... about the NBA:
1. I thought the Suns were out of it a few weeks ago, and they might not be mathematically eliminated for another couple of weeks, but the night they very well may look back on as the end was Sunday. Phoenix couldn't get a win on the road against the team with the worst record in the NBA, allowing Sacramento 35 points in each of the first three quarters of a 126-118 loss that has them three and a half back of the last playoff spot with eight games to play. The Suns just couldn't get any stops when they needed them, and didn't have the offensive firepower to keep up, especially with Leandro Barbosa out with a left tibial bone bruise. The Suns only had five players in double figures compared to seven for the Kings. Phoenix is learning that it's tough to go with a run-and-gun system when you don't have more than five players who can compete on the NBA level.
2. New Orleans shot only 38 percent, and Chris Paul and David West were the only two Hornets to score more than 10 points all night. So how did the team come up with a 90-86 win over San Antonio? The Hornets got to the free throw line and were nearly flawless, converting 32 of 33 attempts. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili got to the line 19 times and had 16 makes combined, which isn't bad, but the rest of the team took only two free throws combined. The refs favor home teams, and it's no wonder these teams won all their home court games in their playoff meeting last year. That's why the struggle for position in the West, where six teams, including the Hornets and Spurs, are separated by two and a half games, is so important.
3. Another return for the Pistons, another win. Allen Iverson, who missed 16 games with a back injury, rejoined the team but not the starting lineup Sunday, and having AI come off the bench was a winning formula, at least for Sunday. He looked a bit rusty, scoring eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, but more importantly didn't get in the way of key reserve Will Bynum, who had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes, or Richard Hamilton, who came back Saturday in a win against the Wizards. Hamilton entered the game with three minutes to go for Iverson, and hit the last two shots for the Pistons, including the one that sealed it from 15 feet away with 14 seconds to go. The 101-97 win pulled Detroit to within a game and a half of the Sixers, just two days after they had trailed sixth-place Philadelphia by three and a half.
BONUS OBSERVATION (Since it's close to playoff time):
4. Perhaps the most important, and coincidentally most overlooked, consequence of Andrew Bynum's injury is the weakening of the Lakers bench, which had been arguably the league's best. Sunday was rock bottom for a unit that's struggled since Lamar Odom went to the starting lineup to replace Bynum. They were outscored 29-14 by the Hawks reserves, the weakest bench of any top four team in either conference. It was a frustrating 86-76 loss for visiting L.A., and a return to their usual stingy form at home for the Hawks, who had just lost consecutive games at Phillips Arena to Boston and San Antonio.