by Anton Kudriavtsev/ @TheDiesel
First of all, I’d like to pass on some potential useful information to the Canadian and Spanish contingent among us. As I’m constantly reminded to take advantage of the new playoff package from League Pass, I e-mailed their office and found out that this option is not available for residents of Canada and Spain. This is sad news because I’m told that international NBA coverage is weak and Canadian sports channels show hockey for some strange reason. I recommend forming an alliance represented by Steve Nash (because he’s politically active) and Rudy Fernandez (because he has nothing else to do) to solve this problem. Together, we can overcome the scourge of NBA playoff game absences on television in Spain and Canada.
The Pacers stomped out the Bucks’ hope for a playoff spot with a win led by Danny Granger’s 17 points. Milwaukee were led by Brandon Jennings’ 20 points but the teams’ most important shot of the season came to Drew Gooden, who bricked a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer. Indiana are now 2 games ahead of Charlotte for the last playoff spot in the East.
The look on Gregg Popovich’s face said it all: this wasn’t part of the plan. In a fierce battle of the Texans, the Rockets came out on top in overtime as they sent the Spurs to their 6th straight loss despite the marquee stars combining for 77 points. Kevin Martin scored 33 points including a clutch three-pointer in overtime that surged Houston ahead by 3 with less than 2 minutes to play. San Antonio rallied from an 11-point deficit to take the lead in regulation led by Tony Parker’s 31 points and 6 assists but Kyle Lowry (14 points, 5 assists) glided down the floor and hit a jumper to send the game into overtime. Martin took over in overtime to score 9 of Houston’s 11 points in extra minutes while the Rockets took advantage of poor late possessions by the Spurs who turned down Popovich’s suggestion (read: screaming plea) to foul while wasting precious seconds of the game. San Antonio haven’t lost 6 in a row since the 1999 season. The Lakers are now just 1.5 games behind the Spurs in the West standings.
The Magic completed their bi-annual “taking candy from a Bobcat” game as they cruised past a depleted Charlotte team. Scoring leaders included Dwight Howard (26 points, 14 rebounds) and Dante Cunningham (21 points) while Orlando sustained their early lead and ran off a 12-2 run in the 4th quarter to seal the win.
The Sixers clinched their playoff spot with a victory over the Nets, led by Thaddeus Young’s 22 points. Guess who’s planning their summer vacation? At one point in the 2nd quarter, all 4 Nets starters ran away from Farmar who was in-bounding the ball, leading to a 5-second violation. You guys do realize that Jordan’s supersonic Will Smith ears can still hear you 50 feet away from him, right? As it stands, Philadelphia would play the Heat in the 1st round, and everyone should watch that series.
Cleveland’s lead in the battle of the ping pong balls was jeopardized as John Wall was suspended due to his MMA debut fight against Big Z, but the team fell short against the Wizards anyway. Ramon Sessions scored 26 points for the Cavs but Andray Blatche was active early, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds to go with his 22 points at halftime. Blatche finished the game with a career-high 36 points and 19 rebounds including key baskets during a 14-0 run in the 3rd quarter. The Wizards never trailed after that point, holding off the Cavs while decreasing Washington’s chances at the number 1 pick in the draft. Cleveland has you right where they want you!
Derrick Rose showed no respect for Dennis Rodman night in Detroit as he led his Bulls over the Pistons. Rose scored 27 points and dished 7 assists while Boozer added 22 points and 8 rebounds. The Pistons trailed by 15 before rallying to within 3 points in the 4th quarter, led by Rip Hamilton (30 points). Chicago had an answer each time, with Rose dishing to Ronnie Brewer who converted the acrobatic layup to push the Bulls lead to 6 and hang on to earn their 14th win in 16 games. If you told me at the beginning of the season that Chicago would be 2.5 games ahead of the Heat for the best record in the East in April, I would have called you Gary Busey (a.k.a. crazy). For those counting, we are 14 short days away from the playoffs.
The geriatric Celtics continued their slide down the Eastern standings as they ran out of steam against the Hawks. Al Horford (16 points, 15 rebounds) had a critical tip-in to push Atlanta over the top with 7.9 seconds to play while Joe Johnson overcame his Kobe-esque shooting (4-of-20) by making his living at the free throw line, scoring 10 of his 19 points at the charity stripe. The only signs of life from Boston was Paul Pierce (25 points) and Delonte West showing his hustle by blocking Horford, finishing with 10 points and 5 assists off the bench. With both Chicago and Miami winning, the Celtics are now the 3 seed in the East. Since the Celtics are more than likely to stay in the 3 seed, prepare for a very interesting 2nd round series.
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The big three egos combined for 83 points, 22 rebounds, and 15 assists as they turned a close game into a blowout by destroying the Wolves in transition. Wade scored 16 of his 32 points in a 3rd quarter which Miami opened with a 25-1 run. Martell Webster was the Minnesota highlight as he scored 22 points. Attention championship contenders – the most athletic player in the league is so very, very tired: “You wish you could just simulate the rest of these games and get to the postseason,” James said. “Let me get my rest.” Perhaps one day LeBron will find a team with enough talent for him to get his rest.
The hobbled Hornets were no match for the Grizzlies, who were led by Zach Randolph’s 28 points and 10 rebounds. Carl Landry scored 19 points but Memphis held the Hornets to a season-low 12 points in the 1st quarter as they missed 15 of 20 shots after Landry’s initial bucket. The Grizzlies kept the pressure on throughout the game and established Randolph early who feasted on the injured and smaller front-court and led his team to their first win against New Orleans this season.
If Blake Griffin dunks against a team but no one is around to see it, did the dunk really happen? The Suns managed to overcome the absence of Steve Nash (out with a worn-down everything) as 6 players scored in double figures to beat the Clippers. Griffin had 20 points and 13 rebounds but shot just 6-of-15 from the field while the Suns took a 13 point 2nd quarter lead as they shot 61% in the period.
The Blazers finally got their win against the Thunder for the first time this season, ending their 5-game win streak. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 points and made a clutch jumper late in the game as Durant (25 points, 11 rebounds) struggled to find his shot in the 2nd half and turned the ball over, ending Oklahoma City’s early dominance. Even in the loss, it’s scary to see a team in their 20’s execute like seasoned veterans like the Thunder did especially in the first two quarters. OKC is almost guaranteed to play Denver in the 1st round with home court advantage.
The Nuggets kept their playoff train rolling with a win over the Kings. Raymond Felton scored 14 of his 17 points in the 4th quarter as Denver won their 5th straight game, riding the momentum from a 31-point 3rd quarter. Sacramento got within 9 points in the final period but scored just 6 points the rest of the way as Felton’s jumper and lay-up put Denver up 11 with two and a half minutes to play. The Nuggets are now 14-4 since the trade that shall not be named.
The Lakers began to step on the Spurs’ toes as they eliminated the Jazz from playoff contention. Kobe scored 21 points, overcoming a knee from everyone’s favourite loveable Ukrainian oaf while L.A. outscored Utah 52-35 in the 2nd half to earn their 9th straight win. C.J. Miles scored 24 points for the Jazz who led by as many as 17 points in the 2nd quarter before falling after half-time.
“Check My $tats” of the night: Kevin Martin – 33 points, 1 dagger.
Blake of the day: the and-1 finish.
Dennis Rodman had his jersey retired by the Detroit Pistons in an emotional ceremony. The Worm speaks about addressing the crowd before half-time (shout out to the timely video master @jose3030). The full ceremony can be seen here.
In other news, the Clippers celebrated April Fool’s Day by uploading a blooper reel of their season. On one hand, they seem to have great team chemistry. On the other, “Clippers + smiles = does not compute”.
There’s a block party in Utah and Kobe is invited.
No matter how old this Jordan interview from 1986 may seem, it’s still amazing. Nice look, Mike.
I’m out like Pop’s patience.