Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 at 1:17 am  |  35 responses

Links: Day Nine Playoff Thoughts

How I helped Milwaukee beat the Hawks tonight. Plus, the BETcats go fishin’!

by Lang Whitaker

Two weekends ago, I spent a couple of hours on Saturday installing new blinds in our apartment. Wifey had ordered them online a few weeks earlier, and I’d put off hanging them for a while, but I knew if I was going to get a couple of uninterrupted hours to watch Game One of the Hawks/Bucks series, I’d have to knock this big item off my honey-do list.

As I unboxed the blinds, a rubber band fell out of the box. With zero consideration, I picked it up and slipped it on my wrist. It was there, why not?

That night, the Hawks beat the Bucks. Two nights later, the same rubber band on my wrist, the Hawks won again. The next day, Wifey noticed the rubber band and asked me about it. I told her the truth, that it was a good luck charm. Since I’d had it on, the Hawks had gone undefeated. If I took it off, there was a great chance the Hawks could lose their next game and it would be entirely my fault.

“Idiot,” she said. (Really, she said that.)

Two days later the rubber band broke while I was taking off my jacket. A day after that, the Hawks lost Game Three to the Bucks.


I know it’s nonsensical and maybe illogical, but I often believe that my actions have a direct and profound impact upon the teams I root for. Just as players have their pregame routines, I have my own. If you ask me, my wearing a Hawks shirt when watching the Hawks on TV is just as important as Joe Johnson going through his shooting routine or Josh Smith getting his ankles taped. And tonight, before Game Four of the Hawks/Bucks series, I may have screwed things up for the Hawks.

I stopped at my local market on my way home from work. My plan was to get in a run (that’s a post for another day), then shower, cook dinner and be on the couch by the Hawks/Bucks tip-off. (Yes, I cook dinner every night. That’s probably worth a whole ‘nother blog.) I grabbed a box of bucatini, some canned tomatoes, an onion, parsley, some garlic and a hunk of parmigiano reggiano. (I was obviously planning on making a fruit salad for dinner.)

On my way toward the cash register, I realized I didn’t really have anything to snack on during the Hawks/Bucks game, so I veered over to the snack aisle and looked for something relatively healthy. Chips were out, pretzels were too salty…almonds! I love almonds. They’re crunchy, flavorful, even healthy for you! The problem was that the can of almonds I saw was priced at $4.99. That’s pricey, yes, but even more than that, I was worried that dropping $5 on almonds would push my entire bill over $20. I had two twenties, and I didn’t want to break a twenty to pay like 73 cents.

As the woman at the register was checking me out, I kept an eye on the total of my bill; it was costing more than I expected, and I was resigned to having to break my other twenty.

Then the woman rang up my almonds, and they didn’t scan. She picked up the can, spun it slowly in her hand, looking for a price tag that didn’t exist. There were several people in line behind me, and she looked at them warily, as though she was weighing going to check the price of the almonds herself versus pissing off all the people in line.

She glanced up at me and asked, “Did you happen to see how much these cost?”

I looked her dead in the eyes and lied. “Yes,” I said. “They were $2.99.”

Without a word, she reached down, typed in $2.99, and hit the total key…

And it came up to $20.12.

See what happened there? I messed with karma. I straight up lied. I knew better, but I lied to try and help myself, to save myself the hassle of carrying around a couple of extra dollar bills. It failed then, and then a couple of hours later, karma really messed with me.

The Atlanta Hawks lost an important Playoff game tonight to a team that basically was carried by Carlos Delfino and the 83-year-old Kurt Thomas. Delfino, who averaged 11 points per game this season, scored 22 points on 14 shots. Kurt Thomas had 9 boards and spent the second half setting questionable screens and picks and showing the Hawks how to play tough without getting in foul trouble.

I’m not surprised when Brandon Jennings or John Salmons goes for 20 in a game; they’re both great scorers and they’re going to score, even when you run the occasional double-team at them.

Joe Johnson was Atlanta’s gift and their curse. He finished with 29 points and repeatedly hit jumpers to keep the Hawks within 10 points of Milwaukee, but Joe’s points mostly came at the price of ball movement. Sure, he scored on a lot of possessions, but Milwaukee was able to be mostly stationary on defense, and they were able to get a body on the Hawks, box out and pull down 25 defensive rebounds.

It wasn’t just Joe. Too many Hawks looked determined to try and win the game on their own. Mo Evans, Josh, Al — guys would get the ball, clear everyone out and then pound the ball as they backed in. The problem was the ball never came back out. The Hawks won the first two games by playing inside-out. They were methodical, they were patient, and they picked Milwaukee apart. Tonight they relied too much on the Iso-offense (see the SLAM 138 cover story for an explanation).

Even as poorly as Atlanta played, there were bright spots. even though Adam and Tzvi tried to convince me earlier to day that Luc Mbah a Moute was actually some sort of hybrid of Bruce Bowen and Ron Artest, tonight he defended Joe and Josh (who scored 20), and they didn’t have much trouble with him. Really, Kurt Thomas was The Situation for the Bucks, hacking and slapping and getting away with all sorts of shenanigans. I wish he was on Atlanta, because Thomas played with the heart the Hawks lacked.

There were times when the Hawks seemed ready to make a run, but the Bucks would get right back at it and hit an open three or get a steal or make some sort of big play to stem the Hawks momentum. The Hawks had the ball down six on consecutive possessions with about 4 minutes to go, and Mo Evans missed a three and a two, and the Hawks never got closer.

The Hawks have better players than the Bucks, but for the second game in a row, the Bucks were the better team. If Atlanta wants to win this series, the Hawks players have to buy into the notion that the whole is better than the sum of its parts.

I don’t know why the Hawks fell apart tonight, but I’ll take the blame. I never should have lied to that lady at the grocery store. it set off a chain of events that, at least in my mind, led to the Hawks losing at the hands of a couple of journeymen. That’s my bad.

Game Five is Wednesday night. I think I might just lock myself in my apartment until then.

• Also tonight, the Magic ground out a fourth-straight win over Charlotte and sent the BETcats fishing. Nice season for Charlotte, who exceeded expectations but just didn’t have enough experience or talent to get out of the first round. Now everyone’s talking about Larry Brown leaving. Adrian Wojnarowski even published a report today that LB is looking to get out of his deal so he can go to Philly. Woj says that Brown’s angling for a front office gig, which is why he keeps saying he won’t “coach” anywhere but Charlotte.

After the Orlando loss, Brown was asked if he’ll be back next season, and he said, “I’m not coaching anywhere but Charlotte. Now am I going to go home and talk to my wife and kids? I’ll be 70 years old with two young kids. Am I going to talk to them and find out what I need to do and am I going to talk to Michael? Yeah, absolutely.”

That man is slick.

• In Phoenix, the Suns just had too much for Portland. They’re up 25 right now as I’m posting this.

• Big night tomorrow night. Bron vs. the Bulls, and then Lakers/Thunder. All on TNT. Hey, they know drama.

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  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    The year the Giants won the Super Bowl, I wore the same GMen hat and Plax jersey every game, sitting on the couch often barely moving from the position I was in for extended periods of time–almost whole quarters on occasion…I’ve changed a couple things about my routine since then.

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    And Mbah is still a lockdown defender, 20 points from Josh notwithstanding.

  • Hubert

    And you say we Asians are superstitious?lol

    BRoy is trippin’ thinking they can win this series against the Suns.

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    I used to spray on Michael Jordan cologne before I played a game in an effort to ‘smell like Jordan and therefore play like Jordan’. And Lang is Scrooge McDuck.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/officerbarbrady what

    If as you say, the Hawks have better players than the Bucks, but for the second game in a row, the Bucks were the better team… at what point does the responsibility for this start falling on the coach?

  • http://www.stonesthrow.com Michael NZ

    Oh and this just proves that Iso Joe is a 1B guy and not a 1A guy, right?

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Niiiiiice story, Lang. Was smiling all the way through, (fruit salad with parmigiano? Uh huh) until you referenced “goombah’s ‘r us shore”. That made me frown, for real.

  • Fesenko

    “I was scared, really,” Fesenko said, “but after a couple pushes like from Nene, after a couple hits from Kenyon Martin, I was like, ‘OK, let’s do this. Let’s play the basketball.’”

    Since we missed both Jazz/Denver games over the weekend.

  • JoeMaMa

    Lang, in light of recent Antoine Walker-related events (and MJ, Barkley, others) we shouldn’t say Fishin’. Call it Gamblin’. BETCATS go Gamblin’. Say yes.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE | » Hot Topics

  • danga!

    @lang: u just lost a lot of credibility lying about those almonds, i was one of those that actually believed your story about that guy who was hitting half court shots against dale davis and shareef abdur-raheem. If you can get Shareef to testify, i will believe it again without a doubt.

  • Ken

    I can’t believe how tight the West is. Suns are the only top seed to be leading their series!

  • kh

    “idiot” ahahahaha I’ve been called the same, for the same.

    I think it’s hilarious your bill still came to $20.12! I could see if you were here in Canada and wanted to avoid a pocket full of toonies and loonies, but bills!?! Come on Lang.

  • http://www.nba.com/bobcats Anton

    Big game tonight for the Lakers. Hopefully Kobe shows up!!

  • Myung

    Lang’s dishonesty > Power of the blue away jerseys

  • The Philosopher

    Shout out to Lang Whitaker.

  • Atrain

    Bucks play with heart and Hawks don’t. Simple as that. Bucks are outmanned, and Hawks have more athleticism AND size and still play soft. 1-10 on the road last playoffs games

    If Milwaukee finds a way to win game 5 the series is over, cuz Bucks won’t lose game 6 at home. Otherwise Hawks squeak it out in 7

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Lawyue

    Should have bought a couple Baoguettes. Then none of this would have happened.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Matt: Fact.

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    I also cook dinner – no biggy.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    I’d like to read the Links Food Page.

  • Ronald

    Dude, do you even realize you just admitted to stealing on a public forum?

  • Myung

    I’m pretty sure I had something to do with it too. About 18 years ago, I bought a box of football cards from Toys R Us (supposed to be $18) for 49 cents (they rang me up for one pack, not one box). I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t say anything. I knew it’d come back to bite me in the butt one day. You may owe your grocery store $2, but I owe Toys R Us about $17.50. And the Hawks lost because of me. And you. And Mike Woodson.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Todd Spehr

    Dang Lang, a straight up lie. I’m always worried reaping what I sow, so in situations like that, I try to tell the truth. But, it’s a war. Like when you find money on the street and know you should ask the guy standing there if it’s his, but your mind tells you “Screw him. Money on the ground is free money!”

  • http://www.slamonline.com Allenp

    The comment attributed to Todd at 12:51 pm. actually came from me.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Man, F all that…..a can of almonds shouldn’t be $4.99 anyway!

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    And BTW, that same can of almonds, wholesale, probably costs the store about .99 cents.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Eboy

    Oh….and if the stock clerk at the store did their job correctly and entered the product code into their system, Lang wouldn’t have faced that moral quandray anyway.

  • http://www.teflinprague.com SAB

    good story Lang. can’t you just buy another rubber band?! i know, i know, it doesn’t work like that…

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    Pics of wife or it didn’t happen

  • http://www.hoopsvibe.com/features/overdribbling chiqo

    mix in a debit card, lang.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    First off, I respect Lang for coming correct about lying. Secondly, I respectfully disagree with Eboy and Allenp. If you see money on the ground, sure you can take it, I guess. But if you suspect that it belongs to someone, then you should ask them if it’s theirs. And you aren’t responsible for whether or not the clerk did her job. You’re responsible for what YOU do. If you find the almonds too expensive, buy some pumpkin seeds or something. Or else chew your f*cking fingernails. But I definitely agree with you, Lang. I agree that the little things we do have huge effects that we can’t perceive. You know what, maybe if you had paid those two dollars, the Hawks would have won. I seriously believe that. I don’t necessarily believe that EVERYTHING has a DIRECT effect on everything else, that if Lang pays that same grocery store $2000 or whatever the Hawks win the title. I’m just saying we’re all connected.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    There ain’t no “free money.” We all get audited at some point.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    Like if I told you that I’m a Barca fan, but also an Eto’o fan, and that I’m watching the game, and Messi scores in the 56th minute, and then Pedro scores in the 65th minute, and then I go and change and wear my Eto’o Inter jersey, and Eto’o scores in the 87th minute, and Inter advance, I DON’T think my wearing the jersey has anything to do with Inter winning. But I DO think that neglecting to call my mom, for example, can contribute to Barca losing La Liga. Hey, what can I say.

  • ellis.d

    please go back and pay the $2 before game 6, Lang. please