Every once in a while, the NBA throws a randomly awesome night at us and we need to run through the games and savor the flavor. Last night was one such night. Dig in.
The Agony of the Knicks, the Ecstasy of the Wiz
YEAH. THAT'S JAN VESELY DUNKING IN TRANSITION ON AMAR'E. NO, YOU ARE NOT ON AYAHUASCA. Eastern Conference basketball, guys. To paraphrase Man on Fire, not coaching well is Mike Woodson's art, and last night's Knicks-Wizards clash was his masterpiece. The Knicks lost the game with the fart-pratfall double-whammy of the season, when Beno Udrih funneled Bradley Beal baseline with just seconds remaining and nobody came to help. This was the Knicks' reaction to it all:
It is the end of the year, which means it's time for everyone to look back at what just happened. Remember, reflect. Or, in today's case, rejoice at all the most surreal moments and humans we saw in sports in 2013. The sort of stuff for which the only appropriate reaction is to stand up and scream "Holy shit!" at your television. This is why we watch sports, because sports delivers more of those moments than anything else.
So, to celebrate the year that was, Andrew Sharp, Chris Ryan, and special hockey expert Sarah Larimer put together a collection of our favorite stories from the past 12 months or so. We begin at Golden State.
Steph Curry's 22-Point Third Quarter
Chris Ryan: "Those guys are just coming to the hospital … the baby has been born already." The baby, of course, was a bright-burning pulsar named Steph Curry. That quote is from his coach, Mark Jackson, following Curry's call-your-mom-and-tell-her-you-love-her-except-you-hate-her-because-she-is-not–Sonya Curry 31-point performance against Denver in Game 4 of the Dubs-Nuggets playoff series. Curry hit 3s from the corner, in front of the Denver bench; he hit 3s from the top of the key that seemed to be launched from a different zip code than the basket; he broke Professor Miller's ankles, went off on Wilson Chandler, and probably would have blown up Dennis Rodman if George Karl had run him out there to defend him. When he bounced a ball off JaVale McGee in the lane, grabbed the ricochet in midair, and made an acrobatic layup, most people in America found religion.
Looking back on the weekend's Premier League action.
A Tale of Two Managers
Mike L. Goodman: If you ever wondered what getting outcoached looks like, look no further than the beating Andre Villas-Boas took during his final game as Tottenham Hotspur’s head coach. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool thoroughly outclassed Spurs in a match that highlighted the contrasting approach the two men take (or, in Villas-Boas’s case, took) toward running their teams, and the ways in which Rodgers’s flexibility has helped him achieve while Villas-Boas’s ideology has contributed to getting him fired.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Dinner Is Served
Chris Ryan: Early in the night, when nothing seemed to be going in for Steph Curry, and by extension, nothing seemed to be going right for the Warriors, Doug Collins said something about how Oracle Arena needed a 3, because it fed off long-distance shooting the way some crowds fed off a dunk. It took him a little while, but by the end of the night, Curry got around to feeding the Dubs fans, and they went home stuffed.
Last night the Heat and the Pacers played in the most anticipated game of the regular season so far. It was a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals, and while it was a little short on eye-popping highlights, it still had some great moments and great performances. The Pacers, trailing at one point by 13, won the game, maintaining their undefeated home record. More than anything, though, the game showed just how hopped up these two teams get to play one another. Did someone say playoff intensity? Yeah, yeah we did! Here are some of my and Andrew Sharp's favorite moments and performances from last night.
Chris Ryan: P.G. was pretty much cuffed by LeBron in the first half, getting sprung briefly on a second-half furlough to finish the game with 17 points. It wasn't the kind of performance we're used to seeing from him this season, and it's safe to say that if the Pacers want to beat the Heat four out of seven times, he's going to need to bring it a little more. HOWEVER, I really wanted to take this opportunity to mention how awesome Paul George 3-pointers are.
Mike Shanahan is going to get fired. Usually there's some uncertainty when we say something like that. But there's no uncertainty here. We know Mike Shanahan is going to get fired because it's pretty obvious that Mike Shanahan is trying to get fired, and unless life at FedEx Field is actually just a screwball black comedy taking place in the mind of someone living in another dimension for their own amusement (which we haven't totally ruled out), most people who try to get fired usually get what they want. The real question is this: Is he trying hard enough?
Chris Ryan: December is not April, as Everton manager Roberto Martinez and Newcastle boss Alan Pardew made sure to mention over the weekend. Big results against Arsenal and Manchester United saw the Everton and Newcastle managers answering questions about their respective clubs' Champions League qualification chances.
December is not April. But it's not October, either.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
Chris Ryan: Since November 23, Portland has played in three of the season's best games: the Golden State shove-fest, Sunday's heavyweight title fight against Indiana, and last night's masterpiece of a regular-season showdown against Oklahoma City. OMG PORTLAND AND OKC SHOULD PLAY IN THE PLAYOFFS is probably getting a little dull, just like OMG OKC AND THE WARRIORS SHOULD PLAY IN THE PLAYOFFS, but come on. It's Christmas, we've been good, and we want what we want. Besides, there was something about this Thunder-Blazers game that felt so right. It was just a drag race of stupendous, young, mostly homegrown talent. And Kendrick Perkins. You had one of the point-guard battles of the year happening, with Russ and Dame, and from that faceoff you got one of the best moments of the night:
On Wednesday night, HBO aired State of Play: Trophy Kids, a documentary about overzealous parents and the extreme lengths to which they push their children in sports. We follow four different parents and five kids playing tennis, basketball, golf, and football. As you can imagine, some of the behavior is unintentionally funny, and most of it is pretty harrowing — there are confrontations and parents admitting openly that they are vicariously living through their children, investing in them hopes for a future payout, or simply robbing them of a chance to be a kid. Most of all, though, the documentary was nostalgic. Anybody who played sports when they were young remembers a parent like that; maybe they even had one of their own. Here, Rafe Bartholomew, Chris Ryan, and Corban Goble talk about Trophy Kids and their own memories of when parents went too far on the field. The film is currently available on HBOGO.
Rafe Bartholomew: I'm pretty comfortable with a fair amount of aggression from sports parents. In Little League baseball, even though there were no balks, fathers of kids on opposing teams would yell "BALK! BALK!" while I went through my unusual pitching motion. One boy's father chased me around the field threatening to "knock my fucking teeth out" because of the time I swung my glove blindly across my body to make a tag on a double play and ended up smacking his son in the face. My team took pride in the time our coach instigated a shoving match with a parent on the Expos, the team with all the kids who had really nice batting gloves.
Over the course of the last three games, John Wall has scored 99 points. I just watched all of them with the new NBA.com video playlist function. I basically invented John Wall RedZone. You can thank me later.
[Editor's Note: You may notice that I am not your regularly scheduled Wizards correspondent. That's because Andrew Sharp single-handedly caused Bradley Beal's fibula injury with this paragraph: "But Beal is the best young shooting guard in the league, he has gotten better every week, and it's the first time since Gilbert Arenas that the Wizards have a star other teams would actually kill for. He's the greatest." Be careful out there, keyboard cowboys. You can hurt someone.]
Ah, the coldest winter. We've had a couple of days of no good, very bad, terrible news coming out of the NBA (D-Rose, Marc Gasol, Iggy, Beal injuries). So give thanks that we have guys like Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley, and Tim Duncan for livening up the mood while franchise cornerstones fall, Derrick Williams moves to Sacramento, and O.J. Mayo puts up minus-20 plus/minus nights.
Now, when you think of Duncan, Wade, and Beasley, you probably don't think comedy. I personally think of ill-fitting button-up shirts, dirty plays, and weed. But after last night, all that is changing.
Today in the UEFA Champions League, in Group F, the group of death, some club is gonna die. With Arsenal in control on nine points — close to the 10 points Alex Ferguson always said would get a club to the knockout stages — there remains only one spot for Borussia Dortmund or Napoli. If you've watched European soccer over the last few seasons, you know how much this reality sucks.