From the "7-Up Stinks Studios," here we go...
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki of Germany shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder's Nick Collison, front, in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals basketball series Monday, May 23, 2011, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
And then there were three
The 5-at-10 turned off the TV with the Oklahoma City Thunder holding a double-digit lead with less than five minutes left. The Western Conference finals appeared to be heading back to Dallas tied at 2.
Then the wheels fell off. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs rallied from 15 down with 4:48 to play for a 112-105 overtime win that gave Dallas a 3-1 edge and all-but-secured the series.
It played out in shocking fashion, but in truth this unpredictable series now has what could be called a predictable and signature moment. As much fun as this youthful Thunder team -- and the energetic OKC crowd -- has been during this charmed playoff run, no professional sports team ascends to a championship without some pain along the way. And Monday's loss was flush with pain.
OKC had 25 turnovers, including nine by star Kevin Durant.
OKC's offense went stagnant when James Harden fouled out with a little less than five to play in regulation. After Harden was DQ'ed, the Thunder scored six points the rest of the way.
OKC point guard Russell Westbrook has dealt with a lot of second-guessing and criticism for his fourth-quarter decision making. It has been justified for the most part, but where this takes him -- does he embrace the challenge or wilt from it -- will be telling.
Barring a miracle, Dallas and uber-star Nowitzki, who scored 40 in Monday's win, will be in the finals for the second time. And the Mavs deserve to be there.
Side note: Where does Monday's Meltdown rank among postseason implosions? Here's our top 3:
-- Oilers-Bills, AFC playoffs, 1992 -- Bills trailed 28-3 at halftime and 35-3 early in the third quarter; without stars Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, Buffalo rallied for a 41-38 win in overtime.
-- Red Sox-Mets, Game 6, 1986 World Series (Sorry, BIspy) -- The Bill Buckner game was a complete team collapse.
-- Jean Van de Velde, 1999 British Open -- Dude had a three-shot lead on the tee of the 72nd hole; a triple-bogey later and a playoff loss left Van de Velde searching for answers.
This game does not crack that top three, but know this -- the Thunder's time is coming, and Monday's painful experience likely will quicken that process.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees answers a question concerning the lockout of NFL football players, at a news conference for a charity golf tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Best of Preps banquet
It's a busy time aroud the 5-at-10 compound.
The Best of Preps banquet is tonight with featured speaker Drew Brees. This is the 5-at-10's favorite event we do all year, and we're always proud to be a small part of it.
Spring Fling starts today with area schools sending seven tennis teams, four baseball teams, five softball teams, two soccer teams and a handful of tracksters in the decathlon. And that's just one day's schedule.
The smallest 5-at-10er -- baby girl Madeline Ray -- turns 1 on Saturday.
It's a busy time, but as the 5-at-10's Pop always said, "I'd rather be busy than bored."
Amen -- and pass the cornbread.
And UT makes a coaching change -- again
University of Tennessee baseball coach Todd Raleigh was fired Monday, and it doesn't take Bobby Cox to see why. Raleigh's team was 7-23 in SEC play this year, and he failed to lead the Vols to the SEC tournament in four years in Knoxville.
UT baseball has become the worst program in the league, and that's hard to fathom for a state school that has the ability to use lottery scholarships to augment the less than 12 scholarships baseball teams have to fill their rosters.
But, as TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer adroitly noted here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/may/24/wiedmer-todd-raleighs-tenure-another-negative-athl/?sportsColumns, this is yet another blemish on UT athletic director Mike Hamilton, who hand-picked Raleigh after firing successful yet stressful Rod Delmonico.
His ability as a fundraiser is undeniable, but Hamilton has now fired-hired-and-been-forced-to-replace head coaches in each of his three biggest sports (remember, UT has a separate women's AD and women's athletic department).
The list of possible replacements range from familiar (Chris Burke) to eye-popping (it's hard to see former UT star and major league manager Phil Garner being an option). So Hamilton heads into his third coaching search in 16 months, and something tells the 5-at-10 that as the critics start to grow in number and volume, this will be a little more closely watched than the average baseball coaching search.
The 5-at-10 says the first call should go to Rick Honeycutt, former area star and UT All-American. Make him say no, then call Garner. Heck call Bobby Cox -- it's not like he's got anything else to do.
Harold Camping prepares for a taping of his show "Open Forum" in Oakland, Calif., Monday, May 23, 2011. Camping says his prophecy that the world would end was off by five months because Judgment Day actually will come on October 21. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Rapture on Oct. 21
Harold Camping, the radio host that predicted the rapture for last Saturday, said he was early by five months. Camping now tells his listeners/believers/followers/fellow nutcases that the judgement from our Lord and the end of the world will be Oct. 21.
First question: Why does this guy get to choose? Why not the 5-at-10? And if it has to be a radio personality,wouldn't Dr. B have a little more insight -- hey, he's a doctor after all?
That said, here's our thought about Camping's latest prediction -- Uh, no. Oct. 21? Seriously? The Friday before Alabama-Tennessee and LSU-Auburn? (Side bonus: get your SEC football schedule grid here http://sec12.com/2011secfootballschedule.html) There is no way, No Way, NO WAY, the Good Lord is going to end our days during the middle of college football season.
And that's all we have to say about that.
Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki (41) of Germany makes an off-balanced shot over Oklahoma City Thunder's Nick Collison, right, in the second half of Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference finals basketball series Monday, May 23, 2011, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
This and that
-- One more NBA playoffs tidbit: We've heard of win-win trades, but how's this for a lose-lose trade. When Boston sent Kedrick Perkins to OKC for Jeff Green, the Celtics were never the same. Well, the Thunder had some success in recent seasons with Jeff Green guarding Dirk Nowitzki, and without Green, Nowitzki has torched the Thunder.
-- The "VAN GUNDY" guy in the "Beans and sports," ESPN commercial that EC referenced Monday continues to entertain. If the 5-at-10 has a voice commercial in our future, we want Sam Elliot to do it. His "Coors, a banquet beer," and those Chevy commercials are awesome. And, if we do a 5-at-10 commercial, there is no way that talking basketball from the NBA playoffs can be involved in any way.
-- Is anyone other than the 5-at-10 perplexed and somewhat pained that the Heisman Trophy will be sponsored by AFLAC? Yes, the AFLAC Duck will have a feather in the Heisman presentation.
-- Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 for his slur at a fan that was caught on camera Sunday night. Sounds about right -- until you realize that that's more than what most of America makes in a year. The 5-at-10's head hurts. "We're in a glass case of emotion. ... Mean man punted Baxter."
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...