Post Up: Down to the Wire
Denver earns a playoff bid while Houston and Utah hang on to their postseason hopes.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
This is my last go around with The Post Up for the ’11-’12 season and it’s a bittersweet moment. Thankfully, I’ll get my Friday and Saturday nights back but on the other hand, it means that the regular season is pretty much over. I’d like to take a quick second to thank everybody who took the time out to read and comment on The Post Up every day. I’m always humbled when anyone comments on my work and to see a (mostly) positive reaction every night has been amazing. SLAM may be the authority in basketball, but it’s you guys who are the true hoop heads and keep the site rockin’. Big shoutouts to Enigmatic, Myung, IAMORANGE4EVER, nbk, Slick Ric, Wayno and everybody else who held Abe and I down throughout the season; it’s been fun!!
“You could have been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me…I appreciate that.” -Hov
Without further ado…
With last night’s win over the Suns, the Nuggets find themselves in the playoffs, while the window for the Suns to sneak in is closing fast. The game was decided in the third quarter after the Nuggets blew the game open with a 21-4 run headlined by two three-pointers from Ty Lawson. Lawson absolutely dominated the game with 29 points, 10 assists and only 1 turnover and the young man looks ready to elevate his game in the postseason. Denver beat up Phoenix inside, outscoring them 68-44 in the paint behind an 18-point, 14-rebound performance from rookie Kenneth Faried. Aaron Afflalo chipped in with 19 and Danilo Gallinari added 13 in the win. With the loss, Phoenix now must beat the Jazz on Tuesday and the Spurs on Wednesday–a daunting task this late in the season. Shannon Brown did all he could with 28 points, but the Nugs proved to be too much to handle. Big congrats to Steve Nash for passing Oscar Robertson and moving into fifth-place on the all-time assist list. We see you.
This may have been a very telling game for the Pacers. Indiana had multiple chances to win the game in regulation, but they couldn’t hit big shots. Paul George had an opportunity to win the game on a three as time expired but missed, and in overtime the Pacers missed two more three-pointers (one by George Hill that would have won the game and another by Danny Granger that would have forced another OT) in the final 18 seconds resulting in a Sixers win. At some point during the playoffs, the Pacers will need someone to come through and hit a big shot for them and after last night’s showing, I’m not sure who that guy is going to be. David West finished with 32 points and 12 boards, Paul George finished with 16 and Psycho T had 17 off the bench but they couldn’t overcome a solid team effort from the Sixers. Five Philadelphia players scored in double-digits including Elton Brand who led the way with 20, Jrue Holiday who had 18 and Lou Will who finished with 19 off the bench. The Sixers desperately needed this win to boost their confidence as they have been stumbling down the stretch and are now sneaking into the playoffs with the eight seed.
I know Abe is gassed, but the score is a bit deceiving. The Heat were playing sans Dwyane Wade (who dislocated his finger in the first quarter), LeBron, and Chris Bosh. After Udonis Haslem tied the game in the waning seconds, the Wizards (surprisingly) executed an inbounds play that saw Nene hit the game winning bucket with .5 remaining. The Wiz have now won three straight and are looking to continue their streak and finish the season on a high note. Cartier Martin hit four three-pointers to finish with a game-high 22 points, John Wall posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 dimes and Kevin Seraphin scored 17 to lead the way. For the Heat, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers each scored 16 to pace Miami.
With Derrick Rose back in the lineup, the Bulls defeated the defending champs by double figures at the United Center. Rose played 31 mintues, scored 11 points, dished 8 dimes and committed just 1 turnover in the victory. The Mavs were able to cut the deficit to two with four and a half minutes to go, but the Bulls went on a deciding 7-0 run to push the lead back to nine. Luol Deng led all scores with 22 points while Joakim Noah ripped down 14 boards and Rip Hamilton chipped in with 19. For the Mavs, Dirk scored 17, Vince Carter dropped 15 and Rodrigue Beaubois scored 16 before leaving the game with a finger injury.
The Grizzlies are a popular pick to go far in this year’s playoffs and they may be buying into the hype a bit and losing focus. Memphis has won four straight over non contending teams, but each game has been way closer than it should be. Last night, the Griz went scoreless for four minutes in the fourth quarter (that’s a lot of four’s) and saw their lead evaporate from 12 points to two points. After Mike Conley missed a jumper with ten seconds to go, Rudy Gay made a great play to block a potential game tying Wes Matthews jumper and O.J. Mayo hit two free throws to seal the victory. Gay led the Grizzlies with 21 points and 6 boards while Mayo had 14 off the bench. For the Blazers, J.J. Hickson led all scorers with 23 points and 13 boards and Jamal Crawford scored 21 in the loss.
Houston is clinging to their playoff hopes and nearly let their chances slip away at home last night. Prior to last night’s victory, the Rockets had lost six straight and it looked like the pressure was getting to them as they just escaped a second-half collapse against Golden State. After the Warriors took a one-point lead in the third quarter, the Rockets found their stroke and hit five three’s to fuel an 18-8 run that pushed the lead to ten. Courtney Lee scored 12 of his team-high 20 in the fourth quarter while Goran Dragic chipped in with 18 points, 7 dimes and 3 steals. Houston must win its final two regular-season games to have any chance of sneaking into the playoffs. For the Warriors, Klay Thompson scored 24 as he caps off a successful rookie campaign.
Milwaukee snapped a three-game losing streak but it may have been too little, too late as their playoff chances were dealt a serious blow after the Sixers defeated the Pacers. In order for the Bucks to make the postseason, they must win their final three games while Philly must lose their final three. In last night’s affair, Brandon Jennings hit three three-pointers in a two-minute span during the fourth quarter to finish with 30 points and 6 assists. Ersan Illyasova had another double-double with 17 points and 17 boards while frontcourt mate Drew Gooden socred 16 and pulled down 8 rebounds. Gerald Wallace scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while MarShon Brooks scored 17 to pace New Jersey.
Utah trailed for nearly the entire game, but were able to hang around long enough to storm back in the second half and force overtime to hold down the eight seed out West. After Orlando went on a 16-0 run to take a 78-67 lead, the Jazz stepped up and responded with a 14-5 run to tie the game up. Devin Harris scored 21 and blocked the potential game-winning Magic shot then proceeded to hit a huge three in the overtime session to push his team over the hump. Al Jefferson had a big game inside with 21 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks. The Jazz face the Suns on Tuesday in what is a must-win game for both teams; if the Jazz win they claim the eight spot but if the Suns win they help their cause considering they own the tiebreaker over Utah. The Magic hit 15 three-pointers, Jameer Nelson dropped 23 and Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson added 21 apiece in the loss.
Stat Line of the Night: Ty Lawson with 29 points, 10 dimes and 1 turnover to help the Nugs punch their Playoff ticket.
Play of the Night: For my guy Abe, Nene with the game-winner.
Dunks of the Night: Rudy Gay with the breakaway reverse dunk.
Song of the Night: Roc-a-Fella Dream Team – “Champions”. Was knocking this while writing this and in my super-biased opinion, SLAM is the best out, similar to the early ’00 Roc days. Plus I could listen to Dame Dash talk shit all day.
Tonight: Abe is back to take you through the last week of the regular season. As for me, two words: I’m Gone!