Thursday, June 12, 2008

NBA Finals Game Four First-Half Liveblog!

I don’t profess to know much about basketball. I played for a few years in grade school, but I quit after seventh grade and have just played pick-up games since.

Nonetheless, I do enjoy watching the best athletes in the world compete, so I am pinning myself to the futon here at 4012 Venable to watch Game Four of the NBA Finals. We just got cable again (Jillian, the future Mrs. Polish Prodigy, canceled service to save money when I took my little six-week vacation in Fayetteville), so I’m really just happy to be able to watch non-UHF channels.

(You’ll never truly appreciate living in the year 2008 until you try to watch TV with rabbit ears. Luckily, my family didn’t get cable until I was in sixth grade, so I have some latent knowledge regarding antenna manipulation.)

To paraphrase those old “NBA on NBC” promos: Kobe! Garnett! Gasol! Pierce! Vujacic! Scalabrine! Gajtka! It’s the NBA Finals Game Four Liveblog…and it’s coming up NEXT!

8:00-8:30 p.m. – Well, I thought I was getting a pregame show, but I guess that comes at 8:30, which means tipoff on ABC will come sometime before nine…I hope. In the meantime, it’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” featuring Ed Norton, Liv Tyler and Chris Paul. Thank God the NHL doesn’t pull this crap.

8:30 – OK, so it wasn’t that bad. I actually enjoyed Kimmel’s brand of humor; it reminded me a bit of Letterman, which is never a bad thing. Maybe I’ll try to catch his usual show sometime. Also, I switched to ESPN for a bit to catch the end of the U.S. Open coverage for the day. I’m sure ABC didn’t mind since ESPN is one of its Disney brethren. U.S. Open in primetime…nice.

8:33 – Back to the basketball. Stuart Scott, Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry and former Laker great James Worthy come at us from a set on the second level of Staples Center. Worthy sounds poised; he must do TV work regularly.

By the way, I love how every TV personality on these live studio shows is now sporting “invisible” headset microphones like they’re pop stars. Somewhere, Madonna shakes her head disapprovingly.

8:41 – The distractingly cross-eyed Scott tells us that on this date six years ago, the Lakers clinched the NBA crown in a four-game sweep over the New Jersey Nets. Now if the West Final that year wasn’t fixed, it would have been the Kings accepting the title. Sorry, with the Donaghy stuff back in the news, I couldn’t resist.

8:44 – We see our broadcast team for the first time: Play-by-play man Mike Breen (solid as it gets) is flanked by analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. Bill Simmons of says Van Gundy is one of the best analysts out there, so I’ll believe him since he’s where I get pretty much all of my NBA knowledge. That’s what happens when I don’t live less than a mile from Cousin Jeff anymore.

Wilbon is sporting a Lakers gold tie. Don’t these guys know they should be wearing neutral gang colors??

8:48 – Terrible promo for this new ABC summer show called “Wipeout.” If they aren’t showing sports, the networks should just go off the air from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

8:49 – Time for the “GMC Keys to the Game,” a.k.a. predictions. Wilbon – Celtics, Barry – Celtics, Worthy – Lakers, after he admits his bias. Give him credit for being honest at least.

Commercial break No. 5 already.

8:53 – Jeffrey Obsourne (yeah, no idea who he is) tries his hand at the Hardest Song to Sing in the World, our National Anthem. “Oh Canada” would sound great here, especially if Jeff Jimerson sung it.

8:55 – Starting Lineup for Boston:
C Kendrick Perkins
G Rajon Rondo
G Ray Allen
F Kevin Garnett
F Paul Pierce
(No surprises here after Rondo declared himself in game shape about 30 mins ago.)

8:58 – Starters for Los Angeles:
F Lamar Odom
F Vladimir Radmanovic
C Pau Gasol
G Derek Fisher
G Kobe Bryant
(Sasha Vujacic, who scored 20 points off the bench in Game Three, will come off the pine again tonight.)

9:01 – So Kobe apparently scored 36 points on 60 percent shooting last game, which I’m hearing for the first time. Chalk my ignorance up to the Stanley Cup Final hangover.

9:03 – We listen to Celts coach Doc Rivers telling his players to focus, play and win. Wow, that was bland for a Finals pregame speech. ABC then gives us five seconds of Hall of Fame Lakers boss Phil Jackson. He said something about knowing your role. Cut to commercial AGAIN. Unbelievable.

9:07 – Woooo! Tipoff! Gasol wins it over Perkins and here we go.

9:08 – A graphic shows us that LAL is undefeated in the playoffs at home (9-0). That’s what the Pens were until they dropped Game Four of the Final to Detroit. Nice to reopen a wound, isn’t it? Lakers 4, Celtics 2, 10:45 1st.

9:12 – Rivers picks up a technical after he thought Garnett was fouled near the hoop on a loose ball. Fisher is chosen to shoot the single foul shot and misses it. Garnett gets the ball back inside and can’t finish two chances in tight. Odom slams one home for L.A. and the crowd is on fire. Lakers 11, Celtics 6, 8:00 1st.

9:16 – Showtime is back! Fast-break touch passes between Odom and Gasol leads to an Odom layup. Boston needs a timeout as they look tight, especially offensively. No team has ever come back from down 3-1 in the Finals, but if the Celts don’t loosen up a bit, they’ll have to worry about a 2-2 series by the end of the night. LAL 16, BOS 6, 6:30 1st.

9:21 – KG gets his second foul and checks out. He’s been a bright spot on defense…the only Boston positive so far. Radmanovic nails a three from the corner for a 14-point lead! P.J. Brown, in for KG, draws a foul on Kobe put can only hit one of two from the line. The boys in green continue to miss shots badly as it’s 24-7 with 3:40 to go in the first.

9:28 – It feels like I’ve watched more continuous action already than I have all season. I used to watch NBA all the time up until about five years ago, but I guess when you get older, you start to trim things out of your schedule. The NBA was a victim of that temporal pruning, if you will. And I know you will. Odom is knocking down jumpers from everywhere; he’s 6-for-6 and at the two minute mark, the Lakers are cruising 28-12.

9:35 – Eddie House of Boston clanks a couple of open threes as the subs get action late in the opening frame. Kobe then sets up Trevor Ariza for a triple that puts the Lakers up 20! Oh my. The Zen Master kicks back into the third row of stands, or at least it looks like it. After one quarter, L.A. is way ahead 35-14. It’s the largest lead after one in the history of the Finals.

9:41 – 6-22 from the field for Boston in the first quarter. It was even worse than it looked. Also, it might help to get some stops, says Rivers while talking to sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya prior to the start of the second. Tafoya called the Lakers onslaught an “avalanche.” Nice job painting the mental picture!

Gotta be tough to be a sideline reporter…personally I would feel pretty irrelevant at a basketball game. But I guess you have to have them in case there’s an injury or something like it.

Lots of running, not many buckets being made though. Score update coming soon.

9:47 – 40-19 Los Angeles as we head to the media timeout. For those of you unfamiliar, the media timeout was developed to give all the slovenly writers a chance to hit the press row spread a minimum of 10 times per game.

Man, it appears so far I may have picked the wrong game to liveblog. Tafoya is interviewing Will Smith, who is apparently a Lakers fan. He actually talks about his childhood hatred of the Celtics, since everyone knows he’s from West Philadelphia, born and raised. On the playground was where he spent most of his days.

9:54 – Midway through the second, the Lakers have extended the lead out to 45-21. Kobe discusses a foul call with one of the referees in front of none other than Larry David, who is among the luminaries courtside for this one. I think he just told Sasha Vujacic to curb his enthusiasm after the eastern European just splashed a long three through the hoop. Essentially, everything is humming along for L.A. while the opposite is true for the Celtics.

9:57 – I gotta admit, the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird split-screen NBA promo is pretty damn cool. Although it’s a little strange to see their aged faces ostensibly wearing their old uniforms. I suppose we should be happy the shot only goes down to their shoulders.

9:59 – ABC is using Three Doors Down music behind its highlight clips coming out of commercial. I don’t mind it, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what the average young urban basketball fan is listening to nowadays. Zen Master requests a timeout, and it is granted. 45-26 with under four to play in the half.

10:03 – Oh, man! A 12-0 run by the Celtics capped by a James Posey three-ball cuts the Lakers’ lead to 12 very suddenly. The partisan crowd tries to rally the home side, and Fisher responds with a driving layup, AND THE FOUL as Marv Albert would say.

Just thinking about this 2-3-2 format in the Finals…it’s gotta benefit the team that has the middle three at home, IF they can get one of the first two on the road. Otherwise, having to win either Game Six or Seven on the road to clinch is tough to ask

Anyway, Fisher completes his three-point play to get it to 48-33 at the two-minute mark. Wait, Gasol on the alley-oop to push L.A. to 50 points!

10:12 – Kobe commits his third foul on a Pierce drive, giving Boston two free points at the stripe. Last possession for the Lakers, pick-and-roll pass from Fisher to Gasol for the rough finish in the lane, plus one! The Spaniard gets the free throw. Radmanovic then absentmindedly runs over Rondo after the restart. Rondo makes one of two.

Lakers then get their last last chance of the half – inbounds pass goes to late substitution Jordan Farmar, who leaps forward from 25 feet and lets one go one-handed. It banks in! What a way to finish a mostly-brilliant opening 24 minutes for the home squad. Los Angeles 58, Boston 40.

Folks, that’s it for me from the liveblog standpoint. I’m actually intrigued by the action on the court and upset that I’ve been neglecting the NBA for so long. It’s not the NHL, but a man needs to do something to pass the time until the next Pirates game.

Seriously, though, I’m going to enjoy the second half and give you my subsequent thoughts in the morning. Until then, thanks for reading and I’ll talk to yinz later!

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