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. Houston’s choking away a great season
The Jazz got slapped in the face when they were forced to open their series against Houston on the road despite owning the fourth seed in the West. But it didn’t end up mattering because Utah stole both games in Clutch City to take a 2-0 lead back home where they went a league-best 37-4 during the regular season. Kyle Korver helped to seal a 90-84 victory for Utah when he opened a five-point lead with 20 seconds remaining and the shot clock expiring. The shot ensured Deron William’s team-high 22 points and Mehmet Okur’s 16-point, 16-rebound double-double were not in vain. Tracy McGrady had a spectacular outing with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, but once again appears poised to be one-and-done. With about a minute left in the game, Bobby Jackson hit a 3-pointer that would have tied the game, but Luis Scola was called for an offensive foul when he shoved Andrei Kirilenko away from the action and, in essence, shot his team in the foot.
2. Cleveland is rocking
For the second consecutive game, the Wizards wore their awful gold and black uniforms and for the second consecutive game, they scored 86 points and lost. Only this time, the score was actually uglier than the apparel. Cleveland pounded Washington 116-86 on Tuesday, taking a 2-0 lead in the series behind 30 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds from LeBron James while Wally Szczerbiak added 15 points. Zydrunas Ilgauskas just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. On the other side of the court, Washington’s wiz kids were nowhere to be found. Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas shot a combined 10-of-33 for 28 points in 94 minutes. The series shifts to Washington for Thursday’s Game 3 and it can’t come a moment too soon for road weary Wizards. Washington is a much better team at home, but at this point, LBJ has his hands around its neck and knows a third win means the squeezing begins.
3. Ask a stupid question…
As the Western Conference’s top seeded Lakers are sitting on a 1-0 series lead over Denver, en route to what could be the team’s first playoff series win since 2004, MVP candidate Kobe Bryant was asked if he wants to stay with the organization for the remainder of his career. After all, now does seem like a great time to bail out, right?
“Absolutely,” Bryant said the day after the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in their playoff series opener. “I’ve always wanted to be here. I just felt like I was in a position where I didn’t really have a choice. They wanted to go in an opposite direction. My legs aren’t as young as they used to be. Just let me know.
“I love the weather. I love my ’63 drop-top Impala. I love the 405 [freeway]. I love my guys.”
Monday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Washington 39 min, 30 pts (FG: 9-19, 3FG: 2-6, FT: 10-17), 9 reb, 12 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk
Buzzer Beater: Unlike the MVP award, there was no doubt about the sixth man award. Manu Ginobili won the honor in a landslide, taking 123 of 124 first-place votes for 615 total points, leaving Leandro Barbosa (283 pts) and Jason Terry (44 pts) sitting on the bench. Ginobili came off the pine in 51 games, averaging a team and career-high 19.5 points, in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The last time a sixth man award winner led his team in point production was in 1990 when Ricky Pierce averaged 23 points for Milwaukee. And think, Manu was a steal at the 57th overall pick back in 1999. The Spurs shooting guard has proven worthy of the award thus far in the postseason, hitting the game-winner of Saturday’s double-overtime instant classic against the Suns.
1. Set in stone
While the East has been set for a couple of days now, nearly all the playoff pairings in the wild, wild Western Conference weren’t determined until the season’s final games were played. However, now that the playoff picture is crystal clear, everyone can see this is going to be one heckuva of run to the rings. The one/eight seed matchup between Los Angeles and Denver delivers plenty of firepower with three of the league’s top four scorers going at it in a best of seven series. The seventh seeded Mavericks won’t have far to travel when they go against New Orleans, but they’ll be packing a pitiful 17-24 road record to an arena where the Hornets are 30-11. The No. 3 Spurs are going to have their hands full with the Suns and a championship hungry Shaquille O’Neal while Houston has homecourt advantage against the Jazz in a rematch of the only playoff series to go seven games last year.
2. How it happened
When the Hornets face the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs, they’ll have revenge on their minds. Dallas spanked the Southwest Division champions 111-98 behind Jason Kidd’s 100th triple-double. Kidd showed Chris Paul that he wasn’t quite ready to give up his crown as one of the league’s top point guards just yet, scoring 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Dirk Nowitzki only scored 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting, but Jason Terry came off the bench to pour in 30 points, including 10 during a 32-8 run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters. The Hornets were led by David West’s 26 points and got solid numbers out of Paul (20 points, 10 ast). The Dallas victory also ensured that Denver would be traveling to Los Angeles for their opening round matchup.
3. The rematch with a little extra Shaq
Perhaps the biggest game of the night played a big role in setting up the biggest first round matchup in this year’s playoffs between two of the game’s most bitter rivals. The Spurs ensured homecourt advantage in the first round by beating Utah 109-80, locking up the third seed. The game was never close as San Antonio rushed out to a 65-39 halftime lead which, coupled with victories by Houston and Phoenix, sets up another instant classic between Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. Expect another bloody, bruising series when the Suns and Spurs go at it. San Antonio is 33-7 this year at home and after missing three consecutive games, they have Manu Ginobili healthy. And, oh, what a difference a healthy Manu makes! Ginobili played just 19 minutes off the bench in his return but, posted 12 points (4-4 FG, 4-4 FT), six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Durant @ Golden State 43 min, 42 pts (FG: 18-25, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 5-6), 13 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk
Buzzer Beater: When Houston defeated the Clippers 93-75 in their season finale, they secured the fifth seed in the playoffs. A couple of hours later, Utah falls to the Spurs and we have a series. Despite having a higher seed, the Jazz must travel to Houston for their postseason opener because they have a worse overall record. Basically it’s a horrible situation for Utah who is 17-24 on the road this year. Luis Scola made Rockets fans say “Yao who?” after he dominated the Clippers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, covering up for Tracy McGrady’s pathetic 2-of-11 shooting performance. People continue to argue about Houston’s legitimacy , but you can’t argue with a record of 35 wins in its last 43 games, including a 22-game win streak.
1. Leaping up the standings
If the Lakers end up with the top seed in the West, nobody can say they don’t deserve it. With just days left in the most highly contested conference race in history, Los Angeles took care of business in a big way by knocking off the Hornets and the Spurs in back-to-back games over the weekend. Kobe Bryant’s boys defeated New Orleans by three points, 107-104, on Friday and then throttled the defending champs 106-85 on Sunday. The Lakers jumped from third to first in the conference with the wins, giving them a half-game lead over New Orleans with their season finale coming on Tuesday against the Kings. Bryant finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in just three quarters of work against the Spurs while Lamar Odom (17 pts, 14 reb) and Pau Gasol (14 pts, 11 reb) each recorded a double-double. San Antonio could have used some of Manu Ginobili’s point production late in the game, but for the second consecutive game, a strained groin kept him on the sideline watching as the Spurs scored just 32 points in the second half.
2. Nuggets get closer
The Nuggets took one step closer to making the playoffs on Sunday when they romped the Rockets 111-94 behind 33 points from Allen Iverson. Denver also got a stellar performance out of sixth man J.R. Smith who scored 23 points. The Rockets dream of grabbing the conference’s top record is still attainable, but it’s defiantly fading fast. In order to grab the top record in the West, Houston must win both of its remaining games and have Los Angeles and New Orleans to lose on Tuesday.
3. Sonics sendoff
If the Sonics played their final game in Seattle last night, then they went out with a bang. With just 12 home victories to their name this season, the Sonics added a 13th on Sunday when they knocked off the Mavericks 99-95, overcoming a six-point deficit in the final three minutes. Led by Earl Watson’s 21 points and Kevin Durant’s 19, four of Seattle’s starters finished in double-figures to outpace the Mavericks who got 32 points and seven rebounds out of Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry chipped in 25 for Dallas. The Sonics appear to be heading for Oklahoma after heading out to Golden State for the franchise’s final game.
I almost cried, to be honest with you. People kept saying it might be the last game in Seattle,” Durant said. “It was phenomenal.
Sunday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson vs. Houston 41 min, 33 pts (FG: 13-20, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 6-11), 7 reb, 7 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk
Monday’s Game to Watch: Golden State (48-32) @ Phoenix (53-27)
After falling to the Nuggets on Thursday, the Warriors basically sealed their fate. However, nothing is over until it’s officially over in the wild, wild West. But Golden State is in a must-win situation against the Suns tonight, needing a victory to even think about grabbing the conference’s last spot and go on to shock the world once again. Phoenix lost a heartbreaker to Houston on Friday to drop its record to 6-4 over the last games. Their will be no homecourt advantage for the Suns in the opening round of the postseason, so they will be looking to improve their 28-11 record in Phoenix before being forced to hit the road in the second season.
Buzzer Beater: Sitting comfortably in the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Pistons have absolutely nothing to play for as the regular season draws to a close. But that isn’t keeping them from winning. No starter played more than 25 minutes against the Raptors on Sunday and the Pistons till took a 91-84 victory, shoving Toronto into sixth place in the East – a horrible place for a team with a 16-24 road record. As it stands, the Raptors would be looking at a first round matchup against these Pistons. Well, not exactly these exact Pistons; they’d be a much, much better Pistons squad.
We’ve been struggling for a while now — that’s no secret — and tonight we had to go up against one of the best teams in the league,” Rasho Nesterovic said after Toronto dropped to 8-16 in its last 24 games. “Whoever we play in the first round, we’re going to have to change our mentality if we want to have a chance.
1. Dirk Nowitzki does his best Willis Reed impersonation
Dirk Nowitzki knew that he team was circling the drain while he rode the pine with a leg injury, so on Wednesday night, the German sharpshooter decided to suit up and help his team climb out of the toilet. It worked. For the first time since acquiring Jason Kidd, the Mavericks defeated a team with a winning record and they did so in convincing fashion, stomping a mud hole in their bitter rivals from Golden State. Nowitzki finished with 18 points and Jason Terry posted a game-high 31 as Dallas cruised to an easy 111-86 victory. The Warriors just could not find their offense, needing 86 attempts to tally 86 points while the Mavs drained 48 percent of their field goals. Led by Kidd’s 17 dimes, Dallas finished with a whopping 35 assists compared to Golden State’s 10 and killed the normally up-tempo Warriors in fastbreak points, 44-16.
2. Brand new
After missing nearly a year of action, Elton Brand is back. The mild-mannered, double-double machine took to the court against the Sonics on Wednesday evening and posted 19 points – 13 in the fourth quarter – and five rebounds to help the Clippers pound Seattle 102-84. Brand went down with a torn left Achilles back on April 18, 2007, and wasn’t expected to return until Thursday, but he felt so good before the game that coach Mike Dunleavy decided to go ahead and give him some minutes; 26 to be exact. Kevin Durant had one of his best games, finishing with 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting, but it couldn’t overshadow the play of Brand. In addition to his points and boards, Brand dished out three assists, blocked a shot and tallied a steal.
3. Lakers get their groove back
The Lakers got a boost of their own last night as Pau Gasol returned to the lineup and posted 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists in a 104-91 victory over Portland. Gasol had been out of action due to a sprained ankle he suffered nearly three weeks ago. Kobe Bryant racked up 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 13 rebounds to help his squad pull within 1 ½ games of first place New Orleans. The Lakers lost four of nine games without Gasol after posting a 15-4 record following his acquisition. The return is huge for a relatively small lineup in L.A., but the key for any sort of Lakers postseason success lies in the return of center Andrew Bynum. As of now, Los Angeles is hoping and praying the big man is healthy enough to get some critical minutes before the second season starts.
Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Portland 41 min, 36 pts (FG: 10-16, 3FG: 4-5, FT: 12-13), 13 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl
Thursday’s Game to Watch: Houston (49-25) @ Portland (38-37)
Hey, on a night when Cleveland plays Chicago and the Clippers face the Kings, we decided to choose the lesser of three evils. Houston continues to flounder since running off 22 consecutive wins and they are now on a two-game losing streak and have lost five of its last 10 games. Portland isn’t much better, dropping three in a row and six of its last 10. Luckily, Inside the NBA comes on tonight and we’ll get to hear Charles Barkley rip both of these clubs for being as soft as his belly.
Buzzer Beater: On a night when injured players returned left and right, we would be remiss to not mention the comeback of Gilbert Arenas. Agent 0 missed 66 games with a knee injury before scoring 17 points against the Bucks on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Arenas, his return was overshadowed by Ramon Sessions and his buzzer-beater that gave Milwaukee a 110-109 victory. And the bad night didn’t stop there for Washington. Right when it appeared the Wizards were back to full capacity, new injuries to key components took their toll. Antawn Jamison left the game with a sprained right shoulder and the thickly bearded DeShawn Stevenson exited with a sprained right ankle.
1. Hornets almost get stung
New Orleans needed a win on Tuesday night to keep pace with the streaking Spurs. Thanks to a sharpshooting Peja Stojakovic, they got it. OK, maybe “sharpshooting” is an overstatement considering he only connected on 2-of-11 field goals against the Magic, but Stojakovic came through in the clutch, connecting on a trey and hitting three big free throws in the final minute to help the Hornets sneak out of Orlando with a 98-97 victory. MVP candidate Chris Paul finished with 19 points and 12 assists and fellow All-Star David West double-doubled with 18 and 11 rebounds in Nawlins’ franchise-best 24th road win. Paul almost choked the game away by missing a pair of shots from the charity stripe with less than 10 seconds remaining. But when Keyon Dooling’s jumper fell short, the Hornets were able to breathe a sigh of relief. New Orleans holds a slight edge over SA which means they are still sitting atop the West with a game against Miami scheduled for tonight.
2. Nuggets get revenge against Suns
The home team continues to reign supreme in the battle between Phoenix and Denver. Just one day after losing by 15 points in Phoenix, the Nuggets returned to Denver and grabbed a 126-120 victory over the Suns thanks to stellar performances from Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. A.I. finished with a game-high 31 points while Melo scored 25, including a pair of big free throws in the final 30 seconds to give Denver its seventh win in 10 games. More importantly, the Nuggets took a half-game lead over the Warriors for the West’s final playoff spot. The Suns did all they could, connecting on 53 percent of their shots, but homecourt advantage proved to be critical once again as the home team grabbed the win in every game between the two this season. Leandro Barbosa led the losers with 27 points while Shaquille O’Neal (14 pts, 13 reb), Amare Stoudemire (25 pts, 10 reb) and Steve Nash (17 pts, 18 ast) all recorded double-doubles.
3. Kings keep Rockets reeling
The Rockets are in free fall after reeling off 22 consecutive wins and Sacramento took full advantage on Tuesday night. Tracy McGrady scored a game-high 32 points, but it wasn’t enough to keep Houston from losing its fifth game, 99-98, in eight tries since going on the second-longest win steak in league history. Ron Artest finished with 30 points and Kevin Martin posted 27 as the Kings won their 34th game of the season which surpasses last year’s win total, marking the first improvement from one season to the next since 2001-02. For the Rockets, the loss sent them into sixth place out West. Houston took a one-point lead with time running out, but Martin knocked down a couple free throws with 48.9 seconds left on the clock, giving the Kings their final points of the night. Artest almost blew the victory by turning the ball over in the final moments, but McGrady’s shot was off the mark and Artest was saved by the buzzer.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Michael Redd vs. New York 46 min, 36 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 4-9, FT: 8-11), 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl
Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Golden State (45-29) @ Dallas (46-28)
Playoff implications are abundant in this matchup as either team could still conceivably fall out of the conference’s elite eight with a poor showing down the final stretch of the season. Luckily for Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki could be making an early return to the lineup after suffering a lower leg injury against the Spurs on March 23. At the moment, the Mavs are sitting in seventh place, just one game ahead of Golden State who is in ninth. Dallas would clinch the tiebreaker with a win which would be huge in a jam-packed race, but these are the Warriors we’re talking about and when it comes to ruining Dallas’ fun, nobody does it better than Don Nelson. And let’s not forget about the stat that just won’t go away for Dallas. The Mavericks are currently 0-10 against teams with winning records since acquiring Jason Kidd at the All-Star break.
Buzzer Beater: ESPN released its list of the top players under the age of 23 and we really can’t argue with the rankings. Can you?
1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Chris Paul
4. Deron Williams
5. Carmelo Anthony
6. Kevin Durant
7. Greg Oden
8. Andrew Bynum
9. Brandon Roy
10. Monta Ellis
1. Free fallin’
Dallas thought trading for Jason Kidd would give them the magic they needed to keep pace with the other big time teams in the West. However, with Dirk Nowitzki riding the pine with an injury, the Mavericks are now in danger of becoming the team to miss the postseason after falling to their rivals in Golden State 114-104. The loss was the second consecutive for Big D and they are now sitting in a three-way tie with Denver and Golden State for the final ticket to the second season. Obviously, one of these three teams will be worrying about ping-pong balls come playoff time instead of looking to grab a ring and at this pace, don’t be surprised if it’s the new-look Mavs. Dallas is 5-5 over its last 10 games and must now prepare for contests against the Warriors (again), the Lakers and the Suns.
2. Rockets need a booster
The Rockets’ big win streak continues to look more and more and more like a fluke everyday. On Sunday, they looked like the team that earned the No. 1 pick to get Yao Ming instead of the team that went on the second-longest successful streak in league history, losing to San Antonio by 21 points. The Spurs dominated from the get-go, rushing out to a 35-24 first quarter lead before winning 109-88 behind 22 points each from Tony Parker and Michael Finley. The victory was the seventh consecutive for SA and put them into second place in the Western Conference race while dropping the Rockets to sixth. Luckily, Houston has an excellent opportunity to increase its stock as they wrap up the regular season with contests against Sacramento, Portland, Seattle and the Clippers coming up; unfortunately they are all on the road.
3. The many faces of Kobe Bryant
Just one game after dropping 53 points in a loss to Memphis, Kobe Bryant decided to be a facilitator against the Wizards and led his team to a 126-120 overtime win. Bryant finished with 26 points and 13 assists to snap a two-game losing streak and move back within one game of the West’s best record. The victory gave LA its 50th of the season for the 29th time in franchise history. Caron Butler went off for a triple-double (17 pts, 12 reb and 12 ast) and his team connected on 17-of-30 treys (.567). But Washington wasn’t alone in its three-point accuracy. Los Angeles hit 14-of-27 (.519) and the game marked the first time in league history that both teams shot over 50 percent from behind the arc, but under 50 percent from the floor (LA: .494, WAS: .466).
Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Philadelphia 42 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-18, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 3-3), 9 reb, 9 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk
Monday’s Game to Watch: Denver (45-28) @ Phoenix (49-24)
The Nuggets currently own the final playoff spot in the West, but that doesn’t mean anything at the moment.
If they want to hold onto their position then they will have to rise to the occasion once again in an arena where the home team is 26-10. Denver is streaking with five straight wins, however in a super competitive race, all it takes is one loss and the Nuggets will be back on the outside looking in. Barring a complete collapse, the Suns are in, but they are defiantly looking to improve their seed because as it sits now, they would most likely have to play on the road for the opening round against Utah. But like we said, everything can change with one game and this very well could be that one game.
Buzzer Beater: The Miami Heat set another record in futility against the Celtics on Sunday by connecting on a mere 17 field goals – the fewest since the shot clock came into play – in an 88-62 loss. After the game, the Truth told the truth about the horrible, horrible Heat.
They got D-Leaguers out there, so I think we just handled our business,” the Boston forward said (Paul Pierce), listing some of the five Miami players who spent time in the developmental league this season. “We’re supposed to do that. We knew this was a game we were supposed to win, and we just focused from the jump and went out and did it.
1. A.I. got his sundae, but no cherry on top
Allen Iverson was welcomed back to Philadelphia with open arms on Wednesday night. The Answer returned for the first time since being traded to Denver back in December of 2006 and it was almost like he never left. Iverson scored a game-high 32 points, dished out eight assists and had the ball in his hands for the game’s most dramatic shot. But that’s where the warm and fuzzy feelings ended. Iverson’s jumper didn’t connect and neither did Marcus Camby’s put-back, giving the 76ers a 115-113 victory. Still, A.I. had the time of his life coming back to where he used to practice. Yup, we’re still talking about practice.
I dreamed it up a certain way, and it was better than that,” Iverson said. “Everything was perfect but one thing, and that was not winning the game.”
“I almost had a perfect trip at my home away from home,” Iverson said.
2. Ice cold Heat
In the same week the Denver Nuggets dropped 168 points on the sorry Sonics, the Heat and the Raptors combined for a pathetic 150 points last night. Luckily for Toronto, they posted 96 of them, pounding Miami by a franchise best 42 points, 96-54. At this point, nothing is shocking with the Heat anymore, but this is a startling occurrence nevertheless. Miami’s 54 points fell just five points shy of tying the worst performance of the shot clock era set by Chicago in 1998-99 versus the Heat. It was the franchise’s worst performance for points in a game and a half (26) while also setting a new low by connecting on 20-of-78 shots (.256). Just keep thinking Michael Beasley fellas.
3. Failure to launch
After winning 22 consecutive games, there is nowhere to go but down and the Rockets are currently plummeting back to earth. After getting creamed by Boston on Tuesday, Houston traveled to New Orleans and got flattened once again as the Hornets cruised to a 90-69 victory. Tracy McGrady is no longer playing like a superstar and his team is suffering because of it. T-Mac followed up his embarrassing eight-point outing against the Celtics by netting just 15 on Nawlins while his Rockets struggled to post 10 points for the entire fourth quarter. Chris Paul continues to light up opponents, finishing with 21 points, 10 assists while taking another leap towards a possible MVP trophy.
Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Vince Carter vs. Atlanta 43 min, 39 pts (FG: 17-26, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-4), 10 reb, 8 ast, 1 blk
Thursday’s Game to Watch: Boston (54-13) @ Dallas (44-24)
The Celtics have already rallied from 22 points down to win in San Antonio and snapped the second-longest win streak in league history in Houston. Now, they’ll look to do something very few teams have accomplished over the past few years: successfully navigate their way through the Texas triangle. Boston could be without Ray Allen once again when they head into Dallas, but that hasn’t slowed them down yet. The Mavericks would love for a little bit of that Irish luck to rub off on them considering they are 0-6 against teams with records above .500 since Jason Kidd’s arrival.
Buzzer Beater: Tiger Woods and LeBron James had never met prior to this week. Word??
Earlier this week in Orlando, James and fellow megastar Tiger Woods met for the first time. They share more than a Dec. 30 birthday. “Every time he goes out he expects to win,” James said when asked what he admires about Woods, “He’s an unbelievable talent. I’ve always looked at Michael Jordan as being one of the greatest athletes of my lifetime, and Tiger is right there now.
1. It’s over!
Despite reeling off a 22-game win streak, questions regarding the Rocket’s legitimacy amongst the league’s elite are still floating around. There are no such questions surrounding Boston. The Celtics put an end to Houston’s record-chasing run in remarkable fashion on Tuesday night, pounding the Rockets in their own gym by 20 points, 94-74. Kevin Garnett finished with a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double while Paul Pierce tallied 20 points as Boston ripped the heart out of its second Texas team in two days. There’s no doubt the Rockets are a lot better off now than they were two months ago, but all it takes now is a little slipup and their two-month tear becomes meaningless as eighth place Golden States sits a mere four games behind. This is indeed the wild, wild West.
2. Detroit outfoxes the fox
We knew the Nuggets were capable of scoring 120 points, but we had no clue Detroit could post 136 in a regulation game! We would say the Pistons had a horrible defensive outing by giving up so many points at home, but, frankly, we can’t get over the fact they blew past the century mark, recording 73 points in the opening half. Richard Hamilton was responsible for 24 while Rasheed Wallace added 21. In all, seven players reached double-digits in the highest four quarter outburst since 1990 when Detroit spanked Orlando 140-109. Of course, Flip Saunders wasn’t surprised by his club’s strange change of pace. He knows first hand how good the Pistons really are.
That’s the thing — we don’t have to play one style,” said Saunders. “We went out and played San Antonio in a grind-it-out game, and this was a little different. We’re not afraid to get out and run. We had 42 assists tonight. That’s a lot of assists.
You’re flipping right it is, Flip! In fact, Denver recorded just two more assists in its 168-116 pounding of Seattle just one game ago.
3. Lakers hold on by their fingernails
The Lakers almost let a 25-point third quarter lead disappear into a puff of smoke, but they held on for a 102-100 victory in Big D. Kobe Bryant finished with 29 points, but only posted nine in the entire second half, allowing the Mavericks to make their dramatic comeback. Dirk Nowitzki recorded 35 points,11 rebounds and five blocks and was crucial down the stretch while Jason Kidd laid an egg with one point on 0-of-3 shooting and seven assists. Los Angeles tied Houston for the conference’s best record by snapping Dallas five-game win streak. Next up for the Mavs is a contest against the Celtics on Thursday night.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Los Angeles Lakers 43 min, 35 pts (FG: 11-23, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 10-12), 11 reb, 1 ast, 5 blk
Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Denver (40-27) @ Philadelphia (33-34)
Normally we reserve this space for the day’s best matchup, but not today. Today we’re talking about practice, uh, we mean Allen Iverson’s return to the city where he became a superstar. For the first time since being traded back in December of 2006, the Answer is heading into Philadelphia wearing a different jersey. Simply seeing Iverson in a Nuggets jersey is still rather shocking, even after all this time, but to see him wear it on the court where he used to electrify the world is going to be odd to say the least. Hopefully you have your earplugs ready because A.I.’s ovation should shake the rafters.
Buzzer Beater: You’d think after all his loyal years of service in Detroit the franchise could at least remember how to spell Rip Hamilton’s name correctly.
Hamilton started the game wearing a jersey that had his last name spelled “Hamiltion,” but changed it during the first quarter.