1. Still going
The Portland Trail Blazers hit a little bump in the road after winning 13 consecutive games when the Utah Jazz snapped the streak with a 111-101 victory in Salt Lake City on New Year’s Eve. But the Blazers took the loss in stride and bounced back with two victories in two days, the most recent being a double-overtime affair against Chicago. The Bulls owned a seven-point advantage at the half, but Portland got big plays from Brandon Roy (25 pts, 11 ast), Jarrett Jack (17 pts) and Travis Outlaw (21 pts) down the stretch, winning by six, 115-109, after ten extra minutes of play. Ben Gordon put up 32 points off the bench for Chicago and Joe Smith put up a season-high 31 points, but it wasn’t enough for the hapless Bulls. Next up for the Blazers are those pesky Jazz. Saturday night’s contest will be the fourth and final game between the Northwest Division rivals with each of the previous three being decided by 10 points or less.
2. Best in the West
Amare Stoudemire had another gigantic game for Phoenix, scoring 34 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Suns 104-96 victory over Seattle. The byproduct of Stoudemire’s All-Star caliber performances is Phoenix now owns the top record in the Western Conference (23-9). Surprisingly, the game against one of the West’s worst wasn’t an easy one for the conference’s new kings of the court; at least, not at first. Phoenix fell down by 20 points to start the game, trailing 33-13 after the first quarter, but rallied to outscore the Sonics 91-63 over the final 36 minutes for the victory. In addition to Stoudemire’s nasty numbers, Shawn Marion had 11 points and 14 rebounds while Steve Nash finished with 17 points and 10 assists. On the bright side for Seattle, rookie Kevin Durant took the reigns offensively, finishing with a team-high 28 points on 11-of-24 shooting to go with seven rebounds, after missing most of the previous two games with an injured finger.
3. K-Mart’s Blue Light Special: blocks
The Nuggets are a completely different team when Kenyon Martin is healthy and it showed on Thursday when Denver defeated San Antonio 80-77. K-Mart finished with just four points and seven rebounds, but took over the game defensively by swatting a career-high seven shots in the contest. Marcus Camby had four blocks to go with 18 rebounds as the Nuggets won the battles on the glass (48-35) and in blocks (14-3). Allen Iverson led the way offensively, scoring 29 points while Carmelo Anthony finished with 17 and nine rebounds. San Antonio got solid numbers from Tim Duncan (20 pts, 14 reb), Tony Parker (20 pts, 9 ast) and Michael Finley (18 pts, 8 reb), but lost their fourth consecutive road game since winning at Minnesota on November 30.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Brandon Roy @ Chicago 49 min, 25 pts (FG: 7-15, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 10-11), 6 reb, 11 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk
Friday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (25-7) @ Toronto (17-15)
Say what you will about the Celtics or the Trail Blazers, but our vote for hottest team in the league goes to the Pistons who have won 10 in a row and 17 of their last 19 games. In that span, 15 victories were by at least 10 points. The Raptors are playing their first game of the new year after wrapping up 2007 with a seven-game road trip, producing just three victories. The good news for Toronto is that Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon are playing outta their minds right now. Over the previous five contests, Bosh is averaging 25.2 points and 10.8 rebounds while Calderon is filling in for the injured T.J. Ford quite nicely with 14.4 points, 4.8 boards and 9.4 assists per game.
Buzzer Beater: The third installment of returns for the NBA All-Star voting was released on Thursday and Chris Bosh is not going to be a happy camper. Luckily for “W.”, voting continues through Jan. 13 for paper balloting and up until Jan. 20 for ballots cast on NBA.com.
2008 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING EASTERN CONFERENCE
Forwards: Kevin Garnett (Bos) 1,527,963; LeBron James (Clev) 1,294,019; Chris Bosh (Tor) 411,313; Paul Pierce (Bos) 352,243; Yi Jianlian (Mil) 291,447; Caron Butler (Was) 187,396; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 172,720; Tayshaun Prince (Det) 155,502; Josh Smith (Atl) 143,518; Rashard Lewis (Orl) 143,118.
Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,019,582; Jason Kidd (NJ) 743,683; Ray Allen (Bos) 617,123; Vince Carter (NJ) 612,543; Gilbert Arenas (Was) 511,763; Chauncey Billups (Det) 331,872; Michael Redd (Mil) 221,777; Richard Hamilton (Det) 163,250; Joe Johnson (Atl) 149,367; Andre Iguodala (Phi) 140, 292.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,260,987; Shaquille O’Neal (Mia) 609,597; Rasheed Wallace (Det) 162,792; Ben Wallace (Chi) 146,332; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 132,469; Jermaine O’Neal (Ind) 120,690; Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Clev) 77,350; Emeka Okafor (Cha) 74,269; Zaza Pachulia (Atl) 58,430; Eddy Curry (NY) 53,084.
2008 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING WESTERN CONFERENCE
Forwards: Tim Duncan (SA) 1,049,641; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 1,029,335; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 830,970; Carlos Boozer (Utah) 347,899; Shane Battier (Hou) 297,672; Shawn Marion (Pho) 296,917; Josh Howard (Dal) 285,580; Luis Scola (Hou) 279,970; Kevin Durant (Sea) 242,953; Grant Hill (Pho) 209,057.
Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,234,111; Tracy McGrady (Hou) 809,395; Allen Iverson (Den) 694,611; Steve Nash (Pho) 684,813; Manu Ginobili (SA) 360,408; Tony Parker (SA) 316,541; Chris Paul (NO) 261,169; Baron Davis (GS) 247,187; Jason Terry (Dal) 218,052; Jerry Stackhouse (Dal) 192,017.
Centers: Yao Ming (Hou) 1,077,244; Amaré Stoudemire (Pho) 583,249; Marcus Camby (Den) 221,527; Erick Dampier (Dal) 184,689; Pau Gasol (Mem) 139,254; Mehmet Okur (Utah) 112,434; Tyson Chandler (NO) 98,424; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 93,043; Chris Kaman (LAC) 83,516; Andris Biedrins (GS) 81,611.