Looks like the NBA Finals ain't going past Thursday night's Game 4 in Miami; least, that's what it says in damned near every paper Unfair Park's been perusing this morning for our daily wrap-up-round-up. Some sample headlines: "Column: Shaq, Riles Headed for a Fall," "Prepare the fire hoses, Finals will end in Miami," "The Heat Is Dissipating Quickly," "Fans, it might be time to panic." That latter head comes from The Miami Herald, which is doing its best not to throw in the proverbial towel but nonetheless is giving off the sweet smell of suck; hence Dan LeBatard's column insisting the Miami Heat's two-game deficit in the Finals " just makes the climb from here more interesting and more fun," and the other piece in the same paper informing Miami fans that it "would not be considered impolite or even particularly premature to panic right now." Sounds like at least one newspaper's going through the phases of grief right about now.
Of course, it's hard to deny the obvious: "Shaquille O'Neal is missing," says The Los Angeles Times this morning. "If you find him, please return him to AmericanAirlinesArena in Miami before Game 3. He was last seen Sunday night, somewhere inside the Mavericks' defense." The paper also says that Dwyane Wade, the "Robin to O'Neal's Batman," was more like "Abbott to O'Neal's Costello." It's not that funny, but it tickled me more than anything Steve Blow had to offer in Sunday's Dallas Morning News; how can something meant to be so funny be so...not? Speaking of obvious, that's just how Associated Press Mavs beat writer Jaime Aron played it in the lead to his widely circulated game story: There wasn't a Shaq attack, but "a Stack attack," referring to Jerry Stackhouse's 10-point streak in the second quarter that sealed the deal.
The great Bob Ryan in The Boston Globe says the same thing about Stack vs. Shaq, but not before taking the Heat out behind the American Airlines Center for a little hardwood spanking; seems the men from Miami offered "a tepid submission, a mail-it-in special, an egg-laying disgrace" last night. Ryan's fellow Sports Reporter over at ESPN, Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post, says it wasn't all Shaq's fault that he had the least productive game of his playoff career; just nobody was watching the backside of the man who claims he's 330 pounds of sexy. (For the record, I am 220 pounds, give or take, of astounding mediocrity.)
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There is some real news in the papers this morning: The Sporting News is reporting, in an "exclusive," that Mavs point guard Jason Terry (who the missus and I saw at dinner Friday night at Nick & Sam's, incidentally) ain't leaving Dallas after the season. "Everyone is assuming he is staying with Dallas and that they'll get it done quickly," and Eastern Conference general manager tells the paper. But, he adds, "Everyone thought that with Steve Nash too." And there are plenty of pieces about Shaq'a $10,000 fine for skipping the post-game Q&A. But who needs news? On this 2-0 morning, all you wanna do is read about how the Mavs destroyed the Heat last night. USA Today has a pretty good autopsy right here. And, of course, you should check out Deadspin, though it seems that sportsy site's already moved on the World Cup, the World Series of Poker and everything else that will occupy our time after basketball season ends Thursday night. --Robert Wilonsky