The Post Up: Atlanta and Miami Come up Big

By: Holly MacKenzie
I was looking forward to the Phoenix/Miami match-up all day yesterday and when the game finally came on, I was silent after the first quarter and remained that way for the rest of the game. After the loss was over, the Suns losing to two of the worst teams in the NBA in their last two games, losing to the Heat who were on the second night of a back-to-back and finishing up a six-game roadtrip, I wasn’t really that mad. For now, this is what the Suns do. They tease me, they make me think that they are going to go on a roll of 10 or 12 victories when really, they get caught up in taking plays off and in matching the intensity of the other team. Or, what they think will be the other team’s intensity and as a result, the Heat ran away with the victory.

Good for Miami for continuing to improve and take advantage of the Suns lackluster effort in the opening minutes. Dwyane looked great (besides the turnovers in the final minutes, but Nash had the same, so who is counting), but, for me it was Dorell Wright who was the story. He had a great game against the Warriors and after a not so hot night against the Clippers Sunday night, turned it around and showed up against the Suns.

Dallas was in New York last night and Russ takes you all there, to MSG. I didn’t get to see much of the game, but, looks like Avery was not impressed with the performance of his guys, allowing the Knicks to stay in the game as long as they did. Who can blame him? With the way the Knicks look now, I am shocked every time they get a basket to go. It must be draining to don the Knick uni these days.

Atlanta was huge against Orlando. Huge. Orlando has now dropped two games in a row for their first time this season. I only saw parts of the game, but, Atlanta must have felt pretty good about that one. Josh Smith had a great game for Atlanta and talked about his rookie season, when the team won only 13 games. 20 games into their season this year, they have now evened out their record at 10-10. The cause for concern with Orlando is going to be what they will do when Lewis and the rest of the shooters are not connecting on their three-pointers. Last night, the Magic hoisted up 31 three’s, yet made only 11 of them. Dwight had only 7 shot attempts and when he was at the line, he shot only 6-14. Not a good game from the Magic, but a great team-effort from Atlanta.

McGrady rolled his ankle in Houston’s loss to Philadelphia last night. Not a good sign for the Rockets that he is banged up again. I haven’t found any more info available on his status for their next game but, hopefully for Houston he will be healed up quickly.

LeBron is finally due back from that sprained finger debacle that has kept him sidelined for the past five games and has seen the Cavaliers drop all five contests without him. I’m undecided as to whether I think he will immediately jump back in as triple-double waiting to happen, or if he will slowly get his feet wet as he returns, before busting out with a huge game in a few days. Varejao is stuck in Canada trying to sort out Visa issues before he can re-join the team after his contract tantrum was solved.

Portland and Utah face off tonight as do San Antonio and Golden State. I am pumped up for both of these games. Golden State and San Antonio is going to be fun to watch the different styles of play as well as to compare Nellie and Popp on the sidelines. Utah started out so strong, but I absolutely love how Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw have been playing for Portland. I want SJax to have a huge game against SA, and I want them to get back to winning since my Lakers took them down on Sunday.

Atlanta 98 Orlando 87

It was a game the Orlando Magic should have won just like their game against Indiana on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Magic, they dropped both, to have their first losing streak of the season. Atlanta came out strong, and after trailing for the first 90 seconds of the game, they went on to lead in it’s entirety and used 19 Orlando turnovers to score 29 points, helping them to take a 49-41 halftime lead. Atlanta is now on a three game winning streak, thanks to Josh Smith and his 25-point, 16-rebound performance in Orlando. After leading by eight at the half, the Hawks started the third quarter on an 8-2 run and took a 59-44 lead with 8:55 remaining in the quarter. Orlando just could not get any consistency offensively. While they went on a 12-4 run to finish the third quarter and then managed to cut the Atlanta lead to 75-72 in the fourth quarter, they also had three-minute droughts, allowing the Hawks to maintain their lead and protect their victory. In addition to Smith’s big night, Joe Johnson added 24 points for the Hawks, Anthony Johnson scored 15 and both Marvin Williams and Salim Stoudamire each added 12 points. Hedo Turkoglu scored 22 points for Orlando, while Dwight Howard had 14 points and 18 rebounds, while shooting only 6-14 from the free throw line. Rashard Lewis added 15 points, but shot only 5-13 from the field. Keith Bogans added 12 points in the loss.

Philadelphia 100 Houston 88

The Houston Rockets were not pleased with their loss on Sunday in Toronto. Philadelphia wasn’t going to be the team that they took their anger out on and it was Philly who pounced on the Rockets last night, routing them 100-88. Up 30-24 after one, the 76er’s went up by as many as 31 points against Houston before the Rockets managed to put together a big push at the start of the fourth quarter and they finally cut the lead down to 10, but there was only 1:50 remaining in the game and Philadelphia pulled away again. It was simply a case of too little too late. It did not help matters that Tracy McGrady sprained his ankle in the first half and had to leave the game for good in the early minutes of the third quarter. The Rockets gave up 51% shooting to the 76er’s while shooting only 41% themselves. They also had 23 turnovers which led to 24 Philadelphia points as Philly committed only 13 turnovers in the game. Willie Green had 20 points for the 76er’s, Andre Miller had 17 points and 12 assists, Andre Iguodala added 16 points and Samuel Dalembert scored 8 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Bonzi Wells led Houston in the loss with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Luther Head scored 18 and Yao Ming was held to 12 points to go with 9 rebounds. McGrady had 12 points before leaving the game and Mike James also scored 12 to go along with 7 assists.

Dallas 99 New York 89

Everyone expected the Mavericks to win against the Knicks, what they didn’t expect was for them to nearly give up a 23-point lead and have to play their starters in the final period to ensure the victory. This is how it went down last night and Avery Johnson was not amused. In the first half of the game, Dallas lead easily and they held onto a 13-point lead at the break. The Mavs led by as much as 71-48 in the third quarter before the Knicks rallied back in the fourth, led by Zach Randolph and his 24-point, 11-rebound performance . Randolph managed to cut the lead to seven points with just over four minutes to play in the game, but Dallas hung on and extended their lead thanks to a Jason Terry jumper and Josh Howard basket. Nowitzki scored a season-high 36 points for Dallas, Josh Howard had 22 points and Jerry Stackhouse added 13 points in the victory. In addition to Randolph, Jamal Crawford scored 19 points and Fred Jones had 16 for New York. Dallas shot 53.7% for the game while New York connected on only 40% of theirs.

Miami 117 Phoenix 113

After losing to the lowly Timberwolves on Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns were back home and were catching the Heat on the second night of a back-to-back at the end of a six game road trip. It was supposed to be an easy win for the Suns to get them back on track but, Dwyane Wade had something else in mind. Scoring a game-high 31 points, with 10 of them coming in the final four minutes of the game to stave off a Phoenix barrage of three-pointers, Wade led Miami to their second win in as many nights as they torched the non-existant Suns defense in the first quarter, exploding for 40 points as they went up double-digits in the opening period (40-29), and withstood all of Phoenix’s runs for the rest of the game, to hold onto the victory. The Suns managed to tie the game at 80 late in the third, but, then Miami reeled off an 8-0 run to finish the quarter. Besides Wade’s 31, Udonis Haslem had a 21-point, 12-rebound performance, Shaquille O’Neal added 18 points and 11 boards and Dorell Wright had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire each scored 19 points for the Suns, while Steve Nash shot only 4-13 from the floor for his 11 points to go along with his game-high 14 assists. Miami out-rebounded Phoenix 46-29 in the game.

Sacramento 96 Milwaukee 93

After an opening quarter that saw things tied up at 26, the Milwaukee Bucks slowly built a lead against the Kings and went up by as many as 11 points before the Kings rallied back in the fourth quarter. It was a tough 12 minutes of lead-changing and ties to finish up the game, with Sacramento ultimately stealing away the victory from the Bucks, thanks to John Salmons defense on Michael Redd, limiting him to only eight second half points. The Kings outscored Milwaukee 30-19 in the final quarter to hold off the Bucks and get another home win before they hit the road where they are 0-8, the only winless road team in the NBA. In the fourth, there were nine lead changes as the teams battled head-to-head, and Salmons scored seven of his 22 points in the period. The Kings took the lead for good on a Ron Artest layup with 53 seconds remaining, and a Salmons free throw set the score at 96-93 as Milwaukee were left to lament the loss they appeared to have under control. Brad Miller had a double-double for the Kings with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Francisco Garcia added 15 points off of the bench. Redd led Milwaukee with 24 points, Andrew Bogut scored 14 points to go along with 9 rebounds and Mo Williams added 12 points and 9 assists in the loss.