Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Pass happy

1. Phoenix sharpshooter -passer
Everybody knows that Steve Nash is a passing machine, but this is getting to be plain silly. In his last four games, all wins, Nashty dished out a whopping 64 assists! The pass fest began on Nov. 30 when he had 14 assists at home against the Magic. Then the Suns began their current five-game, east coast road trip and the two-time MVP went off for 15 on the Knicks, followed by a 17-assist display against Indiana and culminating with Wednesday’s season-high 18 dimes against the Raptors. Of course, Sebastian Telfair could probably pick up 18 assists if he had scorers like Grant Hill (15.7 ppg), Shawn Marion (16.3), Amare Stoudemire (21.1), Raja Bell (11.7), Boris Diaw (7.4) and Leandro Barbosoa (17.7) running the floor with him. Okay, so maybe Se-Bass couldn’t do it, but a good point guard could.

2. Old friends?

Wednesday’s game between the Bull and the Bobcats served as a reunion of sorts for a pair of former teammates. Not on the floor, but on the sidelines. Chicago coach Scott Skiles and Charlotte big cheese Sam Vincent played ball together in college at Michigan State and then again in the pros when they both landed in the Orlando. Skiles’ Bulls took the game in Charlotte and afterwards the two reminisced on their initial memories of one another.

Skiles said he didn’t think Vincent would end up a coach when he was leading the Spartans in scoring. “I thought he was going to end up being an actor,” Skiles said.

“I thought he was a little [expletive] who couldn’t play basketball,” Vincent joked.

3. Guard-ian angles
Despite playing at home, the Spurs were facing an uphill battle against Dallas as Tim Duncan sat on the sidelines with an injury. But what probably should have been a loss turned into a welcomed W, 97-95, thanks to some outstanding backcourt play by the silver and black. Manu Ginobili was unstoppable as he found himself in the starting lineup for the first time this year, scoring a season-high 37 points (50% FG) to go with four rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. Tony Parker chipped in 23, but struggled offensively, while Michael Finley came off the bench to score 14 on his former squad. All together, the trio of Spurs guards scored 74 of San Antonio’s 97 points. The Mavericks shot the ball very well, out rebounded the Spurs and scored 23 points off turnovers, but Dirk Nowitzki’s last-second trey from the corner didn’t connect and Dallas went down for the second time in three games.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson vs. Los Angeles Lakers 48 min, 51 pts (FG: 18-27, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 15-18), 2 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Denver (11-8) @ Dallas (12-7)
Both of these teams are coming off Wednesday losses in which some significant truths were revealed. The Nuggets were fortunate to learn that Allen Iverson has still got it. The Answer blew up against the Lakers for a mile-high game-high 51 points, the most he’s scored as a Nugget and the most by any Denver player since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf scored an identical amount in 1995. Unfortunately for the Mavs, their revelation is a lot more depressing. Dirk Nowitzki must reinvent himself if he is ever going to lead his team to a championship. His skills are incredible, but his style of play is incredibly soft. The seven-foot jump-shooter has a phobia of the lane and continues to be shut down by smaller players, as he was by Bruce Bowen on Wednesday. Granted, Bowen is a tremendous defender, but he is also giving up five inches and 45 pounds to the German MVP. Nowitzki shot four-of-11 for 15 points in the loss while Tim Duncan’s absence left a huge hole in the lane.

Buzzer Beater: Believe it or not, but Tracy McGrady only had two career triple-doubles before hitting Memphis up for 17 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists on Wednesday. The last time he accomplished the feat was nearly five ago when he had 46, 13 and 10 against the Nets on Feb. 23, 2003. Last night was certainly a good time to give an all around effort because his normally reliable shooting motion was out of order. T-Mac opened the game by going three-of-15 from the field before finishing with a less than respectable seven-of-22 performance.

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Dirk & Co. throw away a golden opportunity

1. Dallas downer
The on-again-off-again Mavericks are back and currently the switch is off. With Gilbert Arenas riding the pine for the next three months, Dallas couldn’t capitalize and allowed the Wizards to come into Big D and post a 110-98 victory inside American Airlines Center. The Mavs have now lost three in a row after winning five consecutive, but Dallas got some help from the Kings who knocked off the Spurs in Sacramento. Still, a half game here and there won’t make a lick of difference in the postseason if Dallas shoots as poorly as they did on Monday. Dirk Nowitzki went 10-of-18 for 31 points and the rest of his crew was a miserable 23-for-66, including a 3-of-21 display from downtown while Caron Butler had a game-high 35 points and Antawn Jamison finished with 27. The Dallas roster can expect more “verbal abuse” to come spewing out of Avery Johnson after this loss.

2. Warriors came out to play

The Warriors’ comeback from a simply despicable start isn’t complete just yet, but it took a gigantic leap forward last night. It only counts as one game, but to Golden State, their 129-114 shootout victory over Phoenix must feel like they just upset a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Okay, well not that good, but three players finishing with 28 or more points has to be pretty euphoric for the club that basically threw away the first two weeks of the season. Stephen Jackson had 32 points, Monta Ellis finished with 31 and Baron Davis put in 28 to overcome a pair of double-doubles from Shawn Marion and Steve Nash. If the Warriors can defeat Sacramento on Wednesday then they will finally join the .500 club and hopefully we’ll start seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Alba.

3. Orlando. Oregon. It makes no difference to the Magic
We should have seen two of the brightest stars in the league go head to head, but instead we saw Orlando coast to a 85-74 victory over Portland and become the first team to reach the lucky 13th win (nope, Boston is sitting at 11-1). The Trail Blazers could have used Greg Oden’s massive frame in the middle because it didn’t take a whole lot for the Magic to get the job done. Dwight Howard only mustered up nine points of offense, but he grabbed 14 rebounds while Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined for 41 points. Teams better enjoy beating up on Portland right now because Oden’s injury is only making this club stronger. LaMarcus Aldridge is becoming the weapon he was drafted to become and despite his rough outing against Orlando, Brandon Roy (4-18, 12 pts) is shaping up to be all that and then some. If the top pick of this year’s rookie class pans out upon his return, there’s going to be a Western Conference red and black attack for years to come.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Chris Paul vs. Minnesota 43 min, 31 pts (FG: 10-19, 3FG: 3-4, FT: 8-8), 1 reb, 11 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Boston (11-1) @ Cleveland (8-6)
It is arguably the best player on the planet versus arguably the best trio on the planet, but that doesn’t mean this is a clear cut victory for the men in green. The Celtics have looked incredible over their opening frame of the schedule, but everyone saw how LeBron James torched the Pistons last year; he could do it again. LBJ is riding back-to-back triple doubles and his team has now won four of their last five games. Boston has also won four of their last five, of course, they’ve also won 11 of their last 12, but who’s counting? The Cs have been kicking their feet up since narrowing escaping Charlotte with a win on Saturday, but they should get prepared to see a lot of No. 23 flying to the rim because Boston and Cleveland hook up twice in the next six days.

Buzzer Beater: Kobe Bryant might be the only scorer in the league more explosive than Tracy McGrady. T-Mac blew up for 19 of his 36 points during the fourth as the Rockets ran away from LaLa Land (Clippers, not Lakers) with an 88-71 victory. We’ve seen it time and again, but it never ceases to amaze. McGrady’s 13-of-26 performance from the floor followed a 13-for-23 shooting spree against Denver that netted him 35 points. Guess that elbow is feeling a little better.

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Now Mark Cuban has something to dance about

1. 4-1 in their last five against SA; too bad it’s not a playoff series
The Spurs came into Dallas as a sizzling hot team, but it didn’t take long for the Mavericks to toss a bucket of ice water all over San Antonio’s flames. Behind runs of 17-1 and 11-0, the Mavs hit the court running and never bothered to check their rearview mirrors, toasting the Spurs, 105-92. Tim Duncan (24 pts) and Manu Ginobili (25 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl) showed up to play for SA, but they were about the only ones. Mr. Longoria was 1-of-11 for seven points and Michael Finely went 0-of-6. Outside of four rebounds, Finely put up zeros across the stat sheet in 25 minutes against his former club. Meanwhile, Dallas was scoring at will with four players finishing the game with at least 17 points. Josh Howard had a team-high 23 and Dirk Nowitzki was solid with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

2. Bulls get bullied, again

Chicago did what they could, but that wasn’t good enough to knock off the Suns. Grant Hill had a game-high tying 24 points to pace Phoenix as six of the eight Suns to record minutes finished with double-digits in the 112-102 win. What’s amazing about this team is that they continue to roll with just a seven man rotation. The only question surrounding Phoenix at the moment is if they have enough depth for when the playoffs roll around. But there’s plenty of time for that to develop, it’s Chicago that is running out of time. The Bulls are 1-6 now after having four full days to prepare for this game. They’ve got the Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets coming up on the schedule, so, like the old Flintstones Vitamins commercials, the Pistons division lead is at 4 ½ games…and growing.

3. Houston can exhale now
Good news for Rockets fans. After taking a shot to the right elbow, Tracy McGrady couldn’t even shoot a pair of free throws with the arm during Houston’s loss to the Lakers. Turns out that that there’s no damage to the elbow and it’s just a sprain. He’ll probably miss a week or so and then he’ll be putting up 40 on fools like nothing ever happened. Bad news for Rockets fans. Houston heads to San Antonio tonight for their second contest of the season against the Spurs. But it is not the end of the world. Back on the 6th, the Rockets survived a 4-for-14 shooting performance by T-Mac to beat their instate rivals 89-81. In fact, the Rockets might get through this without too much damage. Considering the Spurs got roughed up by Dirk & Co. last night, with a big effort, they might steal one on the road. They have to turn right around and host the Suns on Saturday, but after that they’re off until next Wednesday. Meaning McGrady could be ready to go just in time for a huge game against the Mavs.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Manu Ginobili @ Dallas 31 min, 25 pts (FG: 7-15, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 10-13), 9 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Miami (1-7) @ Boston (7-0)
It’s not too often that you’ll see a team as bad as the Heat make our Game to Watch, but today’s a little different. Pat Riley is on the edge of insanity after enduring the most embarrassing start of his career. Following getting drummed by the Sonics, he threatened to make “a massive shakeup” in his lineup. Well, “massive” really only describes one man on the Heat. So, don’t be surprised when Shaquille O’Neal isn’t jumping for the opening tip against the Celtics. And if Riley follows through, don’t expect Shaq’s absence to be the only new wrinkle in the starting five. So, will his tinkering pay off? Eh, probably not. We all know that Boston is on top of their game and the NBA at the moment. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are about as nasty a trio as the league has ever seen. All we know is that if this trick doesn’t smack some life into the Heat then Riley is probably going to be curled up in the corner of the visitors’ showers, mumbling and sucking his thumb after the game.

Buzzer Beater: Leave it to ESP-freakin’-N to go totally overboard with the Celtics quick start out of the gate. Now, we know that Boston has looked pretty darn good over their first seven games, but are we really doing this already?

NBA Best Teams Ever Comparison

2007-08 Celtics vs. 1995-96 Bulls

Twelve years ago, the Chicago Bulls set a standard of success that many think will never be matched: 72-10 in the regular season. Almost a perfect season.

Well, now we have another fast-starting team, and so far they are running with the Bulls. The Boston Celtics are on pace to surpass the Bulls’ 72 wins and become the second team to win 70 in a season.

Imagine that, they’re on pace to “become the second team to win 70 in a season.” Actually, right now, they’re on pace to win 82 games this season. This is so stupid; can’t we at least wait 10, 20, 30, dare we say, 40 games before we start clearing the pedestal for the new greatest team ever. These guys aren’t even the best Celtic team ever!

Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Seattle lets the Suns shine in their town

1. Sonics boom
The Suns and Sonics put on a heck of a game through three quarters. Unfortunately for Seattle, games last 48 minutes, not 36. Kevin Durant did what he could (27 points, five rebounds) and he got plenty of help from his friends as Chris Wilcox went off for 23 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. But the inexperienced group of diaper dandies just didn’t have the gas or level of execution to close the deal in the fourth and lost 106-99. The fire power of the Suns remains unmatched. Three players finished with double-doubles (Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash) and Grant Hill debuted with an all-around solid performance of 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. We all know that the Suns can and will win games during the regular season, but it’s their inability to win in the postseason that has become their trademark. We’ll have to wait until June to see if this team can break free of the chains that bind them, but in the mean time, just pop open a brew and enjoy the most entertaining brand of ball in the league.

2. No Bull!?!?

The other day, Mark Cuban broke thousands of Mavericks fan’s hearts when he said that there was no way Kobe Bryant would end up in Dallas. Well, Chicago fans, it’s time to break out the tissues because GM John Paxson shot down any hopes of No. 24 becoming the next No. 23 in The Windy City. “There’s not a deal done,” he said Thursday. “There’s not going to be a deal done.” The rumors were that Luol Deng was the one piece that didn’t fit in the trade scenarios: the Bulls were going to have to deal Deng to get Kobe, but Kobe said he didn’t want to go if Deng wouldn’t be on the team. There were even rumors going around that would have landed Kobe in Chi-Town while putting Ben Wallace and Ron Artest in Los Angeles. Bryant for Wallace and Artest??? The Lakers should be ashamed of their front office for even allowing such a rumor to surface. Why not just trade Kobe for Yi Jianlian and a bag of magic beans?

3. Miami Beat

The Miami Heat looked like a team that was missing their leader when they took on the Pistons. Actually, they were missing their leader because Dwyane Wade is still recovering from summer surgeries and he was sitting on the bench in a snappy suit. But, in reality, they were missing both of their leaders because as Wade sat and watched, Shaquille O’Neal was shut down by Detroit double teams. The big fella only had nine points and six shots in the game, none of which came in the first half. Throw in some career-highs from Tayshaun Prince (34 points, 12 rebounds) and you’ve got yourself an easy 91-80 Bad Boy celebration. The one good thing about the game for Miami was that Ricky Davis was solid with 23 points, but we are talking about Ricky Davis. You know, the guy who intentionally missed a shot on his own team’s basket in an attempt to get a triple-double. We know he’s got skills, but that is the last guy in the world you want to have to hitch your trailer up to.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Tracy McGrady @ Utah 40 min,47 pts (FG:17-27, 3FG: 2-5, FT: 11-14), 4 reb, 4 ast

Friday’s Game to Watch: Washington (0-1) @ Boston (0-0)
The Big Ticket and his new buddies make their long awaited debut tonight. For Kevin Garnett, he’s been waiting for this moment his whole life, even if he doesn’t know it or won’t admit it. He finally has the cast around him to make serious noise in the playoffs and there are far fewer giants lurking in the conference to give him hell on defense. But we don’t want to forget about the other loveable losers in this game. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce can finally relax a bit with some help around them and let their natural skills shine though. This team isn’t overly deep, but, then again, they don’t have to be; at least not yet. It should be interesting to see how these guys share the ball, but considering how hungry they all are to establish some postseason presence in Boston, we don’t foresee a problem. Oh, and the Wizards will be there too.

Buzzer Beater: We love Thursday nights because we love Inside the NBA. It’s one of the highlights to our otherwise drab week. And last night just happened to be a great evening of early season basketball. There were the Suns vs. Kevin Durant, the Pistons and the Heat, McGrady’s explosion against the Jazz. So, how the heck did this guy steal the show?

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Warriors sure could use a beer about now

1. The Jazz step up at home
Derek Fisher took one shot during Game 2 of the Utah/Golden State series but it was a biggie as his 3-pointer during overtime gave the Jazz a 123-117 lead that would eventually grow to the final score of 127-117. Fisher was welcomed to the arena with a thunderous ovation late in the game after he had left his daughter’s side who was in the hospital with a rare form of cancer in order to play. While Fisher steals the glory for this victory, it was a total team effort from the Jazz that deserves the credit. Carlos Boozer (30 points, 13 rebounds), Mehmet Okur (23 points, 18 rebounds), and Deron Williams (17 points, 14 assists) all finished the game with double-doubles while Andrei Kirilenko (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six blocks) finally is starting to play like we all knew he could. See what happens when you dry those tears, baby boy. The Warriors had some pretty big games from their stars as well, but when you live by the 3 then a lot of times you’ll end up dying by the 3. And going 15-of-40 from behind the arc is one good way to waste key possessions that are so valuable in the postseason. But just wait until Friday night when the court is surrounded by a golden clad crowd; the Mavericks didn’t seem to adjust very well to that rowdy atmosphere.

2. Pierce says buh-bye to Beijing

Apparently the Boston Celtics don’t have a solid grasp of exactly how the NBA lottery system works because it looks like Paul Pierce will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics due to his injuries. We know that Danny Ainge is desperate to get that hopper loaded full of green and white ping pong balls but someone should tell him that international competition doesn’t count. You know how naïve good ol’ Danny boy can be when it comes to things like this. Remember that time that he just “accidentally” ended up sitting next to Kevin Durant‘s mom during the Big 12 Tournament? Talk about a desperate franchise; after the season they just had, there’s no way that Ainge is going to let his lone All-Star anywhere near harm’s way, even if it is in the name of the U.S.A. And if those ping pong balls bounce Boston’s way then the Celtics could be sporting a pair of superstars when the season starts anew in the fall.

3. T-Mac’s got your back
Jeff Van Gundy might not be sure if he’s going to return for another season as head coach of the Houston Rockets but it sounds like his players definitely want him back. Well, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady both want him back and in Houston those are just about the only opinions that really matter. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s still our coach. Absolutely,” McGrady said. “I’ve said in the past (that) he’s the best coach I’ve played for.” No knock on Van Gundy, but it’s pretty easy to be the best coach in T-Mac’s career; after all, have you seen some of the teams that he’s played on? There’s a reason that McGrady has never made it past the first round of the postseason and it’s not his 28.8 career playoff point per game average.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Mehmet Okur vs. Utah 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-7), 18 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Reports on Wednesday said that Jermaine O’Neal isn’t demanding a trade from the Pacers and that Miami is not looking to deal away Shaquille O’Neal. So, if the O’Neal boys are already off the market, then who is gonna be involved in the summer blockbuster trade? We’d like to say Kevin Garnett but there have been so many conflicting stories coming out of Minnesota, we don’t know what the hell Kevin McHale is thinking anymore. But we’re not going to be surprised by anything that happens involving the Timberwolves, because if McHale can be named the best GM in sports then nothing is impossible in Minny. Except getting KG a supporting cast of course.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Utah gets floored by the Rockets

1. Clutch City is back on track
Carlos Boozer tied a career-high with 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists but it was his critical turnover with 20 seconds left in the game that will be remembered. Boozer dribbled the ball off his foot and helped Houston secure a 98-90 victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series. The Jazz started the season by jumping out to a 12-1 record but ended the year by dropping seven of their last 11 games, and if you throw in their playoff woes, they have lost nine of their last 13 contests. If that’s not bad enough, the Jazz have never won a playoff series after falling behind 0-2. Houston is riding a momentum tidal wave of monumental proportions behind the efforts of their droopy-eyed superstar Tracy McGrady (31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists). If the Rockets can hold on to their lead over the Jazz they’ll be on their way to the second round for the first time since 1997, not to mention it would be T-Mac’s first trip past the opening round in his ten year career. Just keep your mouth shut Tracy; Houstonians don’t want a repeat of your big mouthed fiasco during the 2003 playoffs.

2. The 151st best player in the league

Some observers of the game have been saying that Phoenix has the best starting five in the league, but on Monday the Suns showed that they have a pretty good bench as well. In a landslide, Leandro Barbosa took home the Sixth Man Award (and a nice sized bonus check in the process) to join the likes of Mike Miller, Ben Gordon, Antawn Jamison and others. Barbosa finished with 578 points, including 101 first place votes, to blow away Manu Ginobili (269 points) and Jerry Stackhouse (210 points). This could be the first of many post season awards for Phoenix considering that Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion are all candidates for various awards. The “Brazilian Blur” averaged 18.1 points off the bench to compliment the Suns’ starters; all that’s left for Barbosa to do now is work his way into the starting lineup. And come up with a more creative nickname.

3. The Magic’s disappearing act
The series score is 2-0, but it might as well be 4-0 after Detroit put another hurting on Orlando and held Dwight Howard to just eight points on three-of-nine shooting. Howard has as much potential as any young superstar in the league but his playoff immaturity is definitely shinning through as he has only scored 21 points in the first two games. As it is every night, the rebounding was there on Monday against the Pistons but the Magic won’t even sniff a post season victory until Howard can learn that he must carry the load offensively, as well as defensively. But Howard can’t be held completely accountable for the Magic’s current situation; after all, there aren’t a lot of teams that can compete with the Pistons’ efficiency. Detroit was led by Richard Hamilton’s 22 points but it was a complete effort from the starting five that earned the team a 98-90 victory. In fact, only 10 points came off the bench during the game.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer @ Houston 42 min, 41 pts (FG: 17-30, FT: 7-9), 12 reb, 6 ast

Buzzer Beater: Since Orlando has been visiting Detroit over the past couple of games, it’s needless to say that Darko Milicic has been taking some crap from the fans of his old club. But he’s not letting it get him down; well, at least that’s what he says. “I don’t really care,” said Milicic. “Back home fans used to throw the baseball (bats) and stuff at me – everything. They tried to kill me back home. That’s why I don’t really give a (expletive) about it.” We can see why a little taunting wouldn’t phase you, considering your countrymen attempted to murder you. But we wanna know why the Pistons’ fans are harping on Darko so much in the first place? After all, it was Joe Dumars who blew the pick; all Milicic did was get drafted. Last time we checked it wasn’t Milicic who passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Houston, we have lift off

1. Rockets booster
There were lots of questions about Tracy McGrady’s health during the season and there were even more questions about Yao Ming’s health after he broke his leg, but now all the questions have been answered and the results are not good for the rest of the West. The Suns certainly took notice after Houston pulled out an impressive 120-117 victory behind 39 points from McGrady and 34 from Yao. As if 39 points isn’t enough, McGrady chipped in 11 rebounds and nine assists as well. With the win, Houston gained home-court advantage in their first round series against Utah despite being the fifth seed in the playoffs, and considering that Houston is currently the hottest team in the West, the slumping Jazz are suddenly looking like the underdogs in this much anticipated series.

2. Reappearing act

When Caron Butler first got diagnosed with a broken hand two weeks ago, the outlook was bleak. But now things are starting to look a little more promising for the All-Star forward who says that he is still hopeful he will make a full recovery before the playoffs are over. The only question that remains is if the Wizards will still be playing when he does. Butler was originally supposed to be out of action for six weeks but on Monday he took part in practice with the team. This is great news for the Wizards as they need all the help they can get since Gilbert Arenas had to cut his season short with an injury. Butler’s return probably won’t be enough to get Washington past Toronto or Chicago but it definitely gives them a better chance than having Jarvis Hayes in the starting five.

3. One spot left; who wants it?
With only one day left in the regular season, oddly enough there is still one playoff spot up for grabs and it is for the very undesirable final seed in the West which yields a first round match-up against the Mavericks. The only teams that are in left in contention for the post season are the Warriors and the Clippers. Neither team has an easy opponent but luckily for them their games involve teams that have nothing to play for. The Clips are in the worst position possible as they need to not only defeat the Suns, but they also need the Warriors to lose to Dallas. On the other hand, Golden State has their destiny in their own hands as they simply need to win and they’re in.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Tracy McGrady vs. Phoenix 41 min, 39 pts (FG: 14-31, 3FG: 3-7, FT: 8-11), 11 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (47-33) @ Detroit (51-29) The Raptors will get an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the post season waters as they travel to Detroit for an early battle against the Eastern Conference’s best team. Both teams will probably take it kind of easy during the game in order to avoid any unnecessary injuries before the playoffs but it could still prove to be a great game of chess between the two coaches. This could be a preview of a second round series between these two in a couple of weeks but Chris Bosh and TJ Ford will have to survive a series in the unfamiliar post season before they can start hoping of knocking off the former champs.

Buzzer Beater: One day after the Spurs’ Tim Duncan got teched up, thrown out and supposedly called out, Gregg Popovich decided that he wasn’t going to take any chances with his stars’ futures before the post season. So, last night as the Spurs took on the Grizzlies, Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all enjoyed the entire game from the comfort of the bench. Well, enjoyed might not be the most accurate term considering that Memphis grabbed a 10 point victory, 101-91. But what can realistically be expected when 55 points per game plus a bunch of rebounds, assists, steals and blocks are riding the pine? Hopefully James “Flight” White enjoyed what will most likely be his only chance to ever lead the Spurs in scoring after he tied Michael Finley with 17 points on Monday.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Heeee’s Baaaack

1. Waiting on Wade no more
Dwyane Wade is back on the Miami Heat’s active roster and the playoff bound Eastern Conference teams have got to be sweating bullets. Flash took the court yesterday for the first time in a month and a half and scored 12 points in 27 minutes, but the Heat were unable to welcome their superstar back in proper fashion as they fell to the Bobcats by eight points, 111-103. Wade struggled from the field (3-9 FG) but still managed to dish out eight assists in the loss. But the Heat are still in good shape as they prepare for the post season. They are currently sitting in the fourth spot in the East and appear to have the Southeast Division wrapped up after Washington’s injury problems have basically taken them out of contention. However, the loss pretty much took away any chance Miami had to gain home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

2. Suns burn LA

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and handed out seven assists but it wasn’t enough to knock of the Suns. In what could be a first round playoff preview, Phoenix beat the Lakers 115-107 in the star studded Staples Center in Los Angeles. Steve Nash continued his trek for a third consecutive MVP award as he led the Suns in scoring (25) and assists (11). Phoenix has now beaten LA in nine of the last 11 regular season contests between the two clubs and what’s worse for the Lakers is that the loss moves them into the seventh seed in the West, just three games ahead of the teams who are on the outside of the playoff picture. The Lakers must now win all of their five remaining games if they are going to prevent Phil Jackson from setting a new personal low for wins in a season.

3. Double triple-doubles
On Saturday, Vince Carter racked up big, fat triple-double with 46 points, 16 rebounds and ten assists. But he wasn’t the only Net to scoop up a triple dip. Mr. Triple-Double, Jason Kidd, amassed the 86 triple-double of his career and his 11th of the season as he went off for 10 points, 16 rebounds and 18 assists. The Nets superstars became the first teammates to accomplish the lofty feat since another well known duo pulled it off in 1989. That was when Michael Jordan (41 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) and Scottie Pippen (15 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) blasted the Clippers for a pair of TD’s. Now Kidd and Carter just need to win six championships and they’ll really be like Mike and Pip.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Tracy McGrady @ Sacramento 40 min, 40 pts (FG: 14-28, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 9-12), 8 reb, 10 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Utah (48-28) @ Golden State (37-40) The Warriors are coming off a tough loss to the Spurs on Saturday but they have still won four of their last five games as they continue to keep their playoff hopes alive. But if Golden State wants to close the one game gap between them and the Clippers, Baron Davis is going to have to lead his team past a playoff quality team in the Jazz. Utah has already wrapped up their division crown but they are still in a must win situation because they are currently in a battle with Houston for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Even though the Jazz have locked up the fourth seed in the West, the Rockets can steal the right to hold the majority of the series in Clutch City if they finish the season with a better record.

Buzzer Beater: Normally a rally from 17 points down to grab a five point victory would be considered a pretty sweet comeback. But Philly fans have got to be cringing as they watched their Sixers fight all the way back to beat the Hawks by five, 109-104, in overtime. The win gets them one step closer to nowhere and one step away from the possibility of grabbing Kevin Durant or Greg Oden in the draft this summer. Thanks to a late hot streak in which the 76ers have won 13 of 20, Philadelphia now joins four other teams in a tie for the fifth fewest wins in the league. Can you say Joakim Noah?