The Post Up: Welcome Back, Nene.

by March 28, 2008
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By: Holly MacKenzie

Moment of the night: Fourth quarter. 1:17 remaining on the clock. Pepsi Center. Denver, CO.

Nene hops off of the bench, takes off his warm ups and enters the game. The rousing cheers of the fans, sweetness of his smile, pure joy spreading over his face, he now has the strength of a survivor for all to see. He receives a hug from Kenyon and respect from every single human being in that arena as George Karl watches with the pride and joy of someone who knows. It is moments like this that make the essence of this game so special because last night everyone was a member of Nene’s team, supporting him and giving thanks for his return to health and to the court where he belongs.

“I survived, I’m still here,” he said. “I’m a new man, stronger than ever. I just say, ‘Thank you, everybody.’ ”

Welcome back, Nene.

Games separating the 1st through 8th seed in the East -25
Games separating the 1st thorugh 8th seed in the West- 5 ½

Golden State is one half game behind Dallas and one half game ahead of Denver. Their next two games on a back-to-back? Denver and then Dallas at home. Don’t miss them. I couldn’t script this season any better.

I find myself rooting for JR Smith more and more each passing week. Everyone tells me to let it go because I’m going to be disappointed, but I’m not ready to give up just yet. Too much talent. As if on cue, he rises and knocks down a three.

I am officially amped, and ready in anticipation of these playoffs. I do feel a little uneasy about the offseason coming and having to give up the daily Post Ups dissecting all of the ball that went down the night before because it has become such a huge part of my routine. Being able to come in here each morning and talk ball allows me to get my fix so I don’t drive those around me completely crazy. The offseason always brings an adjustment period with it and you have that empty feeling for the first couple of months. I’m not looking forward to that.

NCAA weekend! That Xavier/ West Virginia match up last night was crazy. BJ Raymond must be loving life today. I really sucked at the bracket thing this year. Another win for UCLA and another big game for Ryan’s guy, Kevin Love. We are in for a great weekend of ball.
6-9 players are D-League alums –TNT halftime ticker. Enough said.

It’s been great seeing Matt Barnes get some burn tonight and play well. This Warriors team is something else. The group of players assembled, Nellie at the helm, the style that they play. They really do need to make the playoffs. It wouldn’t be right without them there and their fans deserve it. Best arena in the NBA, by far.

With Mickael Pietrus out due to a strained groin and a hamstring injury Azubuike has been playing and playing well with his increased minutes. With all of the craziness surrounding the D-League guys in Miami, it’s nice to see how Buike has made the adjustment that came along with the jump and has proven that he belongs.

Also nice having Chris Webber on Inside and getting the love from the other players. He’s a good guy.

We have a huge weekend of games coming up, starting with the Hornets and Celtics playing tonight on NBATV. Lakers are playing Memphis tonight and if they blow that one, Kobe just might get that 16th technical and the suspension that goes along with it. Tread carefully, LA. Phoenix is in Philadelphia looking to avenge that loss on their home court from a few weeks ago.

Russ, I think the haircut happens tomorrow. We’d like photos for Monday, thanks.
Saturday has Cleveland and Detroit and we wonder if the Pistons will be able to tame the beast that is Bron and Golden State is in Denver.

Sunday brings Houston and San Antonio, Philadelphia is in Cleveland and Dallas travels to Golden State.

Who are your picks for the Dallas, Denver and Golden State games? I cannot wait for them. Philadelphia is at the top of my must-see list as well.

Finally, since I missed it yesterday, congratulations to the Bobcats and their fans for their victory over the Lakers and the meltdown on Kobe Bryant. I apologize for not giving respect where it was due yesterday.

Detroit 85 Miami 69

After dropping their game against the Raptors Wednesday night the Pistons were back home to face the Heat and were looking forward to grabbing a much needed win and try to get themselves back on track. With their 85-69 victory over the Heat, the Pistons also clinched the Central Division title for the fourth consecutive year. The win was not guaranteed from the start as the Heat put up a good fight and led throughout the first half, but Detroit was able to cut the advantage to only two at the break 45-43. After putting up 23 points in the first quarter of the game, the second half was a different story for the Heat as they were held to only 24 points in both the third and fourth quarters combined while the Pistons had 23 in the third alone. After holding on in the opening 24 minutes of the game the Heat and their roster of six D-league alum’s simply fell apart and the Pistons took advantage. Jason Maxiell and Arron Afflalo each scored 15 points for Detroit while Chauncey Billups had 13 points and 11 assists and Rasheed Wallace added 13. The Heat were led by Blake Ahearn’s 15 points off of the bench while Chris Quinn had 11 points and 7 assists and Earl Barron scored 10 in the loss.

Denver 118 Dallas 105

In a game with huge playoff implications, the Denver Nuggets had an emotional boost before the game even started when forward Nene returned to the bench, suiting up for the game after missing 37 games recovering from surgery to remove a testicular tumor. Riding high on the energy that his return brought, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony combined for 63 points and led the Nuggets to the 118-105 victory over the Mavericks. With Dirk Nowitzki out, Dallas is only one game ahead of Denver and one half game in front of the Warriors for the seventh spot in the West. Each and every game for these three teams is of utmost importance. After Denver trailed by 11 points at the end of the first quarter, giving up 39 points to the Mavericks in the opening 12 minutes of the game, they came out strong in the third quarter and shifted the momentum in their favor. When the Mavericks went up by eight in the period, Denver put together an 18-2 run to go ahead. They extended their lead as Avery Johnson and Josh Howard were called for technical fouls and at the end of the quarter they had outscored Dallas 34-16, taking a 94-86 led into the fourth. By the final quarter Denver’s offense was clicking and the Mavericks never threatened the lead. Carmelo Anthony led Denver with 32 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists while Allen Iverson scored 31 points and dished 5 assists. Marcus Camby had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists, JR Smith scored 13 off of the bench while dishing 5 assists as well. Josh Howard scored 30 points for the Mavericks, Jason Kidd had 19 points, 15 assists and 5 steals, Jerry Stackhouse scored 18 points and Jason Terry added 14 points off of the bench.

Golden State 111 Portland 95

Sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, the Warriors hold only a one half game lead over Denver for the final spot. They are also only five and one half games out of first place. This season especially, Golden State understands the importance of each game. Playing against a Portland team who had left Brandon Roy back home with a strained groin, the Warriors knew they needed to come out with the win. With the game close throughout the first half, and Portland holding the 52-51 halftime lead, the Warriors came out blazing in the third quarter. In addition to outscoring Portland 40-20 in the period, the Warriors changed their approach and started being the aggressors on offense. After failing to reach the foul line in the first half of the game, they attempted 20 free throws in the period on their way to blowing the game open and going up 91-72 at the start of the fourth. In the final quarter, the Blazers never seriously threatened the lead and Golden State was able to rest starter Baron Davis who played through the flu. Stephen Jackson scored 24 points to lead the Warriors as Monta Ellis had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Kelenna Azubuike scored 14 points off of the bench and Davis added 12 points, 7 assists and 4 steals. Steve Blake led Portland with 22 points and 6 assists, LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 6 assists and Jarrett Jack added 19 points.