By Sam Rubenstein

You don’t need me to tell you that the Virginia Tech shootings have a dark cloud hovering over the country today. It’s such a terrible thing, and I hate watching the whole situation become politicized with blame being thrown around already about who did or didn’t do what, and which laws could have prevented it or won’t be changed. There is plenty of time for that later. I grieve for the innocent victims.

Caring about sports is one way to get away from the horrible realities of life, so here we go towards the end of the NBA season. Teams with nothing to play for are for the most part taking it easy. But there was still a little bit of action worth mentioning.

HOUSTON 120 PHOENIX 117
Although Utah won the Northwest division and the Rockets came in third in the Southwest, the Rockets clinched homecourt in their first round series with this win. Mike D’Antoni, criticized for much of the season for using his starters too much and not getting them any rest, did not break from his philosophy. This was a game with playoff intensity, and while the Suns power trio put up the mega numbers you expect from them, the game was dominated by T-Mac and Yao. 34 and 9 for Yao. 39, 11, and 9 for Tracy. Steve Nash missed the big shot and the Rockets held on, leading to this quote from Yao “It is huge. We were so excited when the clock was running to zero. It feels like winning a playoff series.” Um, how would he know what that feels like? The Rockets as a team were very pumped up about this win, and while its admirable of the Suns to run their best players out there every night for the paying customers, you have to wonder if they could feel the burn late in the playoffs. Or maybe their conditioning is so next level, it’s wrong to question anything D’Antoni decrees.

THE JOY THAT IS THE END OF THE SEASON
Even though the Utah Jazz destroyed the Blazers 130-97, it was too little too late for them, and Houston will have home court in their first round series. Travis Outlaw led the Blazers with 26 points, hitting 18 of 20 free throws. I don’t even want to know how Travis Outlaw can be allowed to shoot 20 free throws in an NBA game. Boston beat Miami, with Al Jefferson putting up another big night, making his extended tankrific absence even shadier. Milwaukee played Atlanta and Shelden Williams had 17 boards, Josh Smith didn’t cuss anyone out or flip birds at them as far as I know. Gotta love the end of the season games between terrible teams. The Spurs rested everyone against Memphis, and at this moment the boxscore line for Brent Barry is “DNP – Tummy Ache.” I’m serious. The Spurs show blatant disrespect for the sanctity of the DNP, and I like that about them. The Hornets got 23 and 12 from Chris Paul in what you could call a spirited win over the Kings 125-118, but their slim playoff hopes are gone, as they have been mathematically eliminated. The Nuggets got 23 and 10 from Linus Kleiza in their 122-107 win over Minnesota, and after the game George Karl admitted “We’re basically starting to prepare for San Antonio tonight.” Hey, at least he’s being honest. The Nuggets pretended that the T-Wolves were a San Antonio scout team. There was no KG, no Camby, so yeah.

One other game that mattered.


NEW JERSEY 104 NEW YORK 95

Last night I was kicked out of my apartment for a few hours when my roommate played hostess to her book club at our place for the first time. I was at a local bar, which had the Knicks-Nets game on the television. I had to make a decision, do I care enough about the Knicks to raise my head 45 degrees and watch the carnage that Nets-Knicks has become? Or do I just stare off into the distance with a dumb look on my face. I chose the latter. Jersey owns New York. As someone that grew up in Brooklyn, that is an embarrassingly painful reality. SLAM’s art director Stephen Goggi is the butt of thousands of (my) jokes, which are all some profanity-laced variation of “You’re from Jersey and you still live there by choice? Ha ha you dirtbag!” But the real joke is the Knicks-Nets “rivalry.” The Knicks cannot beat them. Vince Carter had a triple double with 29-12-10, as the Nets have come a half game from stealing the 6th seed from the artists formerly known as the Washington Wizards. Mardy Collins continued to put up big numbers as the Knicks PG, but he did it in NY Knicks PG fashion, leading the team with 20 shots attempted.

The Nets play their season finale against Chicago in Jersey tomorrow night. Washington has Orlando at home tonight, and then go to Indiana for their last game tomorrow night. The Wizards could still hang on, but I really hope they don’t cause I want Vince vs. Toronto. Caron Butler made some claim yesterday about how he could be healthy by the second round. Uh… thanks Caron, love the optimism. Do you mean healthy to play NBA basketball? Don’t you need to be on a team that is still playing in order for your health to matter? This is a very sad ending to and exciting Wizards season. Oh, I mean hey the playoffs are a new hope for everybody!