1. The Suns can still run
There was some serious doubt about whether Shaquille O’Neal could physically keep up against the Warriors. Well, he couldn’t, but the Suns didn’t need him to. Shaq spent most of the evening in foul trouble, finishing with nine points and 14 rebounds, but Amare Stoudemire more than made up for the Big Cactus’ off night by scoring 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking four shots in a 123-115 victory. The Suns were smoking hot shooting the ball, converting 45-of-82 for a blistering 55 percent field goal percentage. Steve Nash was key down the stretch, scoring eight consecutive points for the Suns at one point in the fourth quarter, finishing with 21 points and 13 assists. Baron Davis missed tying his career-high by two points, producing 38 in the loss as Golden State continues to hold onto the eighth spot in the West, sitting two games ahead of Denver.
2. Shining Wizards
After missing 16 games with a hip injury, Caron Butler returned to the Wizards roster on Thursday to score a team-high 19 points. Butler was on fire early, hitting six of his first eight shots, but it wasn’t the former All-Star’s quick start that sealed the 101-99 victory; rather, it was the Cavaliers horrible finish. Cleveland could only muster up 45 points in the entire second half after taking an eight-point lead into halftime. LeBron James posted 25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, but it wasn’t all pretty as he committed seven turnovers. During the game, Gilbert Arenas said in a sideline interview that he was supposed to make his comeback against Cleveland, but the doctors nixed the idea prior to tipoff.
3. The Blaze get burned
Portland looked as they were destined to defy the odds a couple months, but after losing to the Kings last night, they simply look destined for the lottery. Sacramento lost two games in a row at home prior to knocking of the Blazers 96-85, but with the win the Kings are just four games behind Portland in the standings. Ron Artest led all scorers with 22 points to go with six steals while Brad Miller and Beno Udrih scored 14 apiece. Brandon Roy scored 21 for the Blazers who were a miserable 30-of-78 (.385) from the field while committing 27 fouls and giving up 19 turnovers.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Baron Davis @ Phoenix 46 min, 38 pts (FG: 15-30, 3FG: 6-11, FT: 2-4), 9 reb, 8 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk
Friday’s Games to Watch: Tonight is such a big night in the Association, we just couldn’t limit ourselves to a single game. So, we’ve got four – yes, four – must-see contests lined up for your viewing pleasure.
Utah (43-23) @ Boston (51-12)
Carlos Boozer. Kevin Garnett. Deron Williams. Ray Allen. Paul Pierce. Andrei Kirilenko. Mehmet Okur. Rajon Rondo. Should we continue?
Los Angeles Lakers (45-19) @ New Orleans (43-20)
The Hornets just knocked off the Spurs by 25 points and now they’re welcoming the best of the West into their home hive. New Orleans is 23-10 on its own court, but the Lakers don’t care what court they’re playing on, posting a 20-10 record on the road.
San Antonio (44-20) @ Detroit (46-18)
It might not be the most edge-of-your-seat basketball matchup in the league, but it is a rematch of the 2005 Finals and a possible preview of the 2008 Finals. The Spurs must overcome their recent road woes on a court where the Pistons are 24-6 if they don’t want to slip further down the stacked West standings.
Charlotte (24-40) @ Houston (44-20)
A chunk of history will be on the line as the Rockets attempt to claim sole possession of the second longest winning streak in NBA history by knocking off their 21st consecutive opponent.
Buzzer Beater: Smush Parker was released by Miami earlier in the week and on Thursday he decided to return to Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Smush, he signed with the Clippers and not the Lakers. Talk about jumping out of the pan and into the fire. Sure, things might be slightly better in that other L.A. compared to Miami, but there certainly won’t be any celebrations in the streets any time soon. This is the sixth team for Parker in his short career.