Friday, 30 September 2011
EAST COAST ROAD TRIPPIN'
Some diary entries looking back when BASKETBALL 24/48/82 was in the U.S. earlier this year, travelling from New York to Miami and checking out some perennial teams in some prime match-ups.
DAY 1: Live From New York City
NEW YORK KNICKS 123-107 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
You know when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' 'Empire State Of Mind' epically plays to thousands of happy MSG customers as two of the leagues best players take the floor your in for a treat and things are only getting better in a city that's waited a long time for it's basketball to get on the same page as everything else in New York. If you've been a regular at Madison Square Garden you know what to expect; good food, bad prices, timeless venue, dated facilities and either floor seats where you could trip out over seeing Spike Lee, or more seats up where you can expect the third escalator to really be an expensive set of stairs. It's all however, just part of the class, character, beauty and pageantry of a Knick game.
One thing now that you thankfully don't have to expect is losses. Still the Knicks almost blew three potential whiteouts before finally blowing the Cleveland Cavaliers candles out like Gerald Green dunking in February. You see the Knicks may match up to the Heat, Bulls, Magic and even the reigning East kings North in Boston, but they have had great difficulty in beating smaller teams. Still New York got the better of Cleveland like they had signed LeBron this season, spotting them and clinching a playoff seed in the process. N.Y.'s big three of Anthony, Billups and Stoudemire's stats where all in the 20 point range as 'Melo's automatic jumpers and Mr. Billups big shots gave the Knicks the Nuggets they needed to strike gold against the Cavaliers. Sure rising rookie Landry couldn't field a dunk but Bill Walker ran down, stuffing the Cavs and that embarrassment.
Cleveland may be a bad team but they still had a good fight in them. J.J. Hickson was dunking and exploiting the Knicks bad D so much, his similar, sensational put-downs looked like a video game. Baron Davis also showed he was still number one with 11 points in around 15 seconds, you could even hear the Knicks play-by-play guy sigh before he drolly announced Davis name once again. The way B-Diddy was playing in that catalyst of a mini-Cavalier comeback he could have made his jersey number in points if his hot-streak wasn't cooled off by halftime. New York's play may have been a bit sloppy at times but hey that's Knick basketball and like a die-hard told his friend post-game "Hey they won! What more do you want?" N.Y.'s performance was good enough for the best crowd in the association, featuring hardcore, hard-to-please MSG fans and celebs like Whoopi, 50, Mayweather and that dude they lost in the first 'Hangover' movie. Even Knick, alumni legend Larry Johnson was on hand to a standing 'L'. In the end though the Knicks got the W and a wide berth on Cleveland...a playoff berth.
DAY 2: Chicago Hope
CHICAGO BULLS 97-81 BOSTON CELTICS
There's a changing wind on the East Coast right now. last night Chicago bull-dozed the sleeping Boston Celtics in the perfect prelude to the playoffs that told us one thing; this time the Bulls could run down Boston in seven games. If this epic battle will take place remains to be likely seen, but even if it doesn't last night was a Michael Jackson, a thrilling classic. March Madness turned into April absurdity as this tense, hard-fought game had the elements of a classic, college clash. For a change it wasn't just Glen Davis who was taking baby shots. All of the talented 1 through 12's that both deep teams fielded flirted between inconsistency and potentially big plays from Paul Pierce to Kyle Korver.
In this concrete-tough game it was Rose (30 points) who grew, bloomed and blossomed, thrusting a thorn in the Celtic side and pride. Derrick showed just why Kevin Durant, everyone in the United Centre (which from the 'Bullpen' to the 'Bull Market' and the fans (even the Celtic ones) and all-round entertainment throughout the arena is among the leagues best) and almost everyone with the right mind in the Association considers him M-V-P. D-Rose dished, dunked and screamed his way to victory like it was an Adidas advert as this Point Guard and his Bulls are all in for the top spot of East, taking charge and about to take the clinch. The Rondo versus Rose matchup (which more then rivals that of Deron Williams and Chris Paul) again was the highlight but Rajon and his Boston big-three just couldn't get it going like the untouchable Bulls who took more shots then Kevin Costner channelling Elliott Ness down the stairs of Union Station.
Still, through all this however the greatest moment of the night came when legend Scottie Pippen was honoured at halftime with a bronze bust from the makers of the legendary Jordan statue. It was a shame that 'His Airness' nor the about to be enshrined Rodman et al where there but this was all about Scottie who-with his family-humbly and proudly accepted his just deserves. As the underrated, unselfish, unique superstar thanked presented and legend John Paxson and the thousands of elated fans there where few dry eyes. Still after Chicago got back to the game and the final buzzer sounded 24 minutes later it turned out the real bust was Boston.
DAY 3: Miami Inked
MIAMI HEAT 100-77 BOSTON CELTICS
The Miami Heat hadn't beaten the Boston Celtics this season and in this prelude to a potential playoff-prime matchup it looked like they wouldn't again due to a cold start to the first quarter. Still thanks to three quarters, some dimes and bucks from LeBron James, some super Mario Chalmers three point money balls and a beefed up, pound for pound game from the new slim-line, 'Big Z' Ilgauskas Boston and their recent poor, post-all-star form gave in to Miami's heat. With all sorts of players in both the big-three teams also inconsistent this clash had a classic college element to it just like Boston's previous loss to the Bulls this week on our East Coast road trip.
This was a great game for everyone involved in this sell-out. From Heat legend Alonzo Mourning (who was honoured at half-time for his community work, where some of the concession hungry fans should have stayed and payed their respects to a true legend instead) to top rapper Drake, this was the best they ever had all season. Tempers also heated up in Miami as the visiting Boston side had the same technical problems like they did in the dramatic contest with other conference contender Chicago. As Wade, James and Pierce for Boston all picked up 'T's', it was clear that they where all down for their sides to the letter. Still, as the amateur dramatics squared up one too many times-when things got testy-it was clear these guys needed to grow a set...of fundamentals that is.
So LeBron led the way, adding 27 to the burn, while Wade and Bosh where also warm with 14 and 13 a piece. While for the C's, Pierce had 24, Garnett a Minnesota jersey of 21 and Allen a lucky 13, showing that right into the playoffs both teams big trios are as primed as they are passionate. A concern for Boston however is the form of Rondo (7 points) who had some difficulties at the lay-up line like he did against Chicago. Regardless Miami burnt Boston anyway giving the then reigning Eastern Conference champions some notice for the postseason, which is-however-a completely different ball-game. Dirk knew that. TIM DAVID HARVEY.