The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who will never get over Nacho Grande! When he's not quoting 80s comedies, you can find him flossing his teeth at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
I just want to tell you both good luck. We're all counting on you. And the Suns' two big fellas came through. Amare Stoudemire finished with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and Shaq - fresh off his one-game mini-vacation - scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Suns went to San Antonio and knocked off the champs, 96-79. The Big Returner had eight of those points in the fourth quarter when the Spurs doggedly (and foolishly) refused to double-team him. Said Shaq: "I told them that if they play me single coverage, let me make them pay. I'm still the baddest 36-year-old ever created." (Ahem. Karl Malone begs to differ.)
Of course, no Suns/Spurs game is complete without Bruce Bowen pulling some stuff and Amare Stoudemire whining about it. Said Stat: "Bruce came elbow first. Elbowed me right in the rib cage. You know, definitely wasn't a basketball play on his part and I reacted. I definitely didn't appreciate it, so I let him know about it." Bowen didn't talk to reporters after the game.
Playoff watch: Phoenix is in total command of the sixth seed in the West, three and a half games ahead of Dallas. However, they're only a half-game out of the fifth, third, and second spots held by the Rockets, Spurs, and Lakers. San Antonio is in third place, only two games behind first-place New Orleans.
I am serious. And don't call me Shirley. Okay. The Pistons really aren't all that serious about their final regular season games. But the Sixers are, and they held on for a 101-94 win over Detroit's bench. Andre Iguodala had the power with 25 points and 6 assists, and Samuel Dalembert was pretty decent too (20 points, 13 boards). Chauncy Billups led the Pistons with 18 points, but he and the other starters all played less than 30 minutes, except for Rip Hamilton, who didn't play at all (the team's injury report says "rest").
Playoff watch: The Pistons have the number two seed in the East all wrapped up. Meanwhile, the Sixers are currently in the sixth spot.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue. So can I please have some of whatever Antawn Jamison is smoking? 'Tawn scored 27 points — including a nasty baseline dunk over Kevin Garnett — and the Wizards became the only team in the league to beat the Celtics three times this season thanks to a 109-95 win. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers couldn't seem to decide whether or not to rest his starters. He yanked The Big Three, then put them back in late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Hopefully, he'll have his rotation down for the playoffs. (Yes, Doc's coaching makes me nervous. Very, very nervous.)
Playoff watch: Boston's got the best record in the league. 'Nuff said. Washington has a slim hold on the five-spot, just behind Cleveland and just ahead of Philly.
Leon's LeBron's getting LARGER!! Okay. That's not exactly true. He's still LeBron-sized. But he is playing, at least, bad back and all. King James had 33 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and no turnovers to lead his Cavaliers to a 104-83 win over the Nets. The game was close going into the fourth, with Cleveland leading 76-74, but New Jersey scored only nine points on 1-for-20 shooting and the Cavs ran away with it. Vince Carter - who led the Nets with 19 points - said: "It's tough when you're not hitting shots, not making layups and calls we felt we should have gotten, we weren't getting. It was a triple-threat negative." Well, hello, Mr. Fancy-pants. That's a pretty long-winded way to say, "We suck."
Playoff watch: Cleveland maintained a two-game lead over Washington for the East's fourth seed. As for the Nets, well, my calculator says they aren't mathematically eliminated yet, but my Ouiji board says, "I'll swallow your soooooul!" Um, that's probably not good.
Oh...it's my stomach. I haven't felt this awful since we saw that Ronald Reagan film. Another game, another ugly-ass loss for my Bullies. Dwight Howard — fat lip and all - had 30 points and 14 boards as the Magic clobbered Chicago 115-83. It was the team's 48th loss of the season, a fact that kind of bugs rookie Joakim Noah. "I feel like we're not really playing with a lot of pride and respect for the jersey in front of us. It's just hard because you can't point at anybody individually, it's just the togetherness of the team is bad." Oh, I dunno. I think you could probably point at Larry Hughes (3-for-8), Luol Deng (2-for-10), Tyrus Thomas (3-for-7), Andres Nocioni (3-for-10), Drew Gooden (who's not even playing because of an abdominal strain), Jim Boylan for losing control of the team from Day 1, John Paxson for assembling this group of misfits ... am I missing anybody?
Playoff watch: The Magic have the East's third seed all wrapped up. The Bulls? They wish.
LISTEN KID! I've been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I'm out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes. He may not have quoted Airplane!, but Charlie Villanueva did his best best Kareem impression with 38 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Bucks, Michael Redd couldn't pull off an Oscar Robertson and Milwaukee got gobbled up by the Raptors, 111-93. Chris Bosh led the dinos with 32 and 11, Anthony Parker chipped in 18 points, and Jose Calderon distributed 12 shiny dimes. But despite the win, Bosh was a teensy bit unhappy with the death-like calm of the home crowd. "It was quiet. Could you hear yourself talk?" Bosh asked reporters. "We're getting ready for the playoffs. I'm just saying I'm excited. I don't know if anybody else is excited, but I'm excited." You know, I'm starting to get the feeling that he's excited. But that might just be my imagination. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go talk to this pink elephant.
Playoff watch: Toronto is currently number seven in the East, one game behind Philadelphia and two and a half games ahead of Atlanta. Milwaukee? They're goin' fishin'. (Do Bucks eat fish?)
Do you know what it's like falling in the mud and getting kicked in the head? With an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does, that never happens. Sorry, Ted, skip that, it's a dumb question. Actually, Knicks fans would probably tell you that they know exactly what that feels like. It's called "The Isiah Thomas Era." But those fans have gotten a short reprieve, as New York's 109-107 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats was the team's third straight win. And that's a season high, folks. Said Isiah: "Finally the spirit of the team is good. The camaraderie of the team is good. I just think that they're a team now. A little late, but nonetheless." Hey, it only took you four years to make them a team. That's ... good ... I guess.
Playoff watch: Where are these teams goin'? Nowhere.
They bought their tickets. They knew what they were getting in to. I say, let 'em crash! It's been that kind of year for fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and their season of woe continued with a 122-90 choke-slam from the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul redeemed himself with a 19-point, 16-rebound night, and teammates Peja Stojakovic and David West added 24 and 22 points, respectively. Rashad McCants showed that he McCan by scoring 23 points for the Wolves, who have now lost six straight games and 59 of their last 78. Fun fact: Paul and Tyson Chandler hooked up on five alley-oops. In fact, they lead the league with 107 of those this season.
Playoff watch: The Hornets maintained their 1.5-game lead on the Lakers and Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Wolves? Heh.
Cut me som' slac' jak! Chump don' wan' no help, chump don' git no help. Jive ass dude don' got no brains anyhow. The Rockets were without Tracy McGrady (resting for the playo...I mean, sore left shoulder), but they still had enough firepower to keelhaul the Sonics 103-80. Houston got 18 points from Rafer Alston and 48 points from their bench during their cruise to victory. Kevin Durant dropped in 26 for Seattle. Fun fact: The Rockets are 49-4 when they lead after three quarters. And when they dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.
Playoff watch: Houston maintained thier clammy grip on the fifth slot in the West, a half-game ahead of the Suns. Seattle ...h ell, they don't even know where they're going to be next season. The playoffs are the last thing on their minds.