In case you were busy not making up with Sergio Garcia, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Detroit overcame a Patrick Kane third-period goal, as the Red Wings topped the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, to take a 2-1 series lead in their Western Conference semifinal matchup. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville held himself responsible for the loss, explaining, "I motivated our team before Game 1 by having them all watch Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Worked like a charm. Then I'm like, boom, stick with Scott, but emphasize teamwork: Black Hawk Down. But they all got hung up on the title. Mixed message on my part. OK, Game 3, Prometheus. Huge mistake. Movie makes no sense. Totally lost control of the team." When asked if there were any actual tactical or line adjustments he would implement, Quenneville said, "I'm this close to going with Thelma & Louise before Game 4 just to mix things up."
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.
Ask About Me
Danny Chau: In the NBA, every player was a star at some point in his life. Stardom, and the unshakable confidence that comes with it, is born and bred in the insulated bubbles of small-town high school basketball and the AAU circuit. But the pool widens at each level up, and most stars fizzle out and are faced with their new realities. Not everyone can be a star in the NBA, but the long season offers even the most marginalized player at least a few chances at capturing some of his former glory.
I wouldn’t lump Lance Stephenson anywhere near that “most marginalized” category; his season has been a great success, though quiet. But the high school phenom he once was might’ve scoffed at his modest averages as a show of triumph. There was nothing understated about New York City Legend Lance Stephenson. He was brash, he had a comically presumptuous nickname, and he bullied his way into the all-time record for most points scored in the city.
That outsize caricature of Stephenson still shows its face. In the second quarter of Game 5, Stephenson inexplicably jumped from the dotted semicircle in the lane while attempting to posterize Tyson Chandler. It was a foolhardy attempt, and probably wouldn’t have worked once in 100 computerized simulations — he just isn’t that kind of athlete. He dared to dream, and was given a lesson in pragmatism as he crumpled to the floor. It was the perfect play to illustrate the kind of humbling Stephenson has endured in the league.
In case you were out welcoming summer by busting out the old double Dutch (and failing, because double-Dutching is really hard, guys, stop laughing) here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The New York Knicks were eliminated in six games by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The defeat proves their season, in which they won their first division championship since 1994 and 50 games for the first time since 2000, was an utter and abysmal failure. Their capitulation to a comparably good team that was able to steal an early game at Madison Square Garden and then hold serve at its home arena, which was among the hardest places to get a win in the NBA all season, further proves that the team needs to be torn down, because the guys on the Knicks just don't care enough. Sure, they were a magnificent block from one of the few true centers left in the game away from forcing a Game 7 at home, but I think it's clear, based on this series, that the New York Chokes (clever nickname, eh?) are the lousiest bunch of basketball players the NBA has ever seen, and they should return their salaries to team owner James Dolan before turning themselves into the NYPD for crimes against the state.
Oxbow upset Kentucky Derby winner Orb to win the Preakness Stakes after going out as a 15-1 longshot. The win was a boon for the small population of semi-literate foodies, who misread the horse's name and have little understanding of how horse racing works, as they placed large amounts of money banking on the resurgent popularity of the ingredient oxtail to carry the day. In somewhat related news, someone in Florida just won $600 million playing Powerball.
Chris Ryan: With about nine minutes left in the third quarter and the Spurs holding on to a slipping six-point lead over the Warriors, Stephen Curry raced up the court off an Andrew Bogut rebound. Curry is not a normal point guard, so the normal rules of playing the position don't apply to him. This of course, is part of the fun of watching Stephen Curry over the last couple of weeks. He played like ... Stephen Curry, showing off a skill set so unique, on a pair of ankles so brittle, it felt like you were watching some endangered species. Like you sat down in your living room and boom, what in the shit, there was an Iberian lynx.
This this was not a fun, attractive, or well-played NBA game. The Pacers, turnover-prone all season and barely able to handle the ball without George Hill, committed 19 turnovers and seemed to be on the verge of losing the ball on every possession. The Knicks committed 30 fouls, about 10 more than the average team commits in a game, and at one point in the third quarter, I think every player had at least four fouls. It was truly awful. There were so many low points that the entire game transformed during some third-quarter nadir into a 48-minute-long low point.
It happened around the 4:45 mark of the third quarter, where my meticulous notes about X's and O's and crowd tomfoolery abruptly stop and transition into a single harrowing sentence: “I have no idea what is going on right now.”
In case you were busy doing hilarious takes to a nonexistent camera when your friends and associates said absurd things, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
In a conclusion to a magnificently contested series that makes me wish to wax poetic, the San Antonio Spurs overcame a poor shooting night from their backcourt to oust the Golden State Warriors from the NBA playoffs with a 94-82 Game 6 win. Despite its premature end, twas a series in which all of the participants were worthy of the title warrior, even those generals who bestrode the sideline battling with their wits rather than their bodies. Sing oh muses of the ankle of Steph Curry, son of Dell, which brought countless ills first to his enemies, and then to himself! Such was the sovereign doom of a cursed team, and the will of Stern writ large: There shall be contested yet between famed warriors The Bron and Timothy Who Dunks a Finals that shall split the world in twine!
In a non-conclusion to an adequately contested series that makes me wish to speak plainly, the Knicks kept their hopes of an Eastern Conference finals showdown with Miami alive, beating a depleted Pacers team, 85-75, at Madison Square Garden. "Just taking it one day at a time," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson after the game, "because if we do more than that we'll become aware that the winner of this series gets the Heat and oh, no that's terrible! The winner of this series gets the Heat! Oh no, they have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Oh man, they also have Chris Bosh. Why did I stop taking it one day at a time? Why?"
Before they broke out in Game 5 and started to look like themselves again, something had been off with the San Antonio Spurs’ offense. In the first four games of their series against Golden State — the first legit playoff team the Spurs had faced after their first-round bye — scoring points and getting clean looks, especially from the perimeter, was beginning to feel like work. It was an unusual feeling for a team that played the league’s prettiest, most well-oiled offense before Miami found a new groove this season. It felt like the last four games of their conference finals loss against Oklahoma City last year, when the Thunder’s athleticism and amped-up scheme forced enough extra steps into the Spurs' process to turn the league’s best offense into an average one.
Something has been going on with New York’s offense, the league’s third-best in the regular season, since the day the playoffs started. New York has averaged just 97.3 points per 100 possessions in the postseason, by far the worst mark of anyone who advanced beyond the first round, and such a monumental drop from their regular-season number (108.6) that we can’t just chalk it up to tougher competition.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. The Kawhi Leonard–for–George Hill Trade
Danny Chau: It was a good night for the 2011 trade that sent George Hill to the Pacers and the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs. At the time, it was a shrewd attempt from both franchises to patch up their more glaring weaknesses. The Pacers needed a versatile, two-way player to fill in the gaps left in the Pacers’ backcourt, and the Spurs needed an infusion of youth, a lottery-type talent that they hadn’t been able to acquire since Tim Duncan (really fitting that Leonard fell one spot outside the lottery). Now, less than two years later, the trade is one of the reasons why each team is only one win away from their respective conference finals.
Hill and Leonard were incredible last night. Hill was the only bright spot in the Pacers offense, which shot 35.4 percent without him (his 9-for-14 outing single-handedly raised that figure to 40.8 percent), while Leonard, who was nearly perfect from the field, shooting 7-for-8, was the model of efficiency for a Spurs team that couldn’t miss.
Hill has been exactly what the Pacers needed to make this kind of playoff push. Like Mike Conley Jr., who is rightfully getting a lot of buzz right now, Hill will likely never be an All-Star, but his role as a game manager and a sneaky offensive threat sets a standard for the Pacers offense. He’s provided a steadying influence for the once-wild Lance Stephenson and allayed Paul George’s growing pains in his ascent to stardom.
Leonard, like Hill in his days as a Spur, plays a significant role as a fourth option, never hijacking the attention for too long. It was frustrating to watch Hill at times, knowing he was capable of more, but there was always going to be a ceiling to his contributions playing behind Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. There is no such limit for Leonard, but he often plays like there is. His youthful reticence and by-the-book abidance to the system is partly the cause, but we also might be asking too much of him too soon in the first place.
Fortunately, there’s still time, because it seems likely both teams will advance. Last night was a good example of what these players are capable of when let loose. It wasn’t a trade that heavily tipped the scales at the time, but both teams have come away as big winners since.
2. The Basketball Koans of Metta World Peace
Knicks are trying to find themselves on the go. Kinda like take out food or a drive thru. They can't find the ketchup. >>>>>
netw3rk: In his inimitable, fractured, non sequitur way, Metta World Peace perfectly summed up the Knicks', and Mike Woodson’s, strategic efforts against the Pacers last night in Game 4. And listen, regardless of what lineups Woodson puts on the floor at whatever junction of the game, the Pacers are the best defensive team in the league. They have excellent rim protection, the athleticism to guard Melo, and they are the best in the league at defending the 3-pointer. They are the better team. OK, fine, but in what universe is playing Pablo Prigioni — who you could easily argue is New York's best point guard — 3 minutes and 26 seconds TOTAL, while giving Jason Kidd, who at this point is ambulating around the court sheerly by rigor mortis, almost 16 minutes?
In case you were out looking at buffalo and thanking the heavens that you never had to actually traverse the Oregon Trail by wagon, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers remained red hot at home as they pushed the New York Knicks to the brink of elimination with a 93-82 win. This battle of the second- and third-best teams in the Eastern Conference has now tilted firmly in favor of Indiana, which has New York residents stunned. "This was our year," said Daniel Czaplinski of Woodside. "We at least had to make it to the Heat. The Pacers? Gimme a break. Who the heck are they?" When asked if he had seen the Pacers play at all this season, Czaplinski said, "Yeah, they had that Zeller kid, and Oladipo. Not sure what happened to them, but Melo shouldn't be letting this George Paul guy take over. This is an abomination and all these bums should be fired."
The Spurs grabbed a pivotal Game 5 win in the friendly confines of San Antonio, beating the Golden State Warriors, 109-91, behind 25 points and 10 assists from Tony Parker. Parker, a noted French person from Belgium, was quietly finishing off a pack of Gauloises after the game before he mused about the idea of a falcon he had in his mind. "You know, bird that does not exist, your ability to fly is less impressive to some because of your lack of corporeal form. But to me, nonexistent falcon I just named Tweet-Tweet, you are more impressive, as you at least know you do not exist, where as real falcons contend daily with the illusion of reality." After a brief pause when Tweet-Tweet likely asked Parker for his last Gauloise, as Parker dropped one onto the ground next to him, Parker added, "And that is how I defeat the Warriors. They expect me to move at speeds, or to distribute the basketball. But that's all the secondary creative act. The original creative act was forgetting my own creation. Here, let me imagine a treatise for you to read." Unfortunately, Tweet-Tweet does not read French, and used Parker's imaginary philosophical text as bedding for his imaginary nest.
In Part 1 of 2, Bill Simmons talks to Joe House about the NHL and NBA playoffs, then asks which playoff city is House's food favorite. In Part 2, Simmons calls Zach Lowe to talk about the NBA playoffs and whether Golden State can pull off the upset over the Spurs.
To listen to these podcasts, download them on iTunes here, or to listen at the ESPN.com Podcenter, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
In case you were busy asking, "yeah, but when is Spoiled Only-Child Day?" here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tiger Woods won his second career Players Championship and his fourth PGA Tour event this year, finishing the tournament at 13-under. Woods benefited from Sergio Garcia's quadruple-bogey on TPC's iconic 17th hole. "I can't believe it," Tiger said after the tournament, "I thought for sure I was in trouble. You don't just stare down Sergio Garcia and live to tell the tale. I'm shocked that he made it easy for me. Shoooooocked." When told of Woods's comments, Garcia said, "Why? What's his problem, man? Guy has everything. He has a boat that holds other boats in it. He has a trophy case that is just all of the trophies he doesn't like melted down and turned into a trophy case. Why's he gotta come after me? What's he compensating for? What trouble has Tiger f-ing Woods ever had to deal with? Can we talk about that for a second? Can we talk about Tiger Woods's hypothetical personal troubles?" When told of Garcia's questions, Woods asked, "Wasn't he married to Greg Norman's daughter?" before winking provocatively at the press corps. When told of Tiger's wink, Sergio let out a frustrated scream. When told of Sergio's scream, Tiger let out a sarcastic chuckle. When told of Tiger's sarcastic chuckle, Sergio sighed. When told of Sergio's sigh, Tiger fist-pumped. When told of Tiger's fist pump, Sergio's lip began to quiver. When told of Sergio's lip quiver, Tiger didn't look up from his dinner of truffles and lobsters. When told of Tiger's feast, Sergio let one tear trickle down his cheek. When told of Sergio's tear, Tiger turned his laptop toward the reporter talking to him; the laptop had a really smug animated GIF playing on loop. When told of Tiger's GIF burn, Sergio asked, "Isn't that pronounced with a hard 'G,' like Garcia?" But it isn't, and when a reporter went to tell Tiger of Sergio's foolishness, he was too busy watching someone polishing his trophy case made of trophies to acknowledge the reporter's existence.
Even with Stephen Curry at less than full strength, the Golden State Warriors evened up their series with the San Antonio Spurs with a 97-87 overtime win. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was concerned after the game, saying, "Now that Curry is banged up, Mark Jackson discovered he's allowed to rest him. That sprained ankle cost us a massive competitive advantage in this series."
The first round started as a boring chalk-fest, with six of eight series going to 2-0, and only Nuggets-Warriors promising to double as both competitive and aesthetically pleasing. It transformed into madness, of course, with four Game 6s on a single delightful Friday night.
The conference semifinals have skipped right to the promising stage, with all four series tied at 1-1 as the league takes a breather tonight. Let’s use this blessed off day to do those errands we’ve been postponing, break out that vacuum, hit the gym, spend time with our loved ones, and take stock of where these four series might go from here — starting today with the two series that began first, but for some reason don’t resume until Saturday.
In case you were busy discovering something magical, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The New York Knicks blew out the Indiana Pacers, 105-79, behind 32 points from Carmelo Anthony to even their second-round series at a game apiece. "Now I will grant an exclusive interview to any member of the New York media who didn't write our epitaph after Game 1," Anthony announced after the game while sipping an ice-cold Diet Coke. But no one in the New York press stepped forward. "Come on, anyone? OK, how ’bout anyone who didn't call me Car-Smell-O." But again there was only silence. "Um, anyone who didn't personally insult my family?" Howard Beck of the New York Times then raised his hand to ask if cousins counted, but Anthony granted him the interview before Beck had the chance to clarify.
Craig Kimbrel gave up back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth inning as the Cincinnati Reds shocked the Atlanta Braves, 5-4. "I'd be more ashamed if it weren't the Reds," Kimbrel explained after the game. "They were cool, which is what I think of when I think of things wrapped in red-and-white. They were ice-cold. You could throw six of them in a cooler, take ’em on a picnic, and have a hell of a day. As an Atlanta man, that's just an instinct for me at this point."
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and as the amazing continues to happen, the Grantland crew wants to help you buff up on some of the lesser-known faces populating basketball's second season.
Who Is He? Pablo Prigioni.
What’s His Nickname? “The Maestro” has popped up a few times in my search, but I’m suspicious that’s only a result of the YouTube clip below. New Yorkers can help me out here, but apparently there’s a local sportscaster who refers to him as “Priggy Smalls” — make your own judgments there.
Where Is He From? Argentina, but he played professionally in Spain.
Years Played: Rookie.
What’s His Salary? $473,604.
His Game in 25 Words or Fewer: A pass-first point guard who’s fluent in the pick-and-roll, shoots it well enough from 3, and consistently makes great decisions with the ball.