Saturday, March 14, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Former Lakers assistant coach and current team consultant Tex Winter went on the radio this week and called L.A.'s NBA-best record a mirage, saying the Lakers, mired in a season-long three-game losing streak, weren't playing at a championship level. The needling obviously worked, because Wednesday and Thursday they went out and reminded everyone they are a truly elite team. The first night they played without the suspended Lamar Odom and came back from a 14-point deficit to win 102-96 on the road against the Rockets, who had won 12 straight at home in Houston. Lamar Odom returned for the next game less than 24 hours later at San Antonio, and the Lakers beat back a rally by the team with the next best record in the NBA, using a decided advantage on the boards and in the turnover battle to win 102-95.

2. A single play Thursday in Phoenix said all you need to know about the seasons the Suns and Cavs are having. Jason Richardson went up for a 360-degree spinning jam that was to remind everyone that he is a former slam dunk champion. It would have tied the game at 97-97 in fourth quarter, but LeBron James raced from behind to knock the ball from Richardson's hands and off the backboard before it could go through the net. Joe Smith grabbed the rebound for Cleveland and the ball went to Sasha Pavlovic, who nailed a three-pointer to make it a five-point Cavs lead. Richardson was nailed with a technical foul for correctly arguing that James had fouled him on the play, and Mo Williams hit the free throw to make it 101-95. The Suns never did tie the game and fell 119-111. James, for whom everything is coming together, had 34 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive triple-double, and the fun-and-gun Suns dropped to an almost insurmountable six games back of the last playoff spot.

3. The Mavs scored a second big win on the road in as many nights Wednesday, winning in Portland a night after a victory that helped cement their playoff status in Phoenix. Dallas once more started point guards J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd together in the backcourt, and Kidd played a throwback type of game, grabbing 10 rebounds while dishing out just as many assists. Dirk Nowitzki had a game-high 29 points, and Jason Terry powered the Mavs' bench with 24 of the 35 points scored by Dallas reserves. Bench play is usually a strength for the Blazers, too, but they got 20 points from Travis Outlaw, and that was it. Rudy Fernandez missed the game, still recovering after the hit he took Monday from Trevor Ariza, and Greg Oden's knee continues to keep him out, but outside of Outlaw, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who all scored 20 points or more, no one showed up for Portland. The Blazers have fallen into a tie for sixth place in the West, while the eighth-place Mavs, who have won four of five, lurk just a half-game behind.

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