While you're reading the rest of this column, I'm going to check the Clippers-Grizzlies box score and make sure I'm not losing my mind. Because there's no way I've lived long enough to see that.
No, Derrick Rose's injury wasn't Tom Thibodeau's fault. This wasn't a quarterback being concussed in the pocket, throwing a bomb with a 35-point lead. Rose suffered the dreaded non-contact injury, which makes it impossible for anyone to say this would not have happened early in Game 2 or at Tuesday's shootaround. Further, the game wasn't as "over" as revisionist historians will say it was.
The tenor of sports discussion requires we exhaust every opportunity to blame someone for anything, but Thibs is guilty of nothing more than asking a basketball player to play basketball. If Rose's injury was reasonably foreseeable, contracts in basketball wouldn't be guaranteed. This was just a horrible and somewhat random occurrence, but one that hurt the heart of every basketball fan.
Chicago is done, though. The Bulls will still beat Philadelphia. But win the East, let alone a championship? Think about it like this: the ‘04 Pistons are the only team to win a championship without one of the Top 50 players of all-time on its roster. Well, how many players from the Bulls roster would you take over any of those Pistons' starters (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace)? Even with a healthy Rose, the Bulls probably didn't have enough firepower beyond the reigning MVP to win the East, no matter how impressive their 18-9 regular season was with him in the lineup. That's one thing that hadn't changed since last season, the addition of Hamilton notwithstanding.
Now, the Bulls are just a bunch of guys, none of whom should be "The Guy" for a very good team in crunch time. A bunch of guys, no matter how well-coached, just isn't enough to do damage past the first round of the playoffs. When a series goes long and everyone knows each others' plays and sets, individual talent is at a premium. Chicago simply doesn't have enough.
It's so hard not to tell a joke about the Mayans, but ... The Clippers came back from 27 points down to win a playoff game on the road. I'd love to tell you what happened, but I stopped paying attention. Then Nick Young hit three three-pointers in 1:19. Then the Grizzlies puckered up. Again, the Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 27-point deficit to win a postseason game. This, ladies and gentlemen, is 2012.
What was Rajon Rondo thinking? This makes two Sundays in a row marked by inexplicable on-court contact. Rondo’s bumping of official Marc Davis (VIDEO) certainly wasn’t as problematic as Metta World Peace’s to James Harden’s noggin, but it was every bit as perplexing. And, given this incident from February, just as recidivist. No matter how bad the call was, clapping in the ref’s face in a game that close was ridiculous. Then to continue toward the official and get close enough to almost force a suspension for Game 2? Save any story about Rondo tripping over his feet. Nothing he did after touching Davis said, "my bad." Rondo’s one of the smartest players in the league, but that was one of the dumbest sequences one could imagine.
Are the Heat "back?" Sure, the refs were bad. But it wouldn't have mattered if robots officiated that game. LeBron James absolutely destroyed Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks, outscoring New York's entire starting lineup, 32-30, in just 32 minutes. The Heat's defense, which still has to be the backbone of its title hopes, forced 27 turnovers and held the Knicks to 67 points. Does that awful stretch Miami had toward the end of the regular season matter now? Didn't think so. At least it gave us something to talk about for a while, right?
When tanking in the playoffs could be a good idea. Coming into the Lakers-Nuggets series, it seemed Denver's chances to win hinged on how well they could guard Andrew Bynum. Well, he took seven shots ... and the Lakers won by 15 points. It certainly doesn't hurt that Bynum blocked 10 shots and recorded the Lakers' first postseason triple-double in 21 years.
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves -- and I'm fully aware Mike Brown would never go for this -- should the Lakers consider tanking if they go up 3-0 on the Nuggets? Reaching Game 6 against Denver would bring Metta World Peace back for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals. A sweep, and the Lakers could be down 2-0 to the Thunder, headed home facing a must-win while trying to work World Peace back into their rotation. It's worth a thought, right?
If the Magic keeps winning, Dwight keeps losing. It was just one game, and the Pacers absolutely should win their series against the Magic. But if Orlando somehow finds a way to win this series -- with 6'7 Glen Davis starting opposite 7'1 center Roy Hibbert -- Stan Van Gundy will deserve all the credit in the world. And he will be bulletproof. Meaning Orlando will either have to trade Dwight Howard, or Howard will now have to work his way into Van Gundy's good graces. Dwight may love Orlando and the Magic, but the team winning a playoff series without him would make his awful year impossibly worse.
Does it feel like the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament to anyone else? Because that's how the conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs feel, especially with the NBA Playoffs intruding upon the NHL's spotlight. After four games a night -- nearly every one entertaining in its own right -- in the first round, we're now at the point where the conference finals can't come soon enough, and television executives are hoping the biggest draws survive. The quick pace and naturally low scoring of hockey gives the NHL's playoffs unparalleled tension and excitement, so just about any postseason game is worth watching. But I'd be lying if I didn't say this round is less interesting than the previous one.
Don't let the Commissioner's daptitude fool you. Now comes the part when most will "determine" who did the best job of acquiring potential in the NFL Draft. As of now, that's like predicting whether a lottery ticket will be a winner after one number's been scratched off. Instead, let's reminisce on something we know for sure after the draft -- Roger Goodell has a gift for dap. I hereby dub thee Dapmaster G. He was also a twitch of the lip away from kissing a 345-pound Dontari Poe, the sort of intimacy rarely seen from a commissioner. But rookies, don't get it twisted -- none of this will matter when it's time for Goodell to swing the hammer. He is not your homeboy, even if he gives dap like he does.