There is nothing quite like overtime in the NBA. In baseball, the innings just keep going until the home team is jumping on each other at the plate or snubbing the batter that made the final out. In football, whoever can kick the quickest field goal wins, and if no one does, the teams shake hands and agree that they’re both winners, but that really neither one is. In hockey, I think they have a shoot-off or some kind of ice skating dance-off. For the first time since my return to basketball fandom, I got to witness the NBA edition of overtime, which involves an arbitrary five-minute extra period tacked on to the end of the game. It was a lot of fun.
For the second time in a week, I was forced to turn to the wonderful Reborn4HDLive streaming services since the Mavericks were once again airing on NBA TV. I can’t thank that site enough, as the only other way I could imagine watching those games involves going over to my dad’s house, telling him I’m a Mavericks fan now, and asking if I can use his TV for the next two-and-a-half hours since he somehow has the NBA Network in his TV package. I can only watch the home team’s broadcast through this method, and since the Mavericks were at home the last time this happened, I had yet to witness a non-Dallas announcing crew in the 2015-16 season. That all changed Tuesday night, and after experiencing several hours of the Mike Barrett-Mike Rice team, I can safely say one of them is crazy.
Rice, a former college basketball player and coach, has been doing commentary on Trail Blazers television broadcasts for roughly the past decade, and judging by his performance on Tuesday, that must have been one memorable decade. Commissioner Adam Silver stopped in briefly to chat with the announcing duo at the start of the second half, and while Barrett made a point to ask professional, carefully prepared questions, Rice went off the cuff and genuinely did his best to scare Silver. After ranting to the commissioner about how he wished Dirk Nowitzki would retire since he’s killed the Blazers for years, the color man grasped him firmly by the hand at the end of the interview and demanded to know whether he’d been to Voodoo Donuts yet. An alarmed Silver could be seen trying to wrench his hand from Rice’s deathly grip as he stammered out some kind of excuse, any kind of excuse for having failed to use his time in Portland to stuff donuts down his long throat.
From what I’ve read about Rice, he’s quite a character, and I have no doubt his off-putting comments are actually charming if you’re subjected to him on a regular basis. Personally, I couldn’t get past his pallid complexion and the fact that he looked like the grandfather in “Little Big League” if he were still alive today and had aged even worse than the years would suggest. Maybe that ninth knee surgery was one too many.
Broadcasting aside, I haven’t seen a game this up-and-down emotionally all season. Things started out swimmingly once again, as the Mavs jumped out to a 20-5 lead thanks to a good blend of Nowitzki, former Trail Blazer Wes Matthews, Deron Williams, and Zaza Pachulia. Chandler Parsons, unfortunately, is not cleared to play in road back-to-backs yet, so he was nowhere to be found, and that’s never a good predictor of a Mavericks win.
In typical Dallas fashion, the Mavs then pissed away their large lead, giving up 34 points in the second quarter and quickly cooling down from the field while ending the half with Portland on a commanding 18-4 run. It wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter when the Mavericks came to life, long after I’d given them up for dead and settled on fuming over another presumed loss to a team that isn’t that good. For God’s sake, the back court is the only thing they have going for them, and neither guard was at his best. Damian Lillard came on strong at the end but entered the game recovering from some kind stomach virus, and C.J. McCollum played like he’d caught that bug from Lillard and tried to kill the bacteria by drinking antifreeze. McCollum shot a Kobe Bryant-like 4-for-21 from the field while Lillard was largely silent until the fourth quarter, and yet the Blazers still almost came away with a win.
Then the heroes dressed as ordinary Mavericks took over. With the team down by 10 with just five minutes left, Matthews calmly drained threes on consecutive possessions, Williams attacked the basket repeatedly for layups, and Dirk nailed a three with 48 seconds left to bring Dallas within two points. With time running out, Charlie Villanueva missed a wide open corner three that would have put the Mavs up, but Dirk was somehow there, rising to tip it in and tie the game. After Lillard missed a last second three, overtime began, and that’s when Williams and Nowitzki took over.
What could have easily been another incredibly frustrating loss became a hugely inspiring win. Sure, the Trail Blazers are in the midst of rebuilding and have an announcer who’s completely batshit, but taking a game on the road on the second night of a back-to-back without Parsons is a major accomplishment, and so is that solid 11-8 record. I shook the walls in my room with a bellow when Dirk’s pretty hands tipped in that Villanueva miss, and I nodded in approval as D-Will ran off yet another performance from his peak years. I haven’t even mentioned how Zaza pulled down 21 rebounds, either.
This was the kind of game that ensures my renewed love for basketball isn’t going anywhere. Watching young teams like the Blazers duke it out with a veteran Mavericks squad, sighing in disgust as the unstoppable Ed Davis came up with yet another offensive rebound, listening in disbelief as Mike Rice declared that he was considering buying property on the moon while the land was still cheap — these are the gifts that come with my basketball reunion. The union grows stronger by the day.