Posts Tagged ‘Basketball’

That Was For America

April 11, 2010

Know I’m a little late on this, but just wanted to comment on the final 3.6 seconds of the NCAA Championship.  Full disclosure:  I’m a UVA alum so I in no way wanted Duke to win this game.  This was a very well played game and Duke deserved to win.  So here’s the video:

First, from a strategy perspective, at the time, I thought Duke did the right thing by missing the second FT intentionally.  However, on further review, it’s a peculiar decision.  Even without a TO, 3.6 seconds is a lot of time to push the ball to at least half court.  Butler was probably going to be attempting a 3, so would you rather try to be up 3 or 2?  Also, if you make it, you can try to at least pressure the inbound whereas a miss means they are more than likely already a third of the way to midcourt when the clock starts (and Duke only had 1 guy in to rebound on the second attempt).

Second, Zoubek almost made one of the biggest blunders in NCAA tourney history.   Instead of immediately retreating after the shot to get into defensive position, he decided to go into the middle of the lane after the ball.  I think instinct just took over.  He definitely makes contact with Hayward and it would’ve been a tough call, but if a foul had been called, this would have been up there with Chris Webber’s TO in terms of boneheaded plays.

Third, if Hayward made that shot it would have instantly become the most famous shot in NCAA tournament history and replaced the Laettner turnaround against Kentucky as the signature shot of the NCAA tourney.  The value of this to non-Duke fans cannot be overstated.  The degree of difficulty on the shot was extreme.  Hayward was going full speed, so he has to take into account his momentum as he shot it, plus he was going straight up the sideline, which required him to turn his upper body in midair.  That he came so close to making it is amazing in itself.

Lastly, after the shot missed, the only solace for me was seeing the replays of Kyle Singler getting absolutely demolished near midcourt by a Howard screen.  Singler was not hurt, so I don’t feel bad reveling in it.  He ends up splayed on the ground, but at least in Singler’s defense this was not a case of this (the worst flop ever, and that’s saying a lot in a world where Vlade Divac exists).  A fitting end to a tourney by Singler, who proved against Baylor he’s going to have trouble with the athletic ability of players at the next level, and a subpar Finals game.  As I remarked afterwards, that screen was for every non-Duke fan, that was for America.

The System

April 8, 2010

Just wanted to add a few comments to what Sriram said about last night’s 30 for 30 entry “The Guru of Go.”  I agree with his general thought that the filmmaker’s overlapping storylines is what held this entry back.  A quick introduction of the “system” could have ceded to the real star of this story, the 1990 Loyola Marymount team, and its stars Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers.  Other thoughts:

  • The Shakespeare transitions were contrived; moreover they’ve been done before in a documentary to much greater effect, see the Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury.
  • The segment at the end about Westphal coaching the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and instituting the “system” there was, well, unnecessary.  I had to look this up, but in their best season with Westphal, they averaged 89 points.  Sorry, the “system” did not produce point averages that low, even if it is the WNBA.
  • One last nitpick, but rather than that last segment about Westphal’s travels since LMU, I was more interested in what happened to the other guys on the 90 LMU team.
  • Westphal’s “system” was premised on being in great shape, run, get up more shots than your opponent, and trick the other team into playing at your pace where they will inevitably either get sloppy or just plain run out of gas.  It’s quite simple, and from playing a lot of pickup ball in my day, is how I approached those type of games.  Being small and quick, and generally being able to run for much longer than my opponent, my goal was to run a fast break every time my team had the ball.  Whether that meant immediately sprinting downcourt any time an opponent’s shot went up and waiting for the long bomb pass and easy layup, or pushing the ball as soon as I got it, it worked a lot.  So, I’ve always enjoyed teams and coaches that take this approach, as opposed to the boring halfcourt game that many coaches run.
  • Hank Gathers’ death was sad, and seeing the footage last night made me sad again.  It appears that Gathers felt the need to continue playing, and to make it to the NBA, after his first collapse and that desire to “make it” and provide for his family led to his death.  The resiliency of his teammates and the incredible run they made in his honor got short shrift and should have been the focus of this documentary.

    Miller Time

    March 15, 2010

    I’d usually tell you to check out Sriram’s blog for all things NBA, but I’ve been excited for quite awhile about tonight’s ESPN 30 for 30 entry.  Winning Time was sold as the story of Reggie Miller versus the Knicks.  Miller is rightfully the focus, but also covers the larger battle between the Knicks and Pacers.  Miller is probably my second favorite NBA player ever (James Worthy being the first).  And the battles between the Knicks and the Pacers in the mid 90s are probably the most emotionally invested I’ve been (and ever will be) in sporting events.  This doc was well done and I’d recommend it to any fan of the NBA.

    I’m a native Washingtonian, so I am a Bullets/Wizards by default.  But they have been bad for most of my life, so I’ve followed two other teams during my NBA watching career, mostly on the strength of my love for two marquee players from the teams.  Once both those players left those teams, I stopped following those teams.  First, it was James Worthy and the showtime Lakers.  Then, it was Reggie and the Pacers.  So I’m a sports bigamist, but I’m ok with that.

    I first got into the Pacers, and Miller, in 90-91, when the Pacers played a tough series against the Celtics (who due to my taking the side of the Lakers in Lakers vs. Celtics, were hated by me) and Person and Miller jawed and didn’t back down to the Celts.  I liked that.  I was also drawn to Miller because he was skinny, I mean really skinny.  As I was at the time.  To see someone out there playing at that level with that frame, well I had to root for that guy.

    The documentary does a great job of setting up the rivalry, going all the way back to the 85 lottery when the Knicks beat the Pacers to win the Patrick Ewing sweepstakes.  While it was never mattered to me, the doc also discusses the cultural differences between the big city of New York and the local yokels of Indiana (my dad’s from Long Island and I have no connection at all with Indiana, so if this had mattered to me I probably would have taken the Knicks side).

    Reggie is rightfully portrayed as an epic trash talker, who tried and succeeded at angering the Knicks (the Starks headbutt) as well as the game’s greatest player (I remembered fondly the clip of Jordan trying to tear Reggie apart).  While I knew about Reggie’s famous sister, Cheryl, one anecdote poignantly encapsulates the reason why he had the fire to win.  Reggie had just scored 40 points in a high school game and was excited to let his sister know about it.  Problem was Cheryl had scored 105 points the same night!  You could tell that she pushed him and the desire he must have had to make a name for himself.

    The Knicks/Pacers series in 93-94 and 94-95 were epic.  The documentary’s montages do the requisite series of clips showing the hard fouls from the series.  As I mentioned above, I never was more emotionally into sporting events as those series.  Each game was a draining experience, more so than actually playing ball myself, which I was still doing at the time.  I would be on a euphoric high after a victory and would be not a fun person to be around after a loss.  And yes, I cried after the Pacers lost game 7 in 93/94.  As I’ve grown older, my love of sports in general has waned, and with other priorities, I will never follow a team like I did those Pacers teams.  My passions are elsewhere now, and I think that’s a good thing.

    I will say though, that seeing the clips from those games did bring back some of those emotions.  Especially the clips from the games after the “choke” game, when the Pacers took a 3-2 lead, but lost the last two games of the series.  There was no crying, but a feeling of sadness.  A good bit of time is spent on the “choke” game, where Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and had a personal taunting duel with Spike Lee and its aftermath for Lee.  The most interesting tidbit of the sequence is Spike describing the bet Reggie and him made over the series.  If the Knicks won, Miller had to go visit Mike Tyson in prison in Indiana, if the Pacers won, Lee would cast Miller’s then-wife in his next movie.  I wonder if Miller ever followed through on that.   Watching Miller go bananas, hitting shots from everywhere, and lifting the Pacers from the doldrums of what had been a horrible game collectively, was still satisfying.  For me, I’d say it’s an even better performance than Game 1 the next year because it was an entire quarter of dominance taken from the pages of Jordan and Bird.

    The eight points in 18.7 seconds is just miraculous.  This was the slow burn of Game 5 the previous year condensed into seconds.  It happened so fast, at the time you couldn’t process it.  There was no satisfaction, like everyone else you were just trying to figure out what happened.  Regardless of whether he pushed Greg Anthony down, the presence of mind (humorously repeated by at least five commentators during the telecast) to retreat to the 3 point line, spin around and throw up a 3 while falling back was something.  And making it.  The doc then rightfully focuses on the fact that Starks misses two free throws and then Anthony Mason (who today could do stunt work for the Michelin Man) fouls Miller on the defensive rebound.  I laughed as Mel Turpin recounts having to convince Donnie Walsh that Reggie had in fact tied the game, as Walsh had left the suite they’d been watching the game in.

    The series ends up going to a Game 7, where Patrick Ewing misses a wide-open layup and the Pacers, and Reggie, slay their demon.  At the time, when Ewing went up for that shot I was ready for my heart to be broken.  When it bounced out, I jumped up and danced around like a kid having just opened up his dream gift at Christmas.  Now, all those years later, I felt pity for Patrick Ewing.  To have missed that shot, and knowing that was probably his last shot at a title, I felt bad for him.  At the time, no way, they were the enemy.

    The documentary ends as it should.  Reggie admits that it was great to beat the Knicks, but wishes it had been in the Conference Finals.  Then the show is over, as it should be.  The Pacers went on to lose to the Orlando Magic and neither team has won the title since those epic battles.  There is a short epilogue about the Larry Johnson “4 point play” in the 1999 playoffs, the worst piece of officiating in NBA history outside of Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in 2002.

    Other than Reggie’s heroics, it was just great seeing the footage of all the other Pacers from the time.  Rik Smits’ mullet and ‘stache, the Davis boys, Haywoode Workman, Mark Jackson and his ridiculous shimmy.  You rooted for these guys so hard, it was like they were part of your family.  This doc was like watching old family films.