NBA General

Around the Rim: The West is almost set

1. No Mailman needed for this West finals delivery
The best story in the NBA postseason is finally over as the Jazz put together a late run and sent the league’s version of Cinderella packing for the offseason with a 100-87 victory in Game 5, but, more importantly, the win put Utah into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1998. But just because Golden State is out of the picture doesn’t mean that there are no true heroes left. At least that’s what the media keeps shoving down our throat about Derek Fisher. Handling the rock in all the critical moments and knocking down his shots with a sharpshooters’ precision (7-10 FG, 4-5 3FG), Fisher left his fingerprints all over this game. Now the Jazz are left to practice, watch, wait and repeat until the dramatics over in the other half of the West bracket finally get hashed out. But GS can still be proud of what they did this year and how they played. Unfortunately, they were just a bit too raw for the refined playoffs and while it was rabid emotion that carried the Warriors over the Mavericks, it was that same enthusiasm which would eventually be their downfall. There was a whirlwind of whistles directed at The City ballers toward the end of the third quarter and the Warriors just began to slowly unravel over the final 12 minutes. We all knew that the Golden State run would eventually end but it still doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to Jessica Alba.

2. Who’s getting Bull-ied around now?

Two games ago, the Bulls were beaten up, thrown around and left for dead on the side of the road after falling down 3-0 to Detroit. But unlike those bloated deer that get blasted by speeding SUVs on streets across the nation, these guys rose from the dead to win two consecutive games against the Pistons. Never seen road kill do that before. Ben Gordon was obviously alive and well as he scored a game-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field that included a 5-of-6 performance from behind the arc. Kirk Hinrich didn’t resemble a dead armadillo or opossum either as he dished out 13 helpers to go with 17 points in the 108-92 Chicago victory. The Pistons are known for blowing comfy leads in the postseason but they are also known for winning the games that they have to have. But if they want to end this series quickly they are going to have to take care of business on the road. And Chicago is where Ben Wallace has had his biggest games of the series. In the two games in Chi-Town, Big Ben has pulled down 29 rebound while he only has 20 boards in the three Detroit contests.

3. The commish shows no love for Amare
We all knew that there would probably be suspensions handed out by David Stern after Robert Horry sent Steve Nash flopping flying into the scorer’s table. The incident had Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw hopping mad, and unfortunately for the Suns they hopped off the bench and onto the court which earned each of them a game suspension. Guess the whole “I was checking into the game” strategy didn’t work out for Amare. On the other side of the series, Horry’s actions earned him a two game suspension. It would seem that the Suns just lost Game 5 but now there is a ton of extra pressure on the Spurs as the suspensions have put them in a must-win situation that they must capitalize on. But, hell, we think it’s pretty safe to say that any coach in the league would rather be in Gregg Popovich‘s loafers instead of Mike D’Antoni‘s in this pivotal Game 5.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Utah 34 min, 21 pts (FG: 8-12, FT: 5-5), 15 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl

Buzzer Beater: Dwyane Wade had to be feeling like a total idiot as he started putting on that stupid paper garment before going under the knife to repair both knee and shoulder. This was a surgery that he could have done back in February but instead opted to skip the procedure and rehab his way back into shape for the playoffs. And we think everybody knows how productive that decision turned out to be for Flash. Turns out that Dwyane’s pains were primarily coming from his knee and not the shoulder that sent him sobbing from the arena in a wheelchair. The recovery will probably take the entire offseason and possibly longer. Unfortunately, for Miami the “jumper’s knee” condition is nothing new to the franchise. Jason Williams had a similar operation performed last July and he was still in pain for half of the season.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Da’ Bulls are dancing all over Miami

1. Repeat defeat
Most people seem to think that a team isn’t in trouble in the playoffs until they lose a game on their home court. Well, Miami hasn’t lost on their home court but they still appear to be in serious trouble after the Bulls ran over Miami for a 107-89 win and took a 2-0 advantage in the series. The defending champions are getting thoroughly thrashed by what appears to be a more complete team unit in the Bulls. Luol Deng continues to abuse defenders as he put together another impressive outing with 26 points and six assists to go along with Ben Gordon’s game-high 27 points. But you can’t count out the Heat just yet; after all, Miami did drop the first two games of last year’s finals before going on to take the title away from Dallas in six games. Chicago, on the other hand, blew a 2-0 lead in the first round to the Wizards two years ago.

2. The Mamba strikes and misses

At the end of the first half of game one it looked like Kobe Bryant was going to carry the Lakers on his back to playoff victory. The past six quarters between the Phoenix and Los Angeles have proven that nothing could be further from the truth. Even if Bryant could string together another batch of 50 point games like he did earlier in the year, it still wouldn’t be enough to get this lackadaisical Lakers squad past the first round. The Suns just toyed with LA like a cat with a mouse on Tuesday as Steve Nash dished out 14 assists and newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year Leandro Barbosa put up a game-high 26 points off the bench in the 126-98 win. The odds are definitely going to be stacked against Los Angeles when the series heads to Hollywood and it’s going to take a lot of extra rooting from Jack, Denzel, Dyan and the other famous faces in the Staples Center crowd to keep the Lakers from falling down 3-0.

3. Sam’s the man
There were lots of worthy candidates for this season’s Coach of the Year award, but when it came down time to vote only one man could earn the honor. Toronto’s Sam Mitchell was named that man on Tuesday and rightfully so. Mitchell took the award with 394 total points, including 49 first place votes, over other possible candidates like Jerry Sloan (301 points), Avery Johnson (268 points) and Jeff Van Gundy (134 points). Who would have ever guessed that Mitchell would turn around a struggling Toronto franchise that was widely considered to be one of the black holes of the league? Certainly not the players of the Association because last April a Sports Illustrated informal poll amongst league ballers declared Mitchell to be the NBA’s worst coach. But nobody is saying Mitchell is a bottom feeder anymore since the Raptors made a 20-game improvement over last year’s dismal 27-55 record. And just hours after receiving the award, Mitchell went out and led the Raptors as they evened up their series with New Jersey by defeating them 89-83. Suck on that SI!

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Steve Nash vs. Los Angeles Lakers 25 min, 16 pts (FG: 7-11, 3FG: 2-4), 5 reb, 14 ast

Buzzer Beater: Danny Ainge thought he was getting Boston’s point guard of the future last year when he made the trade for teenage phenomenon Sebastian Telfair. Turns out that he got a giant headache instead and after just one season the Celtics have decided that enough is enough and cut ties with the 21-year-old. “I wanted to let you know that we have removed Sebastian’s nameplate from his locker in Waltham,” said managing partner Wyc Grousbeck in an e-mail to the Boston Globe. Geez, you removed his nameplate; guess there’s no turning back now. Telfair was arrested on Friday after a gun was found in his car, but his attorney, Ed Hayes, thinks that Boston’s decision to get rid of Telfair is far too sudden and they should reconsider. Save your breath Ed; didn’t you hear? They already removed his nameplate, it’s over.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Knucklehead Nelson’s Short Fuse Blows It

1. Geez, Thanks Coach
With under a second remaining in yesterday’s game between the Wizards and the Warriors, Don Nelson picked up a technical foul after a questionable call gave Gilbert Arenas a pair of free throws with Washington down by two. But thanks to Nellie’s tech, Agent 0 went to the line and drained three consecutive freebies with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock. Arenas was 12 for 12 from the free throw line as he went off for 32 points, six assists and five rebounds in the home win. By sinking the clutch free throws, Arenas has joined a pretty elite club. In the last two seasons only three players have hit game-winning free throws in the final second of play (Channing Frye, Darrell Armstrong and Zach Randolph). However, Arenas became the first player since Karl Malone against the Suns in 1999 to give his team a one point victory on three free throws with under a second remaining in the game.

2. Garnett Seeing Green
As unbelievable as it may sound, the Boston Celtics are NOT the worst team in the NBA. The combination of a Boston four game winning streak and a Memphis four game losing streak has given the Celtics a three game cushion over the grisly Grizzlies. Yesterday, the C’s beat the Timberwolves in a double overtime marathon despite another big day from the Big Ticket. Kevin Garnett seems to like playing Boston as he picked up his second triple-double of the season against the men in green. But the last time these two hooked up, Boston fell to KG and crew for their 18th consecutive loss. Seems like Garnett could use a little help in Minny, but, yet again, the entire weight of a franchise is riding completely on his shoulders. You don’t think Allen Iverson, Ben Gordon or Ray Allen could have helped to distribute the burden; do you?

3. Altitude Agrees With The Answer
He hasn’t even been in Denver for a year yet but Allen Iverson has already said that he wants to remain a Nugget for the remainder of his career. Sounds familiar, didn’t he say the same thing in Philadelphia? But things change and you can’t blame AI for wanting to leave the Sixers, considering their current condition. And Iverson is probably truthful about staying in Denver. The Nuggets have a bright future with Iverson and Carmelo Anthony leading the way. When Iverson was traded to the Nuggets, the duo was ranked number one and two in scoring; now they are first and fifth with AI’s numbers dropping a bit. But that was expected; what wasn’t expected was that the Nuggets would be clinging to the eighth playoff spot with only 25 games left in the season.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett @ Boston 51 min, 33 pts (FG: 14-28, 3FG: 1-1, FT: 4-5), 13 reb, 10 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Houston (36-23) @ Cleveland (34-25) He’s back and he’s not hard to spot. The 7-6 Yao Ming is expected to hit the court for the first time in 32 games after breaking his right leg on December 23. Tracy McGrady is going to have to get use to sharing the load again after making a late MVP push as he carried the Rockets during Yao’s absence. But before Houston can celebrate the return of Yao, they will have to pick up a win in Cleveland where the Cavs are 22-8 this season. And if T-Mac has been hot of late, then LeBron James has been scorching. James has scored between 29 and 39 points in each of his last seven games. This could become a scoring duel between two of the game’s most explosive superstars.

Buzzer Beater: Hitting the century mark has typically been the benchmark of a good offensive game for NBA teams. But what makes a game great is when two players combine for a hundred. That’s what Ben Gordon (48 points) and Michael Redd (52 points) did during the Bulls’ 126-121 victory over the Bucks on Sunday. In the last 30 years, only eight games have seen a duo combine for 100 points and this is the first time since the 1989-90 season that the game didn’t involve Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady. For comparison sake, the feat is one of the rarest in all of sports. In the same 30 year span there have been eight perfect games thrown in the MLB, seven 500-yard passing games in the NFL, and five baseball games with four homeruns from a single player.