Shanoff's W.U.C.: Bulls-Celtics Mind-Blowing

Today's Calls: Bulls vs. Celtics, Ray Allen vs. John Salmons, Rockets vs. History, Rays vs. Red Sox, Albert Pujols vs. A-Rod, Caps vs. Pens, Tiger vs. Quail Hollow, Gino Torretta vs. Myron Rolle, I Want Revenge vs. Churchill Downs and More. ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: Is Celtics-Bulls the best first-round NBA playoff series ever? How about the best playoff series ever, period? ↵

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↵That can't possibly be right, can it? But in the middle of it — with one game to go — it sure feels like it. Every game (but Game 3) has been tense, going down to the last possession. Or overtime. (Or, say, three of them.) It is simultaneously nail-biting, glorious and absurd. ↵

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↵And most fans have no direct rooting interest in either team. ↵

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↵New heroes emerge nightly: ↵Paul Pierce. Rajon Rondo. Ray Allen. ↵
↵Derrick Rose. Ben Gordon. John Salmons. ↵

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↵Or, in the signature moment of last night's epic: The galloping Joakim Noah. ↵

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↵The 2009 NBA Playoffs will not get better than this. Doesn't matter if it's LeBron vs. Kobe in the Finals. This Boston-Chicago series has turned every sports fan into an NBA fan, not for the names on the back of the jersey — or even the names on the front. ↵

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↵Just absolutely riveting basketball drama. There has not been a must-see in the NBA in a long time like tomorrow night's Game 7. ↵

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↵More NBA Playoffs: Close-outs. Even without Dwight Howard (or Courtney Lee) and even playing on the road, Orlando was able to crush the 76ers. (Who is this "J.J. Redick" guy? I see he's been in the NBA for three seasons, but last night was by far his best game as a pro.) ↵

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↵Even if the Celtics advance, can anyone envision Boston having the fresh legs or emotional resolve to beat back the Magic? ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the Rockets ousted the Blazers: Like the Nuggets, the Rockets hadn't advanced to the second round of the playoffs in more than a decade. (Hmm: Who needs T-Mac?) Rockets-Lakers could be a fun one (Bryant-vs-Battier!) On the losing side, the young Blazers can chalk up this season as a learning experience. Does any team in the West have a greater five-year upside than Portland? ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵— A-Rod: Not talking? No kidding. ↵

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↵— Don't count out the Rays yet: Garza throws gem in win over BOS ↵

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↵— Notable HRs: Pujols (8), Cantu (7), Longoria (6), Manny (5) ↵

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↵— Hey, the Nats lose late again! And the Cards benefit. ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: John Buck (3-for-3, 5 RBI, ON MY FANTASY BENCH. DOH!) ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Great stories in the conference semifinal round, led by Caps-Pens and Wings-Ducks, both of which should run heavy on nasty rivalry. (Eric McErlain has a must-read: Under-the-radar players you SHOULD know.) ↵

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↵By the way, the NHL's numbers are looking strong: Sell-outs for virtually every playoff game and increased TV viewership. (It's not an absolutely large number, of course, but the number is growing, year-over-year. That's the right direction, especially in a recession. Remember: The NHL doesn't have to — and won't — regain its status as a "Big" sport on par with the NFL, MLB or college football — or the NBA, I guess. It just has to grow relative to itself.) ↵

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↵Tiger Watch: In the lead at Quail Hollow. As with every golf event, the only way anyone but the most avid fan will pay attention to this tournament is if Tiger is in the lead. So there you go. ↵

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↵NBA All-Rookie Team: The selection of Derrick Rose or Brook Lopez or Russell Westbrook were no-brainers. I'm always most intrigued by the second-rounders who crack the 1st or 2nd team — in this case, Mario Chalmers. (Although right after the draft, everyone had him pegged as a steal.) ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Mike DeCourcy evaluates all the early-entry candidates. (I'm a huge Florida fan, yet I couldn't disagree more with his assessment of Nick Calathes: "At worst will be one of the league's best backup point guards." No chance.) ↵

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↵(Related: The NCAA is making a mistake by limiting the window for underclassmen to make their decisions about entering the NBA. They should get more time — and more guidance — not less. Putting them on a tighter clock will yield less informed decisions. One more reason Jeremy Tyler is right on.) ↵

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↵CFB: Hall of Famers. Gino Torretta? Really? Isn't he the poster guy for "Winning the Heisman Because His Team Was No. 1, Not Because He Was Particularly Spectacular?" ↵

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↵Myron Rolle Update: Can never get enough of this amazing story. Get his first-person diary entry here. ↵

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↵Twitter Bandwagon: Welcome, Tom Crean. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Derby! Things will never get better for me than correctly picking Barbaro in 2006. (Didn't work out as well for the horse, unfortunately.) ↵

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↵And things can't get worse for the Derby than last year's events, where Big Brown's dominating win was overshadowed by the on-track euthanization of the filly Eight Belles, the runner-up. ↵

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↵As for this year's race, I Want Revenge is the heavy favorite. I, of course, pick my winner based on the coolness of the name of the horse (mildly informed by the odds). So for the 2009 race, let's go this way: ↵

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↵Win: Chocolate Candy ↵
↵Place: Hold Me Back ↵
↵Show: Mr. Hot Stuff ↵

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↵(OK: "I Want Revenge" IS a pretty cool-sounding name. But who can root for a favorite?) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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