1. 2nd best in the west
The backups for the 2008 All-Star game were revealed on Thursday with a bunch of Hornets and Suns warming the bench for the starting five. Chris Paul and David West were named All-Stars for the first time in their career after helping New Orleans shock the NBA with its meteoric rise to contender status. From Phoenix, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire make their yearly pilgrimage to the game. The rest of the bench is rounded out by Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Roy. It’s a pretty formidable backup attack if you ask us, but we’re curious to know what the coaches were thinking when they decided to leave Marcus Camby off the squad. West is having a great season, but the team could use a rebounding, shot blocking, defensive machine down the stretch should the game be close. Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are already on the squad; how many points do you really need?
2. Sub snub?
Kevin Garnett is the veteran anchor of the Eastern Conference All-Stars and Celtics teammate Paul Pierce was named to the reserve roster on Thursday, but conspicuous by his absence was Ray Allen. Normally the coaches are all a twitter to reward the best team in the league by trying to cram as many players into the game as possible, but that wasn’t the case. Allen missed the cut while Chauncey Billups, Chris Bosh, Caron Butler, Richard Hamilton, Antawn Jamison and Joe Johnson got the nod. We really can’t argue too much with the lineup because, after all, it is the East and all their super duper stars are already in the starting five. Other than Allen, we’d have to take a long hard look at Jose Calderon who has stepped up in a big, big way since T.J. Ford went down.
3. Cs win again
The Celtics are starting to get used to playing without the Big Ticket and that’s bad news for the rest of the league. Most expected Boston to crumble without Kevin Garnett leading the troops, but Ray Allen and Paul Pierce know the battle plans well enough to roll over the Mavericks without their general. More importantly, some of the non `big three’ are getting quality minutes to shine in Garnett’s absence. Allen and Pierce scored 26 points apiece while Rajon Rondo finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, continuing Boston’s undefeated streak against the West. James Posey literally stole the show in the final seconds with a game-clinching steal to seal a 96-90 victory. Dirk Nowitzki had a great game with 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Mavericks who, on paper, were the better team statistically across the board except in turnovers where they gave up five more than the Beantowners, including Posey’s shinning moment. The Dallas loss also handed the Western Conference All-Star coaching gig to Hornets coach Byron Scott.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki @ Boston 42 min, 31 pts (FG: 10-21, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 10-10), 11 reb, 6 ast, 3 blk
Friday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (28-16) @ Toronto (25-20)
The logic behind selecting this game as the reason you should sit in front of your television on a Friday night is simple to follow: We like seeing players score points. Kobe Bryant likes to score points (39 against Detroit on Thursday). And against Toronto, Bryant really, REALLY likes to score points. Last season Kobe averaged 28 points a game against the Raptors and two seasons ago, after scoring a meager 11 points in an early season blowout, Bean exploded for 81 in front of Jack and all his friends. And if you’re a Toronto fan then you should be in for a treat because Chris Bosh plays his best ball on Fridays, averaging 24.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.0 block.
Buzzer Beater: Remember last year’s second round matchup between San Antonio and Phoenix? Well, Thursday night’s game between the two was just as highly contested and physical as the playoff confrontation, but Steve Nash’s beak stayed blood free all night long. Phoenix allowed a healthy lead to slip through their fingers in the fourth quarter and the clubs traded huge baskets for the final two minutes before San Antonio slipped out of the desert with a much needed 84-81 road win. Amare Stoudemire had an opportunity to tie the game via an old fashioned three-point play with less than 10 seconds remaining, but missed his free throw, allowing Manu Ginobili to sink a pair of free throws for the final score. Even without Tony Parker in uniform, the struggling Spurs still own the Suns. Can you say confidence builder?