by Anton Kudriavtsev /@TheDiesel
The Sacramento/Anaheim/Las Vegas/Little Rock Kings enjoyed one of their few blowouts of the season, with a satisfying win over the Pacers led by DeMarcus Cousins’ 18 point and 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, the Pacers shot just 35% from the field and hit only 4 of 25 three-point attempts and couldn’t dig themselves out of their slump. Danny Granger scored 20 points while he tries to keep Indiana in the playoff hunt (they hold a 3-game lead for the 8th spot). The biggest story is the inevitable move of the Kings from their current home, but on the positive side their wrists are floating with positive ions thanks to the Power Balance sponsorship (though the good vibes haven’t rubbed off on Cousins yet). A sad event nonetheless, Vlade Divac must be flopping in his grave.
Still without Duncan (out for a few games with a stalled operating system), the Spurs had their hands full with a peaking Blazers team. San Antonio jumped to an early lead as Portland didn’t realize that lay-up line practice was over and the Spurs led by as many as 10 in the 4th quarter, with Manu Ginobili’s 21 points leading the way. Portland crawled within 1 before Parker’s layup and Ginobili’s triple put the Spurs up 6 with 1:21 to play. The Spurs turned it over while Andre Miller (21 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds) hit back-to-back layups and Nicolas Batum (21 points) hit two free throws to tie the game at 96 apiece with 0.9 seconds remaining. Steve Novak celebrated his signing with the Spurs by throwing the inbounds pass away, giving Portland one last possession. In the closing milliseconds, Miller threw a lob to a cutting Batum who corralled and laid the ball in over Parker’s baguette for the game-winning bucket as the buzzer sounded. Batum went the dynamite in the Rose Garden.
The Magic continued their march to their 1st round bye (a.k.a. playing the Hawks again) as they hang on for a victory over the Nets. Dwight Howard led the way with 21 points and 14 rebounds and Hedo Tukoglu had a contract year-like 20 points and 13 assists as Orlando extend their winning streak to 5 games. The Nets hung around in the 4th quarter, coming back from double figures led by Jordan Farmar’s 15 points and 16 assists (seriously) but the Magic held on with a 13-0 run to put away the game.
We’ve all seen this movie last year: late in the season, the Celtics begin to slide down faster than Jimmer Fredette’s draft stock only to re-gain their footing and momentum in the playoffs. However, Boston shouldn’t count on the magic bonding to happen overnight. That’s why when they led the Bobcats by 13 points in the 4th quarter, the teamwork, defense, and offense fell apart like a Ford Windstar: you’re more upset than disappointed at the result. Charlotte outscored the C’s 30-15 in the final period, led by D.J. White’s 17 points off the bench. Paul Pierce had 18 points but Doc Rivers’ assessment of the loss was grim: “I just think we’ve become very, very selfish, not just as far as trying to get our own (shots), but everything is about how we’re playing individually, instead of how the team is playing.” We’ve seen the movie, but judging how it ended do the Celtics really want to act out a similar sequel?
Speaking of disappointments, the Knicks dropped their 5th game in a row with a loss against the Bucks. Australian Ironman Andrew Bogut scored 21 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and Brandon Jennings rained in 37 points as Milwaukee shot 50% and jumped out to an early 16-point lead to subdue New York. Amar’e scored 28 points, Melo added 25 but the team shot just 40% from the field including 4-of-25 shooting from distance. Those bright lights in New York must be especially blinding on defense.
John Kuester’s hot seat got a little warmer as his Pistons flopped against the Cavs as J.J. Hickson (24 points, 15 rebounds) and Baron Davis (16 points, 5 assists) provided the finishing touches for Cleveland including a clutch 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds to play that sealed the win. Rip Hamilton had 15 points for Detroit but they couldn’t get closer than within 3 points in the 4th quarter. With the Cavs ahead by 3 points and the shot clock running down, Davis elevated on the right wing and hit the deciding 25-foot jumper. Boom Dizzle is back!
News flash: Dwyane Wade is Miami’s closer (pun intended). The Heat surged past a resilient Sixers team as Wade shut the team down the stretch on both sides of the floor. Trailing by 7 points in the 4th quarter, Wade hit 7 of 8 shots and had 3 blocks in the period to finish with a stat-stuffing 39 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks, and 3 steals, a feat only matched in the last 25 seasons by Shaq Diesel himself. Miami’s big 3 combined for 91 points (James scored 32, Bosh had 20) as they used two key scoring spurts to run ahead and tightened up their defensive principles to limit Philadelphia to 17 points in the final quarter (scoring 34 themselves). Lou Williams scored 24 points off the bench for the Sixers while the Heat are now just a half game back of the 2nd seed behind Boston.
If the MVP is a popularity contest awarded by the media, Derrick Rose is making it more difficult to not give him the award. Rose had 24 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds as he scored the last 6 points for the Bulls including an acrobatic and-1 layup that carried his team past the Grizzlies. After hitting two free throws with 2:18 to play, Rose sprinted and converted over Marc Gasol (14 points, 11 rebounds) before hitting another clutch free throw amid “MVP” chants. Memphis was outrebounded 45-32 and outscored 46-44 in the paint and long-range three’s being the only reason they were as close as the score indicates. To carry over this week’s Post Up discussion, I’d take J.J. Hickson over both Noah and Howard. Hickson just brings intangible intangibles – they don’t show up on the stat sheet, on the court, or anywhere else for that matter.
The Thunder seem to be looking more and more impressive with every game they play after their trade. Besides the usual stars (Durant gliding on butter to 23 points, Westbrook scoring 19 and dishing 8 assists), Nazr Mohammed was an impressive force off the bench. Mohammed scored 14 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in a key 4th quarter run that gave Oklahoma City enough cushion to beat the Wolves. Anthony Randolph took advantage of his increased minutes with 24 points and 15 rebounds but the Wolves followed a poor 4th quarter start (0-for-6) with costly turnovers and couldn’t penetrate the Thunder’s paint enforcers. If the playoffs require a variety of players to step up to win a series, the Thunder are laying out the blueprint for a deep run this year.
Call your favourite tattoo shop and remind them that the Birdman is back. Chris Anderson scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Nuggets rolled over the Wizards. Birdman was one of 4 players to score 17 for the balanced Nuggets as six players scored in double figures to increase their post-trade record to 12-4. Jordan Crawford scored 19 points for Washington but the game was out of reach early with a 15-0 Denver run that the Wizards weren’t able to live down. Denver still sit in the 5 spot while their bench is averaging 55.8 points over the last 4 games.
Let’s face it; the Hornets had about as good a chance at shocking teams in the playoffs as Drake does winning a rap battle. With the loss of David West for the season, their hopes only diminish. Carl Landry stepped in place of West to score 19 points and Chris Paul had 22 points and 7 assists as the Hornets held off the Suns. Phoenix was not able to recapture the triple-overtime energy they expended against the Lakers but Marcin Gortat had a productive night with 18 points and 10 rebounds before leaving the game with a broken nose (if any plastic surgery is required, the doctor can feed his whole community with the bill). Steve Nash had just 3 points and 8 assists, shooting 1-of-9 form the field and committing 5 turnovers including 2 down the stretch. Paul bounced the ball of the glass and hit a long jumper to put his Hornets up 4 with 54 seconds to play.
The Warriors snapped a 6-game losing streak with a blowout over the Raptors, led by Monta Ellis’ 27 points and 10 assists. You can’t say Jay Triano doesn’t make defensive adjustments, as Toronto gave up just 54 points in the 2nd half. The problem is that they gave up 84 in the 1st. DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points but the demoralizing deficit was too much to overcome. By leaving the starters in the game up 40 points, Keith Smart showed that the Warriors will continue to fight until they’re back in the playoff picture in the future.
The Lakers won their 6th straight game with a victory over their inner-city Division III rival Clippers. Kobe provided the scoring (37 points), Gasol the humanitarianism (26 points, donating $1000 to Japan for each point), and Artest brought the entertainment as he executed the rarely-seen “jump and flex” after this dunk. Mo Williams (!) led the Clippers with 30 points and Blake Griffin (22 points, 6 rebounds) led L.A. with highlights (click here for the alley-oop and extension dunks). I don’t know how fans can be spoiled by Griffin’s dunks, but I still fall out of my chair like an Inception kick each time he extends and drops the hammer. The most entertaining turn of events could have been Chris Kaman and Derek Fisher’s mini-scuffle as Fisher received yet another phantom sniper shot to his shoulder after running into Kaman. There’s no place like home.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Dwyane Wade – 39 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals.
Did anyone check out this videogame of Rondo? I’m still stuck on the free throw level.
Al Jefferson speaks about whom he respects in the game.
Speaking of the Jazz, most of them wouldn’t pass the citizenship test.
Looking to put someone under hypnosis? Craig Sager’s tie to the rescue.
I’m not an expert on tattoos, but LeBron’s new artist may not be around much longer after this shoddy work.
Finally, after 15 years of research I have come to realize that the Space Jam box score may not be correct. Wasn’t Jordan’s last dunk from halfcourt, thereby making it a 3-pointer? I’ll need another 15 years to figure out why Mike didn’t come back to the movie game.
I’m out like Novak’s extension.