Sunday, March 15, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. You hardly would have guessed Sunday's Indiana-Toronto tilt would wind up chock full of storylines, but it did. First is the return of Danny Granger, who missed 11 games with a partially torn tendon in his right foot. He played only 18 minutes in a limited role off the bench, but his presence gives the Pacers a chance at sneaking into the playoffs. Indiana could have pulled to within a game and a half of the final playoff spot if they took care of business Sunday north of the border, but they were eaten alive inside by Andrea Bargnani and ... Pops Mensah-Bonsu? Yes, the London-born Pops had quite a night in 22 minutes off the bench, scoring a career high 21 points, partly the result of 11-for-13 shooting at the line, while grabbing eight rebounds. Mensah-Bonsu was playing just his 20th NBA game, but the undrafted 6-foot-10, 240-pound big man looked like a seasoned veteran, as did former No. 1 overall pick Bargnani, who put up 27 points and nine rebounds. A bad day for the Pacers' three-headed center rotation of Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert and Rasho Nesterovic.

2. Kevin Garnett, the Celtics need you back. Soon. Boston looked lost in a puzzling 86-77 loss at Milwaukee. The Celtics turned the ball over a mind-boggling 25 times, including seven by Paul Pierce, and shot 1-for-12 from behind the arc, including 0-for-5 from Ray Allen. It would be one thing if the supporting cast was not there to make up for Garnett's absence, but it's troublesome to see Pierce and Allen struggle. The defensive intensity is still there, as witnessed by Milwaukee's 33-percent shooting, but Boston shot only 38 percent, weighed down by a combined 8-for-36 brickfest by Pierce, Allen and Rajon Rondo. The good news for Boston, now just a half game in front of Orlando for the last playoff spot, is Garnett is said to be ready to return from a slow-to-heal sprained right knee by the end of the week.

3. It wasn't exactly a strong night for late evening offerings in the NBA. The only team of the four playing that has a decent shot at the playoffs was done in by Steve Novak, of all people. The Nets, who began the day just a half game out the eighth spot, were subjected to a barrage of seven three-pointers, including the game-winner at the buzzer, from Novak as the Clippers stole a 107-105 victory. The other game was a nationally televised shootout between the Suns and Warriors that provided the answer to the question, "When is watching two teams score a combined 284 points not entertaining?" That would be when two teams virtually out of playoff contention stage a 24-point blowout. The Suns, behind Jason Richardson's 31 points and at least 20 each for Shaq, Leandro Barbosa and Matt Barnes, blasted Golden State 154-130 in a game that ceased to be competitive in the third quarter.

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