I would say that word best described watching the game last night. Did you ever really think there was a chance of a Suns win? Seriously? It was just waiting for the end. And then it came. Spurs now 1 win from the Conference Finals.
Bruce Bowen – Clutch …
He has been called dirty, a thug, a cheap-shot artist and any number of other insults that have formed on the lips of the Phoenix Suns and their followers over the past week.
The Spurs, however, have a much more flattering way to describe Bruce Bowen today.
With the Spurs nearing their second frustrating loss in three nights, Bowen calmly set his feet in the right corner late Wednesday and drilled the team's biggest shot of the season. The 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds left lifted the Spurs to an 88-85 victory, giving them a 3-2 lead over the Suns in their Western Conference semifinal series.
"I've gotten those looks before, and I've been able to make them before," Bowen said. "I just made sure I followed through."
As a result, the Spurs will now try to do the same and close out Phoenix on Friday at the AT&T Center. The Suns will be bringing reinforcements: Starting center Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw will be back in the lineup after completing their suspensions.
The Spurs almost didn't take advantage of Stoudemire's absence. They trailed by as many as 16 points and were still down 11 in the final quarter.
Manu Ginobili rallied the Spurs, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the second half after they downsized their lineup to match the Suns. Tim Duncan totaled 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, three of which came in the final quarter
No points for effort in the playoffs …
Had it been any time from November to March, the pride in the effort of Friday's 88-85 Game 5 loss to San Antonio would have swelled even greater.
The Phoenix Suns, stripped down to a six-pack of players, played with a desperate thirst, invigorating a crowd into believing what the Suns thought all along when stepping onto the US Airways Center floor Wednesday night.
For three quarters, Phoenix played like a team with the world behind it as Amaré Stoudemire and Boris Diaw watched from home. But, just as an 11-point fourth-quarter lead came crumbling down on San Antonio in Game 4, those 12 shoulders could not bear a world of hurt as the Spurs finished on a 17-6 run.
The Suns led for 40 consecutive minutes, but San Antonio went from missing 13 of its first 14 three-pointers to sinking seven of its final nine, including the go-ahead Bruce Bowen dagger with 36.4 seconds to go. The Suns missed 10 of their last 12 shots, including a meaningless late layup, to go down 3-2 in a series that reconvenes with a possible Spurs close-out game at San Antonio on Friday.
"They spilled their guts out," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Again, I'll feel sorry later on (about the suspensions). Right now, we have some work to do. We can beat these guys. We've shown it."
Matching the venom of raucous US Airways Center fans, Phoenix came out with an amazing effort led by Shawn Marion and Kurt Thomas at both ends. Thomas was defending Tim Duncan as well as ever in the first half, and Marion was everywhere, hitting 8 of 11 shots for 20 points to go with his 11 rebounds before halftime.
The Suns shut out the Spurs for 5 1/2 minutes of the first quarter to build a 24-11 lead. The Suns maintained the lead to a 44-33 edge at the half as the core of Suns gave inexhaustible effort on a night that saw Steve Nash and Marion play 46 minutes and Raja Bell go out for only 80 seconds because of Leandro Barbosa's foul trouble.
The Spurs attacked Thomas with Duncan post-ups to start the third quarter. When Duncan got rolling, the Suns' defense had to collapse or help more often to open up San Antonio's perimeter game for better shots.
"I just didn't want to pick up any silly fouls and be solid, but he was spinning and doing everything he had to do to get his shot off," Thomas said.
Manu Ginobili caught fire, scoring 20 over the final 15 minutes to rally San Antonio. The Spurs' three-pointers closed the gap quickly, but Phoenix still led 79-71 until it offense disappeared.
In Golden State, Don Nelson decides if he wants to go around again …Or, perhaps a better contract would help??? I’m just saying. I know how he works…
As soon as the Warriors were done shocking the world, it was coach Don Nelson's turn to shock his players. The man who led Golden State's historic playoff run said Wednesday that he isn't sure whether he'll return for a second season or make a second run at retirement.
"I'm kind of anticipating coming back, but I'm not sure," said Nelson, who turned 67 on Tuesday. "It's just whether I want to put my body and mind through another tough year or two. That would be the main issue."
The once-retired coach plans to retreat to Maui on Friday with his wife, Joy, and decompress after a roller-coaster season in which the Warriors rallied from irrelevance into the best story line of the postseason.
Nelson will see the Warriors at least through the draft -- though he's skipping the league's official predraft camp in Orlando -- and hopes to reach a decision by July 1, when free agency begins.
"I think it was really important that I came here. I'm not so sure it's important that I stay," said Nelson, who has two years and $6.2 million left on his contract. "This is wonderful, but it's hard."
The words came as a surprise to his players, who arrived at the team's practice facility expecting to clean out lockers and divvy up playoff shares, only to hear that their coach might not be back next season.
"I couldn't believe that," Stephen Jackson said. "It's shocking to me, but hopefully it's just the way he feels right now. Hopefully, by the time the season starts, he'll be on the bench."
Can the Warriors imagine life without Nellie?
"No, I can't," Jason Richardson said.
"I don't even want to," Jackson said. "This style of game, playing so free and having so much fun, I think we need to continue to build on that with the same guys that started it this year. It's going to be frustrating if we come back next year and things are not the same."
"I don't know if the guys would like that," Baron Davis added.
After falling nine games below .500 because of injuries and an overhauled roster, Nelson rallied the Warriors to a 42-40 finish and their first playoff berth in 13 years. Golden State then ousted No. 1-seeded Dallas in the first round before its run ended with a 4-1 loss to the Jazz in the series that ended Tuesday night.
Though Nelson netted an extra $2 million in bonuses for the Warriors' extended season, the time also took its toll on his body and mind. The coach came to training camp in October looking tanned and refreshed after a full year's sabbatical, but says he has gained about 15 pounds since then and has had trouble sleeping.
In baseball news, The Rangers may actually get swept by Tampa …
In the course of an 11-8 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Victor Diaz left with injuries, Hank Blalock was dealing with postgame pain, the manager pulled up lame running out to argue a call, and the game-ending outfield consisted of Nelson Cruz, Kevin Mahar and Gerald Laird.
Did we mention that the Rangers fell 10 games under .500, to 15-25, at the unofficial quarter pole of the season. They are on pace for 100 losses.
Oh, and the air conditioning in the clubhouse broke.
"I've never seen anything like this," Laird said. "It's really strange and bizarre. I guess it's just something you've got to play through. It can only get better."
Not necessarily. Not with a DL that is growing exponentially.
The Rangers began the day by officially placing Brad Wilkerson (hamstring) on the DL.
That came a day after Kevin Millwood (hamstring) and Ron Mahay (rib cage) went to the infirmary.
On Wednesday, Hairston, who was playing second base, dove for two balls and felt soreness in his neck get progressively worse before being pulled after the fifth inning.
He possibly has a pinched nerve and will return to Texas today to be further examined.
In the eighth, Victor Diaz was hit on the left hand by a pitch and immediately doubled over. He was removed and had X-rays that determined there was no break, but according to Diaz, a "deep bone bruise."
The Rangers will make a determination today if he'll need a trip to the DL or could play in a day or so.
And perhaps most disturbing was Blalock's arm soreness.
Blalock remained in the game until the end. He was seen flexing his forearm after the game and left the clubhouse with trainer Jamie Reed. Blalock declined to comment on his physical state.
Due to federal privacy regulations, club officials are prohibited from commenting on players' injuries without their consent.
"We are like a MASH unit right now," said manager Ron Washington, who had to grab his hamstring as he ran out to argue a call. "But we will show up and fight" today.
Last night, Jamey Newberg sent out a few emails on an issue I enjoy discussing. The future of Mark Teixeira. I have said that they should try to trade him since spring training. I just don’t see a future for him here. Nor, do I see a whole lot of interest from him in staying here with this organization. If ever a guy has seemed like a mercenary to me, from the time the Rangers drafted him, it is Mark. I don’t think he “plays for the shirt” or has any loyalty to the Rangers. He will go to the highest bidder. And I honestly can’t blame him. But, I also don’t have to bend over backwards to keep him, nor do I have to fret when he goes away. Trade him. And now, Jamey appears to agree:
I’ve come to what feels like an inescapable conclusion, after years of heavy, blind, wishful denial, that Mark Teixeira won’t be a Texas Ranger a year from today.
It is with a great deal of sadness and reluctance that I now admit that to myself.
And then a follow up:
Too many of you have asked in the last 20 minutes for me to be able to respond to everyone, so here’s the explanation for my conclusion that a year from now, Mark Teixeira will no longer be a Texas Ranger:
1. He’s not going to sign long-term during the 2007 season. Why would he?
2. He’s not going to sign long-term this winter, a year short of free agency. Scott Boras clients don’t do that. Now, if this club plays .600 ball the rest of the way (which would still result in only 88 wins), maybe the Rangers can get Teixeira to sign if they offer him an above-market contract. But I don’t think Texas will do that this winter, and we all know the Union will pressure Teixeira to hang tight until the following winter, when he can shop himself to the big market clubs and reestablish a new level of slugger compensation.
3. So Texas would then go into the 2008 season with Teixeira in his contract year. Can the club afford to do that?
4. No. Because if he plays out the year as a Ranger, he probably signs with New York or Baltimore or Atlanta or Los Angeles or Los Angeles the next winter, and Texas only gets a late first-round draft pick and a selection between rounds one and two in return.
5. So just trade him during the 2008 season, you say? Can’t plan on that. Think about it: If Texas is 58-45 in the last week of July, a game back of the Angels, can you imagine the message it would send to the clubhouse and the fans if the club decided it needed to trade its most productive hitter? Would never happen. And to go into the 2008 season assuming that it would be impossible to be in a contending position in July is just not something Jon Daniels would ever do.
6. So unless the determination is made that you have to play spectacular baseball the rest of the way in 2007 and hope that it convinces Teixeira to want to negotiate this winter (unlikely), or else accept that you will have to overpay Teixeira for life to re-sign or else lose him for two late first-round picks, you have to move him before the 2008 season begins.
7. Does that mean this summer? Or this winter? Beats me. Teams may be more willing to give up a lot in July in order to have Teixeira for the stretch run this year plus a full season in 2008. On the other hand, in the winter clubs are in a better position to give up the pieces it would take to get a player like that, assuming at least one of the players coming back is a key big league contributor right now.
And I didn’t say I knew when this would happen. I just think it happens before the 2008 season gets underway.
I totally agree. Now it is up to Jon Daniels to get this one right. He cannot afford to mess this trade up. Do it right, and you can retool in one move. Do it wrong, and the Rangers will continue to be irrelevant.
How about this for a brilliant idea? Roger Goodell wants to shorten the time for each draft pick …this guy is great!
Perhaps as a precursor to eventually presenting the first round as a primetime event, likely on a Friday, Goodell is expected to broach the subject of reducing the time limits for making selections in the first two rounds when owners convene next Tuesday in Nashville for the league's annual spring meeting.
This year's draft included the longest first round in history, at six hours and eight minutes. It also had the longest first day, with the first three rounds stretching 11 hours, four minutes. A change in the time limits may not be enacted at Tuesday's one-day session, where the headline agenda item will be the awarding of Super Bowl XLV in 2011 to Phoenix, Dallas or Indianapolis. But in advance of the Nashville meeting, NFL sources told ESPN.com that Goodell has sought guidance from the influential competition committee and requested that the members of the committee gauge sentiment around the league for tightening the limits in the early rounds.
Several sources said there is considerable support for doing so.
The current time limits are 15 minutes for the first round, 10 minutes for the second, and five minutes for the final five rounds. The competition committee is expected to recommend time limits of 10 minutes for the first round, seven minutes for the second, and five minutes for the remaining rounds.
Because the draft falls under the purview of the commissioner, a formal vote technically isn't necessary to enact changes in the lottery, but Goodell is not inclined to act unilaterally on the matter. Instead, the owners could reduce the time limits by simply affirming a recommendation from the competition committee.
Such a move would significantly reduce the time required for the first round. Almost as important, it would provide the NFL an opportunity to give prime-time exposure to what has become its biggest offseason event, one that has exploded in popularity over the last several years, and which drew record television ratings last month.
Leonard Davis saves a horse …seriously.
Cowboys offensive lineman Leonard Davis went from sinking a birdie putt in Grapevine to saving the life of a horse in Arizona.
After playing in the annual sponsors' tournament at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Davis flew home Wednesday to pick up some personal belongings. When he arrived at his five-acre home in Chandler, Ariz., he noticed a horse stuck in the mud across the street.
"A horse was waist deep in a sinkhole, and I had to do something," Davis said Wednesday night.
Davis drove his John Deere tractor across the street with friend Roy Garibaldi, a local talk show host. Davis put some straps on the horse's waist and used the tractor to pull "Ranger" out.
"He goes from helping his wife to saving a horse's life," said Garibaldi, alluding to Davis' wife, Amanda, who underwent finger surgery. "Here's this big 360-pound NFL player doing something amazing."
Davis cleaned the horse off with a hose as his neighbors, fire and police department officials looked on.
"I was just doing what anybody else would have done," Davis said. "I wasn't scared at all. I grew up on a farm pulling cows and horses out of the mud. No big deal."
Sabres stay alive …but they have a long way to go…
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