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Sunday, May 16, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Percy Allen / NBA reporter
I've fallen in love with the NBA all over again, and you should, too.
One week. Four series. Eight teams. And a lifetime to savor moments so wonderful and events so improbable that you'd think it was all scripted like some summer blockbuster movie.
This wasn't a re-make of "Troy," but it was an epic of Homeric proportions that spanned six nights.
Monday: We all learned once again that no lead, even the 14-point variety with less than four minutes left, is safe around Sacramento. Led by Peja Stojakovic, the Kings pushed Minnesota into overtime before Kevin Garnett, who scored 30 points, sank a fallaway jumper with 10.9 seconds left to secure the victory in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Just two of the five games in this series have been decided by more than six points.
Tuesday: I'm exhausted by Kobe Bryant's court-to-court transition, his mad dash from pre-trial proceedings in Eagle, Colo., to Staples Center in Los Angeles, so I can only imagine how he feels. And still he somehow scores 42 points.
Are you kidding me?
It's difficult to put up 42 points under the best circumstances, but doing it under extreme emotional and physical duress and against the defending NBA champions in the West semis, well, that's nearly impossible.
But it was only a prologue.
Wednesday: Can we get a do-over on those rookie of the year votes? I still like LeBron James, but I really like Miami's Dwyane Wade. Especially now that he's torching the team we all thought was the best in the East.
And if you look at the Heat long enough, you'll realize that it is the best story in these playoffs.
Thursday: I'll always remember it as the "Fisher Fling." As clutch basketball shots go, Derek Fisher's game-winner as time expired in Game 5 ranks up there with Magic Johnson's running sky hook in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals.
Among Lakers lore, it's just as big as Robert Horry's three-pointer against Sacramento as time expired in Game 4 of the 2002 conference finals and Jerry West's 60-footer to send Game 3 of the 1970 Finals against the Knicks into overtime.
Tim Duncan currently is featured in an amusing commercial with Julius Erving, in which Dr. J plays a psychiatrist and Duncan is lying on his couch, trying to figure out why the championship trophy is so elusive.
After Game 5, in which Duncan made the first of the greatest exchange of miracle shots ever seen in an NBA playoff, he's going to need plenty of therapy.
In case you missed this game for the ages, ESPN Classic will re-air it tomorrow, proclaiming it an "instant classic," and for once I'm in agreement with the network.
Friday: While they're at it, let's see Game 5 of the New Jersey-Detroit series once again. Let's get another look at Richard Jefferson's amazing block as time ticked away in regulation and Chauncey Billups' near-halfcourt heave that banked off the glass and fell through the net to force the first of three overtimes.
Think about that for a second. Three overtimes. It's happened just four other times in the playoffs.
Four hours and seven minutes after tipoff, eight players had fouled out and 247 points had been scored. Said Jason Kidd: "That was an amazing game. It's just a shame that someone had to lose."
Yesterday: Shaquille O'Neal proved once again that size does matter.
Two remarkable, too-good-to-believe endings in a week to remember rekindled my love affair with basketball, and a part of me is a little ashamed that I ever jumped off of the bandwagon.
But this league can do that to you. The six-month regular season is a grind. The seemingly meaningless first round of best-of-seven series takes way too long.
And like so many, I thought the million-dollar athletes had stopped caring and as such, I stopped caring.
But did you see the joy in Fisher's eyes after Thursday's game? Or the pain in Mike Bibby's face after the Kings' defeat? Have you heard the bickering between Pistons coach Larry Brown and Nets coach Lawrence Frank?
No reality TV can touch this.
These games have substance. They have style. They have characters.
Are you watching? You should.
I'll admit that I'm a shill for the league. But this is why I became a basketball fan. For moments like these.
This is John Havlicek stealing the ball, Willis Reed limping out on the court in Game 7 and Michael Jordan beating the Cavaliers all over again.
Can't you see it?
Did you Tivo it?
These are court trials of a different variation and not the headline-stealing proceedings of Jayson Williams and Bryant, which at times overshadow the games.
These are games that redefine time. Who knew that a man could catch, aim and release a basketball in four-tenths of a second?
And in the time that it took the ball to leave Fisher's hands and fall through the net, a nation of disenchanted fans became reinvigorated again.
The NBA has me once again.
My only fear is that the games can't get much better than this. How can they?
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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