*Fat Tuesday was a huge success! There were 7s in the stars: CC went 7 innings and struck out 7 batters in his 7th decision of the year. The Yanks scored 7 runs in the 7th inning to earn their 7th win in a row. I called 7 women, got 7 rejections, ate 7 brownies, and contemplated the 7 layers of hell. Just one of those nights! Here's a picture of 7 astronauts to kick things off! Yee-haw!
*Teix and A-Bomb both homered for the third time in four games. That, my friends, is a scorching duo. Lost in their explosive play is the fact that Cano, Matsui, and Melky are in the midst of bad slumps. (Cano is now below .300, which, as his biggest fan, is thoroughly depressing. The only way Sweet Robbie should be batting that low is if he's handcuffed, blindfolded, and wearing Big Papi- post steroids- like a backpack.) Yet we're on our best streak of the year. It's a good indication of how great this team can be; we still don't have all the mechanisms in full-function mode. If our lineup starts to genuinely click, and I think it will in a matter of weeks, the Yanks go from very good to dominant.
*In extremely welcome news, Brian Bruney returned and had a clean inning. The hidden storyline behind our walk-off wins against Minnesota is that the bullpen came inches from blowing it each time. A combination of great defense, helpful calls, and poor RISP hitting by the Twins kept us afloat. If nothing else, having our 8th-inning stopper back should keep Veras buried in the pecking order.
*On to basketball. I got my wish- the Knicks stayed in the 8th spot in the draft lottery, and there's a good chance Stephen Curry will be wearing orange and blue next season. This means, of course, that he needs a nickname, and I have an idea. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: "Problem Child." "Problem" because his precision shooting and preternatural scoring ability will give other teams headaches, and "child" because he looks like he's 11 years old.
*Ahhhhh Denver. Yesterday, I predicted that you'd steal game one in a thriller and go on to win the series in six. You almost made it happen...almost. Things looked good for the bulk of the game, but then you got snakebit by the Black Mamba. (Speaking of nicknames, whoever came up with 'Black Mamba' for Kobe really nailed it...not only is he a quick and deadly scorer (and black), but his whole body dynamic is serpentine, from the snapping-yet-controlled motion of the lithe, whip-like trunk, to the sinister intelligence of the narrow, omniscient eyes, to the sleek, reptilian composition that extends even to those singular ears, narrowing into diabolic points...he's a structural man-viper.)
After yesterday's claptrap about his poor leadership in difficult situations, Kobe managed to simultaneously launch his one-man scoring act and provide a team stimulus with opportunistic passing. However, I stand by my larger point- the amazing three-point shooting of the supporting cast was an anomaly, and Bynum isn't contributing enough in the post. Pao was fantastic on the boards, but the fact is that Denver blew a good number of opportunities to secure the game late, and if Nene hadn't fouled out near the end, and if Kenyon hadn't made that stupid foul, and if Ariza hadn't come away with an easy steal, it was their game to win. At some point, they will take one in LA, and I feel a serene confidence with my Nuggets-in-6 prediction.
*I really, really enjoy watching Denver play. They have two exciting scorers in Chauncey and Carmelo, a downtown dynamo in J.R. Smith who can make it rain at the slightest provocation, a former Dukie with explosive energy, and a fun Brazilian center. Still, as I was watching the game, I couldn't help but feel that something was missing...some crucial piece that kept the Nuggest from total loveability. Where, I found myself asking, was the bat-shit crazy white dude covered in loud tattoos- perhaps dismissed from the league at some point for using a drug that was probably cocaine or heroin- who plays with a limbs-akimbo style that's high-energy, athletic, and constantly on the verge of complete chaos? Oh, and it'd be great if he could also have spiked hair that makes him look like a spastic European raver.
Wait, what's that you say? There's a man fitting that description? Why, it couldn't be...
SAY HELLO TO CHRIS ANDERSEN, THE BIRDMAN!
"Okay," you might think, "that's pretty great, but I wish the nickname was self-appointed, and I wish he had a frightening trademark celebration where he ran around with his arms crossed, flapping his hands like an insane feathered creature, and I wish before the 2005 slam dunk contest he uttered the words 'It's time for the Birdman to fly.'"
Breathe easy, friend. Christmas just came early.
*After Kobe got a technical for slamming the ball, it was pretty revelatory to watch him interact with the referee. During the technical and regular foul shots that followed, he spouted off angrily from a distance of five feet. When the camera first showed him, he scowled and shook his head in that identifying cocky manner and clearly said "it's bullshit" three times in a row. Then he faced the ref and barked something else I couldn't see, but which undoubtedly contained more "provocative" language. The silent victim just stood still, slightly shaking his head, face red and abashed, clenching the whistle in his teeth. There was no way in hell anybody was ejecting Black Mamba, and Kobe knew it. He used his leverage to say whatever he wanted, secure in the knowledge that he'd literally have to assault someone to earn another technical. Fascinating.
*I suppose I should make a Cleveland-Orlando prediction. For this series, it's worth keeping in mind that there's a huge drop-off in the Eastern Conference after the 3-seed. Sure, the Cavs have won eight in a row, but they haven't played anybody. That being said, let's be honest with ourselves: it would take a miracle for Lebron's legionnaires to falter at home. The question is whether Orlando can hold serve and force this one to seven. I admire their toughness, and I don't think we're in for a sweep, but I say Cleveland takes a difficult game 4 and wins in 5.