San Antonio Spurs

Bruce Bowen knows good defense starts with the feet

After Kobe Bryant went berserk during the second half of the Spurs/Lakers Western Conference Finals series opener on Wednesday, San Antonio is searching for ways to contain the Mamba. Bruce Bowen is going to have his hands full once again trying to stop Bryant from filling up the bucket, meaning the defensive specialist might have to resort to some more unorthodox techniques. Wally Szcerbiak is no Kobe Bryant, but this particular strategy seemed to work against him and it should work against Bryant too.

Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Big time battle in the Lone Star State

1. Suns rise to the occasion
With 12 minutes left in the game, San Antonio looked like they might once again crush the hopes of the Suns, but Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash didn’t allow that to happen. Phoenix ran out of SA with a 96-79 victory after outscoring the Spurs 24-11 in the fourth quarter. Shaq recorded half of his 16 points in the period and two-time MVP Nash scored eight of his 12 points (10 ast) to win the season-series 3-1. The Suns are still sitting in sixth place, but with the victory they are now just ½ a game away from catching San Antonio, currently second, in the standings. As always, the bad blood was flowing throughout the contest, culminating in the furious fourth quarter when Bruce Bowen sent a forearm into the chest of Amare Stoudemire as the Suns forward set a pick at halfcourt. Guess who got called dirty after the game.

Bruce came elbow first. Elbowed me right in my rib cage,” Stoudemire said. “You know, definitely wasn’t a basketball play on his part and I reacted. I definitely didn’t appreciate it. So, I let him know about it.

2. Hornets romp the T-Wolves

The Hornets needed a win over Minnesota in order to maintain their lead over the rest of the West and, of course, they got it. Using a 41-point, third-quarter outburst, followed by 33 points in the fourth, New Orleans cruised to a 122-90 victory, grabbing its team-best 55th win. Chris Paul was back to his old tricks, posting 19 points and 16 assists while Peja Stojakovic finished with 24 and David West scored 22. It’s starting to look more and more like the Hornets are really going to grab the top seed in the West after missing the second season entirely last year. Byron Scott won’t get the coach of the year award over Doc Rivers this season, but the guy has got to get some credit for his abilities. He helped turn around the Nets when he was there and he’s shocked the world this season by taking his Bugs from worst to first.

3. Wiz continues to improve
Boston doesn’t have much to play for as the season comes to a close, but Washington certainly does. Thanks to a 109-95 home floor victory, Washington is now just two games behind a struggling Cleveland squad. The Wizards would love to steal homecourt advantage in the playoffs away from the Cavs and surprise the league with a deep run. It might sound crazy, but with a healthy roster and a raucous crowd, the Wiz could be in line for some a serious magic act. Antawn Jamison double-doubled with 27 points and 11 rebounds while Caron Butler scored 13 to go with 10 assists. Gilbert Arenas came off the bench to post 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. The Celtics got 63 points out of their Big Three, but couldn’t recover from a 27-18 spanking in the third quarter.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Chris Bosh vs. Milwaukee 40 min, 32 pts (FG: 11-18, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 9-11), 11 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl, 4 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Denver (47-13) @ Golden State (47-31)
Sure, Utah and Dallas are hooking it up in a battle of the West’s big boys, but the big game tonight comes from the worst of the conference’s best. The Nuggets and Warriors are sporting identical records, but thanks to a tiebreaker, the Nuggets are currently holding the last playoff spot. Of course, that might not last long because Denver isn’t nearly as good on the road (16-23) as they are at home (31-8). And we all know what an overwhelming atmosphere Golden State can be after watching the crowds go wild in last year’s postseason. If you want a preview of playoff intensity then this is the place to be.

Buzzer Beater: In the “no duh!” moment of the day, O.J. Mayo declared that he is forgoing the remainder of his eligibility at USC in order to go pro. Mayo is expected to go in the first 10 picks and there’s no doubt that he will make some sorry team very, very happy. The freshman led the Trojans to a first round defeat at the hands of fellow phenomenal freshman Michael Beasley and his Wildcats by posting team-highs of 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Unlike his college coach, we should expect big things from Mayo in the NBA.

This comes as no surprise,” coach Tim Floyd said in the statement. “We are appreciative of everything O.J. did for all of us the year he was with us. We wish him well. I have no doubt that he will be a great professional.

San Antonio Spurs

"Being a Spur ain’t easy"

The Spurs might be four-time NBA champions, just don’t expect them to act like four-time NBA champions. In today’s fast paced, `Johnny come lately’ world we live in, athletes never know when the endorsement deals are going to simply shrivel up and blow away. So when they’re there you gotta grab `em; even if it means dressing up like a cowboy and pushing milk to the masses.

Hey, it was either do the cowboy thing or don the beatnik outfits again. Good choice guys.


[The Big Lead]: Two Videos, One Post

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Magic Kingdom is getting kinda depressing

1. Doesn’t anyone wanna coach Dwight Howard?
The poor Orlando Magic just can’t seem to find anyone to roam the sidelines for the club. Of course, Billy Donovan left them standing at the alter and made a total fool of himself in the process and now it looks like they might get another shaft from their second selection. Stan Van Gundy has reportedly been offered the head coaching gig but due to contractual obligations with the Heat as a consultant, he might not be able to accept the offer. The Magic might be forced to give up draft picks to Miami as compensation should the Heat release SVG. But even if Van Gundy gets released there is no guarantee he wants to go to the Magic Kingdom; he’s already been on two interviews with the Kings. It’s all gonna come down to the dolla’ dolla’ bills ya’ll but if the ball was in our court, there would be no way we could pass up that boatload of talent down in sunny Florida like Billy the Kid did.

2. Hottest tickets in town

Fans in Cleveland are going absolutely bonkers over their Cavaliers right now, and with good reason; after all, LeBron James has been playing like a man possessed by legends of NBA past as he delivered his squad to the promised land for the first time in franchise history. So, you can understand why fans are willing to do and pay anything for tickets to Game 3 against the Spurs. Some tickets to the game/big ass party are going for a whopping $14,999! Now that’s some serious team spirit. We can’t wait to see how the local radio stations decide to completely humiliate the faithful followers with whacky promotional contests for a pair of seasts but it should be pretty hilarious. We’ll keep you posted. But don’t think for a second that the emotion of making their fourth finals appearance doesn’t have San Antonio in a tizzy. The Spurs front office has spirit and to show it they’ll be giving away 18,797 white “Go Spurs Go” T-shirts to fans at Game 1. Not bad, huh?

3. Rasheed Wallace would eat New York alive
With the Pistons eliminated from the postseason, the rumor mill is working overtime in Detroit and most of the speculation is focused on a specific hot headed power forward sporting a stylish gray spot. And most of that speculation has Rasheed Wallace landing in New York by the time the season tips-off anew in November. Could be a good fit for New York, they have certainly seen their share of bad boys coming rolling through the Garden, but does Isiah Thomas really want that kind of a headache? This is a guy who can self destruct at the drop of a hat and proved it by flying off the handle in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals and not only getting himself ejected from the game but suspended for any possible Game 7 when he threw a typical Sheed tantrum. And he’s probably had more significant structure surrounding him there than he ever has in his career. What Knick is gonna be able to keep Wallace in check? This could take us all the way back to 50-techs-a-season Sheed from his Jailblazer days.

Buzzer Beater: If you’re not quite in finals mode yet then maybe a little trash talking can get you revved up. Bruce Bowen was recently asked about the next big thing, a.k.a. LBJ, and he really didn’t seem too impressed with the challenge. “The No. 1 assignment in the league?” Bowen repeated back when asked about guarding James. “That’s your opinion, that’s your opinion. … There’s a lot of other scorers in this league, too.” And when he was asked about the sensation Game 5 performance against the Pistons, Bowen again hinted that James might not be all he’s cracked up to be. “I think Michael Jordan‘s 60-something points in Boston was incredible. Now do I think it got this much media coverage? No. Did it deserve it? You could say it did,” Bowen said. “Magic Johnson, his rookie year in the NBA, the show he put on in Philly. That is huge. But it goes to show you that if you’re not playing anymore, it’s, ‘OK, well, we’re looking for the next best thing.'” We know that Bruce is probably just playing head games with the kid but we’re guessing that he’ll be singing a completely different tune after this series is over; win or lose.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Detroit looks like the team to beat in the East

Must resist saying how good it feels
to be in the East finals.

1. The Pistons are pumping
For a half during Game 3 of the Pistons/Bulls series it looked like Chicago might snatch a game and make this series interesting again. Unfortunately for Chi-Town, it was the first half. The Bulls Baby Bulls came out of the locker room after halftime completely flat and got outscored 53-30 in the final 24 minutes before the mercy ended with the Pistons grabbing a 81-74 victory and a 3-0 lead in the series. Chicago defiantly showed some life despite their horrible second half shooting as they hit the boards, and they hit the boards hard. Four starters finished with double digits in rebounds as Chicago outboarded the Pistons 60-43. But Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince were just too much for Chicago to handle and now it’s starting to look like the Bulls will be lucky to avoid getting swept out of the same postseason in which they just swept out the defending NBA champs. Damn, we didn’t know that karma performed turnarounds this quick.

2. The West is best

On Thursday the league released the names of the All-NBA teams and the Western Conference showed why they have a majority of the best teams in the league; they have all the best players. In fact, out of the 15 players to make one of the three teams, only six were from the East. The first team consisted of only players from out west as Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant got the nods as the best of the best. The East did, however, dominate the second team with LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Bosh joining the Houston duo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Rounding out the teams were third stringers Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony. Hmmm, somebody’s missing from this list. Ah, yes, Shaq! Nope, it’s no typo; the Diesel didn’t make the cut for the first time since his rookie year in 1993.

3. Boston is getting all their ducks in a row
Life is good for Celtics coach Doc Rivers. On Thursday, Boston gave Rivers a contract extension but didn’t bother to disclose the length of the contract or the amount of Benjamins involved. How rude! It’s unbelievable that Rivers managed to avoid the guillotine’s chop for the entire season after enduring the worst losing streak in franchise history (18 consecutive losses!) en route to a pathetic 24-58 record. Guess Danny Ainge doesn’t consider finishing the season 16 games out of the playoffs and claiming the dishonor as the worst team in the Eastern Conference to be rock bottom. Ainge obviously has a lot of faith in his current squad and feels that with a healthy roster and a little luck in the draft, the Celtics could become a contender in the near future. But by the look of things, Ainge certainly appears to be getting everything ready to welcome a young, fresh face of the future. Does he know something we don’t know? Perhaps David Stern has another scheme up his sleeve to revive a dying franchise.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Tayshaun Prince @ Chicago 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-16, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 4-5), 11 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: As if the Spurs/Suns series wasn’t already a great battle, Amare Stoudemire decided to add a little bad blood to equation by calling San Antonio a “dirty team” and accusing Bruce Bowen of intentionally attempting to injure him. To say that Amare was upset would be an understatement because according to him he was “very, very, very upset” about the incident. The latest accusation in the long line of questionable tactics from Bowen happened during the third quarter of Game 2 when Stoudemire was going up for a dunk under the hoop. “When I saw the replay and reviewed it three or four times, there was no doubt about it,”” Stoudemire said. “It was a purpose kick to the Achilles’ and he definitely tried to injure me.” And when you look at the play, it’s hard to argue with the guy. Here’s the footage, you be the judge.