One of the sorry states of being here in Saudi Arabia is that there just isn't enough meaningful basketball coverage to go around. I mean, in the Philippines, coverage of basketball is even better than coverage of Sunday mass - you can choose which game to see, and you have choices of league --- the NBA, the PBA, college ball, or whatever bush league has managed to get some airtime.
I stayed up until about three in the morning to find out if there was coverage of the Boston-Chicago game (Game 6) on NBA TV. I got geeked up to watch the game (I was able to watch Games 1 and 4, at the least) since the series was really heated and Boston was gamely trying to fend off a younger, fresher, and (perhaps) more talented rival, what with injuries to their most important player, Kevin Garnett and to one of their substitutes, Leon Powe. To think their bench already had a downgrade from last year's team. The young players are doing fine, it's the veterans with whom I have a beef.
They showed the Houston-Portland series. Now, I know Portland is one of darlings of the Internet - among its fans and with a lot of bloggers, for having a system that works and young talent in action --- yup, there is much to like about Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Fernandez (Greg who?) --- and that Houston has a compelling storyline with a history of first-round disappointments and a new chip on its shoulder with its highest-profile player (Tracy McGrady) apparently quitting on the team. But dang, I just couldn't bear to watch the game knowing that the real tussle was ongoing.
So I logged on instead and tried to follow the game on ESPN. Of course, I missed all the visuals and the usual commnetary that made watching meaningful, but shoot, was I hanging on every blip on my darned display and even with my neurons half-fried (too much Krispy Kremes, not enough sleep coming from Thursday night)!
Injuries are only one half of this series. The other half is made up of so many great storylines --- from the transcendent play of the point guards (the much-ballyhooed - vindicated many times over - Derrick Rose, and the underrated Rajon Rondo), the feistiness of the veterans of both sides, the decline of Paul Pierce and the rejuventation of Ray Allen, spotty officiating, and mind-numbing coaching blunders.
For much of the flow of the game, it was apparent that the Bulls (and their crowd, from what I could imagine) brought it to the Celtics, proverbially swinging away. The Celtics rolled with the punches, and then swung into counterattack. From his shot chart, Ray Allen was UNBELIEVABLE - the stat line shows 51 points, but the man was in a groove - he was connecting from his various sweet spots, and I could guess most of his shots were under duress. As I was saying from Game 4, they're not feeding this man enough shots. Sure, he stunk up the joint in Game 1, but this guy is running on all cylinders.
Paul Pierce is going to cost Boston the series, if he hasn't already. He basically blew the game in both Games 1 and 4 with missed free throws. To be fair, the young Bulls' nerves need some settling down, but from last year's Finals MVP? Come on! We all know he is the emotional leader of the Celts, but he just hogs the ball way too often, overdribbling and stopping ball flow. He needs to make a lot of clutch shots (and he has made several nice ones) because at times he put himself in that hole.
Can't say enough of Rondo and Rose --- I like the rookie's game more because it is less forced, but shoot Rajon is clearly the engine of the Celtics' train, and their victory in this series hinges on him continuing his stellar play. Alas, he is not immune to mistakes (mainly his questionable shot selection during crucial times), but give him credit, he's only on his third season and much wasn't expected from him coming out of college. But Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose. I hate him being on the other team, but the kid is officially treading the path of other greats.
I finally found some use for my big imagination --- projecting how it could have appeared onscreen, how the players reacted to big plays, especially since this has been a very, very physical series with both coaches coming from hard-nosed traditions (Atlanta/Lenny Wilkens and New York/Pat Riley for Doc Rivers, and San Antonio for Del Negro).
My heart was pulsing (more from lack of sleep I surmise) when the score was tied at the end of the game and we had to go to overtime. I was wondering how the hell they frittered that lead as regulation ended and I found my answer later on - Glen Davis (the Celts' most reliable forward with Garnett out) sat and Tony Allen played. What were they thinking? If they wanted to go small, they could have played Marbury and made use of his speed and ball-handling. Tony Allen?!
The Bulls took the initiative in all the overtimes, and I could guess Pierce played hero in the first overtime. John Salmons (my "WHO IS THIS GUY" of the series) tied up the game and Pierce clanked his potential game winner. EXHALED a little and muttered an obscenity.
Salmons was big again in the second overtime as the Bulls took the lead. But Ray-Ray saves the day with an assist, a long two-pointer (feet on the line), and an ice-blooded three pointer to tie up the game!
On to the third overtime. By now I could visualize the players with their legs all rubbery and joints aching all over. Things went back and forth with the game tied until Pierce lost the ball to Joakim Noah (the Bulls' top agitator), Noah makes the basket, and Pierce FOULS HIM and one! (WTF!)
Well that was pretty much it. Rondo makes another basket off a tip, gets the ball stuffed in his face by Rose on a potential go-ahead basket, and it could have ended right there had Rose made his free throws on what would seem to be an intentional foul by Brian Scalabrine.
Seeing the final score hurt. Apparently they called the last play for Rondo, who took a three-pointer from nowhere (again, to be fair, they had only three seconds left on the game clock) when RAY frickin' ALLEN was frickin' UNCONSCIOUS for the latter part of the game. (AGAIN, A HOOOOOYUGGGGGE WTF!)
Now that I couldn't sleep I just had to write this.
I really wish they would cover Game 7 so I could see whether the Celtics would redeem themselves at home. I won't be able to stand following the game over the 'Net. Not again. I already did that last year on the Celts' win in the NBA Finals. I just want to be there to watch the end of this series, and while I would bleed green if they lose, I wouldn't really mind. Chicago was a worthy opponent, and if they had a better coach, they might have put this series to bed already.
It's not the result, but that I could share in it and be with the team in spirit until the end.
The sun is way, way up and I haven't slept more than 40 minutes in the past 10 hours. Guess I couldn't do myself wrong by grabbing breakfast.