I'm suddenly not feeling so hot about my pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the Eastern Conference after watching the Detroit Pistons meticulously climb back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit and crush the Chicago Bulls Thursday night in Chicago.
The Pistons won 81-74 to take a 3-0 lead in their conference semifinal series, and while Bulls fans are probably spending the day lamenting how bad their team looked, it looked to me like the Pistons were the responsible party.
It's not like all those missed shots in the second half -- and, oh, boy, were there a lot of misses -- were layups. The Bulls shot 10-for-41 in the second half, including 4-for-25 in the fourth quarter. But that included a stunning display of masonry in the final minute, when the Bulls, having fallen behind by seven, missed seven straight shots, four of them 3-pointers.
Still, throw out that desperation stretch and the Bulls only made four of 18, including a meaningless make in the closing seconds. But that's more or less what they should have made. They weren't getting many good shots. The Pistons just locked down.
Teams always look horrible when the other guys are playing great defense. True in every sport.
The Bulls turned over the ball 10 times in the second half, including two shot-clock violations. There were also six blocks by the Pistons. From here, the 30 points the Bulls scored in that second half looked pretty good. Somebody would have had to have a huge shooting night to overcome what the Pistons were doing.
I'll feel better again about the Cavs if they go to New Jersey and take a commanding lead in their series against the Nets, as I suspect will happen. But watch out for these Pistons. The Bulls aren't anybody's idea of a scoring machine, but they're not as helpless as the Pistons made them look with the season on the line.
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Another reason to pull for Derek Fisher [PERMALINK]
You have to be an even worse person than I am not to have been moved by Derek Fisher Wednesday, when he rushed to Salt Lake from New York after his daughter's successful medical procedure, helped the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors, then launched himself as a national spokesman in the fight against retinoblastoma, the rare cancer that threatened his daughter's life and still could take her eye.
Thursday Fisher, a devout Christian, gave this atheist one more reason to like him and pull for him. He was telling his story to reporters, which included telling them about how his daughter had been diagnosed by a new pediatrician after the Fishers had been forced by health-plan bureaucracy to switch providers. The diagnosis came in the nick of time. The physician switch was, pardon the expression, blind luck.
"Sometimes you don't want to offend people who don't believe in the Lord," Fisher said. "But I definitely think last night was some form of divine intervention."
Thanks. I don't believe that, though I'm not particularly offended that Fisher or anyone else does, and it doesn't bother me if Fisher wants to say it was. But I can't think of another professional athlete who has ever said anything so thoughtful about the feelings of other people, mostly people he doesn't know and doesn't have much in common with.
Seems like a real mensch, that Derek Fisher.
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17th NFL game: Yes, please [PERMALINK]
Boy, I love this idea the NFL has to add a 17th regular-season game and play it outside the United States.
Under a plan the Associated Press is calling "extremely preliminary," each team would play one extra game abroad, allowing the NFL to build its international audience without teams having to sacrifice home games. And here's the best part: The regular-season game would come at the expense of one exhibition game.
Yeah! One down, three to go.
It'll never happen. Too good an idea. Trading an exhibition game for a regular-season game, and adding overseas games without screwing the home fans out of one of their eight favorite days of the year? Forget it.
Think of the travel and logistics, plus those exhibition games are money-printing exercises for the clubs. They charge regular-season prices for meaningless games, which they force season-ticket buyers to buy, and they get to pay the players preseason stipends.
"For now, we have the one game per season or two per season outside of the U.S.," NFL senior vice president Mark Waller told the AP. "But we know it can be tough on home fans since we're taking a game away. So we have asked how do we create more inventory without taking games away from fans?"
What?! The NFL is concerned about the home fans?
Do they know about this Waller guy at NFL headquarters? I think he's a rogue. Watch your back, Waller. You want to get along, start looking into how to tighten up the rules on what music can be played at games or how players can wear their socks.
Waller says the idea would be to have an international game once a week, with perhaps four venues hosting four or five games each, rather than 17 different international sites. Mexico, Canada, England and Germany would appear to be the leading candidates.
Don't line those fields just yet. We'll believe this one when we see it.
Previous column: Fisher, Jazz, drama
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