The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who just crumpled up his "Western Conference Playoff Position" spreadsheet and ate it. When he's not trying to make heads or tails of this crazy playoff race, you can find him running suicides at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
It's good news, bad news for the Phoenix Suns. Here's the good news: They overcame a 22-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets 132-117, thereby tying the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead (although the Lakers have the tiebreaker) and pulling to within one game of the Hornets and Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference. It was the third-best comeback in franchise history, and it helped them reach the 50-win mark for the fourth straight season. Now here's the bad news: Mike D'Antoni used only seven players (D.J. Strawberry's 36-second cameo doesn't count), and the Suns play again tonight in Denver for the second game of their back-to-back series with the Nuggets. Oh, and since the loss dropped the Nuggets from a seventh-place tie to the ninth spot in the conference standings (i.e., out of the playoffs), I'm guessing they're going to be very motivated and the Suns are going to be very tired...especially since Grant Hill is out with what the Suns' team report described as a "hidden groin problem." (Someone hid his groin? Those sick bastards.)
Amare Stoudemire paced the Suns with 41 points, 14 rebounds and several "M-V-P!" chants (from the crowd, not from Stoudemire, although that wouldn't surprise me). Steve Nash had 36 points and 8 assists, and Shaq had a triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 chins. J.R. Smith led the Nuggets with 23 points and Allen Iverson had 21 points, 7 assists, and 6 turnovers.
Just when all seemed lost, the Mavericks got exactly what they needed. No, Dirk Nowitzki isn't back yet. I'm talking about a shot at the Los Angeles Clippers. And Dallas made the most of it, winning 93-86 to take sole possession of seventh place in the West, thanks to Denver's loss and the fact that the Golden State Warriors were at home chillin'. Not that you should bother to memorize the standings, because it's going to change completely by tomorrow night. Trust me on that. Also trust me on the fact that you look fat in that dress. And, frankly, what are you doing wearing a dress, dude?
Jason Kidd blew up for 27 points on 9-for-15 shooting - who knew? - and Josh Howard and Jason Terry added 25 and 20 points, respectively. The Clips got 26 points out of Al Thornton and another 23 out of Corey Maggette (who missed 11 of his first 12 shots...but kept shooting). Marcus Williams, however, accomplished nothing in his two seconds of playing time. And if you ask me, that's a pretty cruel April Fool's Day joke by coach Mike Dunleavey. "Okay, kid, you're in! Ha! Just kidding, get back to the end of the bench where you belong, suckah!" First-class superdickery.
What sound does a Wizard make when you crush it under your feet? Don't know? Just ask the Utah Jazz, who ground Team Washington into a bloody paste with a 129-87 ego-ectomy. No team in the league is as Jekyll and Hyde at home and on the road as the Jazz. Last night's 42-point home victory over a playoff-bound team came about 24 hours after a shameful road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. To complete the wacky turnaround, C.J. Miles - who averages 4.9 PPG - led all scorers with a career-high 29 points for the Jazz, who shot close to 60 percent, had 40 assists on 50 field goals, and outrebounded the Wiz by 17. The win gave them a 3.5-game lead over the Nuggets in the Northwest division and pulled them to within 2.5 games of the conference leaders.
Not to make any excuses, but Washington was playing the final game of a five-game Western Conference road trip without Caron Butler one night after losing an overtime duel with the Lakers. So, you know, they might have been slightly fatigued. Antawn Jamison led the losers with 22 points and Roger Mason scored 16 on 7-for-11 shooting.
Chris Bosh speaks. Ever since he returned from injury, Bosh has become a regular Chatty Cathy. He's talking on defense, he's talking on offense, he's even talking about talking during his postgame press conferences. "Sometimes I catch myself being quiet, but then I have to pick it back up and start talking again. I'm not a talker by nature. That's how I am naturally. So I know I have to step outside myself because I really like winning." Mr. "I don't like to talk" wasn't done. "If you call out a cross screen, guys are always looking to see where screens are coming and there are no surprises. They won't get stood up by a screen, that's how you get beat back door." Not...finished...yet. "If you talk, that makes the offense hesitate, too. If you say you're coming to double, the guy is going to wait on you a little bit, and that kind of stalls them. There are advantages all the way around." Okay, okay, stop talking Chris! Yeesh.
Bosh had 32 points and 8 boards to power the Raptors to a 104-100 win that snapped the Bobcats three-game winning streak. The win allowed the Raptors to maintain their three-taloned grip on the Eastern Conferences sixth seed. Which is good for them, since they'd really like to avoid facing the Pistons in the first round. Not-so-fun fact: Jose Calderon's voluntary benching isn't going well. For him, anyway. Last night he played 17 minutes, scoring 1 lonely point (0-for-2), dishing a single assist, and committing three personal fouls. Quite a dropoff from those halcyon "Jose should make the All-Star team" days.
The Hawks are circling. Atlanta built a 38-point third-quarter lead that drooped to 12 in the fourth before holding on for a 116-99 win. The victory gave the Hawks a solid three-game lead over the Nets and Pacers in the three-way slapfight for the East's final "get destroyed by Boston in the first round" playoff spot. Atlanta had six players in double-figures, with Josh Smith (26), Joe Smith (19), and Al Horford-Smith (19) leading the charge. Rudy "I'm so" Gay - and by that I mean "happy the season's almost over" - was a big, bad bear with 29 points.
Jermaine's back...the Pacers are saved! Jermaine O'Neal returned after missing 33 straight games with a bruised knee to "lead" the Pacers to a 105-85 win over the
Miami Heat Washington Generals. O'Neal finished with 9 points, 2 rebounds, and a blocked shot after a shaky 1-turnover, 1-foul start. The re-addition of O'Neal adds a whole new dimension to the Pacers defense, that, of course, being the dimension in which there is a Pacers defense. Unfortunately, it's probably too little, too late for Indiana, who would be hard-pressed to overcome Atlanta in the race to be first-round hors dourves. Although they haven't given up hope. Said Danny Granger: "We watch, we play, and we pray Atlanta loses." Forget the prayers, Danny. If history has proven anything, it's that God hates the Pacers.