Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Finally time to smile

1. Suns start climbing out of their hole
It took four games and over a week of playoff basketball, but the Suns finally grabbed their first victory of the postseason. After getting pummeled in Game 3, Phoenix returned the favor on Sunday, spanking San Antonio by 19 points, 105-86, leading the entire contest. Raja Bell scored a game-high 27 points and Boris Diaw was a pair of assists shy of recording a triple-double, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in place of Grant Hill who didn’t play. Amare Stoudemire was off target all game, connecting on only 3-of-11 shots for seven points and Steve Nash recorded a mere four assists, but the Suns were still able to build leads that reached 32 points. Tony Parker was the Spurs biggest scorer, tallying 18 points after posting a playoff career-high of 41 points in Game 3. San Antonio must now wait until Tuesday for another chance to close out the series at home.

2. Last second heartbreak in Washington

The Wizards hung tough for 47 minutes and 44 seconds, but then Delonte West delivered the dagger. With 5.4 seconds left in a tie game, West gave LeBron James a break and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 100-97 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series. James was on fire once again, posting 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to go with a blow to the head from DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson smacked LBJ toward the end of the opening half and it looked like fists would fly between the two momentarily, but cooler heads prevailed. However, Stevenson could be in for some repercussions after the league reviews the flagrant foul. It’s been a physical series thus far and Wednesday’s Game 4 should be no different even if Stevenson can’t suit up.

3. Up and down, up and down
After dropping Game 1 at home and Game 3 in Philly, the Pistons tied up their series against the 76ers by taking a 93-84 win on the road. Tayshaun Prince led Detroit with 23 points, backed by Rasheed Wallace’s 20-point, 10-assist double-double while Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups posted 18 points and seven assists apiece. The Pistons struggled against their seventh-seeded opponents again in the first half, but they bounced back after the break, outscoring Philly 34-16 in the third quarter to go from 10 down to eight up. The Sixers finished with six players in double-figures on offense; unfortunately, Thaddeus Young led the squad with a measly 15 points. Andre Iguodala raised his series average to 10.5 points per game by posting 12 on Sunday in yet another pathetic playoff performance.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Washington 44 min, 34 pts (FG: 11-25, 3FG: 3-8, FT: 9-14), 12 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: Dallas desperately needed to win Game 4 against New Orleans to gain some momentum to climb out of a 0-2 hole. No such luck. David West led Nawlins with 24 points and nine rebounds while Peja Stojakovic scored 19 and Chris Paul appeared to actually be human with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the 97-84 win. The Hornets now have a strangle hold on the series, leading 3-1 with Game 4 coming on Tuesday evening in the Hive. Dallas is spiraling out of control as a franchise quickly. The first home loss to New Orleans since January of 1998 is only the tip of the Mavericks problems. Josh Howard went 3-of-16 from the field after calling half the league potheads and admitting to getting stoned in the offseason. American Airlines Arena was devoid of virtually all fans for over half of the final period. The city is beginning to call for the head of Avery Johnson and the team has quite possibly literally lost their testicles since planning a parade when they went up 2-0 on Miami in the Finals two years ago. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted Big D because at this rate people will be wearing grocery sacks over their heads to the games once again. Ah, the good ol’ days.

NBA General

Around the Rim: King James just got crowned by the Bad Boys

It’s even annoying when unspoken.

1. Detroit rocks Cleveland
Everyone knew that the Pistons were going to be focused on LeBron James every time that he had the ball in his hands. Everyone just didn’t know that they would be so successful doing it. King James finished the game with a career playoff-low 10 points after going stone cold from the field (5-15 FGs), but that didn’t keep him from putting his fingerprints all over the game with nine assists and 10 rebounds. The Cavs were a 3-pointer away from possibly winning the game as time was running out but Donyell Marshall choked on an open shot from behind the arc and Chauncey Billups sealed up the 79-76 Game 1 victory for the Pistons with a rebound off the miss. Rasheed Wallace was huge in the win as Tayshaun Prince finally decided to take a night off and finished with less than 10 points (8 points on 1-of-11 shooting) for the first time this post season. Game 2 rolls around on Thursday and you can expect that the Prince and the King will both avoid repeats of their poor performances

2. Forrest Gump’s favorite time of year
So, tonight is the big night; it’s the night that will change the future of two very lucky franchises forever. Hopes and dreams have run wild for months and months about just who would end up with the pair of freshmen phenoms Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Barring any major league wheeling and dealing, tonight we will at least find out the two future homes of these kids, even if we don’t know who’s gonna go where. Here’s a look at all the teams participating in the lottery and their odds of getting the first or second pick:

Team 1st Pick 2nd Pick
Memphis 25.0% 21.5%
Boston 19.9% 18.8%
Milwaukee 15.6% 15.7%
Phoenix (from ATL) 11.9% 12.6%
Seattle 8.8% 9.7%
Portland 5.3% 6.0%
Minnesota 5.3% 6.0%
Charlotte 1.9% 2.2%
Chicago (from NY) 1.9% 2.2%
Sacramento 1.8% 2.1%
Atlanta (from IND) 0.8% 0.9%
Philadelphia 0.7% 0.8%
New Orleans 0.6% 0.7%
LA Clippers 0.5% 0.6%

And just too clarify; no, Phoenix doesn’t get to keep either of the top picks should they end up with them. Instead, they will have to return the pick to Atlanta if they land one of the top three picks. The Pacers will get the Hawks pick if Atlanta ends up with one of the top 10 picks.

And to further clarity; only the top three picks will be determined via the ping-pong ball bouncing lottery, while the fourth through fourteenth selections will be arranged according to the inverse order of their regular season record.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace @ Detroit 40 min, 15 pts (FG: 7-13, 3FG: 1-2), 12 reb, 2 ast, 7 blk

Buzzer Beater: The Jazz might have looked outclassed at times during Game 1 of the West finals on Sunday but nobody can point fingers toward the second year point guard who racked up 18 points in the fourth. Deron Williams carried Utah to a near comeback as he finished with game-highs in field goals and attempts (13-23), assists (9) and points (34); about all he didn’t do was hand out Gatorade to his teammates during timeouts. But the playoffs are all about adjustments and we guarantee you that both of these veteran coaches have been working the X’s and O’s with their teams since the final buzzer buzzed Sunday afternoon. Utah really needs to escape Texas with a split in the series but they definitely won’t have history on their side, 0-17 in their last 17 trips to San Antonio, as they head into the game. Then again, the Spurs have never beaten the Jazz in the postseason so, either way you cut it, somebody is going to make history by the end of this series.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Detroit looks like the team to beat in the East

Must resist saying how good it feels
to be in the East finals.

1. The Pistons are pumping
For a half during Game 3 of the Pistons/Bulls series it looked like Chicago might snatch a game and make this series interesting again. Unfortunately for Chi-Town, it was the first half. The Bulls Baby Bulls came out of the locker room after halftime completely flat and got outscored 53-30 in the final 24 minutes before the mercy ended with the Pistons grabbing a 81-74 victory and a 3-0 lead in the series. Chicago defiantly showed some life despite their horrible second half shooting as they hit the boards, and they hit the boards hard. Four starters finished with double digits in rebounds as Chicago outboarded the Pistons 60-43. But Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince were just too much for Chicago to handle and now it’s starting to look like the Bulls will be lucky to avoid getting swept out of the same postseason in which they just swept out the defending NBA champs. Damn, we didn’t know that karma performed turnarounds this quick.

2. The West is best

On Thursday the league released the names of the All-NBA teams and the Western Conference showed why they have a majority of the best teams in the league; they have all the best players. In fact, out of the 15 players to make one of the three teams, only six were from the East. The first team consisted of only players from out west as Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant got the nods as the best of the best. The East did, however, dominate the second team with LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Bosh joining the Houston duo of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Rounding out the teams were third stringers Dwyane Wade, Chauncey Billups, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony. Hmmm, somebody’s missing from this list. Ah, yes, Shaq! Nope, it’s no typo; the Diesel didn’t make the cut for the first time since his rookie year in 1993.

3. Boston is getting all their ducks in a row
Life is good for Celtics coach Doc Rivers. On Thursday, Boston gave Rivers a contract extension but didn’t bother to disclose the length of the contract or the amount of Benjamins involved. How rude! It’s unbelievable that Rivers managed to avoid the guillotine’s chop for the entire season after enduring the worst losing streak in franchise history (18 consecutive losses!) en route to a pathetic 24-58 record. Guess Danny Ainge doesn’t consider finishing the season 16 games out of the playoffs and claiming the dishonor as the worst team in the Eastern Conference to be rock bottom. Ainge obviously has a lot of faith in his current squad and feels that with a healthy roster and a little luck in the draft, the Celtics could become a contender in the near future. But by the look of things, Ainge certainly appears to be getting everything ready to welcome a young, fresh face of the future. Does he know something we don’t know? Perhaps David Stern has another scheme up his sleeve to revive a dying franchise.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Tayshaun Prince @ Chicago 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-16, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 4-5), 11 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: As if the Spurs/Suns series wasn’t already a great battle, Amare Stoudemire decided to add a little bad blood to equation by calling San Antonio a “dirty team” and accusing Bruce Bowen of intentionally attempting to injure him. To say that Amare was upset would be an understatement because according to him he was “very, very, very upset” about the incident. The latest accusation in the long line of questionable tactics from Bowen happened during the third quarter of Game 2 when Stoudemire was going up for a dunk under the hoop. “When I saw the replay and reviewed it three or four times, there was no doubt about it,”” Stoudemire said. “It was a purpose kick to the Achilles’ and he definitely tried to injure me.” And when you look at the play, it’s hard to argue with the guy. Here’s the footage, you be the judge.