Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Amare Stoudemire shines in a fight to the finish

1. Sun-sational finish
The Suns were supposedly shopping Amare Stoudemire over the summer in hopes of winning the Kevin Garnett lottery. Well, losing out never felt so good. Stoudemire, who was rumored to be an eyelash away from landing in Atlanta, went off in Indy last night, netting 42 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Phoenix’s 121-117 victory. Of course, with Steve Nash getting the ball to any open player in a purple jersey, even Kwame Brown could thrive in this system. Nashty was on fire, torching the Pacers for an 18-point, 17-rebound double-double. Not enough fat numbers for you? Shawn Marion had 14 points and 12 boards in the win. On the other side of the floor, home fans were thrilled to have a Jermaine O’Neal sighting during the contest as the former All-Star had a big man double-double of 30 and 11, but they could have gone with out the game-high six turnovers.

2. Even nauseous, Kobe’s better 95% of the league

Kobe Bryant spent his Tuesday feeling sicker than a dog. Then on Tuesday night, he took to the court against Minnesota and threw up 20 points, 13 in the first quarter, and a sick 360 dunk as the Lakers killed the T-Wolves 116-95. Andrew Bynum had the same stomach ailment as Kobe, but unlike the team’s sole superstar, the youngster went to the hospital and missed the game. Kobe takes a lot of flack for being selfish, but he’s got more heart and will to win in his pinky finger than most players have in their whole body. We hate when anybody gets compared to Michael Jordan, but we gotta agree with Jerry Sichting on this one.

How are you going to tell if he’s got the flu?” acting Wolves head coach Sichting said. “He’s a lot like Jordan. It doesn’t matter with guys like that. He made ME sick.

Don’t worry coach, he makes opposing coaches ill on a nightly basis.

3. Chalk up another upset for the Kings
The Sacramento Kings don’t exactly instill the same level of fear in their opponents that they once did, but maybe they should. Nobody is expecting the Kings to make it to the Finals or even to get out of the first round, but they have some solid wins over playoff-bound squads of late and they might not be done yet. On Tuesday, Sacramento was clutch down the stretch, scoring 43 points in the fourth quarter to knock off the Jazz by 10, 117-107. Despite being just half a game away from sitting in their division’s cellar, Sactown has wins over the Pistons, Spurs, Rockets and now the Jazz. But Sacramento’s trek is about to become even more of an uphill battle as Kevin Martin, the league’s seventh best scorer (24.5 ppg), is out for the next four to six weeks with a groin tear. Ouch.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire @ Indiana 36 min, 42 pts (FG: 15-24, FT: 12-13), 13 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (10-8) @ Denver (11-7)
One game currently separates the Lakers and the Nuggets in the standings out west, but nobody cares about teams anymore. We’re a superstar society and we want points, points and more points when we tune into the Association. Well, there are three players in this game who are capable of dropping 50 on anyone’s head at any time, so that should satisfy the masses. Bryant is sitting at second in the league in scoring with 27.2 points per contest while Carmelo Anthony is fifth (25.3 ppg) and Allen Iverson comes in at eighth with 23.5 points. And you can expect the Denver duo to be looking for some revenge after the Lakers routed the Nuggets 127-99 on Nov. 29 in L.A.

Buzzer Beater: For a minute there it looked like the NBA’s version of Sideshow Bob was going to quit his gig as sidekick to one of the league’s biggest attractions to waste away in Charlotte. According to Cavs GM Danny Ferry, that isn’t going to be happening. Terms of the contract haven’t been disclosed, but Ferry said on Wednesday morning that the team has matched the Bobcats’ offer, meaning Anderson Varejao and his hair aren’t going anywhere. Unfortunately, is appears the Cavs aren’t going anywhere either until LeBron James gets over his finger injury. James was injured in a loss at Detroit on Nov. 28 and has missed the last three games, all loses, with a sprained left index finger.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Beautiful People And The Unsightly

1. Hollywood’s House of Horrors
To borrow a phrase from Tom Jackson; Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and all of the other Lakers got JACKED UP!! Dallas showed no mercy on Los Angeles as they defeated them by 36 points, 108-72, as Jack Nicholson, Tobey Maguire, Penny Marshall and Dyan Cannon all watched on. Kobe and crew had their worst offensive output of the season in the worst home loss in franchise history. The nastiest pounding the Lakers organization had ever received in Lalaland before last night was a 35 point spanking, 144-109, by the San Francisco Warriors on November 19, 1966.

But the Lakers shouldn’t let the loss get them too distraught since they can still claim a victory over the Mavs this season. That’s more than most teams can say. And they can also lay claim to the longest span of regular season home games without being defeated by 30 points or more. Sunday’s loss marked the end of that 1,521 game period that dated back to November 1969.

2. Late Bloomers
Everyone knows that the NBA’s hottest team is Dallas with 17 consecutive victories. And most know that San Antonio is also riding a double-digit win streak that has reached 12 straight. But a lot of people aren’t aware that two of the teams nipping on the heels of the league’s longest active win streak were on the verge of being in the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant sweepstakes just a few weeks ago. The Allen Iversonless 76ers are just four games away from grabbing the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after ripping off seven straight wins that included victories over the Suns, Lakers and Pacers. Right behind Philly is Miami who has won six in a row as an invigorated Shaquille O’Neal has carried the Heat since they lost Dwyane Wade to a dislocated shoulder in late February. Thanks to a 106-104 victory over the Wizards on Sunday Miami is only one game behind Washington for the Southeast Division lead which would guarantee them one of the top four spots in the East.

3. Run For The Border
It’s not too often that a coach gets pissed off when an opposing player misses a 3-pointer, but that’s exactly what happened at the end of yesterday’s game between Indiana and Cleveland. With the game firmly in the Cavs hands, 99-84, and the final buzzer buzzing, Sideshow Bob’s biggest fan, Anderson Varejao, launched a 26-foot trey that failed to fall but succeeded in drawing the evil eye from Pacer coach Rick Carlisle. But what sour puss Carlisle didn’t consider was that the last second heave was meant to bring happiness to thousands; not mount more humiliation on a few. See, the three would have put Cleveland over 100 points which would have given everyone in attendance a free chalupa from Taco Bell. Now, don’t you feel silly coach?

Sunday’s Player of the Day: T.J. Ford vs. Seattle 37 min, 25 pts (FG: 11-15, FT: 3-4), 4 reb, 13 ast, 3 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Houston (39-24) @ Phoenix (48-14) The All-Star power is off the charts in this contest as five of the league’s elite will make the start between the two clubs. The Suns come into this game with the second best record in the league and, like usual, are riding a nice winning streak; four in a row and nine of their last ten. But Houston is on a three game win streak of their own as Yao Ming is bouncing back into shape way ahead of schedule. Yesterday against the Magic, Yao looked like the dominant player he was before breaking his leg in November as he went off for 37 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a 103-92 victory. Tracy McGrady didn’t disappoint as he put up 19 points and 10 assists in the game. Nevertheless, no team wants to make the trip to Phoenix for the backside of a back-to-back.

Buzzer Beater: After a weepy Ron Artest apologized to the world on Saturday for his latest random act of stupidity, he came out and played decent ball in his first game since being reinstated. But don’t let the sniffles and tears fool you, it’s only a matter of time before Artest’s name is back in the headlines for some dumb off court decision. Eric Musselman is just hoping to get through the remainder of the regular season and any playoff run that Sacramento might see before Ron-Ron loses his marbles again. It’s like Terrell Owens in Big D; you know he’s gonna screw the franchise eventually, so all you can hope to do is milk him for 150 yards and a pair of TD’s per game until he does.