Sunday, March 1, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. People like to say Michael Jordan had a "killer instinct," or an ability to take over games and punish an opponent that stood between him and victory. It's often said that other great players who are compared to Jordan lack that "killer instinct." Make no mistake: Dwyane Wade has that "killer instinct." Exhibit A was Saturday's comeback against the Knicks, sparked when Danilo Gallinari's elbow met Wade's face in the fourth quarter. There was no call, and Wade, who would require three stitches after the game, was bent. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra received a technical foul, but Wade let his anger out through the game. Nate Robinson made the ensuing technical free throw to give the Knicks a 103-88 lead, but the Knicks would not score again until they trailed 107-103. Wade scored 15 points in that 19-0 run and 24 in the fourth quarter as a hole as the Heat stole a 120-115 win in Madison Square Garden. That kind of performance, at the mecca of basketball no less, is what made Jordan's legend, and it lends credence to the idea Wade may soon be remembered as of the 10 best ever to play the game. He's that good.

2. So that's why Chicago used the ninth pick on Joakim Noah last year. Noah outrebounded opposing center Yao Ming, who has a seven-inch height advantage, by a margin of 15-7 in a 105-102 Bulls victory over the Rockets. Even 6-foot-3 Derrick Rose, with eight, had more rebounds than Yao. Rose paced the Bulls with 22 points and seven assists as well, and the veteran Chicago bench again outplayed the reserves of a better team in an upset win, much like in Tuesday's win over Orlando.

3. Utah is going to be a tough out in the first round. Now that they have Carlos Boozer back, they have a semblance of what their team should have looked like this year if injuries hadn't dominated the first four months of their season. The upside of all the missed time by their stars means the role players and bench guys have added another dimension to their games as they've tried to compensate, and they'll be that much better for the stretch run. No one would have thought Ronnie Price and Mehmet Okur would have had 26 points apiece to lead Utah to victory, but that's what happened last night in a 102-89 win over Sacramento. Paul Millsap, who took the biggest leap as he replaced Boozer for much of the year, had a team-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

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