gonna put it all on the line here. I need you. I need you now more than I ever have. I heard KG and Truth talking when they thought I was going through my pregame routine for the fourth time (little did they know I had already gone through it twice before they even got to the Garden). They're considering kicking me out of The Big Three. Kicking me out! Is that what you want to happen? Would that make you happy?

Don't do this to me, baby. Don't do this to us. Come back. Please.

Yours, body and soul,


P.S. I had some dude named "Buck Nasty" take this picture. As you can see, I'm wearing that sweater you got me for our 79-month anniversary.

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Chauncey Billups: He turned in an Eric-Snow-in-his-prime game: 9 points (3-for-6), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals and a foul in 31 minutes. Moreover, he was clearly outplayed by the previously slumping Rajon Rondo (11 points, 5-for-9, 7 assists, 5 steals). I don't know whether it was the layoff, the Boston defense, or his injured hamstring -- or maybe a combination of all three? -- but Billups didn't show the kind of aggressiveness I would have expected. I thought he'd attack the basket and put a little more pressure on Rondo. Next game, maybe?

Rasheed Wallace: First off, 'Sheed had his struggles on the offensive end: 11 points on 3-for-12 shooting, including 0-for-3 from downtown. The only time it seems to be okay to have more shots than points is if you're Allen Iverson, and Rasheed is no Allen Iverson. But in all honesty, 'Sheed's offense -- in this series at least -- is far less important than his defense. Which, as it happens, was similarly pooptastic: KG lit him up for a game-high 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting while also grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 4 dimes.

But before you start blaming rust, know ye now that Rasheed was likewise owned by The Big Ticket during the regular season. As I pointed out in the preview I wrote for Deadspin, KG played as well or better against the Pistons and 'Sheed's D than he did against any other team, to the tune of 24 PPG, 54 percent shooting, and 7.7 RPG. For some reason, this makes no sense to me whatsoever. I would figure that, if anybody could do it, that Rasheed would put the clamps on KG.

Rip Hamilton: I love retelling the story of how Rip once said: "I know before I get the ball if the shot is going in or not." Why do basketball players make ridiculous statements like that? It would be like some idiot saying that this year's Lakers team is the best squad Kobe Bryant's ever been on. Oh, wait. Anyway, either Rip was slightly overstating things or somebody removed his Nostradamus gene (and maybe his kidney!) in his sleep last night, because The Phantom of Auburn Hills missed eight of his 13 shot attempts.

Theo Ratliff: Remember when he was all talking trash to Rashard Lewis and the Magic? That was his high point of the postseason. Since then, it's all been downhill like an out-of-control yellow snowball. Last night's Herculean performance was more like The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, or maybe Hercules In New York: 2 fouls and zero-for-everything-else in just under four minutes. On the bright side, he had a better +/- score (+4) than any of the Detroit starters. By far.

The Zoo Crew: Ah, the Pistons bench is so's unfathomable! Ha, ha! I vill be here all ze week. But seriously, the Zoo Crew -- Amir Johnson, Arron Afflalo, Jarvis Hayes, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey -- played more like the Get Along Gang last night. They combined for 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 DNP-CDs. And even that's deceiving, since 9 of the points came from Stuckey, and both assists came from Mad Maxiell. (How did Stuckey, the backup point guard, finish with zero assists?) The other dudes spent the game shining the pine and passing out Gatorade. Which, don't get me wrong, is totally important. Gotta keep those starters hydrated.

Update! The Etroit defense: I'm an idiot sometimes. I wrote about this in today's NBA Closer column and then totally forgot about it for WotN. But, as always, Wild Yams was here to remind me: "I honestly did not see that coming last night. Take out the huge FT advantage for the Pistons in the first half and they basically got routed. They pointed this out after the game, but the Pistons' vaunted defense surrendered 52.2% shooting to the Celtics, and the C's outscored Detroit 44-22 in the paint. If the Pistons can't D up any better than that, they're gonna lose this series for sure. I was gonna say they'd get swept if they continued to D up like that, but then I remembered what Boston's looked like on the road in these playoffs." It's all true. And somewhat mystifying. Rust can affect jump shots, but it shouldn't affect defense, which is mostly a product of effort and concentration.

Flip Saunders, quote machine: The Flipster did some verbal gymnastics while trying to explain why his team looked so out of synch last night. "It wasn't a matter of rust as we had too many mental mistakes. We weren't in the right situations on some offensive sets. We weren't in the right situations on some defensive rotations. When you do that, it messes up the whole team and the whole team looks a step slow." Now, I forget...who's supposed to get the Pistons in the right situations on offense and defense?

Ray Allen: Can we even call what Ray-Ray's going through a "slump" anymore? His jump shot is more cadaverous than Hugh Hefner. I think it's safe to announce the time of death and arrange the funeral. I wonder of Paul Bearer is available to give the eulogy...

Ray tombstone 2

Update! Here's some extra observation from Stephanie G: "Surreal moment of Game 1: Ray Allen passing to Rajon Rondo for the wide open three. I'm pretty sure most people had this play reversed when it came to imagining how the playoffs would go a couple months ago. But isn't it beautiful to watch the Boston crowd cringe every time Ray Allen looks like he may be attempting an actual jump shot? And each time the release looks so smooth, so graceful...and when it doesn't even hit the rim the crowd's nervous energy is palpable and I'm just watching it on TV. I think Ray-Ray is starting to get mind fucked by his own fans. I sensed it during the Cavs series and it has to be a mental block by this point. Lean, pure shooters like this are supposed to last forever, right? Allen has to be getting the worst stage fright imaginable everytime he gets a wide open look. Poor guy."

Tony Allen: Hmm, only 25 seconds of PT? Swing your arms from side to side, come on, it's time to the mario! [/Super Mario Bros. Super Show]

Sam Cassell: DNP-CD. E.T. spent seven months trying to get bought out by the Clippers for this?! He and Mighty Mouse need to form a championship piggyback support group.

Bill Belichick, dirty perv: Wow. How many things are wrong with the following picture? The fact that Bill showed up to the Celtics game with the woman he cheated on his wife with, Sharon Shennoca? That Shennoca looks like she could be a Batman super villain named Mistress Mummy or maybe Fraulein Leatherface? That his son (?) looks like he's hopped up on Vicodin? That Jay and Silent Bob's posse are seated behind them? I mean, jeez, take your pick.

Bill and mummy

Oh, and Ms. Shenocca? I suggest you use some of your super mummy powers on Mr. Bill, because he's got eyes on a couple younger hotties. And the dancer on the right has to be thinking something that rhymes with "flirty mold pan."

Bill and dancers

Mike D'Antoni: First of all, holy crap! The Bulls got the first pick in the NBA draft! Sure, they could have sucked the chrome off of R2D2's robo-schlong last season, but little did we know they were losing with purpose. Boo-ya, baby! Now, Mike D'Antoni have been a part of that, could have started a whole new generation of Fun-N-Gun in Chicago, but nooooooooo. He went for the $$ and decided to take the helm of the Good Ship Knickerbocker. Good call, Mikey Boy. Good call.

And his "I just swallowed a big turd" reaction when the Knicks got the sixth pick? Pure, undistilled rad. As Basketbawful reader Jin put it: "I signed on this morning to see the Bulls won the draft lottery with something like a 1.7% chance of doing so, and the first thing I thought to myself was: 'Oh shit, D'antoni's gotta be pissed.' My friend hit me with this incredibly awesome picture within seconds of that (see below). I dunno if you've seen it before, but it's all five flavors of awesome. I think the fact that D'antoni kind of looks like the Monopoly Man adds to the humor or his tight lipped grimace." Yup, yup, and yup. Go directly to jail Madison Square Garden, Mike. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Do not get a chance to be happy ever again.

Mikey Boy

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Wild Yams reminded me of this little brouhaha in the TNT studio last night. I added it to Worst of the Night, but it really deserved its own post. As Mr. Yams put it: "Chuck's second big gaffe of the night was saying that this Lakers team is the best one Kobe's ever been on, although him saying that was totally worth it for Webber's fantastic reaction of wanting to walk off the set in disbelief. I love how Barkley shoots from the hip like that and doesn't think through the things he's about to say, because every now and then he'll let fly with a Bill Walton-esque bit of hyperbole like that. God bless Barkley."

God bless Barkley, indeed. And Webber's awestruck reaction really was the best; it even succeeded in getting Chuck to back down and revise his statement to: "Let me rephrase that. I think this Laker team is potentially, they could win a lot of championships in the next couple years. That maybe is the way I should have phrased it." Yeah. Maybe so.

As Ernie Johnson put it: "Rick Fox, rolling over in his grave." Here's the video.

Update! I was just over at trying to decide which Shaq-Kobe Lakers team would have kicked this year's Kobe-Gasol team's ass the hardest...but Mr. Yams beat me to the punch. "Seriously though, what the hell was Barkley saying, thinking that this Lakers team is better than some of those Shaq-led ones. The 2001 Lakers swept the 50-win Blazers in the 1st round, swept the 55-win Kings in the 2nd round and swept the 58-win Spurs (including wins by 39 & 29 in Games 3 & 4) in the WCF, before losing one OT game en route to a five-game victory over the 56-win Sixers (with 3 of those wins coming in Philly) for the title. You're gonna tell me that this current Laker team is better than that one?"

Yup. That's the team I would have picked too. They may have "only" won 56 games, but Kobe missed 14 games and Shaq missed 8. You could probably point to the 67-win team from 2000 too -- you know, "The Glen Rice Team"* -- but Kobe wasn't nearly as good as he would become the very next season.

*That was the year when Glen Rice decided that 12.3 shots per game wasn't good enough, even though he got the chance to play with Shaq and Kobe and win a championship. The next season, he was in New York getting 10 shots per game, winning 48 games, and getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Toronto Raptors. Good call, Glen. A few seasons later, Rice finished up his career by playing 18 games for the Los Angeles Clippers. Sometimes Karma really is a bitch.

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Riddle me this, Batman: If the Celtics are secure enough in their masculinity to get all jiggy with LeBron's man region, why did Rajon Rondo look so awkward during this fist-on-ass butt slap of Paul Pierce? Hard to say. Maybe he's thinking: "Those aren't pillows..."

Also, looks like Eddie House wants a piece of that action.

Thanks to Sarah for keeping her heart open and her eyes on the lookout for man love. You are helping me make the world a better place.

bad touch

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The New Orleans bench: Astute readers of this site know that I've had a hairy eyeball on the Hornets' reserves for most of the season, particularly after Jeff Bower "strengthened" the team's bench by trading away Bobby Jackson for Pit Bull and The Bonz. Which, honestly, should have been enough to disqualify Bower from NBA Executive of the Year voting, not a reason for him to finish third.

As the risk of going all Basketball 101 here, the lack of solid and reliable bench play will wear a team down over the course of a long season and extended playoff series (for further reading, see the 1984-85, 1986-87 and 1987-88 Boston Celtics). Because that means the coach is basically asking his starters to log all the big minutes, play great (or at least solid) defense with little rest, withstand various and sundry injuries without time off, carry the rebounding load, and score 80-90 points a game every game for 80-100 games. It's an impossible task, even for the young.

Gregg Popovich knows that, which is why none of his big guns average more than 34 minutes a game. And it doesn't hurt that they play at a pace that's a little easier on the feet, knees, legs and back than what the helter-skelter Suns and Hornets go through. Of course, it helps that he has multiple championships on his resume, which means the Spurs management and owners trust him when he sacrifices some regular season games here or there to save his team from unnecessary wear and tear.

And just check it: Chris Paul played 47 minutes. David West logged 46. Peja was in the game for 44. And Tyson Chandler played 42. Take away Jannero Pargo -- more on him below -- and the New Orleans reserves contributed 1 point (0-for-3), 1 rebound, 1 steal and 2 fouls in nine minutes. Greg Kite could have gotten more done in nine minutes. I mean, at least he would have finished with 6 fouls and probably a couple turnovers.

Fun fact: Bonzi's real name is Gawen Deangelo Wells. The nickname Bonzi originated from the cravings his mother had for ice cream bonbons during her pregnancy with him. (Apparently, he inherited those cravings.) His parents called him "bonbon" until the age of two, when it evolved to what it is today.

The New Orleans Starters: The Hornets were giving me 2001-02 Sacramento Kings flashbacks last night, and it wasn't just the presence of Peja Stojackovic (although he really, really helped). Whether it was fatigue or nerves -- or some combination of the two -- New Orleans' "Fantastic Four" looked like they were afraid of the ball in the fourth quarter.

Peja -- who's been a non-factor since Popovich unleashed Bruce Bowen on him -- shot 3-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from downtown, and he even airballed an open three down the stretch. David West finished with 20 and 9, but he boned an open 12-footer, and it was hard to tell whether it was because of a sore back or a tight scrotum. Chris Paul (18 points, 8 rebounds, 14 assists, 5 steals) had an outstanding game, but even he caught a case of don'twannashoottheballitis in the final four minutes or so. And as for Tyson Chandler, well, he's not exactly an offensive option, is he?

Jannero Pargo: Pargs was the only New Orleans player who didn't treat the rock like a hot potato in the fourth quarter. And he went off for 16 points in the final stanza, single-handedly leading the Hornets back from 17 down to within three points. But damn, weren't even letting the ground touch the ball, dog. He was jackin' from the left to the right to the left to the right again. He was not shy. He put up 13 shots in those fateful 12 minutes. And like Ryne from Odenized, I'm not sure whether he was the hero or the goat.

I guess it's like Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke after Yoda kicked it: Either could be true, depending on your point of view. Which was a pretty slick way of getting out of totally lying to Luke about his father. I've always thought Obi-Wan used the Jedi Mind Trick on Luke in that scene. I mean, it went from "But you told me Vadar betrayed and murdered my father!" to "What I told you was true...from a certain point of view." And Luke just bought it.

Chistastrophe: I don't know who he is, but since he left the following comment, I will let him be the official representative of overreactive Spurs fans everywhere. "I eagerly await whatever bullshit response Basketbawful has for the Spurs resounding victory tonight. Perhaps the Spurs employed some special kind of flop that allows their bench players to drain three pointers. Maybe they flopped so hard it forced CP3 to choke in the biggest game of his life. Or maybe, just maybe, the Spurs are really really good at playing basketball."

Thanks, Chistastrophe, because I myself eagerly await douchey comments from every angry spaz who gets all bent out of shape by one or two posts I make and then freaks out about it. But before the next time you start whining and crying bullshit, do me a favor: Go back and actually read what I have to say. The entire Basketbawful archive is here for your perusal. You show me where, exactly, I ever said the Spurs weren't a good basketball team. Have I ever, anywhere, at any time, ever seriously suggested that the Spurs won four championships through their flop-a-riffic adventures and cheap-shottery? Of course I didn't. You're insane if you think otherwise, and you've got nothing to go on other than your own righteous indignation.

You can't change the fact that, in a league full of floppers, the Spurs are the most flop-tastic. Nor can you change the fact that Tony Parker got outted by his own wife for faking injuries on the court to get calls. You can't pretend the Duncan face doesn't happen over and over and over again every game the Spurs play. Nor can you undo Cheap Shot Rob's thuggary or Bruce Bowen's long, long history of grabbing, elbowing, hitting, kneeing, wacking people in the groin, putting his foot under their feet when they come down from a jump shot, and a thousand other little things that would get his bony ass kicked seven ways to Sunday if it happened anywhere other than on a professional basketball court...where Bruce "Lee" Bowen is protected by the very rules he repeatedly violates.

So honestly, don't blame me for pointing out what's going on right in front of you. I didn't create all that ugliness; I just held a mirror up to it. When Gregg Popovich goes to the Hack-A-Whoever strategy -- which I see as an affront to the sport -- I'm going to point it out. When the Spurs use an array of flops to draw five iffy fouls in three minutes and get the opposing team's two best players in foul trouble in the playoffs where physical play is the rule rather than the exception, I'm going to point it out. When one of their players launches himself directly into the back of an injured player during a 20-point blowout, I'm going to point it out.

Here's the thing: It's not like I'm not making this stuff up. This isn't me saying, "You know how I know the Spurs are gay? Because Robert Horry still has Will Smith's haircut from 1989." These things have happened. It's out there for public consumption. Everybody sees it. Everybody knows about it. No, it doesn't mean that the Spurs don't play smart, fundamental, championship-winning basketball, nor does it change the fact that they are the model any and every team should emulate. But no matter how hard you and other Spurs fans try to rewrite history, all that other stuff is just as much a part of their legacy as all the hardware in their trophy case.

So please, stop ragging on me for pointing that out and ask yourself why you think it's all okay? If winning at any cost is cool with you, then fine. As a fan, that's your choice to make. But if that is, in fact, the case, I can't help but wonder why me shining a flashlight on all the dirty stuff bothers you so much.

Random note: Those of you who claim I never say anything positive about the Spurs or their winning ways obviously didn't ready today's NBA Closer column.

Damon Stoudamire: Anybody else notice he's not even on the Spurs game roster since Game 5?

Update! Charles Barkley: In an effort to get things back on their usual funny track, loyal reader Wild Yams reminded me of something I should have remembered on my own. "I meant to mention earlier that Charles Barkley probably shoulda been included in the WotN for a couple things last night. First for his very unintentionally funny bit with EJ about his gambling. Not only was it just really weird to see those two all alone on the set trying to have a serious moment (especially with Barkley's glaringly white sneakers and socks to go with his suit), but Barkley said he was never going to gamble again, which he immediately clarified to mean 'in the next year or two.' That was priceless, and so was EJ trying to bait him into breaking it by saying 'wanna bet?' Inside the NBA is the wrong place for serious talk like that from the Chuckster, I'm afraid.

"Chuck's second big gaffe was saying that this Laker team is the best one Kobe's ever been on, although him saying that was totally worth it for Webber's fantastic reaction of wanting to walk off the set in disbelief. I love how Barkley shoots from the hip like that and doesn't think through the things he's about to say (see above), because every now and then he'll let fly with a Bill Walton-esque bit of hyperbole like that. God bless Barkley."

Right you are, Mr. Yams. Right you are. Although I'd probably say that Chuck shoots from the lip rather than the hip, but potato, tomato, as Joy Turner might say. Here's his "apology" for gambling:

And here's where he slams his giant, club foot in his mouth about Kobe's "best team":

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Last week, Kevin Garnett did it. Then, last night, Paul Pierce did it too. So can anybody tell me: What the bleep is up with guys grabbing for LeBron's junk? Don't they know that the King's Scepter is not meant for the hands of mortal men? With an emphasis on the "men" part.

Thanks to Evil Ted for keeping an eye on LeBron's royal jewels. It's a dirty job, gonad-watching, but some poor schmuck's gotta do it.


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Paul floor

Obviously, there's no way I could not comment on yesterday's Game 7 showdown between Paul Pierce and Lebron James. It was, simply put, the most amazing two-man show I've seen in decisive Game 7 since...well...

The new Larry versus Dominique: The parallels are almost bizarre, aren't they? Both were Game 7s in Boston. One happened in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the other in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In both cases, the winner would move on to face the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both featured a Celtics superstar with a wispy porn-style mustache and a rival superstar who might be the most physically dynamic player in the league. If only Brian Scalabrine could have been on the active roster to fulfill Fred Roberts' "awkward white guy cheering from the bench" role, it would have been perfect. (Veal cheering in street clothes just isn't the same.)

In some ways, this duel was (please don't strike me down, Basketball Gods) even better than the Larry and 'Nique show. After all, Bird's performance in that classic Game 7 was just so-so -- and maybe even sub-par -- through three quarters before the Legend exploded in the fourth, scoring 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting. In this case, Pierce and James were both forces for each and every quarter. And whereas Larry spent most of his Game 7 guarding Antoine Carr while Kevin McHale checked Dominique, Truth spent most of his Game 7 guarding LeBron and vice versa.

The final tallies speak volumes: Paul (41 points, 13-for-23, 11-for-12 from the line, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) and LeBron (45 points, 14-for-29, 14-for-19 from the line, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals). And then when you take into account the fact that they were guarding each other and the refs were letting a lot of contact go and it was a Game 7, well, those performances were truly legen...wait for it...dary.

As LeBron put it: "We both tried to will our team to victory and, just like Dominique Wilkins, I ended up on the short end and the Celtics won again. I think the second round of the postseason, Game 7, these fans will finally have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins did and remember what Paul and LeBron did. This will go down in history." Amen.

Not the new Larry versus Dominique: But before we all get too carried away, let me state emphatically that this Game 7 did not equal that famous Game 7 from 1988. Why? Well, quite simply, because while Pierce and James stepped up and then some, their teammates, by and large, did not. Kevin Garnett finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but he was, for the most part, an invisible man on the offensive end. Ray Allen (4 points, 1-for-6) continued to slump so badly that Doc Rivers exiled him to the bench for long stretches of the game. Rajon Rondo (4-for-11) couldn't hit a jump shot and had to be replaced by Eddie House late in the game.

Delonte West (15 points, 5 assists) was the best non-LeBron Cavalier, but he also committed 6 turnovers and missed a wide-open three with about a minute to go that would have tied the game at 91-all. As for the other Cavs, well, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2-for-8), Ben Wallace (4 points, 4 rebounds), Sasha Pavlovic (3-for-8) Wally Szczerbiak (zero points, 0-for-3) could have all stayed home.

This was most certainly not the case in '88. First off, the two teams combined to shoot 59 percent from the field -- 72 percent in the fourth quarter -- and commit only 15 turnovers between them. And this was despite some intense, hands-all-over-everybody defense.

Kevin McHale was nearly as good as Bird, with 33 points (10-for-14), 13 rebounds, 4 blocked shots (and, naturally, zero assists). Danny Ainge had 13 points and 10 assists. Dennis Johnson finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists (not to mention a huge steal-and-basket at the end of the third quarter). And Robert Parish added his typically solid 14 points (6-for-10).

Unlike LeBron, Dominique wasn't all on his own. Randy Wittman was red hot (11-for-13) and finished with 22 points. Doc Rivers (16 points, 18 assists) was fantastic. Kevin Willis had a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). And Antoine Carr contributed 13 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.

That game was played at an extremely high level on both ends of the ball from tipoff to final buzzer, and both teams -- to a man -- stepped up. That fact, more so than even the back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth duel between the superstars, is why that Game 7 will forever been greater than the Game 7 that we were fortunate enough to witness last night.

But that doesn't mean that Paul and LeBron shouldn't go down as one of the great Game 7s ever.

LeBron James, quote machine: King James is freaking fantastic, no question about it. But his quotes are starting to get to me. He's been talking in third person more and more this season, and while he didn't do that last night, he still had to remind us that he may have lost, but he's no loser. "I have always been a winner, and I am a winner." He's right, you know. LeBron has won a championship at every level except college and the pros. Oh, and the Olympics and World Championships. But other than that...

Doc Rivers versus Mike Brown: These two men can thank Pierce and James for drawing attention away from their dreadful coaching. Doc brought in Eddie House for a short stretch during the first half, and House energized the Celtics and helped change the momentum. Then Doc exiled House to the bench until the closing minutes of the game despite the fact that the Cavaliers weren't even guarding Rondo and his faithless jumper. Why, Doc? Why? And as for Brown...well, methinks Danny Ferry should consider giving Avery Johnson a call.

Okay, now let's go back to Friday night.

Paul Pierce: He shot 5-for-15 and committed 6 turnovers. Hopefully he can redeem himself in Game 7. Oh, wait...

Ray Allen: Ray-Ray shot 3-for-8. He looks awful. He rarely gets open, and when he does, he's forcing his shots. The golden "3" has officially been removed from his locker.

Rajon Rondo: After a dominating performance in Game 5, Rondo got dominated by suck in Game 6: 2 points, 1-for-4, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers. This kid looked like just that: A kid.

Kendrick Perkins: He had more fouls (5) than rebounds (3), and he continues to move so slowly that Drew Bledsoe was laughing at his foot speed. Not a good sign.

Sam Cassell: DNP-CD. Doc has officially lost faith.

Wally Szczerbiak: The White Larry Hughes shot 2-for-11. He's about to lose his White Larry Hughes status, by the way. Soon he'll just be the Pat Garrity with better hair. Okay, much better hair.

Ben Wallace: Hm. Zero points, 0-for-3, 6 rebounds. Drew Gooden is laughing at this. You know he is.

Sasha Pavlovic: See what happens when you hold out, kids? You forget how to shoot (1-for-6).

Utah Jazz: Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams both had a chance to tie this game in the final seconds, but they both missed a three-pointer. That hardly mattered, though. The Jazz lost this game when they failed to capitalize on the opportunities they had in Game 5. And you could tell that they started Game 6 with a sense of panic. They looked scared of losing. And they got rattled when the Lakers jumped all over them. They tried to make a run in the third quarter, but when L.A. answered they to rattled again, forcing up threes in an attempt to get back quickly. The best example of this was a terrible jacked three by Andrei Kirilenko (of all people) off a busted play.

Of course, that three-point strategy got them back into the game in the fourh, so I guess you could say it "worked." And the patient almost lived. I guess it just goes to show how important it is to have a clutch superstar like Kobe -- who scored 12 points in the final quarter -- and savvy, unshakable veterans like Derek Fisher (16 points) and Pau Gasol (17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks).

The Jazz are a young team, and they played like it. The Lakers are true championship contenders. And they played like it.

Carlos Boozer: Okay, can we please stop all of the Karl Malone comparisons until further notice? Boozer finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, but he shot 5-for-16. Except for Game 3, Boozer struggled mightily to deal with the beating he was taking in the paint. Quite simply, the physical play of the Lakers took him out of his game. And say what you will about the Mailman, but he dealt with that kind of pounding every game of his career. And he loved it.

But it's more than that. I couldn't help but notice that Boozer was jogging downcourt on offense all series long. Malone never did that. He always sprinted out on the break, unless he was the outlet man, and he always got two or three easy baskets that way. Carlos would do well to copy that.

Tom Brady: Douche.


Yahoo!: I did not know that LeBron James played for the Utah Jazz. Thanks, Yahoo. And thanks to Colin G., Joe L., Maciek, Michael D. and (UPDATE!) Emma for jumping on this and sending me links/screen shots.


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