Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: Poof!! The Magic make Boston disappear

1. Hedo to the rescue
Kevin Garnett strained an abdominal muscle during his reunion with the Timberwolves on Friday night and on Sunday the Orlando Magic took advantage of the injury. The Big Ticket missed his first contest as a Celtic, giving the Magic a perfect opportunity to beat Boston for the second time this season; which they did thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando survived a fourth quarter Celtic rally to escape with a 96-93 victory on their home court. Turkoglu led all scorers with 27 points while Dwight Howard finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. With K.G. sidelined, Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points and nine rebounds. Ray Allen scored 17 as Boston suffered its second loss in three games, bringing their once insurmountable lead over the rest of the league down to just 3 ½ games.

2. When All-Stars collide

When it comes to scoring, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the absolute best the NBA has to offer and the duo didn’t disappoint under the Staples Center lights on Sunday afternoon. LeBron James, the league’s top scorer, finished with 41 points, including 14 in the fourth, to lead Cleveland past the Lakers 98-95. Kobe Bryant, No. 2 in points per game, scored 33 points to go with 12 rebounds and six assists, but the Lakers fumbled away an opportunity to tie the game as they failed to get up a shot following a timeout. After briefly grabbing the top record in the Western Conference, the Lakers fell into a tailspin, losing their third consecutive game and four of their last five games. The Cavs, on the other hand, are rolling, winning 10 out of 12 games.

3. Unfamiliar positions
Before the season, somebody would have slapped you silly if you said Utah and Houston would be on the outside of the playoff race looking in when the end of January rolled around. Nonetheless, that’s where the two clubs are currently sitting. When they hooked up on Sunday, Utah took advantage of Yao Ming’s absence (upper respiratory infection), beating the Rockets 97-89 to win their eighth game in nine tries and taking one more step toward entering into the postseason picture. Carlos Boozer (13 pts, 10 reb) and Deron Williams (17 pts, 12 ast) both finished with a double-double while Andrei Kirilenko finished with 17 points. Tracy McGrady looked like an All-Star even though the fans left him off the Western Conference’s starting five, scoring 21 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Al Jefferson vs. New Jersey 42 min, 40 pts (FG: 13-21, FT: 14-17), 19 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Denver (26-17) @ New Orleans (26-17)
Nobody is playing better right now than the Hornets and point guard Chris Paul is starting to get some serious MVP love because of it. The Bugs’ biggest win of the season came on Saturday night when they destroyed the Spurs by 24 points, 102-78, in San Antonio. The victory further solidified the Hornets as the best in the West, giving Nawlins its eighth consecutive. Since Dec. 19, they are on a 16-2 roll with Chris Paul averaging 20.6 points, 10.5 assists and 2.59 steals for the season. The Nuggets are still without Carmelo Anthony (sprained left ankle), but have played extremely well without their superstar. Before losing to the Mavericks by five points on Sunday, Denver won two straight without Anthony. Losing Melo is huge, but the Nuggets are stacked with talent and if Allen Iverson starts rolling, they can hang with anyone in the league.

Buzzer Beater: The Timberwolves were one of the laughingstocks of the NBA just a few weeks ago. How quickly things can change. On the ever growing shoulders of Al Jefferson, the T-Wolves took another step toward respectability with a 98-95 win over New Jersey. Jefferson recorded a career-high 40 points to go with 19 rebounds and suddenly Minnesota is on a mini hot streak, winning three of their last four. Minny might technically hold the worst record in the league (8-35), but there is no way anyone can argue they are currently worse than doormats like the Heat (losers of 14 out of 15) and the Sonics (lost 14 straight).

Toronto Raptors

Around the Rim: Fire away Jose!

1. Runnin’ down a dream
Toronto still has a long way to go before taking control of the Atlantic Division, but they took a giant leap forward on Wednesday night. Jose Calderon led the Raptors past the Celtics with 13 assists and 24 points, including an old fashioned three-point play that ended the night’s scoring and gave Toronto a 114-112 victory in Boston. The Raptors played one of their best games of the season, hitting 40-of-69 shots, including 15-of-21 from behind the arc and a perfect night from the charity stripe (19-19). While the Raptors are peaking, winning six of their previous eight, the Cs seem to have hit the wall, losing four of eight since starting the season with a 29-3 record. But with an 11-game cushion still separating them from second-place Toronto for division honors, they can afford a mini slump.

2. Lighting strikes twice in Minnesota

Eclipses used to be rare occurrences, but nowadays anytime Minnesota takes the hardwood against Phoenix the Suns get overshadowed. For the second time in three tries, the T-Wolves have knocked off the Suns, this time with a convincing 117-107 victory in which the Minnesota lead grew to 21 points in the second half thanks to a career-high 39 points from Al Jefferson. The results of this loss are felt conference wide because thanks to a 96-91 victory over Portland, the New Orleans Hornets now own the best record in the west at 29-12 (.707). Nope, not a misprint; those New Orleans Hornets. Coincidentally, Nawlins also owns the league’s longest current win streak with six consecutive. But getting back to the Minnesota/Phoenix shocker, something about the Suns turns Jefferson into an absolute beast. In the pair of upsets, Jefferson has averaged 35.5 points and 17.5 rebounds.

3. Tale of two halves
After being bullied in their own gym for the first 24 minutes of play, the San Antonio Spurs came out of the locker room and took back their court. With a 31-12 explosion in the third quarter, San Antonio turned a nine-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead going into the final frame before going on for a 103-91 victory. Tim Duncan went to school on the Lakers front court, finishing the night with 28 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and three blocks while Ime Udoka scored 18 off the bench, including three-of-four shooting from behind the arc. But Udoka still didn’t steal Manu Ginobili’s substitution thunder as he filled the box score with 12 points, six boards, four assists and a whopping eight steals. Kobe Bryant finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Al Jefferson vs. Phoenix 35 min, 39 pts (FG: 15-29, FT: 9-14), 15 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl

Thursday’s Games to Watch: It’s a very special “Pick Your Poison Thursday.” Due to the fact the NBA is virtually devoid of serious competition tonight, we’re giving you free reign to watch any crummy contest you desire.

San Antonio (27-13) @ Miami (8-32)
Unless it’s the Heat playing the Sonics then Miami has about a snowball’s chance in South Beach of grabbing a W. Even against Seattle we’re kind of leaning toward the new kid on the block.

Indiana (19-24) @ Milwaukee (16-26)
These teams are still battling it out to see if either can grab one of the bottom end playoff berths in the East, but so are the Nets, Hawks, Bulls, Bobcats, Sixers and even the Knicks. In other words, YAAAaaaawwwwnnn.

New Jersey (18-23) @ Golden State (25-18)
Normally we’d have no problem making this our “Game to Watch”, but considering the Nets are on a six game slide and the Warriors just dropped a home game to the Timberwolves, we just couldn’t do it.

Buzzer Beater: Orlando obliterated the Grizzlies in Memphis last night, winning by 27 points, 112-85, hitting a team-record 18 3-pointers. Only four Magic players failed to hit a trifecta in the contest – Dwight Howard, Adonal Foyle, James Augustine and Pat Garrity (Augustine and Garrity played just three minutes apiece). Led by Hedo Turkoglu (6-8 3FG), the Magic connected on 18-of-33 long bombers. In fact, things were going so well from downtown for Orlando that fouling didn’t even stop the rain as Rashard Lewis converted a four-point play after superbust Darko Milicic made contact at the top of the arc.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: Better late than never

1. Finals rematch
The Cavs finally won a game against the Spurs. Too bad it is about seven months too late. The game was tied at 88 before LeBron James hit the game-clinching hoop with 33.6 seconds left. The speed King finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as he continues to lead Cleveland back to respectability. The Spurs had a chance to tie the game on a last shot, but Manu Ginobili’s buzzer-beater was off target. Ginobili scored a game-high 31 points off the bench on 10-of-15 shooting.

2. What type of party is it? It’s a block party!

The virtually unheard of Linas Kleiza scored a career-high 41 points, Allen Iverson went off for 28 and Carmelo Anthony banged in 23 points in an easy 120-109 home victory over the Jazz, but all that is secondary to the performance of the defending defensive player of the year. Marcus Camby came up two points shy of having a monstrous triple-double with eight points, 24 rebounds and 11 blocks. Since 1973-74, when blocks became a stat, only three players have gone off for 24 or more rebounds and at least 11 blocks in a single game. Camby now sits with some pretty elite company, joining Shaquille O’Neal (28-15 in 1993) and Elvin Hayes (27-11 in 1978) as the lucky few.

3. Suns rise
As quickly as they let the best record in the West slip away, they regained it. Phoenix jumped from the sixth seed all the way to the top seed with a 106-98 victory against the Lakers. Steve Nash dished out a season-high 20 assists in the win and Kobe Bryant had 30 points on the losing side of things, but the real story of the game was Kwame Brown’s play or lack thereof. Brown, playing in place of the injured Andrew Bynum, had eight points, six rebounds and seven turnovers. His play was so bad that at one point the home crowd began booing the former No. 1 draft pick.

I thought it was terrible,” said Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with 30 points and seven rebounds. “If they want to do that, they can stay home. He’s going to be our guy here for two months. He’s going to do fine, he’s going to play well the next game.

“Kwame’s sensitive. You boo him, it’s going to affect him. I told him I’ve got his back.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Marcus Camby vs. Utah 44 min, 8 pts (FG: 4-13, 3FG: 0-1), 24 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 11 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Charlotte (15-23) @ New Orleans (26-12)
Charlotte is winning some big time games of late with recent defeats of Boston, Denver and Orlando all under their belt. The next step for the Cats is to clinch their first three-game winning steak of the season by beating the Hornets. But that won’t be easy considering Nawlins is sizzling as well. The Hornets have won three consecutive and 12 of their previous 15 games, taking them to the top of a stacked Southwest Division where they are currently tied with Dallas. The battle in the paint between Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler alone should be worth the price of admission.

Buzzer Beater: Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but we didn’t need to tell JamesOn Curry that.

Chicago Bulls rookie JamesOn Curry has been arrested in Boise and charged with misdemeanor counts of urinating in public and resisting arrest.

Police arrested Curry early Thursday morning and took him to the Ada County Jail. He was released a few hours later after posting $600 bond.

Curry has until February 7 to make a plea, and then must be in Boise again for either a jury trial or sentencing.

Eh, it happens.

Toronto Raptors

Around the Rim: Bosh extinguishes the Blaze

1. He’s got our vote
Chris Bosh is determined to make it to New Orleans for this year’s All-Star Game. On Friday against the Knicks, Bosh scored 40 points inside Madison Square Garden to go with 11 rebounds and a road win for his Raps. On Sunday afternoon, Bosh was equally impressive, scoring 38 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as he lead Toronto past Portland in double-overtime, 116-109. The defeat was just the second in 19 games for the Blazers who began a seven-game road trip in Toronto and next head to New Jersey tonight. Brandon Roy was excellent in defeat (33 pts, 10 ast, 5 reb) and like Bosh, should be a coaches’ decision for his respective All-Start roster.

2. Pistons not firing on all cylinders

There is nothing worse than losing to the Knicks; unless it’s losing to the Knicks by 24 and only managing to score 65 points. Believe it or not, but that was the fate of the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. And it wasn’t just bad for the Bad Boys, it was downright horrific, like something from a Rob Zombie flick. The Pistons fell to New York 89-65, just barely avoiding setting the franchise record for futility which currently stands at 64 points, a two-point victory over Utah in 2005. Detroit shot 23-of-75 from the field against the Knicks while managing just 24 points in the second and third quarters combined.

3. Another win away from the Hive
Winning on the road has become New Orleans’ new calling card. Houston received the message loud and clear on Sunday when Chris Paul hit four crucial, late-game free throws to lock-up a Nawlins win in Houston, 87-82. The Hornets are now 15-5 away from home, already matching last year’s record. While Paul (19 pts, 11 ast) made the game-clinching shots, the Hornets were led offensively by David West’s 26 points. Yao Ming had another monstrous effort with 30 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, but the Rockets still miss the scoring ability of Tracy McGrady who missed his 10th game with a knee injury. Luckily for Houston, T-Mac is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday when San Antonio comes to town.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Chris Bosh vs. Portland 55 min, 38 pts (FG: 15-27, FT: 8-10), 14 reb, 2 ast, 3 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Washington (19-16) @ Boston (30-5)
Beating Boston nowadays is quite an accomplishment. Washington already knows how it feels to knock off the league’s best after winning in Washington 85-78 on Saturday and if the Wiz can do it again, they will become the only team to defeat Boston in consecutive games this year. Tonight the game will be played in the Celtics’ gym where they own a 16-2 record, best in the NBA. The Wizards haven’t won three consecutive games since mid December, but a win tonight could propel them on a nice streak as they next play a home-and-home with New York.

Buzzer Beater: Despite being a man on the court, LeBron James is still just a kid a heart and he proved his immaturity on his 23rd birthday. On Dec. 30, LBJ was ticketed by the Ohio State Highway Patrol for speeding. The King was just a little over the posted limit of 65 as he was clocked doing 101 mph on Interstate 71. His attorney entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday and a hearing is set for Feb. 11. Hey, it might be dumb, but at least he wasn’t carrying a loaded firearm in the car, like some other speeding ballers. You know who you are Sebastian Telfair.

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: Kobe takes over, downs the champs

1. L.A. K.O.’s S.A.
San Antonio didn’t have Tim Duncan or Tony Parker in the lineup on Thursday and Kobe Bryant didn’t care. Bean racked up 30 points and seven rebounds in the Lakers 102-97 win over the injury ravaged Spurs. Bruce Bowen, yes the offensively challenged Bruce Bowen, finished with a team-high 22 for the Spurs after scoring a season-high 23 against L.A. in a victory last month. The Lakers have now won four consecutive games, giving them a whole new outlook on the Pacific Division standings as they sit just three games behind the first-place Phoenix Suns. Los Angeles must quickly turn around for a track meet against the Warriors tonight, a team they defeated by 10 points last Sunday. Golden State has slipped in the standings a bit after putting together a nice run following their 0-6 start and should be desperate for a win over their division rivals. Being victorious would give the Lakers only a half game lead for second place in the Pacific.

2. Three wasn’t to be

Just when it was starting to look like Miami was on the rebound, the Gilbert Arenasless Wizards come to South Beach and win by 13, 104-91, snapping the Heat’s only win streak of the year at two games. DeShawn Stevenson led the way for Washington, scoring 26 points while Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood all finished with double-doubles in points and rebounds. The Heat’s starters were stone cold once again as the bench scored over half (46) of the teams points. Shaquille O’Neal’s begging for the ball was completely ineffective as the Diesel put up just six shots in the game for seven points to go with six boards. After the game, Pat Riley sounded like a broken record, publicly blasting his guys for their weak efforts.

There’s no excuses,” Riley said. “There are none. I have none. The players should have none. … Tonight, we didn’t hardly even try

3. Iguodala-dala bill, ya’ll!
Since Gilbert Arenas isn’t on the court at the moment, he’s decided to put on his GM hat and started blabbering about player’s contracts and who’s worth what on his blog. Now, Arenas has a lot to say on the matter, a lot; however, what really jumped out at us was Agent 0’s opinion concerning Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala.

I know after A.I. left, you were supposed to be that No. 1 guy, but, the way he plays the game, he doesn’t have that. He’s not that type of player. He’s a second guy. An assistant coach told me a great story about him. When he was in Arizona, he said he was like 9-for-11 from the field and he apologized to the team for shooting 11 shots. From that day on, I just called him Scottie Pippen. He’s a Scottie Pippen type of player. A great, overall player. He’s your glue player. You need a superstar and then you need him. So $12 million is good for you. Nothing more and nothing less. Be happy with the $12 million.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. San Antonio 38 min, 30 pts (FG: 10-24, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 9-10), 7 reb, 3 ast, 4 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: New Orleans (14-8) @ Dallas (14-9)
New Orleans is one of the biggest surprises in the West, rushing out to a 14-8 record behind the play of Chris Paul who is averaging 21.5 points, 10.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 4.0 rebounds per game. As of now, only half a game separates these two in the Southwest Division with the NOLA sitting in second place followed the Mavs in third. Big D has gone flat after winning nine of their first 11 games, losing seven games in the last three weeks, including a 112-108 overtime contest with `Nawlins. CP3 was just shy of a triple-double with 33 points, 12 assists and nine boards. While Dallas still has one of the better records in the league, a big time win over their sudden division rival would be huge for the Mavericks’ collective psyche. Of course, the same thing can be said for the Hornets who appear to be legit for the first time since Zo and Grandmama were patrolling the paint.

Buzzer Beater: By now we’re sure that you’ve seen the new NBA self promotion commercials. You know, `NBA: Where amazing happens‘. Well, in case you were getting bored of the original commercials, here’s the league’s latest go-round with the concept.

Of course, the NBA is also `Where some really bad dancing happens‘.

San Antonio Spurs

Around the Rim: San Antoni-oh no!

1. San Antonio plays the waiting game
The Spurs grabbed their 15th victory of the season, but the win was meaningless as the organization waits patiently for the results of an MRI on Tim Duncan’s right leg on Monday. Duncan was injured in the second quarter when he tried to spin around Portland’s James Jones and then suddenly fell to the floor, clutching his knee. The immediate diagnosis was a bruised right knee and sprained right ankle and the Spurs said their star would defiantly miss some time. The injury couldn’t have occurred at a worse time as the Spurs are looking a stretch that includes six games in 13 days against some of the West’s best, including Dallas, Utah, Golden State, the Lakers, Denver and Phoenix. Ouch!

As for the game itself, SA was winning 34-28 when Duncan departed, but Portland was unable to capitalize, falling down by 13 points at halftime and 20 after three quarters. Tony Parker finished with 27 points and eight assists to lead the Spurs.

2. Boston exacts revenge, kinda

Last Tuesday, LeBron James torched the Celtics for 38 points while handing out 13 assists to give Boston its second loss of the season in an overtime instant classic. On Sunday, the two teams met for a rematch and the Celtics rolled the defending Eastern Conference champs, 80-70. Oh, did we mention LBJ missed the game, his second consecutive, with an injured finger? Cleveland hung tough with the Celtics in the first half, trailing by four at the break, but they displayed serious offensive ineptitude down the stretch without the league’s top scorer. The Cavs could only muster 11 points in the third before scoring 20 in the fourth, 12 coming in garbage time when the game was well in hand. With the King out of the lineup, two of the Leprechauns `Big Three’ basically got to take the afternoon off. Kevin Garnett finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes while Paul Pierce had seven points. Ray Allen finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the unusually, unexplosive Celtics.

3. 21 and done
November 1999: That was the last time that New Orleans defeated Dallas; until Saturday. It took overtime, a last-second trey from Peja Stojakovic in regulation and another big-time performance from Chris Paul, but the result was well worth the effort as the Hornets snapped a 21-game losing streak to the Mavs. Thanks to Paul’s near triple-double (33 pts, 9 reb, 12 ast), NOLA is now sitting in second place in the Southwest Division – ahead of Dallas and Houston. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-man show: Stojakovic is killing opponents from behind the arc while David West and Tyson Chandler are providing some seriously underrated post presence. Oh, and the Spurs are the only team in the West that holds opponents to fewer than Nawlins’ 93.3 points per game. Next up for the Hornets is a game against the Pistons in the `Hive,’ followed by contests at home against Memphis and Seattle.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Chris Kaman vs. Indiana 40 min, 22 pts (FG: 7-14, FT: 8-10), 22 reb, 1 ast, 5 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (15-4) @ Golden State (9-7)
Nobody in the NBA is hotter than the Magic or the Warriors after both picked up victories last night over the Lakers and Sonics, respectively. There were some early season questions surrounding the slow-starting Warriors, but everything fell into place when Stephen Jackson returned from his suspension and Golden State is back to their run-and-run-and-run-and-gun style offense, averaging 108.6 points per game (1st). Of course, those points at the rim won’t be easy to come by with Dwight Howard patrolling the paint. Howard is off to a `Defensive Player of the Year’ start to the season, leading the league in rebounds (15.0 rpg) and ranking third in blocks (2.67 bpg).

Buzzer Beater: Stephon Marbury is known for making outlandish statements, so it was no surprise that he was at it again before the Knicks played the Suns on Sunday.

After all the hoopla, we’ve won three of the last four,” Marbury said. “Normally when that happens, you’re getting praised.

“At the end of the season, we’ll be where we want to be.

Wait, do you guys want to be in the lottery because 5-11 teams that get decimated by 45 points don’t usually make the playoffs. We’re just saying.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Mamba goes cold as the Clippers explode

1. Hollywood comeback story
The Clippers looked like a team that was ready to start the off season early as fell down to the Lakers by 17 points before ripping off a huge fourth quarter to give the Clips an unbelievable 118-110 victory that breathed life back into their season. Kobe Bryant put up another 50-point performance but he was ice cold in the final quarter to give the Lakers their third consecutive loss. Bryant has now put together nine separate 50-point games this year which matches Wilt Chamberlain’s nine 50’s in the 1964-65 season. But Corey Maggette’s career-high 39 proved to be more important in the contest, and with the win, the Clippers jumped over Golden State to grab the eighth and final spot in the West.

2. Mrs. Ham tried to bring home the bacon illegally

It’s not uncommon for an athlete to smile and wave into the lens of a camera when someone puts it in front of their face. And the two most common words that accompany such an opportunity of national exposure are most certainly “Hi Mom.” Well, former NBAer Darvin Ham might be reduced to buying courtside tickets and dropping the camera guy a 20 dollar bill in order to get a little face time if he wants to converse with his momma after she was charged with arson and insurance fraud. Apparently, instead of trading in her 1986 Mercedes-Benz to the dealership, she decided to torch the car and make a false insurance claim. If that’s not bad enough Darvin’s mom, Wilmer Jones Ham, is the former mayor of Saginaw, Michigan. Hopefully she has a couple of friends who are lenient judges.

3. Cleveland rocks Jersey
The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but thanks to a 94-76 victory over the Nets last night, the Cavs locked up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Oh, yea, and they have a pretty good player on their squad in LeBron James which lifts Cleveland’s fan’s spirits even higher. LBJ put together a 35 point performance that included a 15 point outburst in the third quarter of the Cavs blowout. The Cavaliers might have been to the post season last year but that doesn’t mean they are familiar with the territory. This will only be the team’s second playoff appearance since 1998.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Corey Maggette @ Los Angeles Lakers 43 min, 39 pts (FG: 10-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 17-24), 8 reb, 9 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (51-27) @ Toronto (45-33) It’s a battle between two of the top clubs in the Eastern Conference and a possible second round preview with a great power forward match-up thrown in as well. The Pistons have won three straight and captured the top seed in the East, giving them home-court advantage all the way through the East finals. Chris Bosh has led the Raptors on a four game winning streak but he will have to contend with the pesky defense of Rasheed Wallace before claiming a fifth straight victory. Toronto is hungry, like Detroit a few years back, but completely inexperienced in playoff situations. Hopefully they can use this big game, late season atmosphere to mentally prepare for what’s to come. Otherwise, this might be a serious make up call to the Raptors that they still have a lot more to prove than simply winning a division crown.

Buzzer Beater: It’s going to be a bittersweet goodbye for the New Orleans Hornets tonight as they host the Denver Nuggets in the final game to be played by the franchise in Oklahoma City. There’s still a slight chance that the Hornets could fill the arena in the postseason but the odds are not with them. So, in all reality, this will be the final game played in a city that took in a team that had no where else to turn. Nobody would have ever considered that Oklahoma could handle a professional sports franchise, but if any good has come out of the relocation of the team it is that it became crystal clear that Oklahoma City loves them some B-ball. And now they are getting mentioned with Las Vegas and St. Louis as possible future franchise destinations. Geez, who woulda thunk it?

NBA General

Around the Rim: Wizard’s blizzard of injuries

Well, now he’s got more time
for bloggin’ and video poker.

1. Agent 0 goes undercover
Washington might be the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they might as well be sitting on the outside looking in because they are going to make some team the very happy owner of a four game sweep in the first round of the post season. Just days after Caron Butler broke his hand, Gilbert Arenas tore his lateral meniscus and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. The Wiz are currently only just one game behind Miami for the division crown but nobody’s going to be cheering in Washington anytime soon as the “there’s always next year” mentality begins to take hold. But it was a great season for Arenas while it lasted as he scored 28.4 points per game to go along with 4.6 boards and 6.0 assists. He also made the All-Star team and threw a wicked b-day bash.

2. Losing ground quick

The Cavs looked dead in the water as their game against Miami was drawing to a close last night, but LeBron James rallied the troops for an 11-0 run to force overtime. However, the extra period would belong to the Heat as they clinched a post season berth while handing Cleveland a devastating loss. The Cavaliers fell all the way to the fifth seed in the East with the defeat after going into the game as the second best club in the conference. If the playoffs began today these two teams would be locking up in first round series with the Heat owning the home court advantage. The only difference between then and now is that the Cavs might have to contend with a well rested Dwyane Wade in the lineup. Cleveland is probably not too thrilled about that possibility, but a Wade/James showdown would be great for the fans.

3. Spurs rise, Suns set
Tony Parker scored a season-high 35 points as the Spurs held the Suns to just 85 points in a late season victory that showed why San Antonio will be a serious threat in the post season. Phoenix put together a late game run to make it interesting but the Spurs basically imposed their defensive will onto the Suns who average 111 points per game. Tim Duncan and Michael Finley both chipped in double-doubles and SA now holds the best record in the league since the All-Star break by winning 19 of 22 games. With the victory, the Spurs are now only two games behind Phoenix for the second best record in the league and second seed in the playoffs. The Suns are struggling to gain momentum before the season ends after going 6-4 in their last ten games, and should San Antonio catch Phoenix they also own the tiebreaker with a 2-1 record against the Suns in the regular season.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Miami 49 min, 35 pts (FG: 11-21, 3FG: 2-5, FT: 11-13), 9 reb, 5 ast

Friday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (62-12) @ Denver (38-36) The Nuggets are riding a three game winning streak after knocking of the Sonics, Lakers and Kings since Sunday. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are really clicking as Melo has put up at least 30 points in his last four contests while AI has dished out 20 assists in two games. The Mavericks are rolling as usual and have won nine of their last ten games and won their last game against the Kings despite being without their superstar as Dirk Nowitzki who had food poisoning. This could be a preview of a first round match-up in the playoffs between these two since Denver is sitting just one game ahead of the Clippers for the seventh spot in the West.

Buzzer Beater: The Hornets have been surging of late as they have now won three consecutive games in an attempt to push their way into the playoff pack. Well, that task just got a lot harder after Chris Wilcox delivered a wicked, inadvertent elbow to the face of New Orleans’ most consistent player of the season, Desmond Mason. The elbow broke the nose and cheek bones of Mason and will probably keep him out for the remainder of the regular season. Mason was the only player to start every game for New Orleans this year and averaged 14 points and five boards per contest. Looks like it will be up to Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler to pick up the slack if the Hornets are going to extend their season long enough for Mason to attempt a return.

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: Bryant’s big weekend

Yea, I play a little.

1. The Mamba strikes again, no suspension necessary
With the madness running wild on CBS there is a good chance that you were too preoccupied with brackets on Friday night to think about the NBA. Well, unfortunately, you missed another incredible offensive performance by Kobe Bryant. The man with the uncontrollable elbows put up the second best scoring feat of his career by torching Portland for 65 points on a 23-for-39 shooting performance in a 116-111 overtime victory. Bryant was clutch when the game was in question but refused to let his team fall to the Blazers as he scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and threw in an additional nine points during OT. This was only the third game of Bryant’s career in which he scored at least 60 points; it might sound crazy to use the word “only” in that last statement but that’s a sign of how spectacular Kobe is. The Mamba has been on the verge of 60 numerous times as he has cracked the 50 point plateau 13 other times, including a 50 point performance in a 109-102 victory over Minnesota last night.

2. Luck of the Irish

The last time the Celtics had beaten the Spurs was on Jan. 8, 1997. Then the curse began. It was in the following draft when San Antonio changed the destiny of the NBA and landed the number one pick in the draft instead of Boston who had the statistical advantage to grab the top selection, a.k.a. Tim Duncan. Fast forward ten years and the Celtics finally got a measure of revenge as they defeated Duncan and his Spurs by six points, 91-85, for Boston’s first victory over San Antonio in 19 tries. And it’s no coincidence that the Celtics picked up the historic victory of St. Patrick’s Day; Boston also broke a 17-year drought against the Spurs in San Antonio. If losing his first ever game against the men in green wasn’t bad enough for Duncan, the Spurs became only the third team in NBA history to have a winning percentage of .700 or better and drop consecutive games to teams with win percentages of .360 or worse at least 60 games into the season. It’s a big win for the C’s but they’d still rather have the three trophies.

3. The Sixers are great hosts
Hopefully you weren’t fooled by the 76ers seven game winning streak a while back because the real Philadelphia team has returned and they are an ugly assembly. Since having their run of victories ended the 76ers have lost three of their last four games, including an eye-popping 50 point loss, 124-74, to the Rockets last night in Philly. It was the biggest home loss in club history and ranked as the third most lopsided home loss in NBA history. Only the 1986 Houston Rockets (lost to Seattle by 56) and the 2003 Boston Celtics (lost to Detroit by 52) have suffered bigger losses in their own gyms. On the other hand, the Rockets set a new franchise record for road domination and fell just two points shy of tying the team’s biggest win ever. So don’t give up hope just yet Sixer fans; you still might strike lottery gold after all.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Minnesota 45 min, 50 pts (FG: 17-35, 3FG: 4-9, FT: 12-14), 6 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Boston (20-46) @ New Orleans (29-37) Yea, it’s a crummy game but it’s the best that the NBA has to offer on a light evening that only consists of two games. But let’s be positive about this because it could be worse, it could have been the same teams from a month ago. Now that’s scary. But Boston is finally picking up some victories after going on a franchise-record 18 game losing streak earlier in the year. Paul Pierce is breaking the hearts of millions of Bostonians as his outputs are slowly removing the Celtics from having a possible future with Greg Oden or Kevin Durant as the franchise’s cornerstone. And while New Orleans is sitting behind all three of the Texas teams in the Southwest Division, they are only two games behind Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West despite losing seven of their last eight games. But don’t blame CP3 for the teams struggles because Chris Paul can’t be expected to do too much more than put up his recent five game average of 16.8 points, 9.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

Buzzer Beater: Those weren’t Boooo-zer chants you were hearing on Saturday night. No, those were actual boos as turncoat Carlos Boozer returned to Cleveland for the first time since he bolted for Utah almost three years ago. And LeBron James showed his old teammate that the Cavs don’t miss his glass cleaning abilities as he grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds to go along with 24 points, nine assists, two steals and two blocks. But Boozer had an impressive game of his own (19 points and 14 rebounds) despite being unimpressed with the crowd’s imagination. “It wasn’t even that bad,” Boozer said of his Cleveland homecoming. “They had a lot of signs. I saw a couple of them. Chants were OK. They could have been more creative with their chants. It was good though.” What, you don’t think “Boozer is a Loozer” is purely ingenious?