The NBA Closer is written by our own Canadian weekend maestro J.E. Skeets. When he's not busy scouring the box scores or fighting five year olds, he can be heard on The Basketball Jones daily podcast. Enjoy.
• B-B-B-B-Broken. Chauncey Billups might not have the "Whoa Boy" numbers of a few other guards in the league, but he wins basketball games. Plain and simple. Like yogurt. Plain yogurt. The no-name brand. Mr. Big Shot hit two free throws with a tenth of a second left to help the Pistons hand the Celtics their first home loss of the season, 87-85. Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 26 points, and Ray Allen had 24, including a sick tying 3-pointer that excited Big Papi with 19 seconds to go.
• Christmas In December. This one is a little deceiving. While the final score reads close — a 108-105 Dallas win, decided when Nash airballed a three in the closing seconds — the Mavericks actually hogged the remote all night. They never trailed, led by 17 at the end of the first and were up by 14 midway through the fourth. Dirk scored 31 points, including the Mavs' final eight, while Nash finished with 21 and 18 assists. Dallas is now 18-9, just a hair's breadth — huh? — behind Phoenix (18-8) and San Ant (18-7).
• Nine-Alarm Blaze. Firefighters were called out to the Rose Garden early this morning to tackle a raging Portland blaze and to rescue a number of Toronto Raptors trapped by the flames. Crews arrived at the arena around 12:45am where Brandon Boy had already erupted for 25 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in leading the Trail Blazers to their ninth straight win, 101-96. Darrick Martin perished in the fire.
• Loud Noyzs! Rudy Gay hit a three in Tim Duncan's kitchen at the buzzer to give the Griz an 88-85 victory over the Spurs. Memphis purposely blew a 23-point lead. ... David Lee finally got some burn, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the first 24 as the Knicks beat the LeBrons 108-90. Isiah got a second multiyear contract extension for the win. ... And in Atlanta, Anthony Johnson had a season-high 21 points as the Hawks soared over the Heat 117-111 in OT. Alonzo Mourning left with a patellar tendon tear in his right knee after falling awkwardly in the first. He'll be out at least six months, unless he decides to run on his hands.