Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. That was an inexcusable loss for the Hornets on Monday. The Rockets played without Yao Ming, who had the flu, and still went into New Orleans and picked up a 95-84 win after trailing by 11 in the third quarter. Don't blame Chris Paul, who played his usual starring role with 29 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and six steals. He might have had an even more impressive assists total had anyone other than David West, who went for 16 points and 13 rebounds, joined him on the floor. Houston instead used balanced scoring and yet another competent spot-start from 42-year-old Dikembe Mutombo to pull away late in the fourth quarter. Five Rockets scored in Houston's closing 20-9 run after Carl Landry blocked a layup attempt by Paul with the game tied and 6:18 to play. The Hornets could have have been in a virtual three-way tie with Houston and Denver for third place in the West if they had held serve against a shorthanded team at home. Instead the Rockets have third place to themselves.

2. Curious upset Monday in Oklahoma City. Usually its the Spurs who win 78-76 games that feature no more than two points scored in the final two minutes, but this was the other way around. Kevin Durant had 25 points and running mate Russell Westbrook awoke at just the right moment to help cement a comeback from an early 17-point deficit as the Thunder beat San Antonio. The Spurs jumped out to an early 27-10 lead as Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were cooking, but Duncan scored only five more points the rest of the night as Parker was left to carry the load alone. Parker scored a game-high 28 and had every one of San Antonio's seven points in the last seven minutes, but that clearly wasn't enough as Westbrook shook off an other wise tough shooting night to nail two critical jumpers in the last five minutes. His 23-foot two-pointer that gave him eight points with 2:19 to play was the last basket of the night for the Thunder, but somehow all they needed. Manu Ginobili, your ankle can't heal fast enough for the Spurs.

3. Quite possibly the two most undeserving power forwards in the game got to strut their limited stuff Monday. Yi Jianlian put up four points on 1-for-5 shooting for the Nets in his 13th single-digit scoring game out of 14 in a blowout 121-96 loss to the Nuggets. The pride(?) of China continues to confound observers who wonder how any 7-foot starting power forward could average less than half a block a game. One must continue to wonder if the State Department has something to do with his average of 24 minutes a night. Then there's Darrell Arthur, the Kansas rookie who keeps Hakim Warrick on the bench in Memphis, where the Grizzlies suffered a 103-92 beating by the Blazers. Arthur hasn't had a double-double since Nov. 7, the only one of his career, and doesn't look like the sort of defensive presence who ought to be in front of Warrick, who averages five more points a game with better rebounding and assist numbers to boot. A strained right knee ended a scoreless first eight minutes for Arthur on Monday, but an injury shouldn't be the only reason Warrick is in line to start the next time out.

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