Thursday, March 19, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. It was a good night all around Wednesday for Portland, which took care of business in a 95-85 win at Indiana and saw Greg Oden return to play his first game since suffering a chipped bone in his patella. Oden wasn't bad in 12 minutes off the bench, grabbing seven rebounds to go along with four points. He also wound up with a plus/minus of +21, which suggests he fit in quite well despite not having played in more than a month. Oden and Rudy Fernandez, back at 100 percent after getting hammered by Trevor Ariza about 10 days ago, means Portland's bench is looking fierce again, which can help to set them apart as they compete in a dogfight for playoff position in the West.

2. What in the world was New Orleans doing in a dogfight with Minnesota on Wednesday? The Hornets needed a David West dunk off an assist from Chris Paul to beat the lowly T-Wolves 94-93. It was a classic example of how New Orleans needs more than just Paul and West to beat anybody of consequence. Peja Stojakovic was out with a sore back, and Tyson Chandler missed the game with a gimpy left ankle, robbing the Hornets of their two most important role players. At least one of them has to play well to provide an effective complement to Paul and West, and we've learned that's true even with the addition of James Posey, who shot 2-for-8 for just five points off the bench Wednesday. Hitlon Armstrong had a strong 12-point, eight-rebound, four-block outing, but he doesn't replace the all-around inside force that Chandler is. Rasual Butler was 6-for-11 for 14 points, but can't come close to what Stojakovic provides with his shooting touch.

3. The Rockets were also in a tighter game than they ever could have imagined against a depleted Detroit team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Pistons were without Richard Hamilton, with a left groin strain and Rasheed Wallace, with a left calf strain (if I were Tayshaun Prince, I would wrap my left thigh tightly), and yet wound up in double overtime at Houston. They ran out of gas and fell 106-101, but gave the Rockets all kinds of fits. Houston's bench was somehow outscored 21-18, and Yao Ming and Luis Scola curiously allowed a dozen offensive rebounds and 32 boards overall to Antonio McDyess and Kwame Brown as the Rockets were outrebounded 48-45 as a team. Houston's concentration was clearly shaken by the shooting incident that luckily left Carl Landry with just a flesh wound. They did, like New Orleans, come up with the win, and that's ultimately what the Rockets need any way they can get it as they sit in third place, atop six teams within three games of them.

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