Around the Rim: Up, up and away!


1. Rockets keep rolling
Despite winning their 20th consecutive game against Atlanta on Wednesday, the Rockets showed signs of slippage along the way. Houston managed to score just 32 points in the first half of last night’s game, but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize on their sorry opening half and lost 83-75. Tracy McGrady led the hottest team in the league with 28 points and nine rebounds as Houston shot just 33 percent from the field, including a pathetic 6-of-29 performance from behind the 3-point line. But regardless of the percentages, the Rockets are now tied for the second-longest win streak in league history. Just to put it into perspective, while Houston has won 20 straight contests, there are five teams (New York, Miami, Seattle, Memphis and Minnesota) who have yet to win 20 games during the entire season.

2. Hornets deliver against the champs

The Spurs fell out of the Southwest Division’s driver seat last night thanks to a 100-75 pounding from the Hornets. Chris Paul was unstoppable with 26 points and 17 assists in the game, pulling his team within ½ of a game of Houston and SA for the division title – the Rockets are now in first via a tiebreaker with the Spurs. San Antonio got 24 points from both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, but the Spurs only scored eight points as a team in the final quarter as Nawlins pulled away. Hornets All-Star forward David West missed three games prior to the victory, but he didn’t miss a beat against Duncan. West finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds.

3. Sixers shocker
Despite going scoreless during the final 2:27 of the game, Philadelphia somehow managed to steal a victory in Detroit. Chauncey Billups had an opportunity to win the game, but his buzzer-beater bounced off the rim, giving the Sixers an improbable 83-82 victory. Andre Iguodala finished with a game-high 22 points as Philly won its seventh game in nine tries, bringing their record to 31-34 which is seventh best in the East.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ New Jersey 46 min, 42 pts (FG: 12-23, 3FG: 2-7, FT: 16-23), 11 reb, 7 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Golden State (40-23) @ Phoenix (42-22)
While this game pits the league’s two top-scoring clubs against each other, there’s more on the line than offensive supremacy. The Warriors are fighting to catch the Suns in the standings and a win tonight would bring them within ½ game of their division rivals while also putting a little bit of breathing room between themselves and the Nuggets who are trying to grab the last playoff spot currently occupied by Golden State. For Phoenix, a win would mean gaining ground on the Lakers in the division. This could be a game where Shaquille O’Neal proves to be a detriment to the team as the Warriors will try to beat the big fella down the court every single possession.

Buzzer Beater: Greg Oden finally practiced with his teammates on Wednesday, putting in 45 minutes of work after missing the entire season with a knee injury. While he wasn’t going full speed, he tested the knee as he ran a few offensive sets. All in all, it’s a great sign for the Portland faithful.

It was fun,” Oden said afterwards, according to The Oregonian. “It felt good to get out there … and I wasn’t hurting at all.

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