Been a tough week in the SLAM Dome, as we put the finishing touches on SLAM issue 118. And I’ve had to ignore The Links the last two days, because one million other things all needed to be done all at once. But you knew I had to watch tonight’s game in Atlanta, where the Rockets were gunning for their 20th consecutive win, which would tie them with a couple of other teams for the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. I’ve got a good feeling about my Hawks tonight. Let’s get it on!
• I’m glad to see Mt. Mutombo back in The A…and Josh Smith is also glad, as he out-jumps him for the opening tip.
• FSN Houston announcers Bill Worrell and Matt Bullard tell us that Mutombo hosted a party last night at his Atlanta home for all his teammates. Hopefully he took ‘em out to Magic City afterwards, too.
• Apparently the Rocket bench players keep standing until they score their first basket. What is this, a high school team?
• Luis Scola picks up 2 fouls fast, probably in less time than it takes to dry his hair.
• Joe Johnson drains a three to make it 5-0, early. The Houston bench is still standing. Luckily there’s nobody in the seats behind the bench.
• After missing three consecutive jumpers, the Rockets decide to drive the ball…and Rafer blows a layup. Then Marvin Williams nails a long jumper to put the Hawks up 7-0.
• Meanwhile, Luis Scola came out of the game and was replaced by Wild Ass Chuck Hayes. Scola walked over to the bench and was handed his warmup top, but because the Rockets haven’t scored he couldn’t take a seat on the bench. So Scola stands there all sweaty, perhaps cheering harder than anyone else on the Rockets for them to break into the scoring column.
• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes scores! Scola makes a beeline for the bench.
• Why the Wild Ass with Chuck Hayes? About a year ago I was interviewing Shaq, and, well, just read on…
ME: Is this the hardest season following a championship season that you’ve ever been through?
SHAQ: No, no. It’s been a weird season, because once again there was another freak injury for me. I’ve never had an injury where I just go up and pull a muscle or hamstring — it’s always landing funny or something freaky. So this time, wild-ass Chuck Hayes was coming through the middle. Our knees bumped, his knee was messed up for about 6 weeks and I had to get surgery.
The funny thing about it was the way he said it, completely even-voiced, as if Chuck Hayes’ first name was actually “Wild Ass” Chuck Hayes. And since then, every time I hear his name I can’t help but to preface it with “Wild Ass.”
• Mike Bibby is better help defender than ball defender. That’s probably not a good thing.
• T-Mac sticks a three and makes it 9 to 4 with 8 minutes to go.
• Bibby responds my tossing up a jumper that hits the rim and then bounces up and over the backboard and out of bounds. My friend Mike used to always note than when someone shoots and ball that bounces up and over the backboard, it always feels like you it’s somehow worse than just shooting and bricking one off the rim. Even though it’s not. But somehow, it still kind of is.
• Joe Johnson rips a 3 and I check the clock on top of the screen…which is stuck on 8:12. I guess Mutombo took the FSN Houston clock out last night, too.
• Marv lobs a lovely alley-oop to J-Smoove to make it 14-4 with 6:50 left. Adelman, who’s apparently been napping this first quarter. finally wakes up and gets a TO.
• According to the announcers, this is the biggest deficit of the 19-game in streak for Houston, a pretty amazing stat. I just can’t believe an NBA team with Rafer Alston starting at the point has won 19 straight games. After Worrell reads that stat, Bullard says “that’s why they’re not panicking.” What? Obviously, they shouldn’t panic because the game just started and all, but shouldn’t facing your biggest deficit of the streak cause you to panic?
• Worrell also mentions that Deke lives near Janet Jackson. Maybe Rhythm Nation 1814 was inspired by the year Dikembe was born?
• A Battier three makes it 14-8. The Rockets definitely aren’t panicking.
• Another Battier three makes it 14-11, taking down the FSN Houston scoreboard again. The announcers claim the crowd is over-half full of Rockets fans. Come on now, guys. There aren’t that many Rockets fans in Houston.
• Joe Johnson hits another three and then the Hawks throw a ball away that Josh Chill sorta leans after as it rolls out.
• Bobby Jackson in for Houston. He just doesn’t look right without a headband.
• Novak checks in for the Rockets. Sounds like a good name for a wacky neighbor on a sitcom.
• T-Mac hits a two to make it 16-14. The quarter’s almost over, and both teams look like they’re nursing 19-game losing streaks.
• FSN Houston finally just gives up on the clock. Good move.
• Zaza Pachulia trots onto the floor and looks like he’s playing at half-speed. He immediately loses a rebound to Novak, hilariously flipping the ball into the air and directly to Novak about two feet away, like only Zaza Pachulia can do.
• Novak makes the easy lay-up to tie it at 18-all after one quarter.
• I keep waiting for Mike James to check in for Houston. instead, we are given the gift of Luther Head.
• Zaza Pachulia cannot jump off the floor. This has long been a defining trait of his game, and yet he has managed to work around this little flaw and forge an NBA career. Nobody has told Houston, however, because Zaza catches in the post and spins to the basket and then sort of dives to his right and collapses, drawing a foul on the Rockets even though Zaza never had any true intent to shoot that ball.
• The scoreboard is back. And so are the Hawks, as now they’re down 3.
• The absolute worst place to pass Zaza Pachulia the ball is when he’s completely unguarded standing directly underneath the rim.
• By the way, last night I was making the bed and my dog Starbury celebrated the Knicks season by throwing up all over the sheet. So that was fun.
• 8:24 to go in the second, and Luther Head somehow drives directly through Salim Stoudamire with touching him to make it 25-22. The bad news is that as bad as the Rockets were in the first quarter, they’re even worse without T-Mac out there creating opportunities for everyone else. The good news is that they’re playing the Hawks tonight.
• Following Starbury’s lead, the Hawks perform a tribute to the Braves bullpen and issue back-to-back walks. Houston is clinging to a 27-24 lead.
• Mike Harris checks in for Houston. No, me neither.
• Billy Worrell says Luis Scola told him that he’s lost almost all confidence in his three throw shooting. TMI, Luis! Probably better you don’t let word get out, so teams don’t play Hack-A-Luis. And maybe If you’re having a problem with some part of your game, you shouldn’t tell it TO YOUR TEAM’S ANNOUNCER!
• And almost simultaneously, Scola picks up his third foul on beautiful open field tackle. Back to the bench for Scola. This time he’s allowed to take a seat.
• I can say this about Al Horford: He’s by far the best-dribbling power forward the Hawks have had in the last few decades. He’s always grabbing rebounds and trying to start fast breaks. I really like him, especially how hard he works, but the one thing that bothers me is how stiff he always seems. Can’t we send him to ballet classes or something in the offseason?
• I would try to describe the flow of this game to you, but how do you describe nothing?
• Mike Woodson goes small, and Joe Johnson immediately hits a three to make it 32-28. Don’t tell me JJ’s not an All-Star. He’s carrying the Hawks lately.
• And Wild Ass Chuck Hayes gets his 3rd foul, too, trying to keep up with the faster Hawks. How about it, Woodson? Nice job working the lineups.
• Tonight’s Southwest Airlines destination of the game is Phoenix, whatever that means.
• FSN Houston redeems screwing up the clock by showing the tape of guys doing their Mutombo imitations that was all over the internets yesterday. If you didn’t see it, it’s really brilliant.
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