1. Hornets almost get stung
New Orleans needed a win on Tuesday night to keep pace with the streaking Spurs. Thanks to a sharpshooting Peja Stojakovic, they got it. OK, maybe “sharpshooting” is an overstatement considering he only connected on 2-of-11 field goals against the Magic, but Stojakovic came through in the clutch, connecting on a trey and hitting three big free throws in the final minute to help the Hornets sneak out of Orlando with a 98-97 victory. MVP candidate Chris Paul finished with 19 points and 12 assists and fellow All-Star David West double-doubled with 18 and 11 rebounds in Nawlins’ franchise-best 24th road win. Paul almost choked the game away by missing a pair of shots from the charity stripe with less than 10 seconds remaining. But when Keyon Dooling’s jumper fell short, the Hornets were able to breathe a sigh of relief. New Orleans holds a slight edge over SA which means they are still sitting atop the West with a game against Miami scheduled for tonight.
2. Nuggets get revenge against Suns
The home team continues to reign supreme in the battle between Phoenix and Denver. Just one day after losing by 15 points in Phoenix, the Nuggets returned to Denver and grabbed a 126-120 victory over the Suns thanks to stellar performances from Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. A.I. finished with a game-high 31 points while Melo scored 25, including a pair of big free throws in the final 30 seconds to give Denver its seventh win in 10 games. More importantly, the Nuggets took a half-game lead over the Warriors for the West’s final playoff spot. The Suns did all they could, connecting on 53 percent of their shots, but homecourt advantage proved to be critical once again as the home team grabbed the win in every game between the two this season. Leandro Barbosa led the losers with 27 points while Shaquille O’Neal (14 pts, 13 reb), Amare Stoudemire (25 pts, 10 reb) and Steve Nash (17 pts, 18 ast) all recorded double-doubles.
3. Kings keep Rockets reeling
The Rockets are in free fall after reeling off 22 consecutive wins and Sacramento took full advantage on Tuesday night. Tracy McGrady scored a game-high 32 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep Houston from losing its fifth game, 99-98, in eight tries since going on the second-longest win steak in league history. Ron Artest finished with 30 points and Kevin Martin posted 27 as the Kings won their 34th game of the season which surpasses last year’s win total, marking the first improvement from one season to the next since 2001-02. For the Rockets, the loss sent them into sixth place out West. Houston took a one-point lead with time running out, but Martin knocked down a couple free throws with 48.9 seconds left on the clock, giving the Kings their final points of the night. Artest almost blew the victory by turning the ball over in the final moments, but McGrady’s shot was off the mark and Artest was saved by the buzzer.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Michael Redd vs. New York 46 min, 36 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 4-9, FT: 8-11), 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl
Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Golden State (45-29) @ Dallas (46-28)
Playoff implications are abundant in this matchup as either team could still conceivably fall out of the conference’s elite eight with a poor showing down the final stretch of the season. Luckily for Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki could be making an early return to the lineup after suffering a lower leg injury against the Spurs on March 23. At the moment, the Mavs are sitting in seventh place, just one game ahead of Golden State who is in ninth. Dallas would clinch the tiebreaker with a win which would be huge in a jam-packed race, but these are the Warriors we’re talking about and when it comes to ruining Dallas’ fun, nobody does it better than Don Nelson. And let’s not forget about the stat that just won’t go away for Dallas. The Mavericks are currently 0-10 against teams with winning records since acquiring Jason Kidd at the All-Star break.
Buzzer Beater: ESPN released its list of the top players under the age of 23 and we really can’t argue with the rankings. Can you?
1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Chris Paul
4. Deron Williams
5. Carmelo Anthony
6. Kevin Durant
7. Greg Oden
8. Andrew Bynum
9. Brandon Roy
10. Monta Ellis