By: Holly MacKenzie
I really hope that the majority of people reading this were able to watch the Phoenix/Denver match up last night. Wow. Playoffs are going to be absolutely ridiculous this season. The race for them is crazy enough. With the Nuggets clinging to that final Western Conference playoff spot, they needed the win against Phoenix. The Suns wanted the win so they could tie the LA Lakers at the top of the Pacific division. With the Suns winning, Denver is now one half game back of Golden State while the Mavericks winning against the Clippers are now one half game ahead of Golden State and one full game ahead of Denver.
The best part in all of this? They face off again, TONIGHT at 9 pm est.
Denver came out running in the first half and led by 19 at the break after dropping 70 first half points on Phoenix. It did not appear to shake the Suns as they came out in the second half focused. A focused Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash spelled trouble for Denver. The wheels started coming off in the third and they absolutely fell apart in the final quarter when Phoenix outscored them 46-25 over the final 12 minutes.
The game was intense from the opening minutes, even when the Suns were trailing by 20+, you somehow knew it was going to be close in the end.
Amare has been out of control offensively since the Shaq trade. He connected on 17-19 free throws for 41 points last night and he was absolutely unstoppable for Denver. They had to pick their poison between Amare dominating inside and Nash knocking down three-pointers outside. Last night, I saw the presence of Shaquille completely change the game for Phoenix, in a good way.
These are not the same Suns that the Lakers defeated a month or so ago.
If Amare is going to be hitting his free throws like that, it’s over for his defenders. He will not be stopped, so opponents will have to come up with another game plan.
Not a good night for Denver, but it was so nice to see Nene out there knocking down shots
JR Smith had another big night for the Nuggets, leading them with 23 points off of the bench.
Nick Young also pieced together his second strong game in a row, scoring 18 in that horrendous 42-point defeat to the Jazz. Why are the Jazz so much better at home? I will never understand a team playing that much more confidently on their homecourt.
I have to be honest and admit that I did not watch half of the games last night, didn’t even flip through them or watch the highlights, hence the shortened recaps. My focus was firmly planted on Denver/Phoenix while also catching Kidd do his thing offensively against the Clippers and then of course, checking in on Utah and Washington.
Exciting to see Atlanta extend their lead over NJ for that final playoff spot to three games.
This week there are so many huge match ups. The Warriors face San Antonio tonight to kick off their four game road trip. They also face Dallas tomorrow while Dallas faces the Lakers on Friday night. Tonight also brings New Orleans against Orlando which should be fun.
Utah 129 Washington 87
One night after an emotional overtime loss to the Lakers, the Washington Wizards were in no state to try and keep up with Utah. From the get go the game was a disaster for the Wizards and while they trailed by nine at the end of the first quarter things were only beginning to go downhill for them. Without Caron Butler who was resting his sore hamstring, the Wizards gave up 42 points in the second quarter while managing only 19 themselves. The Jazz led 73-41 at the break and they extended their lead in the second half, rolling over the Wizards while shooting 59.5% for the game and connecting on 15 three-pointers in the game. With Utah leading by as many as 47 points their starters were able to spend much of the fourth on the bench, watching as their reserves and rookies continued to pound Washington. The Jazz were without Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer in the game. CJ Miles had 29 points for Utah while Carlos Boozer had 19, Mehmet Okur scored 16 and Deron Williams had 12 points to go with 16 assists. Utah had 40 assists on 50 made field goals. Antawn Jamison led Washington with 22 points, rookie Nick Young had 18 off of the bench and Roger Mason added 16 points and 6 assists in the blowout.
Phoenix 132 Denver 117
In a showdown with each team playing for something bigger than the game itself, the battle between the Suns and Nuggets had a playoff intensity to it. While it was Denver who came out hungry to start and played like the team who needed the victory, the Suns hung around and were somehow able to come back from a 22-point second half deficit. Trailing 70-51 at the break, Phoenix came out gunning in the third, pressuring the Nuggets and outscoring them 35-22 in the period as they cut the lead down to three on multiple occasions and went into the fourth trailing 92-86. The final quarter was a defensive disaster for the Nuggets. As Amare Stoudemire found his rhythm, the Suns rolled over Denver, outscoring them 46-25 in the final period. With Stoudemire punishing them inside, Steve Nash started dropping in three-pointers and they took their first lead of the second half on a three from Nash midway through the period. While the Nuggets scrambled to get back into it, they could not contain Phoenix nor keep up the pace as the Suns out-rebounded them 26-6 in the second half of the game to finish with a 50-33 advantage at the end of it The Suns shot 33-36 from the foul line, good enough for 91%. In comparison, Denver missed some important free throws down the stretch and shot only 59% from the line, connecting on 16-27 attempts. Stoudemire was fantastic for the Suns, finishing with 41 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 12-22 from the floor and 17-19 from the foul line Nash had 36 points and 8 assists in the game while Shaquille O’Neal scored 20 points to go with 12 rebounds and Raja Bell added 15 points and 10 rebounds. JR Smith led the Nuggets with 23 points off of the bench. Allen Iverson scored 21 points and had 7 assists, Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points to go with 11 rebounds, Kenyon Martin had 19 points and Marcus Camby added 16.
Dallas 93 LA Clippers 86
Finding themselves in a dogfight with Denver and Golden State for the final two playoff spots in the West, with or without Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks have to find a way to win their remaining games. Because it has been awhile since they have defeated a team with a winning record they welcomed their trip to LA where they faced the lowly Clippers. While they led from the opening tip, the game was not as easy as Dallas may have hoped. Still, they found a way to hold on and after getting a strong fourth quarter effort from Josh Howard, persevered to grab the W, 93-86. After trailing by as many as 18 points in the game, the Clippers cut the lead to only six midway through the fourth quarter on a three-pointer by Corey Maggette, but the Mavericks maintained their lead until the final minutes. With less than three minutes to play, rookie Al Thornton cut the deficit to only five points before Howard got to work for Dallas, scoring six quick points to bring the Dallas advantage back into double-figures. While the Clippers out-rebounded Dallas 45-31 they also committed 23 turnovers to the 13 from Dallas. Jason Kidd led the Mavs with 27 points while Josh Howard scored 25 and Jason Terry added 20 Thornton had 26 points for the Clippers, Maggette finished with 23 points and 9 rebounds and Dan Dickau added 10 points off of the bench in the loss.
The Toronto Raptors defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 104-100 in Charlotte last night. Leading early in the game they were outscored 31-19 in the second quarter before coming back to shut down Charlotte in the third, allowing only 10 points for the Bobcats while scoring 21 of their own to get back on track. The Raptors started the game out on fire, hitting 17 straight baskets, before the Bobcats came back. With their lead cut down to three with 2.7 left on the clock, TJ Ford hit one of two free throws to keep it a two possession game and the Bobcats were done. Chris Bosh had 32 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists while Anthony Parker scored 20 points, TJ Ford had 16 points and 7 assists and Rasho Nesterovic added 14 points and 11 boards. Jason Richardson had 26 points to lead the Bobcats while Gerald Wallace scored 20 to go with 8 rebounds, Emeka Okafor had 18 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks and Raymond Felton had a 10-point, 10-assist double-double. The Indiana Pacers had the return of Jermaine O’neal sweetened by their 105-85 victory over the Heat last night. Leading by only two at the end of the first quarter, the Pacers went on to outscore Miami in each of the remaining quarters, extending their lead to as many as 22 points as the Heat struggled as much on offense as they did on defense. O’neal had 9 points in his 18 minutes of play, since missing 33 games with the bone bruise on his knee. Danny Granger had 23 points for Indiana, Mike Dunleavy scored 18 points Marquis Daniels scored 13 points while Travis Diener and Flip Murray added 10 points apiece. Daequan Cook had 16 points to lead Miami as Kasib Powell and Chris Quinn each added 15 in the loss. In their fight to secure a playoff spot the Hawks took down Memphis 116-99, thanks to a strong first quarter that saw them drop 40 on the Grizzlies, leading 40-19 after one. They would cruise from there, going ahead by as many as 38 points late in the third before Memphis would give them a scare midway through the fourth. In the final quarter the Atlanta offense disappeared and Memphis cut the deficit to 12 before the Hawks would take control and go on to the victory. Josh Smith had 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists for the Hawks while Al Horford and Joe Johnson each scored 19 points, Mike Bibby had 17 points and Josh Childress added 14. Rudy Gay had 29 points for the Grizzlies who also had 17-point efforts from Kyle Lowry and Juan Carlos Navarro.