Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I hate this man

Those who hate Manu Ginobli please step forward. Not so fast, Adam Olsen!

After last night's circus of a fourth quarter, what self-respecting Jazz fan wouldn't hate Manu? Watching him flop around the court like a fish out of water made me sick. He fell down every time he was touched, and in turn got all kinds of calls from the refs. By the end of the game my hatred was white-hot, and I could see definite concern in my wife's eyes.

Manu was a big part of the problem last night, but he wasn't the only reason the Jazz lost. The Jazz controlled game 4 for three out of four quarters. Even when they were down 8 at half time, I was very happy with our control. Sure enough, we came out of the gate and cut the Spurs' lead to one after the third quarter.

Then in the fourth the Jazz became unglued. They cracked like the Liberty Bell. Not only were they fouling and committing heinous turnovers, they played with absolutely no urgency. When the Spurs were winning the game, the Jazz were still taking bad shots. Apparently they didn't understand that every possession counted. When they needed points the most, they played the worst. It was hard to watch.

But I must say, this is all happening exactly how I said it would. The Spurs will now close out the series at home. The Jazz just don't have the guts to hang with a team like the Spurs. But, we fans can rest easy knowing we were arguably the second best team in the league. Now the national hype will follow us into next season.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The good and the bad

The good news: the Jazz beat the Spurs big
The bad news: BYU baseball lost to TCU for the second time this weekend, ending their season.
The good news: No one really cares about BYU baseball.
The bad news: The Spurs are angry.

I was up and down all night tonight. First, I had to witness the team I have grown to truly love, namely the BYU Cougar baseball team, lose a heartbreaker to TCU. BYU worked the Frogs early, only to let an 8-1 lead slip away. 8-1! Do you know how hard it is to overcome a seven-run deficit? If it was hard in little league, it's harder in college; yet the Froggies did it, and now the Cougs are the first losers of the MWC tournament. But check out how it ended:

BYU had a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. Matt Jensen, BYU's most solid closer, was on the mound, and he retired two early. Catch that? BYU is ahead by three, it's the bottom of the ninth inning, and there are two outs. Then Jensen gives up two hits (maybe one was a walk) and Austin Adams, TCU's right-fielder, belts a three-run homer- OFF THE FIRST PITCH HE SEES- to tie the game. The next batter hit a double, and the batter after that hit him in. TCU wins.

Unbelievable. Insert Las-Vegas-luck cliche here.

On the bright side, BYU had a heck of a season, and they'll be back next year. BYU has but three seniors on its team, and the athletes they have on their squad will ensure successful seasons for a long long time. Also, they won one more fan to their cause. I just can't wait for next year; I'll be able to watch the games without worrying about making deadline.

Of course, I will miss the press-box pizza.

On to the Jazz. Good game, eh? The Jazz were finally able to string four quarters together, and actually blew out the Spurs. Good for them, but I'm still cautiously pessimistic. If you recall, my last post was all about how the Jazz will win game three and lose the next two. So far so good.

Oh stop it. I'm still the rabid Jazz fan I was in November, but if you're completely happy after tonight's game, you've got to lay off the kool-aid for a while.

Now the Spurs are angry and they are sure to re-calibrate themselves to play in the hostile ESA environment. The best teams always make adjustments to win games on the road. That's why I wasn't afraid when Golden State routed us in game three, and that's why I'm scared out of my mind after tonight's game.

But there is a glimmer of hope. The Jazz can win game 4, but only if they prepare for a different Spurs team. The Spurs beat us in game 2 by out-thinking us. In order to win game four, the Jazz have to do the same thing. We need to anticipate their adjustments, and remain one-step ahead. Furthermore, if we can continue to cause Parker problems, then I like our chances.

So here's the kicker: if the Jazz win game four, we take the series in six. If the Spurs win, they'll win in five. How's that for covering all my bases?

Ahh... bases. Poor Cougars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's been a good run...

I firmly believed the Jazz would win last night. I fully expected to come back to ESA with a 1-1 tie. Sadly, that wasn't the case, and now we are in a deep 0-2 hole. The Jazz were outmatched, outcoached and outclassed in game two, and I was completely disappointed in their play. I thought for sure Coach Jerry Sloan would make some adjustments after game one, but sadly he did not. Game 2 was just like game 1, only worse. It seems Spurs coach Greg Popovich got the best of our squad last night.

Now our chances of beating the Spurs are slim. I know we had the same deficit to overcome against the Rockets, but anyone who saw those games knew the Jazz were the better team. The Jazz do not look like the better team against the Spurs. The Spurs made all the right adjustments in game two, and the Jazz did nothing. They had the same defensive struggles and poor shooting that plagued them in game one.

I will say this, however: Tim Duncan does not make the Spurs a great team. Tony Parker is the team's superstar. Parker's ability to drive the lane and dish/make a layup/pull up for the jumper absolutely killed the Jazz last night. Deron Williams couldn't stop him, and when someone inevitably came to help, Parker would simply dish to the open guy for a three or an open jumper. Parker makes the Spurs a great team, and he ensures that the Jazz are one step behind on defense.

Now we get two games at home to try and right the ship. To do so, the Jazz players need to understand their roles. AK needs to be the dominant defender. He needs to give some weakside help just like he did in the other two series'. Carlos Boozer needs to be dominant inside. He did a great job last night, and he needs to keep it up. Deron Williams needs to find his shot and make plays. Williams is at his best when he's aggressive. Harpring needs to stop shooting from the outside and post up. Harpring is too big a bruiser to settle for the 20-footer. Okur did a great job on defense last night, but he needs to learn how to work in the low post. He looks like a complete idiot when he gets the ball on the low block. Finally, Coach Sloan needs to figure out a defense that will stop Tony Parker.

Unfortunately, I think the Spurs are too far ahead of the Jazz in this series. I think the Jazz will take game three, but the Spurs will take games four and five to win the series.

It was a nice run while it lasted, but the Jazz aren't getting past the Spurs. I feel good, though, because I consider the Jazz' season a success. The Jazz haven't even been in the playoffs since 2003, I think, and their first trip back they make it to the Western Conference Finals. Good job, men, and hang your heads high. We'll see you again next year.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Give baseball a chance

If you would have asked me what I thought about BYU baseball before May 1, I would have said something like this:

"Meh..."
Considering my obsessive love for BYU athletics, this response may be puzzling. I don't know why exactly, but BYU baseball never really took off for me. It's always fun to catch a game here and there to enjoy a nice evening at the ballpark, but it's never been something I've followed consistently.

Then I was given the assignment to cover the sport for the Daily Universe. I have attended every home game since, and I must say, it's a blast. You can't beat a nice night at Miller Park. The atmosphere is awesome, and the weather is incredible (most nights). Not many people come to the games, and it's all GA seating so you can find a nice private place to watch the game, or you can get right in the thick of the action in the stands. Then you chase all that with a Cougar dog or two, and you've got yourself a complete evening.

As far as the games go, I was pleasantly surprised to find that college baseball (just like college basketball and football) is much more entertaining than the professional league. There are more hits, more mistakes and more runs. The players are not supermen, they're boys. They're not perfect, they have personality and their humanity makes the game interesting.

BYU finished the regular season 35-18. Considering there are only three seniors on the team, this is an outstanding finish. The Cougars are a young team, and next year they will be a force to reckon with. My advice: Catch a game or two next season, and actually follow along. The team will become real to you, and soon you'll be cheering as loud as the parents.

Game 1 Thoughts

I staggered out of my bed at about 1:45 yesterday. The only thing that could have pulled me out of that sweet Sunday afternoon slumber was game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Jazz.

Before I go any further, I must say that I predicted a good year for the Jazz before the season even started. If you don't believe me read this. The Jazz have vanquished Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Baron Davis and Stephen "Now I can make my court date" Jackson. Now the Jazz face their toughest test in the San Antonio Spurs. The Jazz haven't won in San Antonio since 1999, and the Spurs have home court advantage. No one really expects the Jazz to advance, but I still believe and here's why.

Yesterday's game was a tough one for the Jazz. They ended up losing 108-100, but there were some bright spots. First of all, in a 7 game series one can't expect a team to win every game. When the Jazz were playing the Warriors and lost game three big, I wasn't worried. When you're playing two away games, all you need to do is split. If the Jazz can take game two in San Anton' it's their series. They'll take away home court advantage, and then they'll take the series home to SLC. So don't panic, Jazz fans.

Secondly, the Jazz were in that game. If you watched the fourth quarter, the Jazz outplayed the Spurs and seemed to be able to score easily. In fact, the Spurs only won that game thanks to a superior second quarter lead that stayed with them the whole game. If the Jazz can string together four quarters of solid basketball-the kind they played in the fourth quarter yesterday- they could win easily in San Antonio.

I will say this, though: Tim Duncan is a beast. He will have his way with Mehmet Okur. He's way too strong, and he is a smart guy when he gets the ball down low. My solution? HOFFA. Put the Raf-inator on Duncan and let him push Timmy around for a quarter or two. I know you may think I'm just a BYU homer, but Hoffa is a valuable player for the Jazz. He's a big guy who can get out there and push people around for however long it takes to get 6 fouls. I think they should have used him on Yao, and I'm glad to see he saw some playing time yesterday guarding Duncan. He was surprisingly effective, by the way. Hoffa should be Okur's No. 1 backup, and you just wait: O'Conner and the boys will drop Jaron Collins in the offseason and give Hoffa a much deserved promotion.

Anyway, if the Jazz do a few things, I fully expect a win on Tuesday. First, settle down. Make some shots, work it inside and don't rush a long jump-shot. Second, make Tony Parker shoot from outside. If he cuts inside it's bad news, and I'd rather have him shooting the 20-footer. Third, body up on Tim Duncan. The further away from the basket he catches it, the better chance we have of him missing. When he goes for the bank, it's going to get harder and harder for him the further he gets the ball away from the basket.

My prediction for game 2: Jazz 95, Spurs 89. You heard it here first.