Post Up: The Countdown
Phoenix stays alive, Miami beats Chicago and time is running out for the Rockets and Bucks.
by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
There is officially one full week of regular season basketball left to play. Strap in.
On the same night Indiana clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the Playoffs, the Bucks took yet another step back in their attempt to steal the No. 8 seed from Philadelphia. David West played his butt off, finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists (one a pinpoint full-court pass), while Danny Granger and George Hill packed the scoring punch, combining for 51 points. Brandon Jennings had 27 points to lead the Bucks, but he and Monta Ellis shot a combined 13-37 form the floor. Milwaukee lost its third straight game and now sits 3 full games behind the Sixers. Larry Sanders, for one, doesn’t seem happy about it:
Minnesota snapped an 11-game losing streak, leading from start to finish and by as many as 23 behind Nikola Pekovic’s 23 points and double-doubles from JJ Barea (13 points, 12 assists) and Anthony Randolph (15 points, 10 rebounds). The Wolves held Detroit to 37 percent shooting—a good number considering the Pistons missed their final 10 shots of the first quarter and shot 29 percent in the first half. Tayshaun Prince scored a team-high 18 points, but it was at the point guard spot where Lawrence Frank would probably like to have last night’s playing time decisions back. Brandon Knight started, played 28 minutes and shot just 2-12 from the field with 5 points and only 1 assist, while Will Bynum’s 12 late minutes produced 17 points and nearly got the Pistons back into the game.
With New Orleans leading by 1 and under 30 seconds to play, it looked like a Chase Budinger (22 points) missed jumper would wrap up a rare Hornets win and send the Rockets to a crushing sixth straight L. But Courtney Lee caught Greivis Vasquez napping on the defensive rebound, stole the ball, got fouled with 15 seconds left and made 1 of 2 free throws to send the game to overtime. You’d think Houston would realize the gravity of the situation and turn up its intensity in the extra period. Instead, the Rockets stood idly by while the Hornets rattled off a 9-0 run to deal the Rocks a dagger of a loss. Eric Gordon scored a game-high 27 points, outdoing Goran Dragic’s 23, and improbably, New Orleans improved to 7-3 over its last 10 games.
LeBron James went for 27 points, 11 rebounds and 6 dimes, Dwyane Wade dropped 18 and the Heat exacted revenge on the Bulls, while pulling to within 1.5 games of the top spot in the East. With no Derrick Rose, the Bulls built an early lead, but from 3:30 in the first quarter on, Chicago shot a dysmal 27 percent from the field, finishing with a season-low 72 points. Miami’s D locked down, fueled by the extra chippy-ness of the potential Eastern Conference Finals preview. The two teams combined for 4 techs, 2 flagrant fouls and 1 ejection—James Jones for a shove/mush of Joakim Noah’s face—and one of the hardest picks I’ve ever seen. DWade probably could have been tossed, too, for his blatant elbow on Rip Hamilton. John Lucas led the Bulls with 16 points and Noah had 15 and 10. Miami and Chicago split their regular season series, 2-2.
More skirmishes in this game, too, as Jared Dudley got all “What’s up” in Blake Griffin’s face, then Robin Lopez earned an ejection midway through the fourth quarter for a flagrant foul on Griffin as he headed toward a fast break throwdown. At that point, with the game still hanging in the balance—along with the Suns’ Playoff hopes—Steve Nash re-entered the game after his normal fourth-quarter rest and promptly put his imprint on the game. Nash (13 points, 6 assists) blew past BG and went glass to tie the game at 88 with just over a minute to play, then hit a pair of free throws to put Phoenix in front 91-90 with 25 ticks left. Chris Paul (19 points, 10 assists) got the call on Lob City’s final possession, but his driving layup was swatted away from behind by Sebastian Telfair, who played great defense all night, finished with 13 points and 3 assists in 16 minutes and was on the floor with Nash for much of crunch time. Phoenix is currently the 8-seed out West, holding the tiebreaker over Utah.
Line of the Night: Bron Bron had a nice night, but give David West credit for his 21, 14 and 7.
Moment of the Night: When LeBron’s doing this circus-type ish, it’s tough to compete with the Heat.
Dunk of the Night: A relatively routine Blake finish from CP3.
Tonight: Pete’s back for the last weekend Post Ups of the regular season. How crazy is that!