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Thursday, May 18, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: May 18, 2006

The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

We all saw the stats a hundred times.

No, not the ones from the Cavs' Game 5 win over the Pistons -- the ones that have been on "SportsCenter" the past two years that showed how many games the Pistons' vaunted starting five have played together.

They were used to show us how consistency breeds chemistry and chemistry breeds wins.

Well, in the game of NBA poker, it looks like a team trip to the funeral of Larry Hughes' brother trumps consistency.

And it also helps when:
• Ben Wallace misses all seven free-throw attempts (including two with 40 seconds left and the game tied).
• Chauncey Billups fouls out with 2:12 left in the game.
• The Pistons' strategy against LeBron came down to Flip Saunders screaming at the refs until he got a technical.

The series isn't over yet, but the Pistons' reign might be.

Not Done Yet
Could the San Antonio Spurs, the defending champions, actually lose four straight games? Could they be eliminated from the playoffs on their own home floor?

Seemed pretty unlikely. But it was pretty darn close.

The Spurs got a super performance from Tim Duncan and yet they still had to survive two last-gasp shot attempts from the Mavericks before emerging with a 98-97 victory in Game 5. The city of San Antonio is breathing a huge collective sigh of relief this morning.

This series is evolving into one of the best we've seen in several years. Except for Dallas' lopsided win in Game 2, the margins of victory so far have been 2, 1, 1 and 5 (in overtime). If this series goes seven games, it will be remembered as a classic (especially if the winner, as many believe, wins it all).

But Friday night's Game 6 is the Mavericks' chance. At the American Airlines Center. Don't you get the feeling that it's do-or-die time for Dallas? Don't you think that Mark Cuban's boys better win it then -- or else they will never win one?

Knocking off the defending champs on the road in Game 7 is too much to ask.

Pitching Roundup
• Roger Clemens is "increasing his workouts" and plans to make a decision soon on where he'll play.

He's going to Houston everyone. Sorry. He wants the chance to play with his son during the September call-ups period and he had no plans to ruin the détente he has established with Boston and New York. Especially since neither one of them is a lock for the pennant.

• Shawn Chacon will have an ultrasound on his bruised leg after his 1.1 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 0 SO Tuesday.

According to the N.Y. Post, his teammates said he probably shouldn't have started Tuesday. Glad to see the $200 million Yankee roster dabbles in orthopedics when they aren't busy playing baseball.

• Hello, my name is Carl Pavano. I used to play baseball (my last appearance was 6/27/05) and date Alyssa Milano. Now, I'm pitching one inning of Double-A ball before leaving with tightness in my arm. For those keeping score at home, the Yanks paid $40 million for: a bad rotator cuff, back problems and a bruised butt cheek.

• It's mid-May so it must be time for the first Kerry Wood-Mark Prior sightings of the season. Wood will make his debut today at Wrigley, while Prior will pitch Friday for the Mesa Cubs of the rookie league.

So this puts them both on track to be on the DL again by the All-Star break.

MLB Roundup
Brew Crew do it again: Milwaukee blew a 3-run lead in the 9th against Philly, but that just gave Geoff Jenkins a chance to hit a two-out single in the bottom of the 9th to give the Brewers their third straight walk-off victory. Believe in the Brewers.

The Tigers are for real: Yes, we are believers. Rookie Justin Verlander outdueled Johan Santana 2-0. If you haven't seen this kid pitch, make a point to do so. He's tall (6-foot-5), skinny (200 pounds) and slings the ball at 99 mph. He had a strange line: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 0 K's, but gave up no runs. Vance Wilson's 2-run HR in the 8th won it. Oh, and the Tigers remain tied with the White Sox for MLB's top record.

Have a day, Giles: Brian Giles has been struggling with his power stroke this year, but we still believe in the Padres' right fielder: He had 4 H, 2 R and 7 RBI, including a 3-run jack, in a 14-10 win over Arizona (Padres scored 9 in the 1st). Giles is slugging a career-low .416 but has still drawn 33 walks.

Bonds sits, Giants roll: Giants climb over .500 with 10-1 rout of Astros; they outscored Houston 34-5 in the three games. The Giants are off today, but we still believe Bonds will eventually pass Ruth.

NHL's Cinderella

The Edmonton Oilers squeezed into the playoffs as the 8th seed but are now in the Western Conference finals after blanking San Jose 2-0 to wrap up their series in six games -- after losing the first two games.

The fans in Edmonton were absolutely nuts as the clock wound down, waving towels and cheering at deafening levels. And why not? The Oilers are in the conference finals for the first time in 14 years. Goalie Dwayne Roloson pitched the shutout, his first of the playoffs.

Oh, and take note, Sharks fans: Oilers fans cheered the U.S. anthem so loudly they drowned out singer Paul Lorieau. How can you not root for this team? Go Oilers.

Bigger than Super Bowl!

If 1 billion people watch the Super Bowl (don't believe everything you read!) then how many watched the UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Arsenal?

Arsenal goalie Jens Lehmann was sent off in the 18th minute with a red card after grabbing the ankle of Samuel Eto'o. It proved fateful when backup keeper Manuel Almunia let in two soft goals in the final 15 minutes as Barcelona won the dream final 2-1 (Arsenal hadn't allowed a goal in 10 Champions League games).

And then the fun began. With 125,000 fans celebrating at the Canaletes Fountain on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, things got a little out of hand -- shops were looted, garbage cans and telephone kiosks were burned and 45 people were arrested. Now, just imagine if Spain wins the World Cup.