Doesn't this picture make you wonder why it ever left?
The Orlando Magic: The Pacers had dropped nine of their last 10 games, which included a near-historic 43-point loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday. Their only win during that stretch came at home against the Timberpoops from Minnesota. They are and have been without their best player, Danny Granger, since December 5.
And yet they somehow handed the Magic their second consecutive loss to a sub-.500 team. Orlando's offense was frozen vomit on a stick, as they hit only 38 percent of their shots and missed nine free throws.
They are not a good team right now. And their coach knows it.
Said Stan Van Gundy: "Look, we're just playing terrible, we really are," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Offensively, it's just really bad right now. We can't score, we can not score. I need to look at everything, playing different guys, I don't know. It's just not working in the least."
And, just like their loss to the Bulls last Saturday, you can blame...
Orlando's "Big Three": Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter combined for 24 points on 8-for-31 from the field against the Bulls. But get this: they were even worst against the Pacers, scoring only 21 points on 6-for-29 shooting. They also combined for 1 lonely assist versus 7 turnovers. Were they replaced by body doubles or something? Were they abducted by aliens? Have they been staying up all night playing WoW? Seriously...what's going on with these guys? Remember: they are the 9th (Lewis), 16th (Carter) and 24th (Howard) highest paid players in the league. We're talking about a combined $50 million worth of players here!
Dwight Howard: I know, I know. "Superman" already got tagged in my previous entry. But remember, he's Orlando's franchise player and supposedly the best center in the league. Yet his last five games have been: 5 points (1-for-7) in a loss to the Celtics, 17 points (8-for-11) in a win over the Bucks, 9 points (4-for-10) in a close win over the Timberwolves, 9 points (3-for-7) in a loss to the Bulls and now 11 points (2-for-6) in a loss to the Pacers.
Can you say "slump"? Now can you say "awesome superballs"? That second one was more fun, wasn't it? But I digress.
Teams have finally figured out how to stop Howard: play him physical. That's it. That's the "secret formula" for shutting down the league's dominant center. Kendrick Perkins provided the blueprint (and the explanation) after the Magic lost at home to the Celtics on Christmas day. Brad Miller -- yes, Brad Miller -- used that blueprint last weekend. And last night, Roy Hibbart freaking owned Howard. Owned him. Hibby finished with a career-high 26 points (10-for-19), 8 boards and 4 blocks...while Dwight committed a game-high 5 turnovers and fouled out in only 28 minutes.
Physical play is now to Dwight Howard like crosses and holy water is to a vampire (and I mean a real vampire, not those Twilight pussies): It makes Dwight's flesh sizzle and fall off. I say we officially change his nickname from Superman to...Powdered Toast Man!
Update!Dan B. writes: "I'm not so sure about calling Dwight Howard "Powdered Toast Man." He's way too good of a super hero. We need someone even more useless and ineffective. I know I just referenced him a few days ago, but I'm still leaning toward the Puma Man. If nothing else, the Puma Man is notorious for looking stylish in his sensible slacks, and David Stern would be happy with that since it would fit the dress code."
Actually, that might be perfect, considering that one of Puman Man's powers is "temporarily feigning death." That's what Dwight has been doing lately...right?
The Chicago Bulls: Quick quiz: Which was worse, letting the Bobcats (who average about 92 PPG) shoot over 51 percent and score the second-highest point total of the season (113), or letting Flip Murray (8 PPG on 36 percent shooting for the season) dismantle you off the bench with 25 points on 8-for-12 shooting (mostly off cheap one-on-one plays)? Quick answer: Yes.
The Philadelphia 76ers: What better time to catch the Washington WizardsGenerals Bullets? I mean, it's pretty much always a good time to catch the Bullets, because they suck. And I mean hard. But this is an much more gooder time to play them because of all the distractions over Agent Zero's hilarious "pullin' out guns in the locker room" joke. And if Gil's finger guns are any indication, this is the joke that Arenas wants to keep on giving:
Wait a tick...didn't Arenas just say "I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns" in a finely crafted statement? I guess he was just, you know, joking about not joking about guns. Or something.
Of course, after the game, Gilbert tweeted: "I know everybody seen the pre game pics..my teammate thought to break the tention we should do that..but this is gettn way to much." A few minutes later, he tweeted again: "I wanna say sorry if I pissed any body off by us havin fun...I'm sorry for anything u need to blame for for right now."
Huh. I wonder if Kobe Bryant tried to break the locker room tension during his 2003 rape trial by pantomiming some anal rampage on teammate Rick Fox?
But all those hilarious distractions didn't prevent the Philadelphia 76ers from coughing up an 18-point lead at home and losing 104-97. Let's face it: they are who we thought they were. Said Allen Iverson: "We just gave it away. It was like a late Christmas present to them." Hey, speaking of The Not Answer...
Allen Iverson:According to ESPN Stats and Information: "Allen Iverson had a season-low 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting, the fewest field goals he's attempted in a game in which he played at least 30 minutes."
The Sixers -- who just guaranteed A.I.'s contract for the rest of the season -- are now 4-6 since his return. I won't say anything else...I'd hate for anybody to think I was picking on him. But I will pick on this guy...
Alejandro: Basketbawful reader Giorgio writes: "Last night my friend from México called Alejandro (AD8) refused an invitation from a girl who said" im all alone in my house and bored" because he was watching Wizards vs Sixers game... EPIC FAIL."
Alejandro, this video's for you:
The New Jersey Nyets: The Bucks entered last night's game a mere 3-11 outside of Milwaukee...but not to worry! They were playing the New Jersey Nyets!
It's funny. When the Nyets snapped their 10-game losing streak against the Knicks last Wednesday, everybody was talking about how they were finally healthy and how things were changing in New Jersey. Wah-wah-waaaaaaah. They basically played the dead cockroach last night, getting crushed by 22 points at home against a crummy road team as the likes of Carlos Delfino, Luke Ridnour and Hakim Warrick combined to score 53 points off Milwaukee's bench.
Mind you, the Bucks started off 0-for-7 with 3 turnovers in their first 10 possessions.
Said New Jersey coach Kiki Vandeweghe: "There is no way to sugarcoat this. We did not come out and play well tonight."
Devin Harris: After the game, Harris said: "We still have fight, we just didn't show it tonight." He must have been talking specifically about himself after finishing with only 5 points on 0-for-4 shooting in 36 minutes. I best Mark Cuban was high-fiving himself after this game.
The Detroit Pistons: Okay, in all honesty, I wouldn't expect the Pistons to beat the Mavericks in Dallas, but that doesn't change the facts. And these are the facts...according to the AP recap: "The Pistons lost their 10th straight game, their longest losing streak in a season since April 1994. They are 11 games below .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 season. ... Detroit hasn't dropped 10 in a row since the end of the 1993-94 season. The Pistons lost their final 13 games that season to finish 20-62."
Monta Ellis: Oh wow. The Warriors were up 122-121 with 0.4 seconds remaining when Ellis fouled J.R. Smith on a desperation heave from 40 freaking feet. Smith was awarded three freebies. He hit the first two and intentionally missed the third so the clock would run out to end the game. It didn't -- the Warriors called time with 0.1 second left on the clock and ended up running a failed alley-oop play -- and the Nuggets won 123-122.
Home cookin': Okay, but c'mon, how do the refs make this call? Fast forward to the 1:05 mark.
That was seriously one of the worst last-second calls I have ever seen in 20+ years of following the NBA. And I personally lived through Larry Johnson's bogus four-point play against the Pacers in '99. Monta's "contact" was negligible at best, and no God in this universe would have answered Smith's prayer of a shot. Just awful, awful officiating. Not surprising...but awful.
Ellis wisely declined comment about that foul after the game, but Golden State coach Don Nelson gave a telling quote: "You lose at the buzzer, it's tough. Bad teams just don't get breaks. Let's face it, you just don't get breaks. That was our game."
The Golden State Warriors: As bad as that call was -- and it was so very, very bad -- the Warriors have nobody to blame but themselves and their own crummy _efense. I mean, Denver was missing Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and the Birdman, but they still scored 123 points on 51 percent shooting and had four players with 20 or more points...including a season-high 27 for Kenyon Martin. Freaking Ty Lawson had 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting before leaving the game with an ankle injury. When was the last time the Warriors played defense? Was it this season? Last season? Seriously. I want to know.
The Portland Trail Blazers: Let me set the stage for you: playing against the Frail Blazers in Portland, the Bizarro Grizzlies were down 104-96 with 3:45 remaining. But instead of becoming a bear skin rug on Brandon Roy's floor, Memphis outscored Portland 13-1 to pull out a 109-105 win that pushed them over .500 for the first time since...well...a really long time.
Of course, it wouldn't be the NBA if a close game wasn't mucked up by some more bad officiating. With the game tied and about a half minute remaining, Roy -- who scored a co-game-high 27 points -- had the ball near midcourt against O.J. Mayo. Mayo reached in and tipped the ball loose, and as the two players were chasing the rock, the refs called a foul on Roy. Mayo hit the first of two free throws with 21 seconds remaining to give Memphis the lead.
Said Mayo: "I got lucky to get a loose ball foul on him. It was a good gamble that worked out.
Even Memphis coach Lionel Hollins admitted the foul "could have gone either way." Again, what's with these ticky tac calls at the end of games? What happened to letting the players play? I mean, if somebody gets hacked on the arms or wrestled to the ground, by all means, make the call. But...I mean...really...
The Grizzlies' free throw shooting: If the officials hadn't bailed the Grizzlies out, Memphis no doubt would have been kicking themselves in the ass for bonking 13 free throws. Instead, I'll kick them in the ass for it. It's what I do.
The Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash (30 points, 12 assists) and Amar''''''e Stoudemire (24 points, 8 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots) carried the Suns to victory down the stretch, but it shouldn't have come to that. I mean, Phoenix had a 20-point lead in the first half. We all know after that 35-point comeback in Chicago, no lead is safe against the Kings. But with all due respect, that was the Bulls and these were the Suns.
Although, now that I think about it, when it comes to the Phoenix D, no lead is safe. So I guess it really was the perfect storm.
Said Stoudemire: "We have to cut that out. We have to find a way to maintain the lead. Once you get a great lead like we did tonight, we have to win that way."
It might have helped if the Suns hadn't greased the ball with hot butter. Phoenix gave up 23 points off 18 turnovers, 11 of which were bumbled away by Nash (7) and Sun Tzu (4).
Tough loss for the Kings, who have now dropped six of the last seven games, a stretch that's included overtime losses to Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers, a home loss to the Lakers courtesy of Kobe's buzzer-beating three-pointer, and close losses to the Mavs and Suns.
Still, they have to feel pretty good to be keeping it real against elite teams. Said Sactown coach Paul Westphal: "We will not be discouraged and we will start winning these games. For whatever reason, we've had a string of having our heart pulled out of our chest. This team is coming back and we're going to keep coming back and we're going to start winning these close games."
You know what? I actually believe him.
The Houston Rockets: Let's talk about missed opportunities again. The Rockets simply aren't going to have a better shot at downing the Lakers, who were missing Pau Gasol and suffered through bad shooting nights by Kobe Bryant (9-for-23) and Ron Artest (3-for-11). But Houston got Godzilla'd by Andrew Bynum (24 points, 10-for-16, 11 points in the fourth) and Lamar Odom (17 points and a season-high 19 rebounds).
Kobe Bryant, quote machine: He explained away his bad shooting night by blaming his busted digit -- "My finger was horrible, horrible. I had to make a lot of left-handed moves. I just got to play through it." -- but when asked whether the injury would force him to reduce his minutes, Mamba said: "What, am I going to get a bib and a rattle?"
Lacktion report: What WotN entry would be complete without Chris' lacktivity roundup?
Bulls-Bobcats: Stephen Graham briefly kicked a Koopa shell for an 18 second Mario!
Bullets-Sixers: Jason Kapono fired off a foul and two bricks (once from Philadelphia City Hall) in 6:49 to earn a +3 suck differential.
Pistons-Mavs: Quinton Ross gave Mark Cuban a belated Christmas gift of a Virtual Boy for a 17 second Mario!
Warriors-Pistons: Chris Hunter targeted the lacktion ledger tonight by countering two boards in 7:15 with four fouls and one giveaway for a 5:2 Voskuhl.
Grizzlies-Blazers: Hamed Haddadi gave Team Z-Bo another reason to celebrate by putting on the overalls for a 14 second Mario!
Rockets-Lakers: With two giveaways and a foul, DJ Mbenga spun a +3 in 3:18 and a 3:0 Voskuhl!