Around the Rim: Down goes Dirk! Down goes Dirk!


1. The M.V.P. is O.U.T.
The Mavericks lost a whole lot more than just the game when they played San Antonio on Sunday, they also lost Dirk Nowitzki. In the third quarter Nowitzki took a nasty fall and his left leg got caught up underneath him, leaving him in pain and the Mavs in misery. The “lower left leg injury” is expected to keep Dirk out of action for at least two weeks which could spell disaster for Dallas’ playoff chances because after falling 88-81 to the Spurs, the Mavericks are now just two games from falling out of the chase as they currently sit in seventh place. The defeat dropped Dallas to 0-8 versus teams with winning records since acquiring Jason Kidd. The Spurs on the other hand are starting to improve, winning their third consecutive game after going through a horrible 1-6 slump.

2. Denver’s playoff push continues

Denver is a tough team to beat when Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony get hot. Just ask Toronto. The duo combined for 69 points in a 109-100 defeat of the Raptors up in Canada. A.I. exploded for 36 points while Anthony posted 33 to help Denver win its second consecutive game. The Nuggets are racing the clock and the competition as they try to claw their way back into the postseason’s elite eight out West. Toronto is slipping and sliding its way to the bottom of its conference with a 2-8 record over the last 10 games. Not even having their superstar back is helping. The Raptors are 1-2 since Chris Bosh returned to the lineup. Against Denver, Bosh was doing it all in the loss, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

3. Lakers rally in vain
The Lakers trailed by 26 points at one point against the Warriors on Sunday and damn near rallied all the way back, but Stephen Jackson thwarted the comeback. Jackson made a pair of big treys in the final minute, giving him 31 points on the day and his team a 115-111 road victory. Monta Ellis matched Jackson’s 31 point output and Baron Davis added 18 to help Golden State avoid a total choke job. Kobe Bryant had 36 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Los Angeles is now sitting in second place in the Western Conference, trailing New Orleans via tiebreaker, but has considerably cooled off, going 6-4 in their last 10 contests. However, LA can avenge the loss tonight as it turns around and heads to Golden State for the tail end of the home-and-home.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Golden State 46 min, 36 pts (FG: 13-30, 3FG: 3-9, FT: 7-7), 14 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl,

Monday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (47-22) @ Detroit (49-20)
Talk about a contrast in styles! The Suns are the second best offensive team in the league, averaging 110.2 points per game while Detroit is the second best defensive unit in the Association, giving up a meager 90.8 points a contest. Tonight, something has to give. The Pistons are riding a two game losing streak after falling to Cleveland and Washington on the road, but they will have the advantage of playing at home against Phoenix where they are 27-6. But home court advantage might not be enough as the Suns are finally clicking with Shaquille O’Neal, winning seven straight. In the last five games, Phoenix has been able to keep O’Neal’s minutes to a minimum (27.6 per game) while getting nearly a double-double (14. ppg, 19.6) out of him.

Buzzer Beater: For the first time in the history of the NBA it appears that we are going to see a 50+ win team miss the playoffs. And, of course, we are talking about the unlucky souls who get the shaft out West. Currently, that team is the Denver Nuggets with a 42-28 record.

I’ve never seen anything like it. I call it the Halley’s Comet year of the NBA,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Once every 99 years something like this happens. Why I have to be a part of it, I want to know why.

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