Saturday, January 31, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Miami's still got work to do if it wants to continue its climb up the Eastern Conference standings. It looks like the rookie head coach Eric Spoelstra still hasn't found the right starting lineup. Dwyane Wade, who went for 24, was surrounded by only one other player at the tip who scored more than three points, and combined the other four starters had 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in 56 minutes. Meanwhile, the team's second leading scorer somehow wound up being Mark Blount, with 17, and Michael Beasley came off the bench to provide 11 rebounds and 11 points. It's time for Beasley, the second pick in last year's draft, to start.

2. The Cavs got a critical boost last night on the heels of a blowout loss to Orlando. Zydrunas Ilgauskas looked stellar in his return from an ankle injury that caused him to miss almost a month. He had 20 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 11 rebounds, and even though it was against a Clippers team whose struggles inside have been well-documented, it's a positive sign for a team that needed one. The Cavs now have a couple of weeks to see how Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace mesh as a fully healthy power rotation and decide if they need additional help via trade.

3. The Sixers have done it. They finally have a better than .500 record for the first time since November 23 after winning in Washington last night. They've won 10 out of 12 games, and pulled to within two games of Miami and Detroit, who are tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference. They've saved their season by getting back to the up-tempo game that served them so well last season and forcing Elton Brand, back from missing a month with a dislocated shoulder to tailor his game to the team rather than vice-versa. They'll likely move Brand to the starting lineup with Samuel Dalembert out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, so the challenge for coach Tony DiLeo is to make sure the lineup change won't be a stylistic change.

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