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.