Setting Suns? Hotspurs? There is a rule that during an altercation, no player on the bench is allowed to run onto the court. Doing so results in an automatic one-game suspension. At the end of the game, after the Suns had taken a commanding lead, an over-the-hill bench player for the Spurs whacked the little point guard for the Suns, sending him flying into the scorers' table. The whole Suns team jumped up, and two of the players -- one of them an All-Star -- ran onto the court. Automatic suspension. The mediocre Spurs player was suspended for two games, while the two Suns players were suspended for one game -- a critical home game. It would be one thing if they had to sit out an away game in the playoffs, They'd just loose the game and move on. But loosing two key players for a game that you really need to win is going to be too much to overcome.
Here's what's frustrating. The Suns are playing relatively clean basketball, while the Spurs are playing relatively dirty basketball. Bruce Bowen, who is renowned for overcoming a lack of talent with aggressiveness, crossed the line yet again when he stomped Amare Stoudemire as the Suns forward was going up for an easy dunk. Watch it here. Bowen is the kind of cheap-shot artist who puts his foot out when players are coming down for a rebound. Oh, did you just break your ankle landing on my foot? That kind of thing happens. Oh well, I guess I'll guard a different guy by latching on to his jersey and kneeing him around picks. There have been other incidents in this series, in each case with Spurs being overly aggressive, but no suspensions have been handed out. The league has been lenient, which leads to more Spurs cheap shots, which led to the big confrontation.
So what happened? The Spurs blew a big lead, got frustrated, and took another cheap shot at the end of the game, ultimately being rewarded because two Suns left the bench. Now the Suns must play short-handed in a must-win game at home. Insult to injury, one of the suspended players is Stoudemire, the guy who got kicked when he was going up for a dunk. The other player, Boris Diaw, is his backup, leaving the Suns with a third-string clown to guard the league's best player, the annoying Tim Duncan, who has all the charisma of Michael Chang.
As frustrating as these suspensions are, the league had no choice. The only way to keep players from storming onto the court during a flare-up is to enforce this rule without considering extenuating circumstances. There are always extenuating circumstances. Players have to learn to stay on the bench or get tossed. Where the league is at fault is not punishing Spurs players for their previous cheap shots.
Here's what's going to happen. The Suns are going to be fired up, and they'll take an early lead with the help of the fired-up crowd and the refs, who have gotten a lot worse over time, so they'll be intimidated into making bad calls against the Spurs. But the Spurs will hang in there behind Tim Duncan's 35 points and eventually beat down a tired Suns team. Then they'll win at home and we'll have to keep watching the passive-aggressive Spurs scratch and claw and kick their way to another championship and then act humble during post-game interviews. I hate the Spurs.
Chicago . . . Chicago . . . Helluva Team
Running of the Bulls? Chicago Hope? Sorry, I'm not a sports writer. The Bulls lost the first three games of the series, but they've won two in a row. Last night, they won a shocker on Detroit's home court. They didn't just win. They destroyed the Pistons. Forget about a can of whoop-ass -- this was a barrel o' whoop-ass.
The Bulls are a streaky team. When their guards are aggressive and hitting their shots, they're practically unbeatable. When their guards are indecisive, you wonder how they made it into the playoffs.
The Chicago Bulls have a very intriguing player named Kirk Heinrich. What make this guy so intriguing is that he's an American-born white player who's one of the best at his position. He's probably one of the top 30 players in the league. You can't say that about any other American-born white player. In fact, Heinrich is the only American-born white player in the top 100. Why is that?
All That Jazz
Jazzed Up? Acidic Jazz? Utah beat a fiesty Warriors team in an exciting game in an exciting series. The Warriors played with emotion. They crossed the line a few times with cheap shots, but the Jazz kept their cool, played smart, and thumped the smaller team.
Here was my favorite sequence. A hilariously out-out-control hothead for the Warriors named Stephen Jackson had words with Andrei Kirilenko, who finally seems to have regained his All-Star form after a series of injuries. Jackson seemed angry as he told his teammates to clear out because he was going to take on Kirlenko one-on-one. Jackson pump-faked and drove left, but Kirilenko didn't bite and stopped him cold. Jackson tried a couple of other moves, but nothing worked. Finally, he took a fall-away jumper from 25-feet, but Kirilenko was still all over him and may have gotten a piece of the ball, which missed everything. After the airball, as Jackson was running down the court, I said to Wendy, who was trying to talk about something else, "Wait, wait, watch this, watch this." In a show of displaced aggression that was only slightly less dramatic than Hamlet killing Polonius, Jackson whacked the Jazz point guard for no reason and then held up his hand as if to say, "Yes, I agree. I committed a foul." An official, who understood the context, whistled Jackson for a flagrant foul. Jackson went ballistic, ranted and raved and pushed against teammates trying to calm him down. Jackson seems to have softened a bit. He calmed down without punching anyone or running into the stands to beat up some Utah fans.
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