"The Heat rolled a natural 20...critical hit for double damage! Damn it!"
The Boston Celtics: The good news: Nenad Krstic was a throw-in to the Kendrick Perkins-for-Jeff Green trade...but he's actually playing better than Perkins was. Nenad is averaging 13.5 PPG on 55.7 percent shooting and grabbing 7.8 rebounds in Boston green and has thus far compiled a PER of 19.0 and an Offensive Rating of 125. The bad news: The Celts have lost three of their last four -- to the Clippers, Sixers and Nyets -- and have fallen into a tie with the Bulls for first place in the East...having wasted a three-game lead in the loss column in less than a week.
With 21 games left to play in the regular season, the Celtics have an (effectively) commanding lead over the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, even if it looks close at first glance.
There is almost no chance the Heat can catch the Celtics, short of a complete Boston collapse.
Chicago poses a far greater threat to Boston's first overall hopes. But with the Bulls three games back in the loss column, and with Boston holding a game in hand, the Bulls will be climbing uphill to get it done. ... For Chicago to take the first overall seed, Boston also has to fall apart, relatively speaking.
In possibly related news, here are some factoids from ther AP recap and ESPN Stats and Information:
The Nets beat the Celtics in New Jersey for the first time since April 16, 2006.
The Celtics were held to fewer than 80 points in their road loss to the Nets. In the last 25 seasons, it is just the third time in which the Celtics were held to fewer than 80 points on the road against the Nets and the first time since March 13, 2003.
The Celtics have now lost five straight times in the second game of a back-to-back, and are just 6-8 overall in such games. The Celtics' age may finally be showing. Boston has the fourth-oldest NBA roster with an average age of 29 years, 150 days old.
Meanwhile, the Nyets have won five in a row overall for the first time since December 28 to January 5 in 2007-08...the season before Devin Harris' infamous "We knew we were going to be a playoff team" stat curse. And New Jersey could still, technically speaking, make the Eastern Conference playoffs at 22-43. Oy.
Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo: Last night, we could've nicknamed them Clink, Clank and Clunk. Green -- who was a principle in the Kendrick Perkins-for-Jeff Green trade -- went 3-for-11. But Green was on fire compared to Pierce (2-for-10) and Rondo (1-for-10).
By the way, a continuing myth among Boston fans and Rondo backers (in the ongoing Rondo versus whatever other point guard debates) is that Rajon's lack of a jumper is actually a myth. But the myth is actually a myth, making the myth the truth. Uh, did you follow that? Whatever. Let's check the Hoopdata stats: Rondo is shuh-shuh-shuh-shooting 32 percent from 3-9 feet, 37.5 percent from 10-15 feet, 37.1 percent from 16-23 feet and 31.3 percent from downtown. What's worse is that his conversion rate at the charity stripe (54.5) is worst than Shaq's (55.7).
What kills me is that I have had arguments during the ESPN Daily Dime Live chats about whether Rondo could be as effective scoring the ball as Derrick Rose. When I say, "Uh, yeah, not thinkin' so," I usually get smacked around by comments and accusations of Bulls homerism, which if funny considering I'm also a huge Celtics fan from way back (although the DDL peeps don't necessarily know that).
Anyway, Rondo still can't shoot or hit free throws. Which continues to hurt the Celtics.
The YES Network and Miller Light: From Basketbawful reader Jorge: "How about a WotN for the YES network. Nets v. Celtics and Nenad Kristic's return to Jersey. Apparently tearing one's ACL is a moment of greatness that demands a Miller Light. This was from back in '06 when he got hurt against the Lakers."
Wow. I just...wow. I don't even know what to say. So, rather than posting my usual witty rebuttal, here's 10 minutes of Peter Griffin holding his knee.
The San Antonio Spurs: Okay. It might be time for Spurs fans to start worrying a little bit. Yes, at 54-13, San Antonio still has the best record in the East or West. But both of their most recent games against championship-caliber opponents -- the Lakers and Heat -- have been hapless blowouts, with the Spurs playing the role of the blowoutee. Last night, they finished with 80 points on 38.3 percent shooting (including only 6-for-22 on threes) while suffering their largest margin of defeat (30 points) of the season.
That 38.3 FGP represented San Antonio's fifth-worst shooting game of the season. And it seems as if the Heat actually read a scouting report or something. According to ESPN Stats and Information: "The Spurs entered the night leading the league in scoring via catch-and-shoot opportunities, including a single-game season-high 45 points against the Heat on March 4th. Monday, Heat defenders were able to slow down the San Antonio shooters, limiting them to 38.7 percent shooting including a 5-20 mark from 3-point territory."
Said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: "We made a lot of shots in San Antonio and they made a lot of shots here. What goes around comes around."
Added Tony Parker: "They definitely had a lot of energy. But overall, they just played better than us."
Of course, I never expected the Spurs to hit the panic button. But, uh, maybe they should. Check out this e-mail I got from Dan B:
HPbasketball Hardwood Paroxysm Spurs averaging a 115.3 defensive efficiency in 8 games in March. The worst in the league for the season is Cleveland at 110.
...damn. Pops needs to start whuppin' a little ass I think.
Here's another random factoid: Of their 14 losses, eight have been by double-digits (including their last four) and two more have been by nine points.
Manu Ginobili, quote machine: "They needed the game more than us. They were more upset than us and they are a great team. We are not playing against a second-division team in Asia. We are talking about the Heat."
Tim Duncan, quote machine: "ESPN got what it wanted. The world is a better place for sports media because the Heat are winning." Okay. I made that up.
The Washington Wizards Generals: Speaking of Perkins, he debuted for the Thunder last night, scoring 6 points and pulling down 9 rebounds in 20 minutes. Of course, this game wasn't even as rough as your average scrimmage in a 50-and-over pickup league, thanks to the fact that the Generals quit on their season, what, a month or two ago? Washington fell behind by as many as 31 before losing 116-89. At home, by the way.
Said John Wall: "It doesn't matter that we know people are hurt and it's a rebuilding process, you still shouldn't not have no heart, not fight, not compete, not be into games. There's no sense in not playing hard and not competing -- and teams are coming in here and putting on a show and our crowd is cheering for them."
Damn. Wall sounds like a former college star playing in his third season with the Clippers. And that's a very bad sign.
Flip Saunders, coach of the year candidate: "I know it's tough to look at for a lot of people. It's tough to coach. Growing pains are extremely difficult. You knew that there would be nights like this, you just hoped there wouldn't be as many nights."
The New Orleans Hornets: Okay, the Wounded Tiger has given way to a full-blown Ewing Theory. The Nuggets are now 8-2 since the 'Melo trade...and one of those losses was a one-point overtime defeat in Portland.
Nobody saw this coming. Nobody.
As for the Hornets...I thought defense was their thing. They rank 4th in Opponents PPG (92.7) and 6th in Defensive Rating (103.5). Last night, Denver dropped 17 threes and score 114 points, which was a season-high for New Orleans opponents.
I guess the Nuggets were just hot. What can you do? Besides get a hand in their face, that is.
Monty Williams, coach of the year candidate: "When you see that ball go through the hole 17 times from the 3, it tends to mess with your psyche a little bit. It was just one of those games that you have in the NBA where a team comes out and they just shoot the ball better than you've ever seen them before."
Really, Monty? Denver drilled 18 three-pointers exactly one game ago. You guys still, you know, scout and stuff, right?
The Phoenix Suns: I can't believe pubic-symphysis is going to cost the Suns a shot at making the playoffs. And I never thought I would ever write that sentence.
The Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers were playing the final game of an road trip. Well, they were "playing" in only the most technical sense of the word. I should say their bodies were there and their minds were in, I don't know, Clipperland? [shudder] The Other L.A. Team basically stopped playing after the first 12 minutes. They trailed by as many as 31 in the fourth -- which was, believe it or not, their largest deficit of the season -- and were looking so bawful even the Grizzlies were making excuses for them.
Said Mike Conley: "Having a long East Coast road trip is never easy. We know exactly how they feel. Legs are tired. Minds are ready to get back home. We just wanted to come in and take advantage of it."
Added Shane Battier: "The schedule was kind to us. We caught a team on the last night of a long East Coast Road trip. They were looking to get home. We knew if we came out and just jumped on them early, you can get those teams thinking about the plane ride home and going home to see their girlfriend or their wife, and all that good stuff."
There is no "all that good stuff" for the Clippers.
Bonus trivia from the AP game notes: "The last Clippers win at Memphis was Feb. 6, 2009, when Randolph, then with Los Angeles, had 35 points and 10 rebounds."
Vinny Del Negro, coach of the year candidate: Regarding Z-Bo's big game (30 points, 12-for-18, 12 rebounds): "It wasn't really Zach as much, although he had an excellent game. It was everyone else just out-hustling us. Tony [Allen] was in passing lanes. I thought Conley got loose too much. It was our  turnovers and lack of offensive production that kind of fed into them in the open court."
The Philadelphia 76ers: So close...and yet so far. The Sixers rallied back from a 21-point deficit to take a 103-101 lead with 11.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter before this happened...
...okay, I wanted to show video of C.J. Miles' overtime-forcing layup with under 10 seconds to go. But, damn, let me warn you: Be very, very careful doing a YouTube search for C.J. Miles. Especially if you're at work.
Anyway, Andrei Kirilenko went on to outscore Philly 7-4 by himself in OT at the Paul Milsap-less Jazz held on for the victory. And get this: The Sixers haven't won in Utah since January 5, 2005. What's more: They've lost 10 of their last 12 games against the Jazz.
Devin Harris, stat curse machine: Reminder: The final tally on Devin Harris's stat curse -- he said "We knew we were going to be a playoff team" on December 9, 2008, when the Nyets were 11-8 -- ended at 52-150 and included one of the worst seasons (12-70 in 2009-10) in NBA history before Harris was traded to the Jazz.
So you'd think Devin would know better. But apparently not. I got this e-mail from Basketbawful reader Greg B:
I read this in the L.A. Times this morning. I'll let you fill in the witty commentary:
Guess again -- Devin Harris, on his first thought after being traded from New Jersey to Utah: "Playoffs, baby."
The Jazz are 3-6 since and currently 10th in the West.
I'm so glad Jerry Sloan escaped when he did.
Doug Collins, coach of the year candidate: "We had a hangover from that Milwaukee game," Collins said of a 102-74 loss to the Bucks on Saturday. "We were terrible in the first half. ... Tough loss, but I told our guys after the game if there's anything we learned is that if we're not blue-collar tough and give great effort all the time we can't beat anybody."
The Gol_en State Warriors: The Curse of the Career High strikes again! This time it was Marcus Thornton bending the Warriors over a barrel on his way to a career-high 42 points. The Kings -- yes, the Tyreke Evans-less Sacramento (for now) Kings -- went up 35-20 after 12 minutes and blew their lead up to 29 before Gol_en State's reserve corps made a failed fourth quarter rally in what became a 129-119 defeat.
In possibly related news, the Kings shot 56.6 percent from the field.
Marcus Thornton, quote machine: "We came out with a defensive mentality." Reality check: The Warriors scored 59 points in the first half and finished with 119 on 50 percent shooting.
The Orlando Magic: Yesterday, Matt Scribbins of Magic Basketball published a post about how unkind the schedule has been to the Magic this season. And, admittedly, I immediately started Googling cheese delivery so I could send Scribbins a nice basket of cheddar to accompany his whine...but maybe he has a point. One day after Orlando thumped the Suns in Phoenix, they faced a rested Lakers team and fell apart in the second half.
Reverse stat curse or self-fulfilling prophecy? I'll let you decide.
Whatever the case, the Magic watched a 9-point first half lead transmogrify into a 17point second-half deficit as the Lakers outscored them 56-38 over the final 24 minutes. Andrew Bynum tied a career-high with 18 rebounds while Dwight Howard was committing 9 of Orlando's 18 turnovers (L.A. lost the ball only 5 times by comparison). Those TOs became easy transition buckets for the Lakers, who outscored the Magic 20-5 in fast break points.
Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy: "We didn't play with as much energy in the second half. A good part of that is their defense. Give them credit, but we didn't move the ball the way that we should have. Bottom line is the game comes down to turnovers and rebounding."
Added L.A. coach Phil Jackson: "We had a good second half. Got our offense running a little bit, got some steals and some easy baskets. [Bynum] did an adequate job on Howard, and he did a great job on the boards. ... I think Orlando faded a little bit. They were tired after that back-to-back."
Update! Donald Sterling:You fucking fuck. And to think: I honestly didn't think my opinion of this man could possibly sink any lower. Conversely, I didn't think I'd ever have any warm-and-fuzzies about Corey "Bad Porn" Maggette, either. Just goes to show you...
[Tip o' the Hat to Dan B.]
Chris's Awesome Lacktion Ledger:
Celtics-Nyets: Sasha Pavlovic fouled twice in 7:12 for a +2 and 2:0 Voskuhl.
Spurs-Heat: Matt Bonner boarded once in 7:33, only to brick twice (once from Biscayne Bay) and foul twice for a 2:1 Voskuhl.
Clippers-Grizzlies: Hamed Haddadi had himself an expensive dinner after celebrating with a take of 1.85 trillion (1:52).
Sixers-Jazz: Jason Kapono raced for 18 seconds in Mario Kart, while Marreese Speights spited a board in 2:24 with a pair of bricks, a turnover, and three fouls for a 4:1 Voskuhl.
Warriors-Purple Paupers: East Oakland's Andris Biedrins finagled two steals in 15:10 with four fouls (and two bricks) for a 4:0 Voskuhl, while teammate Louis Amundson arrived at a 3:1 Voskuhl in exactly 11 minutes by negating a board with 2 fouls and one turnover.
For the team that is presently in Sacramento...at present...Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson enjoyed this rare victory with a brick in 1:27 for a +1.
Magic-Lakers: Quentin Richardson pulled 1.1 trillion (1:05) worth of dollar bills out of a hat.