Monday, March 10, 2014

DVD Review: Motor City Madness

‘Motor City Madness’ is an 11-disc set that has all the action from the Detroit Pistons’ final two playoff series from their first ever NBA championship season in 1988-89, plus a championship recap disc.  Obviously you are probably only ever going to purchase it if you are a Detroit fan (as I am), or just really like basketball, but for those who might want to consider borrowing it or watching it at a friend’s house, it is an enjoyable encapsulation of the latter end of the NBA’s greatest era (i.e. the early ‘80s to early ‘90s).  Detroit’s ‘Bad Boys’ were a tough, defensively-orientated group, who were generally disliked (except by their own fans) for their rough-and-tumble tactics, and in ‘Motor City Madness’ you can watch them try and curb two of the NBA’s greatest-ever offensive talents, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, and then Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. It isn’t always pretty, and you may find yourself booing the Detroit frontcourt at times, but really, is that any worse than watching the current Miami Heat team? Here’s a review of each of the set’s two series:   

Eastern Conference Finals: Detroit v Chicago

This was the second of four play-off match-ups between Michael Jordan’s young, skinny, long-limbed Bulls team, and the broad-shouldered Bad Boys from Detroit. The Pistons had dispatched Chicago 4-1 in their first playoff match-up the year before, but this series was (as one commentator notes) much more of a ‘dog fight’. This was particularly so after Chicago took Game 1 in Detroit, and again after they won Game 3 in Chicago in the final seconds when Detroit looked like they had the game in their keeping for most of the night. Otherwise though, the pattern tended to be the other way, with the Bulls often getting out to an early lead and threatening to upset the Pistons, before Detroit would slowly grind them down and eke out a win in the second half. For fans of early Jordan, you get to see two fine performances from him in Games 1 and 3, although those who have criticized LeBron James for his playoff ‘meltdowns’ should watch Game 5, and see how Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman and co. badger MJ into an uncharacteristic level of passiveness.  But while the highlight of this series is Jordan, some great team defence from Detroit, coupled with some explosive scoring passages from their backcourt - particularly team leader Isiah Thomas - got them over the line.    

Rating: ****

·         Jordan dunking on Pistons’ center Bill Laimbeer in Game 2 … and Laimbeer, despite making a huge amount of contact, not being called for the foul
·         Jordan’s final quarter in Game 3, including his game-winning shot. Also, Pistons’ coach Chuck Daly’s expression when the refs call Laimbeer for an offensive foul on Jordan on the previous play. (And to all the Bulls fans whooping it up after the game, hope you enjoyed your last win of the season! – sincerely, Pistons fan)
·         Jordan saving the ball from going out of bounds on one end, and then going on a fast break that ends with him tossing the ball over his head to make the bucket
·         Detroit’s Mark Aguirre hurtling into and landing on top of Chuck Daly on the bench, and Daly then getting up brushing off his expensive suit without a hair out of place
·         The Pistons’ bench, particularly Vinnie ‘The Microwave’ Johnson, scoring almost all of the team’s points in the final quarter of the crucial Game 5
·         Bulls’ center Bill Cartwright’s free throw shooting, which looks like he’s first trying to expunge some object from himself horizontally, and then failing that, vertically
·         A younger, much thinner Horace Grant, sans goggles, partly reminding the viewer of Stringer Bell
·         Jordan’s infamous whipping boy at Chicago, the seven-foot Brad Sellers, playing like he is six-foot-three
·         Bulls coaching legend Phil Jackson, in his days as a lesser-paid assistant coach, patrolling the sidelines in sneakers
NBA Finals: Detroit v Los Angeles Lakers
While a historically important series for Pistons fans, the Pistons-Lakers finals series is less enthralling than the Pistons-Bulls series, with Detroit sweeping away LA 4-0. The Lakers’ chances are not helped by Byron Scott injuring his hamstring before the series, and Magic Johnson injuring his in the second half of Game 2, reducing their starting backcourt to subs Michael Cooper and the immortal Tony Campbell. Still, there is some entertaining basketball, particularly Game 2, where the Lakers fire their best shot at the Pistons before Magic exits and the Pistons charge home. Joe Dumars, who is named Finals MVP, is particularly good, nailing 26 first-half points in Game 2 while Isiah sits on the bench with foul trouble, and averaging 27.3 points per game for the series. Indeed, the whole Detroit backcourt – Dumars, Isiah, and Vinnie Johnson, take major advantage of the absences of the Lakers’ starting guards (and Magic’s lack of defence when he is on court), continually scoring the majority of the Pistons’ points. It may be a sweep, but the Pistons still have to work for it, and in the process you get to see one of the teams of the ‘80s, and possibly the deepest roster ever, at pretty much their best.
Rating: ***½  
·         Joe Dumars’ 26 first-half points in Game 2
·         Dumars jumping out of nowhere to block a potentially game-tying Lakers’ shot in the dying seconds of Game 3, and then saving the ball from going out of bounds
·         Long-time friends Magic, Isiah and Mark Aguirre kissing each other on the cheek before each game
·         Detroit enforcer Rick Mahorn and LA’s AC Green going at it under the basket, with Mahorn elbowing Green in the tooth, and the referee almost elbowing Green in the head soon after
·         a commentator calling Dennis Rodman a ‘likable player’ – innocent times
·         the Detroit fan trying to get 10,000 signatures for ex-Piston Adrian Dantley, who was traded mid-season, to get a ring
·         the Detroit fan with a periscope on her head
·         the Pistons’ bench chanting ‘Bad Boys’ in the last moments of the series-winning Game 4, and mega-extrovert John Salley celebrating during the post-game interviews
·         any shot of Detroit coach Chuck Daly, worrying until almost the very end

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