1. Clutch City is back on track
Carlos Boozer tied a career-high with 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists but it was his critical turnover with 20 seconds left in the game that will be remembered. Boozer dribbled the ball off his foot and helped Houston secure a 98-90 victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series. The Jazz started the season by jumping out to a 12-1 record but ended the year by dropping seven of their last 11 games, and if you throw in their playoff woes, they have lost nine of their last 13 contests. If that’s not bad enough, the Jazz have never won a playoff series after falling behind 0-2. Houston is riding a momentum tidal wave of monumental proportions behind the efforts of their droopy-eyed superstar Tracy McGrady (31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists). If the Rockets can hold on to their lead over the Jazz they’ll be on their way to the second round for the first time since 1997, not to mention it would be T-Mac’s first trip past the opening round in his ten year career. Just keep your mouth shut Tracy; Houstonians don’t want a repeat of your big mouthed fiasco during the 2003 playoffs.
2. The 151st best player in the league
Some observers of the game have been saying that Phoenix has the best starting five in the league, but on Monday the Suns showed that they have a pretty good bench as well. In a landslide, Leandro Barbosa took home the Sixth Man Award (and a nice sized bonus check in the process) to join the likes of Mike Miller, Ben Gordon, Antawn Jamison and others. Barbosa finished with 578 points, including 101 first place votes, to blow away Manu Ginobili (269 points) and Jerry Stackhouse (210 points). This could be the first of many post season awards for Phoenix considering that Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion are all candidates for various awards. The “Brazilian Blur” averaged 18.1 points off the bench to compliment the Suns’ starters; all that’s left for Barbosa to do now is work his way into the starting lineup. And come up with a more creative nickname.
3. The Magic’s disappearing act
The series score is 2-0, but it might as well be 4-0 after Detroit put another hurting on Orlando and held Dwight Howard to just eight points on three-of-nine shooting. Howard has as much potential as any young superstar in the league but his playoff immaturity is definitely shinning through as he has only scored 21 points in the first two games. As it is every night, the rebounding was there on Monday against the Pistons but the Magic won’t even sniff a post season victory until Howard can learn that he must carry the load offensively, as well as defensively. But Howard can’t be held completely accountable for the Magic’s current situation; after all, there aren’t a lot of teams that can compete with the Pistons’ efficiency. Detroit was led by Richard Hamilton’s 22 points but it was a complete effort from the starting five that earned the team a 98-90 victory. In fact, only 10 points came off the bench during the game.
Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer @ Houston 42 min, 41 pts (FG: 17-30, FT: 7-9), 12 reb, 6 ast
Buzzer Beater: Since Orlando has been visiting Detroit over the past couple of games, it’s needless to say that Darko Milicic has been taking some crap from the fans of his old club. But he’s not letting it get him down; well, at least that’s what he says. “I don’t really care,” said Milicic. “Back home fans used to throw the baseball (bats) and stuff at me – everything. They tried to kill me back home. That’s why I don’t really give a (expletive) about it.” We can see why a little taunting wouldn’t phase you, considering your countrymen attempted to murder you. But we wanna know why the Pistons’ fans are harping on Darko so much in the first place? After all, it was Joe Dumars who blew the pick; all Milicic did was get drafted. Last time we checked it wasn’t Milicic who passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.