â†µThe Opening Pitch: Can't get over that Celtics-Bulls series? â†µâ†µ
â†µThen credit the Bulls for winning "Game 8" -- or, at the very least, exhausting the Celtics to the point that they spent the first half of Game 1 against the Magic getting throttled so much that even an Orlando collapse couldn't save the defending champs. â†µâ†µ
â†µ(It's not like the Celtics haven't experienced a Game 1 loss at home, then recovered to win the series. And the Magic appear to lack any ability to actually close teams out -- they merely hang on. But you have to wonder if the Bulls series just took too much out of the Celtics to win 4/7 in this round.) â†µâ†µ
â†µNow, if you were disappointed that the Celtics advanced, you have a new rooting interest in the Rockets. Was Houston's Game 1 win in L.A. a shock? To the extent that the Lakers were rested and largely thought to be unchallenged in the West, this was a punch in the mouth to the defending conference champs. â†µâ†µ
â†µOr maybe it was a knock to the knee.
â†µ(Yao scored 8 after returning with 5 min to go and LA presumably closing.) â†µ
â†µOr an arm clubbed to a bloodied forehead.
â†µ(As if Shane Battier's gritty rep needed any help.) â†µ
â†µOr an unexpected playoff fashion statement.
â†µ(Ron Artest's mohawk: Best Playoff Haircut Ever?) â†µ
â†µFor those of us who thought that the NBA Playoff intra-conference intrigue ended when the Celtics finally eliminated the Bulls, the real surprise was that the dramatic results have actually extended into Round 2. â†µâ†µ
â†µNBA Awards Season: LeBron is MVP. After LeBron completed one of the greatest individual seasons in NBA history, who else could it be? (Kobe? Not as versatile. Wade? Didn't make his teammates better than LeBron did.) â†µâ†µ
â†µThe only question now: At what point will LeBron get hit with the "Jordan Effect" -- MJ was the best player in the league virtually every year he played (through Retirement 2), but to avoid monotony, voters often gave the MVP to "ABJ": Anyone But Jordan. You can bet the same thing will happen to LeBron. â†µâ†µ
â†µEver hear the coach of the runner-up MVP defend the award being given to the other guy? That may not make Kobe happy, but it earns Phil Jackson some credit for not sugar-coating -- and makes it more meaningful when he says he thinks the margin (LeBron's 109 1st-place votes to Kobe's 2) was wrong. â†µâ†µ
â†µNBA Playoffs tonight: After a long layoff (and perhaps with the Lakers' Game 1 home loss on his mind as a cautionary tale), the MVP takes the court in Cleveland against the fiesty Hawks for Game 1. ... Speaking of fiesty, Nuggets-Mavs Game 2 in Denver, featuring the most entertaining player in the playoffs -- Birdman Anderson. â†µâ†µ
â†µMLB Talking Points: ZACK!!! (Yes, he earns "First Name Only" treatment now.) â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Greinke Rules! Best start yet? (CGSO, 10 K) â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Red Sox top Yanks: What home-field advantage? â†µâ†µ
â†µ• NL Home-Field Advantage: Dodgers are 11-0. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Injury Watch: Rick Ankiel. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Rangers keep bashing: Young, Davis HRs make it 46. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Rookie Update: LaPorta hits 1st HR, CLE wins. â†µâ†µ
â†µ• Fantasy Stud: Besides Greinke? How about Beltran? (2/3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R). â†µâ†µ
â†µLet's momentarily pause to consider that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was bumped aside as the lead MLB story by a Kansas City Royals pitcher. We are living in a glorious era. â†µâ†µ
â†µNHL Playoffs: If you had been waiting all postseason for the Ovechkin Show, you got it last night -- hat trick, including two 3rd-period goals for a rowdy 4-3 win for the Caps in D.C. to go up on the Pens 2-0. (Crosby had a hat-trick, too, which must have made it all the sweeter for Ovie.) â†µâ†µ
â†µNBA Draft: All the more reason for John Wall to force his way into the NBA Draft now. â†µâ†µ
â†µHorse Racing: Derby champ Mine That Bird WILL run in the Preakness. What kind of odds can I get that the 50-to-1 shot in the Derby will NOT win the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown, too? â†µâ†µ
â†µThe Last Word: "NO." Does that mean Brett Favre really isn't unretiring? (Unfortunately not, Florio points out.) â†µâ†µ
â†µDan 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. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.