Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wednesday's Starting Five

1. Sasha Vujacic. WWOD?'s LA Lakers correspondent Panek at the Disco called this one. He knew that Vujacic would be the one to hit the big shots for his ballclub in this series. The Slovenian-born combo guard scored 8 points in the fourth quarter and 9 in the second (with 20 for the game) for the Lakers. Not coincidentally, those were the two quarters when LA outscored Boston, providing the margin of victory. When Phil went to the bench at the tail of the end of the third, after the Celtics had taken back the lead for the first time since the first quarter, he called Vujacic's number (although we all know who I think he should have called: Mbenga) and "The Machine" came through. Big time.

2. Kobe Bryant. For most of the game there was nothing coming from the Lakers frontcourt. Nothing. Gasol was anonymous. Odom was worse. But Kobe not only kept his team in the game, but he put them on his shoulders. He shot 18 free throws, although he inexplicably missed seven of them. Nevertheless, that attempts number is indicative of his aggressiveness. Well, that and the fact that the Lakers actually got a few calls in this game. Most importantly and perversely, Kobe's best stat may have been his lone assist. The player who was lauded all season long for making his teammates better and for finally learning to trust those on the court with him had one measly assist. And it was perfect. He wasn't trying to set up lesser players last night and he wasn't dumping the ball off once he had a hand in his face. He was looking for his own shot and he was drawing contact when that looked-for shot was obscured by a defender. He was the guy who didn't trust his teammates and that's why his team won. Hopefully that was the only youthful indiscretion that Kobe went back to last night...

3. Ray Allen. After looking lost at points in the playoffs and coasting by on his reputation and a few well-played minutes in the All-Star Game during a rather lackluster regular season, Ray Allen actually had game last night. We all saw that inimitable elevate-and-release that made him feared and famous. Last night his ankles didn't look so old and his shot didn't look so cold as he scored a team-high 25 for Boston. He was going mano-a-mano with Kobe right up until his BFF got reinforcements in the form of the Boy Named Sasha.

4. Ken Griffey, Jr.
The former-prodigy who spawned thousands of baseball card collections and made the 1989 Upper Deck set the holy grail of my youth became just the sixth member of the 600 Club after knocking, you guessed it, his 600th longball the other day. Congrats.

5. Spain. I know that I haven't been doing a good enough job (or any job for that matter) of covering the just-kicked-off Euro 2008 (Proper) Football Tourney being contested in Swizterland and Austria. But let's remedy that with this tip of the sombrero to the Spanish National Team for their drubbing of Russia yesterday, 4-1.

Benched. Doc Rivers. Remember when he was such a bad coach? Remember when famous Boston-homer Bill Simmons was regularly leading columns for ESPN.com with stand-alone sentences like "Doc Rivers stinks as an NBA coach." Remember how he had career coaching record of 273-312 heading into this season, including a 102-144 mark with the Celtics? Remember? Well, if you didn't then Doc clearly reminded you last night. He gifted Game 3 to the Lakers with his mind-boggling moves down the stretch last night. And, yeah, I'm talking about re-inserting the hobbled Rajon Rondo back into the game with 7:58 to play after the young PG had turned an ankle and then sat on the sidelines for the better part of an hour (in real-time). And, while we're on the subject, what exactly is the gentleman even a doctor of? If I was Danny Ainge I might ask to actually see that diploma.

Around the Internets

Lamar Odom hasn't really done much in the NBA Finals to justify those Boston Sucks shirts that he's been selling. If he keeps not-producing at this pace he might want to start wearing an I Suck t-shirt around LA.

For those of you wondering what happened to former Tampa Bay Bucaneers QB Chris Simms, well, I've found out. Apparently, Simms was kidnapped.

Not surprisingly, rooting for the (one-time) underdog in the Finals has brought out some of the better, more thought-through work from Bill Simmons in a while. If there was any fan who was ruined by his team's successes it has been this guy.

And, with impressions like this one, can it be long before we see Jeff Van Gundy bombing in front of a brick wall?