Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Rockets were dominant on the glass Tuesday, with three players who finished with double figures in rebounds. It didn't matter. The Jazz are just too tough at home. Utah held Houston to 35 percent shooting, and Deron Williams had a stellar performance distributing the ball, with 12 assists against only one turnover, as the Jazz pulled away in the second half for a 99-86 victory. Paul Millsap provided a major boost off the bench, scoring 15 points and pulling down a team-high nine rebounds, in contrast to Houston's bench, which scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds combined. It's a good sign for Utah, which would meet Houston in the first round if the playoffs started today.

2. San Antonio's role players are in an uncustomary slump. The Spurs' bench on Tuesday was outscored 30-15 by lowly Golden State, which fell by just one point, 107-106. Roger Mason, who nailed the game-winner from 18 feet with 23 seconds to go, was the only Spur who found much success other than Tim Duncan or Tony Parker, scoring 24 points. Manu Ginobili has been hurt, but their struggles can't be entirely chalked up to his absence. Michael Finley, who turned 36 this month, is a shadow of his former self. Bruce Bowen, three months shy of his 38th birthday, has fallen off considerably this year. Ime Udoka hasn't exactly lit it up, averaging almost two points fewer than his 6 ppg career average. Matt Bonner can get hot with his shot from time to time, but is far from an ideal complement to Tim Duncan in the post. San Antonio has Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Mason, and that's about it for people Gregg Popovich can trust on a consistent basis.

3. The Pistons lost again without Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Allen Iverson, 99-91 Tuesday in Chicago. But in their absence has been the blossoming of point guard Will Bynum, who Tuesday dished out nine assists, shot 10-for-16 and totaled 20 points, matching Tayshaun Prince for the team high. He began getting regular minutes around the beginning of the month, and since Richard Hamilton got hurt March 13 against Memphis, Bynum has averaged 15.3 points, and on Friday got his first start of the season, in Rodney Stuckey's stead. But really his contributions offset the Pistons' other first round draft pick from 2007, Arron Afflalo, who has struggled to become the two-guard of the future Detroit hoped he would become. Tuesday's performance was, unfortunately for Afflalo and his team, not entirely atypical, as he went 1-for-7 and scored only two points.

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