Elimination beckoned, and we all figured we knew what that meant. The run was over, here comes summer vacation, it's time to go fishing.
Except the Nike puppets didn't go away.
Even without LeBron James in the NBA Finals, Nike continues to run ads with the LeBron and Kobe Bryant puppets, playing on the theme that Kobe made the Finals and LeBron has to stay home baby-sitting the little kid next door, Lil Dez.
In fact, the new ads have proliferated like rabbits, becoming YouTube staples and reaching the anchor desk on ESPN's "SportsCenter," with puppet LeBron and puppet Kobe plugging two brand names at once.
"It really wasn't about pitting Kobe versus LeBron in the Finals for us," Nike spokesman DeJuan Wilkins said. "If you look at the seasons and careers that both Kobe and LeBron have had, they're quite impressive.
"We felt this was a time when a lot of people would be paying attention to basketball [at] the largest stage during the playoffs. This was a moment for us to celebrate that, what these guys have accomplished.
"For us, the strategy has always been to show the strength of those two guys together. With LeBron and the [Cleveland] Cavaliers being eliminated from the playoffs, our goal was to continue to showcase both Kobe and LeBron."
The commercials, created and produced by Wieden and Kennedy, play off a consistent theme: One puppet trying to annoy the other/others into submission. Lil Dez is so hyper that when he finally shuts up, overwhelmed by long rows of Nike shoes, he reaches for an inhaler.
The puppets earned enough attention that they served as motivation for the Orlando Magic during the conference finals. Members of the Magic said the commercials assumed the Lakers and the Cavaliers were both Finals-bound, that their chances were being ignored.
When Orlando ousted the Cavaliers, some media types wondered whether Nike would quickly bring out a Dwight Howard puppet. Not a chance -- Howard represents Adidas.
Wilkins said the company has heard that while the LeBron puppet bears a passable resemblance to the real James, the Kobe puppet, sporting a goatee, does not look like the real Bryant.
"You know, he's gone back and forth, you look at old pictures, he definitely had a goatee," Wilkins said. "I think he's at a stage now where he doesn't wear it that often, and when he does, its very, very light."
Howard, meanwhile, settled in with a Vitaminwater commercial that spoofs the Kobe-LeBron ad that the company ran during earlier playoff rounds.
So regardless of what happens on the court the rest of the way, Howard at least gets the last laugh somewhere.
Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is always a must-see, and the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins give it a go tonight at 5 on Channel 4. So far, the home-ice advantage has held firm -- home teams are 6-0 -- and Detroit, ominously for Pittsburgh, plays host tonight.
Interleague play in baseball resumes with first-place teams meeting in Arlington, Texas, the Texas Rangers playing host to the Dodgers at 5 p.m. on Channel 9. The Angels open a three-game series at home against the San Diego Padres at 7 p.m. on FS West.
Good on Saturday
Thirty-one years ago, Arkansas eliminated upstart Cal State Fullerton in a regional final of the NCAA basketball tournament. That matchup now switches to the diamond with a bunch of 18-, 19- and 20-year olds playing in the College World Series -- Arkansas vs. second-seeded Fullerton at 11 a.m. on ESPN.
Good on Sunday
Some of the best golfers in the world, prepping for the U.S. Open, conclude play in the St. Jude Classic at noon on Channel 2.
But that's a mere prelude to the big event of the day: the Lakers at Orlando, Game 5 of the NBA Finals, at 5 p.m. on Channel 7.