The Post Up: 17 Strong

By: Holly Mackenzie

Funny how 39 points seems like a letdown one night after dropping 50, 10 and 9. LeBron is just so good that we have these ridiculously high expectations of him. Expectations that he more often than not, fulfills. 26 points in the first half of the second game in a back to back, finishes with 39 and I am still wishing he had gone for 50, or at least 45, again. Any other player would be getting hyped up for 39, there is so much greatness in Bron that I just want more!

I also love that “stopping” LeBron consists of keeping him under 40.

Joakim Noah with 20 rebounds. Ben Wallace and his big contract with 10. Bulls fans had to like that.

Coach Popovich must read Mutoni’s stuff because there he was last night against the Pacers, getting ejected for arguing a non-call. Sure, the game was close, but everyone knew the Spurs would get the win. After his ejection, San Anton rolled to their 11th straight and won by 21.

Russ made a comment in the post about Popovich, saying to imagine Jerry Sloan, Pop or Sam Mitchell coaching the Nuggets. I just wanted to mention this again, because the more I thought about it the more I smiled. Any of these guys coaching Melo, Iverson and JR would be priceless. JR especially.

The Spurs are really, really scary. They are just too good. Too disciplined, too intelligent, too comfortable. Ginobili and Parker are a fantastic tandem and that is without even factoring in that guy named Duncan who shot only 3-11 last night. That didn’t matter though because, of course Manu and TP stepped it up shooting 16-21 from the floor between the two of them.

Parker and Manu give me nightmares just thinking about how to stop them both. I can’t wait to see which unlucky team draws them in the first round.

The Mavericks were ugly to watch without Dirk. I knew Houston was going to get the win, but I didn’t think it would be so easy. 17 straight is pretty impressive. To boost your record from 24-20 to 41-20 just like that is crazy. The race in the West is even crazier with Houston sitting at 5th right now, but still only 2.5 games back.

My favorite part of Houston’s success has been the play of Rafer Alston who has been solid this whole season. It’s good to see things work out for him.

Pat Riley said yesterday that he will consider missing some of the Heat’s upcoming games to scout the NCAA. If that doesn’t send a message to the players, well, I guess its way too late for that. It is going to be one interesting off-season, seeing which teams get blown up and who ends up where.

Two big games on the schedule tonight, with the top pick going to the match up between the 4th place Jazz (40-22) and the 6th place Suns (40-21). With the troubles the Jazz have had on the road this season (13-19), it will be interesting to see if they can pull an important one out against a struggling Phoenix squad. The other big game of the night is San Antonio going into Denver, trying to grab their 12th straight. With each and every game so important to the Nuggets right now, will they be able to stop the Spurs?

It’s funny how even with Shaq being productive, grabbing 12 points and 18 rebounds the other night, the Suns are missing Marion so much. It just goes to show his worth to the team. He may have moaned and complained every chance that he had, but suddenly Nash and Amare’s weaknesses are being highlighted without him to cover them up. I’d probably be angry too if I knew how integral my play was to the success of my teammates and they were the ones receiving all of the accolades while I was only noticed when I had a subpar game.

Marion always did get paid very well for his troubles. On second thought, I would have bit my tongue and just enjoyed winning.

Saturday brings with it the Miami/Atlanta game and the big replay. I still don’t understand this and I don’t see how it still goes on without Shaq even being with Miami anymore. Could you imagine if the Hawks lose this rematch and then end up missing the playoffs by one game?

We get New Orleans and Houston meeting up and it will be exciting to see if the Hornets can stop the streak from reaching 18. I will be at the university playoffs while the game is on, but it will be recorded because I am eagerly awaiting that one. While I’m on the topic of the AUS playoffs, shout out to one of my favorite guys, Izzy, I see that ROY award!

Also, can’t forget to mention Dallas and NJ. It’s in Dallas, so it isn’t as good as Kidd coming back to NJ, but still should be interesting.

Sunday brings with it the Spurs and Suns. I don’t even care if it is a 30-point blowout. Can’t wait for it. The Lakers/Sacramento rematch will be interesting to see after their game this week. For now, here are the recaps from the action last night.

Chicago 106 Cleveland 97

In their second of four meetings this season, the Chicago Bulls got revenge on LeBron James and the Cavaliers for taking the first game between the two teams. After losing the first match up in Cleveland, Chicago took down the Cavs 106-97 on their homecourt last night. One night after James had dropped 50 points on the Knicks, it looked like he was on pace for another 50-point performance after he had 26 in the first half as the Cavs led 51-47 at the break. Things changed in the third, with the Bulls using a lineup that had Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes and Luol Deng on the court. They upped the pressure on James and forced him to shoot only 3-12 in the half while they used a 17-0 run to take control of the game as they outscored Cleveland 34-16 in the quarter, holding them scoreless for more than six minutes in the period. With Ben Gordon closing out the third by scoring nine consecutive points in less than a one-minute span, Chicago had an 81-67 advantage at the start of the fourth. While James tried to will his team back in the final period, it was too late for them and Chicago closed out the game victorious. Luol Deng and Ben Gordon each scored 23 points to lead the Bulls while Joakim Noah had 13 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes each added 12 points and Andres Nocioni had 11 points off of the bench. James finished with 39 for Cleveland as Devin Brown scored 15, Wally Szczerbiak added 14 points and both Ben Wallace and Andreson Varejao pulled down 10 rebounds apiece.

San Antonio 107 Indiana 96

Coming into the game riding a 10-game winning streak, the San Antonio Spurs got their 11th straight with Coach Popovich watching from the locker room after getting ejected in a close first half. With the two teams battling in the second quarter, a non-call irritated Popovich and after arguing with an official he was sent from the bench. The Spurs held onto a 50-48 halftime lead before coming out with the same fire their coach had in the third and taking control of the game in a hurry. Led by Manu Ginobili, the Spurs outscored Indiana 34-21 in the third quarter and as they went ahead by as many as 23 points early in the fourth. They remained in control the rest of the way through as the Pacers would not get within single-digits again. While both teams shot 48% from the floor with the Pacers connecting on one more field goal than the Spurs, the game was won for San Antonio at the free throw line where they connected on 26-33 free throws as Indiana only attempted 26 free throws, making 16. Ginobili led the Spurs with 28 points on 10-13 field goals while Tony Parker scored 19 points on 6-8 field goals as the solid guard play made up for a rough night from Tim Duncan who finished with only 6 points on 3-11 shooting as he pulled down 12 rebounds. Matt Bonner scored 15 points off of the bench and Michael Finley added 12 for the Spurs. Danny Granger had 22 points to lead Indiana, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy each scored 13 points while Travis Diener and Flip Murray added 11 points apiece.

Houston 113 Dallas 98

Although the Rockets were already on a roll coming into their match up against the Mavs last night after winning 16 straight, learning that Dirk Nowitzki would be sitting the game out with a suspension didn’t hurt. While the Mavericks competed and stuck with Houston in the first half, the Rockets put together a 13-3 run in the third quarter to break a 55-all tie on their way to outscoring Dallas 35-20 in the period. A three-pointer from Tracy McGrady in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter put the Rockets up by 18 points as Dallas scrambled but couldn’t come up with any answer to contain them. From the start of the fourth until the final horn sounded, the lead was never threatened and the Rockets walked away with their 17th straight victory. The game also marked the fifth straight win for Houston since they have been without Yao Ming. The Rockets shot 54% from the floor as compared to 44% shooting for the Mavs. Tracy McGrady led the Rockets with 31 points and 9 assists as Rafer Alston scored 24 points, rookie Carl Landry had 17 points off of the bench, Luis Scola had 12 points and 9 rebounds and Bobby Jackson scored 10 points. Josh Howard had 21 points to lead the Mavs as Jason Terry scored 17 and Jerry Stackhouse added 11 off of the bench. Jason Kidd finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the loss.