Normally, when bears attack it ends with blood, guts and the detachment of body parts. However, when the Houston Rockets’ mascot attacks, it ends with laughter. For us, that is.
Normally, when bears attack it ends with blood, guts and the detachment of body parts. However, when the Houston Rockets’ mascot attacks, it ends with laughter. For us, that is.
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.
1. Double deuce
Los Angeles was without Pau Gasol on Sunday afternoon, but Houston didn’t feel any mercy for the undermanned Lakers, winning its 10th straight game without center Yao Ming by beating LA 104-92. The Rockets used a 35-21 advantage in the second quarter to propel them to a 22nd consecutive victory while simultaneously taking over first place in the Western Conference. Despite Houston’s poor performance in the third quarter when it scored just 12 points, the Lakers could get no closer than two points before the Rockets pulled back ahead. Rafer Alston scored a career-high 31 points by hitting eight 3-pointers to compensate for Tracy McGrady’s 4-of-16 poor shooting performance. Kobe Bryant tallied a team-high 24 points as Los Angeles lost its third game in four outings. The Rockets are now 11 games away from tying the 1971-72 Lakers for the all-time longest win streak, but they have a difficult schedule ahead with a game at home versus Boston followed by a three-game road trip that includes New Orleans, Golden State and Phoenix.
2. Purple Hayes
Detroit has never been lacking in the playmaker department and now you can add Jarvis Hayes to the modern day Bad Boys’ list of multidimensional scorers. Hayes was unconscious in the second quarter of yesterday’s 105-84 Detroit victory over New Orleans, scoring 19 of his 29 points in the period by connecting on 6-of-7 shots, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc. The Pistons have now won four of their last five games, pulling within 4 ½ games of Easter Conference leader Boston. Chris Paul delivered 14 points and 14 assists for New Orleans while Peja Stojakovic scored 21, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Hayes’ big outing. The fifth-year player out of Georgia matched his career-high in scoring, finishing the day with seven treys while Chauncey Billups posted 17 points and Tayshaun Prince added 13.
3. Denver wins BIG
If we told you before the game yesterday that we’d give you Seattle plus 51 ½ points against the Nuggets, you probably would have bet your kid’s college tuition fund on the Sonics. Well, if that was the case, you’d have one pissed off son or daughter right now because Denver defeated the lowly Sonics by 52 points on Sunday, 168-116. That’s no misprint. Led by Carmelo Anthony’s 26 points, the Nuggets scored the fourth most points ever in a regulation game and achieved the largest margin of victory in franchise history. Only the Suns in 1990 (173 pts), the Celtics in 1959 (173 pts) and the 76ers in 1962 (169 pts) can claim better offensive outings than the Nuggets. Seattle didn’t even have an opportunity to blink before Denver posted 48 points in the first quarter! By the end of the contest, four Nuggets put in 19 or more points while all 12 players getting minutes recorded a point. Denver center Marcus Camby finished with a triple-double, scoring 13 points, rebounding 15 balls and dishing out 10 assists.
I’ve never been a part of a game like this where we won by so many points and scored so many points,” Camby said. “This is definitely a game I’m going to keep in my archives.
Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Charlotte 42 min, 33 pts (FG: 11-24, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 10-16), 7 reb, 10 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk
Monday’s Game to Watch: Boston (52-13) @ San Antonio (44-22)
After briefly sitting atop the talented West dog pile, the Spurs are getting dangerously close to falling out of postseason picture after playing .500-ball over their last 10 games. San Antonio is riding a three-game losing streak while dropping five out of their last six overall. The one game they won was in San Antonio where the Spurs are dramatically better, posting a 27-5 record inside the AT&T Center. Boston has won 11 of its last 12 games and is playing its second game of a five-game roadie that includes the terrifying “Texas Triangle” and New Orleans. Ray Allen missed the road trip opener against Milwaukee on Saturday night with a bruised heel, but he is expected to be ready for tonight’s showdown.
Buzzer Beater: Believe it or not, but the Hawks are on the verge of breaking into the playoff picture. We know that it’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around, but with their 109-98 win in New York, Atlanta tied New Jersey for the eighth and final postseason seed. The Nets still own the tiebreaker over the Hawks, however Joe Johnson is dead set on guiding his squad to the second season. Johnson scored 28 points and assisted on 11 more baskets, bringing his five-game average to 30.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. It won’t take long for these two teams to settle their playoff-positioning dispute on the court because on Wednesday they’ll go head to head in Jersey.
1. Rockets keep rolling
Despite winning their 20th consecutive game against Atlanta on Wednesday, the Rockets showed signs of slippage along the way. Houston managed to score just 32 points in the first half of last night’s game, but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize on their sorry opening half and lost 83-75. Tracy McGrady led the hottest team in the league with 28 points and nine rebounds as Houston shot just 33 percent from the field, including a pathetic 6-of-29 performance from behind the 3-point line. But regardless of the percentages, the Rockets are now tied for the second-longest win streak in league history. Just to put it into perspective, while Houston has won 20 straight contests, there are five teams (New York, Miami, Seattle, Memphis and Minnesota) who have yet to win 20 games during the entire season.
2. Hornets deliver against the champs
The Spurs fell out of the Southwest Division’s driver seat last night thanks to a 100-75 pounding from the Hornets. Chris Paul was unstoppable with 26 points and 17 assists in the game, pulling his team within ½ of a game of Houston and SA for the division title – the Rockets are now in first via a tiebreaker with the Spurs. San Antonio got 24 points from both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, but the Spurs only scored eight points as a team in the final quarter as Nawlins pulled away. Hornets All-Star forward David West missed three games prior to the victory, but he didn’t miss a beat against Duncan. West finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds.
3. Sixers shocker
Despite going scoreless during the final 2:27 of the game, Philadelphia somehow managed to steal a victory in Detroit. Chauncey Billups had an opportunity to win the game, but his buzzer-beater bounced off the rim, giving the Sixers an improbable 83-82 victory. Andre Iguodala finished with a game-high 22 points as Philly won its seventh game in nine tries, bringing their record to 31-34 which is seventh best in the East.
Wednesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ New Jersey 46 min, 42 pts (FG: 12-23, 3FG: 2-7, FT: 16-23), 11 reb, 7 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk
Thursday’s Game to Watch: Golden State (40-23) @ Phoenix (42-22)
While this game pits the league’s two top-scoring clubs against each other, there’s more on the line than offensive supremacy. The Warriors are fighting to catch the Suns in the standings and a win tonight would bring them within ½ game of their division rivals while also putting a little bit of breathing room between themselves and the Nuggets who are trying to grab the last playoff spot currently occupied by Golden State. For Phoenix, a win would mean gaining ground on the Lakers in the division. This could be a game where Shaquille O’Neal proves to be a detriment to the team as the Warriors will try to beat the big fella down the court every single possession.
Buzzer Beater: Greg Oden finally practiced with his teammates on Wednesday, putting in 45 minutes of work after missing the entire season with a knee injury. While he wasn’t going full speed, he tested the knee as he ran a few offensive sets. All in all, it’s a great sign for the Portland faithful.
It was fun,” Oden said afterwards, according to The Oregonian. “It felt good to get out there … and I wasn’t hurting at all.
Doing an impression of Dikembe Mutombo might sound easy enough, but most people end up sounding more like Cookie Monster. Lucky for us, his Rockets brethren have the impression down pat.
Not bad, fellas; not bad. But we’re still kind of partial to the real deal.
[Awful Announcing]: The Rockets Imitate Dikembe Mutombo, Hilarity Ensues
1. Movin’ on up
The Rockets took another jab at their critics on Monday night by extending their win streak to 19 games with a 91-73 thumping of New Jersey. Tracy McGrady scored 19 points as he continues to pilot his team toward the playoffs despite flying without a co-captain on the floor. Houston is now just one victory away from tying the 1970-71 Bucks for the second-longest all-time win streak and they tied an NBA record with their 10th consecutive win by at least 10 points. You have to figure that at some point the loss of Yao Ming is going to kick in and send Houston tumbling down the West standings, but as of now, they are just a mere game behind Los Angeles and San Antonio for best conference record. And frankly, after winning 28-of-31 games, they deserve to momentarily sit atop the fiercest postseason-positioning battle we’ve ever seen.
They’ve been beating teams to the punch all year long and Monday night was no different for Boston. With a 100-86 victory over the streaking 76ers, the Celtics became the first team in the league to reach 50 wins for the season. Philadelphia immediately fell into 15-point deficit, going scoreless for almost the entire first five minutes of the game. After that, it was an uphill battle for the Sixers who were on a four-game winning streak overall with an eight-game home winning streak. The nagging abdominal injury responsible for keeping Kevin Garnett sidelined during All-Star weekend appears to be fully recovered. The Big Ticket scored a game-high 26 points to go with 12 rebounds while Ray Allen added 21 points. Sam Cassell made his debut in the contest, but all did not go according plan for the new backup point guard who picked up four fouls in five minutes of work.
3. Torching the Blaze
The Cavaliers got off to a bumpy start against Portland on Monday, but by the time the final buzzer sounded, LeBron James had his 17th career triple-double and his team was 10 games over .500 for the first time this year. The Blazers were up 25-14 after the first quarter before James rallied his team to an 88-80 victory by scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 11 assists. The triple-dip is the seventh on the season for James who recorded his 100th double-double in the win while also extending his streak of 20-plus point outings to 41 consecutive games. It was a big win for Cleveland (37-27) as they try to chase down Orlando for the third seed in the East; however, for Portland the defeat was crushing. The team that showed so much promise earlier in the year is now seven games outside the playoff picture with only 19 opponents left on the schedule.
Monday’s Player of the Day: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Atlanta 38 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-17, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 2-2), 10 reb, 13 ast
Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (34-28) @ Los Angeles Lakers (44-19)
It’s Kobe Bryant versus the Raptors and we really shouldn’t have to say much more than that. Over his career, Bryant lights-up Toronto to the tune of 28.0 points per game, including his 81-point explosion back in 2006. Earlier this season, the Lakers MVP candidate converted 19 of his 28 attempts, clocking in 46 points during the 20-point pounding. Making things worse for Toronto is that All-Star Chris Bosh’s status is still uncertain as he tends to an injured knee.
Buzzer Beater: Hedo Turkoglu wasn’t the only player lighting it up for the Magic as they reeled off 74 points in the first half en route to a 123-112 win over Atlanta. Dwight Howard finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds, giving him 20 25-point, 15-rebound games in three years. Nobody else in the league can claim to match that stat. Next in line is Kevin Garnett with 17 followed by the injured Yao Ming (15) and Utah forward Carlos Boozer (14).
1. Rockets win game, but lose in the long run
Yao Ming was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot yesterday, rendering him useless for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. This is just about the worst news possible for Tracy McGrady as he will most likely go another season without tasting the second round. The Rockets were the hottest team in the league before Yao went down, winning 12 consecutive games. Guess what; they are still the hottest team in the league. Houston crushed the Wizards on Tuesday, winning by 25 points, 94-69, against the Wizards. Washington scored a pathetic 23 points during the opening half with old man Dikembe Mutombo patrolling the paint. Mutombo finished with just four point and six rebounds, but he had four finger-wagging blocks in the contest. A bummed out McGrady shot just 4-of-15 from the field, missed half his free throws and finished with a mere 11 points. Luckily, Luis Scola was on fire, connecting on all seven of his attempts for 14 points.
2. Phoenix finally plays like Phoenix again
Shaquille O’Neal finally got himself a double-double in a Phoenix uniform, going for 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 127-113 win in Memphis. The big fella got plenty of help from his friends in this game as Steve Nash (13 ast) and Amare Stoudemire put up 25 points apiece while Grant Hill tallied 23. In all, six of the seven Suns players to get significant minutes got double-digits in scoring. Memphis had a pretty impressive outing in the loss with all five starters going for 15 points or more, led by Rudy Gay’s game-high 36. The Suns 127 points were a welcome sight after putting up 85 and 86 in their previous two contests.
3. Lakers roll, still best in the West
Kobe Bryant is playing out of his mind right now. The Lakers superstar scored 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out seven assists and poked free two steals to led the his club past an undermanned Portland crew. Bryant got 11 of his 30 points in the final period, lifting Los Angeles to a 96-83 win while maintaining the buffer zone between first place L.A. and the rest of the surging Western Conference. Pau Gasol added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Jordan Farmar came off the bench to put in 21 points, helping the Lakers grab their ninth consecutive victory. Without Brandon Roy in the lineup, it was an uphill battle for the Blazers, but sophomore LaMarcus Aldridge filled in nicely, producing 24 points. Portland can look for revenge this Friday when the Lakers head to the Rose Garden for a rematch.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Steve Nash @ Memphis 40 min, 25 pts (FG: 8-11, 3FG: 3-5, FT: 6-6), 2 reb, 13 ast
Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Cleveland (32-25) @ Boston (43-12)
The new-look Cavaliers are going to get the biggest challenge since acquiring Ben Wallace tonight when they head to Beantown for a game against the league’s top dogs. Cleveland is just 15-15 on the road this season, but with LeBron James in the lineup, a win in Boston isn’t all that farfetched. James is unstoppable at the moment, averaging 30.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game over his last five contests with two triple-doubles in the same span. Of course, he hasn’t been lining up across from the best triple-threat in the game either. With a healthy Kevin Garnett back, Boston is back to being the scary squad from earlier in the season, even if their record doesn’t indicate it. The Cs are 2-3 since KG’s return.
Buzzer Beater: Pat Riley has been a cantankerous old fart all season long. Frankly, we can’t blame him. But on Tuesday, he finally had reason to smile as the Heat snapped an 11-game losing streak by spanking the Kings 107-86. Heck, Riley even joked around after the game:
I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony,” Riley added. “I know what to do. I just don’t know where to start.
We know Houston is totally bummed about losing Yao Ming for the season, but one
good great thing to come out of the injury is Dikembe Mutombo is finally getting some face time again.
[Awful Announcing]: Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Peanut Brittle!
1. Rockets taking off without McGrady
The Rockets are finally getting used to playing without Tracy McGrady. In fact, Houston won their third consecutive game by beating Washing 92-84 on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, T-Mac might be back in uniform for Friday’s game at home against the Timberwolves after being sidelined since Dec. 23. Hopefully for Houstonians, McGrady adds to the team’s current success instead of devolving the chemistry. Led by Luther Head’s 24 points, three Rockets reached double-figures against the Wiz, including Yao Ming who finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. With the win, Houston (18-17) jumped above .500 for the first time since being 12-11 almost a month ago.
2. Are you Kidding?
Jason Kidd racking up a triple-double is nothing new, but do it three games in a row and, now, we’ve got something to talk about. On Tuesday, Kidd became the first player since Grant Hill to record a triple-dip in a trio of consecutive games by scoring 13 points, grabbing 11 boards and passing out 12 assists against the Bobcats. And if Kidd hadn’t come up two assists shy in a game against Orlando, he would be looking at four straight triple-doubles. The last person to do that was, you guessed it, Michael Jordan who had seven consecutive way, way back in 1989. Oh, and if you care about things like team play and scores then you might be interested to know that Charlotte defeated the Nets quite easily, 115-99.
3. Fancy meeting you here
LeBron James didn’t have to go pro. Kevin Durant didn’t need to go to college. But regardless of their individual paths, the two superstars (one established and one in the making) met on the hardwood for the first time Tuesday night. Durant played one of the best contests of his rookie campaign, scoring a game-high 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting and grabbed six rebounds before spraining his ankle late in the game. Despite the early exit, Durant won the one-on-one offensive battle against LBJ, but his team lost the war with the Cavs. James finished with 22 points and Cleveland cruised to a 95-79 home victory.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Dwight Howard @ Sacramento 38 min, 29 pts (FG: 11-13, FT: 7-8), 15 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk
Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (26-8) @ Dallas (23-11)
The Pistons have been off since Saturday and in that time, you know the Bad Boys have been stewing over their loss to East’s glitzy favorites, the Beantown Celtics. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, they’re next in line and the Pistons are dying to get back to their winning ways. Before the loss to Boston, Detroit won 11 consecutive games and 18 out of 20, but Dallas is finally catching fire as well. After bouncing back and forth between wins and losses, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs seem to have found some consistency, winning four straight and nine of their previous 11 contests. Since scoring a season-low seven points against New Orleans on Dec. 14, Nowitzki has topped 19 points in the last ten games, scoring 30 or more four times.
Buzzer Beater: Losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves is pretty much the lowest of low, even for the lowly Miami Heat. But that is exactly what happened on Tuesday when the T-Wolves picked up their fifth win of the season by spanking the Shaqless Heat 101-91. After the game, Dwyane Wade made the understatement of the year.
We’re not exactly 28-5 this year,” Wade said of his 8-27 Heat, who have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. “We’re one of the worst teams in the league as well.
1. Big players, big audience
The most anticipated game in the world will go down tonight as two of the league’s giants match-up. To Americans it’s the Rockets and the Bucks, but to the Chinese it’s Yao Ming vs. Yi Jianlian. The two sensations from China go head-to-head for the first time tonight and the game is expected to be seen by more than 200 million people in China. Over there it will be early Saturday morning and instead of cartoons, 19 different TV stations will broadcast the game, including the country’s government-run station, and it will be offered on the web. People can even watch the game on their cell phones. Of course, here in the States, ESPN is showing Denver and Washington. Nice call guys.
2. Mavs beat Warriors a few months too late
Sure, it doesn’t matter, but the Mavericks finally got a small measure of revenge against the Warriors. It was another nail-biting, down-to-the-wire contest between the clubs with Jerry Stackhouse hitting a dagger shot in the final minute that led to Dallas’ 120-115 victory. Barron Davis did everything he could to try and carry his team, including a sweet reverse slam off the backboard, but his 37 points just weren’t enough and Golden States slips to 0-5. Davis had a shot late to tie the game up, but it didn’t fall. Stephen Jackson missed the game due to a suspension and it’s arguable that , had he played, the Warriors might not be winless. Of course that’s making the huge assumption that he could actually stay on the court for an entire game and not get slapped with a pair of techs.
3. Seattle’s permanent road trip
There’s been much speculation around the future of the Seattle SuperSonics and their possible relocation to become the Oklahoma SuperSonics. David Stern weighed in on the situation Thursday and he pretty much told the Seattle faithful that they are screwed should the team bolt. “I’d love to find a way to keep the team there,” Stern said, “because if the team moves, there’s not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.” Those are pretty harsh words, but it shouldn’t be that difficult of an adjustment for the fans. After all, Seattle hasn’t really had a team since Gary Payton was lobbing alley-oops to Shawn Kemp in the 90s.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Baron Davis vs. Dallas 48 min, 37 pts (FG: 14-26, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 6-9), 5 reb, 5 ast, 1 stl
Friday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (4-1) @ New Orleans (4-1)
We know that all of China will be watching Milwaukee @ Houston, but we’re telling you that SA/NO is where the action will be. We know exactly what to expect on one side of the ball; the Spurs are still the Spurs and they are still playing Spurs ball with the same Spurs cast. It’s the Hornets who are turning heads early in the year. Chris Paul is playing lights-out, averaging 18.6 points and 12.4 assists to go along with the team’s emerging duo of Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic who serve as the inside/outside threats. New Orleans should give the Spurs a run for their money in this game and possibly the entire season as they both race toward the Southwest Division championship.
Buzzer Beater: Going into last night’s game, the Bulls were winless and their rivals, the Pistons, were lossless. So, of course, both streaks would be snapped by the end of the night as Chicago beat Detroit 97-93. Nobody actually thought that the Bulls were a 0-4 caliber team after starting the season slowly and they proved everyone right as they rallied around a huge night from Tyrus Thomas (19 pts, 14 reb). Luol Deng chipped in 17 points, Ben Gordon had 16 and Kirk Hinrich dished out 14 assists. Joakim Noah even shut his trap long enough to score the third and fourth points of his career. The Pistons aren’t washed up by any stretch of the imagination, but this could be the beginning of a big year for the Bulls as they look to shed the final pounds from their Baby Bulls image.