Thursday, April 16, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Well, that will change my playoff preview. Kevin Garnett could be out for the entire postseason. The Sixers I'm sure thoroughly regret winning Wednesday in Cleveland to move into sixth place, and the Bulls will be sending a basket of flowers to Toronto for beating them. The loss of KG rips the heart and soul out of the Celtics. Yes, they rallied to hold off Orlando for the second seed, and yes, Glen Davis filled in admirably at power forward. But the regular season is not the playoffs, and with serious doubt cast on his return, the psychological lift that KG has always given the Celtics is countered. There's no way they can repeat without him. There might not even be enough to get by the Bulls.

2. Age and injuries have set in at San Antonio, but the Spurs still won't go down easy. Tim Duncan's knees didn't ache enough to stop him from a vintage 20-point, 19-rebound performance, and Michael Finley summoned all that's left from his 36-year-old body to pour in 17, including the three-pointer with no time left to force overtime, where the Spurs pulled away to beat the Hornets, 105-98. Duncan's mastery of the boards was the difference as San Antonio outrebounded New Orleans by an impressive 46-33 margin. New Orleans center Tyson Chandler, playing for the first time in more than a month because of his balky ankle, couldn't handle the load inside, scoring 10 points and grabbing just three rebounds in just 20 minutes. The Hornets got no more support from their bench, which scored only 13 points, while the Spurs got 12 points and five rebounds from Ime Udoka and 11 points from Drew Gooden in reserve. The win earned San Antonio the Southwest Division title and the No. 3 seed, which could provide them with a path back to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in five years. The loss relegated the Hornets to the seventh seed and a matchup with the Denver Nuggets, who finished the season on a 14-3 run.

3. There has been plenty of criticism of last year's Jason Kidd-Devin Harris trade for the Mavericks, and the deal will no doubt look even worse as Kidd ages and Harris comes into his prime in New Jersey. Wednesday, however, the trade looked just fine. Kidd had a triple-double and as the Mavericks beat the Rockets 95-84 to climb into the No. 6 seed. Kidd scored 11 points, dished out 12 assists and had 10 rebounds in support of Dirk Nowitzki, who had 30 points and 15 rebounds, and Jason Terry, who scored 23. Houston starting point guard Aaron Brooks was outplayed by Kidd as well as his own backup, as Kyle Lowry had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists on an all-around night. Lowry was one of the few Rockets to find offensive success on a night that Houston shot just 40 percent, including a 4-for-17 performance from behind the arc. Yao Ming was his usual self,with 23 points and nine rebounds, but Luis Scola was largely absent, and Lowry's seven boards were the second most on the team. The Rockets, who always have trouble scoring, must find a way to slow the pace and shoot better from the outside if they are to advance past the Blazers. The Mavericks simply need more nights like Wednesday from Kidd and Terry so Nowitzki doesn't have to worry about going up against Tim Duncan and carrying the scoring load all by himself at the same time against the Spurs.

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