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How Basketball Explains the Democratic Contest

POSTED:

The Democratic primary battle is a lot like the seventh game in the Western Conference finals.

We've been witnessing a waning dynasty (think the San Antonio Spurs) get steamrolled by an over-performing upstart (say, the New Orleans Hornets.) Both teams are dying to make it to the finals to beat up the Eastern Conference stand in (John McCain.)

To recap the game so far:

In the first quarter, The Obama Hornets got off to a blistering start (Iowa). They looked like they might run away with the contest early, until the Clinton Spurs stormed back with a vengeance (New Hampshire). The teams traded baskets for a while (Nevada) before team Obama went on another surge, boosted by a couple of flagrant fouls by team Clinton (South Carolina) to close the quarter with momentum.

The second quarter was a wild blur of scoring (Tsunami Tuesday.) The Clinton Spurs scored most of their points in the paint on beautiful dunks (California, New Jersey, New York) that kept getting replayed in slow motion, giving the impression Clinton was pulling ahead. But Obama quietly drained a few three pointers (Illinois, Georgia) and kept himself in the game by hitting his free throws (the caucus states like Idaho and Colorado).

The second half opened with the score basically tied, and the Clinton Spurs just ran out of gas. The Obama Hornets took full advantage, mounting a run for which team Clinton had no answer. It wasn't spectacular -- lots of mid-range jump shots (Maryland, Louisiana) and a nice dunk or two (Virginia, Wisconsin) ... and always the free throws (Washington, Maine) -- but the Obama Hornets ran up a 20 point lead just the same. Clinton briefly appeared to stopped the bleeding with an unexpected surge late in the quarter (Ohio, the Texas primary). The announcers at the time out went on... and on... and on... about a shift in momentum, and how this was one dynasty that just wouldn't quit. And then, quietly, the Clinton Spurs let momentum slide by playing sloppy defense. Obama hit a mess of free throws to close the quarter (Texas caucus, Wyoming, Mississippi) and padded the Hornets' lead to a game-high 25.

And that's where we stand right now, starting the fourth quarter. It's not that the Obama Hornets can't lose. The D is iffy, and they look tired. But the Clinton Spurs can't win it on their own. She can hack. She can foul. She can trash talk. But no matter what kind of run she puts together, the game is out of her hands. She has to hope that Obama misses his free throws, throws up brick after brick.

It's possible. Teams give away big leads; shit happens. Obama had a scary fall with the Jeremiah Wright fiasco. But he didn't limp to the sidelines. He picked himself up. Stretched it out. Winked at the camera and went back to work.

Sure, his fans want him to preserve the blowout, but it's more likely that the Hornets and Spurs will trade baskets (Pennsylvania and North Carolina, West Virginia and Oregon) and that there will be a lot of ugly, garbage-time play marking the last dying breaths of the dynasty.

But barring a collapse by Team Obama, he's going to salt this victory away... just in time to run into a well-rested McCain in the Finals.

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