Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The Pistons' chances of anything more than a No. 8 seed ended Monday in appropriate fashion for a team that has been in a downward spiral all season. They led by as many as 11 points in the second half before going the final 4:20 without a field goal in a 91-88 loss at home to Chicago. The Pistons scored only 13 points in the fourth quarter as their 28th-ranked offense stalled out again. Detroit didn't establish scoring with their inside, as Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown shot a combined 9-for-30, and didn't light in up from the outside, either, going just 4-for-14 from three-point range. Top pick Derrick Rose solidified his case for Rookie of the Year on the other end, scoring including 10 of Chicago's last dozen points in the final 5:18. Rose had 24 points to lead the Bulls, who move a half-game in front of Philadelphia for sixth place.

2. The Mavericks' late-season surge out of eighth place was very nearly wasted with an inexplicable loss on Monday. The Mavs were down seven with six minutes to play when one of Dirk Nowitzki's running mates finally got it going. Jason Terry had nine of his 22 points in the final 5:39, including the game-winner that broke a tie with .2 seconds remaining in a 96-94 escape act against visiting Minnesota. The Mavs needed Terry because they somehow couldn't guard Craig Smith, who came off the bench for the lottery-bound Wolves to shoot 10-for-13 for 24 points and grab eight rebounds. Minnesota matched Dallas in near lockstep right until the end, shooting the same 45 percent from the field and collecting an identical total of 40 rebounds. The Mavs have Nowitzki, of course, and he had a vintage 34-point, nine-rebound performance, but with Josh Howard resting a sore ankle, no one stepped up to keep pace with the former MVP on the team until it was nearly too late. Dallas must have its role players if it is to take advantage of the higher seed it has been chasing and advance past the first round. The Mavs can clinch the No. 7 seed with a win Wednesday against Houston, and can move into the No. 6 spot with a New Orleans loss to San Antonio that night.

3. The Hornets looked like a team headed in the right direction on national television Sunday. Looks can be deceiving. They lost their fifth game out of seven in a 86-66 rout at Houston. The night was a disaster for New Orleans, as even Chris Paul turned in a relative clunker, scoring nine points, assisting on seven shots and grabbing five rebounds. David West led all New Orleans scorers with a paltry 14 points and the Rockets controlled the tempo from the start, pounding the ball inside to Yao Ming, who took advantage of New Orleans' weakness inside to score 22 points and grab seven rebounds. Luis Scola had 15 rebounds as the Rockets controlled the boards as well by a 46-37 margin. Houston simply squezzed off New Orleans at every turn, holding the Hornets to 35 percent shooting while the Rockets overcame Ron Artest's 2-for-13 night to shoot 46 percent as a team. The Hornets must either beat San Antonio on Wednesday or hope the Rockets beat Dallas to hold on to the sixth seed. Houston can move anywhere between the second and fifth seeds as the fluid Western Conference takes until the regular season's last night to finally gel.

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