Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The notion that Michael Curry's greatest regret in his first season as Pistons coach was benching Richard Hamilton in the middle of the season received quite a boost Saturday. The most anticipated return was that of Gilbert Arenas from the left knee injury that has kept him out all year, but Hamilton was coming back, too, after missing six games with a groin injury. Hamilton was the dominant force in the Detroit offense, taking 29 shots and scoring a game-high 31 points. He drained a 3-pointer with about two minutes to go and hit the two game-winning free throws with five seconds left as the Pistons held off the Wizards, who had come back from down 15 in the third quarter. The game finished with great irony, as Arenas, once a great hope for the Wizards whose future has been thrown into question by injuries, launched a potential game-winning three-pointer only to have it swatted away by Kwame Brown, a former No. 1 overall draft pick for Washington whose career also turned sour, but for a few moments like this one.

2. Two teams with flickering playoff hopes met Saturday in Charlotte, and the coach of Knicks past might have extinguished, at least for this season, the chances of the coach of Knicks present. Larry Brown's Charlotte Bobcats, in ninth place, won 95-86 to stay two and a half games back of the final playoff spot while the Knicks of Mike D'Antoni are in need of a miracle as they sit in 13th, six and a half out with nine to play. The Seven Seconds or Less offense was stopped dead by Brown's more deliberate style, as the Knicks shot 38 percent and had only four players in double figures, led by Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington with 18 apiece. New York did force 19 turnovers, but Charlotte made up for by shooting 49 percent, outrebounding the Knicks 46-34, and a stellar performance by Gerald Wallace, who had a game high 23 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and three blocks.

3. Another team scrapping for a playoff berth absorbed a frustrating blow Saturday in Utah. The Suns were agonizingly close to victory in Salt Lake City, which would have been quite a coup for a team that needs every win it can get. Phoenix led by five with little more than a minute to play, and by four with just 25 seconds left. But Deron Williams, who outdueled Steve Nash, fired one of his 13 assists to Mehmet Okur for a three-pointer, and then Williams went to the basket himself, nailing two jumpers in the final minute to force overtime. The Suns resiliantly jumped out to an early four-point lead in the extra period, but Okur and Williams came back again to score the next five points to put the Jazz back on top in a 104-99 win. Phoenix is now three and a half games back, and four in the loss column, behind Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West.

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