Everyone remembers, "Bird steals the ball, Bird steals the ball!" What few remember is the incredible lay up Johnson made under duress to win that game.
When I think of DJ, defense comes to mind. When I picture DJ, I see him standing at that free line massaging the game's sweat into that ball the way he used to do prior to every attempt. Some guys will flip the ball out and spin it back, wrap it around their waist, or just stand their and dribble a few times. Not DJ. He'd run his hands all over that thing. As a Celtics fan I loved seeing that.
I've been critical of many things this season, including the Pac-10's television contract with Fox Sports. So, in fairness, I must also give them props when credit is due. Last night Fox Sports earned their keep in televising all four conference basketball games within a five hour window, which has forced me to rethink my whole attack on the network. Maybe the Pac-10 won't get much national exposure, but we as fans will get to see the games we're interested in seeing. Last night we were treated to three down-to-the-wire games. Oregon State finished up their upset bid of Washington as the Cal/UCLA and USC/Stanford games were just tipping off. When those games reached halftime, Wazzu/Oregon was about 10 minutes into their contest. Once the Los Angeles games ended, fans were treated to an incredible finish that saw Oregon's Aaron Brooks make another clutch shot in the final minute to seal the victory – a victory that was made possible by the unreal three-point shooting of Tajuan Porter.
Oregon's victory last night was HUGE. The Ducks got the season sweep over the Cougars. With that, and their splits with both UCLA and Arizona, I think it's safe to say that Oregon can now punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
The other big winner from last night was USC. The Trojans won the battle for third place and in the process, moved one game closer to Washington State. Everyone, including me, has been focusing on the showdown between Wazzu and UCLA for the conference title next week. Now, it could come down to Wazzu and USC for second place.
Last night was a good night for the conference and hopefully a prelude to the conference tourney, March 7-10. Of course it would have been better if Arizona had also played and won but like my buddy Troy said this morning, "It's good to finally talk to you on a Friday morning when we didn't lose the night before."
I watched every game in great detail last night and was pleased with what I saw out of Cal and Stanford. Although these games are on the road next week, I think both teams are good match ups for Arizona. Especially now that Jordan Hill is helping the Wildcats in shoring up their frontline. Briefly, here's what I saw:
Six Bears scored nine points or more but no one, outside of Ryan Anderson, seemed to pose any major threats on offense.
Cal played aggressive man-to-man defense in the first half, but they tired in the second half.
Cal only lost by 10, but trailed by as many as 26. In the loss, they made 8 of 13 three-point attempts and shot over 60 percent from the field for the game. With those gaudy offensive numbers the game should have been a lot more competitive down the stretch, but it wasn't.
The Lopes Twins try to block every single shot. A quick pump fake/up and under move and Ivan Radenovic or Hill could get them in early foul trouble.
USC was able to drive baseline and get to the hole just like in their game against Arizona. The Trojans also did well on the offensive boards all night long.
USC began to beat the Cardinal down the floor in the second half. They also did a good job of forcing Stanford to take a lot of outside shots. More importantly, Stanford was really impatient at times and took many bad shots way too early in the shot clock.
When Stanford went to their zone defense with six minutes remaining in the game, they really struggled to secure defensive rebounds. Twice, USC came down with the rebound after missed free throws which really broke the backs of the Cardinal late in the game.
After watching these games last night, I'm confident Arizona can beat them both to close out the season. First, they have to get past Arizona State in Tempe in a prime time game on Sunday. I had a dream the other night that they did just that. I was doing Yoga in my dream while watching the game. I'm not quite sure what this all means but in the spirit of Yoga and Arizona winning basketball games, join me in a virtual lotus position and repeat the following mantra during the next eight days: "Arizona will win their remaining games to finish 11-7."
Arizona will return to their winning ways. In fact, they must. I just gave up swearing for Lent so the Wildcats need to start winning right-quick or this is going to be a short lived resolution on my part.
I finally saw the movie Hustle and Flow this week. I loved it. "…gotta' keep my game tight like Kobe on game night." Although the movie made a nice basketball reference with this line from Three 6 Mafia, Hustle and Flow is not my movie pick of the month. This month, we go back a decade, for Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat' Manigault. This 1996 basketball film chronicles the life of Earl Manigualt who many consider to be the best New York streetballer ever. Two must see scenes are: when Earl dunks the ball twice without touching the ground and counts it as two points to win a pick-up game; and, without giving too much away, when the prison guard asks Earl to autograph his book that makes mention of Earl's street legend, only Earl has to read the passage first to understand why this guard wants his autograph. The movie stars a young Don Cheadle as Earl. James Earl Jones and Forest Whitaker also have prominent roles. This is a must see movie for basketball lovers, but one that is hard to find so good luck in your search.
Before I go, I do have further good news about Arizona. For those who've been following along this season, the jinx was finally broken and I received the e-mail message I'd been waiting for. So with that, I'm happy to announce that a full Pre Game Analysis of the UA/Arizona State with a final score prediction will post on the site prior to Sunday's tip.