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A Very NBA St. Patrick's Day

The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who has a bit 'o the Irish in him. Although a few testy Irishmen told him this weekend that the name "McHale" is actually Scottish. But hey, everybody's Irish on St. Patty's day, right? When he isn't walking the streets of Chicago in his brand new green tuxedo, he can be found eating Lucky Charms at Basketbawful. Enjoy!

That's why the Celtics were after Sam Cassell's Lucky Charms. I imagine this is what the NBA Finals would look like this June if the West wasn't so crazy good and the Spurs weren't so damn old. San Antonio must have sipped down some Metamucil before the game though, because they dropped a 28-11 first quarter bomb on the Celtics and eventually pushed their lead to 22. But the Celtics had that whole Luck of the Irish thing going on, and they came storming back behind Paul Pierce's 22 points. Kevin Garnett added 21 points and 8 rebounds, but more importantly, he put the clamps on Timmy Duncan, who scored only 10 points. All that said, the real Leprechaun of the night was Sam Cassell, who scored 17 points and used his big balls to hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 48 seconds left. And that, my friends, is the veteran clutchtasticness the C's were hoping for. Speaking of veteran clutchtasticness, the Spurs almost used theirs to pull this one out after Bruce "Kick 'Em While They're Down" Bowen stole an inbounds pass from Kevin Garnett with two ticks left on the clock, but Big Shot Rob forgot to call time-out and then bonked a three-point attempt. Game over: Boston 93, Spurs 91. Fun fact: The Spurs' Ime Udoka was back after missing a couple games with tarsal tunnel syndrome in his right ankle. Hey Ime, if you keep doing that I think you're gonna go blind.

Um, a little help here, guys. Not only was Dwight Howard gobbling up the middle like some kind of mutant Pacman (23 points and 13 rebounds), it was raining threes in Orlando last night - 14 of them to be exact - as the Magic put the Cavaliers over their knee for a 104-90 win. LeBron (30 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) tried to stave off Orlando's three-pronged attack by scoring seven of his team's first nine points of the fourth, but man, he needed to use a defibrillator on some of his teammates. I thought that blockbuster trade was supposed to bring some relief. But, right now, Wally Szczerbiak (2 points, 1-for-4 shooting) only wishes he was as good as Larry Hughes, and as for Ben wallace...did somebody replace Big Ben with one of those Inflatable Defenders? Wallace had 2 points, 4 rebounds, and a blocked shot in 23 minutes, and I'm half-convinced those things happened by accident. Little did we all know that Delonte West (16 points and 6 rebounds) would end up being the steal in that trade. Rashard Lewis added 21 points and 5 three-pointers to the Magic cause, and Hedo "The Other Turkish Assassin" Turkoglu had 18 points and 7 boards.

Okay, okay. I'm done mocking him. For now. Actually typing these words out feels so very wrong, but I can't deny it any longer: Mike Dunleavy Jr. is having a breakout season. He's averaging 18 PPG, 5 RPG, and 3 APG. He's shooting 47 percent from the field, 40 from three-point range, and 83 on the line. He's scored 20 or more points 23 times. He's scored 30 or more points eight times, including five times in the last 13 games (the Pacers are 7-1 in those games). He's tied his career-high of 36 points four times, the last of which came last night versus the Knicks. And (I can't believe I'm writing this) Dunleavy did it in (I can't stop myself) dramatic fashion. He scored 16 points in the first quarter to help Indiana take a 38-32 lead. He scored nine in the final 2:35 of the third quarter as the Pacers pushed their lead to 98-89. And he still wasn't finished! With 4:26 to go in the fourth and the Pacers holding off a Knick rally, Dunleavy - I swear to God this is true - pulled off the play of the game by driving through traffic, wrapping the ball behind his back, and throwing up a left-handed floater from the baseline that gave the Pacers a 102-91 lead. That was the dagger. The final score was Indiana 110, New York 98. The only blight on Dunleavy's evening was that he blew a couple shots down the stretch that would have given him a new career-high, including a three-point airball with under a minute to go. Fun fact: Two of Dunleavy's 36-point games this season have come against the Knicks. Fun fact 2: Isiah's coaching resume now includes two games in which his team gave up a career-high to Mike Dunleavy Jr. and lost because of it. Final warning: I really, really think we need to send the authorities to Dunleavy's house and have them check his basement for body snatcher pods. And fast.

This kid is good. Really freaking good. Every time I watch Chris Paul play, I find myself chanting "M-V-P!" Even when he's sticking his boot in the butt of my hometown Bulls, which is exactly what he did last night by scoring 37 points and dropping 13 dimes in the Hornets' 108-97 win. But it was more than just the numbers; Paul delivered the game-breakers, too. He dropped in a three-pointer with 2:47 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 96-all. Then, on his team's next possession, he hit Tyson Chandler with an alley-oop pass to give the Hornets their first lead since half-time. Take me to bed or lose me forever, Chris Paul. Whoa. Sorry. Don't know where that came from. Anyway, Bonzi wells hit a couple free throws and dunked one home (I didn't know he could still do that) to finish Chicago off. The Bulls got 31 out of wee little Benny Gordon and 23 points and 12 rebounds from Drew Gooden's beard. The Miller Genuine Draft "Yeah, Right" Moment of the Night: Chris Duhon didn't make the trip to New Orleans due to flu-like symptons. Uh huh.

Calm down there, T.J. Ronnie Price, whom you don't know as Utah's backup point guard, led a 24-4 fourth quarter run that led the Jazz to a 96-79 win over the still Chris Bosh-less Raptors. But his biggest contribution might have been some killer D on T.J. Ford, who apparently didn't like it. Ford was so upset after getting called for an offensive foul in the fourth, he freaking charged referee Eddie F. Rush and got himself ejected. 'Cause, see, they still don't allow that. Kyle Korver capped off this "Night of the Living Roleplayers" for the Jazz by scoring 17 (6-for-7) off the bench. Jose Calderon led the dinos with 16 points and 7 assists.

These teams suck, Part 1. Charlotte versus Memphis. Way to jumpstart my heart. About the only thing even vaguely interesting about this one - which the Grizzlies won 98-80, by the way - was that Derek Anderson arose from his sarcophagus to score a season-high 17 points for the Bobcats, which I presume is an all-time NBA record for a dead man. Sad fact: Even during a blowout in his team's favor, Kwame Brown played only two minutes and 27 seconds. He grabbed one rebound. Meanwhile, Brian Cardinal added to his growing consonant collection by getting yet another DNP-CD.

These teams suck, Part 2. The L.A. Clippers versus Minnesota. It's like a dark shadow has passed over my eyes, and all love I have for the sport of basketball is being drained from me. end this...quickly. Timberwolves 99, Clippers 90. Al Jefferson...double-double...of 22 points and 14 rewhatevers. Corey Maggette scored some points and, uh, rhymes with spaghetti. Must stop now. Random, useless statistic: Minnesota "improved" to 4-44 when scoring less than 100 points.


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