Boston Celtics

Around the Rim: Blaze extinguished

1. Beantown bounces back
The Blazers were scorching hot coming into their contest against the Celtics in Beantown, but they weren’t hot enough to knock off the league’s top dogs. Ray Allen was on fire, hitting 12-of-20 shots for a game-high 35 points while Kevin Garnett scored 26, helping Boston grab a 100-90 win. After dropping three of their previous four games, this could be the beginning of another big run for the Leprechauns with Philadelphia, New York, Minnesota and Miami coming up on the schedule. Despite their winning ways of late, Portland has struggled away from home this season, losing 12 of their 18 road games. Against the Celtics, the Blaze committed 17 turnovers, including four apiece from Brandon Roy (22 pts) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 pts).

2. Welcome back, here’s a trouncing

Sacramento and Miami were thrilled before tipoff of their respective games on Wednesday thanks to the return of Shaquille O’Neal and Mike Bibby to the active roster. But that was before the game; afterwards was a whole different story. The Diesel had a great game in his return, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Bulls, but as Charles Barkley would say “The operation was a success, but the patient died” because Miami lost by 30 points at home, 126-96. Up in Canada, it wasn’t much better for the Kings who had Mike Bibby (19 pts, 6 reb) in uniform for the first time this season but lost by 25, 116-91.

3. Heart attack Cats
Well, we’ll be darned if they ain’t done done it again. The Bobcats went into halftime against the Magic down by 15 points and fell down by 19 early in third quarter before making another furious rally to victory. Gerald Wallace netted 36 and grabbed 14 points while teammate Jason Richardson scored 26 points, including a bevy of clutch shots in the final moments, giving the Cats a 99-93 win. Charlotte (15-23) has now won four of their last six games against some pretty decent competition, knocking off the Nets, Celtics, Nuggets and, now, the Magic. Dwight Howard was ginormous in defeat, going for 24 points and 21 rebounds.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Dwight Howard @ Charlotte 42 min, 24 pts (FG: 8-15, FT: 8-13), 21 reb, 1 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (26-12) @ Los Angeles Lakers (26-11)
The race for the postseason in the West is tighter than it has been in years and when a team slips-up, they can go sliding all the way down the ladder. Phoenix just learned this lesson the hard way by losing to the Clippers and dropping like a stone from first to fifth in the conference standings. And thanks to the Hornets defeating the Sonics on Wednesday, Phoenix now has the sixth seed behind New Orleans. The lucky beneficiaries of the Suns setting was the Lakers who jumped all the way to the top of the West, a place they hadn’t been since the Diesel was rolling in L.A. This should be a brawl between a pair Pacific Division rivals that hate each other with a passion.

Buzzer Beater: Oddball Joakim Noah and Ben Wallace had a bit of tiff during the Bulls loss to Orlando on Tuesday, just don’t tell Joakim that.

You know what makes me mad, that somebody actually said and told you guys that there was a situation,” Noah told WSCR radio station in Chicago. “That’s what makes me mad. That’s the only reason why I’m doing this right now. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

“For people to say we’ve had a clash … this is the kind of stuff that divides a team. You guys write these stories and hype things up. It’s crazy.

Washington Wizards

Around the Rim: All that glitters is not gold

1. Double trouble
We’ve heard of unlucky No. 13, but unlucky No. 30 is something new to us. The Celtics (30-6), on the other hand, are learning all about the doomed three-zero. At 29-3, Boston was rolling right along, but then it took them a pair of contests before reaching their 30th victory and now Washington’s will gives the Cs their third loss in four games. After slapping down the Celtics on Saturday, the Wiz traveled to Boston for the back side of the home-and-home and escaped with an 88-83 win. Caron Butler led the way for Washington with 21 points, followed up by Antawn Jamison’s 20 and 10 rebounds. Like usual, the big three showed up for Boston (57 points), but that was about it as Beantown felt their second consecutive defeat for the first time this year.

2. Charlotte surprise

Carmelo Anthony (35 pts) and Allen Iverson (23 pts) combined for over 50 and Marcus Camby went bonkers with 20 points and 23 rebounds, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the Bobcats in Charlotte. Gerald Wallace scored 40 for the Cats who improved to 14-23 with the 119-116 victory. The road doesn’t get any easier for Charlotte who has contests against Orlando, New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas on the horizon. The loss doesn’t spell disaster for Denver, but coupled with Portland’s beatdown of New Jersey, the Nuggets fell a half game behind the Blazers in the division standings.

3. Kobe is super against the Sonics
The Lakers got some bad news on Monday when they found out Andrew Bynum would be out of action for the next eight weeks with a left kneecap injury. Later on in the day, Kobe Bryant grieved the only way he knows how: by jacking up a ridiculous amount of shots. Bryant went 21-of-44 from the field for 48 points in the Lakers 123-121 overtime victory in Seattle. In addition to the offensive outburst from Bryant, L.A. cleaned the glass better than a homeless guy on the corner as Lamar Odom (14 reb), Luke Walton (10 reb) and Kwame Brown (10 reb) all finished with double-digit boards in Bynum’s absence. The Sonics were able to hang around thanks to seven double-figure scorers, led by Nick Collision’s 24 points to go with 18 rebounds. Kevin Durant couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean, hitting just six of his 26 shot attempts.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Milwaukee 37 min, 33 pts (FG: 8-14, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 16-20), 5 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (20-17) @ Detroit (28-10)
The Raptors are beginning to prove they have all the pieces to become a great team in the NBA. They’re young, hungry, talented and they are building the core chemistry that takes teams deep into the playoffs. Nobody is currently considering them as a possible Eastern Conference representative in this year’s Finals, but they could defiantly take a step in the right direction with a road win against the Pistons. Problem is the Bad Boys are ready to unleash their fury on someone after dropping three of their previous five games, including a humiliating blowout loss to the Knicks on Sunday when they could only muster a measly 65 points.

Buzzer Beater: Even with four championship rings, two regular season MVPs and a trio of Finals MVP awards in your back pocket, it can be tough to get a little respect.

During a tight fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tim Duncan twice told San Antonio Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili to pass the ball.

One couldn’t blame Duncan for his advice as Ginobili had gone 0-of-6 from the field through the first three quarters of the game.

Ginobili didn’t listen to the Spurs’ star center.

The Spurs’ super sub hit four 3-pointers in the period, his only field goals of the entire game, to lead the Spurs to an 89-82 victory over the 76ers Monday night.

“I think I was talking in the middle of his shots … two of his shots, telling him to swing the ball,” Duncan said. “And he’s firing away anyway, and they go down for him. So he felt it. And he gets one to go down, he gets two to go down. All of a sudden he’s on a hot streak and you want him taking those shots.”

Ginobili scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by the two pairs of consecutive 3s.

“I heard him,” Ginobili said of Duncan’s counsel. “But I told him that I was feeling good and I was going to take them.”

“He never listens to me,” Duncan joked.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Battle of Los Angeles

1. Iron unkind
Kobe Bryant kept his hot string going last night as he dropped 29 points on the Clippers but the Lakers still ended up losing the game by eight points, 90-82. But don’t let the big number fool you, last night was one of the ugliest games Bryant put together all year. The Mamba shot a wretched 13-of-34 from the field, including three misses from behind the arc. LA has now lost four of their last five games and if they don’t turn things around pretty quick, it’s not unreasonable to think that they could fall completely out of the playoff picture. Golden State and New Orleans are both riding three game winning streaks and are now pounding on the door to the post season.

2. Wizards need a dose of magic

If the Wizards weren’t in trouble before their game against the Bobcats last night, they are certainly knee deep in it now. Not only did Washington drop a crucial late season game to one of the laughing stocks of the league, but they also lost their best player to an injured left leg. And with only eight games remaining in the Wizards’ season, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. On Sunday, Caron Butler broke his hand while trying to block a shot and is expected to miss at least six weeks of action. The Wiz appeared to have the Southeast Division wrapped up just a few weeks ago, but they are now sitting a game behind Miami in the division and currently hold the sixth spot in the playoffs. Antawn Jamison has finally gotten healthy, but without Arenas and Butler his health is a non-factor.

3. From bad to worse
The Portland Trailblazers don’t have much to cheer about these days, but, as unbelievable as it may sound, thing just got worse. Portland’s promising rookie, LaMarcus Aldridge has been sidelined indefinitely after being diagnosed with a rapid heartbeat and having bouts of dizziness. Aldridge had struggled to find his place in the pros for the majority of the season, but had put together several impressive games after taking over a starting spot when Joel Przybilla went down for the season with knee surgery. Aldridge averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks during the month of March, and had his best game as a pro against Denver on March 13, when he scored 24 points to go along with 17 rebounds and four blocks.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Gerald Wallace @ Washington 44 min, 27 pts (FG: 11-20, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 4-4), 12 reb, 8 ast, 4 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (56-18) @ San Antonio (53-21) For the last few weeks everyone has been talking about the games between the Suns and the Mavs. But it’s the Suns/Spurs match-up which has a greater chance of becoming a playoff reality. San Antonio is trying desperately to catch the Suns before the end of the season in order to grab the number two spot in the West. But regardless of who finishes second or third, should both of these teams advance past the first round, they would run into each other in the second round. However, whoever ends up with the second seed will have home court advantage in what could be an epic showdown. Both teams have eight games remaining on their schedules and only three games currently separate the two Western Conference powerhouses. This should be a fiercely contested game.

Buzzer Beater: Everything was going fine for the Hornets as they entered into the fourth quarter of last night’s game with a 13 point lead in their back pocket. By the end of the fourth, New Orleans was staring at the scoreboard as it read 5:00. Yup, the Hornets blew their 13 point lead by only scoring six points in the final quarter, a franchise low. But wait, there’s more. NOKC would explode for 17 points in the extra period behind a seven point outburst by Bobby Jackson to win by nine points, 101-92. Oh, did we mention they were playing the Sonics? That explains the comeback in OT, but there is no excuse for letting Seattle’s sorry D hold you to six points in 12 minutes.

NBA General

Around the Rim: King sized comeback

1. LeBron at 80% is better than most players at 100%
After missing a game versus the Celtics on Sunday due to tendinitis in his right knee, LeBron James returned to the Cavs lineup last night in Minneapolis and nearly torched the Timberwolves for a triple-double. King James finished the game with 31 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals in the Cleveland victory. And LeBron’s performance came at a time when he considered himself to be “about 80-85 percent.” If that’s at 80 percent, just wait until we get to see him run the floor at full strength. Just one game separates the Cavaliers from the Bulls, but if Cleveland loses their grip on the slim lead they would slip from the second seed to the fifth seed and lose home court advantage in the post season.

2. Indiana locks up losing record

With eight games remaining in the season for Indiana, they have already clinched a Pacer benchmark that hadn’t been touched in a decade. Thanks to a 15 point loss at the hands of the Pistons, Indiana secured the franchise’s first losing season since 1996-97, which was also the last year that the Pacers failed to make the playoffs. But, that’s what happens when you go 3-18 over your last 21 games. Jermaine O’Neal refused to talk to reporters after the game as his frustrations continue to mount. This season could be last time O’Neal suits up in the yellow and blue; but a change of venue would be good for O’Neal. Unless he wants to follow in Kevin Garnett’s footsteps and simply decides to sink with the ship.

3. No Dirk, no problem
The Dallas Mavericks were forced to take the court against the Kings without their superstar and MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki, due to a nasty case of food poisoning. But the Mavs still managed to stay the course without their stud and defeated Sacramento by four points, 97-93. The loss of Nowitzki didn’t weaken the club, as the Kings hoped it would, but instead it simply allowed for other players to step up offensively and fill the scoring void. Josh Howard led the way for Dallas by scoring 29 points to go along with eight rebounds, while Jason Terry finished the game with 27 points. Oh, but that’s not enough 20+ point games by one team in a game; Jerry Stackhouse came off the bench to rack up 23 points of his own.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Gerald Wallace vs. Washington 44 min, 34 pts (FG: 16-24, FT: 2-5), 14 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (41-33) @ Orlando (34-40) The Raptors are coming off a close, three-point loss to the Heat last night but are still sitting one game ahead of Miami for the third spot in the East. Chris Bosh continues to impress as he scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Miami’s stout frontcourt. But Bosh will have to take on another All-Star big man as Dwight Howard will look to slow down Bosh in the paint. Howard’s numbers have fallen a bit since the season began but he is still only .7 rebounds per game away from becoming the youngest player ever to win the league’s rebounding title.

Buzzer Beater: Apparently, the Memphis Grizzlies are prepared to offer Billy Donovan a multiyear deal. As a two-time NCAA champion, Donovan really has nothing left to prove on the collegiate level so it would make sense to advance his career to the next stage. But, then again, the Gators could probably smoke the Grizz at this point so it’s not going to help his legacy any to jump on the back of the sorriest team in the NBA. In the end, this will be a financially motivated decision for Donovan; the only question remaining is will the cash be stuffed into his pockets by Florida, Memphis, Kentucky or someone else?

NBA General

Around the Rim: It’s all in the family

1. That’s my boy
Rumor has it that if Boise State senior Coby Karl isn’t drafted, he could still end up making a roster. And the team that is already showing interest in the mediocre just happens to be coached by his dad, George Karl. Can you say nepotism? Coby isn’t expected to be picked during the two rounds of the draft and ESPN doesn’t even have him ranked in their top 100 suspects but for some reason daddy seems to think his little boy would be exactly what the Nuggets need. “Right now, my feeling is he fits what we need,” George Karl said. “We need kind of a playmaking bigger player.” Um, have you ever seen your kid play coach? Coby is a decent player in the WAC but we wouldn’t exactly consider him a “playmaking bigger player.” Coby has said that it would be difficult to accept an invitation from his old man, but when it comes down to playing in the NBA versus getting a real “nine to five” the choice becomes pretty easy. Geez, it must be nice having daddy there to save your NBA aspirations.

2. King for a week

Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats is the current player of the week. Wow, that’s a sentence I never expected to be writing, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t deserve the honor. The Bobcats were only 2-2 during the week but without Wallace they would have probably gone 0-4. He averaged 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.33 blocks and 1.33 steals over the span and put up a tremendous all around effort in a 108-100 victory over one the Eastern Conference’s best teams in the Cavs. Wallace had four assists, five blocks and 11 rebounds to go along with 27 points. And for Wallace, his great performances couldn’t have come at a better time considering that he’s going to be a free agent when this summer rolls around. Cha-ching!

3. Do you believe in miracles!?
After serving a one game suspension, the Pistons were thrilled to have Rasheed Wallace back in the lineup against the Nuggets last night. Especially after he grabbed a loose ball and nailed a 60 footer to force overtime. During a time out, right before Denver was to inbound the ball with a 98-95 lead and 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Flip Saunders predicted that something like that could happen. “I told them that strange things happen,” he said. “We might as well try to get something crazy.” And after Tayshaun Prince tipped the inbounds pass, Wallace made “something crazy” become a reality. Wallace then went on to score several big buckets in OT and led the Pistons to a 113-109 victory. Watch out Chauncey, Sheed is gunning for your moniker of “Mr. Big Shot.” Here’s the video.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Washington 36 min, 41 pts (FG: 15-21, FT: 11-14), 16 reb, 2 ast

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Memphis (17-54) @ Los Angeles Lakers (38-32) Sure, Memphis sucks but Kobe Bryant is definitely worth the price of admission. Bryant has redefined “showtime” of late after he ripped off 268 points in five games. Oh yea, he also dropped 60 points on the Grizz last Thursday and that was in Memphis; tonight’s contest will be held in the friendly confines of the Staples Center. Historically, Bryant has used Memphis as his own personal punching bag. But, then again, who doesn’t post career numbers against the Grizzlies. While the game will probably not be much of a contest, at least you can watch Pau Gasol as he continues return to his former All-Star form. In March, Gasol has averaged over 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks while Memphis has gone a pathetic 2-10.

Buzzer Beater: With 5:43 remaining in the first half of last night’s game between the Heat and the Hawks, Shaquille O’Neal hit a free throw of all things to surpass the retired Reggie Miller and become the 12th most dominant scorer in NBA history. The free throw gave Shaq 25,280 points for his career after entering the game with a 26 point per game average over 15 seasons in the league. Just imagine how many points the Diesel could be sitting on if he could hit his freebies with any consistency. But after the game, Shaq seemed to be more excited about the opportunity to use one of his self-given nicknames than he was about the record. “I’m known as The Big Baryshnikov,” O’Neal said in reference to a particularly hard foul that sent O’Neal tumbling to the ground where he performed an impressive 350 pound backward summersault before bouncing back to his feet.