On the John
Alive and well. (Final thoughts before a soon-to-be Game 7)
Originally completed May 2, 2009, 4:46-6:08 PM
I am beginning to feel about this series like a drug addict must feel when he’s ready to enter serious rehab. It started out as innocent fun, we experienced some unthinkable highs, but now I’m coming down and I’m ready for it to be over. My friends and loved ones would like to see me at some point.
— Zach Lowe, April 30th
This time tomorrow, it will all be over. And you know what? That’s OK. Not because I am feeling like a drug addict ready to enter rehab, and certainly not because my friends and loved ones would like to see me. They’ve all been watching too.
It is OK because no matter the outcome of tonight’s Game 7, this Bulls-Celtics first round series has provided total fulfillment and sports-watching nourishment.
The kind sirs and madams at ESPN.com ran a story today that was simply the footage of their chosen top ten moments of the series. When I came upon the story, I saw that The Steal was number one, and since that was no big surprise, I quickly jotted down my own top ten list to see how close mine compared. My list was fantastic, mind you.
I got six out of ten.
Sitting at my parents’ house, playing chess with my dad in these last few hours before the final battle, the phone rang. It was a dear family friend, a woman with whom I have spoken a relative low amount of hoops during the 21 years we have known each other. Shortly after answering the phone, she and I were trading memories from the past week, amazed by the amazement of it all. “I’ve never seen it done with a first rounder before, but I could see them selling this series on a DVD box set,” I told her.
“Oh, absolutely!” she responded enthusiastically. “I would buy it.”
I watched a Bulls-Sixers end-of-the-year regular season game at one of my favorite neighborhood bar and burger joints. Nary an eye was on the screen. I watched Game 5 there as well. This time, the patrons were focused and excited, but still rather reserved through the first three quarters. Two days later I was there for Game 6. Outside of heavy night-drinking hours, I’ve never seen it fuller. Tables upon tables were full for the opening tip, and the energy only increased.
My friend Kristin joined me for the game’s first half. She had plans to meet another friend at another bar a bit later, so she left at halftime. This girl knows nothing about basketball, and cares even less. Her interest during the first quarter centered around identifying “the cute ones.”
By the time she had to leave, she was hooked and distraught. She wanted to stay. Ultimately, the game transformed her into a sports-texter.
8:54 PM: 101 tie
9:40 PM: 3rd overtime, wtf?
10:05 PM: Win!!
10:42 PM: Yes, I actually watched the rest of the damn game!
A pure basketball conversion. Chalk one more up.
We love sports for the simple reason that we never know when this will happen. It rarely does. We watch a lot of crummy games. We watch sporting events that had potential to be great and weren’t. We watch sporting events that almost made it, but one dumb thing happened to screw it up: A foul at the wrong time, a penalty, a two-base error, whatever. We keep watching. We keep hoping. And when everything clicks, it’s blissful. I am hearing from people who haven’t emailed me in years. Readers are sending me 700-word emails. The thing that keeps jumping out: Even fans without rooting interests have gotten swept up in this series. How can you not?
— Bill Simmons, May 1st
Memories. So many of ‘em. So many, in fact, that I had to do a complete game-by-game box score analysis yesterday just to recapture the finer points. We all know about Allen’s 51 on nine three pointers, about Rose’s 36-11, about Rondo’s triple double average. Since the broadcast focused in on it, we even know about Kendrick Perkins becoming the third player in NBA playoff history after Wilt and Russell to play 48 minutes without committing a single foul.
But there are plenty of little nuggets that have become obscured. Did you realize that despite Tony Allen’s gunner-reputation, he played 17 minutes in Game 5 without attempting a single shot? Do you remember Anthony Roberson pulling a Pargo in Game 3 with eight points in the final four minutes? How about Ray Allen shooting 47.2% on 53 attempted threes? Or Scalabrine becoming Boston’s top sub after only making the active roster following Leon Powe’s Game 2 injury? Or Rose missing a triple-dub of his own in Game 5 by a single assist?
And what about these stat lines for the series (with Game 3 removed)?
BULLS—114.6 PPG, 46.8 REB, 21.6 AST, 46.1% FG, 82.2% FT, 39.3% 3P
CELTICS—114.4 PPG, 47.0 REB, 22.8 AST, 44.4%, 76.8%, 37.3%
And that’s what has really set this series apart: enough big spark for the newcomers, enough little nuggets for the junkies. Enough transcendent moments for Bill Simmons, enough obscure stats for John Hollinger…
…enough of everything, in fact, for every writer I love to put something wonderful down on the page. Forget the youtube tributes and the SportsCenter segments—the series has provoked so much good writing that I even discovered Zach Lowe, the dude listed above. It’s produced three columns of my own work and counting. It’s given shared experience to basketball fans who love basketball and sports fans who love sports and the people who think all of us are crazy. It will be over this time tomorrow, but life will be over this time eventually. Ain’t it great that we lived?
And after Game 7—which, if the Bulls and the Celts stick to the script, will only deepen the validation that this is, game-to-game, the greatest playoff series in the history of any sport—we will see who let the supposed pressure get to them. As clichéd as it sounds, I think it applies to this series more than any other: It’s too bad one of these teams has to lose.
— Scoop Jackson, May 1st
Towards the end of every borderline season, the discussion begins: make the playoffs as a low seed and get thwumped, or stay in the lottery for a shot at a high pick. Sometimes you get lucky with that high pick. In the approximate words of Brian Fantana: “1.7% of the time…it works, everytime.” Of course, 98.3% of the time, you end up with Marcus Fizer.
On the other hand, get in the playoffs and they get to keep playing while we get to keep watching. Maybe you get swept. Maybe you win the first two and then get swept. Maybe you lose two, tie the series, and then lose two more. And sure, maaaybe you play five games decided by a total of 11 points with four overtime games and seven total overtimes and buzzer beaters and breakouts and near-brawls galore. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible.
And that’s the point. Because no matter what goes down in the Second Season, once you’re there, you’ve got a shot at something special, an experience that can only come when two teams take the floor and give themselves to the battle.
A Game 7 capper to the most exciting playoff series I may ever have the privilege of watching?
1.7% of the time, it works everytime.
It certainly does.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
FOR YESTERDAY’S STORY ‘Writing it right–the tale of Game 6’