Monday, April 30, 2012

NBA Poetry Corner.

I have to be honest, I was expecting at least a modicum of normalcy to show up this weekend.  I assumed that the old axiom about everything slowing down in the playoffs would apply in a compound fashion this year, because the games would actually be scheduled at a reasonable, measured pace.  You know, as opposed to that space-time-continuum-mangling we just endured; 66 games where 50 should have been played.  The NBA and those who follow it were going to recalibrate to a tempo where we could absorb everything without getting whiplash.  Or so I thought.

Turns out the reverberations of the manically compressed 2011-2012 regular season are still clanking and jangling around the league, echoing in shudder-y and unpredictable ways off of the postseason's actions and characters.  Sticking with that conceit, I thought I'd take a swing at categorizing the salient points of the playoffs' opening weekend using an organizing principle of the four stanzas in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Bells."  (Seriously, just bear with me, this will make sense in a moment.)


Hear the sledges with the bells -
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.  

The Magic going "Ewing Theory" all over Indy.  Jameer and J-Rich had 17 apiece, Big Baby kicked in 16 (seriously?!?!  Glen Davis?!?!!?) and Orlando staved off a deeper and more talented Pacers squad.  This was a statement game.  The statement was probably "it will take slightly longer than you thought to eliminate us without Dwight", but still.  You can't count on Indy failing to get buckets in the final four minutes of every game, but the Magic served notice that they're not going gentle into that good night.  Bonus points : Chris Duhon's Travellin' Call Shuffle Dance, which might be the most inspired bit of NBA choreography since John Wall's "Dougie" intro.    

Andrew Bynum's insane 10-point, 13-board, 10-FREAKING-BLOCK Trip-Dub.  Setting his irritating petulance (and my general hatred of the Lakers) aside for a moment, it was gratifying as a basketball fan to finally see him healthy and playing up to his potential in a big moment.  Lakers fans must have been ecstatic watching a team that looked lost and discombobulated for much of the season play with such cohesion and verve.  All five starters for L.A. scored in double figures, and despite heroic efforts from Galo, The Manimal, and a feisty Nuggets bench, The Lake Show appear completely in command and primed for a deep playoff run.


Hear the mellow wedding bells -
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight! -
From the molten - golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle - dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! - how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells! 

Oh good gravy, we got two absolute barn-burning gems out of our late games this weekend!  I mean, where do you even start?  (OK, chronologically sounds good.)  Mavs-Thunder was as taut and intense a fireworks display as we could have hoped and then some.  For OKC, Durant and Ibaka combined for 47 points and 9 monstrous blocks, Russ stuffed the stat sheet with 28, 4 boards, 5 dimes, and 3 steals, and The Beard showed no lingering affects from his unpleasant run-in with Metta World Peace's elbow by tossing up a similarly awesome 19, 6, 3, 1.  Dallas' players were no less ridiculous in there performances.  Dirk's 25 was pretty much expected, but The Matrix chipped in 17 and 8 boards, J-Kidd had a great 8-6-5 and absolutely pilfered the Thunder to the tune of 7 steals.  JET Terry shot a patently absurd 80% and hit 4 of 5 treys en route to 20 points, and even Vince Carter's ancient bones were good for a 13-7.  And it goes without saying that KD's absurd game-winner with 1.5 on the clock made this an instant classic.  This series is going to be phenomenal.

Now, about last night: "Don't call it a comeback!" ... no, wait ... yeah.  Yeah, call it a comeback.  WTF, people?  W.  T.  F.?  erasing a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter on the road?!?!  With a team that young and inexperienced?  It would take a miracle.  Like having Chris Paul on your team, and having him furiously explain to Vinny Del Negro that this one wasn't over, then deliver by dropping 7 dimes in the 4th Q and orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks we've ever seen.  Nick Young went incandescent and drained three 3s in about a minute of clock.  Veteran Reggie Evans was a tenacious firebrand with 7 points and 13 boards, , earning CP3's "game ball."  Memphis checked out in the second half, but still, this was a thoroughly insane effort by a Clippers team that had every reason to be distraught over an awful game (up until that 4th quarter) and Caron Butler's broken hand.  Notable for the Griz: Marc Gasol is a high-post artist.  Scoring, passing, whatever, dude is a straight baller.  Z-Bo is not the force of nature he was last year, but with Conley, Gay, and Mayo playing out of their collective skulls, Memphis is plenty formidable.  


Hear the loud alarum bells -
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now - now to sit, or never,
By the side of the pale - faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear, it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells -
Of the bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells -
In the clamor and the clanging of the bells! 

Allow me to summarize the collective thoughts of Knicks and Bulls fans: F&#$^!!!!!!!!!!

D-Rose is gone.  For, like, the foreseeable future.  ACL bad.  You could feel it even before he hit the ground.  He's always been the most skilled mid-air contortionist in the league, but there was something eerie and unnatural about the way he planted on what turned out to be his final play of the season.  Given their exemplary sans-Rose performance this season, the Bulls probably can still get by Philly, but the road to facing the Heat in the ECF now appears much more treacherous for Chicago.  (And, I might add, wide open for the rest of the conference.)  It's a shame that this had to happen, especially with so much promising hoops obliterated in an instant.  That said, Rose has been injury-plagued all year, and this was the fault of 66 devilishly compressed games, not Coach Thibs.  

The poor Knicks.  They've dealt with so many identity crises and transitions this year, and they finally looked like they could come into the playoffs with a little swagger behind them.  Instead, they lost emerging defensive stalwart Iman Shumpert (ACL bad, again) and got absolutely crushed by the Heat.  LeBron.  Effing.  James.  That was a majestic performance (that he disgraced with two utterly reprehensible flops.  Sorry, those were just awful).  It also meant nothing.  He turned in several similarly jaw-dropping efforts last year before ghosting in the finals.  We'll wait and see if he can sustain this level of play. 


Hear the tolling of the bells -
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people - ah, the people -
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All alone,
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone -
They are neither man nor woman -
They are neither brute nor human -
They are Ghouls: -
And their king it is who tolls: -
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells: -
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells: -
To the sobbing of the bells: -
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells -
To the tolling of the bells -
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells, -
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

What can you say about Spurs-Jazz?  That was a thoroughly unsurprising result, San Antonio's well-rested veterans took apart the Jazz behind yet another killer Tony Parker night (28-8-4) and Timmy D's semi-vintage 17, 11 boards, 5 dimes, and 2 steals.  It really was a ponderous affair, the outcome was never really in doubt, and, well, we're pretty much done here.  Now on to an equally uncompelling (yet infinitely more significant) game ...

Hawks.  Celtics.  No Ray Allen + Rondo's ejection + average night from The Truth = easy victory for Atlanta, especially with Jeff Teague playing well and J-Smoove going off for a monstrous 22-18 and eviscerating the C's interior defenders.  This was an ugly, low-scoring dirge in a series that no one particularly wanted to watch, but the Hawks dropped the hammer on an unsuspecting Celtics team, and Rondo's probable game 2 suspension for chest-bumping a ref could have the Hawks up 2-0 by the time the series gets to Boston.  Atlanta is the most maddeningly inconsistent team in the NBA, but they proved last night they can hold a lead against a good team, and their defiance all season in the wake of losing all of their interior depth was on full display.  We're being set up for either a resurgent Boston masterpiece or an unexpectedly dominant Atlanta run to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Too bad we'll likely have to endure a few more games like this one first.

Thus concludes the first (and possibly last) Arena Apothecary NBA Playoffs Poetry Recap.  In closing, a haiku:

Many games to come
Ball don't lie and in the end
Someone's gettin' Ringzzz.

Thank you.  

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