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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
A great night of television

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

I am already on record as hating top 10 lists. They drive me crazy. In fact, ESPN.com ran a "Top 10 Game 7s" column over the weekend that made me want to hop in my car and murder an unsuspecting drifter. There have been too many memorable Game 7s over the years to say, "All right, here are the best 10," just like it's dumb to say, "All right, here's my list of the best 10 NBA players ever." Sometimes you can't narrow it down to 10. There's no right or wrong answer, and it's silly to pretend that there is.

With that said, Monday night's Mavs-Spurs game was one of the greatest Game 7s of all time. It doesn't matter where it ranks exactly -- it's in the discussion, which is really all that matters.

(Note: if you want to see my list of "Greatest Game 7s," click here.)

You couldn't ask for a more competitive series. You couldn't ask for seven more entertaining games. You couldn't ask for more fascinating coaching adjustments over a two-week span. (I think Popovich got his butt handed to him, personally). You couldn't ask the franchise guys on each team to raise their games any higher -- Duncan was absolutely heroic in defeat (all the whining aside), and Nowitzki elevated his play to the point that he's probably the best player alive right now (capped off by the gutty three-point play to tie the game in regulation). You couldn't ask for more drama down the stretch: Ginobili's killer 3, followed by Nowitzki's three-point play, followed by the Spurs' botching the final play and getting a terrible shot -- Ginobili's out-of-control drive -- when they should have pounded it in to Duncan.

I thought the Mavs had a more talented team, but the Spurs had a little more experience ... and that's what always ends up making for a great series, when one team has the horses, but the other team has a Pantheon guy and a bunch of tricks up their sleeves, and then it comes down to who wants it more. That's what the playoffs are all about. That's why we watch.

As for the other game Monday ... ugh. Kobe said it best on "Inside the NBA" last week: You beat the Suns by stopping them defensively. That's how you break their will. You can't let them start making 3s and getting fast-break layups, especially at home, because the crowd gets into it, and then they start flying around on defense, and then you're done. So what happens? The Clippers allow them to shoot 60 percent and make 15 3-pointers.

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And normally I would say, "Wow, it was Phoenix's day, you just have to take your hat off to them." But the Clips had their most success when they went smaller (Radmanovic, Brand and three of the Mobley-Maggette-Livingston-Cassell group), and the fourth quarter of Game 3, all of Game 4 and the second half of Game 5 proved that this was the wrong series for Chris Kaman (who makes too many mistakes defensively). You need quick players who rotate well, get back on defense and challenge every Phoenix shot -- that's how you beat them. Avery Johnson will figure that out quickly, which is why Dallas is going to make the Finals. Mike Dunleavy never figured it out, which is why the Clippers are going home.

Maybe the Clippers had more talent, but the Suns had better chemistry, a better coach and better luck. In other words, the perfect recipe to win a Game 7. Too bad it wasn't one of the classics ... but I guess you can't get greedy with these things. One classic was enough.

(SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU MISSED "24," STOP READING THE REST OF THIS COLUMN AND HAVE A FRIEND COPY-AND-PASTE EVERYTHING IN AN E-MAIL AFTER REMOVING THE "24" PARTS.)

While we're here, a mini-Ramblings from one of the greatest TV nights in recent memory: Two Game 7s, Sox-Yanks and the two-hour finale of "24."


THOUGHTS WHILE WONDERING WHO WILL PLAY PAVEL PODKOLZINE IN THE MARK CUBAN MOVIE ...

I think Marv Albert was put on God's green earth to incredulously scream the words "DeSagana ... Diop!"

Did we ever figure out why Kobe always dresses like he's on his way to guest-host the Muppets?

Big Shot Brob: 1994-2006, RIP.

Well, it took Corey Maggette four months, but he finally exacted his "I can't believe you tried to trade me for Artest" revenge on the Clippers.

Transcript of Jerry Colangelo's phone call to Bruce Bowen this summer: "Hey, Bruce, umm ... don't bother coming to the Olympic tryouts this summer. No, no, it was nothing you did! I didn't even see the Mavs-Spurs series! Seriously. We just decided to go in a different direction. ..."

I know it hurts to say it, but the Yankees wouldn't keep pitching to Big Papi with guys on base if Joe Torre was still alive.

(Wait, he's still alive? Are we sure? He's in the dugout? Really?)

Did you ever wish there was a benchwarmer's equivalent to the Tony Parker-Eva Longoria relationship? Like, why couldn't DJ Mbenga date one of the extras on "Lost"?

Whatever the Chinese have in store for Jack Bauer, it can't be nearly as bad as what every Clippers fan wants to do to Mike Dunleavy right now.

If you're teaching a class in broadcast journalism, would you invite Craig Sager to speak for a lecture called "How to carve out a career as a sideline reporter that's based solely on wearing weird outfits?"

I don't care if Dallas ended up winning -- that was still one of the defining Dick Bavetta Games of all time. Hold your head up high, Dick. Hold your head up high. Duncan shot about 75 free throws and was allowed to jump over everyone's back on every rebound. You did your job. You still have the touch.

Hey, why hasn't a PETA faction that devotes its time to the welfare of bulimic dogs denounced Vince Carter yet?

The "Miami Vice" movie commercial ... I'll admit it, I got excited.

I know Dallas came back, but Mark Cuban's "Good God, We're Going to Lose to the Spurs Again" Face after the Ginobili 3 was one for the ages. He's the best. The thought of Stern grimly handing a sobbing Cuban the Lawrence O'Brien trophy next month makes me feel all fuzzy inside.

The best three NBA color guys alive are Steve Kerr, Mark Jackson ... and I can't think of a third one.

Was anyone else disappointed that Skip Bayless wrote a "LeBron choked!" column instead of a "Barbaro choked!" column on Monday? Barbaro had a chance to go down in history -- instead, he chose to splatter his leg all over the track in front of 25,000 horrified fans. Some horses embrace the pressure, other horses run from it. Or in Barbaro's case, limp from it.

I'm afraid to even type the words "I was dead wrong about Mike Lowell." It's like talking during a no-hitter. In fact, forget I mentioned it.

I still say that the most unrealistic part of "24" this season was that the president has three piercing holes in his left ear. That narrowly edged Jack being able to avoid the deadly nerve gas in CTU simply by holding his breath, or Jack pretending to be a baggage handler and somehow sneaking on an airplane, or even Jack being able to hijack a helicopter carrying the president simply by faxing some documents and pulling a Scooby Doo helmet switch with one of the pilots.

Speaking of President Logan, what was the most shocking revelation this season -- that he knew about President Palmer's death, or that he had a problem with premature ejaculation?

It was nice of Baron Davis to loan his teeth and mouthpiece to Dirk Nowitzki for the playoffs.

I hate to keep harping on Steve Nash's faults because he's such an extraordinary offensive player to watch, and he was spectacular in back-to-back Game 7s ... but when you play 35 minutes a game during the season, followed by a seven-game series against the Lakers in which you didn't have to play any defense at all, followed by a couple of tough games against the Clips, I don't want to hear how tired you are. Especially if you're a two-time MVP. The fact remains, Nash played only two good games in that series -- Games 1 and 7 -- and the Suns still won the series. If Nowitzki goes 2-for-7 against the Spurs, Dallas is going home right now. So who's more valuable? You tell me.

(You know who should have been tired? Shawn Marion, who played 3,268 minutes in the regular season, nearly 500 more than Nash, then upped it to 42.3 minutes a game in the playoffs as Phoenix's only reliable rebounder/shotblocker -- he had to play both ends of the court and guard everyone from Odom to Kobe to Kaman to Cassell, then have something left as the second scoring option. And while we're here, Larry Legend logged more than 4,000 minutes over eight grueling months during the '86-87 season without hearing a single "Wow, he's getting tired" excuse. Warrants mentioning.)

Put it this way: My scouting report on Brent Barry would have been, "Let's hope they're dumb enough to keep playing him."

A.J. Pierzynski getting inexplicably punched in the face was my favorite TiVo moment since the Artest Melee. They should run it on a continuous loop on ESPN Classic.

I think Chris Kaman broke the record for "Number of people my readers have claimed he looks like," including Roy Munson, Tom Petty on steroids, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre killer, Hulk Hogan with a major illness, the guy from "Coach," the guy who blows up in "Contact" and about eight other people.

Note to Amare Stoudemire: Give me a mailing address so I can send you your 2006 Ewing Theory MVP trophy, as well as special congratulatory telegrams from Drew Bledsoe and Nomar Garciaparra.

Wait a second ... I thought Nick Van Exel was retiring AFTER the season?

At some point this summer, LeBron is going to realize that his supporting cast went 9-for-41 in a Game 7 and think to himself, "Maybe I shouldn't sign that extension, maybe I should keep my options open for the summer of 2007." I don't care that everyone in Cleveland just threw up in their mouth. It's the smart move.

Quite frankly, I'm disappointed in T-Mobile that it didn't run a "What was your favorite incident involving somebody's groin area during this year's playoffs?" text message poll during one of the Game 7s. I would have paid 50 cents to vote on that.

All right, here's what the Clips should do this summer: Trade Kaman, Maggette, Yaroslav Korolev, Zeljko Rebraca and a No. 1 to the T-Wolves for Kevin Garnett (yes, it works under the cap). Re-sign Cassell and Radmanovic. Give James Singleton most of Maggette's minutes (he's good, you have to believe me). Then go to war with Cassell, Mobley, Livingston, Radman, Brand, Ross, Singleton and KG next season. Wouldn't they be the favorites to win the title or am I crazy?

(Here's what the Clips WILL do this summer: Trade Maggette for a lottery pick in a salary dump, allow Cassell to leave, re-sign Radmanovic, go to war with another sub-$50 million payroll.)

I just picture Dick Stockton lying in bed at 3 a.m. mumbling to himself, "Va-RAY-joe ... Ver-ah-JOW ... Very-GEE-ow ... Va-rah-JEW-oh ... Ver-ah-ZHOW ... DAMMIT!"

If you don't think the Yanks are in trouble, check out last night's outfield: Melky Cabrera in right, Bernie Williams in center and Terrence Long in left. Would you play Bernie in center on your softball team at this point?

Random movie recommendation: I rented "Hostel" over the weekend ... and if this baby doesn't have a prolonged, "Boogie Nights"-like run on cable, then I don't know anything anymore. The over/under for HBO showings is 15,674.

Poor Billy Crystal. We were four more Clippers wins away from his career being rejuvenated enough that "City Slickers 3" would have been green-lighted.

My favorite conspiracy theory of all time (replacing Stern freezing the Knicks envelope in 1985) is the one about Clemens having to wait 50 days to play this season because of a super-secret steroids suspension.

Mike Myers, Scott Erickson, Ron Villone, Colter Bean, Scott Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth.

(I don't even have a joke to add. Just thought I'd list the set-up guys for Mariano Rivera right now.)

My final take on "24," Season 5: Ridiculous, far-fetched, improbable, over-the-top and somewhat ludicrous. Absolutely the worst of the five seasons. And with that said, I enjoyed every minute and can't wait for Season 6. Especially since Jack Bauer will finally be taller than everyone he's fighting.

According to Doug Collins, the first quarter is the most important quarter of a seventh game. I always thought it was the fourth quarter. But I'm going to defer to the guy with the 15-23 lifetime playoff record on this one.

Two classic A-Rod moments from the last 48 hours: The crushing DP with the bases loaded on Sunday night at Shea, followed by the homer in the ninth with the Yanks down by eight runs at Fenway. He's the best. Three separate readers e-mailed me to tell me they won money on the DP, including San Diego's Brad Garey: "I made a $5 bet with my father, father-in-law, and brother-in-law that A-Rod would ground out in an inning-ending double play. They took the bet and, of course, I am now $15 richer." Ladies and gentleman, your 2005 AL MVP!

Now that Avery Johnson made the Western finals, I think it's time someone took him shopping for a suit that costs more than $109.99.

Put it this way: If the Daniel Ewing Game happened to Boston, Dan Shaughnessy would already be spending his book advance money and Celtics fans would be talking about it in hushed terms 50 years from now. That's how catastrophic it was.

The only two ESPN.com "experts" to pick a Mavs-Pistons Finals: Me and Scoop Jackson! No, seriously! Here's the link.

My buddy Hopper looks so much like Steve Kerr that, every time they show Kerr at the TNT broadcast table, I keep expecting him to be holding a Jack-and-Coke, puffing from a Marlboro Light and sarcastically berating an overwhelmed blackjack dealer.

Did we ever figure out why Dallas fans were booing Michael Finley all series? "You jerk! ... We cut you to save $55 million on the luxury tax even though you wanted to stay here. ... You ... you jerk! You go to hell!" Let's just let Texas secede from the United States and get it over with.

I wish the Celtics had made the playoffs so they could have been featured in one of those NBA playoffs commercials: "1,200 timeouts that came three plays too late ... 25,452 unsuccessfully defended high screens ... 739 different player combinations ..."

You know, it's a just shame that these fantastic NBA playoffs overshadowed the 10th anniversary WNBA celebration.

I can't believe Tim Duncan has made it through nine years in the league without committing a foul.

And speaking of Duncan, it's been 20 years since Bias and nine years since Duncan ... can the Lottery Gods take care of the Celtics tonight? Please? Pretty please?

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.