The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who after last night's cluster of crappy games totally takes back that whole "wishes the regular season was longer" thing. When he's not formally requesting that David Stern burn yesterday's request for a 300-game season, you can find him skipping rope at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
It finally happened. Carrying a not-very-good team with a one-play offensive system has finally injured LeBron's back. Just in time for the playoffs! (This just in: Cleveland needs to fire Mike Brown. That is all.) Painful, unrelenting
back spasms held King James to a mere 33 points in the Cavaliers' 101-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls. As if the loss didn't feel bad enough as it was, Larry Hughes got some revenge on the team that traded him for an old, injured guy by scoring a clutchtastic 19 (of his 25) points in the second half. Ben Gordon also chipped in with 24 points, including five freethrows down the stretch to hold off Cleveland. And while those guys were winning the game, LeBron was stinking up the joint; his fourth quarter stat line was: One point, 0-for-5 from the field. And since he's the one play in the Cavs' one-play offense, Cleveland got outscored 24-13 in the final stanza. And lost, of course. That sound you just heard was the funeral march for Bron-Bron's MVP bid.
Tracy McGrady is enjoying the hell out of all this. The Western Wars are going to go down to the final second, and T-Mac (game-high 35 points) is thrilled out of his fish-eyed gourd about it. "There's going to be a team that wins 50 games and doesn't make the playoffs. So it's a battle out there. I love it. Every night is a competition. One day you're in the fifth spot, the next day you're in the third spot. It's crazy, man." It's sure is, Tracy! For you, it has to be like a thrilling roller coaster ride that ends in a fatal crash onto explosive spikes filled with poisonous snakes and surrounded by mutant, man-eating plants. I guess what I'm trying to say is, enjoy every moment of your pursuit of another only slightly delayed vacation, okay? When you're destiny is to never escape the first round of the playoffs, it's important to concentrate on the little things. Oh yeah. Rockets over the Blazers, 95-86. LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 23 points, and the Vanilla Godzilla continued his domination of the glass with 15 rebounds.
Wow. That's kind of sad. Kevin Martin scored 26 points to lead the Kings to a 110-98 win over the Clippers, which enabled Sacramento to avoid a four-game sweep by the "other" L.A. team. Wait. I know the Kings are bad, but how do you almost get swept by the Clippers? Jesus. Anyway, Sacramento coach Reggie Theus was giving up a little love for Martin after the game. "He's starting to adapt to the game now. I'm seeing things from him that I didn't see before. He's scoring easier in our offense now." That's great, Reggie. Too bad he didn't start doing that about 74 games sooner, huh? Elton Brand played again (15 points, 9 rebounds), but the Clippers said "Tanks, anyway" by sitting Cuttino Mobley (broken heart 'cause he still misses Steve Francis), Chris Kama (painfully freakin' ugly), and Tim Thomas (fatal case of not giving a crap).