1. Suns shine
The Suns received a measure of revenge against their nemesis on Monday by handing the Spurs their first home loss of the season, 100-95. While the win doesn’t erase the painful memories of being eliminated by San Antonio in last year’s playoffs, it was a huge confidence booster for a slumping Suns team. Phoenix lost three of four games before knocking off the champs, including embarrassing losses to Minnesota and Miami. Despite winning, the Suns had absolutely no answer for Tim Duncan who posted season-highs of 36 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs played without Tony Parker for the third consecutive game. Steve Nash came up a pair of rebounds short of a triple double, scoring 10, dishing 10 and boarding eight. With the win, Phoenix is now just half a game behind San Antonio for the current title of “Best in the West.”
2. Disappearing act
Dwight Howard was unstoppable in the first quarter against Dallas, scoring 16 points in the opening period. Unfortunately, the game still had three more quarters left and Howard basically got shut out during the final 36 minutes while Dirk Nowitzki blew up when it mattered. After the quick start, Howard scored just six more points, finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds while Nowitzki put up 11 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth, leading the Mavericks to a 111-108 victory in Dallas. Orlando started the season on fire, but has dramatically cooled of late, losing five of their last six games. However, the Magic can’t focus on the past with games against Houston, Utah and Boston staring them in the face.
3. Upset city
It had been five years since the Hawks beat the Jazz, but streaks are meant to be broken and last night it happened. Joe Johnson led the way offensively for Atlanta, scoring 26, and the Hawks ended their futility against Utah with a 116-111 victory. Carlos Boozer had 39 points and 12 rebounds in defeat as the Jazz dropped their seventh game in eight tries with the only win coming against Seattle. Atlanta, on the other hand, is making an early playoff push. There’s still a whole lotta season left for the Hawks to choke away a city’s hopes and dreams, but considering their history, any playoff push is a good playoff push. Currently, the Hawks are 12-12, good enough for the conference’s seventh best record.
Monday’s Player of the Day: Tim Duncan vs. Phoenix 36 min, 36 pts (FG: 15-25, FT: 6-8), 17 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk
Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (14-9) @ Chicago (8-13)
The Bulls are probably wishing they pulled the trigger on the trade for Kobe Bryant because their offense is one of the most anemic in the league. Averaging just 92.0 points per game, only Charlotte and New Jersey have a harder time putting the ball in the hoop. Meanwhile, Bryant is the league’s second best scorer, averaging 27.2 per game. If the Bulls aren’t careful, this game could get away from them pretty easily and become the Bryant show in the house that Michael built. Ben Wallace has to step up defensively for the Bulls and Luol Deng and Ben Gordon have to show their coach that he made the right decision in not packaging them for Kobe. And for a little extra motivation, Los Angeles whopped the Bulls by 28 points a month ago in Hollywood.
Buzzer Beater: We know it’s a tough thing to admit, but acceptance is the first step in recovery. And on Monday night, Isiah Thomas finally came to grip with the fact that his Knicks are gutless.
Tonight was very discouraging to me because we didn’t collectively play with heart,” Thomas said after the Knicks were clobbered by the Pacers, 119-92. “I think we have the talent, but just because you have the talent and skill doesn’t necessarily mean you have the heart. … For whatever reason, we just stopped competing; we just stopped playing with pride.
In other words, they are a bunch of “sunts“.