Categories
New Orleans Hornets

Around the Rim: Hornets swarm the Spurs


1. Pressure? What pressure?
Just when it looked like the pressures of inexperience were finally catching up with the playoff green New Orleans Hornets, they stepped up again against the veteran defending champs. The Spurs owned a three-point advantage at halftime, just like in Games 1 and 2, but promptly had their socks blown off in the third period, just like in Games 1 and 2, when David West helped led his team on a 28-11 run in the quarter. By the time the final buzzer sounded, New Orleans had a 101-79 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series. The Spurs had no answer for West who recorded playoff career-highs with 38 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks on the same night San Antonio reserve Robert Horry played in his 238th postseason game, the most in league history. The Spurs philosophy of shutting down Peja Stojakovic (3-8 FG, 9 pts) offensively with Bruce Bowen worked once again, but, once again, they had no such luck against West or Chris Paul who finished with a 22-point, 14-assist double-double. Tim Duncan could not find his range, missing 13 of his 18 shots, but still posted 23 rebounds while Manu Ginobili erred his way to a team-high 20 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Game 6 is on Thursday in San Antonio where it will be do-or-die time for the home team.

2. It’s over!

In the final seconds of the game, Hedo Turkoglu went for a dunk that would have brought Orlando within a point of the Pistons. But Tayshaun Prince swooped in to make a game-changing block, forcing the Magic to foul and Detroit strolled into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 91-86 win. The Pistons are playing in their sixth consecutive conference finals, tying them with three other teams for the third most in NBA history after defeating Orlando in five games. Despite playing without Chauncey Billups for the final two contests, the Pistons were still the superior team, led by the starters who combined for all but four of the team’s points in the series closer. Richard Hamilton was perfect from the free-throw line, hitting all 16 of his attempts en route to a game-high 31 points and Antonio McDyess was outstanding with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Hamilton also became the franchise’s all-time leader in postseason points with 2,282 in 110 career games. For the Magic, it’s another disappointing to finish to an impressive season. They continue to take baby steps or in Dwight Howard’s case, man-child steps forward, but until Howard truly becomes the unstoppable offensive threat he is capable of being then these early exits will continue to occur.

3. Pain in the back
Going into Game 5 of the Lakers/Jazz series on Wednesday night, there’s really only one question that matters: How’s Kobe’s back? The MVP was in obvious pain during Game 4, but he still managed to almost record a triple-double in the loss, scoring 33 points to go with eight rebounds and 10 assists. So, in order to make sure their star was as close to 100 percent as possible, the Lakers rested Bryant during practice on Tuesday. Bryant said he would be “fine” for the momentum swinging game tonight which will give the winner a 3-2 advantage. We’re expecting a big game out of Bryant tonight; after all, if he can play with the weight of a sexual-assault trial on his back then a little tweak should be no problem at all.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: David West vs. San Antonio 44 min, 38 pts (FG: 16-25, FT: 6-7), 14 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 5 blk

Buzzer Beater: After carrying bags and bringing in the doughnuts for an entire season, it’s time to give the NBA’s rookies a little love. The league’s All-Rookie teams were announced yesterday and the Hawks Al Horford was the only unanimous selection on the first squad. Surprisingly, the NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant received only 57 of a possible 58 votes. Joining the hands-down best rooks in the game was Luis Scola from Houston, Al Thornton with the Clippers and Durant’s teammate Jeff Green. Second teamers included Jamario Moon (Tor), Juan Carlos Navarro (Mem), Thaddeus Young (Phi), Rodney Stuckey (Det) and Carl Landry (Hou).

Categories
Toronto Raptors

Around the Rim: Hopefully TJ is built Ford tough


1. Career in question
The Raptors won in Atlanta last night, but nobody really cared. T.J. Ford, in an all too eerily reminiscent manner, was taken off the court on a stretcher after being flagrantly fouled by the Hawks Al Horford with 1:32 left. As Ford drove to the basket for a layup, Horford took a hard swipe for the ball, unintentionally hitting Ford in the face, causing him to fall awkwardly and crack the back of skull on the floor. Ford was in tears as he lay on the court, his career possibly over. It is reported that he has full range of motion, but with his history of spinal cord injuries, his future is defiantly up in the air. You have to feel bad for Horford; after the game, it was obvious he meant no harm. Still, the foul was a big time blow to the Raptors who were finally forming an identity around Ford and superstar Chris Bosh. The duo combined for 46 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists against Atlanta.

2. Return of the King

LeBron James was back in the starting lineup lineup on Tuesday and, what do you know, the Cavaliers snapped a five game losing streak that started when LBJ was originally injured. James finished with 17 points, three rebounds and five assists off the bench in the 118-105 home win over the Pacers. So, is Mike Brown following in the footsteps of his mentor, Gregg Popovich, and boosting his bench by making LeBron the best sixth man in the league, similar to Popovich’s decision to bring Manu Ginobili off the pine? According to James, no.

That was one and done for me,” James said, smiling. “I will not be coming off the bench anymore.

3. Tim Duncan who?
Tim Duncan missed his third consecutive game on Tuesday after Gregg Popovich considered him to have a “50/50” shot of playing and the Warriors took advantage of the Spurs loss, picking up a 12-point victory in Oakland. Stephen Jackson led Golden State past his former squad, scoring a team-high 20 points while Baron Davis chipped in 18. But the real story of the game, besides SA being outscored 30-12 in the second quarter, came from the Spurs Matt “Red Rocket” Bonner who stepped up in Duncan’s absence. The 6-foot-10 forward/center had the game of his life in the loss, shooting 9-of-16 from the floor, including a trio of treys, for 25 points while grabbing 17 rebounds. Bonner’s career averages are 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Chauncey Billups @ Memphis 39 min, 28 pts (FG: 7-15, 3FG: 2-5, FT: 12-12), 5 reb, 14 ast, 3 stl

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Utah (13-9) @ Phoenix (16-6)
The Jazz and the Suns are two of the favorites to make it out of the West this year and into the Finals, but, amazingly, they are both riding losing streaks into this contest. Phoenix is desperately looking to rebound from a pair of absolutely humiliating defeats at the hands of Minnesota and Miami. On the other side of the court, the Jazz are slipping down a slippery slope, with four consecutive loses, including defeats to conference powerhouses San Antonio and Dallas. Despite the losing skids, there isn’t a bad matchup to be found in this game. Deron Williams vs. Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer vs. Shawn Marion, Mehmet Okur vs. Amare Stoudemire, Andrei Kirilenko vs. Grant Hill. Ding! Ding! Let’s get this heavyweight bout underway already!

Buzzer Beater: Sorry Knicks fans, but you’re going to have to murder Isiah Thomas if you want a new coach in New York. No. Seriously. You must physically kill Zeke to get rid of him.

“I fight till I die,” the embattled Knicks coach said Tuesday after practice. “It’s not about giving up or quitting. To me it’s win or die, and I literally mean death. I don’t mean walk away, I mean death.