Monday, April 13, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. No, Kevin Garnett was not there. No, the Celtics had nothing to play for in terms of the standings, having already clinched the East's No. 2 seed. But Cleveland's 107-76 destruction of the Celtics was significant because of the way the Cavs dominated the game against a Boston team that seemed either unwilling or unable to compete. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, who are expected to be stars even when Garnett plays, shot a combined 8-for-34 for 25 points, fewer than LeBron, who had 29, scored all by himself. Boston gave Cleveland no reason to believe it isn't destined for the Finals as the playoffs get set to begin. True, the Celtics could be motivated by such an embarassment, but they could just as easily be thoroughly discouraged. After all, the Cavs are just about unbeatable at home, and Boston will have to win at least once in Cleveland to beat them. The only real positive for the Celtics was that Tony Allen played his best game since returning last week from a thumb injury, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting in 21 minutes. Kevin Garnett is set to return Wednesday, and the Celtics can only hope he quickly returns to form as well.

2. All of the attention from the Heat-Knicks game Sunday is focused on Dwyane Wade, who sprang for a career-high 55 points in a 122-105 triumph that clinched the East No. 5 seed for Miami. It was Wade's third 50-point game in less than two months, and while his performance sends quite a signal to the rest of the league heading into the playoffs and MVP balloting, it wasn't the only positive sign for the Heat coming out of Sunday. Their two rookies, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers, shined as well. Beasley tied his career high with 28 points, and set a new career mark in rebounds with 16 as he made his first start since November. Chalmers turned in a fine performance against veteran Chris Duhon, scoring 15, dishing out nine assists and coming up with four steals. We know Wade will be there for the first-round series with Atlanta. The question is whether Beasley and Chalmers are going to show up, and the indication we got from Sunday is that they will.

3. The Mavericks supporting cast must have looked at what the Hornets doing and lowered their standards coming into their second matchup in three days Sunday at New Orleans. The problem is the Hornets leading men were even better than usual. Chris Paul and David West both had 31 points, combining for 62 of their team's 102 in a 102-92 victory over Dallas. Paul added 17 assists and was a single rebound shy of a triple-double. Dirk Nowitzki wasn't too shabby either, scoring 29 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, but he was the only one really on his game for the Mavericks. Josh Howard and Jason Terry shot a combined 10-for-30 for 28 points, OK but not enough, and Brandon Bass had 13 points but failed to dominate the boards the way he had on the front end of the home-and-home. Jason Kidd was solidly outplayed by Paul, and went 3-for-13 from the field. No one other than Paul or West showed up for the Hornets either, save for Peja Stojakovic's dagger of a three-pointer with 1:08 left, but for a change it didn't cost them. New Orleans can clinch the No. 6 seed in the West with either a win in its final two games or a loss by either Dallas or Utah.


4. It's time for a rule change. Michael Finley nailed a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left on the game clock but zero on the shot clock that gave San Antonio its winning 95-92 margin. Replays clearly showed Finley still had the ball in his hand when the shot clock expired, but referees don't have the power to use video to review 24-second violations. The play was the difference between a Spurs win and overtime, and is just the sort of critical moment for which replay was introduced in the first place. The NBA has to extend replay to shot-clock violations, at least in the final two minutes of the game. It's an easy move to make that would go a long way toward protecting the game's integrity.

No comments: