By Sam Rubenstein

The Finals rematch with the leadership battle between Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki never happened. This is supposed to be one of those big statement games of the year and it ended up as the worst of the three games played. Last week at this time I was on a plane heading to Vegas. Today I might have to go to IKEA and then help prep my apartment for my girlfriend’s friend who is staying over this weekend, before we go to an Oscar party on Sunday. It does not get more opposite or any less balling.

CHICAGO 84 CLEVELAND 78
The first half was everything the Bulls were hoping for out of the season. Ben Wallace leading the way on a smothering defensive effort against one of their key divisional rivals. LeBron sat for a bit, and in that time the Bulls opened up a lead with a 12-0 run. The Cavs responded from their ugly 9 point second quarter with a 31 point third, but they couldn’t complete the comeback down the stretch. LeBron hit a late pull-up three to bring the Cavs within four, and then after passing up a shot he secured a big rebound and put it back, but he didn’t take the next one. I thought we could put the “LeBron is not clutch and doesn’t want the big shot” talk to bed after the playoffs last year, but I’m really not so sure. The guy said on espn that he intends to become a global icon and he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali as far as impacting the world. He’s still young, and slightly less progressive politically. He is gettin’ money though. Speaking of which… BIG BEN boooooooonnnnnnggggggggg!!! Ben Wallace, the biggest name free agent of the offseason had his best game as a Bull. 14 points, 19 boards, 7 blocks, and he even hit both of his free throws. LeBron had 29 in the loss on 28 shots, while Larry Hughes had 20 on 26 shots.

WASHINGTON 109 SACRAMENTO 106
With 0.7 left, Brad Miller threw a beautiful pass to John Salmons, who drained the miracle three to tie the game and we’re going to overtime… no wait… it was a two… no wait it was a three, but it was after the buzzer. The refs reviewed it, the Wizards won the game. The Kings are the Nets of the west. They have the painful loss down to a science. This game had a little bit of everything, a blown 17 point lead by Washington, Gilbert vs. Ron Ron, Bibby vs. Butler, 47 combined turnovers, and best of all this quote from Mr. Artest “I tried to do a little bit more, but Coach just stopped going to me.” Ah… Mussleman. Good luck with all that. The final numbers are big. Gil hit 3 of 8 threes and a whole bunch of free throws on his way to a 43-7-7 and 9 turnover game. His shot has been a little off, and Gilbert has adjusted by earning trips to the line. He really seems like he’s evolving to the next level, especially since the Portland disaster. Caron added 25 while Mr. 50 gave them 21 points on over 50% shooting. Is the Jamison injury a blessing in disguise? The Wizards lost Larry Hughes, Jared Jeffries, and now Antawn for a while and they’ve been able to survive. Eddie Jordan’s job security was being questioned this year? Artest scored 32 and the staying put Bibby had 30.

DALLAS 112 MIAMI 100
This was much uglier than a 12 point win. Josh Howard landed on Jason Kapono’s ankle on his way down from nailing a three and Shaq nearly killed little Devin Harris with a flagrant with the game out of hand. I don’t think it was malicious, it was just what happens when you outweigh another man by 250 pounds or so. Dirk led the way with 31 and 11 and was very aggressive going right at Haslem and not just settling for jumpers. If he did that in the Finals, the Mavs would already have their ring. Oh, and this was the 10th win in a row for Dallas. Their third 10 game winning streak of the season.