March 25, 2008
What's the greatest NBA advancement and addition of the last few years?
The increased insistence on calling the hand-check foul? The up-tempo revolution that started in Phoenix back in 2004? The new generation of engaging and intriguing players?
Nope, it's Seats for Soldiers, and last night was Boston's turn. I can't understand why every other NBA team hasn't picked up on Dallas' tradition, but hopefully the tide is turning. Mark Cuban hasn't had a good few weeks, but he deserves major props for bringing about this potential institution.
I haven't checked the blogs or message boards, but I'm guessing Boston fans aren't too happy with how Celtic coach Doc Rivers handled this loss. Doc left the starters out for quite a while in the second half, and though the effort was there, the Boston All-Stars just couldn't buy a bucket down the stretch in spite of good execution (lots of makeable shots).
I have no problem with that. The Celtics are going to need that bench this spring, so any bit of game time helps, especially against a great team like the 76ers, and with the East all but wrapped up.
Philadelphia plied its usual trade: worked hard, scored in the paint, talked on defense. I love watching that team.
It's hard to believe that two lazy and indifferent defensive teams in Miami and Milwaukee would combine to yield just 151 combined points, but sometimes this is how it goes.
I don't know what's more impressive, Rafer Alston's 28 points, or zero turnovers. Either one works, as Houston keeps rolling.
The Kings are getting their money's worth with Ron Artest, who topped the 40 minute mark again. I can't blame them, I mean, you try to take him out of a game.
New York still can't guard anyone, and they've been pretty far from ordinary offensively since losing a batch of shoot-first starters, so games like this should be the norm.
Vince Carter (27 points, seven assists) has been really interested this March, and it's kept New Jersey in the playoff hunt. Carter was barking at teammates and generally getting the job done, though it's a bit frustrating when you wonder why it took him until the season's fifth month to get going.
I did throw a semi-rip at Kevin Durant in this column, so it's only fitting that I give the kid his props for leading what might be the most impressive win (especially considering that the youngsters were involved) of Seattle's rough season.
23 points on only 13 shots (yes) with nine rebounds (yes, yes, yes) for Durant in the win.
Amare Stoudemire (Rasheed's man) still got his 33, and Chauncey Billups was the man down the stretch with eight overtime points (32 total), but Rasheed Wallace was the driving force defensively and offensively in this tres impressive Piston win.
Not much to find fault with on Phoenix's side, the bench was out-played by Detroit's, but the Suns bench also turned in a performance that was above its usual norms.
A maturing Stoudemire didn't try to break his team's offensive sets in order to get payback on a chirping Wallace, which was great, though Shaquille O'Neal's close-out defense left a lot to be desired.
The Grizzlies are awful, and yet the Nuggets (admittedly tired, and on the end of a road trip) had a hard time defending Memphis and keeping it off the boards. Not a good sign.
Easily the most entertaining game of the night - if these two teams meet in the first round then we're in for something special - and only marred by referee Bob Delaney's insistence on making himself part of the story in the contest's final minute.
Delaney called a needless lane violation on Kobe Bryant on the first free throw of Monta Ellis' overtime trip to the line, which allowed Ellis to make both freebies after initially missing the first that didn't count. Whew.
Then, with Golden State looking to try and win it with a few seconds left, Delaney decided to call an off the ball offensive foul on Ellis as GSW inbounded, on a play that (at worst) saw Derek Fisher foul Ellis, or (at laziest) you could call a double-foul and try a jump ball, or (here we go) ... you should probably have let it go, Bob.
It was an unfortunate ending to an otherwise killer game, with a raucous playoff atmosphere in Oakland, with Baron Davis (30 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, four steals) and Kobe (30 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists) taking turns being awesome.
Lamar Odom continues to beast it up, with 45 rebounds in 27 hours. Also, the Warriors spent most of the night in this modified zone, leaving Derek Fisher open, and Fisher deserves credit (7-18 shooting, 18 points) for keeping his wits about him.