By Sam Rubenstein

We’re back from All-Star break and the trip which we spent many many posts detailing. Now it’s back to the games that matter in the standings. The basketball part of All-Star weekend was definitely an afterthought. I enjoyed watching the CP3, Monta, and David Lee show. There were some nice plays in the All-Star Game and the dunk contest was fun. But there was really never a time where I felt the buzz of competition that you get from greatness meeting greatness. The only competition on a basketball court the whole weekend was the Kobe-Amare MVP race, and really, so what? If I hadn’t been on record taking Amare as my choice for MVP of the game, even that wouldn’t have mattered to me. And in the name of full disclosure I should say again that the only reason I took Amare for MVP is because we saw Kevin Garnett dancing and sweating up a storm until 2 in the morning the night before the game. I knew that Amare would get his minutes. This is kind of how bookies operate to get secret information on who will be off their game the next day. Kind of shady. But nevermind all of that… we’re back to games that have an influence on playoff seeding and stats. Iverson and Nash even got back out there. Let’s get into it.

PHOENIX 115 LA CLIPPERS 90
Without Nash, the Suns were just ordinary. He came back, this game was over at halftime. I watched some of the halftime show with Barkley talking about the game and Charles looked so bad with post-Vegas black rings under his eyes. You’re not alone Chuckster. You know who else looked bad? The Clippers. Kaman and Cuttino sat this one out, while Maggette scored 19 in 40 minutes after starting the game (trade value? up. I guess). Nash got the Suns going with 13 and 12, Shawn Marion had 31 and 9, and Pat Burke grabbed 10 boards off the bench.

PORTLAND 103 UTAH 100
The Jazz cruised into All-Star without Boozer, but this is the first time they really missed him. Forced to throw everything they had at Z-Bo, Brandon Roy had the openings he needed to score 27 with 7 assists. Zach put up a 22 and 12 of his own. Deron Williams did not play because of a strained groin he acquired in the rookie-sophomore game on one of the thousand shots he jacked up to try and steal the MVP. He was walking fine when we saw him outside of the Palms hotel at 4:30 A.M. later that night though. Derek Fisher stepped into the starting lineup with 20 and 10 and the shocingly clutch Memo Okur nearly pulled off another Memo miracle, but missed on his final two threes.

WASHINGTON 112 MINNESOTA 100
The latest goofy development in Washington’s season is the new nickname for DeShawn Stevenson, which is Mr. Fifty. It’s a reference to his shooting percentage going over the 50% mark while Gilbert’s is not there. DeShawn went 9 of 11 for 23 points while “slumping” Gil went 1 of 8 from three but still managed to have a 38 point night. KG, Ricky Davis, and Mike James scored at least 20 a piece, but that was all the Wolves had going for them. Gil got to the line 15 times to get those points.

DETROIT 84 MILWAUKEE 83
Michael Redd made his return from injury. Welcome back to the NBA, Milwaukee Bucks. Redd scored 17 in 29 minutes, firing away with 18 shot attempts. For some reason he was not given the ball for the final shot and Chauncey Billups forced Mo Willimas into a tough angle. Pistons win, Chauncey leading the way with 19.

NEW YORK 100 ORLANDO 94
The Magic made this a closer game than it should have been with a spirited comeback in the fourth. The Knicks are one of the best improving young teams in the league. Steve Francis actually contributed to the win, Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford had 20 each, and David Lee picked up another one of his customary double doubles off the bench. Dwight Howard looked unstoppable in the first quarter, ending up with 27 and 14, but the Knicks held everyone else in check.

SAN ANTONIO 95 DENVER 80
The A.I.-Melo experiment is still not ready for the big dogs. Camby played too, so there really is no excuse. It took a 32 point fourht quarter from Denver, mostly garbage time, to get to 80 points. Iverson and Carmelo combined for 24 points on just 26 shots. Tony Parker dominated the first half, finishing with 17 and 5 for the game. Remember, two years ago the Nuggets hired Karl and they took off on like a 34-2 run or something like that. Is it time to get someone new in there?

CHARLOTTE 104 NEW ORLEANS 100
Tyson Chandler has been a monster on the boards, grabbing 20 in this game. But Chris Paul was outplayed by the opposing PG Raymond Felton who had 21 and 11, and when that happens the Hornets lose. The Hornets are the New Orleans team, not Charlotte. Nothing in life confuses me more than the whole Charlotte/New Orleans who’s got what team thing. Emeka Okafor had 16 and 15 with 5 blocks. Gerald Wallace had a dunk contest worthy dunk, but oh well.

CHICAGO 106 ATLANTA  81
The Hawks did not hit a single shot in the third quarter, going 0 for 16. I am writing recaps of NBA games right now, and I don’t think that qualifies as an NBA performance. At some point, you’ve just got to have a guy cherry pick and not go back on D, just to get that field goal. The Bulls played great defense. Either that or the Hawks REALLY suck. The Hawks wore their McDonalds yellow uniforms and played like they’d rather be sitting back with a Big Mac than running up and down a basketball court.
SACRAMENTO 104 BOSTON 101
The Celtics aren’t so great either. Al Jefferson gave them 15 and 15 and the Pierce-Delonte backcourt combined for 49. Dunk champion Gerald Green picked up 4 fouls in 3 minutes in the first half. Pierce gave this quote about the Celtics “We’re in a little gutter right now.” Yeah, that’s about right. The Kings nearly blew the game, but held on. Kevin Martin scored 22 and Ron Ron added 18 with 8 boards, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.

SEATTLE 121 MEMPHIS 105
Welcome back Rashard Lewis. 21 points in the first half on his way to 34 for the game. Really a dumb move by the Sonics to bring him back against Memphis of all teams. The Sonics lost a lot of ground in the lottery chase with this win. Wilcox and Collison dominated the glas with 29 combined rebounds. Pau Gasol had 17 and 12 in what could be one of his last games as a Grizzlie, while Rudy Gay scored 19.