Around the Rim: New Orleans slips up at home


1. Jazz grab division title
Utah scored a pathetic nine points in the fourth quarter against New Orleans, but they literally could have gone scoreless and still left the bayou with a win. The Jazz shocked the Hornets at home by pounding them through three quarters to escape with a 77-66 win. The final score represented season lows for both teams and the matchup between the two young stud point guards didn’t really amount to squat. Deron Williams got the best of Chris Paul by dishing out 16 assists to Paul’s nine, but the duo whitewashed each other from the field as each finished with just four points on 2-of-11 shooting. Carlos Boozer wasn’t much better for the Jazz, hitting a mere 5-of-14 from the floor for 10 points. Luckily, Mehmet Okur came through in a big way, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with 17 rebounds. Normally pathetic on the road, the Jazz’s victory in New Orleans clinched the second consecutive Northwest Division title.

2. Warriors tally season-high in points

After going 5-5 over their last 10 games, the Warriors returned to what they do best: score. Golden State posted 77 points in the first half against Sacramento and held on – that’s right, they held on – to win 140-132. The Warriors are tied with Denver for the final playoff spot in the West, but due to tiebreaking rules, they are currently on the outside looking in after Denver put the boots to the Clippers on Tuesday, winning 117-99. The scheduling gods must have seen this back-and-forth race months ago because on Thursday, the Warriors and the Nuggets will match up in a game that could determine the fate of both teams. However, if the Warriors are stroking it like they did against Sacramento then Denver could be in trouble. Led by Baron Davis’ game-high 33 points, six Warriors reached double figures in scoring while the team connected on 52.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from behind the arc.

3. Detroit gets Knicked by Isiah’s really bad boys
The Pistons are just going through the motions as the regular season draws to a close and it showed last night against the Knicks. New York simply outplayed Detroit for 36 minutes and by the time the Pistons ripped off 34 points in the final period, it was already too late. Behind 19 points – all in the first half – from Wilson Chandler, the Knicks grabbed a 98-94 victory in The Palace of Auburn Hills. Perhaps the Pistons only have themselves to blame because before the game, the franchise honored Detroit’s all-time team which happened to include current New York coach Isiah Thomas. While the loss is certainly a blow to the Bad Boys collective ego, their season is already over as they get healthy in anticipation of the playoffs. No Detroit starter recorded more than 27 minutes in the contest.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Rudy Gay vs. Phoenix 43 min, 36 pts (FG: 13-22, 3FG: 5-6, FT: 5-6), 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (52-26) @ San Antonio (53-24)
It just doesn’t get much better than the Suns and the Spurs. The rivalry between these two has been intensifying over the past few seasons and if they meet in the playoffs again this year then it could simply boil over; especially with Shaquille O’Neal in the mix. It’s been five years since Phoenix has won a season-series, but they currently hold a 2-1 advantage this year and one of the victories was in San Antonio. Shaq might miss this game with a hip problem, but that doesn’t lessen the importance in the least. SA is still in the running for the conference’s top record and home court advantage throughout the West while Phoenix, currently sitting in sixth place, is desperately trying to work its way into the top four. Both teams have already locked up spots in the postseason, so it’s all about jockeying for position and pride at this point.

Buzzer Beater: LeBron James’ bad back continues to be an issue for Cleveland and on Tuesday, King James missed his second consecutive practice. Even worse, he might miss tonight’s game against the Nets. The Cavs are currently sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and hold a minimal two-game lead over Washington, meaning every win and every loss is critical right now for the defending conference champs.

I know he wants to play,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “But we have to be cautious with him now.”

“We want him healthy in the playoffs,” Brown said. “Yes, we want the fourth seed, but to get the fourth seed and have an unhealthy LeBron throughout the playoff run wouldn’t do us any good. We’ve got to make sure that he’s healthy and he’s able to help us.

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