Game Five of the Western Conference Finals was a tight and entertaining contest up until the fourth quarter. There, the game grew disappointing and left me with a bad taste. That is saying a lot considering last night’s dinner, Panda Express.
I am already anticipating Game Six and hope that it brings the series back to the nail-biting experience that was Games One through Three. Still, I will indulge with two points of analysis I believe sum up Game Five.
1) The teams played fairly evenly until the fourth quarter. There, Denver’s Chauncey Billups, a veteran finisher appeared almost ill. Billups seemed to lack confidence and made some errant passes and bad decisions. Billups was not alone, as the Nuggets couldn’t buy a basket in the fourth quarter.
2) L.A.’s big men dominated. Lamar Odom finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Pau Gasol complemented Odom with 14 points, 10 boards and five blocks. On the other side of the court, Denver’s Nene finished with only four points and eight rebounds. Nene fouled out and sat the bench much of the fourth quarter. Kenyon Martin finished with 12 points, five boards and one block. Even the “Birdman” Chris Andersen, who had eight boards and four blocks, only provided two points. A little bit of imbalance here.
A third point I might have touched on was last night’s officiating. The heck with it…
3) The officiating was slanted in last night’s competition. I am probably one of the first to provide commentary on this issue (and I don’t run the risk of the league fines Nuggets Coach George Karl alluded to at last night’s press conference.) However, there were a few blatant bad calls last night. For instance? Nene should not have been excused on what was called his sixth foul.
It wasn’t that the Lakers received all the calls. The Nuggets just received too few. Perhaps home crowds influence officiating crews. If this is the case, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had a valid point of contention after Game Four in Denver. If this is the case, expect the series to go seven games.
Man, He Could Be An All Star
Despite an MLB instituted 50 game suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs, Manny has received about a half million votes for the All-Star Game.
The MLB could have avoided this problem had they issued a new series of ballots without 99 on them. Apparently this would have cost a pretty penny. Now the league is facing an ugly problem. Manny will likely be voted an All Star.
Perhaps fans are legitimately impressed with Manny’s performance. Before suspension Manny was pulling impressive numbers. He had posted a .328 average, six homeruns, 20 RBIs, 22 runs scored and a .641 slugging average. However, before being ushered off, 99 played a mere 27 games.
The All Star game has been long criticized as a popularity contest. If we factor in the coverage of the PED issue, Manny’s popularity has exploded. Fans and outsiders have learned the name Manny Ramirez. But it’s more than the awareness factor. Manny seems to have become a spokesmodel for issues surrounding the MLB governing bodies. Fans are likely voting for Manny to express one of two thoughts: 1) “We’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that most prominent players make use of PED.” 2) “Here’s to you Commish for not being proactive with this issue.”
Both are valid thoughts. Several players once revered as “wholesome” and “the face of baseball” have been associated with the use of PED, for about two weeks. See Alex Rodriguez and his resurgence as a fan favorite. There is not a rule that prohibits suspended PED users from partaking in the Midsummer Classic. A few seasons ago, the NFL instituted a rule that could have set precedence. Essentially, the rule prohibits any player suspended during the season for violating drug policy to play in the Pro Bowl. However, the MLB stood pat and has opened itself to ridicule. Let’s watch as the drama unfolds!