VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Cue DJ-style NBA public address announcer: In for-r-r Sa-a-a-a-m Smith this-s-s week, M-A-A-A-A-S!
While MAS has yet to author his first book, let alone pen a hardwood classic like Sam-the-Man’s “Jordan Rules,” he’ll still lace up his old school black Converse high tops and gamely try to fill the NBA info void this week created by Smitty’s prior travel plans.
Though MAS’ hoop career peaked in the eighth grade — when he was a starting guard for his junior high team — and went precipitously downhill thereafter, he has a pretty good idea what Sam would have been writing about this week: some darn good playoffs, 2½ rounds in.
How is MAS finding this postseason exceptional?
Let him count the ways:
■ A plethora (Howard Cosell gave MAS permission to use it) of up-tempo, high-scoring contests — As in the good ol’ Dr. J days, most games saw both clubs racking up well over 100 points — frequently topping 120 — and NOT due to teams playing ole, All-Star Game D, either.
No longer is the NBA low-scoring troglodyte ball — to which point it had deteriorated just a few years ago.
You may enjoy Laimbeer-ball but MAS does not.
Thanks to rule changes and tighter officiating, only fluid, athletic — yet physical — play has been on display in these playoffs.
■ Seven-game series galore — In the opening round, a record FIVE Game 7s were shown over one weekend on the telly. The following Monday, another mark was set: most divorce filings by exasperated wives citing desertion.
■ Slew of kooky comebacks — Among them, in consecutive games of their Western Conference semifinal match-up, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers took turns losing after blowing 15-point fourth-quarter leads.
Meanwhile, against Miami in an Eastern match-up, Brooklyn squandered a 15-point bulge with only THREE minutes remaining and was sent home for the season by the Heat.
Leads evaporated faster than MAS’ money in a Phuket hostess bar.
■ Road Warriors — What homecourt advantage? In the first two rounds, the visiting team was victorious 49 percent of the time.
■ Jekyll and Hyde Indiana — This was supposed to be the year the top-seeded Pacers would supplant Miami in the East.
The Pacers are in the Eastern finals again but not after more ups and downs than the Cyclone coaster at Coney Island.
Six times Indiana followed a win with a loss.
The Pacers needed six and seven games to oust postseason Washington and Atlanta, respectively.
And then Indiana failed to hold serve in the Eastern finals with Miami, splitting their opening pair of home contests with the Heat, whom the Pacers now trail three games to one.
Screen legend Claude Rains’ Invisible Man performance has nothing on vanishing Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
■ Miami’s Dwyane Wade succeeding where Ponce de Leon couldn’t — In the early 1500s, the Spanish explorer searched in vain for the Fountain of Youth in South Florida.
Five hundred years later, Wade must have located it.
After two years of limping on what appeared to be an old man’s failing legs, Wade is once again his former spry self this postseason.
His springy, derring-do drives to the basket and deadly mid-range sniping are a big reason the Heat have rolled to 11 victories in their first 13 postseason contests.
■ Buzzer beating bombs up the gazoo — Including: Dallas graybeard Vince Carter vs. the Spurs; Damian Lillard’s long distance delivery for Portland eliminates Houston and Dwight Howard; Ray Allen breaks Brooklyn’s heart late with yet another closing-seconds clutcheroo.
■ Welcome back — Portland and Washington both made the postseason after lengthy absences — and each won its first playoff series in awhile.
The Wizards boast a sensational backcourt tandem in John Wall and Bradley Beal, while the Trailblazers feature a nice inside-outside combo in Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
In the immortal words of Arnold S: Dey’ll be bahk.
■ Ghouls delight — Like someone who slows down passing an auto accident to ogle the damage/carnage, MAS found the fallout from the Donald Sterling debacle intriguing.
The player protests, threat of a strike and possible impact on the Clippers performance produced added tension — especially for LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
Doc’s already well-furrowed brow added five new ravines after the Sterling incident exploded.
■ Record-setting Three Amigoldsters — San Antonio vets Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili won their 111th playoff game as teammates, breaking the old mark of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper of the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers.
Maybe surly Spurs coach Gregg Popovich finally realizes how fortunate he has been to ride their shirt tails (and those of David Robinson) to four NBA titles because he’s been much less snarky during sideline interviews and news conferences and is actually sometimes civil with the media these days.
■ Willis Reed 2.0 — Not since 1970, when Reed came back from a leg injury to spark New York to a title-clinching finals win, has an injured player made a more dramatic comeback than that turned in by Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka in the Thunder’s Game 3 Western semi win over the Spurs.
Ibaka, thought to be out for the season with calf problems, returned to give OKC a much-needed rim protector and rebounder as the Thunder cut San Antonio’s series lead to 2-1.
■ Lebron James near-50-pointer — LBJ missed a last second foul shot in a contest vs. Brooklyn or he would have made the historic half-century mark in a playoff game — something precious few have done.
Team-first LeBron admitted to a teensy “Dagnab it!” moment of disappointment afterward.
From here on out, unless James has a great game, Miami will lose (even Chucklehead Barkley says so).
Hopefully, what is yet to come will at least equal what has already transpired.
That would be plenty.
Ya know, filling in for Sam has MAS thinking about writing his own book on the NBA’s greatest player ever.
He’ll call it: “Wilt Overrules Jordan”
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org