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NBA

What Happened Last Night: The Falcons Stayed Perfect, And Improbably, So Did The Magic


Didn’t watch any sports last night? Well, there could be worse nights to avoid the sports scene, we suppose, but with a Sunday Night Football game and the NBA getting back in full swing, we can’t condone your actions. What we can do, though, is give you a rundown of what happened, and hope you’ll be so filled with regret at what you missed out on that you’ll never spend a night neglecting sports again. ShameFest 2012, commence!

The Falcons are still unbeaten.

Okay, so the Falcons always fall flat in the playoffs, and the fact that they consistently do so makes it hard to get too excited about anything they do before the playoffs. But it’s not easy to get to those playoffs to begin with, and it’s about time to acknowledge that what the Falcons are doing right now, sitting with an unblemished record halfway through the season, is impressive. Sure, their latest triumph, a 19-13 win over the always-uneven Cowboys last night, wasn’t pretty, but it was another win, and the Falcons are the only team left in the NFL to do that every game this season.

And it’s not too hard to see why the Falcons are where they are: this is a talented team. There aren’t many – if any – better wideout duos in the NFL than Roddy White and Julio Jones (247 combined yards last night). Tony Gonzalez is still Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan continues to do a good job finding them all (24-34 for 342 yards against Dallas). Michael Turner’s still capable of games like he produced last night (102 yards and Atlanta’s only touchdown), and the defense bent some (377 total yards allowed, seven yards per play) but didn’t break – and that was without linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, one of the unit’s top players.

Fans’ skepticism about the Falcons’ ability to pull it together and make a deep playoff run is earned, but the team’s earned some respect with its play so far, too. Every year is different – maybe this is the year the Falcons finally make a Super Bowl run. Then again, maybe they’re peaking too early and they’ll fall short when it counts once again. It could go either way, but what we should all be able to agree on is that this story of an irate Jerry Jones being locked out of the Cowboys’ locker room after the game makes our world a more magical place to live.

In 4 p.m. NFL news…

The Giants lost their first post-Sandy game, blowing a 20-10 lead and eventually falling 24-20 to the resurgent Steelers. NJ.com’s front-page summation of the Giants’ loss: “Giants fail in mission to uplift region.” Ouch. The Bucs beat the Raiders because Doug Martin is decent at running with footballs. And the Seahawks beat the Vikings in a duel between good football-runners. Ground and pound ain’t dead yet.

Jacque Vaughn for coach of the year!

Okay, fine, it’s only two (home) games (with one against a Suns team that probably won’t do much), but who’d have thought the newly Howard-less Magic would go even that long before losing – and win both games convincingly, at that? First they beat the Nuggets 102-89 in the season opener (i.e. won by 10 more points than the Heat would over that same Nuggets team a night later), and last night they overcame a 15-point third quarter deficit to overwhelm the Suns the rest of the way and finish with a 115-94 win. And they didn’t even have Jameer Nelson, on paper one of the team’s few bright-ish spots, to help them do it – he missed the game with a hamstring injury.

No, the Magic probably won’t keep this pace up, but it’s pretty cool to see them so outperform expectations in the early going. First-time head coach Jacque Vaughn seems to have tapped into something, and if the Magic sustain anywhere near this level of play for the foreseeable future, that “coach of the year” stuff won’t be a joke anymore.

The Lakers got it together.

Hey, speaking of trends that were unsustainable: the Lakers looking that bad. L.A. got its first win of the year last night, and it was a resounding one, 108-79 over the Pistons. Dwight Howard looked worth giving up Andrew Bynum to get, posting 28 points in 33 minutes. Kobe was (gasp!) a facilitator, taking just 10 shots but dishing out eight assists in 32 minutes of work. Granted, the Pistons don’t look any good themselves, but this was the Lakers team it was easy to envision this offseason. When Steve Nash gets back and in the flow of things, they could be every bit as scary as the rest of the league has to be afraid of.

Elsewhere around the league: the Josh-Smith-less Hawks got an impressive win over the Thunder (and that was with Kevin martin being near-unstoppable, scoring 28 on just 11 shots), and the Raptors got a big win of their own, 105-86 over the T-Wolves. This Kyle Lowry guy might be the real deal.

There. Feel like you missed out? Good. I hope so. See you on the morrow. Well, hopefully not you, specifically. Some other group of laggards. Damn laggards. With all their lagging. Don’t let that be you again.

Photos via Getty




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