Around the Rim: It’s over


1. There will be no Charles Barkley “midget” talk this postseason
The Denver Nuggets are in the playoffs and they have the Suns to thank. Phoenix recovered from a horrible third quarter in which they gave up 38 points to the Warriors to pull away to a 122-116 victory and put away any glimmer of hope Golden State had of making the postseason. Amare Stoudemire was stout down the stretch, scoring 11 of his 28 in the final period while Steve Nash came up one board shy of posting a triple-double with 13 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. The Diesel continues to gain steam as the season winds down and Shaquille O’Neal recorded another double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Golden State certainly didn’t go down without a fight, erasing a 17-point lead to tie the game at 112-112 on a Stephen Jackson trey with three minutes remaining. Even though the futures of Denver and Golden State became crystal clear, the Suns are still in a murky chase for home-court advantage in the first round. The Suns are tied with Houston and Utah for the conference’s fourth best record at 54-27, but they currently sit in sixth place via tiebreakers.

2. Spurs finish strong against Sacramento

The Spurs survived a major scare on Monday against Sacramento, keeping their hopes of obtaining the top seed in the West on life support…for now. Trailing by six points with just over six minutes remaining in the game, San Antonio put together a 14-5 run that included some huge plays by Tony Parker and Michael Finley to escape Sactown with a 101-98 victory. Parker finished with a game-high 32 points and dished out 11 assists while Finley and Tim Duncan each scored 19. Without Manu Ginobili in the lineup for the third consecutive game, Fabricio Oberto picked up the slack, posting 17 points and eight rebounds. Ginobili’s absence also left the Spurs impotent on the bench with just nine points coming outside the starters. However, Brent Barry made his first appearance since becoming a Spur for a second time, missing all three of his shots and picking up a personal foul in four minutes of play.

3. The beast is released
On Monday, Michael Beasley finally made it official and threw his name into the NBA Draft. Just briefly after Beasley took to the podium, a shrill squeal of delight came from the greater Miami area.

“It’s time to take my game to the next level,” Beasley said as his family and several teammates looked on. “I think I proved myself over the course of the season. I just think it’s time for new challenges.”

He spent the weekend debating whether he should stay or go, talking with family, friends and coaches about the NBA. It wasn’t until Monday morning, just hours before his self-imposed deadline, that Beasley made his final decision.

“I kind of made my mind up, then went back to being undecided, made my mind up, then went back to being undecided,” said Beasley, who signed with agent Joe Bell. “Today was when my decision stuck.”

Monday’s Player of the Day: Ramon Sessions vs. Chicago 44 min, 20 pts (FG: 7-12, FT: 6-7), 8 reb, 24 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Sacramento (38-43) @ Los Angeles Lakers (56-25)
Everything comes down to one final game for the Lakers. When Los Angeles takes to the court tonight, it will be its last opportunity to grab a crucial victory and extend its lead in the Western Conference playoff race. It will also be Kobe Bryant’s last opportunity to make a statement for regular season MVP. But it won’t be easy for the purple and gold; after all, they’re going up against a gritty Sacramento squad that gave San Antonio all they could handle on Monday night. Oh, and considering it is THE final game of the season for the Kings, they’ll be playing for pride as well.

Buzzer Beater: It appeared that Philadelphia defeated Cleveland, but before the teams could make it to the locker rooms, the referees assessed a foul to 76ers center Samuel Dalembert with 0.2 seconds on the clock and gave Devin Brown a pair of free throws with the Cavs trailing by one point. Brown sank them both and Cleveland wound up with a 91-90 victory and sealed up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Needless to say, the Sixers were not happy as the loss combined with a Toronto win over Miami dropped them to seventh.

“You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face,” Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. ” It was like we had the ‘W’ and it was marked off.”

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