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MATCHLESS
Posted by Rob Peterson on May 20 2004 11:53.32 a.m. ET

THE BEST MEET AGAIN

To what do you, Click and Rollers, owe this impromptu Thursday edition of C&R?

Time and space.

No, we're not calling in Stephen Hawking to explain the physical nature of our universe (though, if you're feeling bold and curious, click the link).

On Monday, when Click wrapped up the wild, wild week in the NBA playoffs, we left very little time or space to give our picks in the All-Time Finals Challenge. And with the semifinal matchups being posted on Thursday, we need these picks up on the site for public inspection.

(Read this Click and Roll edition to find out which teams we chose in the first round.)

1. '96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) vs. 8. '89 Detroit Pistons (63-19)
How fans are voting: Bulls 86 percent; Pistons 14 percent
How Click voted: Bulls
Why Click voted as Click did: I'm somewhat surprised that the Pistons received that high a percentage in this voting. Not because the Pistons weren't good enough to hang with the record-setting Bulls, but because this was Jordan's golden(est) season in a sparkling career. So, in that I'm surprised the Bulls percentage isn't higher.

That being said, this Pistons edition would have made it tough (and rough) on this Bulls team. But these are two teams at the peak of their powers. I would pay to see this one.

Oh, and another thing. You know what the most interesting matchup of the series is, right? Yep, the pre-tattoo Dennis Rodman against tattooed, multi-colored hair, nose-ringed Rodman.

5. '71 Milwaukee Bucks (66-16) vs. 4. '86 Boston Celtics (67-15)
How fans are voting: Celtics 64 percent; Bucks 36 percent
How Click voted: Um, Celtics. (Damn!)
Why Click voted as Click did: This one hurts. This Bucks team is the only champion in franchise history. As a Milwaukee native, to pick the Celtics, well, I might as well drink a beer from St. Louis instead of a brew that made Milwaukee famous.

That being said, I'll say that the '86 Celts will be a tough team to stop in this All-Time Finals Challenge. With Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in their collective prime, it's no wonder this team lost one game -- ONE! -- at home all season. Talk about mystique.

Anyway, yeah, I picked the Celtics. That doesn't make me a bad Milwaukeean. But I will say this about those Bucks -- they're the most underrated best team of all time. That year, the Bucks treated the rest of the NBA like red-headed step children. They started 17-1. Before stumbling with five losses in their last six games, the Bucks were 65-11.

And check this out -- they shot .509 from the field for the season. They had five --FIVE -- players in the NBA's top 10 in field goal percentage (No. 2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, .577; No. 4 Jon McGlocklin, .535 -- a freakin' guard!; No. 6 Greg Smith, .512; No. 7 Bob Dandridge, .509; and tied-No. 10 Oscar Robertson, .496)

But the Celtics' three Hall of Famers beat out the Bucks' two. Sorry, guys.

6. '83 Philadelphia 76ers (65-17) vs. 3. '67 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13)
How fans are voting: '83 Sixers 60 percent; '67 Sixers 40 percent
How Click voted: '67 Sixers
Why Click voted as Click did: For the Sixers, this must be like choosing between their children. Do we pick the team that stopped the Celtics' championship run or do we choose Dr. J, Moses and Mo-Cheeks? Both of these teams seemed to be destined to win it all. Which destiny shall I choose or will destiny choose me?

Philadelphians may not be able to make a selection, but I can and I go with the '67 Sixers. Why? Wilt in his prime with the best supporting cast he'd ever had. Just check out this Chamberlain line:

Third in the league in scoring, 24.1 ppg; first in field goal percentage, .683 (goodness!); first in rebounds, 24.2 rpg and third -- THIRD! -- in assists, 7.8 apg. Thems some impressive digits.

7. '87 L.A. Lakers (65-17) vs. 2. '72 L.A. Lakers (69-13)
How fans are voting: '87 Lakers 82 percent; '72 Lakers 18 percent
How Click voted: '87 Lakers
Why Click voted as Click did: Kick a 69-win team to the curb? Yes, we're all thinking the same way. Strange.

Anyway, how fun is this matchup? How would '87 Pat Riley coach against the '72 Pat Riley? How would two at-the-end-of-their-career centers the '87 Kareem vs. '72 Wilt go at it? Who on the '72 Lakers would matchup with Magic? Could Michael Cooper shut down Jerry West?

And as good as that '72 Lakers team was with West, Wilt and Gail Goodrich, I just couldn't see them beating Magic, Kareem, Cooper, Byron Scott, A.C. Green and Mychal Thompson in a seven-game series.

SINGING THE PRAISES OF THE UNSUNG HERO
Posted by Rob Peterson on May 17 2004 3 p.m. ET

OUT OF NOWHERE

Thank God it's Monday!

It's not a cry you often hear, but there are no playoff games tonight. And frankly, we need a rest. After a week of incredible games, I feel like Homer Simpson after running a block -- I'm winded.
-- Seattle Times

That being said, I can only imagine how a Spurs fan feels.

And that groaning sound you hear, besides those being made by Spurs fans, is coming from the Lakers' bandwagon, which is sagging under the weight of sportswriters jumping back on for a ride, as they are predicting now, all the way to the Finals.
-- Los Angeles Times

(And if you've seen sportswriters, you know that's a lot of weight on that bandwagon. A lot.)

For an example of this, check out these two Chicago columnists. One compares these Lakers to the '93 Bulls while another claims these Lakers are more popular than Michael Jordan's Bulls.
-- Chicago Tribune (Registration required) and Chicago Sun-Times

But I digress. What a weekend. You had D-Fish's miracle trumping TD's. You had a triple-OT classic in which a guy with a red 'fro made the difference. And you had the Wolves and Kings showing that the NBA Playoffs 2004 is in full swing ... in more ways than one.
-- ESPN.com

Let's start with the Lakers and the Spurs and this basic fact: Fans across this country come down on one of two sides when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers -- you either love them or you hate them. There is no third way.

Ask any fan what they think about the Lakers and if they respond, "The Lakers? Eh. I can take them or leave them," then that would be the first time in history someone has responded as such. Please, write Click and Roll an e-mail if this happens. I probably still won't believe it.

As for Thursday's game, let's just say there was much rejoicing where I was when Tim Duncan hit his falling-to-the-left, heaving-to-the-right 18-footer over Shaquille O'Neal with 0.4 seconds remaining in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinals series.

As the Spurs hugged and high-fived during the timeout, you could hear ABC's Doc Rivers mention that one-tenth of a second makes all the difference in the world. If the clock had stopped with 0.3 left, by rule, the only thing the Lakers could do would be tap the ball in or alley-oop dunk it to win. But with that extra tenth of a second, well, anything could happen.
-- SI.com

(You can watch the Lakers-Spurs fantastic finish here: 56k | 300k )

And I'll be damned if anything did happen. In all my years (and I'm old), I have never seen a finish like it anywhere, on any level. And the unbelievable silence that followed Fisher's shot was deafening.
-- Los Angeles Daily News

After all, Derek Fisher just doesn't do these things.
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

Two days later, after the Lakers had eliminated the Spurs (and you had a feeling they would), some still couldn't wrap their minds around it.
-- Los Angeles Daily News

Still, as much as the Lakers deserved to win the series, one would have to wonder if we'd be watching Game 7 this week if the Spurs had someone who could regularly nail an open jumper. Because as much as some would like to squawk about defense winning championships, the object of the game is to put the ball in the hole. Besides Tim Duncan, the Spurs didn't have a guy on the perimeter who could do it on a consistent basis.
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Of all the people mentioned in that article -- David Robinson, Steve Kerr and Speedy Claxton -- one man is conspicuous by his absence: Stephen Jackson. Remember him? He thought he was worth more than the Spurs were willing to offer. The Spurs said the asking price was too high. In the end, it proved to be too high a price for both.
-- ESPN.com

Or as this San Antonio writer put it: "Though Stephen Jackson was ridiculed for passing on a three-year, $10 million contract offer from the team last summer, the Spurs missed his late-game shooting more than he missed their money."
-- San Antonio Express-News

As for the Lakers, well, they'll wait for the winner of the increasingly hostile Wolves-Kings series. Game 7 is Wednesday night (8:30 ET, TNT).

But more on the Wolves and Kings later. Let's talk about the other classic game this week, that being the Nets-Pistons triple OT thriller on Friday, which the Nets won 127-120. It was the fourth such game to go at least three overtimes. (What, you don't remember the Boston-Syracuse four overtime thriller in 1953?)

Phoenix has been involved in the other two games that have gone 63 minutes -- in the 1976 Finals against the Celtics (the Suns lost that Game 5 128-126 and lost the Finals in six) and in the 1993 Finals against the Bulls (the Suns won that Game 3 129-121, but lost the Finals in six).

As in the 1976 Finals three-OT classic, the Nets-Pistons Game 5 featured an unlikely buzzer-beater and an unlikely hero. First, Chauncey Billups' half-court heave at the end of regulation sent the game in into the first overtime. And while Gar Heard's turnaround jumper in 1976 sent the Suns-Celtics game into a third OT, it, like Billups' heave, only staved off a loss, a defeat borne by the hands of a guy you would least expect.

(You can check out the the NBA TV highlights from Nets-Pistons here: 56k | 300k )

Thanks to attrition, Boston's rarely used Glenn McDonald became the Game 5 hero in the 1976 Finals by scoring six points in the third overtime to lift the Celts to a win.

On Friday, enter the Nets' Brian "Veal" Scalabrine. The third-year player had 19 points in his postseason career. After Game 5, Scalabrine had nearly doubled that total after scoring 17 points, including a clutch three-pointer in the third OT, a bucket that gave the Nets a four-point cushion.
-- Detroit News and New York Post

So, how did the Nets follow up that inspiring Game 5 win in Game 6 at home? They lost, sending the series back to Detroit for Game 7 on Thursday (ESPN).
-- New York Post

The Nets must be fighting mad over blowing a chance to clinch at home, but they can't be nearly as grumpy as the Timberwolves and the Kings. The action has been physical, and none more so than Anthony Peeler's left elbow to Kevin Garnett's jaw in Game 6 on Sunday.
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Registration required) and Sacramento Bee

Could there be more fireworks in Game 7? Let's ask a King.

"You can get rid of all that 'Kings are soft' junk," Kings forward Jabari Smith, who has played three minutes in the series, told the Sacramento Bee. "That stuff has ended. We've got guys who'll come off the bench and hit you in the jaw."

And while we'll see if the Kings will play without Peeler, a former teammate and friend of Garnett's, the Wolves have concerns of their own, such as Sam Cassell's back.
Sacramento Bee

Yet, whatever the ailment, impediment or punishment may be, both teams should be focused for Game 7 on Wednesday.
-- St. Paul Pioneer Press

THE STREAK IS OVER

What streak is that, you ask? Well, this year's NBA champion will be the first in a decade that doesn't have either Steve Kerr or Robert Horry on the squad. Kerr is retired and the Lakers retired Robert Horry and the Spurs in six games.

The streak started with Horry winning two titles with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. Kerr then won three consecutive titles with the Bulls from 1996 to 1998. Kerr won another title, this time with the Spurs in 1999 before Horry won three consecutive crowns with the Lakers from 2000 to 2002. Kerr kept the streak alive when he won his fifth and final ring with the Spurs in 2003.

TIP-INS

The Jason Kidd American Express commercial where he reads the eye chart with the "eyes in the back of his head" and where he can "see" Richard Jefferson's car being towed, is the best yet.

One Twin Cities writer makes an interesting comparison: Latrell Sprewell to Paul Molitor?
-- Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Registration required)

Derek Fisher, superstar.
(D. Clarke Evans
NBAE/Getty Images)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
May 10 -- Kero-Whacked!
May 3 -- Fugazy Like a Fox
April 26 -- Click Gets Randy
April 19 -- Playoffs CW, IQ
April 12 -- Give Them Away
April 5 -- Fight for First
March 29 -- Prime Time
March 22 -- East Bests West?
March 15 -- Very Scary Bears
March 8 -- Sick and Tired
March 1 -- West Side Story
Feb. 24 -- Surfing the Nets
Feb. 17 -- City of Angles
Feb. 13-15 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 9 -- Git Up, Git Out
Feb. 2 -- Lobbying for L.A.
Jan. 26 -- Midwest is Best
Jan. 19 -- More Central
Jan. 12 -- Grand Central
Jan. 8 -- Starbury Time
Dec. 29 -- American Rookies
Dec. 22 -- The Greatest Gift
Dec. 15 -- Hail the Kings
Dec. 8 -- Spurs Sportsmen
Dec. 1 -- Holiday Exchange
Nov. 24 -- Hive Talkin'
Nov. 17 -- Clip and Save
Nov. 10 -- Short People

BACKCOURT
Check out NBA.com's "Destination Finals" section for a complete recap of all of the 2004 postseason action.

FRONTCOURT
The week that will be:
May 24-31: Two Game 7s, Sacramento at Minnesota on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and New Jersey at Detroit on Thursday (ESPN).

WEEKLY KERR
My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Here's this week's link to Steve's piece on ... the Lakers' fear factor. Not that they're scaring opponents, but themselves.

'ROUND THE GLOBE
Want to know how hoop is being played around this little blue marble?

Well, check out who's been added to the U.S. Men's Olympic basketball squad.