By Sam Rubenstein

The Wizards have pulled off the most anti-climactic clinching of a playoff berth I can ever remember. Think back to a few weeks ago. These Wizards were as goofy and fun as any team we’ve ever seen. From Gilbert’s ramblings and boxing robe on opening night, to the shooting contest at practice, Mr. 50 and his you can’t see me dance, and so on. They have an exiciting but up and down season, good enough to be one of the better teams in a terrible conference, meaning they had a shot at going to the Finals. Then they lose their two best players and have not won a game since. Last night they clinched their playoff berth with the Indiana loss to Philly. Antawn Jamison, the best player still standing on the team, said it best, “It’s bittersweet.”

But wait… it somehow gets worse…

NEW JERSEY 96 WASHINGTON 92
The Wizards lost this game in part because they could not get the reputation calls that the NBA was built on. Gilbert Arenas receives free throws because he is a star – think the Golden State game when Nellie lost it with a tech with no time left. Antonio Daniels can be elbowed in the face by RJ, and the foul goes against Daniels. I’m not saying that’s right, but that’s the way it is in the league, particularly in crunch time. When you analyze a game and talk about match-ups or who guards the pick and roll what way, it’s just as important to have a list of who is a big enough star to receive automatic free throws at the end of a game. Washington played hard and well enough to win, but on a night when the refs were calling every ticky tack foul, they chose to swallow their whistles twice for DeShawn Stevenson on drives to the hoop at the end. Not only did the Nets win the game, but they moved another step closer to taking the 6th seed from the Wizards. I believe the phrase adding insult to injury applies. Richard Jefferson led the way with 35, Vince had 31, and Jamison had 26 and 11 in the loss. Hope that champagne was nice, Wizards.

PHILLY 90 INDY 86
I am disrespecting this game by refusing to refer to the host cities or states by their proper names. The Pacers are still mathematically alive, if anyone out there cares. They really needed this win, while the Sixers are just playing to get in a quick workout. Naturally the Pacers were tight and missed 16 of their first 20 shots, finishing at 33% for the game. Rick Carlisle was quoted as saying “We couldn’t hit a bull in the (butt) with a bass fiddle.” I literally have no idea what that means, but I do know that the Pacers are not making the playoffs. Barring a double meltdown from Jersey and Orlando, which I suppose could still happen, but now we’re talking too much about the bottom of the Eastern playoffs. Joe Smith had 17 and 11 off the bench. He has a lot in common with Kevin Durant. No, I’m serious! Both of them were superstars at UT, high NBA draft picks, and were the focal point of two of the most memorable tampering schedules in recent memory involving former Celtic legends.

UPDATE: Ok, so maybe Joe Smith went to Maryland, not Texas. But Maryland did beat Texas 82-68 in the second round of the 1995 NCAA tourney when Joe played, and I must have been thinking about that game. Memorable because it was on a Saturday night and my parents weren’t home and I was playing basketball along with the game in the living room and my downstairs neighbor came up to visit me and remind me that I am watching not playing. 

ATLANTA 104 BOSTON 96
Wow, Hawks-Celtics in Atlanta at the end of the season. This game being played is a microcosm for everything that is boring about this time of year. Paid attendance: 13,780. Hmmmmmm… that’s hard to believe. Josh Smith missed the game because of his potty mouth, joining other missing Hawks like Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, the vegan Salim Stoudamire, and so on. Boston had a lot of talent missing the game as well, and Gerald Green scored 33. By the way, Bassy is backing up Rondo. He came off the bench and played 25 minutes.Book that man another SLAM cover. This game was the opposite of everything associated with the NBA Playoffs.

CHARLOTTE 92 MIAMI 82
Gary Payton tore his calf muscle and Shaq did not play because he was attending his grandfather’s funeral. James Posey was fresh out of the drunk tank, and Riley has conceded that the Heat will have to go on the road to start the playoffs. Other than that, things are great for the champs. Gerald Wallace had another big night with 24 and 10. $$$$$$$. Bobcats don’t care for your lottery balls. Dwyane Wade played like Michael Jordan… when Jordan first came back wearing #45 and didn’t have his NBA legs back yet.

NEW ORLEANS 103 LA CLIPPERS 100 OT
A good hard fought game with playoff implications on the line? I thought they didn’t play those anymore. After David West went for the steal to allow Elton Brand to tie the game with a dunk at the end of the fourth, he made up for it by dominating overtime. Brand put together a big night with 37 and 10 in defeat, while West scored 33 and Chris Paul had 17-10-7. New Orleans is now a half game behind the Clippers, who in turn are a half game behind the Warriors for the right to play Dallas a few times in a row. I think I speak for all of us when I say my two favorite teams in the league right now are whoever plays the Clippers and whoever plays the Hornets. Let’s go Nellie!

SACRAMENTO 112 MEMPHIS 100
Congrats are due to the Memphis Grizzlies, who have locked up the best chance to win the lottery for Oden or Durant, whomever. There was a 25-0 run by the Kings involved. Nicely done, Grizzlies. Brad Miller had a triple double. I applaud you Memphis.

CHICAGO 98 NEW YORK 69
Saving the best for last. Last night the Adam Sandler movie “Click” was on TV. I was watching the Knicks game for a moment, when the score was something in the neighborhood of 18-5 Chicago with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. By changing the channel to watch “Click”, my viewing experience at that moment improved. This would be the first time in recorded history that watching “Click” was more enjoyable for a person than what they had on the previous channel. Kate Beckinsale. Yes. I would like to get to know her. By the way Nate Robinson led all scorers in an NBA game with 24 points.