Last week, My Scrabble Friend had an idea. Because I want to steer as far away from endorsing this as I can, I'll let him explain it himself:
Scrabble Friend: There's a prop bet for the first team to score 20 points in a game. These lines actually carry odds on them, roughly 20 percent adjusted from the game's original money line. So, if the Suns are a +400 for the entire game, they'll be something like +320 to get to 20 first. Basketball is a weird game filled with runs and it's silly to assume that any team in the NBA would really be +320 to get out to a quick start and put up 20 before the other team wakes up. As far as my research finds, the underdog wins this bet 80 percent of the time. The research in question started last night, when I bet five underdogs, four of which hit, hence the 80 percent. We will call the bet "Death Race." Small sample sizes are for nerds.
In case you were busy snickering uncontrollably upon hearing that Johnson and Fister got traded on the same day, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tim Duncan was in vintage form, collecting 21 rebounds and scoring 23 points including a game-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining in the Spurs' 102-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Later, Duncan celebrated his heroic outing by giving himself time to consider whether or not Jonathan Franzen's impact on American literature is overrated, before deciding that any such critique was inherently premature.
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks established themselves as the class of the NFC with a 34-7 dismantling of the New Orleans Saints. "AHHHH YES! PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL PETE CARROLL!" Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll yelled after the game as he ran laps around the assembled media, "THAT WAS ONE OF THE BEST PETE CARROLL NIGHTS EVER!" When asked if it was Russell Wilson or the team's defensive effort to whom he owed his good mood, Carroll shook his head and replied, "NEITHER! PETE CARROLL HEARD ED HOCHULI TALK ABOUT HIS BALLS! THAT WAS HILARIOUS!" Unfortunately for Carroll, once he started shaking his head, he couldn't figure out a way to stop moving his neck for more than an hour.
In case you were busy foolishly enjoying the company of friends and family this holiday season without a television on in the background, here's what you missed in sports over the holiday:
In one of the most stunning endings to a football game in recent memory, Auburn shocked Alabama in the Iron Bowl, winning 34-28 on a 109-yard field goal return for a touchdown as time expired. "No regrets," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said after the game when asked about his late-game management, "I thought to myself, What's the worst that could happen? And the answer was that the kick could hit a child in the head, creating a trauma that the boy would bury deep into his subconscious. This trauma would then only rear its head again when the boy had grown, fueled by his hate, to become governor of Alabama, and he would then decide by gubernatorial decree to make football illegal. But then I decided that, rightly I might add, that would be impossible; if anything could provoke a coup in the state of Alabama it would be the abolition of football. So I made the right decision, I just got a bad result."
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.
This Garden Belongs to Paul George
Chris Ryan: Is Paul George the third-best player in the NBA right now? Did Paul George walk into Madison Square Garden and guard the Knicks' best player (both on the perimeter and in the post)? Did he match Carmelo's 30-point night with a 35-point turn of his own? Did he go into the visitors' locker room, see a glass case marked "Break in Case of Fourth-Quarter Emergency," think about the people who had came before him who had broken things at Madison Square Garden, laugh, shatter it, and score 12 in the final period of regulation and 13 of the Pacers' final 18, including three free throws to send the game into overtime? Did he punch Shump's layup off the backboard? Did he walk off the court like the legend in the making that he is and get dap from celebrities in the making like A$AP Rocky?
In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In case you were busy confusing Jimmie Johnson, Jimmy Johnson, and a turkey sandwich, son, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Peyton Manning overcame an injured ankle and Kansas City's vaunted pass rush as the Broncos handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, 27-17 in Denver. "Well, when you think Peyton, you think mobility," said Broncos interim head coach Jack Del Rio after the game. "So, it was definitely tough to deal with being forced to keep him in the pocket. But somehow, god bless him, he managed."
Indiana lost its first game of the NBA season as Derrick Rose's return sparked his Chicago Bulls to a 110-94 win. "D-Rose is going to make me broke," said Chicago fan Jesse Wilkerson while purchasing a brand-new Rose home jersey. When asked why he was buying Rose's jersey now, Wilkerson replied, "Look, if the guy's gonna play soft and miss games, I'm not going to not burn his jersey." Wilkerson, who once cried at a party at the University of Illinois when someone accidentally spilled his Corona Light, then added, "That's what fans do to toughen up their favorite players. Men gotta be tough, but they also have to be loyal."
The Pacers are destroying the league behind a terrifying defense and two max-salary franchise cornerstones, proving, rather emphatically, that the crucial improvements they flashed in last year's playoffs were real — and indicative of more to come.
The bench is better, which is to say it now features players who can catch and dribble regulation basketballs. Frank Vogel continues to grow as a coach, managing minutes carefully and making subtle X's-and-O's adjustments as he learns more about his team and its enemies.
And, oh, hey, Lance Stephenson is suddenly playing like a point guard with killer 3-point range. Stephenson is averaging twice as many assists per game compared with last season, even though he's only logging about six more minutes on average. Numbers from the SportVU data-tracking cameras provided exclusively to Grantland bear this out. Stephenson is dribbling the ball about 125 times per game this season, up from a paltry 65.5 bounces last season, according to the data. His per-game time of possession has jumped from about 90 seconds to nearly three minutes, and he's touching the ball about twice as often. He has assisted on nearly 29 percent of Indiana's baskets while on the floor, roughly equivalent to last season's marks for a bunch of high-quality starting point guards with strong secondary distributors around them and/or score-first duties — Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, and others. Stephenson is also using up more possessions for his own shots, and yet his turnover rate hasn't budged at all.
In case you were busy telling one of your employees to hit another one of your employees to settle an interpersonal workplace dispute, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
A fourth-quarter surge from the Pacers' reserves turned a close game between division rivals into a blowout, as Indiana ran away from the Bulls in a 97-80 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team is now a disappointing 1-3, said after the game, "I'm panicking! Of course I'm panicking! We've played four games! Derrick Rose is not playing like an MVP! We're all panicking!" Thibodeau then added, "Fire! Fire! I don't know what to do! What am I supposed to say? 'Just play your game, and things will turn around?' No! No one will believe me! Must make everything clean! Must make everything clean!" Thibodeau then pulled out a canister of gasoline and poured it over the team's jersey hamper as the media ran from the locker room.
Philadelphia lost its second consecutive game after opening the season a surprising 3-0, falling to the Washington Wizards 116-102. "I think we've got this all straightened out," said 76ers GM Sam Hinkie after the game. "Me and the boys had to come to a bit of an arrangement, see. Turns out just bringing in bad apples ain't enough. You have to make them want to play bad, you hear? But the problem is, shooting baskets is real fun. Almost too fun." Hinkie then smiled and said, "But defense? No one likes playing defense. Dames don't go in for defense. So I say, no defense, and they can keep their precious offense. Pretty clever, eh?"
I recently sent an uncomfortably large PayPal check to an old friend to cover what I owed him from roughly 80 games of online Scrabble played at stakes between $40 and $240. I average about 340 points per game in Scrabble. My friend, who is mostly illiterate and challenges words like "lenient," averages 360 because he's one of those guys who plays with the middle linebacker in Madden and figured out the dynamic dribbling in NBA 2K13 that you assumed everyone else was too lazy and/or old to care about. Needless to say, we both have massive gambling problems.
Last season, in late March, I awarded John Wall something called M.V.P.N.N.K.L. It's the MVP for people not named Kevin or LeBron. The only NBA players disqualified from winning the award are LeBron James and Kevin Durant (and Kevin Garnett, and Kevin Martin … sorry, Kevin Martin). The point is, while Durant and LeBron are around, it's hard to imagine anyone else winning the MVP award, so we have to come up with something for the rest of the league. Hence, the M.V.P.N.N.K.L.
After one week, this award belongs to Paul George. In fact, he might not even need the Kevin/LeBron exemption. He might just be the MVP.
In case you were busy finding the perfect throwback NFL tie for your big media appearance, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Knicks continued their early-season troubles, as they fell 102-97 to the Charlotte Bobcats while losing defensive fulcrum Tyson Chandler to injury. "Oh this isn't good, but don't worry, this doesn't dent my championship dreams," said Knicks owner James Dolan, who then perked up and asked the reporter to read back what he'd just said. After she did, Dolan bobbed his head for a second before running out of the room so he could get his band together to record a new JD & the Straight Shot jazz fusion EP titled (This Don't Dent) My Championship Dreams.
In case you were busy walking the plank at the behest of Bill Belichick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
LeBron James and the Miami Heat opened their NBA championship defense with an impressive 107-95 win over Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. An optimistic Rose, who was playing in his first regular-season game since recovering from a torn ACL, said, "I'm disappointed in the loss, but my performance, I can easily change that by making shots and keeping down the turnovers." When Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau heard his point guard's comments, however, he flew into a rage, screaming, "He could have made more shots and avoided turnovers? Well, why didn't he? What the hell was he thinking?" Thibodeau then threw his hands in the air and said, "Jiminy Christmas, he was only out for a year. I have to micromanage everything with this team."
Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose look at how close the Indiana Pacers came to the Finals last year and why they expect them to test the Miami Heat this year. Bill and Jalen think the new bench, the maturation of Lance Stephenson, and the return of Larry THE LEGEND Bird will help. Prepare for a lot of THE LEGEND — both Bill and Jalen have a history with him.