by Lang Whitaker

While Russ continues his D.I.T.C. series (a.k.a. his Here’s All My Old Word Files series), I’m going to continue to occasionally trot out old posts from The Links. I originally wrote these notes hoping to find a way to make regular old game notes more exciting. I had no idea the game would be one of the great games in NBA history.

(for Friday, May 14, 2004 — posted at 3:30 p.m.)

A few nights ago, Wifey and I were finishing up dinner at our favorite local Italian restaurant when I popped the question. As I pulled out cash to pay the bill — you know it’s a good Italian restaurant when they only accept cash — I asked her why she hated sports.

“I don’t hate sports,” she replied.

“Do you like sports?”

“Well…”

“No, wait a second. Just give me a yes or no answer. Do you like sports?”

Pause.

“Yes,” she said, with finality. “I like sports.”

Since she dug her own grave, I forced her to lay in it last night and watch the entire Lakers/Spurs Game Five with me and allow me to take notes. What follows are the highlights, with a few of my own observations thrown in.

(Also, I should point out that my wife is more educated than I am and writes for Time magazine, so it’s not like she’s an idiot. Just about sports. Wait until she runs her notes column about me accompanying her to the fashion shows.)

— During the ABC pregame show…

“That guy has a really big head.”

“Which guy?” For a second I thought she was able to read Byron Scott’s ego just by looking at him.

“The white dude.”

“Oh yeah, that’s Tom Tolbert. He has a lopsided goatee, too.”

— At tip-off, I had to call Wifey down from the upstairs bedroom because she was “finding an outfit for tomorrow.” There’s a phrase you’ll never hear me say.

“OK,” she began, “so they call Karl Malone ‘The Mailman’ because he delivers, right?”

“Yeah. How did you know that?”

“I remembered it from the story you wrote on him.”

“I never wrote a story on…” Then I remembered I did write a Malone feature in SLAM four years ago. Point taken.

— I’m not sure who at ABC decided to try and promote that movie The Day After Tomorrow by tying it into the NBA Playoffs, but it seems like a horrible idea, doesn’t it? NBA Basketball and world annihilation! It’s fantastic!

Then again, TNT did try to cross-promote basketball and The Cat in the Hat.

— During pre-game intoductions…

“I don’t like this part, where the announcer’s going ‘Aaaannnddd nooowww,’ and they’re shining those spotlights around everywhere. It’s too much like the beginning of the circus.”

How do you know what the circus starts like?

No answer.

— I mention that I think Gregg Popovich looks like James Woods.

“He has James Woods’ skin, but I don’t know about the face.”

— Michelle Tafoya steps in and gives a sideline report. “She’s pretty good,” I say, “but she’s a little harsh.”

“I like her necklaces.”

— No mention of it on the broadcast, but did you notice Kobe somehow slice open his right shin and cover it during a free throw with a sweatband, which he wore for the rest of the game? ESPN will now do stories about how heroic Kobe is and how amazing it was that he played with a cut shin.

— Toward the end of the first quarter…

“I don’t like that part of the court right there, the circles.”

“There’s a bunch of circles on the court. What part of the court are you talking about? There in the middle?”

“No, at the end, where they shoot the foul balls. See how part of the line is smooth and part of the line is jagged? I don’t like it. It’s distracting.”

“Don’t look at it.”

— Love that the Lakers dumped the Triangle offense for major parts of the game. Phil finally broke out the pick-and-rolls, which allowed Gary Payton to be effective in the first half.

— After a shot of Shaq, sweating profusely…

“Does he have a water fountain on the top of his head?”

Pretty good line, I thought.

— “I decided that I’m voting for the Spurs.”

Voting for the Spurs?

“I’m rooting for them.”

Why?

“Who do you want to win?”

The Lakers, because I picked them to win the championship in the new issue of SLAM.

“Well, I’ll root for the Spurs.”

Why?

“To annoy you.”

— Doc Rivers just won major points in my book for making fun of the Sprite “Mad Skillz” segment.

— After Derek Fisher creates almost consecutive offensive fouls on the Spurs…

“I don’t like offensive fouls. You’re not allowed to just go to the basket?”

If you could just run to the basket, Shaq would run over everyone every time the Lakers had the ball. It wouldn’t be fair, you know?

“If the object is to score, why do they put all these restrictions on them?”

— You don’t meet a lot of men named Devin or Devean, much less two playing in a nationally televised game at the same time.

— “I like those long-sleeved jerseys the guys on the side are wearing.”

Those are warm-up jackets.

“Oh.”

— I point out the Spurs mascot laying on the floor courtside.

“What is that? A burro?”

No.

“A horse?”

No.

“A mule?”

Nope.

“An ass?”

No, it’s a coyote.

Silence.

“No it’s not!”

— As the Lakers build a 16-point lead late in the third quarter…

“The Spurs don’t have tight offensive plays. They need smart interior moves.”

She’s right, but still…

— When Robert Horry hacks Shaq hard on a foul under the basket…

“Why did he hit him so hard?”

He was making sure he couldn’t make the basket and get a free throw.

“That was provocative.”

Who am I sitting with, Walt Frazier?

— As the Spurs mounted a late lead, she seemed bored. I told her, “I don’t think you understand how hard it is to play basketball. Even something that looks as simple as just dribbling the ball up the court against a defender like Kobe would be nearly impossible for someone like me to do.”

“I know, I’ve seen you play!”

Even I laughed at that one.

— With 2:14 to go, Tim Duncan banks in a double-clutch jumper from straight away to put the Spurs up by three. I nearly fall off the couch. Wifey, meanwhile, has decided that she doesn’t care who wins because she’d like for Karl Malone to get a championship and “he’s getting old.”

— Kobe hits a jumper to give the Lakers a one point lead with 11.9 seconds left, and the Spurs take a timeout. Coming out, Duncan gets the ball inside the three-point line, the clock ticking down, and looks like he wants to throw it to GINOBILI!, who immediately gets tackled by Kobe, taking him out of the play. Duncan dribbles left and drains a twenty-footer with Shaq all in his face. I scream “No!” while Wifey silently pumps a fist.

— Interesting that there was about 0.6 on the clock when the ball went through, but Jackson and the Lakers don’t complain.

— Lakers run an inbounds play, Spurs call a timeout. Lakers run an inbounds play, Lakers call a timeout. Lakers run an inbounds play, Kobe gets doubled, Fisher catches and shoots and…he makes it! I blurt out “Whoaaaa!” and accidentally kick the coffee table, so hard that the remotes all go flying.

Wifey curses and goes to bed.