Categories
LA Lakers

Around the Rim: Gasol-ine Pau-ered


1. Pau, right in the kisser!
With so much talk about the “Big Three” from the Eastern Conference’s top seed, it would be easy to forget about the trio of superstars on the West’s No. 1 team, but they won’t let you. Even without their big man Andrew Bynum, the Lakers took a 1-0 lead in their series against the Nuggets on the slender shoulders of Paul Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. Gasol was stellar in his playoff debut with Los Angeles, scoring 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting to go with 16 rebounds and eight assists, leading his squad to a 128-114 victory. Bryant finished with 32 points, including a span down the stretch when he scored 13 consecutive for his team, while Odom posted a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds. The Nuggets day started with a bus breakdown on their way to the arena and ended with an Allen Iverson meltdown that got him ejected with 2:10 remaining in the game. Before being tossed, A.I. scored 30 points to match Carmelo Anthony for team-high honors. Unfortunately, Denver was spelled with no `D’ on Sunday, especially in the third quarter when the Lakers posted 39 points. Guess the pregame slam dance didn’t do the trick for George Karl. As far as Bynum goes, his return continues to be delayed with the only certainty being that he will not play in this series.

2. Detroit’s detour

The road to the Eastern Conference finals got a bit bumpy for the Bad Boys in Game 1 as Philadelphia managed to pull off a shocker, winning 90-86 in Detroit. Philadelphia trailed 62-47 in the third, but then ripped off 10 unanswered points and limited the Pistons to only 35 points in the second half, allowing for the upset. Andre Miller put up a team-high 20 points while Willie Green set a personal playoff-high with 17. Rasheed Wallace led Detroit with 24 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks, but even his eavesdropping on the 76ers huddle late in the game couldn’t help his team’s cause. Everyone expected the Pistons and the Celtics to basically cruise to a showdown in the conference finals, but it is now obvious that Detroit has a ways to go before they are on Boston’s level. The Celtics took no mercy on their lower seeded foes, destroying the Hawks 104-81 in a contest where Atlanta never held a lead greater than two points.

3. Raptors forgot to pack their kryptonite
Dwight Howard dressed up like Superman during the All-Star break then he went out and played a Man of Steel against the Raptors, leading Orlando to its first playoff victory since 2003. Howard was heroic with 25 points, 22 rebounds and five blocks in a 114-100 victory in front of a blue and white clad home crowd. It was just the 12th time in postseason history someone posted at least 25 points, 20 board and five swats. Orlando harpooned the Raptors early, scoring 43 points in the first quarter, including a playoff record-tying nine 3-pointers, to take a 20-point lead after 12 minutes. All five Orlando starters scored in double-digits with Jameer Nelson’s 24 and Hedo Turkoglu’s 21 taking a backseat to Howard’s quarter. Anthony Parker tallied a team-high 24 points in a losing effort while Chris Bosh struggled to connect on 4-of-11 attempts en route to 21 points.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Pau Gasol vs. Denver 45 min, 36 pts (FG: 14-20, FT: 8-8), 16 reb, 8 ast, 3 blk

Buzzer Beater: Sunday’s action was great, but we all know the Spurs and Suns stole show during the postseason’s opening weekend. It took ten extra minutes for San Antonio to fight its way out of an early deficit, trailing for nearly all of regulation, but after an amazing series of shots from both squads, round one went to the home team by the slimmest of margins. Tim Duncan scored a game-high 40, including a double-overtime-forcing trey, and Manu Ginobili bounced around like a pinball for 24 points with the last two coming on the 117-115 game-winner. Many are calling this the greatest first round series ever and you won’t get any argument from us after watching Game 1. The blood isn’t flowing yet like it was from the nose of Steve Nash during the opening game of last year’s battle, but it’s defiantly boiling as both sides nearly went hoarse from complaining to the refs in a physical matchup tallying 57 total fouls. Expect another bruiser in Game 2 on Tuesday.

Categories
NBA General

Around the Rim: West’s best finally sort out the mess


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.

Categories
Golden State Warriors

Around the Rim: It’s over


1. There will be no Charles Barkley “midget” talk this postseason
The Denver Nuggets are in the playoffs and they have the Suns to thank. Phoenix recovered from a horrible third quarter in which they gave up 38 points to the Warriors to pull away to a 122-116 victory and put away any glimmer of hope Golden State had of making the postseason. Amare Stoudemire was stout down the stretch, scoring 11 of his 28 in the final period while Steve Nash came up one board shy of posting a triple-double with 13 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. The Diesel continues to gain steam as the season winds down and Shaquille O’Neal recorded another double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Golden State certainly didn’t go down without a fight, erasing a 17-point lead to tie the game at 112-112 on a Stephen Jackson trey with three minutes remaining. Even though the futures of Denver and Golden State became crystal clear, the Suns are still in a murky chase for home-court advantage in the first round. The Suns are tied with Houston and Utah for the conference’s fourth best record at 54-27, but they currently sit in sixth place via tiebreakers.

2. Spurs finish strong against Sacramento

The Spurs survived a major scare on Monday against Sacramento, keeping their hopes of obtaining the top seed in the West on life support…for now. Trailing by six points with just over six minutes remaining in the game, San Antonio put together a 14-5 run that included some huge plays by Tony Parker and Michael Finley to escape Sactown with a 101-98 victory. Parker finished with a game-high 32 points and dished out 11 assists while Finley and Tim Duncan each scored 19. Without Manu Ginobili in the lineup for the third consecutive game, Fabricio Oberto picked up the slack, posting 17 points and eight rebounds. Ginobili’s absence also left the Spurs impotent on the bench with just nine points coming outside the starters. However, Brent Barry made his first appearance since becoming a Spur for a second time, missing all three of his shots and picking up a personal foul in four minutes of play.

3. The beast is released
On Monday, Michael Beasley finally made it official and threw his name into the NBA Draft. Just briefly after Beasley took to the podium, a shrill squeal of delight came from the greater Miami area.

“It’s time to take my game to the next level,” Beasley said as his family and several teammates looked on. “I think I proved myself over the course of the season. I just think it’s time for new challenges.”

He spent the weekend debating whether he should stay or go, talking with family, friends and coaches about the NBA. It wasn’t until Monday morning, just hours before his self-imposed deadline, that Beasley made his final decision.

“I kind of made my mind up, then went back to being undecided, made my mind up, then went back to being undecided,” said Beasley, who signed with agent Joe Bell. “Today was when my decision stuck.”

Monday’s Player of the Day: Ramon Sessions vs. Chicago 44 min, 20 pts (FG: 7-12, FT: 6-7), 8 reb, 24 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Sacramento (38-43) @ Los Angeles Lakers (56-25)
Everything comes down to one final game for the Lakers. When Los Angeles takes to the court tonight, it will be its last opportunity to grab a crucial victory and extend its lead in the Western Conference playoff race. It will also be Kobe Bryant’s last opportunity to make a statement for regular season MVP. But it won’t be easy for the purple and gold; after all, they’re going up against a gritty Sacramento squad that gave San Antonio all they could handle on Monday night. Oh, and considering it is THE final game of the season for the Kings, they’ll be playing for pride as well.

Buzzer Beater: It appeared that Philadelphia defeated Cleveland, but before the teams could make it to the locker rooms, the referees assessed a foul to 76ers center Samuel Dalembert with 0.2 seconds on the clock and gave Devin Brown a pair of free throws with the Cavs trailing by one point. Brown sank them both and Cleveland wound up with a 91-90 victory and sealed up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Needless to say, the Sixers were not happy as the loss combined with a Toronto win over Miami dropped them to seventh.

“You feel like you just got seriously slapped in the face,” Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. ” It was like we had the ‘W’ and it was marked off.”

Categories
LA Lakers

Around the Rim: Lakers show off their vertical leap


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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Utah Jazz

Around the Rim: New Orleans slips up at home


1. Jazz grab division title
Utah scored a pathetic nine points in the fourth quarter against New Orleans, but they literally could have gone scoreless and still left the bayou with a win. The Jazz shocked the Hornets at home by pounding them through three quarters to escape with a 77-66 win. The final score represented season lows for both teams and the matchup between the two young stud point guards didn’t really amount to squat. Deron Williams got the best of Chris Paul by dishing out 16 assists to Paul’s nine, but the duo whitewashed each other from the field as each finished with just four points on 2-of-11 shooting. Carlos Boozer wasn’t much better for the Jazz, hitting a mere 5-of-14 from the floor for 10 points. Luckily, Mehmet Okur came through in a big way, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with 17 rebounds. Normally pathetic on the road, the Jazz’s victory in New Orleans clinched the second consecutive Northwest Division title.

2. Warriors tally season-high in points

After going 5-5 over their last 10 games, the Warriors returned to what they do best: score. Golden State posted 77 points in the first half against Sacramento and held on – that’s right, they held on – to win 140-132. The Warriors are tied with Denver for the final playoff spot in the West, but due to tiebreaking rules, they are currently on the outside looking in after Denver put the boots to the Clippers on Tuesday, winning 117-99. The scheduling gods must have seen this back-and-forth race months ago because on Thursday, the Warriors and the Nuggets will match up in a game that could determine the fate of both teams. However, if the Warriors are stroking it like they did against Sacramento then Denver could be in trouble. Led by Baron Davis’ game-high 33 points, six Warriors reached double figures in scoring while the team connected on 52.3 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from behind the arc.

3. Detroit gets Knicked by Isiah’s really bad boys
The Pistons are just going through the motions as the regular season draws to a close and it showed last night against the Knicks. New York simply outplayed Detroit for 36 minutes and by the time the Pistons ripped off 34 points in the final period, it was already too late. Behind 19 points – all in the first half – from Wilson Chandler, the Knicks grabbed a 98-94 victory in The Palace of Auburn Hills. Perhaps the Pistons only have themselves to blame because before the game, the franchise honored Detroit’s all-time team which happened to include current New York coach Isiah Thomas. While the loss is certainly a blow to the Bad Boys collective ego, their season is already over as they get healthy in anticipation of the playoffs. No Detroit starter recorded more than 27 minutes in the contest.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Rudy Gay vs. Phoenix 43 min, 36 pts (FG: 13-22, 3FG: 5-6, FT: 5-6), 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (52-26) @ San Antonio (53-24)
It just doesn’t get much better than the Suns and the Spurs. The rivalry between these two has been intensifying over the past few seasons and if they meet in the playoffs again this year then it could simply boil over; especially with Shaquille O’Neal in the mix. It’s been five years since Phoenix has won a season-series, but they currently hold a 2-1 advantage this year and one of the victories was in San Antonio. Shaq might miss this game with a hip problem, but that doesn’t lessen the importance in the least. SA is still in the running for the conference’s top record and home court advantage throughout the West while Phoenix, currently sitting in sixth place, is desperately trying to work its way into the top four. Both teams have already locked up spots in the postseason, so it’s all about jockeying for position and pride at this point.

Buzzer Beater: LeBron James’ bad back continues to be an issue for Cleveland and on Tuesday, King James missed his second consecutive practice. Even worse, he might miss tonight’s game against the Nets. The Cavs are currently sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and hold a minimal two-game lead over Washington, meaning every win and every loss is critical right now for the defending conference champs.

I know he wants to play,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “But we have to be cautious with him now.”

“We want him healthy in the playoffs,” Brown said. “Yes, we want the fourth seed, but to get the fourth seed and have an unhealthy LeBron throughout the playoff run wouldn’t do us any good. We’ve got to make sure that he’s healthy and he’s able to help us.

Categories
Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Dallas continues to lose its grip on a playoff appearance


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.

Categories
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.

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Detroit Pistons

Around the Rim: Not in our house!


1. Detroit outshines Phoenix
In what very well could be a preview of this year’s NBA Finals, the Pistons proved they still got it when it comes to breaking Shaq’s heart. The Suns were on a seven-game winning streak going into Detroit on Monday, but Detroit posted 14 points in overtime to take a 110-105 victory. Since joining Phoenix, the Bad Boys have twice defeated Shaquille O’Neal and the last time the Diesel was sporting a Western Conference uniform, the Pistons sent his Lakers home brokenhearted from the game’s ultimate stage. O’Neal managed to have a solid outing, posting 12 points and 10 rebounds to compliment Amare Stoudemire’s 33 points and Steve Nash’s 23, but Chauncey Billups was too much to handle down the stretch, scoring nine of his 32 points in the extra frame.

2. Beantown letdown

Philadelphia’s shock-n-awe tour continued on Monday night when the Sixers stopped in Boston and knocked off the league’s top dawgs 95-90. Andre Iguodala finished with 28 points and went bonkers in the fourth quarter, going on a personal 10-0 run as part of a 19-0 run to claw out of an 11-point hole. Boston’s “Big 3” combined for 44 points, but only posted five in the final quarter and the Celtics lost their second straight. Philadelphia improved to 8-2 over its last 10 games and now sits in sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

3. The Nuggets keep rolling
On Sunday, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony combined for 69 points in a victory over Toronto. On Monday, the dynamic duo posted 49 points, but the results were the same – a win. The Answer finished with 26 points and Carmelo Anthony tallied 23, however neither could hold a candle to J.R. Smith in Denver’s 120-106 win. Smith went nuclear in the final period, ripping off 25 of his 27 points, including seven bombs from downtown. The W was the Nuggets third consecutive as they try to work themselves back into the playoff picture in a stacked West. The Grizzlies got big games out of a pair of blossoming youngsters as Rudy put up a game-high 30 points and Hakim Warrick finished with 29. But don’t let the inexperienced talent fool you, this team stinks. In fact, if it weren’t for Seattle’s current 1-11 streak, Memphis might very well own the conference’s worst mark.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Lamar Odom @ Golden State 53 min, 23 pts (FG: 10-15, FT: 3-5), 21 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 5 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (47-23) @ Orlando (46-26)
The last time the Spurs visited Orlando Dwight Howard slam dunked his Magic to a victory with less than one second remaining in the game. Until he went Superman at All-Star Weekend, it was the defining moment of his short career. The Spurs have now won three in a row after dropping six of seven and just added Brent Barry back to the roster to give them some solid perimeter shooting for the playoff push. It’s a strategy the Magic are quite familiar with. Orlando averages the second-most treys in the league (25.1 3FG per game) and Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Keith Bogans are amongst the top 12 in the league for 3-point attempts.

Buzzer Beater: Fans in Seattle chanted “Save Our Sonics!” at any chance they could get last night and apparently the players just aren’t used to hearing anything other than boos when they play in front of the home crowd after dropping 11 in a row before beating Portland 97-84 on Monday.

Messed me up a little bit,” [Kevin] Durant said. “But I heard them and that’s something I love. The crowd was into it tonight and that shows they’re going to stick behind us.

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Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Down goes Dirk! Down goes Dirk!


1. The M.V.P. is O.U.T.
The Mavericks lost a whole lot more than just the game when they played San Antonio on Sunday, they also lost Dirk Nowitzki. In the third quarter Nowitzki took a nasty fall and his left leg got caught up underneath him, leaving him in pain and the Mavs in misery. The “lower left leg injury” is expected to keep Dirk out of action for at least two weeks which could spell disaster for Dallas’ playoff chances because after falling 88-81 to the Spurs, the Mavericks are now just two games from falling out of the chase as they currently sit in seventh place. The defeat dropped Dallas to 0-8 versus teams with winning records since acquiring Jason Kidd. The Spurs on the other hand are starting to improve, winning their third consecutive game after going through a horrible 1-6 slump.

2. Denver’s playoff push continues

Denver is a tough team to beat when Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony get hot. Just ask Toronto. The duo combined for 69 points in a 109-100 defeat of the Raptors up in Canada. A.I. exploded for 36 points while Anthony posted 33 to help Denver win its second consecutive game. The Nuggets are racing the clock and the competition as they try to claw their way back into the postseason’s elite eight out West. Toronto is slipping and sliding its way to the bottom of its conference with a 2-8 record over the last 10 games. Not even having their superstar back is helping. The Raptors are 1-2 since Chris Bosh returned to the lineup. Against Denver, Bosh was doing it all in the loss, finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

3. Lakers rally in vain
The Lakers trailed by 26 points at one point against the Warriors on Sunday and damn near rallied all the way back, but Stephen Jackson thwarted the comeback. Jackson made a pair of big treys in the final minute, giving him 31 points on the day and his team a 115-111 road victory. Monta Ellis matched Jackson’s 31 point output and Baron Davis added 18 to help Golden State avoid a total choke job. Kobe Bryant had 36 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in the loss. Los Angeles is now sitting in second place in the Western Conference, trailing New Orleans via tiebreaker, but has considerably cooled off, going 6-4 in their last 10 contests. However, LA can avenge the loss tonight as it turns around and heads to Golden State for the tail end of the home-and-home.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Golden State 46 min, 36 pts (FG: 13-30, 3FG: 3-9, FT: 7-7), 14 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl,

Monday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (47-22) @ Detroit (49-20)
Talk about a contrast in styles! The Suns are the second best offensive team in the league, averaging 110.2 points per game while Detroit is the second best defensive unit in the Association, giving up a meager 90.8 points a contest. Tonight, something has to give. The Pistons are riding a two game losing streak after falling to Cleveland and Washington on the road, but they will have the advantage of playing at home against Phoenix where they are 27-6. But home court advantage might not be enough as the Suns are finally clicking with Shaquille O’Neal, winning seven straight. In the last five games, Phoenix has been able to keep O’Neal’s minutes to a minimum (27.6 per game) while getting nearly a double-double (14. ppg, 19.6) out of him.

Buzzer Beater: For the first time in the history of the NBA it appears that we are going to see a 50+ win team miss the playoffs. And, of course, we are talking about the unlucky souls who get the shaft out West. Currently, that team is the Denver Nuggets with a 42-28 record.

I’ve never seen anything like it. I call it the Halley’s Comet year of the NBA,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Once every 99 years something like this happens. Why I have to be a part of it, I want to know why.