The Bizarro Bulls: Allow me, if you will, to steal a little content from myself. Imagine if a Bulls fan had used the Hot Tub Time Machine to travel from some time last October to right before last night’s tipoff against the Grizzlies in Memphis. They’d probably think they had traveled to some horrific alternate reality instead of through time.
After all, Chicago opened this season with a core group of Derrick Rose (out with a sprained wrist), Joakim Noah (out with plantar fasciitis), Luol Deng (out with a strained calf muscle), Kirk Hinrich (serving a one-game suspension), John Salmons (traded to Milwaukee) and Tyrus Thomas (traded to Charlotte).
In the absence of that core group -- which includes the team’s current four leading scorers -- the Bizarro Bulls opened last night’s game with a starting lineup of Brad Miller, Taj Gibson, Flip Murray, Acie Law and Jannero Pargo. After giving it some serious thought, I came to conclusion that it was the worst lineup I’d seen since 1998-99 when Chicago finished the season with a starting lineup of Tony Kukoc, Ron Harper, Dickey Simpkins, Rusty LaRue and Cory Carr.
That's some serious bawful.
Of course, the Grizzlies promptly sunk to the occasion, letting Flip Murray and Acie "I am the" Law stroll in for uncontested layups, committing seven early turnovers and falling behind 20-10. When they finally woke up in the second quarter, they went on a 17-0 run and took a 55-44 halftime lead. That lead bulged to 25 points in the third quarter...and then Memphis hit the snooze button.
The Grizzlies opened the fourth quarter by missing 10 of their first 12 shots -- which included two sweet blocks by James Johnson -- and committing 5 turnovers. Chicago rampaged all the way back from that 25-point hole to within four points (94-90) with under three minutes to go in the game.
Then things came undone, thanks primarily to...
Jannero Pargo: If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder whether somebody in the Memphis front office had slipped paid off Pargo to throw the game. Not did he shoot the ball like somebody had just rammed fish hooks in his eyes (4-for-15 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown), but Jannero committed three of his co-game-high 5 turnovers in the final 2:27. That included turnovers on back-to-back possessions, which led to a hook shot and layup for Zach Randolph that pushed the Memphis lead to 98-90.
After Hasheem Thabeet hit a shot on the Grizzlies' next possession to put Memphis ahead 100-90, the game was pretty much over. I just hope Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins did the right thing and gave Pargo the game ball. He was their MVP down the stretch.
That's eight straight losses for the Bulls, by the way. Chicago is now 1.5 games behind Toronto for the eigth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Charlotte Bobcats: With a win over the Pacers in Indy, the Bobcats could have set a new franchise record with their seventh straight victory. However, the odds were against them (fifth game in eight days) and the situation was grim (Gerald Wallace missed his second consecutive game with an injured left ankle). The result was a 99-94 loss to a team that was headed for the NBA Draft Lottery months ago. Maybe not mathematically, but c'mon.
Said Stephen Jackson: "It wasn't really fatigue. We were missing shots, and we didn't let our defense be the catalyst of our game. We worried about our offense first, and didn't start playing defense until the fourth quarter. On the road, you can't get down and try to play catch-up."
Listen to him. Captain Jack came to Charlotte from Gol_en State. He practically has a doctorate in "Worrying About Offense First."
Of course, I suppose I could give the Pacers their own entry for almost squandering a 15-point fourth quarter lead.
Said Mike Dunleavy Jr.: "You have to close out games. Those guys are going to stick around and hang tough. We made some silly mistakes, took some bad fouls and made it closer than we would have liked."
It's always an adventure in Indiana. But not the fun kind of adventure where you find some fabulous treasure and get the girl. It's usually more of a misadventure where you end up face-first in a ditch.
Anyway, Charlotte gave up 22 points off 19 turnovers and missed 11 free throws, so the game was lost due to sloppy play. And no play was sloppier than the one made by...
Boris Diaw: The 'Cats actually had the ball and a chance to tie the game with less than a half-minute left in the game, but Boris committed a turrible turnovers, throwing the ball right to Indiana's Troy Murphy with 20 ticks to go.
Charlotte coach Larry Brown actually tried to deflect blame away from Diaw: "I tried to call timeout. We got kind of confused. That was my fault. I thought we maybe could get a two for one, but when there is indecision like that, I've got to be more responsible."
Uh, okay. Unless Brown dressed Murphy in a Bobcats jersey, I'm pretty sure it's Diaw's fault he didn't realize Troy wasn't on his team. But way to take one for the team, Larry.
Tyson Chandler: Yesterday on his blog, Chandler said: "I came back to the [Bobcats] on March 5th and we beat the Lakers that night. Since then, we've won our last six games."
Next thing you know, the 'Cats lose to the Pacers. Stat curse!
The Cleveland Cavaliers: Don't let the final score of their 113-101 win over the Pistons fool you...this game was freaky close until the final minutes. There were 10 lead changes and 21 ties. Heck, the game was tied with 4:44 left. Detroit just couldn't hold on.
Said Charlie V.: "We were trying to redeem ourselves, so this is very frustrating. It's encouraging to see us compete like this, but it is still another loss."
The game might have been over a lot sooner if the Crabs had been able to get some stops, or even if they hadn't bricked so many foul shots. I mean, they went 22-for-33 and Shaq didn't even play. I guess Shaqnopsis is an incurable disease.
LeBron's first three quarters: Another factor that helped keep Detroit in the game was how 'Bron went 5-for-15 through three quarters. James missed 10-of-15 shots over the first three quarters. Of course, he was 5-for-7 with 4 boards and 3 dimes in the fourth and ended up with his 28th career triple double (29-12-12).
Officiating: Man, it's good to be the most protected player in the league King, huh? With about seven minutes left in the fourth, King Crab hit a layup and got the "And 1!" Just one problem, though: Tayshaun Prince fouled LeBron just inside the three-point arc. It was the worst continuation I've seen since Larry Johnson's infamous four-point play. Check it out here. Fast forward to the 1:04 mark.
Said Will Bynum: "I'm not surprised by any call in the NBA any more, but you also have to give him some credit. There's probably no one else on Earth who could have even gotten a shot off like that." Or who would have been allowed to get it off.
But wait, there's more. With just under two minutes to go and the Pistons trailing 104-101, it looked like Bynum was going to score a breakaway layup to pull Detroit to within a point...but LeBron's uncalled goaltend put a stop to that:
Like I said, it's good to be the most protected player in the league King.
The Miami Heat: In losing at home to the Spurs, the Heat missed a chance to leapfrog the Bobcats for the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It probably won't matter much in the end, since Miami finishes the season with nine straight games against sub-.500 teams. But for one night at least, the loss was a pretty big bummer.
The Heat shot 38 percent from the field and went 3-for-16 from three-point range, which might explain why they fell behind by 25 points in the third quarter. That's a pretty big hole to rally out of...and they didn't.
Said James Jones: "We gave them too much of a lead, too much of a spot to try to make up. When you're playing a good team like that, you don't get very many chances to put them away. They showed it tonight."
The San Antonio Spurs: They led 69-44 with a couple minutes to go in the third quarter but let the Heat cut that lead down to six points in the fourth before pulling away again. The reason: turnovers. San Antonio gave up 23 points off 22 TOs. But they've been winning a lot lately (4-1 since Tony Parker got hurt) and have become the latest team to be described as "surging." Uh huh. You know what that means...
The New Jersey Nyets: Their 108-84 home loss to the Hawks -- in which the Devin Harris-less Nyets shot 38 percent, bricked eight free throws and gave up 22 points off only 16 turnovers -- was important because it was New Jersey's 60th loss of the season. The Nyets still need three wins in their last 15 games to avoid tying or breaking 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' worst-ever win-loss record of 9-73.
Said Courtney Lee: "Today was a big letdown for us, we took a step back. We've been competitive on the road the last how many games have we played, but today was a big step back."
Wait, what? How many steps back can a 7-win team take? Aren't their asses already against the Wall of Bawful History? The bad news is...New jersey's schedule. They still have games left against the Bulls (twice), Kings, Pacers, Pistons, Sixers, Wizards.
Also, their last two games are against the Bobcats and Heat. Those games might be a wash for those teams if playoff positions have already been clinched. Bad as the Nyets are, I'd probably take them in a battle against the Charlotte and Miami benches.
Phoenix had eight players in double figures and set the NBA season high in scoring for a single game.
The Suns' 152 points are the most scored by any team this season and tied a U.S. Airways Center record originally set by the SuperSonics on January 22, 2006.
The Suns are the second team in the last 10 years to score 35-plus points in every quarter of a game (Nuggets vs. SuperSonics, March 16, 2008).
Phoenix scored 79 points in the first half. That's the second-most points scored in a half in the NBA this season, surpassed only by the 80-point second half for Milwaukee against Golden State on November 14. You knew Gol_en State was going to be brought into this somehow, right?
Oh, and regarding that 79-point first half: The Suns hadn't scored that many in a half since getting 80 in the second half in its 154-point game at Golden State back on March 15, 2009. You knew Gol_en State was going to be brought into this again, right?
Said Amar''''''e Stoudemire: "It was a lot of fun. It was so much fun when the starters were able to rest there in the fourth. We'll take that."
Not so much fun for the Timberpoops, who lost their 10th straight game. By the way, that's the longest active losing streak in the league.
The Washington WizardsGenerals Bullets: The Nuggets were missing Chris Andersen (sprained left ankle) and Kenyon Martin (left knee tendinitis), and Ty Lawson didn't play for the ninth straight game since bruising his left shoulder. Oh, and Denver was on its second night of back-to-backs. Fortunately, the Bullets were in town. And even more fortunately, Washington's best player (Andray Blatch) left the game after twisting his ankle midway through the fourth quarter.
It also didn't help that the Bullets were at the end of a rather grueling stretch. Said Flip Saunders: "I thought we played pretty well for having five games in six nights, five different cities. We gave ourselves a chance. We just didn't have enough juice down the stretch."
Washington has now lost nine straight games for the first time since January 4-19, 2001.
Mr. Big Shot: From the AP game notes: "Chauncey Billups went 0-for-6 from 3-point range, ending a career-best streak of 36 games in which he had made at least one 3-pointer."
Shot selection: Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined to shoot 21-for-28 shots. Mamba was 10-for-26 (2-for-6 on treys). No wonder Gasol isn't happy. But hey, what's Pau complaining about? Just because Kobe's eighth on the Lakers in Effective Field Goal Percentage -- behind even Jordan Farmar, Ron Artest, Sasha Vujacic and Shannon Brown -- doesn't mean he shouldn't continue taking the most difficult shots possible. And it's very mature of Kobe not to "blast Gasol into oblivion" for behing disgruntled. Just ask Adrian Wojnarowski.
Speaking of Mamba, here's a belated man love pic from the Lakers-Warriors game. Thanks to anonymous Basketbawful reader who sent it in.
and Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis share a moment
in the final seconds of their NBA basketball game."
Kings fans: Where were they last night? Not at Arco, that's for sure. And it freaked Carl Landry out: "I almost thought we were playing in the Staples Center. I've never seen anything like that before. To see that many Lakers fans out there was kind of disappointing."
Lacktion report: I will forgive chris for not showing up to the Lakers-Kings game to help keep the L.A. fans at bay...but only because of his dutiful commitment to lacktion reporting.
Spurs-Heat: Matt Bonner may have had one field goal in 12:55, but two turnovers and five fouls led to a 7:2 Voskuhl! Malik Hairston combed himself a treasure of 2.1 trillion (2:07), and Ian Mahinmi tossed a brick in 2:03 for a +1 suck differential.
Meanwhile, for Miami, Jamaal Magloire bricked once and added a rejection, foul, and turnover to the line for a +4 in 3:50 that doubled as a 2:0 Voskuhl.
Hawks-Nyets: Jason Collins took a sip of a foul and a giveaway for a +2 in 4:29 that also earned a 2:0 Voskuhl.
Bulls-Grizzlies: Joe Alexander went turnip-tossing in just 6 seconds to give Chicago a SUPER MARIO!
Lakers-Kings: Adam Morrison checked into the ledger tonight with a rejection and two bricks in 2:33 that earned a +3.