FRIDAY! Let’s get right to it.
5. It’s an oft-used adage in the NBA that games always come down to the play in the 4th quarter and last night’s Spurs/Nuggets game was no different. In fact, the aforementioned axiom could have been condensed to mean the game’s final 10 seconds, as this game’s lead changed hands twice in those final seconds. As would be expected, front-and-center was Carmelo Anthony (who played another strong game with 31/9) and the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. In the past seven years of covering the Nuggets, no opponent (even Kobe) is more hated at the Pepsi Center than Ginobili; largely due to all of his “flopping.”
Half-way though the fourth quarter, a back-and-forth game turned into an almost double-digit lead for the Spurs. But the home team did not fold up the tent, rather, they battled back to make it just a 3-point game with possession and just under 20 seconds remaining.
Here’s where things got interesting.
First, Carmelo got loose for an easy basket (making it just a 1-point game). Teammate, JR Smith (who had this titanic dunk in the 1st quarter; two-handed from the dots!?!?) deflected the in-bounds directly into Melo’s hands who suddenly gave the Nuggets the lead back. The Spurs ran a perfect sideline-out-of-bounds flare screen for Ginobili who calmly drained a running bank-shot from the left wing to make it a 1-point Spur lead and only 4 ticks remaining. There was little doubt about how the Nuggets would attack the final seconds. The ball was in-bounded to Melo who opted against his patented perimeter jumper at the buzzer and drove hard to hoop, floating in what appeared to be the game-winner. Immediate pandemonium ensued. That is, until, the crowd realized that an offensive foul call had been called against Melo, ending the game. Of course, lying on the floor amongst the mass of bodies was Ginobili, who had drawn the charge to preserve the win. While not necessarily a “bad call,” it is just not one you EVER see made in the final seconds of a game, against one of the league’s superstars. I can only assume there was a whole lot of “@*&$^#@ing Flopper!” lines being exclaimed near the Pepsi Center exits.
4. No Avalanche hockey last night to gush about, but 6 of the 9 NHL games involved at least 7 goals. Northwest Division doormats, Calgary and Edmonton got wins, while the Minnesota Wild lost to Ottawa.
3. My Missouri Tiger team revenged last year’s heart-breaking loss to Oral Roberts with an 81-62 victory over the Tulsa-based school. With a few minutes left in the 1st half, the Tigers used an 18-2 run to swell the lead to one that they would never relinquish. The fast-paced, run-and-gun Tigers have one more cakewalk/trap game left before next week’s big Braggin’ Rights game in Saint Louis versus their neighboring rival from Illinois. The Fightin’ Illini have just a Friday date with UI-Chicago left as both teams look to enter that contest with one overtime loss a piece and both boasting top-15 rankings. This year’s installment of the cross-conference rivalry figures to be one of its best in years!
Across the Mississippi River into Tennessee, the beloved collegiate Tigers of Memphis found themselves suddenly short-handed and on the wrong side of a 15-point second-half deficit. Behind the support of their legion of fans (remember, the city is full of Tiger, not Grizzly fans), the Tigers raced back to force overtime against Austin Peay. With continued torrid perimeter shooting in the extra five minutes, the Tigers were able to secure the 70-68 win. Head Coach Josh Pastner has continued to deliver on the promises he made when taking over the program following the departure of the legendary John Calipari some 18 months ago. I always knew that this kid (yes, I am older) had a bright future, stretching back to our conversations about Houston prep basketball when he was still an assistant at the University of Arizona.
2. A little AFC West action last night, as the San Diego Chargers took another step towards another late-season run to the divisional crown. Colorado Springs-native and Northern Colorado graduate, Vincent Jackson emerged from his team and self-inflicted exile for 3 TDs in the ‘Bolts win over San Francisco.
1. Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow, again, took the majority of snaps at Broncos’ practice on Thursday. It appears more and more, that #15 might get his most extensive playing time to date. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Orton still starts come game-time, but a little action in the Black Hole of Oakland would surely put a little hair on the youngster’s chest. Although, I am sure that Tebow heard some pretty awfully derogatory things during his four years of SEC dominance, nothing would have properly prepared him for the venom that historically spews from that dungeon of a stadium.
PS-While I haven’t been near as a much a fan of his since Rick Reilly left Sports Illustrated, this piece on his hometown Broncos was worth a read.