Unlike ‘Sopranos,’ NBA season capped with conclusive finale: Spurs win

Fade to black. No, “Rants & Raves” isn’t talking about Sunday night’s controversial — and seemingly inconclusive — series finale of “The Sopranos.” Rather, we’re talking about the black-clad San Antonio Spurs’ whacking of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the series finals of the NBA playoffs:

This is a mob hit of a different sort, but just as lethal. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the rest of the Spurs are showing the Cavaliers that nothing will intrude on their championship territory in an odd-numbered year — capice?

Even Tony Soprano would be shaking in his shoes at the sight of the overwhelming offensive prowess of the Spurs, who have been scoring at will — heck, they held a 29-point lead in Sunday night’s Game 2 — against a dazed and obviously fazed Cleveland squad.

Perhaps playing tonight’s Game 3 on the Cavs’ turf will give the, literally and figuratively down, 0-2 team a little hope. But the kiss on the cheek has been delivered: The Spurs own this best-of-7 series, likely in four games. …

• Speaking of kissing, an unusual note we ran across: Kissing briefly was a “sport” in the Greek Olympic Games.

Don’t ask about the nature of the, um, competition. We’ll just say that the late “Sopranos” character Vito Spatafore, who frequented gay nightclubs, might have been a medal contender. …

• Back to the NBA: After a couple of pointed e-mails this past week about our “dissing” of the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant while praising the Cavaliers’ LeBron James, in fairness we acknowledge Bryant ranked No. 1 in jersey sales this past season, according to the league, with James dropping from second in 2005-06 to third.

So to those of you who stuck out your tongue — or maybe even a choice finger — at us last week, here’s your proof that the public still loves Bryant.

Of course, Bryant changing his uniform number from 8 to 24 this past season might have had something to do with the increased sales, although wearing a Bryant No. 8 jersey would have to be considered “retro,” right? …

• The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade was No. 1 in jersey sales last year. As for the soon-to-be-recrowned Spurs — hey, they won the title in 2003 and ’05, so 2007 is a given — the highest-ranking player was Duncan, at No. 15.

That would be because Duncan is part of a TEAM! …

• Fear for the safety of baseball fans has prompted a Dallas-based auction house to withdraw its $1 million bounty for Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home run ball.

Heritage Auction Galleries pulled back its guaranteed payout because “we don’t want a fan or a child injured or killed” by the frenzied actions of individuals in the area where the ball would land.

Yeah, like that’s going to stop the insane, riches-fueled stampede for that historic horsehide. Paris Hilton’s paparazzi-swarmed release from jail next month will be less bonkers than the rabid chase for Bonds’ homer when it (eventually) comes. …

• We’re convinced Roger Federer never will win the French Open as long as Rafael Nadal, who is five years his junior, continues to play the major event. He just won’t, even if he is the world’s top-ranked player.

While Nadal is the clay sculptor of men’s tennis, Federer plays the surface as if he’s in Claymation. What’s more, you saw in Federer’s face after grinding out that grueling second set against Nadal in Sunday’s French final that he knew he didn’t have enough in him to carry it for two more sets in his favor.

On clay, Nadal holds the psych factor; Federer is simply psyched out. …

• Question: If an NHL team captures the Stanley Cup championship yet nobody watches, why was the regular season even played? …

• On the topic of a lack of interest, no “rants” will be directed against the 2-12 Arena Football League Gladiators this week. The 10-loss mercy rule is in effect. …

• A “rave” to end with: We have been meaning to mention — and just remembered — the great fortune (and skill) of Sun City Summerlin resident Julie Winter, who recently recorded her second hole-in-one. The 61-year-old golfer aced the 147-yard 15th hole at Eagle Crest for the second time during a ladies’ tournament in mid-May. One-and-a-half years earlier, she notched her first career ace on the same hole.

Sure, Winter needed a driver to accomplish the feat each time. But like they say in sports, how you did it isn’t important, only that you did it.

So, girl, you’ve got game!

Joe Hawk is the Review-Journal’s sports editor. His column is published Tuesday. He can be reached at 387-2912 or jhawk@reviewjournal.com.

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