The Houston Rockets: The Great Space Coasters were facing off against a Raptors team that had dropped 13 of 17 (including four straight at home), were without starting center Jermaine "The Drain" O'Neal (sore right hamstring) and lost starting point guard Jose Calderon early in the second quarter (strained right hamstring)...and they STILL put forth one of their worst efforts of the 2008-09 campaign. Houston scored a season-low 73 points on a season-worst 34 percent shooting while committing a season-high 22 turnovers. Imagine what would have happened if they'd played a team that WASN'T seven games below .500. Said Rafer Alston: "For us, it's embarrassing. I think they want to hand out pink slips and fines the way we’ve been approaching our game and going about our business lately." What's more, Skip To My Lou indicated that things aren't all puppy dogs and delicious candy in the team's locker room. Are the Rockets all on the same page? "Not at all, not one bit. We had this happen the other night in Houston and it happened tonight. It's sad and it's unfortunate." Not to mention pathetic and inexcusable. And you'd better believe that the source of their saddle sore is none other than...
Tracy McGrady: He's a quitter. Tracy McGrady quits. And not only in the first round of the playoffs, either. He quit on the Raptors because he didn't want to play second fiddle to Vince Carter, he quit on the Magic because the team couldn't win (until he left anyway), and at least one journalist identified January 2, 2009, with 1:16 left in the third quarter, as The Moment that T-Mac quit on the Rockets. That was when Jamario Moon strolled in for an uncontested dunk and all McGrady did was take a half-hearted swipe at thin air. You can watch this travesty unfold starting at the 1:30 mark of this video:
The local broadcasters did not take that play well. Vplay-by-play man Bill Worrell said: "McGrady could have made some kind of effort." Color commentator Matt Bullard added: "You don't just give somebody an open dunk." Oh, but the problem wasn't the lack of effort. It was a lack of shot attempts. Just ask Tracy himself.
You can probably understand Rick Adelman's reluctance to call McGrady's number if you just look at, you know, the facts. Such as: Over his last six games, T-Mac has scored 12, 4, 11, 15, 7 and 4 points (8.8 PPG) on 20-63 shooting (31.7 percent). But what's worst than that is that he hasn't been trying. Not just on that Moon dunk, but all the time. And -- surprise, surprise! -- he's sitting out tonight's game in Atlanta because he wants to rest that sore knee that doctors have said won't be made worse by playing.
And that's T-Mac for you. I've always thought of T-Mac as the Bizarro Kobe. Like Superman and Bizarro Superman, Kobe and McGrady have the same (or similar) "powers," but whereas Kobe is single-mindedly obsessed with getting the absolute most out of his body and his skills, McGrady always seems satisfied with where he's at, as though what he's done is enough. Sure, he might cry during a postgame press conference after his latest first-round defeat, but one wonders whether he channels that same level of emotion into his offseason rehab and training. It sure doesn't seem that way. But I'm sure the problem is just that he's not getting enough touches. Sure.
Dwyane Wade / The Miami Heat: It was the Battle of Florida, and D-Wade scored 33 points. Unfortunately, those points all came in the first three quarters. He put in zero points on 0-for-3 shooting to go along with an assist and a turnover during a fourth quarter that saw him facing relentless double-teaming from the Magic, who pulled away for an 86-76 win. And Wade sounded a little petulant about it afterward: "They were all doubling. We all knew what Stan was going to do. It's not a secret that after a while they were going to send the guys. He does it every time we play them." Well, then, if that's the case...why didn't the Heat game-plan for it? And why didn't anyone else step up for Miami? Every time there's a double-team, that means somebody else is open, right? Only the Heat don't have a lot of "step it up" players. Shawn Marion sure thought he was one in Phoenix, but he shot 1-for-6 and finished with 4 points, 4 fouls and 3 turnovers. Mario Chalmers was 1-for-11. Michael Beasley scored 8 points on 9 shots. So basically: Stop Wade, stop the Heat. Sounds simple enough. And it was for the Magic.
Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: Regarding little-used big-man Jamaal Magliore: "He's like the guys in hockey who can't skate, but have one role. His role is to beat the hell out of people." You know, Stan Van could have just said "He's like the guys in BASKETBALL who can't play..." and it would have been pretty much the same but a little more accurate.
The Atlanta Hawks: Damn. What a crappy way to lose.
My question: Why didn't the Josh Smith get out on Vince? What, he thought Carter was going to take it to the basket?
The New Jersey Nets: They finally won one at home. But it took a near-miracle shot to do it. I'm just sayin'.
Devin Harris, quote machine: Regarding Vinsanity's game-winner: "It was the best, most-worst, most terrific shot I have ever seen go in."
The New York Knicks: Damn. What a crappy way to lose.
Nice D by Chris Duhon, huh? (He's darn close to becoming "Chris Uhon," by the way.) It should be noted that Jack had a season-high 29 points to go along with the game-winning shot. That's one point off his career-high, by the way.
The Chicago Bulls: Anderson Varejao exploded for a career-high (and game-high) 26 points -- yes, you read that correctly -- and LeBron ended up with a "barely trying" triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) as the Bulls lost by 25. And the game never even seemed THAT close. It got so bad that Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah got into it, with Noc using the dreaded "F" word. Just listen.
Their little catfight continued on the bench, but Noah said there are no hard feelings. "When you're losing by 20 points, you're frustrated. It's the heat of the moment, things are said. But I don't have any problems with him (Nocioni). Losing is frustrating." Yay for team unity!
Derrick Rose: It was a rough night for the rookie, who picked up two fouls in the first 81 seconds of the game and finished with 3 points (1-for-6) and 2 assists. And in the third quarter, he received an ego-ectomy from Dr. James. Rough night for the rook.
The Golden State Warriors: Uh, yeah, the defense is still a problem despite Don Nelson handing over defensive responsibilities to his assistants. The Timberwolves, the Minnesota Timberwolves, dropped 115 points on the hapless Warriors...who now have only three more wins than the 'Wolves. And Captain Jack can hardly believe it: "These are games that we should win, I feel that we should win, and we're not winning them." Hm. Could be because you guys aren't that good, Cap.
Don Nelson, quote machine: Regarding Al Jefferson, who dominated the Warriors with 32 points and 10 rebounds, Nellie said: "We couldn't handle Iron Man. I just watched the movie with my grandkids. That's who he reminds me of. He had his way with us." Iron Man? Really??
The Klama City Thunder: Damn. What a crappy way to lose.
The Enver Nuggets: Just when you thought they were all about the defense...the Nuggets go through a four-game stretch where they've given up 110, 109, 107 and 120 points. And that 120 was surrendered to the Thunder, who also shot 58 percent [!!!] from the field and 61 percent from downtown. And it took a Carmelo Anthony three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to pull out a 122-120 victory over the Klahma Citians. Said Nuggets coach George Karl: "I want to get out of town before the sheriff catches us for stealing." Indeed. But your crimes against defense were even worse, George.
The Sacramento Kings: Holy crap. The Pistons were without Richard Hamilton (groin), Rasheed Wallace (foot) and Antonio McDyess (ribs), which meant they had to start Kwame Brown and Amir Johnson together for the first time. Didn't matter. Rodney Stuckey dropped 38 on them, including 13 in the decisive fourth quarter. It was only the second 30-point game of Stuckey's career. The Kings have now lost nine straight on the road. They're 2-14 outside of Arco this season.
The Charlotte Bobcats: With Michael Jordan in attendance to watch the team e built, the Bobcats shot 37 percent, committed 23 turnovers and lost by 28 to the Milwaukee Buckaroos. Said 'Cats coach Larry Brown: "We played like a team of total strangers." You might even say...Perfect Strangers! As the great Balki Bartokomous once said: "You're right there, cousin: even we don't know what we're doing."
The Phoenix Suns: Yes, they won. But they were playing a Clippers team that, well, for one, they're the Clippers. But L.A. dressed only 10 players, since they're without Zach Randolph (sore left knee), Baron Davis (bruised tailbone), Mike Taylor (fractured right thumb), Chris Kaman (strained left arch) and Ricky Davis (sore left knee). Plus they lost guard Jason Hart in the first quarter with right elbow tendinitis. And the Suns -- playing at home, by the way -- won by only 8. Ugh. Said Suns coach Terry Porter: "I'm happy about the win, but obviously disappointed with the way we closed the game out. We started great in the first three quarters, but the last three quarters...I guess we just thought they were going to fold their tents after that." Wait, wait, wait, Terry. The game lasted SIX quarters?!
The Portland Trail Blazers: They were outscored 41-19 in the final 15 minutes and ended up losing by 15 at home to a Hornets team that lost Tyson Chandler in the third quarter. Speaking of which...
Tyson Chandler and Joel Przybilla: Chandler popped Przybilla a good one, but the Vanilla Godzilla wasn't all pearly white and innocent. The altercation started when Joel had his hand on Tyson's chest. Tyson was pointing at it, presumably to get a call. When that didn't happen, he slapped down, and Joel responded by forearmed Tyson in the chest. Then Tyson erupted. Watch for yourself:
Phil Jackson, quote machine: Regarding Trevor Ariza, who single-handedly ended Utah's comeback attempt by snatching two of his season-high five steals in the last 2:22 and scoring two fast-break baskets, the Zing Master said: "Two plays in a row Trevor changed the game. He anticipates well. He's a cobra out there and he just strikes." The Mamba and the Cobra. Beware, NBA. Beware.
Friday's lactivity report: Courtesy of Chris:
Heat-Magic: Miami's Yakhouba Diawara (making another appearance in this section) and Chris Quinn were 58 second Mario Brothers.
Hawks-Nets: In 12 seconds, THE Mario West avoided a Mario through a made three! However, teammate Solomon Jones did score an epic Super Mario of a mere 3 seconds, which is less time than it takes to read this entry.
Bulls-Cavs: Cleveland's Darnell Jackson scored a +4 (two bricks, one rejection, and a foul) in 6:35 of lakction.
Kings-Pistons: Will "The Other" Bynum notched a 7 second Super Mario for Detroit's bench.
Spurs-Grizzlies: Ime Udoka scored a 2.65 trillion, while the overpaid Fabricio Oberto avoided a +1 in 2:16 through one rebound.
Warriors-Wolves: The Warriors' underwhelming bench avoided a negative score as Kelenna Azubuike's potential +4 in 16:29 of fail was negated by a rebound. However, for McHale's Navy, Rashad McCants racked a +4 (a trio of bricked threes, plus a turnover) in 6:35.
Clippers-Suns: Phoenix's Jared Dudley earned a near 2 trillion.
Jazz-Lakers: Josh Powell spent only 21 seconds on the floor at Staples to give the home team a Mario
The Houston Rockets / Mike Bibby: Damn. What a crappy way to lose. Also, Mike, what's up with that "corn cob stuck way up in my butt" victory dance?
The Yao Watch: The Hawks had four blocked shots. Three of them were against Yao. Sadly, I've now lost track of how many of Yao's shots have been blocked this season. I'll give an extra special Basketbawful shoutout to anybody willing to get that number for me.
Tracy McGrady: Sure, the Rockets lost. But you'll notice they put forth a much better effort without T-Mac in the lineup...
The Chicago Bulls: The blowout loss in Cleveland was painful but excusable. But losing by double digits at home to the Timberwolves? As a Bulls fan, the only thing that's keeping me from swallowing a bottle of pills is, well, the fact that I have other things to live for. The Bullies, who have now lost six of their last seven games, gave McHale's Navy their first winning streak of the season. Sure, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Drew Gooden are all out with injuries, but I don't think that justifies a home loss to the Timberpups. And neither does Andres Nocioni: "I don't think it's because of the some people that are out. I think it's because we are not playing well, we're not playing enough (defense) to win, we're not stopping the people in the last 5 minutes when we need to stop people, so I think we need to quit with the excuses." Agreed.
Vinny Del Negro: Despite the fact that his team is tailspinning toward a violent crash, Del Negro is pretty excited. About what, you ask? Well, that Noah-Nocioni spat on Friday gave him a real jolly. Said Vinny: "I like when guys get on each other and show some intensity and show some will to win and kind of get after it a little bit. I like that." Uh, I hate to be the one to tell you, Vinny, but there's good intensity and bad intensity. And I'm not so sure that little fight was of the good variety. But hey, I hope you're enjoying the weather in that fantasy world you're living in. Smurf Village, right?
Charlie Villanueva: Big Smooth killed any chance of a Bucks rally in one foul-crazy half-minute. First, he was called for a flagrant-1 foul after clotheslining Gerald Wallace to the floor on a layup attempt with 4:35 left. Then, 22 seconds later, he got T'd up after getting called for another foul on Wallace. That gave the Bobcats a five-point possession, and pretty much decided the game. Way to keep your cool, Charlie.
The New Jersey Nets: The Devin Harris-less Nets could have pulled off an upset in Miami...if not for Dwyane Wade's block party. D-Wade had three wicked-awesome blocks late in the game, including two against Brook Lopez, who -- in case you didn't know it -- is seven feet tall. Watch and be suitably impressed.
Said Heat bench jockey Yakhouba Diawara: "I think Lopez is going to dream of Dwyane Wade tonight."
The Philadelphia 76ers: Damn. What a crappy way to lose.
Memo to Philly: You should probably block out on last-second shots. And also: It helps if you don't get down by 21 on the road in the first quarter.
Saturday's lactivity recap: Again from Chris:
Bucks-Bobcats: Charlotte's Alexis Ajinca struck it rich with a 1 trillion.
Nets-Heat: Jarvis Hayes was quite bawful off of the New Jersey bench, racking up quite a few negative individual achievements in his 16:14 of lacktion. He managed a truly atrocious +11 through three bricks, two turnovers, and SIX personal fouls, also leading the team in worst +/- with a minus thirteen. In a one-man highlight show for Dwayne Wade that came down to overtime, Hayes served as the Achilles heel of an already weak Nets' reserve corps (which scored a mere 9 points, compared to 43 from the Miami bench).
The Orlando Magic / Dwight Howard: The Magic lost to the Craptors -- who were sans starters Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon -- despite a 39-point supernova from Superman. Of course, Superman's Kryptonite -- otherwise known as his seven missed free throws -- were a big part of that. Regarding Howard's 11-for-18 performance from the line, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said: "That's about what he shoots, but it's not good enough. Sixty percent at the free throw line makes it tough. We've got a tremendous advantage down there. They couldn't guard him at all, but they get to the fourth quarter and they just foul and it's one for two every time. Then you're coming to the other end and it's two for two. That's a big difference." Indeed it is. For his part, though, Howard -- who's shooting a career-low 56.7 percent from the charity stripe -- adopted a very Shaq-like philosophy after the game: "I'm going to miss free throws. I'm not 100 percent from the line. I've just got to have confidence when I step up there to make them. I know Stan gets on me a lot, but I'm going to miss some and I’m going to make some." Wow. It's only a matter of weeks, maybe days, before he starts saying things like "I make them when they count."
Cleveland Cavaliers / LeBron James: A loss to -- and a season-low 77 points against -- the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Wizards Generals? Really?! Wow. And LeBron even got called for travelling on a potential game-tying layup with 2.3 seconds left. And James was hilariously indignant about it afterward. Said the King: "Bad call. We all make mistakes, and I think I got the wrong end of the bargain. I watched it 10 times after the game, and it was clearly a good play. You have your trademark play, and that's one of my plays. It kind of looks like a travel because it's slow, and it's kind of a high-step, but it's a one-two just as fluent as any other one-two in this league. I got the wrong end of it, but I think they need to look at it -- and they need to understand that's not a travel. It's a perfectly legal play, something I've always done." Well, I'll agree that LeBron's always done it. But I'm sorry, 'Bron. One dribble followed by three steps is a travel. I don't know what tape James was watching, but this one showed me a pretty obvious travelling violation.
LeBron calls this "trademark move" his "crab dribble" and claims it's perfectly legal. And, natch, he was stunned the refs weren't familiar with that section of the official NBA rule book: "I don't know what [the official] said I did. I was trying to get an explanation from him but he ended up running to the other side of the floor. It was a bad call. Like I said, I watched it in the [locker] room. I took a crab dribble, which is a hesitation dribble, and then two steps. Everybody, you call guys can watch it. The bad part about it was I was able to finish at the rim with contact, so it would have been a three-point play. So it's tough." AND he wanted the "And one!" Talk about a grandiose sense of entitlement.
But LeBron wasn't done explaining. "What happens is when you take a crab dribble and you hesitate, that is not one step, because you still basically have a live ball. And then when you go into your one-two that's when the steps get counted. So if you look at the play, I take a crab dribble and find a crease and then I take my one-two. So it's a perfectly legal play, something I've always done and always been successful with." Again, yes, he's always done it and he's been very successful with it. But, uh, no. Not legal.
Caron Butler, quote machine: Regarding the controversial (but totally correct) travelling call on LeBron: "I definitely knew he traveled, but I didn't know they were going to call it. That was one of them situations in which a great player made a move, good officiating, and they called the call. And I was like, 'Oh, man, there is a God.'"
The Los Angeles Clippers: Damn. What a crappy way to lose. They are who...well, you know.
Note that, due to injuries, the Clips were sporting a starting lineup of Eric Gordon, Fred Jones, Brian Skinner, Marcus Camby and Al Thornton. Ughs all around.
Allen Iverson, quote machine: Regarding his game-winning shot, which came on a goal-tending call: "You know you're having a bad-shooting game when you get the game-winner -- and that don't even go in."
The Dallas Mavericks: They suffered a 20-point loss to the Grizzlies of Memphis on a night when starters Jason Kidd, Devean George and Erick Damper COMBINED for 5 points and Jose Juan Barea came off the bench to grab twice as many rebounds (6) as both Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki (who had 3 each). Seriously, the Mavericks have to be one of the worst 20-13 teams I've ever seen.
The Boston Celtics: This game was over before it even started. The Knicks won the game when, before the opening tip, NBATV stat-cursed the Bostonites by noting that the Knicks hadn't beaten the Celtics at Madison Square Garden since March 23, 2005. When I saw that, I knew the C's were going to lose. And they did by turning their lamest, most half-hearted game of the season. They allowed 100 points for just the eighth time in 35 games this season while scoring the fewest points allowed by the Knicks THIS SEASON. They were jawing at the refs, they were jawing at each other, and they really didn't start trying hard until the fourth quarter. It's official: The Celtics are coasting. At some point during that 19-game winning streak, they either consciously or unconsciously adopted the belief that they can turn it on whenever they want. So the championship hangover DID hit them...it was just a little delayed.
Sunday's lactivity summary: Chris strikes again:
Magic-Raptors: Jake Voskuhl once again provided negative contributions for Toronto, earning a +4 in 11:27 (one missed shot and three fouls).
Mavs-Grizzlies: Shawne Williams missed two shots for +2 in 2:26 of lacktion for Dallas, while Darius Miles becomes one of the more notable trillionaires ever, giving Donald Sterling's real-life fantasy basketball team a 1.75 trillion.
Celtics-Knicks: Boston's bench was singlehandedly outscored by Al Harrington (30-24) in the Knickerbockers' upset of the Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Gabe Pruitt did the green and white proud with a 1.6 trillion, while Patrick O'Bryant ruined his revenue generation through one steal.
Blazers-Lakers: Ike Diogu threw a brick for +1 in 1:53, while Sun Yue missed from downtown and took a foul for +2 in 1:29.
Kobe Bryant: Luke Walton missed the Lakers' matchup with the Blazers because of inflammation in the big toe on his right foot. When he tried to say "hi" to Mamba in the locker room before the game, Kobe ignored him but muttered under his breath: "More like inflammation of the vagina."