Basketball has an intensity that baseball just can't match. Intensity comes from immediacy. Down the stretch of a close basketball game the action rushes at you. ( At least when there isn't a time out. ) There's no buildup to the moment when the slugger comes up as the tying run at the plate. That moment is already there. It's always there. Facing Dwight Howard is like facing the Cardinals with Albert Pujols at the plate, and Albert Pujols on deck. Only at the last second Pujols can be replaced by a different batter who can do something entirely unexpected, like lay down a perfect bunt double. Basketball is so unpredictable in that way. Observe: Kobe is going to take that last shot, we all know it, up until the moment when instead it's Fisher.
I need the adrenaline rush of basketball. These games, these playoff games with the Lakers, they are a ride unlike anything Dodger baseball offers. When a Laker playoff game and a Dodger May or June game is on at the same time, the Laker game gets the big TV. I love the Dodgers more, and ultimately I think following them offers more, but this is basketball's time, this is the time when it seizes me and I yell happily, or in frustration, or in despair, or in dizzy disbelief at what I just saw happen.
Fisher. I didn't yell at his first three, the one he hit with less than five seconds in regulation of game four. I was stunned, happy, but also guarded, knowing that so much time remained.
I yelled at his second three. It just felt like that was it, that was the victory. Sure, there was half a minute left to play, but the Magic didn't really play it. That second Fisher dagger was too much for them.
All season long, Fisher was bad, or mediocre, or just okay, more often that he was good. All playoffs long, Fisher was bad more often than good. Missed three pointers, botched fast breaks, ill-advised pull up jumpers --- and then in the biggest game yet, with time running down, with the Magic about to look the Lakers in the eye and claim the higher ground Fisher found the ball in his hands, and ...
Pulled up, for a jumper, for a three, and hit it.
On the strength of that, and just that, he gets an unfair win share. That's the way basketball is, sometimes. One play saves all.
Ariza was the heart of the third quarter comeback, the first occasion for the Lakers to rise from the dead, and he gets an unfair win share. The last goes to Gasol, so strong in the post, defending both Howard and Lewis into bad offensive games. Sometimes I wonder if Pau Gasol is really, secretly, often stoically, the Lakers' best player. I know it's really Kobe, and I love Kobe, but I also hate him, hate him for when he goes into isolation, forgetting his teammates, seeming to forget everything, just him against the other team, against the world, against the failures of his own teammates, against the great players of the past, agsint his own demons --- against --- I don't really know. Kobe shot horribly in game four, and that's why he doesn't get an unfair win share. Too much hero Kobe. But not too much to win. He found Gasol for the basket that cut the deficit to three; he found Fisher for the dagger three in overtime. It was just enough of leader Kobe.
Pietrus gets an unfair loss share for taking a horrible shot to end regulation, and Lewis gets two for disappearing in a game where he could have easily tipped things to the Magic's favor. Dwight Howard maybe deserve an unfair loss share for his bonked free throws, but his work on the boards and the defensive end are so good I just can't do it. But think about this: How crazy is it that the Magic now have two infamous NBA Finals meltdowns involving missed free throws, but neither one involved Shaq? Shaq is, after all, the most famous charity brick layer in NBA history, and he started his career with the Magic.
Basketball has me right now, soul and nervous stomach, and baseball seems a distant second, at least for a little bit longer. And yet, in my memory, and in my thoughts of the future, baseball wins. Baseball is better. I can't really explain why, except this ...
Baseball has Vinny. And basketball doesn't, and never could have. Vinny could have been a basketball announcer, I'm sure, and he would have been a good one. But it wouldn't have been the same. Vinny fills the silent moments. He amplifies the speechless moments. He weaves history into the present. He discovers the character of each game and brings us into near conversation with it. You can't do those things in basketball. You just can't --- it has few silent moments, it has little sense of history. And that's okay, not everything has to be the same. But that's why baseball is better.
Unfair Win Shares ( Lakers )
Ariza -- 1
Pau -- 1
Fish -- 1
Unfair Loss Shares ( Magic )
Lewis -- 2
Pietrus -- 1