The Post Up: Wild, Wild West

by February 25, 2008
5

By: Holly MacKenzie

To start this Monday, here is a list of the standings as the teams stack up right now. I’m still playing with the format, so if you want to see something else, let me know. The way this Western Conference race is shaping up I’m soon going to have to do a list of standings every morning. With a loss to the Spurs on Saturday night, the Hornets dropped from the 1st spot in the West to the 5th. It’s going to be fun watching the teams work it to April.

Eastern Conference

1. Boston 42-12
2. Detroit 42-15
3. Orlando 36-22
4. Cleveland 32-24
5. Toronto 30-24
6. Washington 26-29
7. New Jersey 25-31
8. Philadelphia 25-32
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9. Atlanta 22-31
10. Chicago 22-33
Western Conference

1. LA Lakers 39-17
2. San Antonio 37-17
3. New Orleans 37-17
4. Utah 36-20
5. Phoenix 38-18
6. Dallas 37-19
7. Houston 36-20
8. Golden State 33-22

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9.Denver 33-22
10. Portland 29-27

High Five

1. Houston
-Currently on a 12-game winning streak.

2. LA Lakers
– 9-1 in their last 10 games, currently on an 8-game
winning streak and have gone 11-1 in February.

3. San Antonio
– 9-1 in their last 10, on a 5-game winning streak.

4. Detroit
– 8-2 in their last 10 and have rebounded strong from two lackluster efforts immediately after the All-Star break.

5. Utah
– Quietly have finished 8-2 in their last 10.

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Now, onto the weekend action. Before we begin discussing all that went down on the court, I want to start out by wishing Gerald Wallace well. In case anyone didn’t catch it, he caught an inadvertent elbow to the face from Mikki Moore in their game on Friday night and he was down for an extended period of time before being taken to the hospital on a stretcher where he was diagnosed with a grade-3 concussion. Thankfully, he was released later that night and I think I speak for everyone when I say we all want to see him recover as quickly as possible.

Houston is continuing to kill it out there on their race to the playoffs. Fresh off of a win against Chicago, the Rockets have now won 12 straight games and show no sign of slowing down. They are playing together, their offense is flowing and the confidence they have is evident from the opening tip. It wasn’t too long ago that I was wondering how Tracy McGrady fit into the Rockets lineup and there was talking of trading him. Glad he proved me wrong.

Kobe Bryant ejected in the middle of a 31-point game for protesting a non-call. After seeing the replay, it obviously was a missed call, but, wow, Kob was hyped. Now, I can see the L making a statement with him and doing something stupid, but I will wait and see what happens. Lakers are rolling, this is eight straight games, the last time they had won eight in a row was in ’04, when they made it to the finals.

Brandon Roy went down with an ankle injury last night and said after the game he expects to get an MRI and will probably take two weeks off. Nothing is official yet, this is just coming from Roy himself. Either way, it hurts the Trailblazers a lot.

Boston has taken a hit on the West Coast swing of their road trip. Is everyone still penciling in KG at the top of their MVP list?

Phoenix and Detroit. The Pistons walk into Phoenix and annihilate them by 30. I don’t expect the Suns to lose like that again, that was just insane. Backcourt violations, problems inbounding the ball, it was a nightmare for the Suns. Isn’t it crazy how effortless Rasheed makes it look when he wants to? Of course, Amare may have helped him out just a little bit in that regard.

Cleveland having to sign two D-League players just to have the league-minimum 8-players available for their game against Washington on Friday. Bron still got it done with some help from Damon Jones.

Ben Wallace with a double-double and a W in his first game in Cleveland. Lets see how long this keeps up. It’s all good right now, lets check in two weeks. Delonte with six assists in his first game, yes Delonte, you keep that up.

Chicago pouring in 136 points against the Nuggets shorthanded? I know Denver didn’t want to mess with their chemistry by pulling a trade before the deadline, but that D isn’t looking like it is going to get any better. Ron-Ron may have a been nice addition. Interesting, at least. JR Smith and his 43-point performance was impressive though.

Huge NCAA matchup between Memphis and Tennessee on Saturday night. Yes, I finally watched a game and man, did it get me itching for more college ball. Thanks for the heads up Izzo! Great game between the #1 and #2 teams with Tennessee winning in a game that went down to the wire! It was exciting and intense and everything that college basketball should be. I was happy.

Jason Kidd had a nice game with 17 assists for Dallas in their win over Minnesota last night. It will be interesting to see how they fare against stronger competition. Looks like Dirk is stepping his game up and Kidd should only help.

Quote of the night:

“I told (Bryant) he shouldn’t jump on Junior. His dad might carry a
grudge against him. That’s nepotism in our league. That’s Joe
Forte’s son. He’s got a little bit of the red-ass as we say.”

Phil Jackson

Looks like Phil was in a good mood after winning eight straight. Such a good mood that he is ready to open the wallet and pay for his jokes. It’s a good time to be a Laker and a Lakers fan.

Detroit 116 Phoenix 86

In their third game with Shaq in the middle, the Suns struggled mightily against the Pistons. While Detroit had came back from the All-Star break looking like they were still on vacation, they pounced on the Suns early and handed them what was their worst loss of the season, pummeling them 116-86 on the Suns homecourt. After holding the Suns to only 16 first quarter points, the Pistons went off to lead 59-41 at the break. In the second half it was more of the same as Detroit blew open the game by outscoring Phoenix 31-17 in the third to take a 90-58 advantage into the fourth. With the lead at 30, Flip Saunders pulled his starters and they got to watch their bench maintain their lead and finish off the game strong, handing the Suns what was only their third loss to an Eastern Conference team this season. The Pistons had six players in double-figures with Rasheed Wallace leading the way scoring 22 points. Richard Hamilton and Jason Maxiell added 18 points apiece, Antonio McDyess had 12 points and 13 rebounds and Chanucey Billups scored 14 points to go with 11 assists. The lone bright spot for the Suns was the play of Amare Stoudemire who had 31 points in the contest. Leandro Barbosa scored 18 off of the bench and Steve Nash added 11. Shaquille O’Neal had 7 points and 11 rebounds in the loss as Grant Hill went scoreless in over 27 minutes of action.

San Antonio 98 New Orleans 89

In a showdown between two of the top teams in the West, the Hornets were looking for a victory after coming off of a disappointing loss against Houston the night before. The Spurs were riding high after Manu Ginobili’s 44-point performance to save the day in Minnesota on Thursday night. Ginobili showed no signs of slowing down in the contest and he helped the Spurs get off to a strong start, leading by five after one and then using a strong second quarter where they outscored the Hornets 24-14 to take a 15-point lead into the break. Trailing 50-35 at the start of the third, the Hornets rang off a 19-2 run midway through the quarter and into the fourth to tie the game back up at 78 with seven minutes remaining in the contest. After that big push the Spurs got refocused and settled down to take a 10-point lead after three-pointers by both Ginobili and Bruce Bowen and the Hornets were unable to come back a second time as the Spurs hung on for the victory. Ginobili led the Spurs with 30 points and a career-high 12 assists as Tim Duncan had 25 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and blocked shots while Tony Parker added 10 points as he continues to work himself into game shape. Chris Paul had 27 points for the Hornets, but was limited to only 4 assists as the Spurs had 26 team assists while New Orleans managed only 13. David West had 16 points for New Orleans, Tyson Chandler had 8 points and 10 rebounds and Peja Stojakovic added 11.

Chicago 135 Denver 121

In their first game since the trade that sent Ben Wallace and Joe Smith to the Cavaliers, the Bulls were shorthanded as their new teammates watched from the bench. It didn’t matter as they came out strong against the Nuggets and didn’t let up until the final buzzer, taking them down 135-121 in their highest-scoring game of the season. Topping 30 points in each of the four quarters, it was their opening period where they outscored the Nuggets 33-22 that really paid off, as the two teams were almost even the rest of the way through. After leading by as many as 23 points late in the third quarter, the Bulls let up and allowed Denver to get back into the game, thanks to the inspired play of reserve JR Smith. Smith finished with 43 points in the game and hit three three-pointers to bring the Nuggets within foul points in the final minutes, but it was too late. Ben Gordon led the Bulls a 14-3 run to regain a double-digit lead and close the game out. Gordon finished with 37 points off of the bench to lead the Bulls who shot 57% for the game and had seven players in double-figures. Andres Nocioni had 21 points, Tyrus Thomas scored 18 to go along with 11 rebounds and 3 blocks, Joakim Noah had 14 points and 10 boards and Kirk Hinrich added 16 points and 14 assists. Smith’s 43 points was a career-high, Allen Iverson added 29 points and 9 assists for the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony scored 22 points and Marcus Camby added 19 points and 11 rebounds to go with 6 blocked shots.

Cleveland 90 Washington 89

Shorthanded? 8-players? Emotional trade day? None of it mattered for LeBron James and the Cavaliers who were able to finish strong in their game against the Wizards to pull off the 90-89 victory. While they wait for their new players to be available from the Bulls and Seattle trades, Cleveland had to sign two players from the D-league to have the mandatory eight players dressed in the game. It was a close contest throughout, with neither team leading by more than nine in the contest. Things were tight in the fourth with the Cavaliers going up by three points with less than two minutes remaining, but Brendan Haywood hit two free throws and after the Cavs turned the ball over, DeShawn Stevenson knocked down two more free throws to take a one-point lead. With 7.6 seconds on the clock, on the final possession for Cleveland, everyone in the building knew the ball was going to stay in LeBron’s hands. The Wizards knew it but it didn’t matter. They were unable to stop him as he got to the line and made both shots, to put the Cavs up one, and after Stevenson missed a shot at the buzzer, the game went to Cleveland. James finished with 33 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists as Damon Jones scored 27 points and Devin Brown had a 10-point 10-rebound double-double. Darius Songalia scored 19 off of the bench to lead Washington as Antawn Jamison scored 16 points and pulled down 9 boards, Stevenson had 18 points and Brendan Haywood added 13 in the loss.

Boston 112 Portland 102

It was a tale of two halves in the game between the Celtics and the Trailblazers last night. With Brandon Roy, the Blazers led by as many as 17 points in the opening half and held onto a 54-47 lead at the break. After losing Roy to an ankle sprain in the third, the Celtics made their move and Portland was helpless as Boston outscored them 32-17 in the third to take an 80-71 advantage into the final period and they would hang onto their lead from there. The Celtics comeback was helped by their hot shooting as they finished the game shooting 58% from the floor as compared to 45% for Portland. Paul Pierce was one of those hot-shooting guys for the Celtics, scoring 30 points to lead the way on an efficient 12-14 shots. Ray Allen had 19 points on 7-8 field goals as Rajon Rondo and James Posey each scored 15 points as Kevin Garnett was held to 11. Travis Outlaw had 24 points off of the bench to lead the Trailblazers while Jarrett Jack had 17 points, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 14 points as Steve Blake and Martell Webster each added 12 points apiece. Brandon Roy had 9 points before he had to leave the game with the ankle sprain.

Orlando 112 Sacramento 93

In a game that saw Sacramento leading by as many as eight in the first half, the Magic had unlikely heroes as it was their inspired bench play that not only maintained their lead but extended it in the fourth quarter on the way to a 112-93 victory. With the score tied at 48 for the half, Orlando made their move in the third as they took a 74-68 lead into the fourth quarter. With Dwight Howard resting to start the period, reserves Brian Cook and Keyon Dooling got to work, scoring 11 points apiece in the quarter, extending the lead as the first 24 points of the period were scored by bench players for the Magic. Howard scored the first non-bench point in the quarter on a free throw with 4:30 remaining. The reserves had stretched the lead to 100-79. From there the Magic rolled to the win as they shot 11-22 from the three-point line in the game as opposed to the Kings connecting on only six. Howard finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds in the game while Rashard Lewis had 16 points as Maurice Evans, Brian Cook and Keyon Dooling scored 14 points apiece. Ron Artest had 23 points for Sacramento while Kevin Martin had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists as Brad Miller scored 17 in the loss.