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: Utah gets floored by the Rockets

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.