5/16/2006 - Pistons 72-74 Cavaliers - Series tied 2-2
...it's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the Cavs who aren't fools who antagonize Rasheed Wallace (Anderson Varejo, Zydrunas Ilgauskas), Nike's anointed (LeBron), or Damon Jones (Damon Jones). Can these really be playoff games? Second-round playoff games?
Note to self: shut the hell up, all right? No doubt overhearing your hubris-laden assertions about the first two games of the series, the Cavs not only showed up but won the second two in Cleveland, leaving us with a competitive series. Here's a brooch. You know what to do.
That taken care of, what the hell is happening? Some assertions:
- Defense does not seem to be the problem. There are times when not enough attention is paid to Lebron and he swoops in for one of those triple-clutch HYYYAARRRR layups; there are others when too much is and one of the Cavs I-stand-in-the-corner-and-shoot guys stands in the corner and shoots. But in their two victories Cleveland has acquired 84 and 77 points. Even though the game has slowed down to a crawl reminiscent of Larry Brown, that's should still be translating into double-digit wins for the Pistons.
- ... so it's the offense, then, and the problems there are multifaceted. One is just bad luck: having used up all their three-pointers in game one, the bitch goddess Independent Trials has returned with a vengance. Yes, the Cavalier defense has improved, but not enough to force the Pistons into shooting 33% from the floor and 27% from three. I blame Lindsey Hunter using up all mojo in a five-state radius with his four straight threes in game one. That grabbed the attention of powers greater than ourselves, and lo, they are wroth.
- Usually the Pistons attack whatever matchup seems to be yielding the best results, but that was not the case in Cleveland, particularly in game four, as they repeatedly posted Tayshawn Prince up against Lebron James with limited success. Generally Prince in the post is a money play as most small forwards in the league are too small to bother Prince's shot. But... uh... Lebron James is not most small forwards, being both bigger and stronger than Prince. The only mismatch there is if Lebron is having a superstar moment or six, but as noted above, apparently these are playoff games. The same thing applies to dumping the ball down to an obviously injured Rasheed Wallace in the post against somone like Ilgauskas who has the length to bother 'Sheed. Hampered by his ankle, a Rasheed post up was generally a contested fallaway.
- For god's sake, when Cleveland is switching every screen please attempt to take advantage of it.
What now? Well, Detroit played well for two games and Cleveland played poorly: giant hubris-causing blowouts. Detroit played like poo for two games and Cleveland played well: narrow Cleveland victories. The equilibrium in this series appears to be about Pistons +8. Switching on all screens is a bit of a gimmick that had the Pistons confused, but -- much like the Lebron semi-zone -- will be less effective the longer it is employed. Two games of three are at home. The chances that Cleveland actually wins this series are still remote, but they are extant now. I accept the blame.
Now go unto them, Pistons, and unleash your righteousness upon the infidels.
I keep calling him "Epke" in my mind, but Michigan's latest basketball recruit is named "Ekpe" and don't you forget it. The Free Press chips in an article on Udoh, who is listed at 6'10, 240++:
"I think he's still growing," said Guy Hardaker, who coached Udoh at Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe. "He has two 7-foot grandfathers in Nigeria."
Also, "His upside is great." Great!
Meanwhile, Tommy Amaker says that Michigan is close to reaching the "ultimate level that we want to achieve": an NCAA tournament berth. Aim high.
When in doubt, say 6-5: the mantra of those unfortunate souls tasked with predicting the fate of Michigan State in any year. Unfortunate? The difficulty always comes in not in the prediction, but the attempted justification. It's "yes, but they won't be 8-3/3-8... trust me," and no one trusts you and then they do.
Last year's kickers, John Goss and Matt Haughey, combined to make a whopping 5 of 16 field goals, and only 2 of 10 beyond 30 yards (the long was 32). Worst of all, the pair had an amazing four kicks blocked, the worst of which, of course, followed the rush job at the end of the first half against Ohio State, a disastrous ten-point swing that wound up setting flame not only to a comfortable Spartan lead in that critical game but that also triggered MSU's persistent schizophrenia for the rest of a henceforth dismal season in which the most noticeable positive was the entertainment of John L. Smith's straining forehead veins. Goss and Haughey, for the record, were still listed 1-2 on the Spring depth chart.
Doug Gillett is a 23-time loser.
Doug, for his part, is fine with this.
We have a winnah. There were several strong entries into the Second Ever MGoBlog Caption Contest. For reference, the picture in question:
Commenters were asked to speculate on what Laimbeer was saying to Kid Rock.
Official Suck Up To MGoBlog Winner: After some discussion about the guy to Kid's right being UM Regent Larry Deitch, CrimeNotes chipped in with this...
Laimbeer: "Hey, Kid Rock, that's Larry Deitch to your right."
Rock: "Let's encourage him to install luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium."
...which is hilarious to me but too close to my heart to render fair and impartial judgement upon.
First Runner-Up: The simply named "dave" with "Hey Kid, which do you think is bigger, Pam's chest or Mahorn's ass?"
And the Winnah is: Other Andrew with "Give it one more album and they'll hate you everywhere but in Detroit, too." Congratulations, Andrew! You win the traditional bag of nothing.
(My personal contribution: "Ma'am, have you ever thought about playing in the WNBA? The beard would fit right in.")
On that Finch thing: Er, he did indeed "commit," but his idea of a verbal commitment is somewhat less robust than that of the world at large. Finch intends to take official visits in the fall according to both Scout and Rivals (both $), so there's some chance that he ends up elsewhere. However, that seems like a small chance what with Warren Central's affection for the Maize and Blue, Chris Graham's influence, and our impending 2007 national championship. Cough cough.
The Finch commit-like substance also served as a high-pitched signal to Michigan bloggers to bust out the recruiting coverage. Johnny's done some googlestalking of his own, complete with hilarious picture of Max Emfinger about 300 pounds lighter than my mental picture of the man; Vijay busts out a board of his own; Stadium And Main has a comprehensive recap of all commits to date.
The only thing I have to add to the collected goodness is that FB commit Vince Helmuth was evaluated by ESPN and came out fairly shiny with a 78, the same score probable Scout/Rivals four stars Artis Chambers and Ryan VanBergen got. The take-home lesson: "a bulldozer of a fullback to say the least ... excellent at attacking defensive players, has great leg drive and can create enough movement to allow his running back to have some space through the hole." Hopefully that will silence the occasional griper -- dude sounds like Dudley.
Combine a no go? On August 1st, independent combines are going to take a major hit. The NCAA is going to ban college coaches from attending them and prevent them from being held on college campuses. Pitt Sports Blather has both sides of the story.
Random Bitching: why no NBA playoff games yesterday? Does that make any sense to anyone? The are four days between games in the Cleveland-Detroit series when the Thursday designated by nature to be the date of game three is totally devoid of any and all games... I'm befuddled. Did the WB call up and tell David Stern not to eff with Smallville or something?
As discussed earlier today, Jerimy Finch said Michigan was his leader; now Michigan is his school of choice. Finch is likely to be ranked the #1 player in the state of Indiana and is generally regarded a shoo-in for the top 100. Informative update coming.
Apparently he does this thing with the ball in the hands thing a lot.
Er... this is probably the weirdest find in a while when it comes to the good-old-googlestalking:
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION honoring Warren Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, on the occasion of its third consecutive victory in the Indiana High School Athletic Association's Class 5A state football championship.
Whereas, The Warren Central Warriors marched to a 55-20 victory over Hamilton Southeastern for their third consecutive Class 5A state championship on Saturday, November 26, in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis capping off a 14-1 season;
Whereas, The Warriors were led by senior quarterback Dexter Taylor, who ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns; an imposing offensive line; and junior safety Jerimy Finch, who set up the third score with a 41-yard interception return and added the sixth touchdown with a 55-yard punt return;
Whereas, At halftime, Warren Central was ahead of Hamilton Southeastern 41-7, had outgained its opponent by nearly 200 yards (266-67), and scored on all five of its possessions with the other offensive touchdowns coming on seven-yard runs by juniors Darren Evans and Brad Ellington;
Whereas, The team dedicated this victory to teammate Andre Nicholson, who was injured in the semistate win over Avon;
Whereas, With this victory, Coach Kevin Wright joined his father, Sheridan coach Larry "Bud" Wright, as the first father-son coaching duo to have title wins in the same season;
Whereas, Excellence at this level requires teamwork and cooperation, and it is fitting that this effort be recognized: Therefore,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the Senate concurring:
SECTION 1. That the Indiana General Assembly congratulates the Warren Central Warriors on their third consecutive Class 5A state football championship and wishes them well in their future endeavors.
SECTION 2. That the Principal Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit copies of this resolution to team members, coaches, managers, Warren Central's school principal, and the school's superintendent.
This is the first time I've found a government citation that can be construed as a positive for a recruit. Warren Central has been demolishing the competition in Indiana for the last three years, as mentioned in the Senate resolution. Finch picked off two passes in the first half of their latest state championship throttle-job, returning one for a touchdown and the other to the three yardline. They were two of his ten on the year.
During a game against #2 ranked Ben Davis (Warren Central was #1), Finch showed up on the boxscore in an unexpected way, being credited with a 75 yard touchdown pass. Say what?
But just when Ben Davis looked to use that emotion to force a punt, Warren Central punter Jerimy Finch turned potential disaster into a go-ahead score.
On paper, it was a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jason Stewart. In reality, the play covered 102 yards as Finch had to retreat into his end zone to pick up a high snap. Then, after running 20 yards to his right and still in the end zone, he heaved the ball to Stewart, who outjumped two defenders at his 40. Stewart then turned and ran 60 yards for a 28-21 lead.
"That's a situation where you practice a 'fire' call and you don't want to get tackled in the end zone for a safety," Wright said. "In this case, Jerimy is an ex-quarterback and probably has the best arm on our team. He made a heads-up play, but we also got lucky."
Yes, Finch is also the punter, and apparently a pretty good one. I couldn't find junior-year stats, but as a sophomore he averaged 40.1 yards a kick. Not the 55-70 Zoltan The Inconceivable will average, but in case the Romanian Sensation kicks his leg into orbit or something he can be a tenuous backup plan.
If you missed it earlier, Sunshine Preps posted video of Finch a while ago.
Given all that, it's unsurprising the praise for Finch is widespread and fawning. Around August Scout put out a "Ask the Scouts" article and asked "September 1 is the first day colleges can officially offer players in the class of 2007. Who is the one player you would offer?" Chris Pool responded thusly:
Chris Pool: Jeremy Finch, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound, safety from Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central, is the young man that I would offer right away. Finch is a freak of nature. He has the size of a linebacker and hits like one as well but he has the speed and instincts of a defensive back. Finch is versatile and he could develop into a linebacker at the next level. Warren Central head coach Kevin Wright says Jeremy Finch is a "Oh and Ah" type of guy that just brings people to their feet.
Peegs.com said "the hard-hitting, physically impressive junior could end up being one of the top three safeties in the country by the end of the summer"; ESPN gives him an 80 and says
Finch is a ballhawk with an impressive motor ... He has all the physical tools you look for in a safety and the upside to develop into an outstanding playmaker.
...And finally, Pool returns and compares Finch to Purdue headhunter Bernard Pollard.
So: excellent pickup at a position of need, be it safety or WLB. With four-ish safeties in the last two classes, expect Ronald Johnson and Eugene Clifford to be recruited at corner. Michigan is looking for defensive backs in vast quantity this year, so a third safety is a possibility, though perhaps a distant one.
Update 5/11: Removed MI CB Cedric Everson (not listed in his top five) and PA QB Pat Bostick (Pitt), asserted that Michigan leads for IN S/LB Jerimy Finch based on straightforward "Solid Wolverine Lead" head on latest Superprep article. Linked to Scout interview with IL RB Robert Hughes.
Editorial Opinion: Everson's lack of interest in Michigan seems disappointing since the articles about him claim offers from everyone from USC on down and return touchdowns in every game as a junior, but there's a lot of speculation out there that Everson's father is engaging in a snow job of epic proportions. Insiders are claiming that the reported Michigan offer is dubious and his reported stats are even goofier... so it's hard to tell exactly what Michigan is missing out on.
Speculation that Michigan leads for Jerimy Finch has turned into solid evidence thereof. Witness the article above($) link. The Wolverine's latest article on him is headlined "UM closing in on verbal No. 6?" Hopefully the answer to that is "yes," as Finch is supposed to be the #1 prospect in Indiana and a top 100 lock. He'll play either safety or WLB at Michigan.
Robert Hughes is tougher to read. The GBW article has a smattering of encouraging quotes...
"I have eight offers so far," he said. "I've got offers from Illinois, Virginia, Purdue, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Mississippi State, Michigan -- most definitely Michigan -- and Minnesota.
"I'm very open to the recruiting process, but Michigan will most definitely be at the top of my list when I start taking visits."
...but they seem of the "let's tell this guy what he wants to hear" variety. I doubt anyone on Hughes' current offer list is a serious threat to Michigan, but ND and OSU are also involved. Contrast the sunny optimism of the GBW update to this from Rivals' Mike Farrell:
Chicago running back Robert Hughes has been rumored to be favoring Illinois and Notre Dame, but he mentioned that his dream school is Miami and an offer from the Hurricanes might send him packing down south. Hughes and good friend Martez Wilson could be a package deal. If that were to be the case, Illinois would be the team to beat because of academic restrictions at Notre Dame. Wilson just received an offer from Southern Cal the night before the combine so the Trojans could also be in the mix.
No Michigan mention whatsoever(!). I'm not sure who the academic concerns are aimed at, but it seems like it's Wilson. If that's the case you can take heart in the fact that Farrell doesn't seem to know what he's talking about, as Wilson was just offered by both Michigan and Notre Dame among a number of other schools. He's been wrong in the past. That article has one other bit of interesting information, a name (and what a name it is) of a Cass Tech corner likely to be the #1 prospect in Michigan in 2008:
There was quite a buzz surrounding 2008 cornerback Boubacar Cissko, a teammate of Barksdale, during drills and one-on-ones amongst college coaches. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder isn't huge, but he has great hips and feet and is a shutdown corner who still has an inch or two left to grow.
A must get on name alone. We need to work on some sort of fake punt package involving him, Zoltan Mesko, and Mister Simpson. It's not Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance: it's better.
To paraphrase Lewis Black ("If you like to drink and you've never been to Ireland... you're stupid."), if you like sports but don't have an NHL team that you follow in the playoffs, you're stupid. Simmons backlash bandwagon members will be happy to note that this principle places him solidly in the stupid camp.
In any case, sometime during the fourth intermission of last night's Sharks-Oilers game I remembered that I had whiskey and if I was ever going to use some of it I was going to use it now. Three minutes into the third overtime, Shawn Horcoff -- yes, that Shawn Horcoff -- finally slipped a puck past Vesa Toskala's five-hole and I collapsed, still twitchy from the tension built up over the last five... six? ... hours. I dimly recalled a time during which I was not watching the Oilers game, and then I went to bed.
So, yeah, if anything stupid appears here, blame Canada.
A few bullets on the 'new' NHL:
- Prohibiting a change after you ice the puck is just as effective and brilliant as I'd hoped it would be. It's turned icing from a good play when you're trapped in your zone into a terrible one. Time and again Edmonton has iced the puck against San Jose, usually with the iffy Bergeron-Greene defense pairing on the ice, and each time out come Joe Thorton and Rocket Richard winner Jonathan Cheechoo to strike some fear into the hearts of Oilers fans everywhere. Fortunately for Edmonton, Peca, Horcoff, and Stoll are dominating the draws.
- Anyone who watched San Jose's brutal teutonic forecheck batter the Oilers into goo in games one and two knows the oft-heard complaint that the emphasis on calling obstruction penalties has removed the physical element of the game is bunk. All three games in this series have been filled with crunching hits from start to finish. Sharks speed demon Milan Michalek got his head in the way of a Raffi Torres shoulder from hell and finished game two looking like a prize fighter in the twelfth round. No penalty was called, as the play was clean.
- The trapezoid seems pretty useless.
- It's hard to believe that anyone was against the legalization of the two-line pass, right? Next stop: evil, blighted offsides.
- Sharks fans are quality; The Tank has been amped up to a nigh-Edmontonian level.
- I can't find words better than these from Battle of Alberta to describe Roloson's second overtime save on Cheechoo:
It evoked an involuntary groan as my soul reentered my body.
Hurray! Anyone who glanced into the south endzone during a game last year saw an incongruous bunch of students occupying the worst seats in the house, far away from the rest of their compatriots. Michigan Sports Center dug up an MLive article reporting this issue is going to be resolved with a newly expanded student section. The band is returning to its previous home within the student section. MSC also brings up a problem I experienced for the first time this year: you can't hear the band in large parts of the south side of the stadium -- maybe some speakers would help out.
The RCMB is good for something. Yost Built found this bit of excellence there, after all:
Etc.: Jonathan Tu gives us the Onion-style lowdown on Tressel & Carr.