The Warriors playoff ride is over, the Jazz's ride will come to an end sometime in the next week or so, but Baron's dunk over Kirilenko will live on FOREVER. Let's just sit back and appreciate it for a minute. (It's much better live).
Baron elevates and elevates; he begins his leap before Kirilenko and is still going up as Kirilenko descends. Mind-bending. To his credit, Kirilenko said after the game that it was an awesome dunk and that "at least I got to be on the poster." Also to Kirilenko's credit, he didn't foul Baron; if anything, it was an offensive foul. More on the stupid NBA officiating later.
As impressive as the dunk itself was Baron's stomach flash after he landed. Not really sure where this came from. The elementary school playground? An And1 mixtape? Wherever it came from, it was a stroke of genius in that particular setting — Friday night, Oakland Coliseum, Western Conference Semi-final blowout. You could practically feel the Bay Area elevate that moment.
Again, haven't seen this before, outside of a playground game in the Panhandle, but Stephen Jackson appeared to be dusting something off Baron's shoulders. The remains of the rim? Some magic dust from David Blaine?
Incidentally, the best picture of all was not taken off my TV, but by an AP photographer from the other end of the court. It captures Baron as he descends from the dunk.
I really did believe
Like everyone in the NBA universe has already said, the Warriors were hugely fun to watch this post-season, and it was sad to see them go. It would have been nice to see more scrappy, inspired Matt Barnes moments; more Stephen Jackson daggers; more Baron Davis PERIOD. I've always liked Baron, but this post-season he had it all working: his fast-break vision, his high-arcing three-point bombs, his cross-over, his ability to get in the lane and dish out to open shooters. (More of Baron's finest career moments on YouTube.) It was nice to see Monta get his game back in games 4 and 5, and Biedrins had some really strong moments, by which I mean some ridiculous dunks and a few improbable free throw conversions.
Yes, the Jazz deserved it
At the same time, I admired Utah by the end of the series. Jerry Sloan is an asshole, but he proved in this series that he is an asshole who knows what to do with talented players. The 3‑D guard play (Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Derek Fisher) was unexpectedly solid and impressive. Memo and Boozer were SportsCenter fixtures throughout the season, but I was surprised at how easily Memo was taken out of his game by the quicker Warriors. I was similarly amazed at how great Boozer has become. The guy rose to the occasion, took lots of big shots, frequently changed the momentum of the game and was by any measure a badass among badasses. To say those things about a former Duke player requires a lot of pride-swallowing on my part.In contrast to the uneven, streaky Warriors, every Jazz player was tenacious and gritty while exhibiting a professionalism and character that has been missing from the Western Conference playoffs this year. Why are so many players, especially Warriors, continually trying to draw charges? Play defense. Draw the charge when it comes to you, but don't try to substitute actual defense with stepping in front of a player as they go to the basket. Stephen Jackson! Dude! You were huge in the Dallas series, but against Utah you took yourself out of the game by trying to take charges and then getting pissed that the refs didn't call them! You know this: the refs are not going to give you those calls when the only thing you're doing is trying to draw them. Same goes for Barnes and Harrington. UPDATE: Henry Abbott of TrueHoop has some thoughts on this very subject:
There are a lot of fouls called on players defending against the drive. What occurs to me more and more is that it's smart to do the whole "draw the charge" flop onto the butt, and only in part because you might draw the charge. A bigger reason is that if your hands are up, and you're jumping, and there's contact, you have NO chance of getting the call, and it's likely a foul on you.
An interesting point; perhaps it's all part of an effort to enable slashing and to complicate physical defensive play. On the other hand, superstars seem to get calls even if the defense seems to be legit. Baron obviously drew a lot of charges and hacks, which I think is evidence of a huger problem: THE F%@$$%$ING CONSPIRATORIAL OFFICIATING.
What the f%$#@%$?
It really seems like the referees go into each game with an agenda. Like, the Jazz got every call in game one. Why? Did they want to even things up from the previous series when it seemed like there were some quick whistles on Josh Howard? The lopsidedness of the calls make you wonder things like that. I mean, even Stephen Jackson had some legit beefs that night! Then in Game 5, Baron got pretty much every call. He literally ran over Deron Williams a couple of times, no whistles. When Williams would so much as touch him, whistle. Did the NBA want to prolong the series? Did they want to give Baron the superstar foul exemption? UPDATE: And don't even get me started on the role of the NBA front office in all this. If the suspensions of Diaw and Stoudemire end up costing the Suns the series, I'm going to … protest. Somehow. How can the NBA be so bad at interpreting their own rules? Every sport in the world functions effectively by implementing the spirit of its rules, not the letter. Why go by the letter in this case? Stoudemire and Diaw didn't escalate anything; they didn't incite further mayhem; what gives?In spite of it all, great players make great playoffs. Thanks Warriors, and go Suns.