The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, a former college intramural freethrow shooting champion...25-for-25 baby! When he's not perfecting his stroke from the line - no double-entendre intended, as far as you know - he can be found studying the science of freethrowology at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• Brandon Bass is my new favoritest person. Sure, the Mavericks suffered an embarrassing 101-82 loss in New Jersey, but Brandon Bass made up for it by living the dream of this writer, most NBA players, and pretty much every single Canadian citizen: Almost knocking Vince Carter the hell out with an elbow. "I saw stars, stripes, everything," said a still woozy Carter. "Green clovers, blue diamonds, orange stars, pink hearts, purple horseshoes, yellow moons...I'm telling you, those Mavericks are always after me Lucky Charms!" In addition to the fun hallucinations, the blow must have caused a case of short-term memory loss, because Carter forgot that he doesn't give a crap anymore and scored 25 of his 29 points after getting his clock cleaned. Jason Kidd auditioned for the role of "Dallas point guard" by going for 13 points and 14 assists, and Herr Nowitzki scored 21 for the Mavs, who fell victim to a 21-to-nothing run and once again proved they aren't above losing to a bad team in a totally humiliating fashion.
• Welcome to hell, Shawn. Dwyane Wade welcomed Shawn Marion to his own personal version of eternal torment yesterday, and I hate to ruin the surprise for you, but it ended in a 104-94 loss to the Lakers - the Heat's 22nd defeat in the last 23 games. The Black Mamba scored 33 for the Lakers, including a pair of freethrows with 36 seconds left that inspired the Miami crowd - all 42 of them - to chant "M-V-P." And we thought Wade couldn't possibly feel any worse. That had to be like coming home from work to find your kids chanting "Go dad go!" while the mailman bangs your wife in some kinky position she totally wouldn't try with you. Pookie had 19 points, 9 assists, and 9 turnovers, and The Matrix did his usual "little bit of everything" with 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocked shots. Methinks Mr. Marion better get used to doing a lot and losing.
• Uhm, they're just waiting for the playoffs, right? The Celtics' starting lineup against the Spurs featured both Leon Powe and Brian Scalabrine. Boston also asked Glen "Big Baby" Davis to guard Tim Duncan for most of the game. And did I mention KG is still out, probably until after the All-Star break? (Here's hoping you didn't pre-order Garnett's All-Star jersey.) None of that mattered as the C's knocked off the defending champs 98-90 and improved to 16-0 against the "vastly superior" Western Conference. Paul Pierce told the truth with 35 points, Ray Allen chipped in 19, and Rajon "The Weak Link" Rondo led Boston in rebounds (11) and assists (12). Tim Duncan had 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists for San Antonio.
• Bob Barker would be proud. The Detroit Pistons did their part to help control the pet population by neutering the Charlotte Bobcats with a 113-87 win. Tayshaun "The Fresh" Prince scored 21 points for the Pistons, who have now won eight games in a row. Meanwhile, Jason Richardson scored 27 for the Bobcats, who have lost six in a row.
• Sometimes it sucks to be King. Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, Allen Iverson dished 13 assists, Marcus Camby grabbed 17 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets built a 37-point lead before settling for a 113-83 win over the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Lebron James scored a team-high 30 points for the Cavs, but he also threw a royal hissy fit after his team ended the third quarter down by 26. Bron Bron stomped off the court, plopped down at the end of the Cav's bench, and didn't take part in coach Mike Brown's huddle before the start of the fourth. Not exactly an MVP-like display. Maybe there was a mess in his diaper, maybe he just needed to be burped, we don't know. After LBJ's temper tantrum, Damon Jones released his inner Stephan A. Smith and started yelling at James and the rest of the Cavaliers about their lousy performance. Strangely enough, harsh words from a 6 PPG roleplayer inspired exactly no one.
• Look! It's moving! It's alive...it's alive...IT'S ALIVE!! We may never know what kind of unspeakable crimes against nature Sam Mitchell commited to bring Andrea Bargnani's game back to life - I'm guessing unicorn blood and virgins were involved - but Il Mago has reached double figures in seven of his last eight games, including last night's 16-point performance in a 105-82 blowout of the Timberwolves. The fighting dinos also got 15 points and 10 assists out of "No Way" Jose Calderon, and CBTV's Blane Harrington added 14 points and 9 rebounds. Big Al Jefferson led Minnesota in the losing cause with 18 points and 9 rebounds. After the game, a confused Randy Witmann said, "I didn't see this [blowout] coming." Maybe he's just repressing, but Witmann does know he coaches the T-Wolves, right?
• The Amare Stoudemire Project. Shortly after the Shaq-to-Phoenix trade was complete, The Big Brother identified Stoudemire as his "special project," and Suns GM Steve Kerr said, "Amare respects [Shaq] so much and needs him physically." Needs him...physically? [/shudders] Well, you know what they say: Once you go Shaq, you never go back. Anyway, with his, uh, physical needs finally met, Stat showed off his new sense of personal fulfillment with 31 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, and a pair of game-clinching freethrows with 7.5 seconds left. Suns beat Wizards, 108-107. Antawn Jamison paced the losers with 28 points, 10 boards, and a secret wish that Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were around to meet his physical needs.