San Antonio Spurs

Around the Rim: Double-double trouble

1. Spurs win in battle of big men
The Spurs appear to be completely over their mini slump. On Monday, they took care of the Magic in Orlando, winning by 10 points, 107-97, behind a game-high 28 points from Manu Ginobili off the bench. Michael Finley chipped in 24 while Tony Parker posted 11 points and nine assists as the Spurs connected on 54 percent of their shots. Of course, as usual, Tim Duncan was the one who made everything come together, finishing with 19 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks to lead SA to its fourth consecutive win, bringing his team to within one game of the West’s top record. Orlando dropped its second in a row despite a 24-point, 21-rebound performance from Dwight Howard. The 20/20 game was the eighth of the season for Howard, but it wasn’t enough to keep his club from becoming the only team to have never won a season series against the Spurs.

2. Who needs Dirk when you’re playing the Clips?

You’d think the Mavericks would miss having the league’s current MVP in their lineup, but, then again, they were playing the Clippers. Jason Kidd still hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record since joining Dallas, but with a 103-90 win over the Clips yesterday, the Mavericks improved to 10-0 against losing teams since the trade. The formula might be keeping Dallas in the playoff chase (just barely), but it certainly doesn’t bode well for its postseason chances. However, with Dirk Nowitzki nursing a lower leg injury for the next couple of weeks, it’s good to see other players are able to fill the void. Josh Howard had an awful shooting performance (8-22 FG), but managed to tally a game-high 32 points to compliment three other double-digit scorers for Dallas, including Erick Dampier who accounted for 19 points and 17 rebounds. But the Mavericks are now facing a seriously difficult stretch, going against five playoff-bound clubs in their next six games.

3. Hornets take their show on the road
New Orleans is currently sitting atop the Western Conference with a 48-21 record after heading into Indianapolis and beating the Pacers 114-106 last night. The game was the first of a six-game road trip for the Hornets that includes visits to Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Orlando and Miami. If Nawlins is planning on holding onto the No. 1 seed then its needs to keep getting monstrous production from its superstars like David West and MVP candidate Chris Paul. Both starters posted double-doubles in Indy as West finished with 35 points and 16 rebounds and Paul recorded 31 points and 14 assists in the team’s fourth consecutive win. The loss dropped Indiana 1 ½ games behind Atlanta for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: David West @ Indiana 42 min, 35 pts (FG: 14-24, FT: 7-7), 16 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (47-23) @ Boston (55-15)
There will be plenty of star power on the court tonight when the Suns and the Celtics hook it up in Beantown, but the matchup that stands out is between a pair of guys straight from high school. Kevin Garnett and Amare Stoudemire are two of the best big men in the game today and they will each be instrumental to their team’s success in a game that could be a preview of the NBA Finals. Of course, almost anytime a team from the West plays either Detroit or Boston you could say that. Both teams are currently on losing skids with Phoenix coming off a loss in Detroit and Boston dropping a pair to New Orleans and Philadelphia. The good news for Celtics fans is Boston owns a 23-5 record against the West.

Buzzer Beater: Chris Webber is set to retire at the ripe age of 35 due to knee problems that he just can’t seem to shake. While Webber will be most remembered for calling the timeout heard round the world and dunking on Charles Barkley as a rookie, his career can be defined by more than just that. Over his 15 seasons, Webber averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, putting him on an elite list with Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird, Billy Cunningham, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor as the only players to pull off 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists over their career.

Dallas Mavericks

Avery Johnson lives up to his nickname of "Little Big Man"

It sure looks like Mavericks coach Avery Johnson was drinking his milk over the summer. Why do we say that? Well, (A) he shot up from 5-foot-11-inches to well over the head of 6-foot-5-inch Josh Howard. (B) Because he’s standing on a milk crate and there’s no milk in it. (C) He’s got the evidence all over his face and (D) the ad tells us so.

Coaching my team to the top was a tall order. Good thing milk was my #1 pick. Some studies suggest the protein helps build muscle, plus teens who choose it instead of sugary drinks tend to be leaner. Like I tell my guys: If you want to keep breaking records, keep hitting the glass.

We know that Johnson is from Louisiana and he can be difficult to understand at times (even when reading quotes), but the milk dudes did not just make him say “Coaching my team to the top was a tall order,” did they?

Maybe we’re being a little picky here, but they do know that Avery’s Mavericks committed two of the biggest choke jobs in NBA postseason history over the last couple of years, right?


[]: Mavs Player-Coach Combo In `got milk’ Ad
[]: got milk? Avery Johnson and Josh Howard sure do

NBA General

Around the Rim: Garnett regret

1. Run, Kevin, Run!
Last night was not a good night to be on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Well, it wasn’t so bad until about halfway through the third quarter. That’s when Seattle decided to put the Super back in front of Sonics and erased a 25 point deficit with 51-18 run over the remainder of the game. Rashard Lewis single handedly outscored the Timberwolves 27 to 18. If that isn’t bad enough for Minny, they ended the game by getting smoked on a 25-2 run. It was the biggest lead ever to be blown by T-Wolves and marked the first game in over three years in which the visiting team pulled off a 25 point comeback. The last team to do it was 2003-04 Knicks who came back from 26 down in Milwaukee to snatch a three point victory, 103-100, from the jaws of defeat. Kevin Garnett really doesn’t deserve this; actually, he does. It’s time to demand a trade.

2. New Jersey’s losing finally pays off

Thanks to a monumental meltdown by the Pacers since the All-Star break, New Jersey, yes New Jersey has moved into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. For almost the entire season it appeared that the Pacific Division would be sending only one team to the post season but the Nets are hoping to continue their limp into the playoffs. New Jersey has lost eight of their last 12 games but that sorry performance actually improves their positioning because the Pacers have lost 15 of their last 17. If that’s not the sign of a pathetic conference then nothing is. So, all things considered, what would you expect from the basketball gods in a situation like this? Why a match-up between the two teams tonight in Jersey with a playoff spot on the line, of course. The only positive thing about this game is that one of them has to win.

3. Big Ben buys in
Stephon Marbury has been selling cheap, I mean affordable sneakers for long enough to know that he can’t build a successful corporation by himself, so he has brought in some big help. Ben Wallace has jumped aboard the Starbury Movement and is now sporting the new $14.98 Starbury II shoe, and it won’t be long until his own sneak (Big Ben) is released on the line. So, while Marbury’s team struggles on the court, his business team is growing by leaps and bounds. His line has expanded from 50 to 200 products that are all available for under $15. And nobody understands about the need for affordable apparel more than Wallace. Big Ben grew up poor as the 10th of 11 children and the youngest of eight boys. “I had to wait in line,” said Wallace. Now he just hopes that others will be lining up for a piece of his new investment.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Josh Howard @ New Orleans 32 min, 25 pts (FG: 10-16, 3FG: 2-2, FT: 3-3), 10 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Houston (45-26) @ Los Angeles Clippers (34-36) The Clippers are just barely holding onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference but they have currently won five of their last six games. That’s the equivalent of winning 15 straight for any normal NBA team. Houston is enjoying having their man in the middle back and they have now won nine of their last 11 games. Since returning from his injury Yao is averaging 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. And Tracy McGrady is playing pretty well himself as the team hopes to catch the Jazz which would get them home court advantage against Utah in the first round but Houston would still remain in the fifth spot.

Buzzer Beater: Well, the streak is officially over for Kobe. After games of 65, 50, 60, 50 and 43, Bryant finally returned to earth and scored a human-like performance of only 23. Now, that might sound like a small number but, for comparison’s sake, that’s the amount of points that former MVP Kevin Garnett currently averages (22.8). The Mamba started the game hot and looked like he was getting ready to explode for another 60 point performance after he scored nine of the team’s first 11 points. But after that Bryant went cold as he was a pathetic 4-of-23 for the remainder of the game. Bryant also received a taste of his own medicine in the second quarter when he took a forearm to the melon from Pau Gasol that sent him to the famous LA hardwood. Mmmm, tastes like pain.