The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who is in no way related to Kevin McHale and has taken the necessary legal steps to ensure that it stays that way. When he's not admiring this Rik Smits wallpaper, he can be found country line dancing at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• At least he's in Barkley's Fave Five now. You might be tempted to think that nobody in the sports world could possibly feel any worse right now than the New England Patriots and their fans. Well, here are two words that can totally prove you wrong: Dwyane Wade. Pookie's team suffered their largest defeat of the season - and that's really saying something - a 114-82 home loss to the Toronto Raptors. The Heat were strung up, stuffed with sorrow and beaten like a woeful piñata. The mighty dinos, who shot almost 60 percent as a team, got 24 points from former National Honor Society Member Chris Bosh and 22 from the formerly deceased Andrea Bargnani. Dorrell Wright led the Heat with 17 points and 8 rebounds, while Wade had 12 points, 4 assists, and countless regrets. Mr. T, the internationally renowned pity expert, had this to say after the game: "I've pitied me a lot of fools over the years. But damn, I really pity these fools."
• Flush! What better way for New Yorkers to sober up after the Giants' improbable Super Bowl victory than to watch the lowly Knicks drop a home game to the equally lowly Clippers? The only thing harder to look at than the game was Chris Kaman, who returned after missing four games with a case of the butt-uglies. "They're a struggling team just like we are," said Kaman. "It's like a toilet bowl game or a dust bowl game. Two bottom teams fighting." So ... I guess that would make Los Angeles the soiled toilet paper and New York the large, steamy deuce? Anyway, the Clippers had seven players in double figures, led by Cory Maggette's 19 and Kaman's 15 (to go along with his 9 boards). The Knicks got 19 points and two measly rebounds out of Eddy Curry, plus another 18 points from Jamal Crawford.
• Holy flyswatters, Batman! Remember in the old Superfriends cartoon how Batman had, like, everything in his utility belt? Bat-boomarangs, Bat-lasers, Bat-grenades, Bat-handcuffs, Bat-anal lube, Bat-pictures of Robin naked ... if it existed, it was in that belt. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Batman kept an extra Josh Smith in one of those little yellow pouches, because J-Smoove did it all last night: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 9 [!!] blocked shots, and four steals. As an afterthought, the Hawks beat the Sixers 96-91. The Hawks also got 21 points from Josh "The Other Josh" Childress and 18 from Joe "Mama" Johnson. Meanwhile, Andre "Please, God, please let them trade me" Miller had 29 for Philadelphia.
• Better than the third-best team in the East! After consecutive embarrassing losses to the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, the Dallas Mavericks suddenly remembered how to play basketball, beating the Orlando Magic 107-98 behind Josh Howard's 28 points. Dirk Nowitzki, free from Rasheed Wallace's cutting words, went for 20, 9, and 5. Dwight Howard showed off his manliness with 28 points (but only 7 boards), and Hedo Turkoglu's first career triple double - 13 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists - was wasted in the loss.
• Phoenix discovers winning formula. Leandro Barbosa scored 30 points and Raja Bell hit seven three-pointers as Phoenix sprinted to a 118-104 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Suns are now undefeated when both of those things happen. Sometimes winning is just that easy. Jason Richardson led the 'Cats with 25 points, and Emeka Okafor chipped in with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
• I got yer All-Star right here, bitches. Chris Paul might be an All-Star, a leading candidate for the mid-season MVP award that doesn't exist, and all kinds of awesome, but Deron Williams used him, abused him, and flat-out humiliated him in Utah's 110-88 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. Williams had 29 points and 11 assists, both game highs, while Chris Paul disappointed with 6 points (3-for-11), 6 assists, and 5 turnovers. Kyle Korver contributed 20 points and six three-pointers to the Jazz cause, while Carlos Boozer chipped in 19 points and 17 boards. Jannero Pargo (24 points) was the Hornets' best player. Yes, Jannero Pargo.
• He is, like, so clutch. Forget all those first-round exits and post-game cry-fests. Tracy McGrady totally willed his Houston Rockets to a 92-86 victory over...the second-worst team in the league. Impressive. T-Mac had 26 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and won the game with two huge hoops in the final 70 seconds. Yao Ming scored 16 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and played no defense whatsoever. Not coincidentally, Al Jefferson kept the T-Wolves in the game with his 33 points and 16 rebounds. Now, speaking of clutch...
• Portland didn't have The Answer. Because he's, like, on the Nuggets. Allen Iverson scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half and hit the game-winning shot with less than a second left in overtime as the Nuggets downed the Blazers 105-103. Denver was without Marcus Camby, but Carmelo Anthony was back and picking up the slack - hey, that rhymed! - with 28 points and 15 rebounds. Brandon Roy led the Trailblazers with 26, but he missed a three-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game.