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SportsMonday: Even Up

The basketball was beautiful Saturday night. Sunday's action was less so.

But yesterday's result certainly warmed the heart of anti-Heat fans everywhere. And there is some drama in the NBA playoffs after the first two games in both conference finals earlier last week were dominated by the favorites. Now deuces - a pair of 2-2 deadlocks - are wild.

The disliked Heat (they aren't really "hated" this time around even if that adjective makes for such better alliteration) had its chances and then some against the limping Celtics last night. Boston and in particular the amazing Rajon Rondo (his fake behind-the-back pass uncontested lay-up is a move for the ages) dominated the first half but slowly let things slip away heading down the stretch.

I'm still not sure exactly how they held on to force overtime and then win 93-91 despite squandering a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and scoring only four points in the extra time. A huge factor, of course, was the fact that for the first time in four years, LeBron James fouled out. He did so a few minutes after Paul Pierce suffered the same fate.

It was just plain ugly out there in the final minutes. For goodness sake, the stars of the show were the floppers. Old pro Shane Battier collapsed like a demolished building after Pierce made mild contact with him to account for foul-out number one. Then Mickael Pietrus did him one better. His flop was preceded by a slick bit of footwork that made it impossible for James not to take a tumble onto him.

The even-up nature of the call was a bit of comfort, but for goodness sake you would think conference final officials wouldn't fall for this sort of stuff.

Dwyane Wade will never have a more open three than the one he took as the final seconds of overtime ticked off the clock. But it clanked off the rim and the Celtics survived.

The star of the weekend was Kevin Durant. The Oklahoma City forward would not let his team lose the Saturday evening contest that ended with the Thunder on top of the Spurs 109-103.

Just as he had at last year's World Basketball Championship in Turkey, Durant absolutely took over down the stretch of a game his team had to have. He scored 16 straight points in the fourth quarter on an array of intermediate jump shots interspersed with a few shots at the rim. He finished with an awesome 36 points.

Just about all of his buckets were required because the Spurs were just about scoring at will at the other end. It has never seemed as though Oklahoma City has played championship defense, but if they keep putting up points like this maybe they can become the first NBA team in just about forever to score its way to a championship.

But the favorites are still the heavy favorites. The Heat have home court advantage and almost certainly have Chris Bosh coming back in Game 5 on Tuesday night. Rondo appeared to run out of gas in the second half for Boston. He has been playing ridiculous minutes and unless he can come up with two more super-human performances in the next three games, the Celtics will bow out.

As for the Thunder, they barely competed in San Antonio in the series' first two games. And that is where two of the final three (if necessary) will be played. But with Durant on your side, well, let's just say I'm very much looking forward to tonight's Game 5.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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