By Sam Rubenstein

You can summarize this NBA season so far with these two sentence fragments: dominance from Dallas and Phoenix. Injuries. Yesterday we found out two players with teams on the playoff bubble are done for the season. Jamal Crawford’s injury is unfortunate cause the Knicks feel like a team that’s on the verge of putting it all together and locking down a playoff spot (in the worst conference ever). The Clippers have been an uninspired bunch with fresh ink on their contracts for most of the season, but they would be in the playoffs as the 8th seed if the season were to end today. The death of Shaun Livingston’s knee could push them out of the playoffs but more significantly could end the career of “the next Magic” just when he was starting to figure it out. He’s on the Culpepper timetable. Don’t rush back Shaun. Heal. Rehab.

NEW JERSEY 113 WASHINGTON 101
The Wizards dared the Nets to beat them from the outside with three point shooting and Jersey obliged. A franchise record 16 threes on 32 attempts. Jason Kidd hit 6 of 9 threes, so you know the Nets were wide open. 26, 9, and 8 for Kidd with Nachbar contributing 23 off the bench. Gilbert could only hit 3 of his 12 three point attempts, and when he has a night like that with Butler and Jamison both missing the game with their injuries, the Wizards lose. More impressive than the Nets 16 threes is that they set their season high in blocks. SEVEN blocks is a season high. The Nets aren’t the most intimidating defensive team out there. I also find the NBA player’s fragile psyche to be a fascinating thing. The Nets were playing like garbage, until the trade deadline came and went and the team stayed pat. Now, the players can relax with their job security and just play ball. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jersey bottomed out against New Orleans right before the deadline, and have been on fire ever since. Pro athletes are notorious for having massive egos, and yet they still need to be coddled and told that they are wanted. Are they humans?

CLEVELAND 97 NEW ORLEANS 89
Yes LeBron. Yes. This is the kind of effort we’ve been begging for. 35-5-8, putting your team on your back and even hitting two late deeeeeep threes to win it. David West had 25, 10, and 6 for New Orleans in the loss. LeBron after the game said “I’ve been playing great basketball since the All-Star break individually. I feel the best I’ve felt all year.” In other words he’s telling us all “I told you so” about saving his energy for the second half. In light of Dwyane Wade’s season ending inury (or is it???), LeBron has a leg to stand on with the whole conservation movement – though in fairness Wade wasn’t injured because of his kamikaze style, much like how he hurt himself in the playoffs two years ago just bringing the ball up the court. Wear and tear makes the body weak, and LeBron has avoided that for the most part. Sure, he didn’t give hundreds of thousands of paying customers what they came to see for most of the season, but it looks like he’s ready to do that now and he’s scoring 30+ ppg since the break. Detroit has won 9 of 10, but the Cavs are stil just 4 games behind them for the #1 spot in the #2 conference.

PHOENIX AND DALLAS 2 VICTIMS 0
Alright, is there a need to summarize a Dallas or Phoenix win? The Mavs never lose and you’d think that a team on a 12 game winning streak would have a slip up one night. Minnesota ended the Suns 17 game winning streak earlier this season. Dallas put an old school smackdown on them, holding the Twolves to 65 points. With Steve Nash back from his injury, the Suns have a modest 5 game winning streak. Phoenix was down by EIGHTEEN to Indy, then they started playing defense of all things and ended up winning by 11. Amare had 11 offensive rebounds. Jermaine O’Neal went off with 28-13-7 and 6 blocks, but the lesson here is that Phoenix and Dallas do not lose.

MILWAUKEE 122 GOLDEN STATE 101
As half the league’s superstars go down with injuries, the other half come back to play. Michael Redd’s time on the shelf buried Milwaukee’s playoff chances, but he’s back and the Bucks are now an NBAish team. 31 points with 6 of 11 threes. Mo Williams had 16 and 13. The Warriors, well Jason Richardson keeps talking about how they need to play better and grab that playoff spot that’s out there. Whenever you’re ready J-Rich. Do or do not do.