Well, what a day today. Most relevant to us are the NBA suspensions of Rafer and D-Fish, and the NBA being afraid to give justice to Kobe after he elbowed Ron Artest in the neck. I know Laker fans are all fired up about this, and Myles sent me this ridiculous blog post with dozens of screen shots that proved absolutely nothing to me.
Looked to me like he got him, and even if he didn’t land it square, he was surely trying to. Kobe’s thrown elbows before (Manu, Korver, Jaric), so this isn’t exactly out of character. And the NBA took the easy way out this time. You Lakers fans can argue this with me all you want, but I’m not changing my mind, so just give it up. Let’s move on.
To me, the story with the most drama today is the Dirk story. My man Mike Fisher hits absolutely every angle of the story here, in a post that details all the craziness involved. The short of it is that Dirk’s apparently single now.
The biggest story today was Manny Ramirez getting a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Manny’s explanation is actually pretty plausible: He said a doctor prescribed him some medicine and he just forgot to check and see if the medicine would violate baseball’s drug rules. If anyone would forget to double-check anything, it would probably be Manny Ramirez, right?
But I don’t believe him. Not when we find out the substance he was taking is similar to Clomid, which is what Bonds and Giambi were getting from BALCO. Manny seems like he might be the nicest guy to allegedly use steroids, but I think he did.
Anyway, Hawks/Cavs. And I am not looking forward to this. The Hawks are coming into this game decimated, with Al Horford and Marvin Williams out with injuries. I find myself feeling very negative pregame, so much so that I feel like we’re about to be fed to the wolves.
I tried to watch ESPN’s pregame show but found myself in need of comedy. Luckily, the “Marine Biologist” episode of “Seinfeld” was on. (“The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to return soup at a deli.”) At least I got to laugh a little.
And then the game started.
• The refs tonight include both Danny Crawford (a.k.a. Kwesi Mfume) and Violet Palmer.
• And of course the Hawks jump out to a 5-1 lead. They seem to be working hard early to make this a halfcourt game, which I think is a good idea for the Hawks.
• Zydrunis Ilgauskas just threw an over the head pass to Bron for a lay-up, and Anderson Varejao hit two jumpers, and Bron hit two free throws, and all of a sudden we’re losing 9-6.
• Good god. A rebound came off and Ilgauskas knocked it out of bounds. Violet Palmer immediately said it was Cleveland ball. Everyone on the Hawks flipped out and Danny Crawford had to come in and correct Palmer’s blown call. Couldn’t she have at least asked for help? And I don’t think there was any bias in that call, I think she just totally blew the call and then tried to pretend she knew what had happened.
• Hawks tie it up at 12. Hubie Brown just called Zaza Pachulia “a horse.” I’m pretty sure he was speaking figuratively but with Hubie, who knows? Although that would be pretty awesome if someone convinced Hubie Brown that Zaza Pachulia was actually a horse. “OK, he’s 12 hands high, which makes him one of the tallest equines in our League.”
• Hawks with their third turnover of the quarter, just six minutes in. Andy Varejao gets a rebound, runs a few steps without dribbling, and a foul is called on Mo Evans.
• Cavs go ahead 16-14, and LeBron mows over Josh Smith and they call a foul on Josh. This is a terrible call, so bad that even Hubie says, “If I’m Josh Smith, I’m mad.” That’s Josh’s second foul and he’s replaced by Solomon Jones. Yeah. And this wasn’t just a bad call, though it was a bad call, it was a call that was made because it was LeBron James who committed the foul.
• Bron hits a three and Cleveland goes up 20-14. The Hawks get a stop and Flip Murray comes in, gets a steal and hits a jumper.
• 1:50 to go in the first. Hubie thinks the Hawks need to run more plays for Bibby. The Hawks don’t run plays, though. Andy Varejao takes a reverse layup that doesn’t hit rim or anything. Joe Johnson drives and bumps chests with guys in the lane but doesn’t get a call. Joe is such a great jump shooter, but if he could improve on finishing at the rim — and by that I mean going strong and trying to dunk more — I think he’d make that leap into the top echelon of players. As it is now he’s stuck just one notch below in my book.
• Timeout called by Woodson. Out of the TO, Flip drives into the paint and right into LeBron and gets the call! FOUL ON LEBRON! FOUL ON LEBRON! LeBron is furious, and rightly so because he usually gets his nightly foul in the third quarter.
• Solomon Jones falls out of bounds holding the ball, and Violet Palmer immediately calls Hawks ball. The whole arena goes crazy and she immediately announces that it’s actually Cleveland call, she just pointed the wrong way. So again, Violet Palmer screwed up a call. She wasn’t being prejudiced against any particular team, just incompetent.
• Last play of the quarter and the Cavs run an isolation for LeBron against Solomon Jones. Bron bobs and weaves and runs right by Solomon Jones into a completely empty lane and finishes with a filthy reverse dunk. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL A FOUL ON ME. LeBron calmly leaves Solo’s heart behind on the floor and trots off the court. After one, Cleveland 26, Atlanta 16.
• Woody says the Hawks are playing “OK.” For a D-League team. Hey, I know, the Hawks have two starters injured. But the Hawks wouldn’t spend the money all season to get a couple more quality players for their bench, and Woody refused to play the bench guys and develop them at all, and right now is when they’re paying the price.
• The Cavs start the second by having Delonte West dribble past three Hawks for a layup. Delonte West turns it over twice, sandwiching a Mario West blocked shot. Woody subs J-Smoove and his two fouls back in, hoping to get some cheap offense against Cleveland’s second team, which sounds like a good idea to me. Hubie Brown suggests Mario West shoot the ball more, which suggests Hubie Brown has never seen Mario West play. Wally Sexyback hits a turnaround off the glass, and then Delonte scores again, and all of a sudden it’s 32-17, Cleveland. TO, Hawks.
• Out of the timeout, Bibby returns and the Hawks go to Josh Smith inside and he draws the foul on Ben Wallace. At least Josh makes both free throws. Mo Williams and Flip Murray square off for a jump ball, and LeBron leads the Cavs bench in cheer when Mo wins the tip and the Cavs score. Bibby drives and misses a layup. Joe Johnson strips Joe Smith and Mo Evans gets a dunk. West shakes Bibby and scores, and then Josh Smith gets called for a charge on Ben Wallace, his third foul. Smoove looked like he might have avoided him, but Wallace sold it really well. Mo Williams picks up a technical foul for barking at Danny Crawford after Crawford didn’t give Williams and and one. Joe drives and draws a foul.
• Oh great. Cleveland’s up 38-22 and LeBron James has just returned. And Joe Johnson missed two free throws, which is pretty indicative of how things are going for the Hawks. And then Sexyback nails a long two. Bron gets a free throw. This is brutal. Hey, the Cavs are good, really good. And they’re slowing plucking every feather off the Hawks.
• The Hawks offense is just unbearable to watch tonight — all standing around and going one-on-one. Out of the timeout, the Hawks run an iso for Joe Johnson against LeBron James, which is like spitting into a fan.
• Bibby makes Atlanta’s first three of the night. The Hawks get a stop and Bibby nails another three. Then LeBron scores, Flip Murray turns it over, and LeBron hits Wally Sexyback with a dope drop-off pass for a dunk. Yeah, Wally dunked it. I know, I’m not sure how that happened, either.
• Bibby drives and gets hacked by LeBron, Hubie says it looks like there was contact, and a replay confirms there was contact, but because it’s LeBron and he already has a foul, and he only ever gets called for one foul per game, no call is made. Mike Woodson picks up a T, and I don’t blame him at all. Bibby then hits another three to cut it to 48-30, with 3 minutes to go. Then Delonte West drives in and the refs immediately call a foul against the Hawks.
• These Kenny Chesney commercials are confusing. I don’t listen to much country music, but his whole “guy who likes the Caribbean and the beach” thing is just Jimmy Buffett part two, right?
• It’s 50-30, 2 minutes left. Hubie Brown says he’s OK with Ron Artest going after Kobe because Kobe was playing dirty. Heather Cox says she and LeBron talked Manny Ramirez and LeBron said he was “troubled” by the news. OK, good that we know that!
• LeBron misses a free throw, the Cavs get the rebound, reset, get another rebound, reset, and LeBron hits Varejao under the rim for a layup. That possession was all hustle and guile and dispiriting for the Hawks. And me. And then Mo Williams hits a three, and Cleveland leads 56-33. Mike Woodson puts in Othello Hunter, who played 90 minutes all season, and of course the Hawks end up having Hunter with the ball and the shot clock running down, and he deftly picks up a 24 second violation. LeBron then comes back and calmly sinks a 40-footer to put Cleveland up 59-33 at the half.
• This is like watching someone die, slowly. Only I have to watch because it’s my team. I wish I could look away. But I can’t. I’m just hoping the Hawks make it respectable in the second half, however unlikely that thought is.
• And Prison Break West opens the second half with a bucket against Bibby.
• Violet Palmer blows yet another call under the rim when Varejao touches a ball while standing out of bounds. I mean, she is so bad at her job. Just unbelievably bad. And it’s not because I’m ticked off that the Hawks are being embarrassed right now. I got over being embarrassed by the Hawks years ago.
• You know, I can see why the Hawks are quitting out there. Joe drove and got fouled without a call, and then Zaza drove and got fouled without a call. Then LeBron drove and missed a layup and Danny Crawford called a foul on Josh Smith, who was standing around watching on the play trying not to play defense. It’s like the Hawks players figure, We’re not going to get any close calls, so why try? Well, This is when Mike Woodson is supposed to earn his money. And he’s not doing it right now.
• Oh, and right then Josh Smith gets hacked under the rim (by LeBron) and Danny Crawford doesn’t call a foul. Which is just outrageous. Hubie rips the refs again, and rightfully so. And when Hubie is reipping the refs, that’s saying something. Josh gets up and starts screaming at the refs and gets a technical foul and I wish I could get one, too. LeBron has shot 12 free throws. The Hawks combined have shot 13. And it’s not like the Hawks are just shooting jumpers — they’re driving, getting into the paint — but apparently the Cavs are the greatest defensive team of all time. If they get calls like this the rest of the way they’re definitely winning a title. Bill Russell’s Celtics couldn’t beat them.
• The Cavs are scoring at will, and it’s just terrible. Cleveland leads 72-43 with 6:29 to go. In the third. I hope Woodson makes the starters play the rest of the game and get their faces rubbed in this, because they’ve all quit tonight.
• Never mind — Flip Murray just checked in.
• I’m not even sure what’s left to write. I’m going to check out here and just chime when this is over.
• Wait, 3:32 left in the third and Joe Johnson sprains his ankle, which is just adding injury to insult. On the next play LeBron goes for a steal but instead pokes Josh Smith in the mouth with no call. On the replay LeBron’s fingers are so deep in Josh’s mout that Josh looks like he’s getting braces installed. But that wasn’t a foul. Between quarters Mike Brown says the Cavs are so good on defense because they work hard. OK, they do work hard. But they also get the benefit of the doubt.
• OK, game over, I didn’t have to watch the end of it. Final score is Cleveland 105, Atlanta 85, though that score in no way resembles Cleveland’s dominance tonight. I may have complained about the officiating, and the officiating was terrible, but the Cavs would’ve won this game tonight even if it had been played with professional referees instead of the three contest winners David Stern allowed on the floor. Cleveland’s defense, their offense, their hustle, their teamwork…it’s all really impressive. They’re the real deal.
I’m leaving for Atlanta this weekend and I’ll be at Games 3 and 4 in the Dirty. Game 3 is going to be on ABC in prime time, and there’s a good chance the Hawks will be missing three starters. Short of Mike Woodson finding a loophole in the NBA rulebook allowing the Hawks to use 10 players at all times, the Hawks don’t have much of a chance. This thing might be more NSFW than those Cassie photos.
By the way, LeBron? 31 minutes…and 1 foul. It’s amazing.