... about the NBA:
1. The Jermaine O'Neal trade hasn't worked out for the Heat just yet. A few days after he was eaten up by Dwight Howard, Al Horford took him apart, putting up 21 points and 22 rebounds against O'Neal's eight and 11 in a 91-83 win Friday for the Hawks. It's no sin to allow big nights to either guy, but the Heat would like for their center to at least be competitive against the league's best. O'Neal's averages of 11.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game are all down from his season numbers of 13.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. It's natural to have some transition period after a trade, but the Heat, who are 2-3 since acquiring O'Neal from Toronto for Shawn Marion, have only a one-game lead on Philadelphia for fifth place and can't afford to slip in the standings if they want to advance past the first round in the playoffs.
2. The Lakers-Denver game from Friday is a perfect example of what happens when one team is prepared and motivated and the other isn't. The Lakers came in on the second night of a back-to-back, and even though they probably should have been relatively rested given Thursday's game with the Suns was fairly non-competitive, L.A. was flat. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had to be geared up for a game against the league's best, particularly they're trying to establish themselves as a contending team as well. It was the role players who stepped up for Denver, as the bench went 18-for-30 from the field, led by J.R. Smith's 22 points and Chris Anderson's 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Lakers' vaunted reserves meanwhile scored only seven points and eight rebounds altogether, contributing 3-for-18 shooting to the team's dreadful 30 percent shooting night.
3. How can Phoenix score 133 points and win by 20 with Steve Nash out? Vintage Shaq, that's how. The Diesel, already experiencing something of a renaissance this year, came out with a truly throwback performance Friday against the Raptors, throwing down 45 points, making 20 of his 25 shots, and grabbing 11 rebounds. Shaq was a model of efficiency, even converting on better than 50 percent of his free throws. Of course, Louis Amundson put up 20 points and 10 rebounds, too, so it wasn't exactly the most difficult night to get points in the paint. Still, it's nice to see big numbers from the big man a week shy of his 37th birthday.