Thursday, May 3, 2007


THE WILL OF BARON: Taking it to the tin!

There are certain evenings that are just plain special, especially when
you are living in New York City surrounded by amazing friends who you laugh your ass off with and have similar interests. Well last night was one of them as I had some of my crew over to "The Palace" for Game 6 of the Warriors Mavs first round series. We were all expecting drama, emotion and great basketball, what we got will go down as one of the biggest ass kickings an underdog has ever given a top seed in an elimination game and a performance from Baron Davis that will define his career.

During the earlier Rockets Jazz game 6 in Utah which the Jazz won to force a game 7 back in Houston, they went live to Golden State before the players even took the floor and it was a mad house. The place was covered in yellow and jumpin. The fans in Oakland could taste the blood of the Mavs, Mark Cuban and Charles Barkley (If you have not seen the studio shows TNT has been doing during these playoff games you have been missing pure entertainment at the most awkward level, it has been priceless)

Though Dallas got off to a decent start, they made 7 three balls in the first quarter to keep pace with the Warriors, the Mavs, the rest of the building and fans watching world wide had no idea what was coming next. Early in the second quarter Baron Davis went to change direction and head back down the court and came up lame reaching for his right hamstring. The mood in my crib went from jacked up as all hell to us asking "Are the warriors finished?" "Shit, I need another beer, do you think Monta Ellis can spark them while they check out Baron?" "The mood in the Palace was one of concern that our night based around game 6 would be ruined as surely the Warriors could not close out the Mavs without The Baron", stated a gitty BD, a palace veteran star in the post game.

Monta Ellis did help the Warriors stay afloat in the next few minutes but it was the much maligned Stephen Jackson that stepped up huge all night. Jack, whose history we all know about has had an outstanding series and knowledgable fans who once dismissed him as a typical thug in pro sports are changing their tune because of how hard and how well he has been playing. This season's Palace appearance leader El Presidente has done a full 180 on Jack, "I am growing to love this guy, kind of like the Mexican I messed with the other night, she just kind of went from chill to a crazed spicy empanada back at my crib, who knew?" Who knew Jackson could drop 33 points and blanket MVP candidate Dirk Nowitski in such a huge ball game.

While Jackson had the best game of his rollercoaster career the real story began when Davis quickly returned to the court from the lockerroom. The fans took notice, his teammates took notice and for those of us watching at home Marv Albert definitely took notice. Marv has been the voice during two of the greatest performances ever put on by injuried players in the post season, Willis Reed in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals and Larry Bird in game 5 of the first round of the 1991 NBA playoffs.

As this was all developing we all looked at each with this look of "Is Baron about to do what this stage is calling for?" But after the first few minutes it did not appear to be possible. Davis was dragging his right leg up and down the court and simply could not guard the ball. BD was giving great animation in the room as Davis was struggling with his loud "Ahh's" as Davis could not move.

On offense his first two attempts were well short, obviously because of the hammy. But then it happened, he hit that baseline jumper as an inadvertant whistle went off, then he knocked down back to back 3's, and all of a sudden the pain in Baron Davis' leg started to go away, and the strength of his iron will began to take over the game, the building and the destiny of the Golden State Warriors. We said it all week around the palace that the WILL of Baron Davis was the difference, as he was able to do what some of the all-time greats have done in playoff history, raise the level of their teammates. All in all Baron knocked home 13 points between the time he re-entered the game and the half. At the half I was able to get out to the balcony and throw some quality snacks on the grill while the rest of my crew made the second half beer run. Great teamwork all around last night by the boys. Everyone stepped up in a big spot, especially BD who aborted a date to make it over for some sliced steak right before tip off.

As we chowed down on some quality chicken sausage covered in the spicy brown and drank our pale ale talk shifted to whether Dirk and the Mavs would be able to handle the emotional lift the Warriors had just gotten from THE WILL OF BARON. "You thought the Mavs would come out and compete, but that is exactly what did not happen", stated a shell shocked Rusty, former palace inmate and frequent appearance leader who is responsible for the current chicken sausage rage.

The scoreboard read 50-48 Warriors at the half but that lead was well on its way to growing as the WILL OF BARON drove Stephen Jackson and co to put a 36-15 third quarter on the Mavericks and boot their asses out of Oakland and the playoffs.
The final exclaimation point came in the 4th quarter with back to back plays by Jason Richardson. First he took a bounce pass on the baseline and whipped home a nasty dunk as the Mavs who had gutlessly rolled over and died at that point just stood and watched. On the following possession Richardson found himself open in the left corner and buried a 3 ball, the final stake threw the Mavericks heart. The same Mavericks that seemed to be on a mission this season as they won 67 games after losing to the Miami Heat in last years Finals.

So here is the question that must be asked today. Where does Baron Davis performance go down in the history of the NBA playoffs when talking about guys that stepped it up to another level while playing injuried or ill?

The four best of all time are below, does Baron's hold enough to be on the same list?

1997 NBA FINALS: Michael Jordan while playing with the flew drops 35 on the Jazz in Utah as he can barely make it up and down the floor brings the Bulls within one victory of their 5th NBA Championship. Pure guts by MJ.

1970 NBA FINALS: A hobbled Willis Reed comes for warmups at the Garden before game 7 against Wilt, West and the Lakers and the building errupts. The Captain makes his first two shots and the Lakers never have a chance as the Knicks lead by Reed and Walt Frazier who played the best game of his hall of fame career capture the first of their two NBA Championships.

1991 NBA Playoffs, First Round: In the decisive Game 5 at the Boston Garden against Chuck Person and the Pacers an aging Larry Bird hampered most of the season with a bad back slams his face on the floor in the 2nd quarter diving for a loose ball. He walks to the lockerroom and the Pacers begin to take over the game. The way the story goes, is that Bird waited for the trainer to turn his back after giving Larry ice for his dreary head back in the lockerroom and he runs out to the court early in the 3rd quarter. The Garden greets him with a standing ovation and Marv greets him with "Here comes Larry Bird." The killer look in his eye gives me chills to this day and his outlet pass to Reggie Lewis' dunk, with Marv adding "And Bird the ball game', along with fist pump and level of anger he played with are what blows the top off of the Garden and pushes the Celtics past the Pacers. Bird finished with 34 points and gave the fans one more tale to tell for decades. Priceless.

1988 NBA FINALS: In their first finals appearance Isiah Thomas and the Pistons lead the defending champion Lakers three games to two heading back to LA for game 6. Early in the 3rd quarter Isiah Thomas rolls his ankle, bad, real bad. He looks to be done but his will and tough Chicago upbringing push him back onto the forum floor and he scores an unreal 25 points in the 3rd quarter on an amazing oray of shots and then hobbles back on defense. If you have ever seen NBA's Great Games hosted by Dan Patrick, he has Isiah live right next to him in tears as he described what he was feeling during that game. The Lakers ultimately won the game and the series in seven games delaying Detroit's first championship until the next season.

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