The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who's not saying that he's been everywhere and done everything, but does know it's a pretty amazing planet we live on, and a man would have to be some kind of FOOL to think we're all alone in THIS universe. And he's trying to prove that at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
"We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we, Wang?" The win streak has officially ended at 22, but those of us who lived through it will never forget. So congratulations to the Houston Rockets, owners of the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics showed everybody why they have the best record in the league, winning back-to-back road games on back-to-back nights against the Spurs and Rockets - without Ray Allen. And they did it using a defense that must have made the Houston feel like their you-know-whats were caught in a vise. The game was tied 40-all at the half, but Boston used that old Celtic magic to outscore the Rockets 54-34 in the second half. Kevin Garnett led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocked shots, Paul Pierce added 22, and Leon Powe came out of nowhere with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The Rockets got 15 out of Luis Scola, 12 a piece out of Rafer Alston and Mike Harris, and only 8 from T-Mac, who shot 4-for-11 but contributed 7 rebounds and a game-high 8 assists. Said McGrady: "All good things must come to an end."
"I feel good, and I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of...kind of invincible ...is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?" The Los Angeles Lakers built a 25-point third quarter lead and then barely survived a furious rally to hold on for a 102-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs played so badly in the first half that the crowd booed the home team, chanted "M-V-P!" for Kobe Bryant, and seemed to be on the verge of dragging Jessica Simpson - who was sitting in the front row with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - out of the arena by her hair. But Dirk Nowitzki led the charge with 35 points, 11 rebounds, a season-high 5 blocked shots - who knew he played defense too? - and he even had a chance to win the game as time expired, but Josh Howard threw the inbounds pass too low, Dirk bobbled it, the Lakers swarmed him, and the shot came up short. The Mamba scored 29 for the Lakers, who also got a season-high 21 points from Vlad the Impaler, including 10 in the fourth quarter to help stymie the Dallas rally.
"Like I told my last wife, I said, 'Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides it's all in the reflexes.'" Somebody needs to tell the Denver Nuggets not to drive faster than they can see ... not to mention that they should probably get a hand in somebody's face every now and then. Last night, the Nuggets ran into an opponent they couldn't outscore, and the usually slow-paced Pistons went score-crazy in a 136-120 win. Said Denver coach George Karl: "We have a defensive personality that is a little scary right now - we're giving up a lot of points to everyone. If you had told me we'd shoot 60 percent and score 120 against the Detroit Pistons, I would have been happy, but we need to find some pride in defense." Actually, your team shot 56 percent, George. It was the Pistons that shot 60 percent - both from the field and from behind the arc - in addition to compiling 42 assists and out-rebounding the Nuggets 40-22. Seven Detroit players scored in double-figures, with Rip Hamilton (24) and Rasheed Wallace (21) heading the list. Carmelo Anthony led Denver in scoring with 27, Allen Iverson had 20, and Marcus Camby added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right in the eye and says, 'Give me your best shot. I can take it.'" Shaq took Joel Przybilla's best shot - several of them in fact, and a couple cheap ones at that - to help lead the Phoenix Suns to a 111-98 road win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Big I'm Not Dead Yet, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots, looked like he was about ready to kill somebody after Channing Frye and James Jones wrapped him up under the basket, but instead he walked over to Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's seat and shook his hand. Said Shaq: "That's my guy. I was just trying to get some stock." Amare Stoudemire led the Suns in points (25), Captain Canada led them in assists (8), and Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa combined for 24 points off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge was Portland's player of the game with 31 points and 8 boards.
"This is Jack Burton in the Porkchop Express and I'm talkin' to whoever's listening out there." The Bulls are talking too, mostly too each other, about their disturbing habit of giving up fourth quarter leads. Luol Deng, who led Chicago with 20 points and 9 rebounds, said: "We didn't want to let [giving up leads] become a habit. We were talking to each other that we've got to put a stop to it and we can't become known for that." They didn't surrender anything to the Nets, and the result was a 112-96 win that keeps their gasping hope of making the playoffs on life support. For now. Vince Carter scored 22 for New Jersey.
"Okay, I get the picture White Tigers, Lords of Death, guys in funny suits throwing plastic explosives while poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake, huh? Sure, okay, I see Charlie Chan, Fu Manchu and a hundred howlin' monkey temples, and that's just for starters, right? Fine! I'm back! I'm ready, goddammit let me at 'em!" Kevin Martin ignored the Golden State Warriors and their long-distance aresenal to score 34 points and lead the Sacramento Kings to a 122-105 win. The Sactowners shot 58 percent from the field and also got 26 out of Ron Artest plus 14 points and 13 rebounds out of Brad Miller. Baron Davis had 24 points and 8 assists, but the Warriors shot poorly from the field (40 percent) and stunk it up from beyond the arc (5-for-27) and - I know you're gonna be shocked by this - didn't have the defense to make up for their lack of offense.
"We made it. Holy shit, we made it!" The Miami Heat finally reached the 12-win plateau thanks to Jason Williams (21 points, 10 assists) and reserve Chris Quinn (17 points, 4 assists). The 112-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks was enough to freak out Pat Riley, who went nuts enough to compare the two guards to Hall of Famers Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. But hey, losing can warp your mind. The Bucks got 27 points out of Michael Redd and another 26 out of Mo Williams, but that didn't prevent a homecourt loss to the league's worst team. Ouch.