The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who blah, blah, blah-diddy-blah. Who cares, right? When he's not forcing you to read useless factoids about himself, he's doing it to a completely different set of readers at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
• Shaq has done the impossible. In only three short games, The Big Houdini has magically transformed the 2007-08 Phoenix Suns into...the 2007-08 Miami Heat. Less than 48 hours after scoring 85 points against the Celtics, the Suns - whose previously beautiful and free-flowing offense had been averaging about 110 PPG - scored only 86 in a 30-point home loss to the Detroit Pistons. "It's embarrassing, it's disappointing, it's everything," said a very depressed Steve Nash. "Why couldn't we have had a Devean George to block this tra...I mean, it's no big deal. We'll get it together. We just need more practice. And, you know, a miracle." The Pistons led by 11 points after one quarter and pushed the lead to a whole lot before settling for a 116-86 victory. Rasheed Wallace showed up to work and punched the Suns clock with 22 points (8-for-10) and 8 rebounds. Amare Stoudemire had 31 points for Phoenix, but he got mandangled on the boards (he had only 3).
• The trade worked! It worked! Holy cow, the trade worked! The Cleveland Cavaliers introduced their four new players last night - Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West - and the result was a 109-89 win over the
Washington Generals Memphis Grizzlies. After the game, LeBron James, who led the Cavs with 25 points and 11 assists, was irrationally excited. With an emphasis on the "irrationally" part. "It was good to see all those guys play well," James said. "It was exciting to be on the floor with them." One can only assume that Bron Bron was either exaggerating or, uhm, exaggerating? I mean, I remember him pleading for Danny Ferry to go get Jason Kidd, but I don't recall seeing names like "Wallace" and "Szczerbiak" on his mid-season wish list. But whatever. Wallace had a season-high 12 points and also shot what I'm guessing is a season-high 50 percent from the foul line (2-for-4) to go along with 10 rebounds. Szczerbiak shot slightly better than Larry Hughes (4-for-10). West played like a vintage Eric Snow (5 points, 2-for-12 shooting). And Joe Smith was actually pretty good for an old dude (14 points, 6-for-8, 6 rebounds). Not a bad start, but I'm going to go ahead and reserve judgement until the Cavs play somebody other than the Griz.
• Turn that frown upside down, Boston! After falling behind 32-16 at the end of the first quarter, it looked like the Celtics were headed to a fourth straight embarrassing loss on their West Coast road trip. But then Paul Pierce tapped into his inner Will Smith and said, "Aw, hell no!" The Truth went rat-a-tat-tat on his way to 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the Celtics' 112-102 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. "Last game, the way I played was one of my top-five worst games of my career," said Pierce, who probably needs to head over to basketball-reference.com and check his old game logs before making crazy statements like that. "I wanted to come out and focus better, and shots were there and I was able to knock them down." He knocked them down, all right (12-for-14), and so did the rest of the Celtics (58 percent shooting as a team). The Blazers? Not so much. But that might be because All-Star Brandon Roy left the game after the third quarter because he aggravated a right ankle sprain.
• Yep, that's why they traded for him. It looks like Jason Kidd has more or less adjusted to his new team. Kidd dished out a season-high 17 assists as the Mavericks notched a 99-83 win over the
Washington Generals Minnesota Timberwolves. I'm telling you, Kidd is like spandex: He can make any ass look a little bit better. Case in point, Kidd hit Erick Dampier with a couple snazzy touch-passes inside, including one while he was falling out of bounds that led to a Dampier dunk. Man, I didn't even know Dampier could dunk anymore. Kidd's presence is also making life a lot easier on Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting. But before y'all down in Texas get too excited, remember that they were only playing the Timberwolves. Let's not classify them as world beaters just yet.
• Whatcha gonna do when Andrea Bargnani runs wild on you?! Lose by 23 points, apparently, if you're the Knicks. The Italian Stallion beat Team Dysfunction like a side of raw beef by scoring 25 points and hitting a career-high five three-pointers. "I tried to be more aggressive from the beginning," said Bargnani. Fun fact: 100 percent of all NBA victories are accomplished by being "more aggressive." That's science. On the other end of the spectrum, Zach Randolph played, well, more like Andrea Bargnani usually plays by scoring only 7 points on 2-for-13 shooting. "It's frustrating," Randolph said. "I couldn't buy a shot today." Fun fact number two: A "twin towers" composed of two soft, defenseless seven-footers looks much better on paper than it does in action.
• Surprisingly enough, Larry Hughes was not the answer. Not against the Rockets, anyway, who beat the Bulls 110-97. Houston won their 12th straight game - and the 16th of their last 17 - behind Tracy McGrady's 24 points and 8 assists. Chicago kept the game close through three quarters, but honestly, did you really expect them to bring Houston's rocketship back down to earth? Ben Gordon sure didn't. "We've got new guys in and there wasn't much chemistry," said Gordon, who had 5 points on 2-for-11 shooting. "Of course, we had old guys in and there wasn't much chemistry then, either. Oh man, we are so screwed."
• When a blowout just isn't enough. Kobe Bryant is a fiery competitor who only wants to win...by 100. With his Lakers clinging desperately to a 31-point lead, Black Mamba flipped out after not getting a call while fighting for an offensive rebound. Referee Brian Forte hit Bryant with a technical and then ran away as fast as humanly possible - for an NBA official, anyway. But much like serial killer Jason Voorhees, Kobe stalked downcourt to unleash a little more righteous indignation, which amazingly enough didn't convince Forte to change the original call or the first technical. Crazy, huh? Nope, it was technical foul number two and an early trip to the showers for the Kobester. Even without their leader, the Lakers managed to hold on for a dramatic 111-91 win over the 15-win Seattle SuperSonics. Phil Jackson, of course, couldn't resist making a totally lame jab at the the official. "I told [Kobe], 'You shouldn't jump on junior. His dad might carry a grudge against you,'" Jackson said, referring to veteran official Joe Forte, Brian's father. Note that Deadspin is in no way responsible if Jackson's little witticism caused your funny bone to blow the hell up. Mickael Gelabale, whose name is composed of eight consonants and seven vowels, led Seattle with 21 points.