The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who believes that only you can prevent forest fires. So the next time there's a forest fire, it's totally your fault. When he's not blaming you for nature's fiery blazes, he can be found fanning the flames of Basketbawful. Enjoy!
And the Warriors went down shooting. So surprises there. The Golden Staters lost an 11-point halftime lead and then staged a furious rally to overcome a nine-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime where they eventually fell 123-119 to the Lakers. Zing! Bam! Ka-pow! There were gaudy numbers everywhere, baby! Kobe Bryant - who got his pretty face all cut up - scored 30 points on 30 shots to go with his 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Lamar Odom had 23 points and 21 rebounds (did anybody box that dude out?). Sasha Vujacic added 19 points and hit a big three-pointer in OT. Baron Davis played all 53 minutes of the game and had 9 rebounds and 7 assists to keep his 30 points company.
Stephen Jackson (who also played the whole game) scored 29 and Al Harrington had 19 points and 12 rebounds. The game came down to the wire in OT, but the Warriors got victimized by a little homecourt disadvantage when refereee Bob Delaney called a bizarre offensive foul on Monta Ellis with 4 seconds left in overtime that pretty much sealed the deal. Even Derek Fisher, the "victim" of the phantom foul, thought the call was bogus. "I thought it was going to be a no-call, just two guys fall down and the play goes on. So when the whistle blew, it caught me off guard as well. I don't think anybody was necessarily guilty of anything." Remember that these last two Lakers/Warriors games could be a preview of the kind of exciting, fast-paced, poorly officiated games we could see if these two teams meet in the first round of the playoffs. Stay tuned!
Steve Nash and Shaq will be donating some money to charity. After a tough 110-105 loss to the Pistons — a setback that ended the Suns' seven-game winning streak — Captain Canada and The Big Ref Buster indicated that officiating might have had some small effect on the game's outcome. Regarding a foul that gave Chauncey Billups a three-point play and the Pistons a 107-105 lead with a minute left in overtime, Nash said: "I think [the referee] just panicked. He kind of stuttered and then he said, 'You were underneath him.' It's tough to take when you feel like you played well enough to win, but you feel like the win was taken away from you." Shaq was even less subtle when he said: "I would have liked to see some consistency in the calls. [The Pistons] had help, there's no two ways about it." That sound you just heard was a CHA-CHING!! and it came from David Stern's office.
Billups scored 32 points - nine of which came in overtime - to lead the Pistons, who were without Rip Hamilton (sore hip). Rasheed Wallace added another 23 points and 9 rebounds. Amare Stoudemire paced the Suns with 33 points, Nash had 23 and 9 assists, and Shaq chipped in with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Celtics versus Sixers, redux. Channelling the spirit of the 1981-82 76ers - who won Game 7 of the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals in Boston Garden - Philly used a 19-0 fourth quarter run to erase an 11-point Celtic lead en route to a 95-90 victory at the Garde...er, the TD Banknorth Garden. (Yes, you read that correctly: A 19-0 run. I guess Boston decided to get a little extra sleepy time during the game.) Andre Iguodala kicked the Ghosts of Celtics past square in the nuts by scoring 28 points, including 10 straight during that 19-0 run, to move the Sixers one game above .500 (36-35) for the first time this season. Can you believe these guys are probably going to make the playoffs while Allen Iverson and the Nuggets probably won't? It's like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. You know, ironic. K.G. tanked his way to 18 points and 5 rebounds, while Ray Allen and Paul Pierce had 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The Fire Isiah Countdown Clock is officially ticking. It looks as though Donnie Walsh is going to leave his position as CEO of the Indiana Pacers to preside over the steaming pile of feces that Isiah Thomas has excreted in New York. But if Walsh really is going to be overseeing the Knicks' basketball operations - a job currently held by Isiah - where does that leave The Baby-faced Assassin? I think we all know the answer to that. As if sensing the flatulent winds of change were blowing their way, the Knicks put together a stirring tribute to their coach, losing to the Nets 106-91. Because let's face it, seeing Isiah grin his way through another lackluster, losing effort is the way we all want to remember him. New Jersey got 27 points out of Vinsanity - could it be he actually cares?! - and another 26 from Richard Jefferson. Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 26 points and 8 assists.
Beware Chris Quinn. Be vewy, vewy quiet. Chris Quinn is hunting Bucks. Elmer Fudd impersonations aside, Quinn hit for 24 points - which was, like, one-third of Miami's scoring output - and the Heat got lucky win number 13 by beating Milwaukee 78-73. "We just kind of went through the motions and thought it was going to be easier than it was," said Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak, who will probably be keeping Isiah company in line at the Unemployment Office this summer.
Another winning streak comes to an end. The Memphis Grizzlies, winners of two whole games in a row, ran into a Denver-shaped buzzsaw last night and - surprise! - lost to the Nuggets 120-106. Memphis actually had a 57-51 halftime lead before they remembered that "Holy shit, we're the Grizzlies!" and promptly fell apart. Allen Iverson didn't kiss the Grizzly logo at center court, but he did drop 26 points to go along with 7 assists, and Denver also got 27 from J.R. Smith and 23 from Carmelo Anthony. Memphis received contributions of 30 points from Rudy Gay, another 29 from Hakim Warrick, and a double-double from Mike Miller (19 points, 14 rebounds). The Griz also got zero points and one DNP-CD from Darko Milicic, Brian Cardinal and Kwame Brown.
See those glazed expressions? The vacant stares? Either the Kings have been turned into soulless, flesh-eating zombies or they're just going through the motions right now. It's kind of hard to tell because, well, have you seen Brad Miller lately? Zombies or not, Sacramento's playoff hopes are dead enough, and they're even deader after last night's 108-100 loss to the Rockets. The Kings got sniped by Rafer Alston, who scored 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Tracy McGrady twisted an ankle - I thought he was about due for an injury - but still played 40 minutes and scored 17 points. Kevin Martin led Sacramento with 18 points. Fun fact: I'm not saying that homecourt advantage played a factor in the win, but Houston had a 42-16 freethrow advantage. And, you know, I'm sure that helped.