The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who's really starting to hate Gregg Popovich. When he's not nodding off due to Pop's slow-it-the-hell-down style of coaching, he can be found making raspberries at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
What's blue, white and eliminated all over? The Orlando Magic, of course! Despite Jameer Nelson's guarantee — or maybe because of it — the Magicians made themselves disappear from the 2008 NBA Playoffs by losing 91-86 in Detroit. And they could have earned a few O.W.L.s for conjuring up this amazing feat of suck.
Orlando managed to overcome the advantages of the absence of Detroit's All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups and the Pistons' 36 percent shooting ... by missing 12 free throws and turning the ball over 21 times. They also forced only 3 turnovers — and zero after the first quarter — despite the fact that the Billups injury forced Flip Saunders to start a rookie (Rodney Stuckey) from a wee little college (Eastern Washington). Stuckey had 15 points, 6 assists and, most important, zero turnovers in 33 minutes. He must have taken some Felix Felicis before the game.
The Phantom of Auburn Hills continued to menace the Magic with 31 points and flawless foul shooting (16-for-16), and Antonio McDyess had 17 points and 11 rebounds despite finding out as he was arriving at the arena that his grandmother, Beatrice Harris, had passed away. (Not to be morbid, but do you think Joe Dumars is going to put out a hit on a couple of Tony's other family members during the Eastern Conference Finals?) Tayshaun Prince added 10 points, 8 boards and a huge block on Hedo Turkoglu in the final 20 ticks. He has a bad habit of doing that.
Hedo led Orlando with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 turnovers. Rashard Lewis added 14 points, 7 boards and 6 turnovers. And Dwight Howard continued to do his "poor man's Shaq" impersonation by grabbing 17 rebounds, missing 9 free throws and committing 4 turnovers.
Fun fact: Charles Barkley thinks Stan Van Gundy is actually Ron Jeremy. Which isn't that much of a stretch. I mean, has anyone actually seen Stan and Ron at the same time?
Wild, Wild West! David West crushed the Spurs in his iron fist last night by scoring 38 points (16-for-25), grabbing 14 rebounds, dishing 5 assists and blocking 5 shots. And he did all that with a bad back. The word your shocked brain is searching for is "wow."
West's Incredible Hulk-like performance helped the Hornets win 101-79 and take a 3-2 series lead despite Gregg Popovich's efforts at slowing the game down to a shuffling, grinding pace that would make most mortal men (and women) hate basketball. San Antonio's stall ball worked for one half but failed miserably in the third quarter, during which the Hornets outscored the Spurs 28-11. Suck on that Karma, Gregg.
Despite playing in West's ginormous shadow, Chris Paul scored 22 points — 16 of which came in the second half — while also distributing 14 dimes. Mo Pete finished with 12 points by hitting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. And Peja Stojakovic scored only 9 points, but he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished to Pete for a three during the Hornets' big third quarter run and hit a three-pointer in transition to help hold off the Spurs in the fourth.
Manu Ginobili had 20 points and 7 assists, Tony Parker flopped his way to 18 points, and Tim Duncan grabbed 23 boards — which is the best single-game rebounding total for this year's playoffs — but got harassed into scoring only 10 points on 5-for-18 shooting.