Monthly Archives: May 2011

Introducing Your First Place Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are the biggest surprise this year in the majors.

They have one of the best bullpens in baseball and their closer has 16 saves in 16 chances.

In the last 17 games their starters are 12-2 with a 2.85 ERA.

Their offense has led the league in runs in the last 3 weeks; consider that statistic after they dealt their best power hitter in the offseason.

They’ve jumped from worst to first in their division with a blazing hot May.

Nope these aren’t the Boston Red Sox that I’m talking about, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks.

After another slow start the D’Backs have come alive by stringing together a 19-9 month, which includes a 15-2 stretch in the last 17 games featuring a 2 game sweep of the Atlanta Braves and taking 3 out of 4 from the one-time division leading Colorado Rockies.

They’ve done it with ridiculous performances from their young starting rotation. 24 year-old Daniel Hudson has a  5-1 record with a 3.22 ERA this month, 25 year-old Josh Collmenter has allowed a total of 4 earned runs in spot start duty and 26 year-old Ian Kennedy has been lights out going 5-0 in his last 8 starts and lowering his ERA from 6.88 to 3.01. When you couple that with Putz and the bullpen and the D’Backs haven’t allowed much on the scoreboard at all this month.

What has been an even bigger surprise is their performance at the plate. Even after trading big hacker Mark Reynolds to the Orioles the D’Backs are still 4thin the NL in strikeouts (although they’ve cut their average by 2 K’s a game), however they have a higher on base percentage as opposed to last season and lead the league in home runs and are third in total bases and RBI. Even with a slow May new third baseman Ryan Roberts has provided some much needed patience at the plate and is hitting .280 with a .388 OBP and is projected to hit 20+ home runs and only strikeout 81 times. Mark Reynolds would’ve had 81 by the end of this month.

Ian Kennedy and the rest of Arizona's staff have been lights out thus far.

(Funny stat: Mark Reynolds numbers in Baltimore: .198/7/24/.310/.384, Roberts’s stats in AZ as his replacement:  .288/7/22/.388/.476 and he has half of the strikeouts. Oh and the reliever that the D’Backs got for Reynolds named David Hernandez? He has a 1.85 ERA, 7 holds and a 1.40 WHIP as Putz’s setup man. That’s right Baltimore, you just got robbed. Thank you and please come again.)

With all of this youth taking charge and leading Arizona, it should have Kirk Gibson in the heat of the NL manager of the year race by season’s end. Gibson has turned around this team with a steady hand and lots of patience with his players at the plate.

Chris Young and Justin Upton still have very little discipline as you can tell by their high strikeout numbers and middle of the road averages. However, with those two and Stephen Drew in the 3, 4, 5 hole (not to mention a very stable Miguel Montero in the 6th hole) they do drive in a lot of runs. They also mash out lots of home runs as well (except Drew who only has 3) as they have 5 players with six or more including Upton who has 10.

If you’re wondering if these kids in the desert can keep this hot streak going consider their schedule. Their toughest opponents in the next month are the Cleveland Indians and they get them at home at the end of June. They play six with the Marlins and have three with Divisional rival San Francisco; the rest of their schedule is easy when you look at win percentages as they don’t play a team above third place except the Indians in the entire month of June.

What is currently a ½ game lead in the west over San Fran could be even larger as the Giants face St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Colorado all in the next month with all of those teams in early pennant races. Things are lining up nicely in Arizona as we speak.

I must admit that it was weird to look up at the standings and see Arizona on top of a division that features the defending champs, three possible Cy Young candidates and two MVP contenders. However, what Arizona is doing is just plain old impressive.

They’re pitching better than anyone else and with the heat of summer turning up, Upton, Young and the rest of their free swinging lineup should do just fine in making those leads stand up.  Something tells me that it’s going to be hotter than usual in the desert this summer.

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Hockey Returns To Winnipeg

Hockey is back in Winnipeg, like it should be.

I think that I speak for everyone that has any sports sense in the back of their head when I say that an NHL team belongs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada more than it belongs in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(Matter of fact while we’re on it Atlanta doesn’t really need a basketball team either. It’s an SEC town where only baseball and football matter hence the reason the Braves and Falcons still exist. To put any other professional franchise there is completely asinine and is worthy of failure. Just saying.)

 

After today’s announcement it became official that this bit of common sense would come to fruition as the team formerly called the Atlanta Thrashers would soon move to Winnipeg and become them Winnipeg Jets once again.

 

Note: Though they haven’t announced the name of the team yet it is widely speculated they will once again become the Jets.

 

It’s a huge victory for the city, which lost its former Jets to Phoenix more than 15 years ago amidst financial issues in what was a down Canadian economic climate. Now with the Canadian dollar booming as well as a new stadium and investors that actually wanted a franchise (Atlanta couldn’t find a partner for the Thrashers even if you paid them) Winnipeg has another team to call their own.

 

This deal makes perfect sense for a myriad of reasons; one, it’s a Canadian sport and the more Canadian teams the better, two, the Thrashers were dreadful as far as attendance went and have a great team that deserves the attention that it wasn’t getting in Atlanta, three, Winnipeg is the 8th largest city in Canada at over 700,000 people it can more than handle the responsibilities that comes with owning and up keeping a professional hockey team.

 

The bottom line is that Atlanta just isn’t a good hockey climate. Hockey has had success in southern areas such as Nashville, Dallas, Tampa Bay and even Phoenix, which is still trying to find an investor for the team. Atlanta just wasn’t a good fit because honestly most professional teams that play in SEC markets just don’t seem to work.

 

The New Orleans Hornets are struggling, as are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida Panthers and Florida Marlins to stay afloat in areas that are primarily college sports markets. People in these areas just have no interest in these teams for financial reason and just because they truly don’t care.

 

Atlanta has been in a malaise with the Thrashers ever since their arrival. The team hasn’t helped by only making one playoff appearance in their ten-year existence and was swept in that series. They’ve team hasn’t helped by only making one playoff appearance in their ten-year existence and was

Now that they have how will Winnipeg respond?

The Jets always sold out back in the 90’s but the financial of the city did them in. is Winnipeg be stable enough this time around to keep the Jets in place, and will this team be able to become a playoff contender and keep the city interested in them?

 

I’m just glad that there is another city in Canada to watch a professional hockey game in. as great as Atlanta is as a tourist city it ain’t a hockey town. Now that Winnipeg is back in the NHL let’s hope that teams will make the trek to Wisconsin and Quebec City soon as well.


In The End Jim Tressel Had To Go

The Jim Tressel era came to an unfortunate end on Monday

It was only a matter of time. First the tattoo parlor scandal, then the fact that he withheld information from NCAA during its investigation, then the car scandal where everyone and their mother from the football team (literally) got a deal on a wide range of cars, which was against NCAA rules, then last week the final nail in the coffin former WR and doghouse lifer Ray Small confirming all of it by telling anyone that would listen to him…

So of course Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State head coach, he has no choice but to at this point before it comes out that he knew where Osama Bin Laden was hiding all of these years.

Today’s resignation is another layer to an investigation that is slowly dragging Ohio State University into the third circle of hell in Dante’s football Inferno. With so much uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the program someone had to go to create some type of calm around the situation and why not start with the man under whose watch all of this happened.

Some will say Tressel is a coward for suspending his players then jumping ship when things got too hot. Listen, the guy’s not Pete Carroll, he was still standing there amid it all and taking every lump that OSU, the media and pop culture (those Tressel tattoo shirts are going to be a hot commodity come fall in Big Ten country) had to give him. His intensions were to stay at OSU and lead the program out onto the field once his five game vacation was over, however as the weeks progressed you started feeling that this mess was to deep for Tressel to just shrug off and walk back out onto the field and run “Tresselball” down our throats again.

The same players that Tressel tried to protect did him in.

There was too much was coming out about the insane amounts of illegal benefits that the Ohio State football players were receiving  and all of it was a flat out joke. Aaron Kniffer, a Columbus area car salesman gave out 50 heavily discounted cars to players and their family members, former linebacker Thaddeus Gibson got one for $0 (he says that he’s still paying it off, yeah, sure), Small came out last week and did his best Sammy the Bull and spread all of OSU’s wrongdoings across the school newspaper The Lantern (he later backtracked, of course he did), add that to the drama that’s occurred from December until today and you understand why Tressel had to walk away.

He had no choice. Gene Smith (who should share an equal share of this whole mess) wasn’t going anywhere, school President Gordon Gee wasn’t going to catch any flack for it, heck the players were even going to get a free pass.

(I’ve heard some comments today from some members of the media as to how can Tressel just walk away from his players like that? Um, his players put him in this position in the first place. On one hand Tressel should’ve had some idea of how much was going on behind his back as far as benefits and things of that nature were going on, but at the same time he’s not a babysitter. Whether he explained compliance and all that jazz to the absolute max isn’t the main issue here, guys still sold their personal belongings for other services illegally according to the NCAA rules, they received illegal benefits, cars and other things and they continued to do it. How does Tressel handle huge on the field expectations and even bigger off the field issues?

The downfall of Jim Tressel isn’t his ignorance to all of it happening; it is his players’ ignorance for starting of this drama in the first place. It’s weird but you could sort of feel all of this turn once Terrelle Pryor arrived on campus three years ago. Though he’s not the sole reason for this scandal he has been the main figure in it all and this is not the kind of attention Buckeye Nation was hoping for once he signed on the dotted line at national signing day 3 years ago.)

So for about the 89th time in the last six months after the 95th wrinkle in this on-going investigation we ask what now?

Do the suspended players look towards the NFL supplemental draft? How long will Luke Fickell stay at the helm as the new head man in Columbus? Will Gene Smith bring in a big name like Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops to take the reins? How bad will the NCAA come down on Ohio State? What will happen to Jim Tressel? And will other programs look at OSU and become more involved in stopping things like this from happening to their schools like it has at OSU, USC and maybe Auburn once we learn more about the Cam Newton scandal?

This isn’t a happy day in Columbus that’s for sure. Tressel was loved by the masses and praised by the students. Even with his shortcomings in two national championship games he dominated Michigan to the tune of 9-1 during his tenure and it seemed as though you couldn’t have a BCS game without Ohio State playing in it. The run that he had at OSU will not be matched for a long time, and even with this cloud of uncertainty hanging over the school the support for Tressel is still extremely high.

But he’s gone now. Whoever takes over as the next head coach at The Ohio State University has a lot of work to do to bring respectability and a good reputation back to the program and has to change its off the field image.

Today is just the beginning of will surely be the darkest period in the school’s historic existence. Wins and banners will be taken away as will scholarships and maybe future bowl appearances, and even though he is gone James Patrick Tressel will be associated with all of it.

He can’t stop any of it, just like he couldn’t stop any of the players who put him and the school in this predicament in the first place.


The Current State Of Women’s Tennis

Kim Clijsters face says it all about the state of women's tennis.

Quick, name me a viable contender for the women’s French Open title… give up? I don’t blame you because I can’t either.

The current number one is Caroline Wozniacki, who by the way has never won a grand slam championship, she lost yesterday. Number two is Kim Clijsters, who’s comeback story is one made for dreams, she lost yesterday. The Williams sisters are both absent due to injury, one-time wunderkind Ana Ivonavic and Dinara Safina are AWOL and Maria Sharapova is playing herself back into shape.

So what you’re left with is the possibility of Li Na, Victoria Azarenka or last year’s surprise winner Francesca Schiavone competing for the crown at Roland Garros.

Yep, this is the state of Women’s tennis.

This is reminiscent of the early 2000’s on the ATP tour when Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and the other greats of the previous generation were on the decline and we tried to buy into Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin as the leaders of the new school. For three years until the emergence of Roger Federer, men’s tennis was a virtual crapshoot for number one and whoever got it didn’t do much with it.

Fast forward to 2011 and we’re at that same place in time with the women’s game.

Both Venus and Serena are declining in skill, Sharapova can’t stay healthy and Kim Clijsters has only proven to be a dominant hard court player and has been a non-factor elsewhere. There is not one big name in the sport that has, or can for that matter, take the game by the throat and make it their own in the way that Martina Hingis, the Williams Sisters, Steffi Graf or any of the other greats in the sports history.

In short, women’s tennis is falling into a state of mediocrity. After not even one full week at the French Open we’re witnessing it firsthand.

Wozniacki’s fall to one-time starlet Daniela Hantuchova is another setback in the talented yet frustrating career for Wozniacki. Right now she should have at least two slams under her belt, yet she doesn’t seem to have the same fight in her that other former number ones have had. Wozniacki just folds under pressure. Once the shots don’t fall her way her whole game falls apart. There’s no way that the number one player in the world should have only won 4 games against a player who has never made it past the fourth round of the French Open in her career.

Caroline Wozniacki looks the part of number one, but isn't playing it well.

Yet Wozniacki continues to disappoint. Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever your stance may be, she will still be number one for two more weeks because Clijsters lost earlier in the day to 20 year-old Arantxa Rus.

(Wait, 20 years old, two-handed power player, same first name as 90’s great Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario? I’m buying into her already. I need hope man, just saying.)

As much as I love Clijsters she just can’t get it done on any surface other than the hard-court. She made two French finals in 2001 and 03 and made the semis at Wimbledon, but hasn’t come near those performances in recent years. She’s a one surface player and that can only get you so far in the rankings at this point in her career.

Maybe I should buy into Vera Zvonereva, who’s never won a slam either, or Azarenka who is young and talented, but hasn’t made it past a quarterfinal of any slam, or maybe Schiavone, Sam Stosur or Na except all of them are pushing 30 and that’s where tennis players normally lose all of the points of their game.

By the way, those are your top 6 players in the world. Yikes.

The only player left in the French Open with any viable star power is Sharapova, and her career has been disappointing at best. Sure she’s won three Grand Slam events but you feel like she’s been more glamour than game. At age 24 she has more than enough time to attempt to regain the number one ranking like she has a few times in her career. However, she’s missed so much time due to injury that you wonder if her body can keep up with her over the next few years.

Unlike the men’s game from years ago I don’t think that the women’s game is becoming unwatchable. If Sharapova continues to win in France or Azarenka climbs closer to the championship match then maybe it will spark some interest for the game heading into Wimbledon.

That’s only hope right now though. The women’s game is suffering and if someone doesn’t step up quickly and take control of it then we’ll be sitting here waiting for the female Federer to come along. We all remember how long and painful that process was right?


The Heat Get It Right

The Heat are one step closer to having the last laugh.

I owe the Miami Heat an apology. I doubted them, called them soft, contrived, too arrogant and wished them nothing but ill will throughout the season.

 

I thought a team of three superstars and a bench of bums couldn’t make the NBA Finals. I thought that you had to build a team and add key pieces over the course of time. I thought LeBron James was too weak in the late stages of games, I thought Chris Bosh was soft, I thought they were two years away from being a contender.

 

I was wrong.

 

After last night’s 83-80 comeback win against the Chicago Bulls where the Heat closed the game on a 18-3 run and James came through in the clutch, again, all of my doubts were officially flushed down the toilet.

 

The Heat were tougher than advertised, they didn’t let the end of games in this series harm them like they did in the regular season. There was no passing to Mike Miller for game-winning shots (though when Miller did have the ball he was clutch in this game as well as game 4), there was no wondering if the big three could come up big when it mattered. They just did.

 

As much as we made fun of Chris Bosh this season from his crying in the locker room to him being routinely dominated in the low post, Bosh came up huge when it matter in this series as well as throughout the playoffs.

 

Bosh keyed their game 3 win by dominating Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson with 34 points and kept them on their toes in games 4 and 5. When Dwyane Wade and James seemed to be and hot cold throughout the series Bosh was consistent.

 

We can't make fun of Chris Bosh anymore.

Even though Wade had his ups and downs in the series and seemed cold for most of it, he came through when it mattered. In two minutes Wade almost erased the Heat’s 12 point deficit single handedly by scoring 8 points in two minutes and setting up two of James’s threes… which reminds me…

 

The biggest winner in this whole run by the Miami Heat is LeBron James. Coming into the playoffs he was considered to be a liability in the stretch run of a game due to his disappointments in Cleveland and earlier this year. LeBron has shed that moniker with his crunch time shot making throughout this series and in the Boston series and his defense on Derrick Rose.

 

James has been counted on and come through time and time again and has officially transformed into the best player in the league as well as the best closer. After Wade went off late in the fourth, James hammered home the game tying three and go ahead jumper over Luol Deng that lifted the Heat to victory. We can no longer doubt LeBron’s onions, his failed performances down the stretch versus Boston last year and Orlando in the previous year are now in the trash. He has now elevated himself to a high plateau and like it or not we have to give him respect.

 

So are they the favorites to win it all? I think so. As good as the Mavericks are (and the fact that no one on the Heat can guard Dirk Nowitzki) the Heat are peaking at the right time and have 4 of the best 5 players on the court. After the Big 3 the return of Udonis Haslem has benefitted the Heat more than any other player. He brings a toughness and energy that the Heat needed all year long and teamed with Joel Anthony their big men have a distinct advantage over Dallas’s big men.

 

With the series starting in Miami on Tuesday Miami can jump out to a quick 2-0 advantage and afford to lose two in Dallas no matter how great Dirk will be in any game. The Heat have the better team at this current moment. God that pains me to say.

 

It also pains me to say that I’m sorry to the Heat for the bashing and name calling and downplaying of their talent this year. Pat Riley knew what he was doing and it’s working to perfection with a maximum of 7 games left in their run.  We can no longer downplay them as a non-threat to the title, or say that they need more pieces, or that you can’t build a champion like this.

 

The Heat did, and within the next week or two after all is said and done they’ll be holding the Larry O’ Brien trophy laughing at us all saying they told us so.

 

They’ll get no static from me.


Chicago’s Time Is One Year Away

Derrick Rose and the Bulls will have to wait until next year.

The Chicago Bulls are not ready to compete for the NBA championship.

Despite their league leading record, having the coach of the year and the MVP, and maintaining a roster of young, talented and energetic players, the Bulls proved after last night’s 101-93 loss to the Miami Heat that they aren’t quite there yet.

Though they are ahead of schedule.

The fact that the Bulls went 62-20 this year without a consistent second scorer and with constant lapses on the defensive end lets you know how good this team can be once it finds a better two guard than Keith Bogans.

Right now this is a one-horse team with a ton of energy guys that when the game is in their they can swing a game in their favor. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik and Joakim Noah can outhustle, outwork and out play any player on the opposing bench.  The problem is that when they play a more experienced and composed squad like the Heat they get exposed.

When you watched the Bulls last night you saw just how manipulative their energy can be. Whether its Derrick Rose slamming home two jaw dropping dunks, Noah coming up with huge rebounds or Boozer lifting spirits with an emphatic put back dunk you can tell that this team can wear you out with their hustle and build up a ton of momentum.

But the reason why this team isn’t ready for primetime is their reaction to receiving a counterpunch or when they can’t muster up any energy at all. Once LeBron James rocked home a monster dunk late in the third quarter and Mike Miller ran off a string of huge shots the Bulls went into a catatonic state.

Their was no offensive mojo, Korver couldn’t knock down a jumper, Watson and Boozer couldn’t create their own shot, Noah was ineffective and Rose either forced a bad pass, took an off balanced shot or just dribbled with no end in sight.

To put it plainly they look like a mess when only Rose is the only person that can find his shot and no one is in a rhythm.

Their inexperience isn’t uncommon. The old adage in the NBA is that young teams don’t win titles, the old guys do. The Bulls haven’t played in enough games like this together to know what to do or what to expect in the moments. Give these guys another year and another piece or two and they’ll be primed for the big moment.

The Bulls are following the same blueprint as their fellow stadium tenants.

Don’t believe me? Look no further than the team that they share the United Center with during the season.

The Chicago Blackhawks were in the same boat as the Bulls two years ago heading into a Western Conference Finals showdown with the Detroit Red Wings.

The Hawks were an extremely young nucleus that was coming together before our very eyes and were setting the league on fire. Patrick Kane was lighting up the playoffs with a hat trick that buried the Canucks, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were Norris Trophy like defense that could swing a game with their physicality… and none of it mattered once the Red Wings got on the ice with them because the Wings were too experienced and too battle tested for the novice Hawks.

After their 5 game debacle the Blackhawks came back last year to run through Nashville, Vancouver and San Jose to make the Stanley Cup Finals and roll to a title.

The Hawks learned from their mistakes, added Marian Hossa for goal-scoring help and knew how to handle the big moments late in the game one year later. The Bulls are in the same boat.

They have to lose to the Heat to get to where they want to be. They have to endure an offseason of what ifs and could’ve been’s in order to seize the NBA title. In other words you have to lose it before you can win it.

Their 62 wins and regular season dominance wasn’t an aberration by any stretch of the imagination. Think of it as a preview of things to come. The Bulls have the talent, but not all of the pieces in place.

They need one more year of seasoning and this Eastern Conference Final heartbreak to fuel their future title runs. They need a consistent shooter and another guard that can find his own shot and take pressure off of Derrick Rose to do it all. They need to learn how to keep their composure in the big moments. Right now they don’t know how.

They will learn though. By this time next year you should be seeing Chicago back in the Eastern Finals ready to make a run for the NBA title and coming up big in big moments.

If you question my prediction then look no further than the Stanley Cup banner of the Blackhawks last year. Jonathan Toews and company did it, Derrick Rose and company will too.


A Sad Night In OKC

This about sums up OKC's collapse.

As far as collapses go, last night in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was pretty heavy.

I know about the 1992 Houston Oilers, the 2004 New York Giants and last year’s Boston Bruins. Those meltdowns were elongated and gradually moving over time.

The Buffalo Bills come back began almost immediately in the second half against Houston. The San Francisco 49ers had 20 minutes of clock left to come back. The Philadelphia Flyers gathered themselves in about a whole week.

The Dallas Mavericks decimated the Oklahoma City Thunder and left them for dead in less than 5 minutes.

How in the world did this happen? Kevin Durant had just hit a three-pointer to put the Thunder up by 15 points with 5:04 remaining. The Mavericks were outrebounded 48-22 at the time; yes you read that right, that is a differential of 26 in rebounds during a playoff game. The Mavs were shooting a ton of threes and not making many of them. Their offense was flat, the crowd was intense, the game was so far out of reach to the eye that my buddy Mike decided to hit the hay and get ready for work and left immediately after that Durant three.

Then somehow Dallas pulled themselves out of the grave… correction, Dirk Nowitzki pulled them out of the grave.

After watching Dallas look absolutely abysmal for 3 plus quarters, Nowitzki piled the gang on his back and carried them over the final 5.

His shot making was spectacular, no matter what Nick Collison did (and by the way, Nick Collison played tremendous defense on him) Dirk just kept hitting shots.

His baseline, off-balanced, one-legged prayer was the stuff of highlight reels, his head fake and patented one-legged fade away brought Dallas to within 4, he kept making play after play to bring Dallas closer to a tie and all Oklahoma City could do was watch.

The Thunder went from a well-oiled machine to an anemic one. Shots that were once falling couldn’t find the net. Durant panicked and chucked shots, Thabo Sefolosha couldn’t connect, Collison couldn’t get a rebound and Russell Westbrook raised more questions about his shaky decision making with a couple of ill-timed turnovers and shots of his own.

It also didn’t help that Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavs defense buckled down and made life hell for everyone of the Thunder players on the offensive end of the floor.

Dirk worked his magic again.

Once Dirk Nowitzki hit those two free throws near the end of regulation to tie the score you could see the dejection and anguish on the faces of almost every one in the arena that wore Thunder garb, including the players.

The young guns who were free slinging and playing out of there minds for the first two rounds all of a sudden looked like a bunch of lost souls. They were scared, timid and searching for answers, Dallas on the other hand looked rejuvenated and hungry.

They came into the overtime period with the same ferocity that carried them throughout the end of regulation. Marion and Kidd were like blankets that Durant couldn’t shake. Their defense was one hell of a back-story to Dirk’s heroics.

(The funny thing about all of this is Jason Kidd’s transformation. 3 years ago before he came to Dallas; Kidd was a mediocre defender that couldn’t hit a jumper. Then last night you saw Kidd doing his best Bruce Bowen on Durant and Westbrook coming up with gigantic defensive plays and hitting the eventual game-winning three. As much as you have to praise Dirk you have to recognize Kidd’s brilliance in reinventing what kind of player he is and raising his game to the next level with a championship so close at hand.)

Throughout all of this the Thunder still had a chance to win this game after Serge Ibaka knocked down an 18-footer. But once Dirk found Kidd for the go ahead three to make it 108-105 you knew that it was over.

A few Durant misses later the meltdown was complete. Dallas had won a game where it was outrebounded by 22, allowed 18 more points in the paint and was down by what seemed like an insurmountable margin with 5 minutes left.

Kevin Durant missed his last 5 shots; the Thunder finished with 25 turnovers and will probably bow out with a game 5 loss at Dallas to drive a stake through their already torn hearts.

The good news is that they can take solace in their defeat by looking at what the Bruins have accomplished. After their epic meltdown last year Boston finds itself a game away from the Stanley Cup finals.

The Thunder can replicate what the Bruins did in part because of a declining Western Conference that they would seem to have an edge in being the favorite next year.

But it won’t take away the sting of this defeat. OKC’s failure to close out game 4 will go down in history with some of the most gut wrenching defeats that we have ever seen.

And we will be seeing it over and over again for a while.