Around the Rim: Utah takes a deuce on Houston


1. Houston’s choking away a great season
The Jazz got slapped in the face when they were forced to open their series against Houston on the road despite owning the fourth seed in the West. But it didn’t end up mattering because Utah stole both games in Clutch City to take a 2-0 lead back home where they went a league-best 37-4 during the regular season. Kyle Korver helped to seal a 90-84 victory for Utah when he opened a five-point lead with 20 seconds remaining and the shot clock expiring. The shot ensured Deron William’s team-high 22 points and Mehmet Okur’s 16-point, 16-rebound double-double were not in vain. Tracy McGrady had a spectacular outing with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, but once again appears poised to be one-and-done. With about a minute left in the game, Bobby Jackson hit a 3-pointer that would have tied the game, but Luis Scola was called for an offensive foul when he shoved Andrei Kirilenko away from the action and, in essence, shot his team in the foot.

2. Cleveland is rocking

For the second consecutive game, the Wizards wore their awful gold and black uniforms and for the second consecutive game, they scored 86 points and lost. Only this time, the score was actually uglier than the apparel. Cleveland pounded Washington 116-86 on Tuesday, taking a 2-0 lead in the series behind 30 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds from LeBron James while Wally Szczerbiak added 15 points. Zydrunas Ilgauskas just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. On the other side of the court, Washington’s wiz kids were nowhere to be found. Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas shot a combined 10-of-33 for 28 points in 94 minutes. The series shifts to Washington for Thursday’s Game 3 and it can’t come a moment too soon for road weary Wizards. Washington is a much better team at home, but at this point, LBJ has his hands around its neck and knows a third win means the squeezing begins.

3. Ask a stupid question…
As the Western Conference’s top seeded Lakers are sitting on a 1-0 series lead over Denver, en route to what could be the team’s first playoff series win since 2004, MVP candidate Kobe Bryant was asked if he wants to stay with the organization for the remainder of his career. After all, now does seem like a great time to bail out, right?

“Absolutely,” Bryant said the day after the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in their playoff series opener. “I’ve always wanted to be here. I just felt like I was in a position where I didn’t really have a choice. They wanted to go in an opposite direction. My legs aren’t as young as they used to be. Just let me know.

“I love the weather. I love my ’63 drop-top Impala. I love the 405 [freeway]. I love my guys.”

Monday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Washington 39 min, 30 pts (FG: 9-19, 3FG: 2-6, FT: 10-17), 9 reb, 12 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk

Buzzer Beater: Unlike the MVP award, there was no doubt about the sixth man award. Manu Ginobili won the honor in a landslide, taking 123 of 124 first-place votes for 615 total points, leaving Leandro Barbosa (283 pts) and Jason Terry (44 pts) sitting on the bench. Ginobili came off the pine in 51 games, averaging a team and career-high 19.5 points, in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The last time a sixth man award winner led his team in point production was in 1990 when Ricky Pierce averaged 23 points for Milwaukee. And think, Manu was a steal at the 57th overall pick back in 1999. The Spurs shooting guard has proven worthy of the award thus far in the postseason, hitting the game-winner of Saturday’s double-overtime instant classic against the Suns.

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