The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who could be replaced by an alien doppelganger any day now. It's been nice knowing you. When he's not trying to organize an underground resistance, he can be found practicing his "Nanu Nanu" at Basketbawful. Enjoy!

We are all an alien invasion! The Martians have struck again. This time, they kidnapped our King and replaced him with a near-to-exact duplicate. It looks like LeBron James. It rumbles through the paint like LeBron James. It probably even cries like LeBron James. They only thing our soon-to-be space overlords forgot was to turn the doppelganger's basketball dial up to 11. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that The Chosen One suddenly forgot how to play basketball? Nice try, Zi'Zhizhipheq of Thooq. But we humans didn't evolve from ocean sludge yesterday, you know. We'll be sending Bruce Willis to kick your space butts now. Yippee ki-yay, you green bastards.

Okay, if we aren't involved in a secret intergalactic war, can somebody tell me WTF is going on? LeBron followed up his worst-ever performance in Game 1 with a "better" performance that was almost equally dreadful: 6-for-24 from the field, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 7 turnovers. The good news: He did manage to score a game-high 21 points. The bad news: The Cavaliers didn't even come close to winning this time, losing 89-73 to the Celtics.

Things actually started out great for the King and his mates, as the Cavs ran out to a 21-11 lead. Then it was the Boston reserves to the rescue. With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce watching from the bench, guys like Leon Powe (11 points, 7 rebounds), Sam Cassell (9 points, 3 assists) and P.J. Brown stepped up and made a run to get the Celtics back into the game. And then there was James Posey (7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals), who's numbers can't quantify the killer defense he played on Space LeBron.

Oh, and Pierce (19 points, 6 rebounds), Allen (16 points) and KG (13 points, 12 boards) were okay, too.


Zydrunas Ilgauskas (19 points, 9-for-12, 5 rebounds) continues to be Cleveland's best player, which might mean he got nabbed by the Green Menace as well. But Wally Szczerbiak (4-for-11) and Delonte West (1-for-5, 5 assists) seem like their old selves. So maybe I'm just overreacting.

FYI: Ben Wallace almost collapsed on his way to the bench less than four minutes into the game and had to be taken to the locker room. Big Ben said it was just dizziness caused by allergies. So yeah, he's just aliens!! Cavaliers spokesperson Tad Carper — nice name, huh? — said that Wallace will be re-evaluated when the team returns to Cleveland.

They ain't dead yet, apparently. The Spurs used that age-old formula of Physical Defense + Hitting Shots to get back into their second-round series against the Hornets. And their 110-99 win signifies, if nothing else, that the defending champs won't get swept out of the playoffs.


How'd San Antonio do it? Chris Paul has an idea: "They made a lot more shots." So sayeth the Lord of Obvious.

Manu Ginobili, now a starter, scored 31 points — as I predicted, by the way — and Tony Parker added another 31 to go along with his 11 assists and annoying Frenchiness. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 13 boards, but he really didn't get his groove back until the refs tagged Tyson Chandler (12 points, 8 rebounds) with a few quick third-quarter fouls that sent the big man directly to the bench without passing "Go" or collecting $200.


Paul (35 points, 9 assists) and David West (23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) went crazy-insane on the Spurs, but Bruce Bowen did everything but put Peja Stojakovic into a figure-four leg lock, holding the Bomber from Belgrade to only 8 points on 2-for-7 shooting. So, you know, that worked.

So remember, never underestimate the heart of a blah, blah, blah. Game 4 is on Sunday.

Fun fact: Jacque Vaughn and Robert Horry each collected one mario last night.