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Apropos of our little Kobe debate in the comments of another post, ESPN.com's own Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, has written a piece that I think perfectly sums up my feelings on Kobe, the Lakers, and the entire experience that the media gave us in these playoffs (especially during the Finals):
Back when I was a kid, my friends and I used to play this old dice basketball game on rainy days when conditions didn't permit outdoor hoops. The game was pretty simple in and of itself, but the way we approached it wasn't -- we eventually created entire leagues with hand-scribbled schedules and logos, the copies of which have long since been scattered to the four winds. But the thing was, we always had a problem with player names. We tried using real NBA or college players and teams, but since every player had approximately the same "skills" (if you could call it that), it wasn't exactly fun to play a game where Michael Jordan and Craig Ehlo had the same probability of taking over and scoring at will. So we devised fictional players, but the names were so ridiculous, contrived, and lame that the original rosters were destroyed years ago.
And so it came to pass that Game 5 of the NBA Finals, at home in Orlando, would be the site where the weary Magic would make their last stand. Having allowed two games to slip through their fingers in the series already, Orlando now faced the sobering reality of needing to win 3 consecutive games against the Lakers, a team that did not suffer a 3-game skein all season long, to capture the prize. The odds were heavily against a comeback, but then again, the odds had been against the Magic all season. Did they have one last epic surge left, or would the Lake Show permanently crush their collective will in Game 5 on Sunday night?
I don't typically link directly to YouTube vids, but here's a brand new mix from KBlaze, one the net's best mixmakers, celebrating the highlights of The Admiral, David Robinson. D-Rob is one of our favorites here at the blog because his numbers were simply off the charts at his peak in 1993-94 & 1994-95. Yes, Hakeem did him dirty in the playoffs, but because he was on the wrong end of a few Dream Shake highlights (which I would challenge anyone to stop, btw) we don't think he's been treated fairly by the general public over the past 15 years. So here's to you, Mr. Robinson:
(Bonus points for old-school Craig Sager footage at the beginning, too. Didn't know that guy owned a suit that wasn't ridiculous...)
Here's a fascinating piece at the blog Cheap Talk regarding the frequency of tie games in basketball. If we assume points scored and allowed are independent of each other, our prediction for the odds of a tie after regulation is much lower than it actually is in real life. Why is that?
As we noted several days ago, Game 4 was essentially the second straight "must-win" game for the Orlando Magic -- their estimated probability of winning the series was already just 20% even after capturing Game 3 at home (a game which required a record-breaking shooting performance for them to narrowly defeat L.A.). Game 4 on Thursday night would be the most important of the series yet, then: Win, and you've given yourself a fighting chance again with things at 2 games apiece; lose, and face the unpleasant reality of requiring 3 straight wins (including 2 on the road) against the NBA's most talented team. In other words, it was make or break time Thursday night...
With the series shifting to their own building for Game 3, the Orlando Magic knew they absolutely had to get a win by whatever means necessary if they wanted to have any shot at the NBA title. The Lakers' defense had ruled Games 1 and 2, holding the Magic below 100 points/possession in each of the matchups at Staples. While Rashard Lewis had still managed to play well, getting Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer Alston, and Mickael Pietrus going offensively would be a must for Orlando in Game 3. So did they get the job done at home, or did L.A. take a commanding 3-0 series lead?
Another game, another crushing loss for the Magic. This one wasn't crushing because it was a blowout, mind you, but for the exact opposite reason: Orlando had the game in their grasp at various points in the 4th quarter (a buzzer-beating, game-winning alley-oop attempt by Courtney Lee literally missed by inches) and overtime, yet in the end they could not stave off the Lakers when it came down to making a key stop in the closing sequences. First, here's the advanced box score:
Smith, a 6'3" guard who played in 906 consecutive games from 1972 to 1983 (an NBA record until A.C. Green broke the mark in 1997), was a 2-time All-Star and MVP of the 1978 midseason classic, in addition to being named 2nd-team All-NBA in 1976 (the same year he finished 9th in the league in Win Shares). Along with Bob McAdoo, he was the face of the old Buffalo Braves in the 1970s, before they became the Clippers. To be honest, the league could use a few more tough little guys like Smith nowadays. May he rest in peace.