By Bill Simmons
Page 2 Here's how I think tonight's Game 7 goes down:
8:00 EST – TNT kicks off the telecast with goose bump-provoking slow motion footage of Dwyane Wade walking onto the court for the pregame warm-ups, accompanied by a song that was released at least 20 years ago.
8:04 – Our first ad for "The Closer," premiering June 13 only on TNT!
8:04 – Guys in their 30s across the country mutter to themselves, "Man, what happened to Kyra Sedgwick?"
8:10 – TNT's "Inside the NBA" crew makes their predictions. Magic takes Miami because, "When it's winnin' time, you need the big fella on your side, and when the big fella's on your side, it's winnin' time!" Kenny takes Detroit because of "playoff experience – these guys have been here before." And Charles takes Detroit because "Number one, they have another gear. First of all, that's the most important thing in a Game 7, because number one, you need that second gear. And if you don't have that second gear, then first of all, you better have your best players healthy, and number one, Dwyane Wade isn't healthy."
8:20 – With Wade limping onto the court in the starting lineup, Marv Albert pulls the "Maybe this doesn't have … the same significance … as Willis Reed in the 1970 Finals … but you can't help but think of Willis … as we see Dwyane Wade … trying to gut … his way … through this do-or-die Game 7 … "
8:35 – Miami jumps out to an early 9-4 lead on 3s from Damon Jones, Eddie Jones and Wade (which brings down the house). Larry Brown calls a quick timeout and contemplates sneaking out of the building like D.C. Dacey in the middle of the final game in "Fast Break."
8:45 – Doug Collins remembers the time he was playing for Philadelphia and tried to play hurt in a big playoff game: "When the crowd gets behind you, the adrenaline takes over and you stop thinking about the injury altogether."
8:50 – Shot of Darko laughing on the bench at one of Antonio McDyess' jokes.
8:55 – With the Pistons behind 17-10, the first round of Detroit fans start making snide, "Man, it would have been nice if Ben Wallace showed up for this series" comments.
9:00 – Wade goes coast-to-coast with a gorgeous finish – he has nine points as the Heat lead by 13. The nation prepares for a Tuesday of sportswriters screaming: "Dwyane Wade is the next Michael Jordan!" on various TV and radio shows.
9:05 – With Miami leading by 16 and shooting 73 percent, we see our first shot of Larry Brown making his "To Do List" for his Cleveland move. By the way, you're not going to believe this, but Alonzo Mourning just blocked someone's shot, then pumped his fist a few times and acted like an idiot.
9:07 – Rasheed Wallace gets a technical for arguing a charge call from referee Dick Bavetta, who high-fives Jamie Foxx on his way back up the court.
9:10 – Shot of Darko laughing on the bench at one of Carlos Arroyo's jokes.
9:15 – With 5:00 to go in the first half, Miami's bench extends the lead to 19 as the crowd goes bonkers, followed by Mourning doing 37 different Hulk Hogan-like muscle flexes.
9:25 – Wade gets knocked down hard on a drive to the basket, then takes about three minutes to get up. High drama. Doug Collins immediately remembers the time he was knocked down during the 1977 Finals by Maurice Lucas, adding, "I felt like I had been steamrolled by a freight train."
9:30 – Our halftime score: Miami 56, Detroit 38. The Pistons are shooting 29 percent from the field and have a "if we lose this game, last year's championship still counts, right?" glow about them. Meanwhile, Craig Sager and Shaq have this exchange:
– Sager: "Shaq, you're up by 18, what went right for you guys in that first half?"
– Shaq: "Before I answer that, I want to send my respects out to Mark Felt, the guy who turned out to be Deep Throat and helped end Richard Nixon's presidency. Mr. Felt, we all appreciate what you did for this country. Thanks for the sacrifices you made."
– Sager: "Thanks for those thoughts, Shaq."
– Shaq: "I'm a huge Gatewater buff."
9:40 – During TNT's halftime show, Barkley breaks down the series as so: "First of all, I can't believe the Pistons didn't come out with more intensity. I mean, number one, they look flat. If you can't get fired up for a Game 7 … first of all, they should have to give back last year's trophy. And second of all, I can't believe those boys are the defending champs! When I was playing – well, number one, you practically had to cut Magic and Larry's heads off to take their titles from them. Because, first of all, those guys were great players … "
9:47 – Our 30th promo for "The Closer," premiering June 13 on TNT!
9:54 – An inspired Pistons team rattles off a 7-0 run at the beginning of the third, forcing Miami coach Ron Jeremy to call timeout.
10:03 – Shot of Darko laughing on the bench at one of Darvin Ham's jokes.
10:10 – Shaq simply takes over the game after Ben Wallace's fourth foul – two dunks and two jump hooks over Elden Campbell, the last one followed by his thing where he staggers back upcourt in the little happy half-crouch. Down by 20 again, Larry Brown quickly calls timeout and looks like he ate a bad egg sandwich.
10:13 – Isolated on the right side, Tayshaun Prince effortlessly takes Wade off the dribble for a lefty layup, prompting everyone around the country to ask the same question: "Why doesn't Tayshaun Prince average 25 points a game? What are we missing here?"
10:16 – Albert: "Here's Wade in transition … ohhhhhhhhhhh! What a move … by Dwyane Wade … who doesn't look … like he's feeling the effects … from that debilitating rib injury … "
10:16 – Doug Collins remembers the time when he played for the Sixers and Doctor J. dropped 44 on the Celtics despite suffering from a painful charley horse.
10:25 – Down by 24 heading into the fourth, the Pistons have officially packed it in – leading to the inevitable Rasheed Wallace second technical/meltdown/rip-off-his-jersey-as-he's-storming-off sequence. That's right, you can take Rasheed out of Portland, but you can't take the Portland out of Rasheed.
10:29 – Craig Sager interviews Jamie Foxx, who seems incredibly pleased with himself and uses the word "Man" a lot. Did you know he's filming "Miami Vice" right now? Were you aware of this?
10:33 – Alonzo Mourning rams home a follow-up rebound, then reenacts the Ultimate Warrior's entrance for the main event of WrestleMania VII as the Pistons glance at one another thinking, "We can't cheap-shot him because he only has one kidney, right?"
10:43 – With 4:00 minutes to play, leading by 20, Jeremy removes Wade from the game – who gets a big hug from Shaq and a standing O from the 3,000 Miami pseudo-fans who didn't sprint for the exits at the end of the third quarter.
10:46 – Here comes Darko!
10:48 – Darko from 3 … no good!
10:49 – Shot of Shaq and Damon Jones performing some sort of organized rap song/dance routine on the bench in the final minute as Marv Albert says, "Shaquille O'Neal and his buddy Damon Jones … enjoying themselves … as the clock winds down … to the final minute."
10:53 – Our final score: Miami 101, Detroit 73. Miami is headed to the Finals.
10:56 – Sager interviews Wade (25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds), who tells him that, "The rib was bothering me, but it's a Game 7, you just have to gut it out." He's being heavily guarded by four Converse execs who are trying to keep him away from anyone wearing a Nike hat.
11:00 – The TNT Crew sums it up best …
– Kenny: "Too much Dwyane Wade, too much Shaq, not enough energy from the Pistons. That's the bottom line."
– Barkley: "Number one, I thought Dwyane Wade was fantastic. That boy can play. And first of all, nobody understands how hard it is to play hurt, because number one, the other team knows you can't do the stuff you normally do … "
– Magic: "Here's the thing though, here's the thing – for Dwyane Wade, it was all about winnin' time. When it's winnin' time, superstars play like superstars. Injuries don't matter. Ribs don't matter. Winnin' time is winnin' time."
– Ernie: "And speaking of winnin' time, don't forget about the world premiere of 'The Closer,' June 13 on TNT!"