I settled into the Lazy-Boy last night around 8:30 PM central time, ready for a night to take in some basketball of all shapes and sizes. While I patiently awaited the Cavs/Suns game to tip-off, as an appetizer I ordered up a batch of Lakers/Spurs and a slab of Big East Tournament action. While the Spurs were unable to complete their comeback and topple the mighty Lakers, the UConn/Syracuse game was one of the best pure basketball games that I have seen in quite some time. By the time I headed to bed around 1 AM, I couldn’t wait to wake up this morning just so I could see Sportscenter’s dedication to the instant classic I had just witnessed.
UConn/Syracuse was just a dandy of a game. A barnburner. If Dickie V had been calling this one, I’m fairly certain that his heart would have jumped out of his chest faster than Mola Ram’s did in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I usually don’t really start scouting my March Madness bracket(s) until conference tourney time, and last night offered some great insight as to the eventual fates of the Huskies and Orangemen. My roommates and I watched in astonishment as Eric Devendorf sunk what appeared to be the game winning 28-footer as time expired for the ‘Cuse. The replays showed that the ball must have been touching his fingernail with 0.1 seconds left, as the call was overturned. Little did we know that the game was virtually just beginning. One overtime quickly turned to three, which then quickly turned to six! I was getting tired just watching the kids leave it all on the floor, and never really wanted to see it end. Finally, despite not leading at all during the first 5 overtime periods, Syracuse surged in the 6th, and proved to be very mentally tough in disposing of Connecticut in an absolute classic thriller. In a game that saw eight players foul out, the 3 hour and 46 minute game became the longest, and possibly greatest, game in Big East history. I’m glad I was able to see it all unfold.
After the game, Jim Boeheim looked like he had just been through a war. “I’ve got no words,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said when asked to describe the second-longest Division I game ever. “I’ve never been prouder of any team I’ve coached.” This is quite a statement from the Hall of Fame coach, especially if you can recall his post-game press-conference after Gerry McNamara’s Orangemen went on an upset-laden run to the Big East Tourney Championship several years ago: “Without Gerry McNamara, we wouldn’t have won 10 fucking games. We wouldn’t even be here to have a chance to win this game.” Classic.
No matter where Syracuse ends up getting seeded, I’m going to have a tough time keeping them from making them a strong run in this year’s tourney. UConn, on the other hand, showed some of the same characteristics of their entire season so far; For stretches, they can be absolutely dominant, and are certainly capable of being the best team in the country. Other times, however, they almost seem to lose focus, and struggle with turnovers and consistency. Projecting their ultimate fate will be difficult, as I think they’ll still be awarded a 1 seed.
Over on TNT, the Cavs and Suns also took part in a bruising slobber-knocker. The Cavs set a franchise record for most road victories in a season with 23, while LeBron James finally recorded a victory in the only building in the NBA in which he had yet to do so. LeBron also became the first player since the Jason Kidd of old to record a triple-double performance in three consecutive games with a 34 point, 13 assist, 10 rebound performance. I’m not sure what was more impressive…that, or his 3 monstrous rejections on the night. His block on Jason Richardson’s 360-dunk attempt was a thing of beauty. Mo Williams was also en fuego almost all night, tallying 30 points. While the team’s interior defense has certainly seen a dropoff since Ben Wallace left the lineup due to injury, coupled with their inability to contain the high pick-and-roll, the perseverance they have shown in coming back from large deficits in recent road victories will be extremely valuable come playoff time. When Delonte West injured his back, Sasha Pavlovic stepped in admirably with perhaps his best performance of the season with 16 points off Mike Brown’s bench. With last night’s victory, the Cavaliers now hold a 2.5 game advantage over the Celtics for the race to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They finish their final West Coast trip with a stop in Sacramento tonight to take on the Kings.