The Chicago Bulls: Gone are the days when games in the last month of the season between two teams who are a number of games under .500 are meaningless. No, in today's NBA, a matchup between the 32-42 Indiana Pacers and the 36-39 Chicago Bulls had playoff implications for both teams. That's right, despite being 10 games below the .500 mark, the Pacers are still clinging to their playoff dreams, albeit by their fingernails. The Bulls, on the other hand were looking to not only hold onto that 8th seed, but were looking to gain some ground on the 7th seed with a Detroit loss (more on that below). But it was not to be, as Chicago surrendered a 7-point lead with 3:35 remaining, allowing the Pacers to finish the game on an 11-2 run. I'm guessing Chicago could have used John Salmons for this one, but instead he sat out with an injury to one of his groins (thankfully he's still got the other one). This loss meant that if Charlotte could beat the Lakers, they'd be tied in the loss column with Chicago for that final playoff spot (Indiana's still three games back in that column, so they're not technically out of it. Yet.) Speaking of clinging to one of the lower playoff seeds...
The Detroit Pistons: The good news for Detroit is that they are finally healthy. The bad news is they were playing in Cleveland where the Crabs were 35-1. Detroit actually played pretty well in this one, considering Cleveland's home dominance this year, and Detroit's overall suckitude all season long; but in the end the wheels came off of the Motor City's team, and as a result they crashed into a telephone pole. Detroit led for virtually all of the first half, before letting the Crabs tie it right at the end, then it was back and forth, with Detroit actually holding a 2-point lead with five minutes to go. Unfortunately for the Pistons they only scored 4 more points in the last 5 minutes, and that was all she wrote.
Rasheed Wallace: After sitting out the last 11 games with an injured left calf, Sheed celebrated his return to action in typical Sheed fashion: by picking up a technical. Since this happened to be his 16th T on the season, Sheed will have to miss the next game due to the automatic suspension that comes with it. Maybe that'll leave an extra starting slot open for one of his teammates though...
Allen Iverson, whining machine: After being out for 16 games with an injury, this was the Not Answer's second game back, and second time coming off the bench, this time with 18 minutes of playing time. And he was not happy about it: "How many minutes did I play? It seemed way, way, way less than that. Eighteen minutes? Come on, man. I can play 18 minutes with my eyes closed, with a 100-pound truck on my back. It's a bad feeling, man. I'm wondering what they rushed me to get back for? For that? It's a bad time for me mentally. I am just trying to get through it without starting a whole bunch of nonsense. I'm looking at the big picture. If I vent my frustration then it's like, given who I am, I'll be the one everybody points the finger at. I am just going to try to laugh to stop from crying." He doesn't know what the rush was to get him back? Uh, how about making the playoffs? Nevertheless, when your team is fighting for its season like this, now is not the time to be making veiled threats about venting your frustrations. If he keeps this up, Stephon Marbury's gonna call him and tell him to stop stealing his schtick.
The Atlanta Hawks: Fresh off their win over the Lakers at home on Sunday, Atlanta set out on the road to prove they can be good away from the Philips Arena in Atlanta. That's good in theory, but in reality these Hawks are just as bad on the road as they were last year in the playoffs when Boston mopped the floor with them in the four road games Atlanta played. The Hawks started off bad, falling behind by as many as 16 in the first half, and trailed the whole game except for a brief lead when the score was 6-4. The Hawks made a valiant push to get to within one point in the fourth quarter, but clearly the effort to get back in the game took too much out of them as they then let the Sixers go on a 14-2 run to put the game out of reach. Josh Smith and Flip Murray were the only Dirty Birds who came to play, scoring 52 of the team's 85 points. The rest of the team was pure garbage, especially...
Mike Bibby: Maybe Bibby was all annoyed he couldn't be there in Sacramento last night along with Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, Doug Christie and Scott Pollard to celebrate the retiring of Vlade Divac's number; but whatever the case was, Bibby didn't bring his game with him to this one: 7 points on 9 shots with 0 assists and 1 turnover in 32 minutes is rather poor for your team's starting point guard. You know, I'll bet Atlanta wishes they'd just shipped him off to Sacramento for that ceremony after all.
The Los Angeles Lakers: The following sentence is not a misprint: the Bobcats have now won six of seven against the Lakers. It's really becoming almost predictable at this point, L.A. just cannot beat the pesky Bobcats. The Lakers picked up where they left off on Sunday in their loss to the Hawks, shooting only 39 percent from the field en route to only 84 points. At least they got Pau Gasol more than 10 shots in this game though. At this point, L.A. can pretty much kiss home court advantage against Cleveland in The Finals goodbye (assuming both teams make it there, of course), as the Lakers are now three full games in back of the Crabs with only eight remaining. Phil Jackson has already said he doesn't think the Lakers need HCA against Cleveland to win this year, so it could be he's already setting the team on cruise control for the rest of the regular season, what with having already secured the West's #1 seed, not to mention a three-game lead and the tiebreaker over Boston. Nonetheless, L.A's not gonna win anything with #24 playing like this...
Kobe Bryant: Fortunately for me, I don't have to be creative and come up with a reason for his appearance on today's Worst Of, as he took care of that himself: 11-28 for 25 points with only 2 assists and 2 rebounds continues one of the longest shooting slumps the Mamba has ever had in his 13-year career. In the last eight games, Kobe has only shot over 50% from the field once (going 10-18 against Detroit last week), and has shot only 37% from the field overall in that octet. In the last two months, the Lakers have lost seven times, and in five of those games Kobe has taken at least 28 shots, so maybe Kobe should think about, I dunno, sharing the ball some? Just a suggestion.
The Minnesota Timberwolves: The Pups raced out to a 4-2 lead, and unfortunately for them that was the high point in the game for them as they never led again. Dallas jumped all over them, leading by as many as 17 in the first quarter, and the Mavs never looked back. This game was a combination of bad offense and worse defense for the Timberwolves, as they only shot 39% from the field while allowing Dallas to shoot 55% on the other end. Even a little home cookin' for Minnesota couldn't help in this one, as the 10 extra made free throws only helped them lose by 20 instead of 30. However, even though the Mavs won an easy one, they're not above reproach...
Eric Dampier: Putting up a Dampier-esque stat line of 4 points, 5 boards and 3 fouls in 24 minutes of play is bad enough; but when you add in that he let Kevin Love go off for 23 points and 12 boards at the same time, it definitely deserves a mention here. Well done, Eric. I'm sure Mark Cuban appreciates the effort he's getting for the $9.5m he's paying you this year (not to mention the $23m Dampier is due in the coming two seasons).
The San Antonio Spurs: I know the #1 seed in the West is already out of reach, but surely San Antonio knows they're in competition for the #2 seed, right? Just because they've already locked up a playoff spot doesn't mean they should be taking any games off, not when they're only two games ahead of Utah for the #7 seed. With all that in mind, there's just no excuse for losing at home to the Thunder, especially in a game in which every Spur was healthy. Gregg Popovich decided not to play Bruce Bowen in this one, and ended up giving Manu Ginibili the start, and those might have been poor decisions. With Bowen on the bench all night, Kevin Durant went wild, going 12-19 for 31 points. Meanwhile, San Antonio's bench lacked any real scoring punch, with Roger Mason being the only bench player in double figures with 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Michael Finley: What is Michael Finely doing taking the most shots for the Spurs? Ginobili had 13 shots, Duncan had 12 and Tony Parker only had 8, but there was Michael Finley going 5-for-16 (including 10 three pointers).
The Utah Jazz: Of the teams in the West with a shot of making the playoffs, Utah has the worst road record of any of them at 14-22, and last night they showed us why in getting blown out in Portland. With only one road win this season over a team with a winning record, Utah is looking more and more like they might be out in the first round since they are currently the 7th seeded team, and five of their remaining 8 games are on the road against teams with winning records (Denver, NO, Dallas, San Antonio & the Lakers). Sure they'll probably be a tough out, what with having one of the league's best home records, but if you open the playoffs on the road and have proven you can't ever win away from home, well you're just asking for some late April fishing plans.
The New York Knicks: Their race to the bottom continues! The Knicks have now lost nine of their last 10, making the recent dreams of a playoff appearance seem like a distant memory at this point. The Knicks led in this one 8-7, but soon surrendered the lead for good, falling behind by as many as 27 in the 2nd quarter. The Knicks valiantly tried to make a game of it, and climbed back to within a few points in the 3rd quarter and hung around there for a bit before letting the Nuggets push the lead back to double digits where it stayed for most of the rest of the game. With the win, Denver clinched a playoff spot in the West, and the Knicks maybe added a few more ping pong balls to the lottery draft.
Mike 'Antoni: It's no wonder the Knicks couldn't get over the hump after coming back from 27 down to cut it to 4 with about 20 minutes to go in the game. Not only were the Knicks playing in the thin air of Denver, but Short Bench Mike utilized the strategy which worked so "well" for him in Phoenix and played only seven players. I'm willing to bet an extra sub here or there would have let the starters catch their breath a little. Who'd have thought the Knicks would miss Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry so much?
The New Orleans Hornets: I know, I know, they won the game, but when you're a team that supposedly had title hopes at the beginning of the year and you're fighting for playoff seeding, you shouldn't need a last second three to beat the league's worst team. To be fair, the Hornets were missing Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler and James Posey, but the Kings were missing... well, a good team. With the win New Orleans stayed one game ahead of the Jazz in the loss column for the 6th seed in the West.
Andres Nocioni: Check out his "clutch" moments in the last 90 seconds of this game:
1:27 remaining, tie game: Nocioni fouls David West on a made basket, setting up an And-1.I know Bulls fans must be really sorry they don't have Nocioni to cheer for anymore.
0:37 remaining, tie game: Nocioni gets the ball stripped and stolen by Chris Paul.
0:27 remaining, tie game: Nocioni, after getting stripped and not running downcourt after Paul, is all alone under the basket when Paul's shot gets blocked at the other end of the floor; but Nocioni fumbles the pass right to him, giving the defender time to get back and prevent him from hitting the go ahead basket.
Hawks-Sixers: Othello Hunter jealously guards his wealth, and his watchfulness was rewarded with a 1.25 trillion paycheck.Update! Ron Artest: Ron-Ron attended a Britney Spears concert. No, I am NOT kidding. (Via FanIQ.)
Pistons-Cavs: Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson lived up to his nickname again with a 2.3 trillion take from the crustaceans' undersea treasure chest.
Bobcats-Lakers: Cartier Martin is no question mark for lacktivity, as a 32-second Mario proves.
Mavs-Wolves: Gerald Green got the go-ahead to lack it up as Mark Cuban's human victory cigar of the night, littering his 4:32 stint with a brick, giveaway, and foul for a +3 suck differential.
Kevin McHale however managed to win the battle of non-contribution tonight by having Mark Madsen earn a 2:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl in 5:16 via fouls (also worth a +2), as well as counting out a 1.4 trillion fortune from Jason Collins.
Jazz-Blazers: Shavlik Randolph was noticeably unproductive in 2:39, taking a foul and giving up the rock for +2.