Just nothing you could do tonight. It was LeBron James night. He was just absolutely unbelievable in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes, and it seemed like no matter what the Pistons did, they were destined to lose this game. Worst part? Had Antonio McDyess not been ejected (and while he did commit a flagrant foul, to eject him from the game, a game of this monumental importance, was ridiculous), the Pistons likely would have held on in regulation.
So what do Pistons fans have to hold on to?
2004: Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the New Jersey Nets defeat the Detroit Pistons, at the Palace, in triple overtime, to win Game Five and take a 3-2 series lead back to New Jersey. The Pistons won games six and seven and won the NBA Championship.
2005: Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat defeat the Detroit Pistons, at the Palace, to win Game Five and take a 3-2 series lead back to Miami. The Pistons won games six and seven lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals (where they also lost Game Five, in overtime, and then came back to win Game Six).
2006: Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeat the Detroit Pistons, at the Palace, to win Game Five and take a 3-2 series lead back to Cleveland. The Pistons won game six and seven to win the series.
2007: Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeat the Detroit Pistons at the Palace, in double overtime, to win Game Five and take a 3-2 series lead back to Cleveland.
How the Pistons respond will define the legacy of this Pistons dynasty.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Just nothing you could do tonight. It was LeBron James night. He was just absolutely unbelievable in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes, and it seemed like no matter what the Pistons did, they were destined to lose this game. Worst part? Had Antonio McDyess not been ejected (and while he did commit a flagrant foul, to eject him from the game, a game of this monumental importance, was ridiculous), the Pistons likely would have held on in regulation.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I thought Chauncey Billups had turned the corner. After a series of bad shots, poor decisions, and turnovers, Billups finally played the way he is capable of in the first half of Tuesday night's Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers. He scored 18 points, looked like a totally different player. I guess I should have taken the Pistons 7 point deficit seriously despite Billups stellar play. Because Billups turned back into a pumpkin in the second half, shot 1-8, scored just 5 points, and the Pistons saw LeBron James, Drew Gooden, and Daniel Gibson hit big shot after big shot to help the Cavs even the series.
I thought the Pistons were going to hold on to their lead too. After erasing the Cavs first half advantage, the Pistons looked strong. Antonio McDyess, realizing this may be one of his last chances to get to the NBA Finals, played with a fire and intensity not often seen from him in the fourth quarter. Jason Maxiell was given decent minutes and looked good too. And Rip Hamilton, who struggled to find his shot early, ended up with 19 and 8 rebounds, despite a 9-21 shooting night.
It looks to be 2006 all over again, when the Cavs took the Pistons the full seven games in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, wearing down the Pistons to the point where the team from Detroit was easy pickings for the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. If the Pistons do not lock down, and end this series in six games, the same thing will happen this year, as a worn down Pistons team will get mauled by a well rested San Antonio Spurs team, who can wrap up their series with Utah tonight. Or, of course, there's another option. If the Pistons don't wake up, it could be the Cavs facing the Spurs, and while that may make NBA Commissioner David Stern and all the television executives happy, it would be a huge under-achievement for this Pistons team.
We'll see how bad the Pistons want it on Thursday at the Palace in Game Five.
Monday, May 28, 2007
I am the first to admit that I am not a car guy. Sure, I love going to the North American International Auto Show every year (one of the crown jewels of Detroit), and looking at classic cars are fun, but I couldn't pick out a V6 from a V8 and when people start talking about horsepower, I suddenly know how other people must feel when I'm droning on about the latest changes to the defensive scheme the Detroit Lions are making. And I'm certainly not a big race car guy. I find NASCAR unbearable (sorry NASCAR fans) and while I'll watch the Indy 500 if nothing else is going on, nothing else was going on Sunday and I still didn't watch much of the race, and the only reason why I turned in at all was to see how Danica Patrick was doing, because I think her success in race car driving is a really interesting story. That said, I can tell you who won. Mr. Ashley Judd.
That's right, Indy 500 winner, Dario Franchitti, is married to actress Ashley Judd. Though winning the Indy 500 may catapult Dario to his own fame, apart from that of his wife. As most people who know me already know, I am a big Ashley Judd fan. She is universally underrated in those yearly "Maxim Top 100" lists (is she even listed usually? -- And as an aside, Maxim's list is usually awful. I think Lindsey Lohan was listed #1 this year, which is all that needs to be said. Judd wasn't listed. Something's wrong with that. Any list that doesn't have Judd, Charlize Theron and Las Vegas' Vanessa Marcil (none of whom made the Maxim list at all) in the top 10, is completely illegitimate) and while I won't be seeing her newest film, "Bug" (not a horror movie fan), I really liked High Crimes (with Morgan Freeman) and Double Jeopardy (with Tommy Lee Jones) wasn't awful.
What is great about Judd though, more than her acting and her looks, is that she's a huge sports fanatic. Not only is she married to this year's Indy 500 winner, but she's obsessed with Kentucky basketball. She was on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week talking about Kentucky's recruiting class and how she tries to use her fame and influence to find out inside information from Kentucky's coaches about the players they are recruiting. And she wasn't kidding. She really knew her stuff. She's a constant fixture at the NCAA Tournament and Final Four when Kentucky makes it there and it's clear she's a big time fan.
Judd's also a humanitarian and is doing a lot of work to stomp out Malaria and other diseases in Africa. She wrote an op-ed about her work for CNN.com last month to promote "Malaria Awareness Day."
So now, if you are looking for a reason to watch next year's Indy 500, you can tune in to see if Mr. Ashley Judd, Dario Franchitti, can defend his crown, and to see how many times the ABC telecast shows Mrs. Judd on camera (I'm betting quite a bit).
In some ways, ironically, it was the best game the Detroit Pistons played in the series. Sure, Chauncey Billups continued to struggle, and Rip Hamilton had an off night, and well, the Pistons lost, but other than those problems, it was the best effort in three games for the Pistons. Unfortunately, though, unlike the first two contests, where the Pistons made late fourth quarter runs and iced the game late, it was LeBron James scoring 12 fourth quarter points and getting his teammates involved to ice the Pistons, helping the Cavs to an 88-82 victory which makes the series 2-1 in favor of the Pistons.
The Pistons did a lot of things right in Sunday night's Game Three. They weathered an early Cleveland burst of energy and early lead, ending the first quarter tied at 22. They didn't let a late second quarter surge by Cleveland bother them, and they outplayed the Cavs in the third quarter (as they have all series), taking a one point lead into the final 12 minutes. They just didn't get the big stop or hit the big shot when they needed to. Rasheed Wallace did his best to hit a few late threes to get the Pistons back in it, and even Billups, who struggled all night, hit a few key baskets down the stretch. But a few costly turnovers, and some great shooting by LeBron James and rookie Daniel Gibson (who hit a killer three pointer late in the game) gave Cleveland second life in the series.
Wallace continued to play well for the Pistons, and Tayshaun Prince, who was 1-19 coming into Sunday night's game, shot 6-13 and scored 13 points. Even Flip Murray, coming off the bench, was strong, scoring 8 points, providing the team energy when they needed it most. And Chris Webber played his best game in recent memory, dominating the first quarter, and scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 28 minutes of work. Webber's problem, though, was foul trouble, which had he been able to stay out of, the end result may have been different.
The result may also have been different had LeBron James not scored significantly more then Rip Hamilton and Billups combined (32 for James; 20 for the Pistons backcourt). While LeBron was aggressive, and was key late in the game, Hamilton and Billups struggled, hitting only two field goals combined going into the fourth quarter. They were a combined 6-22 from the floor with 7 turnovers (Billups accounting for five more, putting him in double digits for the series). LeBron, on the other hand, added 9 rebounds and 9 assists to his 30+ point night, and hit the game clinching shot over Rip Hamilton with under thirty seconds to play. Hamilton defended him about as well as he could, but James hit the shot anyway. The kid's pretty good, you've got to give him that. The Cavs defense deserves credit too. They have had Billups out of rhythm the entire series. I did not give them enough credit for their defense coming into the series.
The Pistons won't win many games when Billups and Hamilton both are cold and are turning the ball over, and LeBron scores over 30 on the other side. And I was surprised Jason Maixell didn't see more playing time (only 3 minutes) after how well he played in Game Two, though, with Webber, Prince, Wallace, and McDyess all playing well, it was hard to find minutes for Maxiell tonight. Even with the loss, there are a lot of positives to take out of the game for the Pistons, including Prince shaking out of his shooting slump, and Webber finding his confidence too. Game Four Tuesday night is another toss-up, but a few adjustments by the Pistons, and hopefully, they can take a 3-1 lead. After all, Hamilton and Billups won't have two off games in a row, will they?
Saturday, May 26, 2007
The Detroit Tigers lost their second consecutive game to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday afternoon, wasting a fine effort from Justin Verlander, losing 6-3 when relievers Jason Grilli and Bobby Seay gave up four runs in two innings, wasting what was a 3-2 Tigers lead. Grilli's stat line was truly horrifying: 0 innings, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 home run on 9 pitches. Almost hurts as bad as the liner he took off his leg which removed him from the game. Not as if manager Jim Leyland wasn't going to get the hook himself anyway.
And it's not as if Tigers fans can hope Grilli's injury will keep him out of action for any significant time, because, the bullpen is a Mash unit at the moment, with set-up man Fernando Rodney sent to the disabled list this afternoon with a sore shoulder. That puts both set-up men from the start of the season, Rodney, and flamethrower Joel Zumaya, on the DL, leaving the Tigers nobody to pitch before closer Todd Jones. Veteran Jose Mesa, brought on as insurance for Rodney and Zumaya, has not lived up to the premium the Tigers are paying him, and Grilli has been awful the entire season. Every Bobby Seay, who had been pretty decent up until today, is now struggling, and the Tigers were forced to call up Zach Miner to replace Rodney in the 'pen. It's a critical situation for the Tigers and there is only one way to fix it.
When Chad Durbin first joined the Detroit Tigers starting rotation, replacing the injured Kenny Rogers, I was not sold. After his first two outings (both very shaky) I called for Andrew Miller to replace Chad Durbin in the Tigers starting rotation. Since then, though, Durbin has put together some great performances, and has proven himself to be a very valuable member of the Detroit Tigers team. He is 4-1 and the Tigers have won 6 of his 9 starts and he has done absolutely nothing to deserve losing his spot in the Tigers starting rotation. But, in the best interest of the team, in order to save the Tigers bullpen from itself, and to save the Tigers team until Rodney and Zumaya return from the DL, the Tigers have no choice but to move Durbin to the bullpen.
The move has nothing to do with Durbin's struggles as a starter and everything to do with how impressive he's been on the mound. He has pitched so well, he may be one of the only guys Jim Leyland can count on in the late innings of games. And unlike Mike Maroth, who may also be a candidate to remove from the starting rotation, he has more experience coming out of the bullpen and may adjust better to that role. The Tigers have to ask themselves where do they need the most help right now, their starting rotation or their bullpen? And with Andrew Miller waiting in the wings for a spot in the rotation to open up, the Tigers could completely rejuvenate their bullpen without losing a lot in their rotation by calling up Miller and moving Durbin to the 'pen.
With the addition of Miner, and moving Durbin to the bullpen, Jim Leyland would have a lot of options in the late innings. Durbin and Miner could pitch three, four innings if need be, or just get a batter or two. And if Ramon Colon, currently rehabbing from neck surgery, can come back sooner rather then later, the Tigers could have an entirely new and improved bullpen with just a few moves. Plus, Troy Percival is likely going to attempt a comeback, and while his initial run with the Tigers never got off the ground due to injuries, if he's healthy, he could be a savior if the Tigers signed him. And he can't be any worse then Jose Mesa at worst. He's somebody the Tigers need to take a hard look at.
As the team proved today, with Rodney and Zumaya out, the current bullpen just does not have enough talent or firepower to get the job done on a regular basis. But, the Tigers could, and should, make a bold move by moving Chad Durbin into the bullpen to strengthen it, and move Andrew Miller to the major leagues to join the starting pitching rotation. Sure, it's a gamble, on Miller's inexperience and Durbin's adjustment to relief work, but the Tigers need to do anything and everything they can to help their struggling 'pen and moving Durbin into that role may be just the trick the Tigers need to shake things up for the better.
Detroit Tigers fans have had a nice treat the past two Tigers broadcasts on Fox Sports Detroit, as with Rod Allen back home for his son's graduation, Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell has filled in as color analyst and he's shown despite the years away from the game he still hasn't missed a beat. No disrespect intended to Rod Allen, who I happen to think has really improved over the years as a broadcaster, and can be both funny and educational (he does a great job of breaking down and explaining the little things which you may miss if you are a casual viewer), but I've missed Ernie Harwell and it has been great having him back in the booth.
Like generatios of Tigers fans, I grew up listening to Ernie Harwell call baseball games on WJR and later on PASS Sports and the Detroit Tigers television networks. I know it's a cliche to say that you could listen to somebody read the phonebook, but with Ernie, it would actually be entertaining. I feel really lucky that we were able to have such a world class broadcaster in Detroit for so many years. Watching Friday night's game against Cleveland (I missed Ernie's Thursday afternoon broadcast because I was at work), it brought me back to the days of Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson and the Tigers of my youth, like Cecil Fielder, Travis Fryman, and Mickey Tettleton (Yeah, it's not Kaline and Horton, but it was what I had). When I would listen to Harwell on the radio and watch George Kell and Al Kaline do the games on TV. Nowadays it's common to have a player do color commentary, but not very often do you see a player be a great play-by-play man, but George Kell was.
Ernie was classic Ernie this week. Still had an amazing encyclopedic knowledge of baseball at his fingertips, still full of great stories about the glory days of baseball. The Tigers split the two games Ernie broadcast (a 12-0 thumping of the Angels and a tough loss last night to Cleveland) but they were an education in broadcasting. It's too bad this afternoon's national FOX broadcast of the Tigers-Cleveland game won't feature Ernie. With the two top teams in the Central going head-to-head, with two of their top pitchers (Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia) on the mound, it should be a barnburner. And somewhere, Ernie Harwell will be watching, rooting the Tigers on to victory.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Now that spring and summer are upon us, and most television shows have had their season finales, repeats will dominate the airwaves. Who knew the NBA was subject to the same rules as Lost, Boston Legal, and How I Met Your Mother? Because Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals was, pretty much, a mirror image of Game One. The same Chauncey Billups turnovers. The same poor shooting by Tayshaun Prince. The same outplaying of the Pistons by the Cavs except for when it mattered. And the same ending, with the same score no less, Pistons 79, Cavs 76. What did change was LeBron James took the shot this time instead of passing off (and, for the record, I think he made the right and smart play in Game One passing to a wide open teammate for the game winning three and people need to get off LeBron's back about it) but it clanked off the iron (there was no foul by Rip Hamilton as the Cleveland bench so desperately wanted). The Cavs had a few more shots at the basket too, including a wide open putback by Larry Hughes which he somehow missed, and the Pistons escaped with another victory, going up 2-0 in a series where they have been outplayed for most of the time on the floor.
Going into Cleveland, the Pistons are going to have to play better basketball. Billups turning the ball over as much as he has the past two games is getting to be a bit concerning, as I don't know if he's trying to do too much or moving too quickly, but it almost cost them in both games. And while Tayshaun Prince is bringing a lot to the table with his all-around game, he followed up a 1-11 shooting night with an 0-8 performance, netting just a single point. Obviously that needs to improve.
The real star of Thursday's game though was Pistons' sub Jason Maxiell. After Antonio McDyess was knocked loopy with a blow to the face, Maxiell came into the game early in the first quarter and gave the Pistons a real spark. He was flying all over the court, on both sides of the ball, from blocking LeBron James' to dunking over Cavs defenders, early on it was the Jason Maxiell show, showing the Pistons and their fans what they have to look forward to when he starts receiving significant minutes. He finished with 15 points (one point less then leading scorer Rasheed Wallace who played much better then he did in Game One -- And, BTW, Chris Webber looked good too), 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks, and was a big reason the Pistons won Game Two. Most everytime he has played this playoff he has stepped up and shown he belongs, and he should continue to get added minutes in Flip Saunder's rotation.
So the Pistons are up 2-0, but this is no time to start coasting. They could very easily be down 2-0. The Cavs have been the better team in this series, except for crunch time, which is likely due to their inexperience. If the Pistons take one of the next two in Cleveland, this could be wrapped up in five, but if the Pistons let the Cavs back into the series, like they did the Bulls, we could be in for a long, nervous week ahead. Let's hope the repeats continue and the Pistons continue to squeak by with the 'W'.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I'm still trying to wrap my head around last night's Lost season finale, which featured a lot of bloodshed, a very interesting turn for Jack's character, and a glimpse of, well, I won't spoil it for those that haven't watched it yet. Very very interesting, I'll say that. And I'll say more, probably after I re-watch it sometime Friday.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Detroit Tigers are 1/4 of the way through the 2007 Major League Baseball season and it has been a very interesting ride so far. From a lousy offensive start to a resurgence (thanks in large part to Magglio Ordonez) which has the Tigers as one of the top offensive teams in the league, from a shaky bullpen to injuries in the starting rotation, nothing has really gone as expected in the past forty games other then the Tigers being right up near the top of the American League Central Standings.
Kurt over at Mack Avenue Tigers asked me to be part of a "round table" discussion reviewing the first quarter of the Tigers' season (along with Matt from Detroit Bad Boys and Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience. Some good thoughts from everyone, with a general consensus that Magglio Ordonez should win the MVP and if the Tigers want to win the World Series their bullpen needs serious work. Make sure to check it out.
Just like that. The Detroit Red Wings season is over. After blowing a 1-0 lead with under a minute to play in Game Five, then losing in overtime, the Red Wings put their back up against a wall and had to win Game Six in Anaheim. They didn't, and now, the Ducks move on to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Wings, well, they hit the local links.
It was a disappointing end to a season where maybe in September you would have said "Great" to a season ending in the Western Conference Finals but as expectations grew, and it looked like this had all the makings of a Stanley Cup winning team, losing now is just bitter. It shouldn't have ended this way, but it did, another season in Hockeytown complete.
The Red Wings, after getting nothing going in the first two periods Tuesday night (maybe they were distracted by the American Idol finale), made a late run at saving their season, scoring three goals in the third period, but it wasn't enough. The Ducks netted four pucks behind Dominik Hasek. The comeback was not to be.
So where do the Wings go from here? Attempt to bring Hasek back for another year is a given, and so is re-signing the ageless Chris Chelios. Robert Lang likely won't be back, and Todd Bertuzzi didn't show me anything in his short Detroit stay to make me feel as if the Wings need to keep him around. The real question is, without an extreme makeover, will the Wings, in their current incarnation, ever be good enough to win the Stanley Cup? They weren't this year, but they also were missing two key defensemen (Schenider and Kronwall) in the playoffs. Would they have made the difference? Maybe.
Right now though, there are more questions then answers, and sadly for the Red Wings, they will have a longer summer then they were expecting and then they wanted to try to figure them out.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Now I'm officially exhausted. Immediately after the Detroit Pistons defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers (holding on for dear life) I watched the season finale of Heroes, and the two-hour season finale of 24. It's now close to 2:00 AM, I'll be waking up for work in about five hours, and it was all worth it, because, the Pistons won, and both the Heroes and 24 season finales were satisfying and shocking. Well, maybe more so for Heroes than 24 (but that's been the case all season). More on the season finales after the jump below for those that aren't crazy like me and haven't watched them yet.
Okay, so I watched the Heroes season finale first, and like the entire season, it was awesome. The entire season built to this point, and the finale delivered, giving us potential deaths, and satisfying conclusions, and plenty of questions to leave us scratching our heads until the fall (did Greg Grunberg's Matt Parkman survive? What happened to the Petrelli Brothers? Is Slyar really dead or did he somehow sneak down that manhole? And how did Hiro transport himself back in time four hundred years?)
What was great was, while all of those new questions will keep fans interested and talking until the fall, the main storyline from this season, the exploding Sylar (or Peter) was resolved, and all of the major characters got involved. Each got to take the stage and show off in the last few minutes, every character relevant, and it all led to an ending which made sense. Hiro stabbing Sylar; Nathan, at the last moment, saving his brother, and saving New York, perhaps at the cost of his death; Micah using his power to save Molly and his parents; Nikki finally harnessing the power of Jessica without becoming Jessica. I can't wait until next fall for "Chapter Two: Generations." Not only to find out what happened to some of my favorite TV characters, but, as the title of the chapter perhaps foreshadows, maybe where these heroes come from, and where their offspring are going in the future.
As for 24, well, it was a decent end to a very uneven season. It was nice to see Bill Buchanan back and helping Jack. He should have been doing that all along. I'm hoping next season, when hopefully we see Jack fighting terror in the private sector, Bill will be with him. The show really missed him when he wasn't in the middle of things.
Overall, I just think the whole Bauer family story just didn't work this year. While we may have seen terrorist storylines again and again on 24, I'm just not sure we cared enough about Josh Bauer and how his grandfather wanted him and wanted to take him out of the country, to really care that Jack and Bill were trying to save him. And maybe it was also that, because Jack's dad was absent for the whole middle of the season, we never quite understood his motivations. Last season, despite killing President Palmer and doing all the evil things Jack's brother did, it seemed like it was, at least in the mind of Jack's brother, in the best interest of the country.
With Jack's dad, though, working with the terrorists (or, not really working with them, or whatever it was), then with the Chinese (which would have led to a war between the Russians and the US) it was just confusing, and non-nonsensical, and there was no reason for the viewer to care. I guess Jack's dad wanted to move to China, but, because I didn't really care about Jack's dad, I didn't really care about him wanting to move to China and lead the US to war in the process.
Which was the same problem we had with the Russians. The Russians threatening an attack was just, I don't know. It should have been tense, and I didn't find it to be. Neither did the proposed strike on the oil rig containing Josh Bauer. Maybe because it was 1:00 AM by that point and I had already watched the Pistons and Heroes. But, more likely, it was because the storyline was just not that well developed, and didn't give me a reason to care.
As for the action scenes themselves, they were pretty good, but predictable. Of course Jack's dad double-crossed CTU as expected. And of course he was able to quickly disable Josh's tracker. It's too bad they injured Ricky Schroder's character. He was the best CTU field agent since Tony Almeida (in terms of acting the part), and had 24 really wanted to shake things up, and kill Jack, he would have done really well in the lead role I think. And of course Jack saved Josh just in time before the F-18's bombed where Jack's dad was hiding out. And while at least Chloe got to do something (becoming pregnant I guess is something) and it brought her and Miles back together, which was nice, one of this season's biggest failures (which is saying a lot since it had A LOT of failures) was not using Chloe more. Most unintentionally hilarious way to tell somebody you are pregnant too. Completely Chloe-esque.
As a big fan of William DeVane, I loved the show ending with him and Jack. Two powerhouse actors, and Jack fighting for Audrey, showing us a side of him we haven't really seen before. And finally showing anger over not being rescued in China, that made a lot of sense. What Audrey's dad was saying was completely understandable too. He's right. Jack can try to walk away, but he always gets pulled back in, and the people he loves always die. And him realizing that, and letting Audrey go, it was the best 10 minutes of the entire season. And had the rest of the 23 hours and 50 minutes been like that, we would have been fine.
And as for the rumors (unfounded as it turns out) of Tony coming back at the end? I'm happy he didn't. Tony's dead, and should be, and to somehow bring him back would both strain credibility and the whole history of the show. Yes, having Tony back would be great, but, the way the season ended was just fine. It's just too bad the rest of the season wasn't the same.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Well, as it turns out, there is a reason I write a blog and don't coach the Detroit Pistons. What am I talking about you ask? Let's take a look at what I said in my Pistons-Cavaliers Series Preview:
. There's still not enough talent around James, and the Pistons are a smart enough team to shut James down and say "If Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes can beat us, fine, go ahead and try, because LeBron won't."
So what did the Pistons do? Take my advice, of course. They shut down LeBron James, holding him to 10 points, his lowest playoff output ever. And the result? Well, a lot closer then it ever needed to be.
The Detroit Pistons won Game One against Cleveland, barely, 79-76. They trailed by seven at halftime. They trailed late in the fourth quarter. Donyell Marshall had a wide open three pointer with three seconds to go in the game which would have stolen the game from Detroit (can you "steal" a game where you were the better team?) Certainly not the night I expected from the Pistons.
What is most incredible about Game One, is despite how poorly the Pistons played,they were not dominated by LeBron James. In fact, the Pistons held James to just four points in the first half (and 10 for the game). For the majority of the night, James was a complete non-factor offensively. But, as it turns out, some of the players around James can actually play. It was almost as if the Pistons and the Cavs had switched personalities. The Cavs were the team getting contributions from a variety of players, while the Pistons were the one-man show, thanks to Rip Hamilton's hot first half. Chris Webber was in foul trouble, Chauncey Billups was out of sync the entire game (until, of course, it mattered, when "Mr. Big Shot" showed why he has that nickname). If not for Rip Hamilton, the Pistons would have lost by double digits.
As for LeBron, while he came alive a bit (scoring at least) in the second half, for the most part, the Pistons had him shut down. It was the other Cavs, like the impressive Anderson Varejao, who allowed the Cavs to hold the lead and keep the game close even when the Pistons went on a run after halftime. Zydrunas Ilgauskas also had a great game, hitting key shots late in the game to keep the pressure on the Pistons and keep the Cavs in the lead. You have to give the Cavs a lot of credit. Their franchise player was pretty much a non-factor, yet they were still the better team on the floor for most of Monday night despite James' struggles.
As for the rest of the Pistons, aside from Hamilton's big night, Tayshaun Prince had a strong first half, especially distributing the ball when his shot wasn't falling, and both Dale Davis (yes -- Dale Davis) and Jason Maxiell gave the Pistons some quality minutes off the bench. And it was Maxiell out at the end of the game in critical situations, as coach Flip Saunders showed a lot of confidence in Maxiell by keeping him out there in such critical situations.
Chauncey Billups just did not have his "A" game tonight, and he had more turnovers then field goals. I don't think we should be panicking over one bad game, but if Billups continues to struggle, the Pistons may be in more trouble then anyone would have thought before Game One. Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber didn't have great games either, but both got into double digits, and both hopefully will play better in Game Two. The Pistons as a whole are going to have to play better in Game Two, because LeBron James is not going to be held to 10 points every night, and his teammates proved tonight that they shouldn't be overlooked by anybody.
Although, you also get the feeling that this was the Cavs game to steal, and they failed, and that any chance to win the series, was lost when the Cavs lost their lead in the third quarter.
The Detroit Pistons begin the Eastern Conference Finals tonight, their fifth straight appearance, and they will face a familiar foe, division rival LeBron James and the Cleavland Cavaliers whom the Pistons eliminated from the playoffs last season. And for whatever reason, I am not worried. Even though the Pistons struggled to close out the Bulls, and even though the Cavs are a much improved team from the one the Pistons defeated last season in the playoffs, I still can't get over the feeling that, say unlike Chicago, which has a team of young and upcoming stars, the Cavs are still Lebron and 11 other guys. And no matter how great LeBron is, he's still just one guy.
Of course, the Cavs are not just LeBron and a bunch of scrubs. Drew Gooden is a good player, so is Larry Hughes. And Zydrunas Ilgauskas can be a force in the middle. The Cavs won 50-games this season too so it's not as if making it to the NBA Finals would be a huge upset or entirely unexpected. They played really well in the New Jersey series, defeating a team of stars like Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson. Dethroning the Pistons is the next step on LeBron James checklist.
I just can't see it happening this year. There's still not enough talent around James, and the Pistons are a smart enough team to shut James down and say "If Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes can beat us, fine, go ahead and try, because LeBron won't." Sure, there were some lapses in focus in the Chicago series, but that's been the Pistons problem all season. When it matters, when the Pistons need to dig down and win, they do. I can't see it being any different in this series. Unless, of course, the Pistons go up 3-0. Then anything can happen.
I thought the Bulls were going to give us a series, and they did, but I thought there was a serious chance the Bulls could beat the Pistons. I don't think that about the Cavs. I hate picking the Pistons in five, because I don't want to underestimate the Cavs too much, but this won't go more then six. Detroit is simply a deeper, more experienced, more talented team then Cleveland, and this Cavs team is more like the 1989 or 1990 Chicago Bulls, not the 1991 team which finally broke through the Pistons. Take Detroit in six but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a shorter series then that.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Detroit Red Wings may have lost Game Five to the Anaheim Ducks when veteran Teemu Selanne stole the puck from Andreas Lilja in overtime, and shot the puck above a diving Dominik Hasek, but the game was really lost well before that point, and well before the Ducks tied the game up 1-1 with under a minute to play.
Let's start from the beginning (or midway through the first period, as a trip down to Comerica Park to watch Justin Verlander pitch eight dominant innings and see the Tigers sweep the Cardinals, the second win I saw in person in three days, forced me to listen to the first half of the first period on the radio). Throughout the game, the Red Wings were the better team. They kept the pressure on the Ducks, were physical again, and had the lead for the majority of the game. They took a lot of penalties in the first period, but things evened out in the second, where the Ducks found themselves in the box a lot. It was a very tightly called game, which is why the penalty to Pavel Datsuyk with under two minutes to play, which helped the Ducks tie the game, was not all that unsurprising given how the game was called.
When Lilja scored six minutes into the second period, it looked good for the Red Wings. Hasek was playing another great game, the Wings were playing strong, aggressive hockey, and they had the lead, at home. But, then, in a seven minute span in the second period, the Red Wings lost the game, and perhaps, their season. In that time frame, the Ducks took three penalties, and the Wings even had 36-seconds of a 5-3 advantage. They didn't score. It was a key point in the game, because had the Wings been able to go up 2-0, with the way they and Hasek were playing, there was no way the Ducks were going to score 3 goals in a period and a half to win the game. But, by failing to score, especially on the 5-3, the Wings gave the Ducks momentum going into the third period when they had to know the whistles were going to be turned on them (and they were).
Yes, the Ducks didn't score for almost 22 minutes of ice-time after those penalty kills, but it wasn't a surprise that the Wings inability to score would come back to haunt them. They needed to put more distance between themselves and the Ducks, and at a critical point in the game, when the Wings could have snapped the will of the Ducks and made sure that they weren't able to come back, they failed to get the job done. Niedermayer and Selanne's goals were just the unfortunate results which followed.
The Red Wings now have a must win game in Anaheim Tuesday night, or they'll be playing golf next week instead of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. I wouldn't count the Wings out by any means, as the road team has won 3 of the 5 games in the series to this point, but it's not going to be easy, as the Ducks do not want to come back to Detroit for a Game Seven. The Ducks are proving to be as tough as a foe as the Wings thought they were going to be, and it's going to take the Wings everything they have to force a Game Seven. It'll be a late night Tuesday until we find out if they can accomplish that goal or not.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
There is something about being at the first career start of a pitcher you just know is going to be a star. The ability to look back and say "I was there." I can say that about Jeremy Bonderman. The Detroit Tigers were not supposed to be very good in 2003, but this new 20-something-year-old pitcher the Tigers got in a trade for Jeff Weaver was supposed to be the real deal. So me and my buddies Ethan and Jared, fellow Tigers fans, drove down to Comerica Park from Ann Arbor, bought two tickets (in the days you could buy tickets the night of a game, which is much harder to do now that the Tigers win close to 100 games a year instead of lose 100 games a year) and watched Bonderman's big league debut against Minnesota. It wasn't a great outing (4 innings, 9 hits, 6 earned runs) and Bonderman didn't have a great rookie season (6-19, 5.56 ERA) but what he learned from that season helped shape him as a pitcher, and four years later, he's the ace of the Tigers pitching staff.
Except on Friday night, Bonderman was unable to make his scheduled start due to a blister problem, and he was placed on the disabled list. Which allowed me to watch, in person, the major league starting debut of phenom Andrew Miller. Miller, still a few days shy of his 22nd birthday, should have been nervous. He was making his first start as a big league pitcher, he was facing the defending World Series champions, and he had Albert Pujols looking down on him (or, more accurately phased, Miller, at 6'6" was looking down on Pujols). Nobody would have been surprised had Miller struggled. Bonderman did in his debut. Justin Verlander, in his first start in 2005 (giving up 4 runs in 5 and 1/3 innings at Cleveland) wasn't sharp either. It's part of the maturation process. It's why no Detroit Tigers pitcher had won their first start of their career since Andy Van Hekken in 2002.
Well, nobody told Andrew Miller, because all he did, in his first ever big league start, was shutout the Cardinals for 6 innings, allowing only four hits while striking out two. It was an incredible debut from an incredible talent, and likely a sign of things to come from the lanky lefthander. Being at the game live, I wasn't able to pay close attention to how Miller was mixing his pitches, but what I was able to see was Miller's mental makeup. After getting the first two Cardinals batters out (on a popup and a strikeout) in the first inning, he loaded the bases. Could have been a sign of a long night (or, well, short night) to come for Miller. But he calmly got out of the jam, and only allowed two more hits the rest of his night. Not too bad for a kid making his first career start in the major leagues.
Miller likely won't be staying in Detroit long (if, as expected, Jeremy Bonderman comes off the disabled list next week, blister healed, Miller will return to AA Erie) but he certainly has given the Tigers and their fans something to think about. Both in terms of replacing Chad Durbin in the rotation if Durbin struggles, or just about how good the Tigers future is when you consider how young Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Andrew Miller are. Miller was all that was advertised and more, and hopefully, just as I say with Jeremy Bonderman, I can brag one day about being at Andrew Miller's first career start.
Even though Game Four of the Detroit Red Wings-Anaheim Ducks series and Game Six of the Detroit Pistons-Chicago Bulls series was just a day and a half ago, it seems like a lifetime. You put off writing a blog entry on the games for one day, then another because of a trip to Comerica Park (more on that in my post on Andrew Miller's Major League debut) and suddenly, the games are old news. Oh well. So before the stories become really old news and nobody cares, here are some quick thoughts.
** Even with Chris Pronger out, it didn't surprise me that the Ducks played as well as they did. Sometimes losing a great player like that becomes a rallying point, and you knew after getting pulled in Game Four, Giguere was going to come out especially fired up. When the Ducks scored in the first two minutes of the game, I thought it was going to be a long night, but Dan Cleary's first goal of the game (he scored two) tied it up and it was a back-and-forth battle the entire game. Typical of this series. Hasek gave up more goals then we are used to seeing, but everyone is entitled to an off-night. Game Five is Sunday afternoon (I'll see most of the second period and beyond as I'll be at the Tigers game in the early afternoon) and I can't even venture a guess as to who will win. Both teams have won a game on the road, and while the Wings should be tough at home, the Ducks have been the better team for more of the series (though, if the Wings play as they did in Game Three, they'll win hands down).
** And the Detroit Pistons put the Chicago Bulls to bed, finally. About time. I thought the Bulls were going to give the Pistons a series, but I figured it would be from the start, not once they fell behind 3-0. But, they gave the Pistons a scare, and the team responded when they needed to, closing out Chicago on their home floor. Not coincidentally I think, Jason Maxiell had more playing time in this game then he did in the games the Pistons lost. I think there's a connection there. Maxiell beings emotion and energy when he plays and hopefully he'll continue to get minutes against Cleveland.
As for Rasheed Wallace, he has to play more in control then he did the final three games against Chicago. I know his emotion works for him in some ways, and his technical fouls, while endearing in the regular season, are going to kill the Pistons if he isn't careful. Tayshaun Prince was NOT happy with Wallace when he got a "T" late in the 4th quarter of Game Six against Chicago and good for him for letting Wallace know. Prince is showing a real emotional side of him this playoff and that's a very good thing and he's turning into one of the Pistons most consistent performers. And don't get me wrong, I love Sheed's fire. I would like just a little bit more self control with LeBron James and Cleveland next week.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Television Upfront week ended on Thursday with the unveiling of the new fall schedules for both the CW and FOX, and while I watch zero shows on the CW (as I've previously said, ever since the former WB canceled Jack & Bobby, I've given up on the network) the FOX announcement was intriguing, both for their new shows, and to see where some of their old ones would end up. The highlights:
** Prison Break remains 8:00 Monday, which means I likely won't be watching much of How I Met Your Mother in its regular slot. Prison Break ended with a great finale this year and I can't wait to see where the producers take the show from here. 24 will return to Monday nights, 9:00, in January of 2008, and those producers are promising to give the show a face lift, including potentially eliminating CTU, which is fine with me. 24 needs a tuneup after this very sub-par season.
** Back To You, the only comedy I'm looking forward to this year will debut at 8:00 Wednesday in the fall. With Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton playing bickering news anchors, it should be a hilarious show.
** The other show I'm looking forward to, Julianna Margulies staring as a criminal defense attorney in Canterbry's Law, will debut in January, but will be broadcast in an absolutely killer 9:00 Thursday timeslot against CSI, Grey's Anatomy, and The Office. It likely will be unable to gain any traction there, as the male demographic will be watching The Office and CSI and women, who may want to watch to see a strong female lead, will be watching Grey's Anatomy. I'll check it out, but I don't like its chances in that timeslot.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
As per usual, this story contains spoilers of tonight's episode of Lost, the last before next week's season finale. For those that have seen the episode and want to continue reading, I've included a "jump" below. Otherwise, feel free to check out my recaps of the Television Upfronts or the link roundup of all of my posts from yesterday involving TV, the Detroit Red Wings, and Detroit Pistons. Otherwise, my Lost thoughts can be found below.
"Greatest Hits" was Charlie Pace's (or, Dominic Monaghan for those keeping score at home) finest hour, and it was an hour which Charlie spent saying his goodbyes as the viewer prepared to do the same, as Desmond's flash-forwards foresaw Charlie dying, but his death leading to the rescue of the camp. But, in traditional Lost fashion, just when you thought Charlie would fulfill Desmond's prophecy by drowning (but saving the castaways in the process), the Others were lying in wait.
The rest of the episode was spent planning for the war which will, I imagine, be a large part of next week's season finale. Jack certainly has a more violent nature to him nowadays, but I guess being kidnapped and held prisoner will do that to you.
The show was good tonight, and was a great tribute and way to say goodbye to the Charlie character (if, indeed, Charlie dies next week as Desmond predicted) but other then that, it was largely a placeholder for next week's season finale, which is supposed to have a mind-blowing game-changing moment which will supposedly have everyone talking until Lost comes back next February. Let's hope it has something to do with John Locke rising from the grave, because I missed him tonight. I know spoilers are out there on the 'net, but I'm doing my best to avoid them at all costs, as I really don't want to spoil the "game changing" moment considering how big it's been built up. I want to experience it in real time, so I can have a real reaction to it. And since next weeks' two hour extravaganza is the last episode of Lost we'll see for 8 months or so, it better be good.
CBS continued TV Upfront week on Wednesday by releasing their 2007 fall schedule, which featured some good and bad news for my viewing habits. I'll skip the night-by-night analysis (because I don't watch much of CBS and honestly don't have much to say about three versions of CSI and the majority of CBS' fall schedule) but I still have some thoughts on the shows on CBS I do (or did) watch.
First, as for shows "on the bubble" that I watch on a fairly regular basis, Jericho and How I Met Your Mother, I went 1-2, with HIMYM returning to its 8:00 Monday home, while Jericho ended up on the chopping block, canceled. I'm glad HIMYM is returning, as I think it is one of the smartest comedies on TV right now, and I think the show could go in a very interesting direction next year now that Ted and Robin have broken up. I don't watch it as much as I should (I usually am watching Prison Break) but I'll do a much better job next year of catching up on CBS online.
As for Jericho, I wrote about my love of Jericho in my Top 5 Shows to Save For Next Season post, but I'm not surprised it was canceled. The ratings just weren't there, and it was a dark story (fighting off starvation and rival towns after a nuclear attack and loss of all electricity is not what makes for an uplifting fun story). But, the show felt real, which was part of its charm, and it did go out on a high note, with a very emotional, very strong season (or, as it turned out, series) finale. It ended with a cliffhanger (of course) so we'll never know what happened to the town of Jericho, and whether it was able to fight off rival town Newburn, or if the Army came to their rescue. Overall, though, it was a solid season, a solid series, and I'm glad I watched.
As for what shows will be on CBS' schedule, the biggest shakeup (at least as far as my viewing habits are concerned) is Shark's move. Thankfully, though, it will not be moving to Tuesday's to compete with Boston Legal. Instead, it moves to Sunday at 10:00 perfect timing for me, as I have no other shows to watch at that time (outside of NFL football during the fall). What was curious, though, was that CBS chose not to put a new drama after CSI in Shark's old spot, 10:00 Thursday, but a veteran drama, Without a Trace. Now, Without a Trace has been successful in that spot in the past, and maybe with ER weakened and ABC showing a new, untested (but promising drama) Big Shots in the time period, CBS feels it can take over with an established show.
Otherwise, Survivor going to China should be interesting, as a new geographic locale may be just what the show needs to come back to come back to life ratings wise. CBS's new shows, including Vampire drama Moonlight, Jimmy Smits' family drama Cane, and the musical drama Viva Laughlin just aren't doing it for me. Maybe I'll check one or two out, but probably not.
Only the CW (which I really don't care about) and FOX (with some interesting pilots to place on the schedule) to go.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Running a multifaceted blog is great, most of the time. Sometimes, though, like tonight, when there is all sorts of new content, and not all of it is on the same topic, some things may get lost in the shuffle. So, to try to avoid that, here's a quick summary of the blog entries you may have missed in the last 24-48 hours.
** The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Anaheim Ducks 5-0 to take a 2-1 series lead in the NHL Western Conference Finals.
** The Detroit Pistons lost to the Chicago Bulls 108-92, and suddenly, after going up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the series is 3-2, the Bulls have blown out the Pistons in consecutive games, and Game Six goes back to Chicago. What looked to be a potential sweep, may now be the first time an NBA team blows a 3-0 series lead. Not good for the Pistons.
** NBC announced their new fall schedule and ABC announced their new fall schedule as well and I did a night-by-night anlaysis of each.
** And on Monday morning, I asked Is Matt Drudge Afraid of Barack Obama?
And with that, a full night of blogging and sports watching comes to a close (and, because I haven't mentioned it yet, how about those Detroit Tigers tonight? Put up a ton of runs on Boston, and Justin Verlander was dealing again. Nice way to respond after losing two straight games. Okay, now I'm done).
As surprised as I was that The Detroit Pistons were blown out by the Chicago Bulls at home tonight, I may be even more surprised that the Detroit Red Wings blew out the Anaheim Ducks at their home stadium, chasing goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the second period and winning 5-0. Thomas Holmstrom, who took a brutal hit into the boards in the second period (video below), came back in the third period, netting an assist to go along with two goals, as the Detroit Red Wings took a 2-1 series lead, stealing home ice advantage back from the Ducks.
After being outplayed by the Ducks for the majority of the first two games at home, the Red Wings looked like a different team on the west coast. They were physical, they had a jump in their step that they were missing in the first two games, and they were the better team from the drop the puck in the first period. And they didn't waste anytime getting on the scoreboard, as Johan Franzen scored to give the Red Wings a 1-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the game.
Not satisfied with a one goal edge, the Wings kept the pressure on in the closing minutes of the first period, and with under a minute to go, Thomas Holmstrom scored to make it 2-0 Wings going into the first intermission.
The Red Wings put the game away early in the second period. The Ducks, had they come out of the first intermission with some fire, may have had a chance to make a game of it, but Todd Bertuzzi and Holmstrom scored 17 seconds apart four minutes into the second period (off of different goalies no less as Jean-Sebastien Giguere was pulled after Bertuzzi's goal) and the game was over at that point (sort of how the Bulls put the game away against the Pistons with their third quarter run).
But, there was a spot of controversy (and concern for Wings fan) when Thomas Holmstrom was smashed along the boards by Chris Pronger and Rob Niedermayer, seemingly knocking him unconscious. The injury looked series, and the hit itself was brutal, getting Niedermayer a five minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct (though Pronger got off without penalty).
Holmstrom, though, is a hockey player, and wouldn't you know it, despite how it looked, he was back out on the ice in the third period, and even assisted on the Wings fifth goal scored by Valtteri Filppula. Holmstrom's return was a relief, because he has proven himself this playoff as one of, if not the, most valuable Red Wing, and losing him would have been devastating.
Instead, though, the Wings will take a 2-1 series lead into Game Four, and they have the Ducks on their heels. As I've learned from the Pistons though, no series lead is safe, and once you think you have a team on the ropes, they rise up, but should the Wings win Game Four, and take both in Anaheim, we may be looking at another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals (but, again, let's not get ahead of ourselves).
When the Detroit Pistons drew the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, I originally said the series would go seven games. I thought the Bulls, while young, were hungry, and the Pistons, while more talented, were too nonchalant. Then the Pistons destroyed the Bulls in the first three games of the series, and I looked silly. I'd do a lot right now to go back to looking silly, because the Bulls are very much alive, and after embarrassing the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, 108-92, Game Six shifts to Chicago, and there is a very, very good chance we are looking at a very unpredictable Game Seven back in Detroit.
Even though they were at home, and even though they knew they had to crush the will and momentum of the Bulls early, the Detroit Pistons never got into a rhythm. They fell behind early, never dug themselves out, and if anything, kept falling further and further and further behind. It didn't help that the Bulls shot 72% in the first half and only a late run by the Pistons cut the lead to single digits going into the half.
Then something unexpected happened. Instead of coming out of halftime fired up, and quickly retaking the lead, the Pistons were as stagnant as they've been all series. The Bulls, on the other hand, continued their hot shooting, scoring 33 points in the quarter, adding 13 points to their lead, pushing it over 20 going into the fourth quarter.
No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the NBA Playoffs before, but the Bulls are young and inexperienced enough not to know any better. And they are playing with confidence right now, and the Pistons are not. And if that doesn't change in a hurry, history may be set before Detroit even knows what hits them.
In Game Six, Flip Saunders should, especially if the team lacks fire early, go to Jason Maxiell early and often. Maxiell, who played so well in Game Three, showed some emotion on both ends of the floor when he played in Game Five, and perhaps had he played more, the Pistons would have had a better chance to make it a game.
I still think the Pistons are too talented to lose four straight to Chicago, but what was a sure thing, no longer is. The Bulls, at home, are going to be very tough on Thursday. The Pistons won in Chicago in Game Three, but Game Six is going to be the hardest, and most important road game of the season. And if they lose it, there are no guarantees the Pistons will be able to wrap up the series in Game Seven, even though the game would be at home.
ABC announced their new fall schedule today (Tuesday) and there are lots of new shows to get excited about, and come the fall, ABC is definitely going to be the network I am watching most. The network has quite a few hit shows coming back next season (Lost will return at mid-season, adding to the depth and strength of the network) but there were still some questionable moves made by the network in their fall scheduling. So, let's take a look with a night by night analysis as I did for NBC's new fall schedule.
8:00 Dancing with the Stars
9:30 Sam I Am (new comedy)
10:00 The Bachelor
I likely won't be watching ABC much on Monday, as the only new show on the agenda is the new Christina Applegate comedy "Sam I Am" where Applegate stars as a coma patient who awakens with amnesia and soon realizes she wasn't a very nice person in her former life. Sounds decent enough, but I'm not a Christina Applegate fan, and surely not enough to not watch Heroes. And with all of ABC's great new dramas, including those saved for midseason (like Victor Garber's Eli Stone), they couldn't find anything better to show at 10:00 then the Bachelor? That decision, and the age and over-exposure of CSI potentially hurting CSI NY, means NBC's Journeyman may have a good shot to make it in the 10:00 Monday time period.
8:00 Cavemen (new comedy)
8:30 Carpoolers (new comedy)
9:00 Dancing with the Stars Results Show
10:00 Boston Legal
Cavemen, for those unfamiliar, is an adaptation of the Geico commercials. This thing is going to be a disaster for two reasons. First, while the caveman concept is funny in a thirty second spot, it doesn't work so well in a thirty minute comedy. Second, the actor from the commercial won't be in the television show. It seems like a small thing, but when you are trying to make a go of a comedy as absurd as the Geico Cavemen, to not put the only known (and well liked) caveman in the show, is just absurd. I'm sure the actor knew this and held out for a lot of money, but if they are going to try this, they needed everything to go right, and not signing the original actor is a big strike against a very questionable show to begin with.
And why would ABC not try to protect its new comedies by placing them after the highly rated Dancing With The Stars Results Show? I love Boston Legal, but it has proven this year that it doesn't benefit a whole lot from the DWTS lead-in (especially in the 18-49 demographic) and one would think the new comedies would need all the help they can get. Except, no, the comedies have to find their own audience, and the same show which squandered its large rating lead-in this season gets a chance to do the same next year. Sort of confusing. But, I love Boston Legal, so I'm not complaining.
8:00 Pushing Daisies (new drama)
9:00 Private Practice (new drama)
10:00 Dirty Sexy Money (new drama)
Should be the most interesting night for ABC. Trying out three brand new dramas all on the same night is really risky, but all three of these shows could be breakout hits. Pushing Daises, a dramedy about a man who can bring people back to life, is getting all the media buzz and everyone who has seen the pilot says it is a can't miss. The Televisionary Blog, for example, raved about it.
Pushing Daisies, in short, is the rare television show that actually changes the way you look at television, a dazzlingly lush production that seems more at home as a big budget feature film (think Big Fish and you've approximated the look) filled with charmingly eccentric folk whom you can't wait to meet up with again.
Private Practice, I think, will succeed where other recent spinoffs (like Joey) has failed. The cast (Kate Walsh, Merrin Dungey, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, and Amy Brenneman) is top rate, Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice) is a great storyteller, and as I said before, the show has the potential to be more mature, less melodramatic, and certainly less annoying (in a bad way, not in an endearing way) then Grey's Anatomy.
Dirty Sexy Money, as I've previously talked about, also has the potential to be a big show. Peter Krause was great on Sports Night (and people who watched said the same about Six Feet Under) and Donald Sutherland is a phenomenal actor as well. The show, where Krause stars as an idealistic lawyer representing a famous and controversial wealthy family, sounds like it could be a really good concept, and I'm very much looking forward to the show.
8:00 Ugly Betty
9:00 Grey's Anatomy
10:00 Big Shots (new drama)
So the show I've talked most about, Big Shots, get placed in the big shot timeslot, right after Grey's Anatomy. And with ER fading, and CBS likely to debut a new drama after CSI, the timeslot is very much up for grabs. The buzz on the Big Shots pilot has been uneven (most like the cast but didn't love the pilot as much as the initial offerings of Pushing Daisies or Dirty Sexy Money) but with the cast the show has, I think it has a very good chance at being successful, and launching after Grey's Anatomy is a good sign. It will also, though, mean added expectations, and perhaps less patience by the network should ratings struggle at the start, so here's hoping the show lives up to (or exceeds) the initial hype.
8:00 Men in Trees
9:00 Women's Murder Club (new drama)
8:00 Saturday Night College Football
7:00 America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
9:00 Desperate Housewives
10:00 Brothers & Sisters
I don't have much to say about these three nights, other then to say I likely won't be watching any of the shows (though the new Women's Murder Club does star the great Angie Harmon) and even though I used to say, when Alias was on, that I would watch any show Ron Rifkin was in, Brothers & Sisters is not for me.
Overall, a strong schedule, as three or four of ABC's new dramas I think could be breakout hits. Their comedies, including Cavemen, are more questionable, and the scheduling of them (and the placement of the Bachelor on Mondays) is interesting (to say the least), but if Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money, and Big Shots live up to their potential, ABC could be the network to watch in 2007.
Fully Updated with night-by-night analysis on 5/15: I would have posted this earlier, but while the upfronts are great, and this week, for the television fan inside of me, is what the NFL Draft is for the football fan inside of me, I still had 24 and Heroes to watch (thank God for DVR) and I got a bit behind in my blog posting. But my night-by-night anlaysis of NBC's lineup is finally posted. But, first, for those keeping score at home, 24 continued to be mediocre, while Heroes continued to be, well, amazing television. I'm looking much more forward to next week's Heroes season finale then the 24 two-hour season finale, but, as usual, I'll probably DVR Heroes and watch 24. But, maybe not. Okay, but onto more important things, like NBC's Fall 2007 schedule.
NBC kicked off television "upfront" week on Monday by announcing their 2007 fall television schedule which introduces four new dramas (Life, Chuck, Journeyman, and The Bionic Woman) and shuffles a few of their current shows. The least shocking news? Studio 60 was canceled (but more on that at the end of the week). To get a better idea of what each new show is going to be like, Joe from I Am A TV Junkie put together a YouTube reel of a clip from each of the new shows.
Now, to the night by night analysis of NBC's new fall schedule.
8:00 Deal or No Deal
Not much of a surprise that Deal or New Deal and Heroes stay in their respective, successful spots. They were two of the shows which actually worked on NBC this year. And Heroes will get an additional bump with 6 episodes of a "spin off" (of sorts), called "Heroes Origins", which will introduce new potential heroes, and based on the votes of fans on NBC.com, at least one of the 6 will become part of season three of Heroes, a potentially interesting concept. As for new drama Journeyman, I'm not sold.
The show is about a man who lost his fiancé in a plane crash, and then years later, he starts traveling back through time, sometimes to help others, sometimes (apparently) to rendezvous with his now-dead fiancé. I think I liked the show better when it was called Quantum Leap and even more so when it became The Pretender and Early Edition all of which have storylines similar to that of Journeyman. Not to say it couldn't be good (Quantum Leap was a great show, there's a reason why there have been so many shows with similiar plotlines) it just isn't original, and I don't really think I'll have motivation to watch. Though, as it turns out, because ABC is not broadcasting "Big Shots" against it, I may actually tune in th first few episodes. Maybe I'll change my tune.
8-9 pm The Biggest Loser
9-10 pm CHUCK
10-11 pm Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Chuck, to me, seems like a strange show to me. Here's the description from NBC:
Chuck Bartowski is just your average computer-whiz-next-door. He spends his days working for Buy-More with his band of nerdy cohorts, longing to find a woman who can appreciate him. But when an old friend, who happens to be a CIA agent, sends Chuck a mysterious encoded email, the world's greatest spy secrets are embedded into his brain.
He never asked to become the government’s most powerful weapon, but the fate of the country suddenly lies in his unlikely hands. Hopefully, this won’t take away from his video game time! International terrorist plots, sexy spies and cold pizza – it’s all in a day’s work for our trusty hero...Chuck.
At first, it sounds really silly to me, but from the television critics that have seen it, they think it's pretty funny. I watched the full preview on NBC.com and it wasn't as bad as I expected.
8-9 pm Deal or No Deal
9-10 pm BIONIC WOMAN
10-11 pm LIFE
The remake of the Bionic Woman, a seminal show from the 1970s, seems to be getting a lot of the critical buzz, Life is the show I am looking most forward to on the NBC schedule. Life is a show about a police officer who was wrongly convicted of murder, spent 13 years on Death Row, and then, when the truth came out, worked a job as a police detective into his monetary settlement with the city that put him in jail.
Sounds like a dark show, but the preview looked really good. And it has a great cast. Adam Arkin, who has had some great guest spots the last few years on West Wing and Boston Legal, stars as a cellmate turned friend-on-the-outside to Damian Lewis' Charlie Crews, and Lewis' partner is the incredibly beautiful Sarah Shahi, so hard to complain about that. I've been a fan of Shahi since she played Bradley Cooper's reporter friend Jenny on Alias back in 2001, so it's nice to see her back on network TV. I'll definitely be giving this show a chance.
8-8:30 pm My Name Is Earl
8:30-9 pm 30 Rock
9-9:30 pm The Office
9:30-10 pm Scrubs
10-11 pm ER
NBC keeps their Thursday lineup the same, for the most part, and like I did this year, I'll probably skip it, catching up on Scrubs on DVD in a few years. I know people like The Office, but I just never got into it, and I don't like Alec Bladwin or Tracy Morgan, so I never got into 30 Rock either.
8-9 pm 1 vs 100/THE SINGING BEE
9-10 pm Las Vegas
10-11 pm Friday Night Lights
Keeping Las Vegas on Friday makes sense because, for Friday, on a night with lower ratings as it is, Vegas is a solid performer. And I've written about before Tom Selleck will replace James Caan which should add an interesting dynamic to the show. As for Friday Night Lights, while I'm glad the show is coming back, because I want to have a chance to watch it, and everyone who has watched it raves about it, I wish they would have held it back until midseason. Placing it on Friday makes sense, because it doesn't need to do huge ratings on Friday to be successful, I don't know if it makes sense to put a show about high school football on when your target audience (either from the high school players themselves or from their parents) is actually at real live high school football games. I did read an article somewhere which talked about how perhaps the FNL audience is too old to be playing high school football but young enough to nostalgic about it and not have kids to watch playing. Maybe that's right. We'll see.
8-9 pm Dateline NBC
9-11 pm Drama Series Encores
7-8 pm Football Night in America
8-11 pm NBC Sunday Night Football
Not much to see here, or say.
So, overall, NBC came into the upfronts as a 4th place network, and I honestly don't see much to change things. Maybe The Bionic Woman will be a big hit, but I'm not sure it will be. I think Life and Journeyman (especially because it is following Heroes and the 10:00 Monday time period, outside of CSI NY, is open right now) have a shot. But, otherwise, it may be same old, same old for a network which desperately needs to be new again.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Just as I was saying that it seemed like the Anaheim Ducks had kept the puck in the Detroit Red Wings zone for pretty much all of overtime, the game was over, the Ducks had scored, won Game Two of the Western Conference Finals 4-3, tying the series at one game each as the series shifts to Anaheim. It's a weird feeling actually, the Red Wings played better in Game Two then they did in Game One, but they lost instead of won. They just never seemed to get anything going in overtime, and despite a few scoring chances, the Ducks had more, and they took advantage of their opportunities and won. Some Wings fans may be upset with the officiating, especially after the controversial third Duck goal, but the Ducks won the game, and based on how they played in the two goals total, they were the better team for the majority of both of those games. And that has to be a scary thought with the next two games in Anaheim.
[And now back to your regularly scheduled game recap, written before overtime began] Despite winning Game One, the Detroit Red Wings were outplayed by the Anaheim Ducks for most of the first game of the series, and were the beneficiaries of a few lucky bounces for both of their goals, including the game winner. But, you know what they say, those who work hard make their own luck and often seem to have the breaks go their way, an it certainly did for the Red Wings in the first game. In the first period of Game Two, it seemed like a repeat of Game One. The Ducks were the more physical, alive team, and the Red Wings were being outplayed. If not for Dominik Hasek, the Wings would have been down 2, 3 goals at the end of the first period, at least.
As it was, the Wings were down 1-0 as the first period closed, and for the first dew minutes of the second period, the Wings still lacked a jump in their step, and it looked as if it were only a matter of time before Anaheim scored again. Then, like they flipped a switch, the Detroit Red Wings woke up the second half of the second period. First, Kirk Maltby scored on a short-handed goal, and after that, it seemed like the Wings had the momentum back on their side.
The Ducks, though, would not go away quietly, and later scored, taking back the 2-1 lead, on a wicked shot by Andy McDonald, his fifth goal of the year. It was not even clear the puck had gone in the net, but after a review, and a look at a bouncing water bottle on top of the net, it was clear the Ducks had scored, and retaken the lead.
But, as I said, the Red Wings had awoken in the middle part of the second period, and they seemed to be a different team after Maltby scored their first goal of the game. They had a spring in their step which was missing in the first four and a half periods of the series, and even though the Wings were leading the series 1-0, I spent much of the game worried about the series. But when Nick Lidstrom scored with just under four minutes to play in the second period to retie the game, it calmed my nerves a bit.
The Wings started the third period with a 5-3 advantage after two Duck penalties to end the second period, and they took advantage as the third period began, with Pavel Datsuyk scoring his sixth goal of the playoffs. Datsuyk, who came into the post-season with a target on his back after struggling in the post-season early in his career and signing a big contract extension before the playoffs begin, has been worth every penny for the Red Wings, and his goal to give the Wings 3-2 lead was a thing of beauty.
The Ducks though,on another reviewed goal, once again tied the game, and it was a controversial goal. The puck was caught in Hasek's pads and it wasn't clear when the whistle blew (perhaps before the puck crossed the goal-line) and whether Hasek was pushed into the net or not. The review though called it a goal and the last 10 minutes or so the of third period was very much like an overtime game. Both teams were being very careful, and while the Ducks had a few chances to take the lead, Hasek came up big again as he has all playoffs long. Then overtime started, and we know the rest. Sadly.
And with the Tigers getting blown out by Minnesota and the Pistons losing as well, it was not a good Mothers Day in Michigan in 2007. Which of course, reminds me, to wish a very happy Mothers day to my mom, Grandmother, and Great Grandmothers and to everyone else out there in the blogosphere celebrating Mothers Day today.
I visit the Drudge Report, I don't know, many, many times a day. It's just one of those sites I reflexively visit and check for updates every time I sit down at my computer. It's great one-stop shopping for news and to see what is going on in the world. And even though Matt Drudge, himself, may be conservative in his political views, and even though I'm not, that doesn't bother me, because, even though news can be slanted, I know that going in, and for the most part, I keep an eye out for it. But in the last week, I've noticed something interesting (and maybe I'm not the first, who knows?) but it seems like Drudge is going out of his way to knock Barack Obama down a peg. Take Obama's gaffe on May 8th when he mistakenly said 10,000 citizens in Kansas were killed in a devastating tornado. It was a mistake, and one that shouldn't have been made (it may make people worried about "rookie" mistakes from the politically inexperienced Obama) but it was a slip of the tongue, not a case for the FBI. But, looking at the Drudge Report for part of May 9th, Obama's mistake was the first, above the fold story, complete with a picture of the Senator.
According to the New York Times, Drudge's coverage of the mistake helped lead to it becoming a national story.
For the record, aides said, the Illinois senator reads the newspaper. He knew that 11 people had been killed in the tornado – not 10,000 – but they said he simply misread the notes for his speech and was caught up in the moment of criticizing the Bush administration for stretching the National Guard too thin – in Kansas and elsewhere – and tying up its equipment in Iraq.
Fair enough. Mistakes happen. What else is going to fill up the Drudge Report?
Then on May 13, Drudge hit Obama with a variety of negative headlines.
So, let's see, Obama's wife has negative ties with Walmart, his supporters fall asleep during his speeches, and he went to Detroit, America's automotive heartland, to praise Japanese automakers. I'm surprised he didn't also forget to get his wife a present for Mother's Day, or maybe Drudge is saving that for Monday.
Now, to be fair, if the stories weren't being written, Drudge would have nothing to link to. And Obama opened the door with his Kansas gaffe. And Drudge shouldn't ignore negative stories, but it does seem like he is going out of his way to paint Obama in an unflattering light, which begs me to ask, is Drudge afraid of Obama? Is he worried about Obama's political momentum and feels the need to try to slow him down? Or am I being overly paranoid and looking for a story where there isn't one? Maybe, in the end, it's a bit of both.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Well, that was the Chicago Bulls team I expected to see in the entire season. And for three quarters, the Detroit Pistons just did not play very good basketball, so despite a fourth quarter rally, the 20-point-plus Chicago lead that they had built in the third quarter was too much to overcome, and the Pistons lost Game Four in Chicago, 102-87, with the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals now 3 games to 1, with Game Five at the Palace of Auburn Hills. While it would have been nice to sweep the Bulls, and wrap up the series in four games, the Bulls coming back strong and fighting to stay alive shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
The Pistons just did not play a good game today. Chris Webber went scoreless for the second straight game (it's too early to get really concerned about him yet, but two straight zeros isn't good) and it was strange seeing the Pistons play "hack a Ben" at the end of the game (I still hate that teams are allowed to do that). And Rasheed Wallace just took way too many threes when it was clear he wasn't feeling it tonight and he ended up 2-12 from three point range.
I was very surprised with Flip Saunders rotation today, especially early when Chauncey, Rip, Rasheed, and Webber (wow, that's almost our entire starting lineup) were either struggling to find their shot or were in foul trouble. I thought we may see Jason Maxiell earlier then we did to give the team a lift off the bench, and playing Flip Murray over Lindsey Hunter surprised me a bit, but Flip actually played pretty well throughout the game, so I can't quibble with that. And on a positive note, Tayshaun Prince continued to play pretty well.
And as was pointed out in the MLive.com Detroit Pistons Forum, up until this point I have not talked much about the guard matchups. Kurt Hinrich and Luol Deng were huge for the Bulls, Deng with a 10-15 shooting day and Hinrich with 19 and 10 assists. And Ben Gordon chipped in with 19 points as well. That was a big difference maker in the game, especially considering that at least until the fourth quarter, Chauncey Billups really struggled, and Rip Hamilton was 4-12 from the field. Hard to win when your guards are outplayed like that.
So, where do we go from here? Likely to a series ending Game Five in Detroit on Tuesday. Chicago winning one game at home doesn't really scare me, and I can't imagine the Pistons playing as poorly on Tuesday at the Palace as they did in Chicago this afternoon. The Bulls got their one game, and that will hopefully be that. The Pistons know better then to let Chicago have second life, and get back into this series.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
NBC officially kicks of "TV Upfront" week starting on Monday, and given it's the weekend before the 2007 fall television schedules will be unveiled to the public (and more importantly, the advertisers), rumors, speculation, and mock schedules are floating around all over the place. Shows thought to be shoo-ins for places on the fall schedule (like ABC's Marlowe) are being axed at the last minute due to budget issues and other shows may make it on the air or may make it another season (like NBC's Scrubs) despite conventional wisdom being they may be finished. I've added a 2007 TV Upfronts category so all of the posts over the next few days (and my pasts posts like the Top 5 Shows to Save for Next Season).
So what is the latest news on some of of the pilots I've been hoping make it to air and some of the latest scheduling buzz?
**NBC: The good news is, for fans of some of NBC's "on the bubble" shows, two shows which were very much in danger of being canceled are being brought back for next season. On Friday, work leaked that Scrubs was being brought back for a seventh and final season and earlier in the week Friday Night Lights was also returning for its second season. I like both shows, but I'll be honest, I don't really watch either of them. Scrubs I watched when it first came on the air, then for whatever reason (probably because it was scheduled against another show I watched) and now I catch up on the DVD season sets as they are released (Season Five is released in a few weeks). Friday Night Lights I always wanted to watch, and I'm hoping to catch up over the summer.
According to Pilot Buzz Central which has been monitoring the advertiser chatter from the upfronts, NBC may move Friday Night Lights to Fridays at 8:00, which to me, doesn't make a lot of sense. While the show didn't do that well in the ratings Tuesday's at 8:00, putting a show, about high school football, on at a time when high school football is being played (thus a large segment of the interested audience isn't home to watch) is puzzling. I understand NBC has had success with similar family-friendly dramas in the past on Friday nights, but I think given the choice between a drama about high school football and real high school football, most will choose to go to their local high schools. As for the rest of NBC's rumored schedule, I don't know a lot about their pilots (I've read the synopsis for them, they sound very strange, a lot of science-fiction elements to them) but there are quite a few new shows on the horizon (The Bionic Woman, Life). Once I learn more about them on Monday, I'll see if they sound any better.
** ABC: ABC presents on Tuesday, and I've already talked quite a bit about Dirty Sexy Money, Private Practice, and the formerly named Perfect Gentlemen (previous to that it was called Bedrooms & Boardrooms, now its titled "Big Shots", which while better then Bedrooms & Boardrooms, is probably not as good as "prefect Gentlemen". The good news is, all three received series orders according to The Futon Critic.
Over on the newcomer side, the dramas include the much-ballyhooed "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off "Private Practice," two series from "Brothers & Sisters" executive producer Greg Berlanti ("Dirty Sexy Money," "Eli Stone") and efforts from "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star ("Cashmere Mafia"), "Reunion's" Jon Harmon Feldman ("Big Shots"), "Heroes'" Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies") as well as a small screen take on James Patterson's book "Women's Murder Club."
And on the comedy front, there's the equally-ballyhooed "Cavemen," based on the Geico commercials, along with the Christina Applegate-led "Sam I Am" and Bruce McCulloch's ensemble "Carpoolers."
Yes, you read that right, there's going to be a show about the Gieco Cavemen living in Atlanta while dealing with prejudice as people look down on them, because, well, they are cavemen. That is either going to be a disaster or a huge success, and absolutely nowhere in between. And Eli Stone's pickup (it looks as if it will be a midseason replacement) makes Alias almuni 3-3 on ABC as Victor Garber stars as a lawyer in Eli Stone, joining Merrin Dungey (Private Practice) and Michael Vartan (Big Shots). With Ron Rifkin (Brothers & Sisters) and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) on other hit shows, the Alias family tree is doing very well at the moment (now all we need is Terry O'Quinn's Locke to survive on Lost and we are all set).
According to Pilot Buzz Online's ABC schedule rumors, it looks like Dirty Sexy Money will be on at 9:00 Tuesday's leading into Boston Legal, and Big Shots may get the coveted post Grey's Anatomy slot, Thursday's at 10:00, with Private Practice on 9:00 Wednesdays. All of those time slots work with me, and don't conflict with other shows that I watch (if Shark moves, as is rumored below), so I'd be happy with that. ABC looks to have a really strong schedule right now.
** CBS: Like with NBC's pilots, because I've been so interested in ABC's pilots, I haven't read much about CBS' new offerings. Though it does look like How I Met Your Mother will return for another season (I need to start doing a better job watching that on CBS Online because it's a funny show but I always watch Prison Break instead 8:00 Mondays). And still no word on whether Jericho will return. One thing which does bother me is that Pilot Buzz Online has Shark moving to 10:00 Tuesdays, which just be frustrating. There aren't too many courtroom dramas on TV to start with (especially with Law & Order being endangered at the moment) and for the two strongest, Shark and Boston Legal, to go head-to-head, that isn't good for either show, and will be frustrating for me as a fan of both shows. Even though both are courtroom dramas, they have such completely different tones (light for Boston Legal, dark for Shark) but both can succeed as shows. I'm not sure if they can against each other though.
** FOX: The only show I'm really looking forward to here is the Kelsey Grammar/Patricia Heaton news anchor comedy "Back To You." It's supposed to be hilarious and both Grammar and Heaton are very very funny. Otherwise, Prison Break in the fall and 24 in the winter, and that's FOX (at least to me). Maybe I should start watching House because everyone loves it, but I watch enough shows as it is and there are enough good pilots to keep me busy next year.
** The CW: I don't watch or care about the CW. Ever since they canceled Jack & Bobby a few seasons back, the only show in the history of the network (going back to when it was the WB and UPN) I liked, I tend to stay away.
Aside from the links I've used in my analysis above (Pilot Buzz Online, Kristen at E-Online, website The Futon Critic) there are a few other places to be checking out in the next week as the pilots and schedules are unvelied. Zap2It has a great message board with all sorts of news, as does Mediaweek's Program Insider. TV Guide also has their own pilot blog, and The Televisionary Blog also has good anlaysis.