By: Holly MacKenzie
Another night another crazy match up. I was fired up for the Denver/Phoenix rematch all day and it definitely did not disappoint. The energy level was high and it sure felt like playoff basketball. While I loved the list that Russ and Myles came up with yesterday, right now I am thrilled with how this season is playing itself out.
Except for the whole issue of San Antonio defeating Golden State last night. The Spurs are so dangerous. Down by three or four points and the next thing you know, you are looking at the clock and the deficit is 20+. Jax struggled all night, Monta was not Monta and Tony Parker had a field day leading San Anton to the W.
I was happy I caught the end of the Orlando/New Orleans game, too. I fell asleep early last night and slept through most of the evening without wanting or meaning to. I blame it on the cold I’m still fighting. I was thankful I caught most of the fourth quarter between those two teams. While CP3 definitely missed both of those free throws with 6.8 seconds left and his squad up by only one, it made me realize just how good he is when his 12 assists and 4 turnovers seemed really sloppy.
Peja’s three and his free throws saved the game for the Hornets and it was cool to see Byron with Paul after the game. The look of sheer relief on Paul’s face was enough to show anyone watching that the kid does not take losing well. I know that people have raised concern over how well they will do in the playoffs, but I get more and more confident each time I watch them play. They somehow found a way to get this win through their effort and just wanting it more, they gritted their teeth together and made it happen.
It’s crazy to think that I had the Suns to win it all this year, they add Shaquille O’Neal to their roster and now they are barely even on my list of potential teams to come out of the West.
I don’t even know who I think it is going to come down to anymore. Of course I had the Lakers and Pistons, and I will technically stay with that, but really, who knows. Boston looks damn near unstoppable when they are focused and I can’t wait to see the intensity KG gets out of those guys once the postseason hits.
Pau Gasol is expected to suit up for the Lakers as they face Portland tonight. Good news.
When is the last time we’ve seen Shaq so active on the boards? Or just this active, period? He almost ripped Melo’s arm off early in the game as he snatched a rebound away from him.
JR Smith had another nice game with 17 points last night. Just saying.
I flipped the channel for maybe two minutes in the third quarter, come back and I don’t see Raja. I see that both teams are fired up even more than they had been in the first half but I just assume that he has picked up a foul and was sitting. Took me about 15 minutes to realize that he had not just been pulled because of foul trouble, but because he had been handed two technicals and had been ejected from the game. Oops.
Tonight. ESPN. Golden State @ Dallas. Golden State is ½ game out of the playoffs, and Denver is ½ game back of Dallas who is one full game ahead of the Warriors. Did you catch all of that? Don’t miss this game.
Dirk is now listed as day-to-day and there is a possibility that he may play tonight. Another reason to watch, if you needed one.
New Orleans 98 Orlando 97
Something you won’t see often is Chris Paul turning the ball over and being unable to deliver under pressure. Both of these things happened last night, but still the Hornets managed to hold on for the 98-97 victory over the Orlando Magic. With Orlando leading by six after one and by nine at the half, the Hornets needed to come out strong in the third. They did, outscoring the Magic 30-23 in the period, putting together a 12-0 run to cut the deficit in the early minutes of the quarter. The two teams would trade leads, with Orlando going ahead by as many as 11 again, before New Orleans trimmed the lead down to two points going into the fourth trailing, 76-74. In the final quarter things were tight, with neither team leading by more than three points. After shooting only 1-9 in the game, Peja Stojakovic found his stroke late, knocking down a three-pointer with 54 seconds remaining to put the Hornets up one, 96-95. After Maurice Evans missed a jumper, Stojakovic made two free throws with 12 seconds on the clock. A dunk by Hedo Turkoglu brought Orlando within one and Paul was sent to the line with 6.8 seconds remaining where he missed both free throws. Luckily, Orlando could not convert on their final possession and the Hornets escaped. Paul finished with 19 points and 12 assists as Morris Peterson added 19 points as well. David West had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Tyson Chandler added 12 points. Turkoglu had 26 points and 7 assists for Orlando as Rashard Lewis scored 24. Dwight Howard had 17 points and 15 rebounds while Evans and Keith Bogans each added 11. The Magic were out-rebounded 50-31 in the loss, including 21-2 on the offensive glass.
San Antonio 116 Golden State 92
In the race towards the playoffs, the Warriors wanted to go 4-0 on this road trip. After opening their trip with a loss against the Spurs, they will now have to settle for a best-case scenario 3-1 after the Spurs dropped them 116-92. Turning a tied game into a 12-point halftime lead with a 20-8 run in the second quarter, the Spurs pulled away late in the third and they then turned the game into a blowout by the opening minutes of the fourth. While the Warriors got within two points midway through the third, the spurs closed the quarter on an 11-0 run to go into the fourth up 13. The Spurs continued to roll in the fourth, as they outscored Golden State 30-19 and put the game away early on as the Warriors never threatened in the final period. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 26 points and 7 assists. Tim Duncan had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Manu Ginobili scored 16 off of the bench and Michael Finley added 13. Baron Davis scored 19 points for the Warriors, Monta Ellis scored 14 points and CJ Watson added 13. Stephen Jackson struggled in the game, finishing with only 6 points on 2-12 shooting in the loss.
Boston 106 Chicago 92
Another game against a team sitting on the outside of the playoff race equaled another victory for the Boston Celtics. Last night the Celtics faced Chicago and used a strong final quarter to shake the Bulls for good, defeating them 106-92. While Boston’s offense was clicking, they fell victim to turning the ball over as they finished with 20 turnovers in the game, their sloppiness allowed the Bulls to hang around far longer than the Celtics had hoped. To start the fourth quarter, the Bulls trailed only 79-73, and they hung around until the final minutes where Boston dropped in consecutive three-pointers to extend their lead into double-figures and the Bulls could not answer down the stretch. Ray Allen had 22 points and 6 assists for the Celtics, Kevin Garnett scored 20 points and Paul Pierce added 17. James Posey scored 11 points off of the bench. Tyrus Thomas had 24 points to lead the Bulls while Andres Nocioni scored 19 off of the bench and Luol Deng had 10 points.
Sacramento 99 Houston 98
While the Houston Rockets are very much in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Kings are not. Still, they want to improve with each remaining game and with that improvement they are looking for victories and the opportunity to spoil another team’s playoff hopes along the way. Last night, the Kings did just that, hanging on to defeat the Rockets 99-98 on their home floor. In a game that was close the entire way through, neither team led by more than six points. Houston led 29-28 after the first quarter, but Sacramento held the 49-46 lead at the break and were up 77-76, at the start of the fourth. The final quarter was a sloppy one for both teams with Houston missing their first 10 shots of the period. The first field goal of the quarter came midway through, with Rafer Alston knocking down a three-pointer for Houston. The Kings were scoring at the line, but had their own struggles from the floor, scoring their first field goal with 4:35 on the clock. After the teams traded leads in the final minutes, Kevin Martin knocked down two free throws to put Sacramento up by one and after Ron Artest turned the ball over the Rockets went to McGrady for the potential game-winner, but his jumper came up short and the Kings survived. Artest led the Kings with 30 points in the contest while Martin finished with 27. Mikki Moore scored 11 points and Brad Miller added 10. McGrady led the Rockets with 32 points, Luis Scola scored 20 points to go with 8 rebounds, Alston finished with 16 points and 8 assists and Shane Battier had 9 points and 9 rebounds in the loss. The Kings won despite being out-rebounded 49-28 in the contest.
Denver 126 Phoenix 120
Only one night after Phoenix’s big 22-point comeback against the Nuggets the two teams faced off again, this time in Denver and this time with the Nuggets ½ game out of the eighth spot in the West. This time, the Nuggets were not about to go down and while they allowed the Suns to take over the lead for the first time in the contest in the final minutes, they did not cower and refused to give up the game. Forcing the Suns to foul them in the final minute, the Nuggets were solid from the line as they won the game on free throws after a huge jumper from Marcus Camby gave them a two point lead with 37 seconds remaining. After the Nuggets led throughout the game and went up by as many as 14 points, they watched as Phoenix came roaring at them to start the fourth, exactly as they had done Monday night. With Nash heating up the Suns took their first lead of the game on free throws from Nash with 3:11 remaining in the game. The teams would trade the lead the rest of the way through with Nash and Leandro Barbosa each missing three-pointers that would have put the Suns on top and after each miss it was Carmelo Anthony who came down with the rebound and went to the foul line, calmly sinking free throws. While Shaquille O’Neal missed on his free throws late, Kenyon Martin did not, sealing the game on his two free throws. The Nuggets were the aggressors early and continued it the rest of the way through, attempting 47 free throws to the Suns 26 attempts. Raja Bell was ejected in the third after drawing two quick technicals. The Nuggets were led by Allen Iverson’s 31 points while Anthony finished with 25 points and 8 rebounds. JR Smith had 17 points off of the bench, Kenyon Martin scored 18 points and Anthony Carter added 8 points, 10 assists and 6 steals. Barbosa scored 27 points for the Suns, starting in place of the injured Grant Hill. Stoudemire finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, Nash had 17 points and 18 assists and O’Neal added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Philadelphia took down New Jersey 108-99 last night. With each loss, the Nets fall further out of the playoff race. After being tied 77 at the break, the Sixers came out strong in the second and outscored the Nets 21-16 in the third and 30-26 in the fourth to take the game. Andre Miller had 24 points and 11 assists for Philly, while Andre Iguodala scored 17 points to go with 10 assists. Willie Green added 16 points and Samuel Dalembert scored 15 while grabbing 13 rebounds. Vince Carter had 29 points for the Nets as Devin Harris scored 22 while Richard Jefferson and Bostjan Nachbar each added 14. While resting Richard Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons defeated the Timberwolves 94-90 in Minnesota last night. With the Wolves hanging around and the Pistons needed someone to step up in the fourth, Rodney Stuckey showed up for Detroit, scoring 12 of his 27 in the final period to lead the to the win. Tayshaun Prince scored 15 points and Walter Herrmann added 11. Al Jefferson scored 26 points to lead Minnesota while Randy Foye scored 18, as Marko Jaric and Corey Brewer each added 10 points.