Wow, buckle up. From the "7-Up Stinks Studios," here we go...
It's NBA playoff time (zones)
Jumpin' David Hasselhoff and Sizzlin' Sauerkraut, Dirk Nowitzki was unstoppable, unguardable, undeniable and any other UN- word you can think of to describe a guy that scored 48 points on all of 15 field-goal attempts. Yes, 15 shots. Not since Hans Gruber has a German done that much damage around these parts.
In quite possibly the most efficient basketball game in playoff history, Nowitzki, the sweet-shooting 7-footer from Germany, made 12 of his 15 shots and all 24 of his free-throw attempts in The Mavs' 121-112 win over Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday in what had the feel of an old-school NBA shootout. As good as Dirk was he was only a little bit better than OKC stud Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder in points (40), rebounds (eight), assists (five) and blocks (two). And with all the talk — justifiable talk, mind you — of
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook taking too many shots, that's not as bad as Westbrook not having more assists than Durant.
The Thunder's issues were less about which OKC player was shooting the ball and more about which OKC player was assigned to stop Dirk.
It was awesome to watch — Dirk was in the Kobe zone that it didn't matter who guarded him or where he was on the floor, if he was determined to score, he was going to score. Just for clarity sake here are the 5-at-10's five offensive zones:
Early-Jordan zone: Think the 63-point playoff game in the old Boston Garden. Simply put, he had stretches were he was by himself on the floor and he was still unstoppable.
Kobe zone: The new, no hand-checking rules have made Kobe unguardable when he gets into his comfort zone. Dirk was firmly in this area Tuesday.
Bird's sharp-shooter zone: Normally reserved for late-game scenarios, big spots or man-on-man shootouts (like his showdown with Dominique Wilkins back in the day), Bird's scoring binges were generally shorter in duration and smaller in totals. Reggie Miller was a frequent visitor here.
Championship-Jordan zone: A better shooter in his later years, he still had stretches of domination. It was kind of a blend of the Early-Jordan zone and the Bird zone since Jordan had more help during his championship years.
New Hakeem on the block zone: An unstoppable force on the low block, Hakeem had a ton of post moves. Also he made free throws. So, while young Shaq frequently powered his way into this zone, he could never stay long because he did not make free throws.
More NBA notes and numbers
The 5-at-10 loves the NFL draft. You know this. We are fond of the NBA draft, which had its draft lottery last night. Cleveland won and will have the first pick. Think we should call the time between now and then "The Decision?" And how awesome would it be for the Cavs to walk to the podium and pick LeBron James?
Here are some fun stats and quotes from the NBA playoffs now that each conference finals has a Game 1 in the books:
— Game 1 winners have won 78.6 percent of all best-of-7 series in NBA history.
— As with most stats, take them with a grain of salt. Oklahoma City also lost its opener in the last round, as did the Chicago Bulls.
— Chuck Barkley said the Heat are loaded with stars (duh) but they are a "whiny bunch." It's official, Chuck drinks Sprite and would never touch a 7-Up.
— Tuesday was only the third time playoff teams each had a 40-point scorer in the same game. It was the first since Allen Iverson, who was a regular visitor to the Early-Jordan zone, and Shaq did it in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann, center, has dirt thrown on him by teammate Martin Prado, right, after McCann hit a walk off two-run home run as Dan Uggla looks on in the eleventh inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros Tuesday, May 17, 2011 in Atlanta. Atlanta won 3-1. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Braves keep bouncing
Chirpin' Chicos Bail Bonds, these Braves have a little bounce in their step. It's fun to watch.
We talked some earlier this week about how Atlanta seems to have a different hero daily (well-played, Bigbearzzz), and it was Brian McCann in a big way Tuesday.
McCann became the first player in more than 60 years to hit a pinch-hit, game-tying homer in the ninth and then hit a walkoff homer in extra innings (Jeff Heath did it for the Boston Braves in 1949 — thanks Elias Sports Bureau).
We have a lot of things to add here:
— As Bigbearzz pointed out, his team shares the hero label like a pine tar rag.
— This also shows when this team celebrates — it looks real and almost boyish in its charm. We talked about seeing this early in spring training and it was overwhelming after McCann's second homer Tuesday afternoon.
— What has happened to the Astros? Other than Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, that's a team full of guys that are hardly household names. For an orgainzation that not that long ago was consistently solid and familiar — Biggio, Bagwell, Ausmus, Oswalt, Wagner, Berkman, et al. — Houston has become the Royals of the National League. Be careful Pittsburgh, Houston is closing in on you quickly.
— What a strange day for former Rhea County High School star Cory Gearrin. The side-winding right-handed reliever got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 11th Tuesday and earned his first major league win after McCann's home run. After the game, Gearrin was sent to the minors to make room for another starting pitcher. The highs and lows of being in a big league bullpen rarely swing as high and as low and as quickly as Gearrin's on Tuesday (read TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's column on Gearrin HERE.)
— The 5-at-10 thinks the term "walkoff" is about done. Seriously, a "walkoff" walk or a "walkoff" sacrifice fly? Yes, the term fits, but fit doesn't seem right or a term to be the same for what McCann did Tuesday and a "walkoff" hit batsman with the bases loaded (like Homer Simpson did in the memorable "Simpsons" with Mr. Burns' softball team). We've heard someone call it a "Go-Homer," and that's better. Any thoughts?
Florida State running back Nick Maddox (20) is stopped by Wake Forest defender Quintin Williams during fourth quarter action on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State beat Wake Forest, 48-24. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)
The SportTalk guys — friends of the show, all — were discussing the NFL helmet rankings Tuesday, and the show was enjoyable as usual.
Naturally, Steelers fan Quake agreed with the ESPN ranking that said Pittsburgh had the best looking helmet. Cowboy Joe liked that his Raiders were ranked No. 3. The 5-at-10 agreed with Dr. B — he's a doctor after all — that the Falcons' helmet was sorely underrated.
That said, the conversation got us thinking: First, there's not a lot of football to discuss right now that does not require a law degree to fully understand; second, why are we wasting time on NFL helmets, when college helmets are so much cooler. Here's the top five college helmets in today's 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10:
FSU — Great design that has become a tradition
Auburn — Strong colors, and interlocking 'AU' may be game's best logo
USC — Figures Lane Kiffin would try to change greatness
Georgia — Strong 'G' and rocking colors
Ohio State — Awesome stickers, unless they get sold or traded for tattoos
In this Sept. 12, 1964 file photo, Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew poses for a portrait before a baseball game against the New York Yankees. (AP Photo/Harry Harris, File)
This and that (and yes, the TFP sports section was jammed packed Wednesday)
— If UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is comfortable with Tyler Bray's progress, as he says HERE in TFP UT ace Patrick Brown's story, then that's a great, Great, GREAT sign for Johnny Vols Fan. Bray may be among the three most important unknowns in the SEC next fall. We'll discuss this more in the days ahead.
— If one more Georgia offensive lineman departs, gets injured or gets in trouble (A.J. Harmon is transferring, as our UGA ace David Paschall writes HERE incoming freshman running back Isaiah Crowell will have to be Superman to get 4 yards a carry.
— Politics landed at Finley Stadium, which was left out of the mayor's proposed budget for 2012 (David Paschall's story)
— R.I.P. Harmon Killebrew. May all of your fly balls carry and may the curve balls be hangers for the best-ever Chattanooga Lookout player and MLB Hall of Famer who lost his fight with cancer Tuesday. He was 74.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...