The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who isn't going to cover the Blazers/Clippers game, because of the pain it caused my eyes to watch. (Although I will tell you that Portland won 82-80.) When he isn't recovering from the ugliness of professional basketball, he can be found making fun of it at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• God Is Pissed. LeBron James scored 26 points last night to become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points. At 23 years and 59 days old, King James is more than a year younger than Kobe Bryant was when he reached 10K in 2003 (Mamba was 24 years and 193 days old). Said James: "To be in the record books is a tribute to my teammates, myself and my family." Whoa, there, Bron Bron. Don't you know that professional athletes are always supposed to thank God for helping them win awards and championship? (And thanking yourself doesn't count.) The Lord then proved that he can both giveth and taketh away by strikething James down with an ankle injury near the end of the first half (though he returned in the second), taking away his jump shot (7-for-24), and getting Cavs coach Mike Brown ejected in the third quarter. The official score was Boston 92, Cleveland 87, but we all know that it was really God 1, LeBron 0. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett finally looked like himself again with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Ray Allen scored 22 on 7-for-10 shooting.
• You Might Think The Suns Play Horrible Defense ... but you're wrong. They don't play any defense. None. The Hornets scored 120 points on 53 percent shooting and had six players in double figures, led by David West (27) and Chris Paul (25 points, 15 assists). Hell, even Jannero Pargo got into the act with 22 points. Jannero Pargo! Five Inflatable Defenders could play better D than the Suns. Five Chris Dudleys could manage more defensive stops. I know I'm prone to exaggeration, but this is not hyperbole. Said Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni: "In the third quarter they just didn't miss or we couldn't guard, one or the other." Mike, it was the other, trust me. And it wasn't just the third quarter, either. Oy. The Suns got 32 points and 14 rebounds out of Amare Stoudemire, 13 assists out of Steve Nash, and The Big Cactus had 15 points and 7 rebounds, but got pwned! by Tyson Chandler (12 points, 15 rebounds, and lots and lots of dunks).
• Okay, Fine. He's The Real Turkish Assassin. I was informed yesterday by certain astute readers that I had incorrectly identified Hedo Turkoglu as "The Turkish Assassin." That title, I was told, belongs to none other than Mehmet Okur. And last night, Okur went out and proved those readers right by scoring 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter - including two three-pointers in the final three minutes - to help the Utah Jazz rally from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat the Pistons 103-95. Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Okur's "official" nicknames are "Memo," "Money Man" and "The Stinky Armpit of Turkey." Okay, okay...I made "Memo" up. Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups were the one-two punch for Detroit, scoring 22 and 21 points, respectively.
• Travis Diener Needs To Do Some Research. After Larry Hughes lit the Pacers up for 29 points (10-for-19) in Chicago's 113-107 victory, Dick Diener's little nephew shamelessly abused the English language by stringing the following nonsense words together: "[Hughes] is a good player. There's a reason he has a big contract. They don't just throw money away to [bad] players." Oh yes they do, Travis. They most certainly do. Exhibit A: Stephon Marbury is currently making $20,109,375 (the third highest salary in the league). Exhibit B: Raef LaFrentz (1.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG) is making $11,813,750. Exhibit C: Antoine Walker and Kwame Brown are both making around $9 million this season...and Employee #8 still has three years and $30 million left on his contract! (Have fun choking down that buyout, Kevin.) So I think it's been pretty firmly established that "they" do indeed reward bad players with fat contracts. Hughes' fellow Cleveland castaway Drew Gooden added 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Bullies, while Mike Dunleavy Jr. led Indiana with 25 points.
• Uh, Maybe We Should Start Taking These Guys Seriously. The Philadelphia 76ers stuck a broom handle in the Orlando Magic's collective butt last night and then proceeded to mop the floor with them on their way to a neat and tidy 101-89 victory. The Sixers have now won seven straight at home and eight of 10 overall. I'm telling you, the only things standing between Philly and a trip to the NBA Finals are the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, LeBron James, and possibly the Magic and Toronto Raptors. Oh, and the Washington Wizards if Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas ever get healthy. But other than that...
• Revenge Of The Bibby. Traded players always want to get a little payback against their old teams, and that's exactly what Mike Bibby did against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 24 points and dishing 12 assists in the Atlanta Hawks' 123-117 win. Sacramento coach Reggie Theus showed off his expansive knowledge of mathematology while calculating the causes of his team's latest loss. "We allowed a team averaging 90 points to score 123," Theus said. "We gave up 40 points in the first quarter and 34 in the third." In other news, 2 + 2 still equals 4 and long division can be a real bitch. And don't even get me started on polynomials. Fantasy watch: Al Horford had 16 points and 14 boards for the dirty birds, and the Kings got 20-point games out of Beno Udrih (25), Ron Artest (23) and Brad Miller's goatee (25).
• The Bobcats Are The Cure For What Ails A Team. The Knicks not only won last night, they blew out the Bobcats 113-89. And you could almost see Isiah Thomas tearing up his suicide note on the sidelines. New York got 22 points out of Nate Robinson and another 20 from Jamal Crawford. Now, I don't mean to diminish this wonderful and historic win, but the 'Cats were without leading scorer Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson scored only 7 points before leaving the game with a right eye contusion and a small corneal abrasion. Oh, yeah, and Charlotte kind of sucks, too. But the Knicks are like a starving dog who will eat its own poop to survive. In other words, they'll take the win.
• Oh No, Randy, Please Don't Trade Us! Minnesota coach Randy Wittman's goddamn head almost exploded last night when his Timberwolves dropped a 107-85 decision to the Toronto Raptors. "If you want to get to the position of being a playoff team, a win like [the previous night's victory over the Jazz] you have to back up with an effort the next night," Wittman said. "That's going to be the difference on whether you're going to make it in the league or not. That's what we're trying to find out here, who are we moving forward with while we're rebuilding this? If you can't understand that for 82 games, we'll find someone who can." First off, Randy, it's probably too much to ask of a 12-win club to win back-to-back games on back-to-back nights against two playoff teams, especially when the second game is on the road. Secondly...do you really think that you're going to scare anybody by threatening to get rid of them? Because I don't see a lot of players clamoring to become a Timberwolf. I'm just sayin'. Anyway, Chris Bosh led the mighty dinos with 28 points and T.J. Ford came off the bench to toss in 16. Al Jefferson continued his Kevin Garnett-Lite season by scoring 23 for the T-Wolves. Fun fact: According to Wittman, Antoine Walker missed the game due to "a passport problem." Uh huh.
• Hey, Seattle ... It's Called "Hand In The Face." Try It Sometime. The Denver Nuggets used the Seattle SuperSonics as a prop their poster, shooting a franchise-best 67 percent field and scoring the most points in the NBA this season in a 138-96 win. "If no one is on the floor, it's hard to shoot the percentage they shot," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said after a night spent making funny faces at his bench. "We didn't defend at all." In other news, Steve Kerr called Sonics GM Sam Presti and wants to trade for his entire roster. Allen Iverson led the scoring charge with 31 points on 13-for-18 shooting, Kenyon Marting returned to the land of the living with 23, and Marcus Camby had 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. And of course, Kevin Durant scored 16 points on 17 shots for Seattle.