Single page view By Bill Simmons
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With the defending champions on the ropes, I couldn't decide whether to keep another NBA Finals diary or not. Did anyone care about Game 3? Did I really feel like slaving through another game, especially with everyone in L.A. practically rioting in excitement over Phil Jackson's return to the Lakers?

Hubie Brown
Et tu, Frank M.?

Then I received the following e-mail from New Orleans reader Frank M.: "Do you think Hubie Brown's Julius Caesar haircut was forced on him by the ABC executives as a subliminal ploy to advertise 'Empire'?"

Now that's comedy. And that's when I knew I needed to keep another diary – especially when the Pistons were a mortal lock to win Game 3. Here's what transpired …

9:00 – We're off with another pregame montage and that same grating Rob Thomas song. If that stupid song is running through my head for the rest of the week, then I'm making it happen for you as well:

"This is it now … everybody get down … this is all I can take … this is how a heart breaks!"

9:07 – Longtime NBA fan Stevie Wonder plays the national anthem with his harmonica. Very cool. He'll also be reffing tonight's game with Dick Bavetta and Bennett Salvatore.

9:10 – Is there anything funnier than the Pistons' announcer staying on cruise control for the San Antonio introductions, then kicking it up about 730 notches for the Pistons introductions? It's almost as though they plug him in. And does he pay royalties to the guy who played Cyrus from "The Warriors," or did they work out a one-time fee?

9:16 – Tonight's referees: Bob Delaney, Joe Crawford and (drumroll please …) Mr. Bennett Salvatore! I can't believe it! We have a home team in a must-win playoff situation and Salvatore was assigned to the game? That never happens!

9:18 – What a start for the Pistons: A Ben Wallace three-point play and Manu Ginobili just banged knees with Tayshaun Prince (and quickly left the game). Has an NBA Finals game ever been decided within 21 seconds?

9:26 – Big Ben just stuffed Tim Duncan's turnaround, took a charge from Duncan and scored on an offensive rebound. Welcome to the Finals, Ben. Glad you could make it.

9:27 – Just watched another "War of the Worlds" commercial, which reminds me: Despite all the joy he's provided me over the years, I'm not sure if I can forgive Tom Cruise for what he's done to Katie Holmes. This is the same girl who allowed SNL's Mr. Peepers to spit apple all over her face four years ago and went topless in "The Gift" just for the hell of it – now she's whispering "I love you" on Oprah, shamelessly plugging movies and embracing Scientology? This is an outrage. I'm outraged. This never would have happened if she had stayed with Dawson.

9:30 – Six minutes into the game, Ben Wallace is on pace for 56 points, 24 rebounds, 24 blocks and eight steals. Warrants mentioning.

9:33 – The news on Ginobili: Thigh contusion. Uh-oh.

(But seriously, is there a luckier team than the Pistons? Last spring, they lucked out with Jason Kidd's knee, the Derek Fisher shot and Karl Malone's injury. Last November, the Pacers looked like the best team in the East before the Artest Melee turned everything around. Last week, Miami was about to finish them off before Wade went down. And now, they're down 2-0 and the leading candidate for Finals MVP goes down 21 seconds into Game 3. I'm not saying good luck is something that should penalize them historically – believe me, I'm a Patriots fan, I would never insinuate such a thing. But Detroit's run of good fortune is almost unprecedented, don't you think? At the rate we're going, Duncan is going to be accidentally ejected from the Spurs' charter on the way back to San Antonio.)

Continued...


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