Sunday, April 5, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Cavs were embarrassed in back-to-back losses at Washington and Orlando. So Sunday, in one of the most important games of the regular season for them, they turned the tables on San Antonio. Tim Duncan skulked away from the arena without talking to the media after he was held to just six points in a 101-81 loss at Cleveland. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the rest of the Cavs interior defense did a masterful job on Duncan, who didn't score after the first quarter. Manu Ginobili, who got a rare start, was similarly kept in check with only four points as he continues to struggle with ankle pain. He'll miss the Spurs' next game, against the Thunder, while he undergoes tests to determine the source of the pain. The result of the Sunday afternoon clash of contenders left the Spurs with greater worries than the Cavs had coming in. The Spurs, who seemed poised for the second seed in the West a few weeks ago, are just a half-game in front of fourth-place Houston and only two and a half games above seventh-place Utah.

2. It's been a long season for Detroit, but the lone bright spot shone brilliantly Sunday in a must-win game. The Pistons, who have fallen all the way to eighth place, opened a three-game gap between themselves and ninth-place Charlotte with five games to play after Will Bynum scored a franchise record 26 points in the fourth quarter of a 104-97 win over the Bobcats. Bynum, an undrafted pickup who has thrived in the void left by injured stars late in the season, stepped in for Richard Hamilton, who was ejected in the third quarter, and exploded, making the last shot of the third quarter before taking over the game in the fourth. D.J. Augustin, who scored 14 of his team-high 22 in the final period, tried to keep up, but no one could catch the former Georgia Tech standout, who wound up with 32 points and seven assists, both game highs, in just 26 minutes of play. Bynum, whose team option will undoubtedly be picked up this summer, scored the last 13 points for the Pistons, the last 11 of which capped a 14-for-16 night at the line. None of it would have happened without the absence of Allen Iverson, the fan least-favorite whose back injury opened up minutes for Bynum, who is quickly endearing himself to the Motor City.

3. Yao Ming, outdone by Pau Gasol in Friday's loss to the Lakers, was back in a big way Sunday. He held Joel Przybilla scoreless, and drew four fouls against Greg Oden, who was on the floor for just 11 minutes. Yao wound up with 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead an otherwise balanced Rocket attack to an important 102-88 win over the visiting Blazers. The Rockets moved into a tie for third place in the West with the Spurs, passing Portland, which fell into fifth. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points each to lead all scorers, but the Blazers didn't get it done on the defensive end, allowing Houston to shoot 51 percent. The Rockets were in control throughout, gaining a 42-34 edge on the boards and committing only eight turnovers to limit Portland's opportunities.

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