Atlanta Hawks: For the Hawks, securing the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference came down to simple math: Win and you're in (assuming you win at least one more game or the Nets drop one), lose and face the possibility of not reaching the postseason at all. So of course they lost. Atlanta shot 37 percent (to the Pacers 51) and fell behind by as many as 29 points before finally dying softly, 112-98. See that, Hawks? It's your playoff grave. And that's Mike Dunleavy Jr. (28 points, 6 rebounds) holding the shovel.
Mike Bibby: The Bibster was 0-for-8 last night, and he's shooting 5-for-32 over the last three games. Did he get something in his eye? Like a beach ball?
Joe Johnson, quote machine: You can't pin this loss on Joe Cool. He was one of the few Hawks who brought the necessary playoff fire, scoring a game-high 30 points (13-for-24) to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. So, as you can imagine, he was mildly displeased with his team's performance. "[The Pacers] just play harder than us every time we play them. It's nothing they're doing. It's not the players they've got. We didn't play hard, so we get our ass kicked. Point blank." Hold on. The Pacers "play harder" than your team does, but "it's nothing they're doing." Not sure I quite followed that one. But you have to love it when a player manages to both criticize his own team and demean his opponent all in one fell swoop. That's insult efficiency is what that is. Maybe John Hollinger should create a statistic to measure that.
Jermaine O'Neal, quote machine: I'd like to note that the Pacers are not, despite what you may have read to the contrary, dutifully fading away. (Sorry, Henry. I couldn't help myself.) They've won three straight and nine of 12 to make an actual, honest-to-goodness run at a mercy killing by the Boston Celtics the East's final playoff spot. And it's safe to say that pretty much nobody expected it. So...how have they done it? The Drain has the answer. "We're starting to take a disposition about ourselves on both ends of the floor." Alrighty, then. Thanks for the word soup, Jermaine.
Basketbawful: Back when the Pacers signed Flip Murray to help them make one final playoff push, I mocked them. My bad. My utter and total bad. Murray had 20 points and 10 assists last night to help the Pacers stay in the race. And if you check out his game log, you'll see that he's been pretty solid for somebody who was, essentially, an NBA castaway after the Pistons cut him loose. (He almost signed with the Clippers.)
Kareem Rush: I guess you could call him the anti-Flip Murray. The Pacers had high hopes for Rush when they signed him during the offseason, but he hasn't delivered. Last night: A five trillion.
Minnesota versus Charlotte: Neither team played defense (the 'Cats shot 62 percent while the 'Wolves hit at a 51 percent clip). Charlotte built an 18-point lead but then fell asleep and let Minny back into the game. Raymond Felton boned a couple freethrows with 13 seconds that would have given his team a three-point lead. But then Randy Foye let Felton off the hook by throwing the ball away on an attemped pass to Al Jefferson, and the T-Wolves were forced to foul. Matt Carroll hit his first free throw, but Charlotte coach Sam Vincent told him to intentionally miss the second with 1 second left. Of course, Minnesota got the ball back with 0.7 left on the clock, which gave them a chance to tie the game and force overtime. Of course they didn't, but still. I guess you could say it was an exciting game with a Three Stooges finish.
Chicago Bulls: Remember when several experts picked the Bulls to win 50 or 60 games and maybe make it all the way to the NBA Finals? No, really, they did. Yes, this season. What...what happened?! Man, I can't even put it into words. And as a Chicago denizen, I can tell you that the city has practically disowned this dysfunctional band of misfits and malcontents. I mean, nobody wants to even talk about the Bulls right now. Unless it's to say something like, "F***ing Bulls!" Last night was, without question, the nadir of a lost season, as the Bullies got mathematically eliminated from the playoffs by what was then a 13-win Miami Heat squad populated mostly by D-League players. In point of fact, it was D-League MVP Kasib Powell (18 points, 8-for-16, 6 boards) who did most of the damage. The dead horse has officially been kicked into mush. R.I.P, 2007-08 Chicago Bulls.
Pat Riley, quote machine: After his team won their 14th game of the season and ended another long losing streak, Riles said: "These guys are just unadulterated." I have no idea what he could possibly mean. But far be it from me to argue with words of wisdom from a Hall of Famer.
Detroit Pistons: This is how the Pistons chose to honor their All-Time Team? By shooting 35 percent and losing at home to the New York Knicks? I know they don't have anything left to prove until the playoffs, but still. Or maybe this was just the team's way to honor Isiah before he gets fired. Mercy win? Sounds about right to me. And I'm sure that's what Pistons fans are hoping, too.
New Orleans Hornets: Watching that Jazz/Hornets game last night, it was hard to believe that New Orleans is fighting to hang on to the top seed in the Western Conference. I mean, 66 points on 36 percent shooting...at home?! And against an awful road team, no less. Not good.
Chris Paul: Nobody should lose the MVP based on a single performance, but if they did, Paul would have lost it last night. He had 9 assists, but he was held to 4 points on 2-for-11 shooting thanks to some intense defensive pressure from Deron Williams (and some strategic lane-clogging by the rest of the Jazz). Williams (16 assists) also did a better job running his team's offense. It was strangely reminiscent of the way Hakeem Olajuwon manhandled David Robinson during The Admiral's MVP season.
Utah versus New Orleans: Okay, the teams both shot badly (43 percent for Utah, 36 for New Orleans) and combined for 41 turnovers. Final score: 77-66. For a little perspective, the halftime score of the Kings/Warriors game was 77-66. (Thanks, Joe.)
The Boston reserves: The Big Three played, built a huge lead, and returned to the bench for a little nappy time. Their nap was disturbed, however, by the fact that their roleplayers coughed up the lead and barely pulled out a 107-104 overtime victory. Hey, a win's a win, right? And it's better to pull one out on the road than lose to the Knicks at home.
Update! Andrew Bogut: Basketbawful reader Victor said: "I think Andrew Bogut deserves a mention. He got a cripple double last night: 15 points, 15 boards, and 10 turnovers." We call that a triple bumble around these parts, but you're absolutely right, Victor. You get a Tommy Point!
Doc Rivers, quote machine: Eddie House secured Boston's victory with a big three-pointer in overtime, despite the fact that he was 0-for-7 on the rest of his shots that game. And damn if that didn't make Doc proud. "That's a great lesson for all kids. If you're a shooter, you're a shooter. You can miss 20 in a row, but if you're open you shoot again." Yeah. Great lesson. Because more kids need to be remorseless shooters. (That sound you just heard was every high school coach in the country vomiting.)
Shaq: Hmm. The Big Coffee Breaker missed last night's game with a "right hip contusion." That's funny. And here I thought he had just come down with a bad case of the "restin' for the playoffs." My mistake.
Kwame Brown: DNP-CD. I think that's his "Out of the League" clock ticking. I really do.
Los Angeles Lakers: They had the perfect chance to make up ground on the Hornets in the race for the number one seed out West. And they failed. They have the maybe-MVP. Pau Gasol (21 points, 13 rebounds) looks pretty healthy. The Blazers have some injury woes and just lost Joel Przybilla for the season. So, uh, what's the excuse this time? I guess it must have been the devastating absence of Luke Walton. Yeah, I'm sure that's it.
Lamar Odom: From Odenized. Dude, that was totally unnecessary. What's with the aggression? Is everything okay at home?
Golden State Warriors: Yeah, yeah. I know they won. But I also know they gave up 132 points on 53 percent shooting to the Kings. In a critical game. At home. Hand in the face, guys, hand in the face. Said Don Nelson: "It's hard to be disappointed when you win and you score 140 points, but we're going to have to start guarding people a lot better than we did tonight." That's an understatement, to say the least.