By Sam Rubenstein

I should probably make a bigger deal about the Dallas at Phoenix game, but beisbol season began last night with the METS smacking around the so-called undisputed ace of the National League. It doesn’t make up for how the season ended last year, but it was nice to get off to a good start. Baseball is a long season much like the NBA, but the difference is that in baseball, less than 50% of the league makes the playoffs, and they don’t take 2 weeks vacation between playoff games. Contrast that with the NBA and well…

The last time Phoenix and Dallas met, I couldn’t possibly have hyped it up more in the lead up. Then we had blanket coverage during and after the game from pretty much everyone that works here, and the MVP talk led to lots of hate flowing. This time? Eh. Maybe it’s because it was a lazy Sunday afternoon game, with the hangover from the Final 4 snoozerooni, and the Suns can’t realistically catch Dallas in the standings. Whatever the reason, it just didn’t feel like a big game to me. Oh by the way, the NBA regular season is TOO LONG! It just creates more chances for important players to get hurt. As you will soon see, Caron Butler and the Washington Wizards are the latest casualty.

PHOENIX 126 DALLAS 104
Dirk rolled his ankle and kept playing through it. Nice toughness and all, but Avery needs to be careful. The Suns shot 65% for the game. When that happens… well, that doesn’t happen. An incredible shooting performance from the Suns. Nash had 23 and 11, Barbosa put up a game high 29, and Phoenix hit on 12 of 21 threes. The Mavs are at their best when they have balance and defense. You already know the D wasn’t there. The balance? Outside of the big 3 and Stackhouse, they had TEN POINTS as a team. No more Phoenix and Dallas until the Conference Finals. If anyone messes that up with an upset, whether Houston, San Antonio, Denver, or whomever, that team will be dead to me forever.

DETROIT 94 MIAMI 88
This could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, again. Rip Hamilton took over in the second half on both ends of the floor, but let’s be real, the big news surrounding this game is that Dwyane Wade is supposed to start practicing again today. Think back to his injury. Riley had just come back from his sabbatical of boredom. Shaq hadn’t done much this season, and their superstar who had been carrying the Heat all by himself to respectability, was in a wheelchair. Pat Riley and Shaquille O’Neal are two of the best leaders in all of sports. We’ll see how much Wade they get, but things are beautiful for Miami right now, and that’s good for the game because you don’t want to see the defending champs go away because of an injury. They lost this game, but if Wade is coming back, they win. Rip had 19 in the game while Shaq led Miami with 23 and 8.


THE LESS CLOSE GAMES

The Lakers finally won a game where Kobe didn’t have to take 30+ shots. He had 13 assists to go with his 19 points, as Maurice Evans led the team with 21 points. Sacramento? Let’s just say the Lakers/Kings rivalry isn’t as exciting as it used to be. Denver got by Seattle, even with Rashard Lewis continuing his hot streak with 27 points and Earl Watson scoring a career-high 28. Melo had 32 and 9, coming oh so close to his annual double double. Iverson scored 26, most of it coming in the second half. The game was played in Seattle, so they had Mariner legend Edgar Martinez come out and hit some souvenir balls into the stands as a fan friendly promotion. He whiffed on his first two. His career batting average against Mariano Rivera was something like .833. The crazy game of the weekend was Toronto-Washington with the Mo Peterson miracle shot that was madder than March, as well as Bosh going off. The Raptors win over the Bobcats wasn’t as incredible, but Bosh did have 24 and 16 and the Cats leading scorer was Walter Herrmann with 22 and 8.

With Baron Davis missing the bulk of the Warriors-Grizzlies game after getting double T’d in the first quarter, J-Rich had to put Golden State on his back and carry their playoff hopes past the worst team in the league. He succeeded, but just barely. Richardson led the Warriors with 26, Andris Biedrins had 18 boards, and other than Pau Gasol, the Grizz got another big game from Tarence Kinsey, who has now scored 20 or more in four straight games. The Wizards blew out the Bucks, but might have kissed their playoff run dreams goodbye as Caron Butler fractured his right hand. That’s just what we need, the Eastern Conference playoffs to lose one of its All-Stars. Chicago, coming off a tough loss to Cleveland, took care of the Hawks. Luol Deng had 30 in the win, while Josh Smith had 24 and 12 with 5 blocks in the loss.

BOSTON 98 CLEVELAND 96
LeBron has tendonitis, opening the door for the Celtics to throw away their lottery balls. Delonte West hit the game winning free throws, as the young Celtics Gerald Green and Al Jefferson combined for 49 points. In the past, Cleveland has a good record when Bron sits out. Not this time. Sasha Pavlovic took 20 shots. Reckless.

MINNESOTA 105 ORLANDO 104 OT
The Timberwolves love overtime. This was their TENTH OT game of the season. That’s cool, but if the regular season were a game, and overtime were to symbolize the playoffs, then the T-Wolves do not get to go to overtime. Ricky Davis had the big night, scoring 36 and hitting the game winner. KG nearly had a triple double with 22, 14, and 8. Dwight Howard was forced to give up the ball, though he did have 19 boards. Grant Hill and Darko kept the Magic in the game and both played very well. That sentence could be a once in a lifetimer. Orlando is still a game and a half above Indy for the eighth seed.

INDIANA 100 SAN ANTONIO 99
And that’s because of this game. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened. Jamaal Tinsley’s layup over Tim Duncan won the game. Jermaine O’Neal didn’t play and Mike Dunleavy Jr. had 21 points against the Spurs, who had won six in a row. I don’t see how any of this could have possibly happened. Perhaps the game was never played and it was some type of elaborate fiction. The Pacers ended a four game losing streak, and are now back in that race for a chance to play Detroit in the first round. We really can not have another Detroit-Indiana playoff series. Make it stop.

UTAH 86 HOUSTON 83
Finally, here is a preview of an upcoming first round series. The halftime score was 36-32. I guess they were watching the Final 4 the night before and said, “Hey, we can do that!” Utah overcame a nine-point deficit, continuing the surprising trend of the Jazz being the best come from behind team in the league this season. Less surprising, is the Rockets coughing up a decent sized lead. That’s what they do. Memo led the Jazz with 20 and 9, Deron Williams had 11 assists, and Matt Harpring hit the key free throws. Yao had 35 and 16 in the loss, while McGrady shot just 9 of 23. He should probably fake like he has tendonitis so he can rest up for when these teams meet for real.

There are no NBA games tonight, thanks to the NCAA basketball championship. Around the time that the Gators are putting themselves in elite company, or Thad Matta is receiving praise as the best recruiter who coaches now and then, I will be extorting little kids for their afikoman money. That is a crafty and shrewd inside joke if you know what I mean…