Quite an interesting evening on the hardwood last night, but not in the manner that one would have expected going into yesterday's festivities. First of all, Yao Ming played like one huge bitch...its that simple. I understand that everybody has bad games but he seemed to just go back into a shell after awhile and lose all sense of aggresiveness. Doug Collins was harping on the lack of touches that Yao was receiving on the block (a constant problem for him) but as much of the blame for that has to fall on him as anybody else. He just wasn't working hard enough on the block to establish position. I'm sure that he could have gotten a few more touches down low but if you're not actively working to establish post position, then you don't REALLY want the ball. It says alot about where he was mentally that Jeff Van Gundy didn't even think about taking out 86 year old Dikembe Mutombo. Granted, Mutombo played fantastic and brought delight to thousands when he broke out the finger wag (did you see Bob Sura and other assorted Rocket reserves start doing the finger wag as well after Mutombo's block on Jason Terry? Pure Hilarity.) but I'm sure he could've used a blow at some point in the fourth and Van Gundy didn't so much as look at Yao. Sadly, this probably had as much to do with Yao's lack of confidence in himself as it did with Van Gundy's waning confidence in the big Chinaman. I know, I know...Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, then again I don't care either. All in all, I was glad to see the Rockets win, if only because I feel like this series deserves to go seven games.
Of course, earlier in the night Paul Pierce lost his goddamned mind. Anybody with half a brain will admit that Jamal Tinsley's flop was worthy of the English Premier League but, regardless of that, Pierce had absolutely no business pulling such an immature and irrational stunt. At least he fessed up in the post game press conference and said as much when he called the play "boneheaded". Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Oh yeah, what the hell was Pierce wearing on his face during the press conference? I heard that it was worn in jest but that still doesn't explain anything. Was it for his facial bruises from Jamal Tinsley's slap? Did it signify his mental choke job? I need to know...something.
Neither game had much else to offer though I should mention the toughness that is being displayed by Jamal Tinsley by coming back for the end of this series. Not only is he clearly not 100% (who is is the playoffs?) but the more impressive factor, at least in my mind, is that he has been playing big minutes and playing them late into the game. Anybody who's ever played any level of sports will tell you how hard it is to try and regain some semblance of rhythm to your game after being out for three months. To come back and provide the kind of spark that he has at this point in the season says an awful lot about this guy's character and talent. Something interesting to remember about Tinsley and what he means to the Pacers is that when Rick Carlisle took over in Indiana, Tinsley was his third string point guard.
Beyond that, there were a couple of things that stood out to me last night.
- With about two minutes left in the Mavs-Rockets game last night Doug Collins said, "I'd like to send a shout out..." The actual shout out and who he sent it to are inconsequential to my point. Which is...Doug Collins should never, ever be allowed to send anybody a shout out. For Christ's sake, you're over 60 years old! If you want to acknowledge somebody then say that you would "like to say hello" or that you're "sending out your best wishes to..." Just don't send a fucking shout out. You're too old and too white so just quit.
- Until recently I had been relatively unaware of Andrew Toney other than knowing that he played (and did so well) in the NBA. Like many in my generation (I suspect), Toney had slipped through the cracks of our collective basketball conscience through a combination of both the timing of his career and his status as a player whose reputation resided just outside the realm of the truly elite of his generation. Yet with Bill Simmons (among others) constantly comparing Ben Gordon to him, my interest had begun to be piqued. Then, last night Doug Collins told a story about playing for the Sixers and having to go into the Boston Garden for a Game Seven. The basic premise of the story is that Andrew Toney went into the Boston Garden and single handedly took apart the Celtics while leading the Sixers to victory. Well, after this my curiosity could take it no longer and I decided to do some research on Andrew Toney. If you already know all about Andrew Toney then don't bother reading on, but if you were left somewhat in the dark like myself then here is what I've found:
Height: 6'3" Weight: 178 lbs.
Drafted: 1980 8th overall by Philadelphia out of Southwestern Louisiana (now La.-Lafayette)
Career: 1980-1988, Two All Star Appearances ('83, '84)
Regular Season: 15.9 ppg 4.2 apg
Playoffs: 17.4 ppg 4.5 apg
Nickname: The Boston Strangler
Here are a few quotes about Toney from some of his comtemparies:
"Toney was amazingly strong, he and Moses were the only ones on the team that could post me up!" -Charles Barkley
"I thought he (Toney) was the best player on the team when I got here. We had Bobby Jones, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving but the only one I was in awe of was Andrew." - Charles Barkley
"He's the greatest clutch player I've ever seen. The hell with Jerry West!" - Pat Riley
"He was the absolute best I've ever seen at shooting the ball at crucial times. We had nobody who could come close to stopping him. Nobody." - Larry Bird
Those stats tell you plenty, but the quotes from NBA legends really let you know how special a player that Andrew Toney must've been. Evidently his career was cut short by stress fractures in both feet and a subsequent battle over the legitimacy of those injuries with Sixers owner Harold Katz. The feud between Katz and Toney became so bitter that Katz requested that the NBA drug test Toney (the test came back negative). Toney was so incensed by his treatment that he vowed never to set foot at a Sixers game as long as Katz was the owner. Toney now lives in Georgia and has a son who will be attending the University of Georgia on a basketball scholarsip in the fall. I certainly won't be rooting for his son anytime soon but I will be scanning ESPN Classic and NBA TV for any games involving Andrew Toney.
Wizards-Bulls tonight and I'm pulling for the Wiz to close it out, though it won't affect my night in any way, shape or form if this thing goes seven games as well. I'll tell you what will affect my night though...the copious amounts of alcohol that I'll be ingesting from about 10 PM on.