1. One and done
The curse of being No. 1 came to life again on Monday. After sitting atop the Western Conference at the All-Star break, the Hornets are riding a three-game losing streak, sliding all the way to fifth in the playoff chase. The latest team to get their shots in on the Bugs was the Wizards. The score was tied at 92-92 when the buzzer sounded and DeShawn Stevenson’s 3-point fadeaway J ripped the twine, giving Washington a 95-92 victory in Nawlins. The trey gave Stevenson 33 on the night to offset a 22-point, 8-assists performance from Chris Paul. New Orleans led nearly the whole game until a Stevenson free throw with less than 15 seconds remaining put the Wiz up 92-91 and the rest is history. Stevenson was responsible for seven of Washington’s final nine points in the comeback.
2. Gimme five!
It certainly wasn’t pretty for the Spurs early on as they scored just five points in the first quarter against the Hawks, but the champs rallied back from their franchise-low to win by 15 points, 89-74. San Antonio shot a pathetic 1-for-17 from the field in the opening period, but finished with a respectable 42 percent shooting effort. Tim Duncan put up 23 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks while Tony Parker had 15 and nine assists. Kurt Thomas grabbed nine rebounds in his Spurs debut. The Hawks didn’t capitalize on the Spurs early woes, scoring just 16 points in the first before going flat once again after halftime when they were outscored by 16 points, 27-11 in the third.
3. Detroit is b-b-b-ballin!
The Pistons continue to roll on their west coast road trip and their latest win came at the expensive of one of the league’s top home teams. All five Detroit starters finished with double-digit points, led by the trio of Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups scoring 20 apiece, as they slipped past the Nuggets 98-93 in Denver. It was just the seventh home loss for Denver who played without head coach George Karl who was ill. However, the lack of normal leadership didn’t seem to affect Allen Iverson (28 pts) or Carmelo Anthony (23 pts, 11 reb). The Nuggets had a chance to tie the game with 6.5 seconds left, but J.R. Smith could only make one of three free throws following a foul beyond the arc by Billups.
Monday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chicago 38 min, 29 pts (FG: 10-19, 3FG: 3-3, FT: 6-6), 10 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk
Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Portland (29-27) @ Los Angeles Lakers (39-17)
Sure, Brandon Roy will most likely miss the game with a bum ankle, but this is still a must-see game. After all, we’re talking about a pissed off Kobe Bryant leading a Lakers squad riding an eight-game winning streak while holding the top record in the West. Bryant got tossed from a blow-out in Seattle and there is no doubt he’ll be taking his frustrations out on the Blazers – with or without Roy. Don’t forget, Kobe dropped 65 points on the Blaze last season.
Buzzer Beater: Jason Kidd returned to Dallas on Monday night, playing in front of his new/old home crowd for the first time since 1996. It was like he never left…except the Mavericks won. Kidd almost put together a patented triple-double in his debut, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 102-94 victory over the Bulls. So, J-Kidd, how’d it feel to be back?
I was happy to be back home. This is where it all started for me,” Kidd said. “I didn’t get an opportunity with that franchise [the Mavericks of the mid-1990s] like this one. This is different and I’m going to take advantage of that.