The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who forgot to write a new introductory paragraph yesterday and feels like a douche about it. When he's not refreshing female genitalia, he can be found taking a siesta at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Who knew Darius Songaila was so important? After the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminated the Washington Wizards from the playoffs — again — with a 105-88 blowout victory, Antonio Daniels was left thinking about what might have been. "Three times in a row. It's tough. But who knows what happens if we have a healthy team? A healthy Gilbert Arenas? If we had Darius Songaila for Game 6 ... who knows what happens?" I'm not a trained mathematologist, but I'm pretty sure Songaila's 5 PPG and 3 RPG wouldn't have made up that 17-point deficit. But whatever helps you sleep at night, Tony.
Speaking of mathematalogy, Zydrunas Ilgauskas used his mad number skillz to explain why Cleveland won the series. "We have LeBron on our team, and there are 30 other teams or 29 who don't. and that's the biggest difference."
As for LeBron, well, you could say that he got his revenge. The King's third career playoff triple-double (27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists) and combined with some aggressive defense on Caron Butler (18 points, 6-for-14, a game-high 4 turnovers) went a long way toward redressing his failures at the end of Game 5. And it also put an end to the endless stream of trash talk. Said LeBron: "Cleveland is advancing. We won the series 4-2. That speaks louder than me saying anything about the fans here, anything about DeShawn Stevenson. Cleveland is advancing. That's all that matters."
It wasn't all LeBron James, though, and that was the real reason the Cavs won going away. Wally Szczerbiak crawled out from under his playoff rock to hit six three-pointers and score a career playoff-high 26 points, and Boobie Gibson came off the bench to score 22 on 9-for-14 shooting. It just went to prove that when guys other than LeBron produce, the Cavaliers can be a scary team. Like, boogedy-boogedy scary.
And since LeBron got the last word in his personal duel against the Deshawn and the Wizards, he gets the last word here, too. "We had a lot of things go on besides basketball in this series, which was fun. But at the same time, we took care of business. Soulja Boy, DeShawn Stevenson, my big brother 'J,' myself, the crowd, 'overrated.' All that. It comes down to us winning a really gruesome series."
Zaza Pachulia: "We're going to Game 7! Woooooooooo!" Ric Flair would be proud. Anyway, the Hawks pulled off yet another improbably victory last night, beating the Celtics 103-100 to set up a decisive Game 7 in Boston. Total. Craziness. Like a bird-with-three-beaks crazy.
The Hawks did it with hard work, they did it with hustle, they did it with heart. And they did it with a little home cooking, too. And I'm not just talking about their 47-25 advantage in free throw attempts. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Hawks got an "And 1!" on a Josh Childress layup when Paul Pierce "fouled" Pachulia away from the ball. Now watch the play. Notice how Zaza puts his arm over Pierce's head and shoves him back? But we're supposed to believe that Pierce committed a foul after that. With all the physical play and jostling for position that there's been in this series? Seriously?
So Pierce fouled out of the game and got a technical on top of it, and that one sequence ended with the Hawks up seven. Still, Boston kept it close and had a shot to tie or win it in the final 15 seconds, but Ray Allen took an off-balance three-pointer that didn't come close. Joe Johnson grabbed the rebound and got fouled. He hit both foul shots. Kevin Garnett scored a quick hoop, then Bibby got fouled and hit one of two. The Celtics had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but Rajon Rondo had to fire up a prayer, and God either wasn't listening or just laughed at it. Game over.
KG led the C's with 22, Ray Allen had 20, and Paul Pierce added 17. The Hawks got a balanced scoring attack from Marvin Williams (18), Mike Bibby (17), Al Horford (16), Joe Johnson (15), Josh Childress (15), and Josh Smith (11).
Game 7 is Sunday. You'd better be watching.
T-Mac needs a big hug. Tracy McGrady has become the NBA's most tragic figure since Dominique Wilkins. Dominique, you may remember, never won the big one and was accused of being a selfish gunner before being traded - during Atlanta's best season since he had arrived — to the Los Angeles Clippers for 26 games worth of Danny Manning. The Clippers...what a kick to the balls, huh? Dominique then signed with Boston where he failed miserably to resurrect Celtic Pride, went overseas to win a Euroleague club championship, came back to lead the San Antonio Spurs in scoring during their "Tank to get Tim Duncan" campaign, went overseas again, and then finished his career as a mop-up player for the Orlando Magic. The double-turd topping to that poop sundae was getting left off of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list and then failing to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But at least he made it to the second round of the playoffs.
McGrady did everything he could — 40 points, 13-for-26, 10 rebounds, 5 assists — but he was one of only two Rockets in double-figures, whereas the Jazz had seven of them. Houston simply lost to a better team, and that's hardly McGrady's fault. But damn, it sure looks as though he feels like it's his fault. Poor guy.
Mehmet Okur (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (15 points, 10 rebounds) both had double-doubles, but Deron Williams was The Man for the Jazz. His numbers were good — 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists — but more important he put the finishing touches on a 20-5 third-quarter run with seven straight points and then hit back-to-back threes to give Utah an 18-point lead. The Jazz outscored the Rockets 27-11 in the third, and that was pretty much the game.
So T-Mac gets an early vacation and the Jazz get to play the Lakers. I'm not sure who got the better part of that deal.