Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The center, as always, was there all night Monday for the Magic. It was getting the forwards and guards to join Dwight Howard that took awhile. Orlando trailed the Knicks by 10 at Madison Square Garden with 8:26 to play when the forwards finally showed up. Hedo Turkoglu scored the next seven points for the team, and Rashard Lewis followed with a three-pointer and an assist on another Turkoglu trey that made it 90-87 Knicks with 5:31 to go. Then it was the guards' turn. Rookie Courtney Lee scored eight of his 22 in the final 4:20, and Rafer Alston gave the Magic the lead for good when he sank a three-pointer with 2:34 to go. That trey was followed by a pair of key steals by Lee and Alston, keeping the Knicks off the scoreboard for a stretch of nearly two minutes in a tight game. Howard, who had 29 points and 14 rebounds, made one of his four blocks during that stretch as Orlando prevailed, 106-102, and avoided a damaging loss going into Wednesday's showdown with Boston.

2. You don't have many nights like Monday in Portland. Brandon Roy just wasn't himself as the Blazers lost 114-108 in overtime to the visiting Sixers. Roy shot 5-for-18 and seemed particularly afflicted down the stretch, missing three shots that would have given the Blazers the lead in the last six minutes, including a miss from 15 feet with the game tied at the end of regulation. He did convert a three-point play that put Portland on top 96-94 with 1:36 to play, but that was the exception to the rule, as witnessed in overtime. Roy missed a driving layup, the subsequent putback attempt, got stripped by Willie Green and clanked a three-pointer on consecutive possessions in the midst of a game-clinching 8-0 run for the Sixers in the extra period. Roy finished with 12 points, wasting 24 points and 12 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge, 22 points from Steve Blake and impressive performances off the bench by Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden. You can bet Roy, who saw his Blazers fall into a tie for sixth place with Utah, will be extra-motivated to return to his stellar self against Phoenix on Thursday.

3. I don't know how a potential playoff team could blow an 11-point lead with five minutes to play against the worst team in the conference. You'll have to ask the Chicago Bulls. It very nearly happened to them Monday at Washington, when the Bulls couldn't get inside the lane and suddenly forgot how to play defense late in the game. They let Antawn Jamison run wild, as he scored 12 of his game-high 34 in the final 4:47, including a stretch of eight points in 50 seconds that pulled the Wiz within three points with 3:57 to go. Ben Gordon countered with eight points in 1:18 to push the lead back out to nine, but Washington continued to jack up outside shots, and the Bulls grabbed the rebounds and took advantage, simply running out of time at the end in a 101-99 Chicago escape. Derrick Rose found Kirk Hinrich for what proved to be the decisive layup with eight seconds left, one of just two shots the Bulls took from within 11 feet the entire fourth quarter.

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