Shanoff's W.U.C.: Rockets' Win Was No Fluke

Today's Calls: Rockets vs. Lakers, Yao vs. Chuck Hayes, Big Baby vs. Dwight Howard, Mavericks vs. Referees, Jonathan Papelbon vs. the Rays, Zack Greinke vs. Joe Saunders, Rick Porcello vs. Stephen Strasburg, Manny Ramirez vs. the Dodgers and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: "Give them some [effing] credit." ↵

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↵Phil Jackson was right. Without Yao, the Rockets beating — no, beating down — the Lakers was no fluke. It was a product — a triumph — of Houston's analytical approach to creating a roster and setting game plans. ↵

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↵This was best represented by the team's replacement for Yao at starting center: Chuck Hayes, all 6-foot-6 of him. He was undrafted, then picked up by Houston out of the D-League. (In Game 4? Nine rebounds and four steals in 35 minutes.) ↵

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↵Aaron Brooks is a 6-foot, 160-pound guard more equipped to shoot than pass — and who lasted until the 26th pick of the 2007 draft. He was good enough for the Rockets to trade away starting PG Rafer Alston. (Yesterday? Brooks had a career-high and game-high 34 points.) ↵

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↵Ron Artest? Insane wild card — whom the Rockets could trade for fast enough. (10 rebounds and six assists, offsetting a miserable game shooting.) Luis Scola? Fleeced from the Spurs, the best-run NBA team of the decade. (14 rebounds — roughly the same as Gasol and Odom combined.) ↵

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↵And, of course, Shane Battier — well-publicized this season as the poster guy for GM Daryl Morey's so-called "Money(basket)ball" strategy of sourcing undervalued assets into a winning combination. Battier had 23 points(!!!) — his highest output since February 2007. ↵

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↵Having prepared for a Yao-centered team, the Lakers were completely unprepared for a team made up entirely of complements. But this blowout win was no fluke. It was an upset by design. ↵

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↵Let's give them some credit. ↵

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↵Big Baby Plays the Hero: If we know anything about the Celtics in the playoffs, it's that you have GOT to beat them when you have them on the road — where they seem to turn into a pedestrian team. But if we know anything about the Magic in the playoffs, it's that they can't put teams away when they should. And that's how you end up with the most unlikely hero story of the postseason. ↵

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↵Nuggets-Mavs Controversy: When the NBA admits that the ref screwed up, you know he really screwed up. I'm not sure the Mavs were going to win the series, but the difference between being down 2-1 and 3-0 is the difference between "chance" and "no chance." And check out this wickedly accurate YouTube parody. ↵

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↵Cavs rolling: Cripes, have they even broken a sweat yet? ↵

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↵NBA Coaching Carousel: Why would Rick Pitino want to coach the NBA's Kings? He is paid like an NBA coach at Louisville, and his team is among the elite — and likely to stay there for years. Back in the NBA, the Kings are a rebuilding job in a fan-loyal but finance-tenuous market. Not seeing the lure here. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵— Game of the Weekend: Joe Saunders edges Zack Greinke. ↵

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↵— Papelbon is a monster: Just ask Rays' Pena, Upton and Crawford. ↵

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↵— Mets win 7th straight: Plenty of time left to choke. ↵

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↵— You can have Zack: In May, no SP has been better than Verlander. ↵

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↵— A.J. Hinch gets 1st W: Who needs managerial experience? ↵

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↵— Rookie Watch: Rick Porcello (Yes, again!) ↵

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↵— Strasburg Mania: The Nats should draft/pay for him just for the cachet. ↵

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↵NFL: Umm, is Darrius Heyward-Bey already a bust in Oakland? ↵

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↵NHL Must-Read: Eric McErlain on Caps-Pens. (Meanwhile, Wings go up 3-2 on Ducks.) ↵

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↵Golf: Who's Henrik Stenson? The key detail from The Players' is that Tiger came in 8th and was never really in it. You can't claim "5th Major" status and not be punished with our ennui when Tiger isn't at the top. ↵

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↵Media: Let's not excuse David Faherty, please. Because he is an active supporter of the troops, he somehow gets to make the most vile of statements ... then claim he was only joking? (If he was really sorry, he would have 'fessed to the joke BEFORE the article came out.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: "He's still beat up by this thing. Again, it's not that he feels it's unfair, but he's embarrassed and he still has to clear his head before he basically feels good enough to come out." ↵
↵ Joe Torre, who continues to be Manny Ramirez's public mouthpiece. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt would like Manny to apologize to his teammates. That should be the easy part, by the way. Not sure what the hold-up is. ↵

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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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