The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who has no idea what to say about himself today. When he's not blanking out on his own life for Deadspin, he can be found brainfarting at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• New York hearts LeBron. King James gave the Knicks a three-fisted knuckle sandwich of 50 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds - despite an injured right pinkie finger! - in the Cavaliers' 119-105 victory. And the Madison Square Garden crowd was freaking the hell out about it, standing, ovating and chanting "M-V-P!" One crazy fan in a LeBron James jersey even rushed down onto the court to share a few words with The Man himself. Said LeBron: "It was a great feeling. You get a fan to come down there to express the way he feels about you...told me I was his favorite player, that never happens. I respect him, I respect his pride and for him to come out there and tell me something like that face to face, it's the (most) unbelievable thing that ever happened to me." Not surprisingly, the MSG security staff wasn't quite as thrilled with the fan's irrational exuberance and gave him a nice, safe escort off the premises. Meanwhile, amidst the jetsam and flotsam of the Knicks' season — 'cause let's face it, the ship be sinking — Stephon Marbury finally returned to the Garden. And he looked happy. Real happy. Bubble-blowing happy, even.
• Just another meaningless regular season game. NBA players — well, except for Shaq and Yao Ming — have to slog through 82 physically grueling games every season. It's a long, hard, tedious journey to the playoffs, and it's pretty damn unreasonable to expect every game to mean something, you know? So you can hardly blame the Celtics and Pistons for mailing in what was just one pointless contest out of 82. Of course, insignificant as it was, I guess it's kind of interesting that Boston became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth with the 90-78 win. And the C's won the season series against the P's 2-1, which I guess would give them the tiebreaker should the two teams finish the regular season with the same record. Oh, and there might be a slight psychological advantage for the Celtics if, say, they should meet the Pistons in, oh, I don't know, the Eastern Conference Finals. But other than those trivial things, and the fact that Keven Garnett scored a season-high 31 points, and that the game was littered with technicals, hard fouls and trash talk from both sides, it was all pretty boring. Trust me.
• Jason Richardson is lying. Beware the traded player, even if that player happens to be a member of the Charlotte Bobcats. Jason Richardson scored 42 points — just two points off his career-high — in the Bobcats' 118-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Said Richardson: "This wasn't a revenge game. It wasn't anything personal. It was just a game that we wanted to win." Are we really supposed to believe that? Particularly after last, when Richardson was so upset over being traded by the Warriors that he refused to take a phone call from Charlotte part-owner Michael freaking Jordan? Yeah. Right. The 'Cats also got 22 points out of Raymond Felton and 18 rebounds out of Jared Dudley. Monta Ellis scored 32 and Baron Davis had 30 for Golden State, who probably didn't have a chance to win this one without the defensive prowess of Chris Webber. Sorry. Couldn't help it.
• Yao who? The Houston Rockets won a franchise-record 16th straight game with a 117-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers. Tracy McGrady, who provided the rocket fuel with 25 points, explained his team's formula for success: "It's all about confidence. We have great chemistry and guys know their roles here. We all are playing so well, we just can't really count on one guy." And trust me, T-Mac knows what he's talking about, since every time a team has trusted him to be that "one guy," things haven't turned out so well. The Rocketeers also got 21 points from Skip To My Lou and a season-high nine from Chucky Hayes! The Pacers, who will heretofore be referred to as The Footnote To History, were led by Troy Murphy's 17 points and 10 rebounds.
• What went wrong? I don't get it. The Suns scored 113 points on 59 percent shooting. They won the rebounding battle. Amare dropped 22 on 8-for-11 shooting. Steve Nash had 13 dimes. Shaq — who was openly mocked by Rocky the Mountain Lion — scored 12 points (5-for-6) and grabbed a season-high 18 rebounds. That's some magic sauce, isn't it? Can't figure out ... why they lost. Oh, wait, you mean there's more to the game than just scoring points. Uh oh. Memo to Mike D'Antoni, you know? The Nuggets dropped 126 point of their own - thanks to 30 points and an unlikely 13 boards from Marshmellow Anthony, not to mention 31 points and 12 assists from Allen Iverson. Denver shot 63 percent (10-for-16) from The Land of Three and capitalized on the Suns' 19 turnovers...5 a piece from Nash, Shaq and Stoudemire.
• Dance for me, puppet! The New Orleans Hornets battered the Hawks 116-101 — pretty much as expected — but there was at least one memorable moment to the night: Chris Paul forcing rookie Julian Wright to dance on the court during a 12-minute break in the fourth quarter to replace a broken net. Wright gyrated for the crowds' amusement and then further pleasured their minds by scoring a career-high 13 points, including a soaring, one-handed rebound he converted into a roundhouse dunk. Not bad, Rook.
• Speaking of ships that be sinking. Oh no, the Nets don't miss Jason Kidd at all, do they? Wait, what? They lost 100-93 to the Grizzlies? The Memphis Grizzlies?! Oh. Oh, God. With or without J-Kidd, how does a team lose to the Grizzlies? I'll tell you. First, Hakim Warrick scored a season-high 25 points. Second, Mike Miller returned from the dead to chip in 22 points. Third and most importantly, Kwame Brown and Brian Cardinal both ended the game with one DPN-CD each. Devin Harris, in his second start for the Nets, popped in 20 points and distributed 8 shiny dimes, but Vince Carter scored only 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting and looked totally pathetic while getting posterized by Warrick. Half-man, Half-a-sissy.
• A possible playoff preview? The Orlando Magic put the Washington Wizards through an atomic wedgie of a loss, 122-92, in what some people are calling a "preview" of possible first-round playoff matchup between the two teams. But come on. Without Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas, that's like saying The Star Wars Christmas Special was a preview of The Empire Strikes Back. Washington coach Eddie Jordan, who looked like he was going to break down and cry for most of the game, said: "They took it to us. They were the aggressors, and we just didn't compete physically." Makes sense, 'cause you sure aren't going to stop Dwight Howard (20 points, 11 rebounds) with your mind, unless you're Professor X or something. On the other hand, DeShawn Stevenson did use his big, throbbing brain to go for 17, 5, and 4.