Friday, June 5, 2009

King Kobe, King Crosby and King Cole

What was it that Meatloaf said? Two out of three ain't bad? Pardon my french, but fuck that. Last night, two out of three results in the games I had interest in were bad — the Lakers abolishing the Magic 100-75 and the Penguins evening up the Stanley Cup Finals 2-2 with a 4-2 victory — thankfully, Colbert Richard Hamels salvaged the night.

Hollywood Hamels, as the kids call him, pitched by far his best game of 2009 and put forth one his better efforts ever. A complete-game, 5-hit, 5-strikeout gem with no walks to give the Phils a 3-0 win — their seventh straight victory.

Man oh man was it nice to see a return to form, especially coming off an outing against Washington where Cole got smacked around by leaving the ball up all game. Last night was truly an excellent performance, as Cole effortlessly made the Dodgers — you know, the team with the best record in baseball — look pedestrian at best. It only took Colbert 97 pitches to complete his gem, and I applaud Charlie for letting Cole hit in the top of the 9th and come out to finish what he started.

In years past, especially with just a 3-run lead and the very careful handling of Cole throughout his career, Manuel would have pulled Hamels and pinch-hit for him in the 9th, to both rest his valuable left arm and to try and get some insurance runs. But last night, Charlie saw how easily Cole was breezing through the Dodgers hitters and let him go out there. No doubt, his low pitch count helped make that decision, but I'm glad to see Charlie allow him to do it regardless. That was a truly special performance, and in case you haven't noticed, your first place Philadelphia Phillies, the defending World Fucking Champions, are 32-20, the second best record in the bigs, with a 4-game lead over the Mets … who just got swept by the fucking Pirates.

If you are a fan of the Mets, first off, kill yourself, and secondly, seriously, don't ever try to talk shit again until you actually, you know, win something. Not only will Cole continue to call you chokers, he will go out and pitch complete game shutouts just to rub it in.

As great as Cole's performance was, the Orlando Magic were equally as bad. In game 1 of the NBA Finals, fresh off ousting the anointed one, LeBron James, the Magic didn't just revert back to a team that the Sixers almost beat, but a team that the Sixers actually could beat.

Orlando shot 29.9 (29.9!) percent from the field. Dwight Howard, Mr. "You have a dominant player. Let him be dominant," scored a paltry 12 points on 1-of-6 shooting. Yes, he was in foul trouble early. Yes, the Lakers have Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who match up with Howard much better than anyone the Cavs have. But 1-for-6? Really?

That's Sammy Dalembert territory there. Yikes.

And as much as I hate to say this, Jameer Nelson did not help the Magic whatsoever last night. Now, to be fair, Nelson didn't really looked injured. He was quick, flying all over the place and honestly looked healed. But the guy hadn't played in months, and it showed, especially on his shot. Jameer made just 3 of his 9 attempts in 23-plus minutes.

If I was Rafer Alston, I'd be pretty upset right now. The Magic played a pretty strong first quarter with Alston on the floor, leading 24-22 after one, and the lead was extended to about 5 before the Lakers made their push and built a double-digit advantage in the second quarter. And L.A. did it with Nelson on the floor and Rafer on the bench.

Now, it would be inaccurate to say Jameer was the reason Orlando lost. He wasn't. Not even close. Hell, the Lakers pulled away in the second half with Rafer on the floor throughout the 3rd quarter. But Jameer certainly wasn't helping Orlando last night, evident by his -19 compared to Alston's -6.

Either way, this game wasn't really about what Orlando failed to do as much as it was about what Los Angeles was able to do. In a word, that would be dominate. And there was no one more dominant than Kobe, who looked every bit like the best player on the court, which he unquestionably is.

Frankly, it didn't matter what Dwight Howard did last night. Or any other player on the Magic for that matter. Kobe wasn't going to be denied. He wants this ring more than any other player in the league right now wants a ring. He doesn't want to be remembered as winning only as Shaq's sidekick. He doesn't want to lose as many NBA Finals series as he's won.

No, Kobe wants this ring and he's going to do everything he can to get it. And last night, he sure as shit did everything he possibly could have to not only get a 1-0 lead, but to bury Orlando in the process. Kobe dropped this ridiculous stat line: 40 points, 16-34 from the field, 8-8 from the line, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and just one foul and one turnover in 38 minutes.

He orchestrated the entire game. Every minute. Every possession. He was masterful. Not since Michael Jordan was tormenting Utah has a player single-handedly controlled the entire pace of the game in the Finals the way Kobe did last night. If he plays like that, or even remotely close to it, the rest of the way, Orlando doesn't stand a chance, even if the Magic make their threes.

Last year, the Finals belonged to Garnett, Allen and Pierce. This year, it's Kobe's Finals, and he made that abundantly clear last night.

What also became clear is that Pittsburgh isn't about to roll over and die. Not by a long shot. Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular, especially in the first period, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were far and away the best players on the ice. (OK, Jordan Staal was a beast, too).

The Red Wings looked strong early, firing 19 shots at Fleury in the first period, but the score was tied 1-1 after one. Then PIttsburgh took over after falling behind 2-1 less than a minute into the second. Bang, bang, bang. Three unanswered goals — a shorty by Jordan Staal followed by a tally by Crosby (assisted by Malkin, who scored the first goal of the game) followed by a beautiful tic-tac-toe from Kunitz to Crosby to Tyler Kennedy.

The Penguins are no joke, even if Pittsburgh is the worst city in America … which it is. Honestly, if Crosby and Malkin (and Staal and Fleury) can play like this, the way they have played the majority of the postseason, I don't think even the mighty Red Wings can contain them. All the momentum is now with the Pens, and with no Pavel Datsyuk or even with an injured Datsyuk playing, Detroit may not have enough to keep up.

Then again, the Red Wings didn't seem to have much trouble keeping the dynamic duo at bay in Detroit, so perhaps this is going to be one of those home team wins every game type of series. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

So yeah, not a great night all things considered, but hey, Cole Hamels! Complete game shutout! That was tits.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. Cole's last complete game was exactly a year ago today against the Reds. 364 days is a pretty long stretch without a complete game for a stud pitcher.

  2. Yes, but he is forgiven, for he is a World Series MVP.