... about the NBA:
1. Rough night for Steve Blake. Portland's starting point guard goes scoreless on nine shots and dishes out a lone assist in 24 minutes, while the man he was supposed to guard, Tony Parker, busts out for 39 points, nine assists, five rebounds and just one turnover. It came in the midst of a 99-84 win for San Antonio despite the absence of Tim Duncan, out for the night with a quad injury. It was a defining loss for Portland, which has lost 11 straight in San Antonio, and apparently still can't get over the hump even with Duncan out. The Blazers better hope they don't match up with the Spurs in the playoffs.
2. That was a big win for Denver against the visiting Hawks last night. The Nuggets had lost three in a row, including their worst loss in 11 years on Monday to the Celtics, and have a tilt with the Lakers coming Friday. They entered the night just a game up on Houston for the West's third seed. They were matched up against a Hawks team missing Mike Bibby, who was ill, and Josh Smith, tending to a family matter. They were in a dogfight until a 19-0 run put them up by 17 in the third quarter, but saw that lead dwindle down the stretch. Chauncey Billups, whose 33 points otherwise made him the hero, missed an 18-footer with 6.9 seconds left that opened the door for the Hawks to win at the buzzer. Bibby's replacement, Flip Murray, was unable to hit his shot, and Denver escaped with a 110-109 victory they really needed.
3. The effect of Kevin Garnett's absence had to show up sometime, and Wednesday night it finally did. There's no way Zach Randolph gets the 30 points and 12 rebounds he got for the Clippers in a 93-91 win over the defending champs last night if Garnett was there to defend him. No one provided the offensive firepower to make up for the Big Ticket last night either, and his replacement, Glen Davis, tied for the team high in turnovers on a night when the Celtics had an uncharacteristic 21 giveaways as a team. Rajon Rondo also had four turnovers against only three assists. Off the court, reserve Gabe Pruitt was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, and the impending Stephon Marbury signing probably served to further distract the team. About the only good news for the road-weary Celtics today is they're done with their six-game West Coast trip, and they're one day closer to the return of Garnett, whose knee injury should be healed in no longer than two more weeks.