The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who loves zombie movies and is really ticked off that Diary of the Dead came out in a limited release. Oh well. Hopefully World War Z will come out some time in the next year. Anyway, when he isn't obsessing over flesh-eating ghouls, he can be found feasting on basketball's heart and soul at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• Well, that took only 54 games. The Miami Heat finally broke the 10-win barrier - not to mention an 11-game losing streak - with a 107-86 victory over the Sacramento Kings, and the long-awaited win has Pat Riley feeling...a little wacky. "I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony," Riley said. "I know what to do. I just don't know where to start." Ooookay. Let's just hope that whatever happened in the Heat locker room after the game stays in the Heat locker room. [/shudders] Shawn Marion throttled the Kings about the head and neck with 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting and Dwyane Wade had 15 points, 9 assists, and a rush of sweet, sweet relief. Meanwhile, Sacramento coach Reggie Theus was left to contemplate how his squad - who scored 11 points on 2-for-20 shooting in the third quarter - got their butts handed to them by the league's worst team. "That probably is about the worst we've played all year," Theus said. He's not wrong.
• He is the Turkish Assassin. Hedo Turkoglu scored 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter - connecting on all four of his shots, including a couple threes, and hitting seven of eight freethrows - to help the Orlando Magic successfully complete a 102-92 execution of the New Jersey Nets. "He's our go-to guy," said superman Dwight Howard, who had his 50th double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. At the other end of the court, the Nets settled miserably into the "Vince Carter is our new team leader" era by watching Half-man, Half-annoying miss 12 of 23 shots - including an airballed three-point attempt that the AP report says was "literally three feet wide and two feet short" - before fouling out of the game.
• Michael Redd "Lebron James'ed" the Cavaliers. King James of Cleveland scored 35 points and hit a game-tying layup with 5.9 tics on the clock, but Michael Redd zoom-zoomed downcourt and launched a 27-foot bomb over Wally Szczerbiak to secure a buzzer-beating 105-102 win for the Milwaukee Bucks. "There's nothing you can do about that," James said. "The guy made a 35-footer fading away." I wouldn't say there was "nothing" that could have been done about it. The Cavs could have trapped him, double-teamed him, threw a long-armed shot blocker like Ben Wallace at him...but hey, maybe I'm just nitpicking. Redd had 25 points to go along with his game-winner, but real hero for Milwaukee was Mo Williams, who scored a season-high 37. Szczerbiak, obtained by Cleveland for his consistent and reliable shooting touch, scored 13 points on a Larry Hughes-like 5-for-18 shooting.
• Overrated my lily-white ass. Steve Nash gave a big Canucky middle finger to the latest round of "Steve Nash is overrated" debates by scoring 25 points (8-for-11) and dishing out 13 assists in the Phoenix Suns' 127-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. When informed that his performance wasn't all that impressive, coming as it did against a 14-win team, Nash said, "Are you kidding me? Why is it when Kobe scores 40 points against some crap team everybody's all like 'He's the greatest player in the world' but when I go crazy they say 'Oh, but it's only the Grizzlies'? What do I have to do to get a little street cred around here?" The Suns also got 25 points from Amare Stoudemire, 23 from Grant Hill, and a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds from Shaq. Rudy "I'm not gay" Gay had a career-high 36 points for the Griz. Said Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni: "I don't think they had an answer for [Gay] tonight. I think they were just trying to outscore us." Well...duh.
• And in other "It finally happened" news. I think the Utah Jazz have realized that their "blockbuster" trade was for Kyle Korver. "Wait, we didn't get Gasol, or Shaq, or J-Kidd? Uh oh..." said a stunned Carlos Boozer. The Jazz then went out and committed 24 turnovers in a woeful 111-100 loss to the lowly Timberwolves, a defeat that Utah coach Jerry Sloan made sound an awful lot like domestic abuse. "They got their hands on us," Sloan said. "They knocked us around." And they really did. Four Minnesota players scored at least 20 points -Al Jefferson (22), Rashad McCants (22), Randy Foye (season-high 20), and Ryan Gomes (20) - in the team's 12th win of the season.
• See you next year, big man. The Houston Rockets said Zai Jian to Yao Ming - who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot - by winning lucky number 13 in a row with a 94-69 win over the Washington Wizards. Houston started the ancient Dikembe Mutumbo at center, and he was quick to take credit for the victory. "I believe I set the tempo early and everybody just followed." I seriously hope he was kidding. Luther Head led the Rockets with 18 points. The Wizards got 18 out of Antawn Jamison, but they scored a franchise low 23 points in the first half - 12 in the first quarter, 11 in the second - and shot 31 percent for the game.
• Every dog has his day. And last night Austin Croshere was that dog. Don Nelson gave him a rare second-half start, Croshere scored a season-high 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting and the Golden State Warriors beat the Seattle SuperSonics 105-99. "The last few years, my role has been to be ready, not knowing if you're going to get a DNP or play 27 minutes," Croshere said. "Honestly, it's usually a DNP for me." The Golden Staters also got 30 points from Monta Ellis and 20 points with 10 assists and 7 steals on the side from Baron Davis. Nick Collison was The Man for Seattle (20 points, 9-for-12, 13 rebounds).
• Phil Jackson explains the Western Conference playoff picture. After the Lakers put the finishing touches on their ninth consecutive win - a 96-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers - Phil Jackson explained his team's chances of snagging a championship ring. "It's all about what team you're going to match up well against, then start to analyze the teams that are going to be in your bracket and see what your chances are. I think almost every team in our conference that's going to make the playoffs in the bottom ranking is going to say, 'We've got a good chance against the team above us.'" Well, that was...enlightening. Kobe Bryant scored 30 points and Jordan Farmar tied a career-high with 21. LaMarcus Aldridge paced the Blazers with 24 points.