The Post Up: Lakers on Top, Nuggets in Eighth

by April 14, 2008
3

By: Holly MacKenzie
Eastern Conference

1. Boston 64-16
2. Detroit 57-23
3. Orlando 50-30
4. Cleveland 44-36
5. Washington 42-38
6. Toronto 40-40
7. Philadelphia 40-40
8. Atlanta 37-43
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9. Indiana 35-45

Western Conference

1. LA Lakers 56-25
2. New Orleans 55-25
3. San Antonio 54-26
4. Utah 53-27
5. Houston 54-26
6. Phoenix 53-27
7. Dallas 50-31
8. Denver 49-32
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9.Golden State 48-32

Well, well. Final few days of the regular season and we still have not decided on the MVP. I think I have personally decided, but my vote doesn’t matter, so I’m pretty anxious to see how it all shakes out.

Biggest game of the season Friday night with the Lakers blowing out New Orleans in the first half and then managing to hang on in the final minutes to escape with the win. They sure made it interesting in the fourth. Kobe and Paul were both fantastic, but Kobe definitely had the play of the game and maybe his dunk of the year in the contest.

Lakers continued to roll on Sunday against the Spurs. I know they were without Manu, but they looked horrible in the second half of the game. As it stands right now, a win against Sacramento tomorrow night will ensure the Lakers finish with the top spot in the West with both New Orleans and Houston dropping their last games.

While we are talking about the Lakers, I’m pretty sure my favorite moment of the game was Kobe calling Farmar “Jordy” as though he was a 10-year old.

Actually, I think it was after Kobe and Gasol connected for a basket and Kobe looks at Pau and says “Estamos aqui” meaning “We are here”. Yes, you are Los Angeles Lakers. From the start of the season in complete disarray, there is no other team in this league that was a bigger mystery on opening day and certainly not a bigger surprise in the NBA, not even Boston and their fantastic record.

Denver went and dropped the ball against Utah, giving Golden State some hope, but after blowing out the Rockets last night they are all but in the playoffs, unless they somehow manage to lose to the Grizzlies. Sam thinks it could happen. I’ve learned not to ever bet on the Nuggets, inconsistency is the name of their game.

JR is still looking good for them.

The image of the Warriors sitting in a sports bar watching the game and cheering on Houston made me smile until I saw how horribly the Rockets were playing. I think George Karl may have paid off the Rockets, they looked that bad in the first half.

Mr. Arenas was looking fantastic on Friday and he did a great job at silencing his critics with his play. He had points, assists and energy in the fourth quarter to single-handedly take over and lead the Wizards to victory. The best part as a fan is that he’s back to doing what he loves and he looks happy to be back on the court. I’m rolling with the Wizards in the East.

The thought of the Seattle/Dallas game potentially being the last game in Seattle is deflating. Nice to see the players speaking about the move and really nice to see GP make an appearance and give the fans something exciting to remember and cheer about. KD and Earl Watson made sure the Sonics got the victory against Dallas last night so if nothing else, the final game was a good one.

Houston and Utah, Cleveland and Philly and Golden State and Phoenix all face each other tonight in games that will help decide where everyone is seeded for the postseason. Indiana, Miami and Sacramento will have opportunities to be spoilers and create trouble for Washington, Toronto and San Antonio as well. Only a couple of days left and then we will be in the middle of something special. I love this game.

Edit: I just finished reading Sam’s Western Conference Break down. HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. I cannot wait for these playoffs. I want the commercials, the starting line ups, the analysis, the postgame interviews, timeouts, everything. Ahhhh!
Washington 109 Philadelphia 95

With Caron Butler out against the Sixers with a bruised knee, Gilbert Arenas played his sixth man role to perfection Saturday night. Coming off of the bench he was the “assist” man before breaking out in the fourth when his team needed him, leading them to a 109-95 victory over Philadelphia. With the Sixers up by six at the start of the final quarter, Arenas busted out with a 7-0 run to put the Wizards back on top. This was only the beginning as Washington shut down the Sixers, allowing them only nine points in the quarter while dropping in 31 of their own, going from six down to 14 up. Arenas scored 12 points in the fourth, finishing 5-6 from the floor while also distributing the ball on the break to his teammates. In addition to scoring just nine points in the period, the Sixers shot only 1-15 from the floor and were helpless to stop the Wizards with Arenas leading them to the victory. Arenas finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals while Antawn Jamison led the Wizards offensively with 25 points and 13 rebounds. DeShawn Stevenson scored 19 points and dished 7 assists and Antonio Daniels added 12 points and 6 assists. Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 22 points and 7 assists, Andre Miller scored 16 points and dished 10 assists, Willie Green and Thaddeus Young scored 15 points apiece while Samuel Dalembert added 9 points and 12 rebounds.

Utah 124 Denver 97

It isn’t common for the Denver Nuggets to score under 100 points in a game. Not only did they fail to reach triple-digits, they gave up a 40-point first quarter to the Jazz Saturday night and things only got worse for them from there. With Utah playing on their homecourt, they dominated the Nuggets from opening tip to the final buzzer, preventing Denver from clinching a playoff spot and placing them in a tie with the Warriors for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With the Jazz leading 62-59 at the break, they did not let up for a moment in the second half, outscoring Denver 28-20 in the third quarter and going into the fourth up 11. When Denver did get within one point, Utah responded by going on a 12-2 run to take control of the game and the Jazz lead continued to grow until they finished the game up 27. Deron Williams survived a hard foul by Carmelo Anthony to finish with 19 points and 11 assists in the game. Carlos Boozer scored 20 points and dished 7 assists, Mehmet Okur added 20 points and 15 rebounds and Ronnie Brewer also scored 20 while adding 6 assists of his own. Allen Iverson led the Nuggets with 28 points and Anthony scored 22 while JR Smith scored 11 points off of the bench and Linas Kleiza added 12.

Golden State 122 LA Clippers 116

After seeing the Denver Nuggets drop an important game to the Jazz, the Warriors saw a glimmer of hope with regards to their playoff hopes. Facing the Clippers, they knew anything less than a victory would close the playoff door. With Elton Brand continuing to get his groove back after returning from the achilles injury, the Clippers put up a fight against Golden State and the Warriors found themselves in a dogfight until the final minutes as they could not shake LA, despite all of their starters finishing in double figures. After pouring in a 42-point first quarter and leading by 16, 42-26, the Warriors allowed the Clippers to get back into the game and did not have the victory sealed until back-to-back lay-ups from Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis in the final two minutes of the game. Jackson finished with 28 points for the Warriors, Baron Davis scored 25 points to go with 9 assists, Al Harrington and Monta Ellis each finished with 17 points and Andris Biedrins added 10 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers were led by 30 points and 10 boards from Cuttino Mobley. Al Thornton scored 25 points to go with 10 rebounds and 5 assists while Elton Brand added 21 points and 14 rebounds and Corey Maggette scored 22 points coming off of the bench.

Portland 108 Dallas 105

While the Mavericks have sealed a playoff spot and the Blazers are entirely out of the playoff race, the match up between the two teams on Saturday night was still an entertaining one. Brandon Roy and the rest of the Portland team came out playing like they had something to fight for. While they will not make the playoffs, they have a chance to finish the season with a winning record and they are going to do whatever they can to achieve this. This included a 37-point first quarter, putting them up by 16 points at the end of the opening period. While the Mavs tried to cut into the lead in the second quarter, the Blazer held onto a 64-50 lead at the break. It was in the third that Dallas started to come back, outscoring Portland 30-23 as they battled back the entire fourth quarter and eventually tied the game at 101 with less than a minute remaining. LaMarcus Aldridge had a three-point play for Portland to put them up 104-101 and then Jason Terry hit two free throws, leaving Dallas trailing by only one. With the game on the line, Travis Outlaw knocked down a jumper with 28 seconds remaining in the game and each team knocked down a set of free throws to set up the Mavericks with the final possession, trailing by three. Terry missed on his three-point attempt and the Blazers walked off of the floor with another victory. Brandon Roy finished with 23 points to lead Portland while Aldridge scored 22 points, Jarrett Jack added 19 points and 10 assists and Channing Frye scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds. Steve Blake had added 16 points. Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points, Eddie Jones had 16 points and 6 assists, Erick Dampier had 11 points and Brandon Bass added 12 off of the bench.

Denver 111 Houston 94

Knowing that they control their playoff destiny, the Denver Nuggets needed their game against the Rockets last night. Behind a big night from Allen Iverson, they got it, taking down Houston 111-94, after blowing the game open by halftime. Leading 24-18 at the end of the first quarter, the Nuggets outscored Houston 37-26 in the second quarter to take a 17-point halftime lead. Denver continued to roll in the second half extending their lead to as many as 25 points before the Rockets were able to get anything going offensively. The Nuggets were able to limit the minutes of their starters and give the reserves extended time. JR Smith responded by scoring 23 points in the game as the Rockets shot only 34% for the game as compared to the Nuggets 48%. Iverson led Denver with 33 points and 7 assists while Carmelo Anthony scored 11 points, Linas Kleiza scored 18 points and Marcus Camby grabbed 14 rebounds. Luther Head had 19 points to lead the Rockets while Tracy McGrady scored 16 and Steve Novak added 15. Luis Scola grabbed 13 rebounds in the loss.

LA Lakers 107 New Orleans 104

In the showdown between the top two teams in the West and the players that most feel are the top two in line for the MVP award, the Lakers came out on top against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night. While the win looked like it was going to be an easy one as the Lakers jumped on the Hornets and led by as many as 30 in the second quarter, New Orleans had a lot of fight left in them as they came out firing to start the third and outscored LA 30-17 in the period, to cut the deficit to 82-75 at the start of the fourth. While the Lakers would put together a 17-6 run to extend their lead back into double-figures, New Orleans responded with a 12-1 run to cut the Laker lead down to four. After a three-pointer from Sasha Vujacic appeared to give LA some breathing room, Peja Stojakovic drilled consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead down to one with less than four minutes remaining. With the game on the line the Lakers were solid, scoring six straight points, including free throw from Ronny Turiaf, a three-pointer from Derek Fisher and then another free throw from Kobe Bryant. From there they were able to escape with the victory and the top spot in the West. Bryant finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists for the Lakers. Pau Gasol scored 25 points, Lamar Odom had 13 points and 16 rebounds and Derek Fisher added 15 points and 6 assists. Chris Paul led the Hornets with 15 points and 17 assists while Stojakovic scored 24 points, Tyson Chandler scored 18 points, Jannero Pargo had 17 points off of the bench and David West added 14.