The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who's interested to see how the Celtics plan to stop LeBron tonight. (He suggests napalm and well-trained attack dogs.) When he's not making violent anti-LeBron plans, he can be found relieving his NBA bladder at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Mmmm...more home cookin'. The Detroit Pistons had the Orlando Magic over for a little playoff dinner, and Stan Van Gundy's team is still choking on the crap they got served at the end of the third quarter. The game clock mysteriously froze at 4.8 seconds, which gave Chauncey Billups the extra time he needed to hit a momentum-changing three-pointer with "0.5 seconds" left. The three-that-wasn't-a-three gave the Pistons a 78-76 lead going into the fourth. Here's some video of the refs getting it wrong. Here's some video of the TNT broadcasters proving the refs got it wrong. And here are some reactions from both sides. Guess which side was not okay with it?
Said Van Gundy: "They had to estimate how much time (was left) and they estimated 4.6 seconds. I mean that's...that's almost funny, I mean you know. How long did that play take? Well, you know, I don't know, 4.3, 4.6, I mean 4 or 5 seconds right? I mean they estimated 4.6. What can you do?" The answer rhymes with "bend over and take it," Stan.
Lead official Steve Javie, uh, declined comment after the game. But in all fairness, his hands were tied because the league's replay rules don't allow for reviewing a play to figure out when the shot clock started, should have started, etc. Because David Stern likes to kick things old school.
All that crap aside, it was an entertaining game. The Magic fell behind by 14 in the first half, fought their way back to regain the lead, had that lead unrightfully taken with them, but still could have tied the game in the final 20 seconds had Rashard Lewis (20 points, 5 rebounds, 6 turnovers) not missed a running scoop, or had Dwight Howard (22 points, 18 rebounds, 5 turnovers) not missed a putback. And, of course, they might have had another shot at it if Hedo Turkoglu (12 points, 7 assists, 6 turnovers) had managed to grab the offensive rebound off of Superman's miss. Oh, and it would have helped if Orlando's Big Three hadn't kept throwing the damn ball away.
Billups led the Pistons with 28 — although it should have been 25 — while Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Price added 17 each.
Defending chumps. Okay, um, wow? I knew the Hornets were pretty good, and I also felt that Chris Paul should have been named the league MVP, but ... well, wow. I don't think anybody expected them to manhandle the Spurs in Game 1, much less do it again in Game 2. But that's exactly what they did in a 102-84 victory that — according to my thesaurus — fell somewhere between stunning and unthinkable.
The Spurs actually led by a point at halftime before getting ripped 36-18 in the third quarter. The beatdown was getting so out of hand that Gregg Popovich sent a little "Get yer heads out of yer butts" message by benching his starters in favor of lineup consisting of Ime Udoka, Brent Barry, Fabricio Oberto, Robert Horry and Jacque Vaughn. And you know what? Those guys inexplicably made a little run. Pop eventually hustled his boys back in for one last crack at it, but CP-MVP turned it up a notch and the Hornets won going away. For the second straight game, in case you skipped ahead.
Paul finished with a really-shoulda-won-MVP-like 30 points and 12 assists (with only 1 turnover). David West struggled mightily (10 points, 2-for-11, 10 rebounds), but Peja Stojakovic (25 points, 5-for-7 from three-point range) picked up the slack. Tyson Chandler had 5 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots, but he was limited to 27 minutes because of foul trouble. He still got in his quota of alley-oops, though.
Timmy Duncan played a little better (18 points, 6-for-11, 8 rebounds), but Tony Parker (5-for-14), Michael Finley (2-for-7), Bruce Bowen (1-for-7) and Manu Ginobili (4-for-10, 5 turnovers) were so awful that all the flopping and eye-rolling in the world couldn't save them. If it wasn't for the ageless gunning of Brent Barry (14 points, 4-for-5 on threes) the Spurs probably would have lost by 30.
Memo to Steve Kerr and the Phoenix Suns: Remember how you went out and traded for Shaq so that you could slow things down? Because you thought that was the only way to beat San Antonio? Well, here's the thing ... they are very old. And it turns out that runnin' and gunnin' actually was the way to beat them this year. That's the sound of painful irony slapping you upside the face. Like Bill Simmons said, R.I.P. to the Seven Seconds or Less era.