1. No rocky road for the Rockets
Everyone figured the Jazz would trot into the second round once they made it back home after building a 2-0 series advantage in Houston. Everyone, that is, except the Rockets. Since the final buzzer of the second game sounded, Tracy McGrady has gone through the ringer, being called every synonym of soft in the thesaurus. But after totaling just one point between the first two fourth quarters, T-Mac came through in the clutch, scoring seven of his 27 points in the final 3:29 of the game to give Houston a 94-92 win. For Utah, it was just the fifth home floor lose this year and spoiled some great individual performances. Carlos Boozer (15 pts, 13 reb), Mehmet Okur (12 pts, 11 reb) and Deron Williams (28 pts, 12 ast) all recorded double-doubles. The talk going in was that McGrady simply had no gas left in the tank in crunch time, but Rafer Alston allowed him to coast more in Game 3, scoring 20 points, including four treys, to go with five assists.
2. Wiz kids win
The Wizards weren’t the only ones to gets shots in on LeBron James and the Cavaliers last night; so did the fans. In the third quarter, the Washington crowd began chanting “over-rated!” while LBJ stood at the charity stripe. And the torture didn’t end there as Washington ran off to a 108-72 win, pulling within one game of tying the bad-blood rivalry. James scored 22 points in the blowout, but got virtually no help from the rest of his squad that combined to go 19-of-54 from the floor. DeShawn Stevenson and his beard got a small measure of revenge after getting punked in Cleveland by scoring a team-high 19 points to lead four other Wizards in double-digit scoring. Washington is still trailing 2-1 in the series, but if it continues to force 23 turnovers in a game and shoot over 50 percent, like on Thursday, then we could be see everything get all tied up after Sunday’s Game 4.
3. Raptors roar back from near extinction
Dwight Howard is human after all. Following a pair of 20-point, 20-rebound contests to open the playoffs, Howard fell back to earth on Thursday and the Magic followed. The Raptors were victorious in their playoff home opener, winning 108-94 behind T.J. Ford’s 21 points and Jose Calderon’s 18-point, 13-assist double-double, cutting the Magic’s lead to 2-1 in the series. Howard totaled 19 points and 12 rebounds to compliment Hedo Turkoglu’s 26 and Rashard Lewis’ 19 points, but there was no stopping the hot-handed Raps. Toronto set franchise playoff records for points in a game and a half (61) by connecting on 12-of-34 3-pointers after opening the game with seven consecutive misses from downtown.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Houston 43 min, 28 pts (FG: 9-17, 3FG: 3-5, FT: 7-8), 3 reb, 12 ast
Buzzer Beater: After becoming the laughing stock of college basketball for getting fired from two different jobs for the same violations, Kelvin Sampson is taking his game to the pros. Rumor has it that the former Oklahoma/Indiana coach is heading to Milwaukee where he will attempt to pull the Bucks out of the gutter as an assistant to the newly hired Scott Skiles. There is still a ton of red tape for the leagues to sort through before the hire can be made, but after his multiple embarrassments in the NCAA, the pros are about the only people who will hire the joke of a coach.