Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Heart-Stopping Finish

I seldom watch the NBA — until the playoffs begin. And, even then, I don't usually watch until it has been narrowed down to two teams.

But, yesterday, I sat down and watched most (not all) of Game 3 of the Dallas Mavericks–San Antonio Spurs series.

The Spurs are the top seed in the west; the Mavericks are the eighth seed. It is safe to say most regular NBA observers probably expected the Spurs to win the series fairly easily, especially after winning the first game at home.

But the Mavericks surprised them by winning the second game, and the series moved to Dallas.

You don't have to be an NBA fan to know that these two teams have a pretty intense in–state rivalry going on. I guess it helps to be a resident of Texas — but even that probably isn't necessary.

Anyway, I decided to watch most of yesterday's game.

At first, it appeared the Spurs would seize the series lead. They grabbed a seven–point advantage at the end of the first quarter, but the Mavericks pounded them in the second and led by five points at intermission.

I had my TV on throughout the first half, but I was busy doing things around the apartment so I didn't sit and watch — until the second half began.

That second half was incredible. The Spurs picked up a couple of points on the Mavericks in the third quarter and battled to a two–point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining. It appeared the Mavericks would lose.

But then they inbounded the ball to Vince Carter, who hit a jumper from the corner. Two questions had to be answered: Did he shoot before time expired? If so, did he shoot from three–point range?

There was no question about whether he made the shot. The question was whether he fired it before time ran out. If he did, then the question was whether it was worth two points (which would mean an overtime period) or three (which would mean the Mavericks won).

The referees, after consulting instant replay, confirmed that the ball left Carter's hands before time expired, then they ruled that he shot from three–point range.

Game over.

Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News never seems to be at a loss for words, even if he has to make them up (as William Shakespeare did). That can be a hit–or–miss kind of thing for a journalist, but, as a veteran of sports desks, I know that sports may be the best place for someone who has a way with words to be.

It is part of the joy of sports, which was best described, I think, by Red Smith who, as I have observed on this blog before, wrote that he believed people watched sports events to have fun — and then they picked up the next day's paper to read about the event they had watched and have fun all over again.

Sportswriters (and I include headline writers in this) get into the spirit of whichever sport is in season, and they contribute a great deal to the mood.

When people read accounts of yesterday's game, the memory that most will have is of the bedlam that followed the referees' ruling, and I have to concede that the word Cowlishaw used to describe the pandemonium — "Vinsanity" — was pretty good.

Actually, though, that isn't Cowlishaw's creation. Carter isn't a rookie. He is 37 years old. "Vinsanity" may go back to his college days, for all I know.

Judging from Gil LeBreton's column in the Fort Worth Star–Telegram, it is old enough to be Vinsanity 2.0.

"Or maybe," he wrote, "considering the many NBA lives of 37–year–old Vince Carter, it was Vinsanity 4, 5 or 6.0 that erupted as the final horn sounded."

Well, it still summarized the finish pretty well — although whoever wrote the headline for Cowlishaw may have been more on track with the reference to "Monta Madness."

Monta is Monta Ellis, who led all scorers with 29 points.

Game 4 will be here in Dallas tomorrow night at 8:30 (Central), and Game 5 will be played in San Antonio Wednesday. I'll be watching.

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