Confessions of a Periodic Basketball Junkie

Wednesday started off like a very good normal day. Early walk. Mass. Marching orders from the WSJ Editorial page. Billing at work. Client promises of payments. Productive billable hours at clients. Drive around town filled with audiobook [Hot, Flat and Crowded] and half-hearted rumors of Castro’s death on Spanish AM radio [my generation’s muzak]. I knew I was meeting friends at the University of Miami’s home basketball game against Maryland later on, so I squeezed in a dinner with my kids beforehand. I was positively wafting through this day.

My first time back to the Convocation Center since a pre-election event with Mary Matalin and her hack husband. I try to shake off the stench of that memory. Game begins. The Canes were playing very sloppy and found themselves down 17 midway through the second half and the small crowd was as listless as the home team. Sitting to my left, a former CABA president checks his crackberry and yawns periodically. To my right, a dentist performs an impromptu exam. A deplorable sports environment.

Then it happened. The Canes start a comeback. Now, to a veteran basketball fan, this really should not raise many hopes, since it would be rare for the home team in this situation not to make a run to make the final score respectable. But then again, to quote Joaquin Andujar’s favorite word, youneverknow. Lurking in the recesses of the brain, potentially useful fan-venom, a skill nurtured at the Asylum of Miami Senior High and honed as a Miami Heat fan during the early years.

They cut the lead to 11, Maryland calls timeout. Sure signs of the transition from normalcy to partisan fan begin to become evident. I find Maryland’s coach, Gary Williams, one of the top coaches in the NCAA, increasingly annoying. The tipping point. One of those God-awful-are-you-kidding-me calls goes against the Canes. For some inexplicable partisan reason, I believe that the ACC referee–whom I am sure is actually a lovely person–is the spitting image and likely reincarnation of Bull Connor. [This despite the fact that I only saw a picture of the real Bull Conner while writing this post]. Experts refer to this point in the transformation process as the undeterred by facts stage.

Canes further cut the lead to 5 with 4 minutes to go. More signs of the comeback, my brother, a classic front runner, appears. Crowd gets loud. My Bull Connor taunts are now barely audible. Friends ask when I took a ‘Tico’ pill. [Tico is/was a legendary Canes fan since the 70’s who is reported to have moved to Ecuador upon the signing of Larry Coker as coach, based upon a late-night pledge offered up at Duffy’s Tavern].

Happy ending. The Canes best player, Jack McClinton, hits a three with under a minute left and Maryland literally misses a shot to win at the buzzer. Home team joy and opposition anguish, the ideal mix. Great game and comeback. But this alone, obviously, does not raise [lower?] one to junkie status.

No, to achieve junkie status, you had to then:

  • Get home at 11:15 and begin watching the Heat’s victory over Milwaukee, which you had called home to make sure it had been taping before the Canes game.
  • Slow motion replay action before a timeout to understand why Spoelstra was incredulous over something Michael Beasley [born in Maryland] had done.
  • Watched Spoelstra’s post-game comments.

By the way, I parked 6 blocks away to avoid traffic, but since it’s not a basketball related pathology, I don’t offer this as evidence.

All articles referenced are copied in full at end of post.

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Miami Hurricanes continue to have Maryland’s number

Posted on Thu, Jan. 15, 2009

By MANNY NAVARRO

For the better part of Wednesday night’s prime-time game against Maryland, the BankUnited Center was quiet enough to hear Terrapins fans taunting the Hurricanes from the first row of the student section.

By the time it was over, Jack McClinton had the crowd on the verge of erupting.

Trailing by as many as 17 points with 12 minutes left, the University of Miami mounted its greatest comeback under coach Frank Haith, sticking another knife into coach Gary Williams and the Terrapins with a thrilling come-from-behind 62-60 victory.

McClinton hit the final and decisive dagger, swishing a three-pointer with 24.2 seconds remaining to give UM its final lead. Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez took two three-point attempts after that, including one as the buzzer sounded, but it clanked off the rim, sending most of the 4,651 in attendance into a frenzy.

‘We kept telling the guys at every timeout, `We’re going to win this game,’ ” Haith said. “We had to believe we were going to win this game. We just had to make plays. It started with Lance [Hurdle] and James Dews helping Jack.”

It started with Maryland, which had dominated UM with speed and effort in the transition game, suddenly struggling to guard the Hurricanes on the perimeter. After Dews hit a runner with 11:54 remaining to make it 52-37, the Hurricanes went on a 12-2 run over the next six minutes. Dews hit back-to-back three pointers before Hurdle and McClinton hit threes to make it 54-49 with 5:32 to play.

After Maryland extended its lead back out to 58-51 with 2:49 left, Hurdle and McClinton hit three-pointers before Hurdle stripped the ball from Adrian Bowie and drove the length of the court for a layup, which gave UM its first lead at 60-59 with 1:22 remaining.

‘You could just see our guys’ energy pick up after that,” Haith said. “But before the 10-minute mark, they just had more energy than us.”

UM improves to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference heading into another prime-time showdown Saturday at No. 5 North Carolina (14-2) — one of four teams from the ACC ranked in the nation’s Top 10.

Wednesday night’s comeback continued UM’s mastery over Maryland. It was Miami’s fourth consecutive victory over Maryland and sixth in seven tries. Maryland (12-4, 1-1) will play host to the rematch at 8 p.m. Jan. 31.

The Terrapins came out attacking with a frenetic pace, trapping defensively and blazing up the court for open three-pointers and fast-break layups. Maryland forced five turnovers, and when David Tucker hit an open three-pointer, it led 21-12 with 11:56 remaining in the first half.

After Brian Asbury converted a three-point play on a jumper and free throw to trim Maryland’s lead to 23-17, Maryland closed out the first half with a 35-23 lead. The first-half effort was the worst of the season for the Canes, who shot 32 percent from the field, had 10 turnovers and were just 3 of 7 from the free-throw line.

Despite being at a clear size advantage, the Terps found a way to make Dwayne Collins irrelevant by double-teamming him and forcing him to pass the ball out in the post. Collins took just two shots in the first half and had two points.

In three previous trips to BankUnited Center, Maryland’s biggest lead had been three points.

Sophomore Adrian Bowie scored a career-high 23 points and, along with Vasquez, who finished with 15 points, helped the Terps take control early before Miami came charging all the way back behind a barrage of threes.

”Nobody in that was negative at all,” said McClinton, who finished with 18 points. “It was all just about winning.”
———————————————————————————-
Miami Heat survives Dwyane Wade’s off-night to beat Bucks

Posted on Thu, Jan. 15, 2009

By SARAH ROTHSCHILD

All season, the Heat has proved it can win when Dwyane Wade carries the load.

On Wednesday, the Heat proved it could thrive even Wade struggles offensively.

Daequan Cook made sure of it. The second-year guard scored a career-high 24 points, burying 6 of 8 three-point attempts.

”I knew,” Cook said, “it was going to be a long night for the opponent.”

Cook helped propel the Heat to a 102-99 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat won its second consecutive game and improved to 3-2 on a season-long seven-game trip.

Cook scored 15 points in his first seven minutes off the bench, and finished 6 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first half.

His performance came a night after teammates ribbed him following a scoreless night on 0-for-3 shooting against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

”Were you even at the game?” Cook recalled his teammates teasing.

He made his presence felt against the Bucks. And there was no question the Heat needed a spark.

Wade shot 5 of 20 and finished with 17 points, well below his season average of about 29 points.

”It was a night where every shot I shot, they hit me in the arm,” Wade said.

Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles was pleased with his team’s defense on Wade, but frustrated that it wasn’t enough.

”We were slow to recover to the other guys and slow to recognize that they had a guy that was making multiple threes out there,” Skiles said referring to Cook.

ENCOURAGING PLAY

Coach Erik Spoelstra was encouraged by the way the Heat played despite Wade’s off-shooting night. Shawn Marion had his second consecutive double-double, scoring 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Udonis Haslem had 18 points and eight rebounds.

”Earlier in the year, I don’t know if we win a game when Dwyane shoots 5 of 20,” Spoelstra said.

Rookie Michael Beasley had 21 points, his seventh straight game scoring in double figures. Beasley and Cook became only the fourth tandem in franchise history to score at least 20 points off the bench in the same game.

They stepped up on a night starters Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony were off.

They were on the bench to start the second half, and Chris Quinn and Jamaal Magloire played with the starters. In the first half, Chalmers had converted just one of his last 13 shots, and Anthony had no points, one rebound and one blocked shot.

Chalmers finished scoreless for the second time in three games and Anthony wound up with two points.

”I wanted to get a little more size [with Magloire] and Quinny was doing a very good job of getting us organized,” Spoelstra said of the lineup change.

COOKING IT UP

But this night belonged to Cook and the Heat finding a way to hold off Milwaukee’s late run without relying on Wade’s offensive heroics at the end of the game.

”We are starting to smell when it’s winning time and our defensive intensity starts to pick up,” Spoelstra said.

The Bucks pulled to within two points with 1:26 left, but Shawn Marion blocked Richard Jefferson’s shot with 21.3 seconds remaining.

Milwaukee guard Luke Ridnour pulled the Bucks to 100-99 with 9.8 seconds remaining, but Cook drew a foul on rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and hit two free throws to give the Heat its final score.

Down the stretch, the Heat was resilient.

”That’s what it’s all about,” Wade said, “finding another way.”
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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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