The Houston Rockets: Ah, the end of the regular season, when weird shit starts happening all across the NBA landscape. Teams that have been eliminated from postseason contention start busting their asses. Teams fighting for a playoff spot or better seeding inexplicably face plant. This stuff happens every season...and this season is no exception.
Take the recently red-hot Rocketeers, who had won eight of their last 10 games and began the night with a 15-5 record since the All-Star break. Thanks to a loss by the Grizzlies (see below), Houston had a very real chance to make up some serious ground in their bid to claim the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. All they had to do was win at home against the lowly Purple Paupers.
Instead, the Rockets let Sacramento shoot 53 percent from the field (despite going 1-for-11 from three-point range) while shooting 42.6 percent themselves. And you want to talk about being weak inside? The Kings scored 58 points in the paint and won the rebounding battle 46-43. Houston also bricked seven of their 21 foul shots...and lost by three. (According to the AP game notes, the Rockets had only missed a total of 13 freebies over their past five games.)
And trust me: The Kings tried to lose this game. The Sactowners fouled Kyle Lowry on three-point attempts twice in the final minute but managed to win despite their typical ineptitude (17 turnovers).
Said Kevin Martin: "From the tipoff, we just seemed to not have our energy that we had for the last couple of months. It's a bad time of year to not play like you've been playing for the last couple of months. For whatever reason, we just looked really tired in a lot of spurts."
Really tired in a lot of spurts? Uh, moving on, then.
Added Lowry: "The last month, we've been playing extremely hard. When the shots didn't fall, I think the frustration got to us a little bit."
I guess that's what happens when you basically have no margin for error.
The Memphis Grizzlies: And apparently it happens when you do have some margin for error. Memphis hasn't locked up anything. Well, except maybe Zach Randolph's next big contract, after which I expect him to revert to the Z-Bo of old.
But that's beyond the point.
The Grizzlies, who had won four in a row and are trying to secure a playoff spot, got outscored 23-13 in the fourth quarter and lost 82-81 at home to...
...the Los Angeles Clippers. This is where I point out that The Other L.A. Team shot only 41 percent, missed eight free throws, gave up 20 fast break points, got outrebounded and committed 20 turnovers. And Memphis lost. It didn't help that the Griz shot 39.5 percent (including 1-for-9 from downtown) and registered only 11 assists to 14 turnovers.
And they couldn't even get some home cookin' down the stretch. From the AP recap:
The game's closing seconds were marked with confusion and a review by officials. With 5.7 seconds left, Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe stumbled out of control down the lane, running into Tony Allen.
Officials reviewed the play to see if there was a shot clock violation. They ruled there was no shot clock violation, but officials differed on whether to call Allen for a block or Bledsoe for a charge.
A double foul was the result, leading to a jump ball. The Clippers controlled the tip and ran out the clock, as the Grizzlies couldn't reach them to foul.
"I had no idea," Griffin said when asked if he understood what happened on the play. "I was talking to one ref, and he called a charge. [Official] Violet [Palmer] called a block. Then I heard them talking about the time and talking about the shot clock."
For once, in a game involving the Clippers, it was the other team who was who we thought they were.
Said Randolph: "It was a tough game all around. I don't think we came out ready. [We] came out taking this team too lightly. Let them stick around in the game. And you see what happened."
Added Allen: "You can't take these teams lightly, these teams that don't have nothing to do for the postseason. They're coming out here and playing with pride."
The Clippers. Playing with pride. Who saw that coming?
The Portland Frail Blazers: The Frail Blazers were trying to clinch a playoff spot and that's exactly what they did...despite losing 108-87 at home to the lottery-bound Gol_en State Warriors. Portland shot 41 percent (including 3-for-21 from beyond the arc) got outrebounded 47-40 and trailed by as many as 26 points. Believe it or not, the game was tied at halftime, but the Blazers got outscored 37-21 in the third quarter and that pretty much sealed their fate.
And again: This happened in Portland.
Said Brandon Roy: "We didn't play well at all."
Added Andre Miller: "You never want to throw away games. [The Warriors] knew that and they're not going to the playoffs."
Way to return to the postseason, Blazers. [throws confetti]
The Charlotte Bobcraps: Their playoff odds were already grim. But that shouldn't have been something a game against the Cadavers couldn't have fixed. For a night anyway. Only Charlotte shot 39 percent, gave up 20 fast break points, and fell behind by as many as 21 before losing 99-89 in Cleveland. Next up for the Bobcraps: A home game against the Magic and a road game against the Heat.
Ruh roh, Raggy.
Kwame Brown: "To lose a game like this, it's definitely a winnable game. To get down like we did, that was the ballgame. We've got to win every game we can."
I can see why the AP quoted Brown. That was, uhm, really revealing.
Added Gerald Henderson: "We aren't going to make the playoffs if we don't come to play. It's unfortunate to start games like that and expect to play in the postseason. It's just not going to happen if we continue to do that these next few games."
Correction, Gerald: It's just not going to happen. Period.
The Los Angeles Lakers: The Jazz -- who were riding an eight-game losing streak and had been eliminated from the playoffs at home by the Lakers last Friday -- shot 40 percent from the field, bricked 10 of their 23 free throw attempts and committed 17 turnovers.
Mind you, Utah's crappy crap performance happened in L.A. against a Lakers team that's been making a furious run at overtaking the Spurs for the number one seed in the Western Conference. But the Jazz won.
Or, more accurately, the Lakers lost.
L.A. went 31-for-82 from the field (37.8 percent) and 4-for-20 on threes (20 percent) while getting outrebounded 52-49 (including 16-14 on the offensive glass). They also committed 19 turnovers and gave up 22 fast break points. The 57 points they scored through three quarters was a season low. And rookie Gordon Hayward outdueled Kobe Bryant.
Hayward scored a career-high 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting to go along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. He also hit the go-ahead free throw with six seconds left. The man who fouled him? Kobe. Oh, and I forgot to mention this dunk, which happened after Hayward walked right around Mr. All NBA Defensive First Team:
Hayward was playin' D, too.
And Hayward was defending Byrant on the game's final play, which ended when Kobe laughably lost the ball at the buzzer. The AP even referred to Bryant's failure as "meek" and his final attempt to score "ill-concieved."
Said Bryant: "It slipped. It slipped out of my hands."
Somewhere, presumably, Henry Abbott is raising his pinky finger to his lips and uttering his best Dr. Evil laugh.
Said Lamar Odom: "This was our worst game of the year. We didn't deserve to win, [but] we've had no problem bouncing back all year. We'll be fine. Our energy was just bad all the way around. ... You can't dissect this game. Nothing is there."
For fun, here's the full video of Hayward's highlights:
Kobe Bryant, quote machine: On whether the Lakers can take anything from the loss: "Out of this game? No. Flush that shit down the toilet and move on to the next one."
Phil Jackson, quote machine: "I wish Gordon Hayward would have stayed in college and helped Butler last night instead of kicking our butt."
The Milwaukee Bucks: Last year's feel-good story -- Fear the Deer! -- has given way to the reality that Milwaukee's hopes were resting on Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and John Salmons. People picked this team to win the Central Division? Really?
Last night, the Bucks shot 36 percent and scored only 72 points in a loss to the Magic. A loss tonight in Miami against a rested Heat team will officially eliminate them from the postseason. I think we all know what this means.
Said Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles: "We had our chances. As poorly as we played, our defense hung in there and gave us a chance to win. We just couldn't take advantage of it."
Story of the season for the Bucks.
The Toronto Craptors: And finally: A team bawful enough to just roll over and lose to a team with something to play for. The Knicks shot a blistering 57.7 percent and registered 31 assists on 45 field goals. Meanwhile, the Craptosaurs managed only 11 assists despite scoring 118 points and converting 45 field goals. That kinda tells you something, right?
What should also tell you something is that Toronto trailed by as many as 29 points before making the final score somewhat respectable. You know what? Scratch that last statement. A 131-118 loss isn't respectable for either team. I mean, technically speaking, the Knicks won their fourth game in a row, crawled a game over .500 and pulled to within a half game of the sixth seed in the East. But their defense isn't scaring anyone. Other than scoreboard operators hoping to avoid carpel tunnel.
Back to the Craptors: The Knicks scored a season-high 78 points in the first half. Yeah. You know what that means, right?
The Phoenix Suns: They came back from a 22-point third quarter deficit to put a minor scare into a half-interested Bulls team...but lost anyway. Yep. That's the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns for ya. This game did have two great Steve Nash moments tho': First, Steve had a wardrobe malfunction. Later, he undressed Carlos Boozer by dishing to Marcin Gortat through Boozer's legs. It's not the Suns making the playoffs...but I'll take what I can get from them right now.
Crap games: Let's see: The Nyets pulled out a 107-105 home win over the Timberwolves and the Wizards Generals eked out a 107-105 home win over the Pistons. (That's not a typo. Both games ended with identical scores.) Bad teams duking it out with nothing on the line at the end of the season...that's what we call scalpers night off, folks.
The Atlanta Hawks: Allow me to show you how not surprised I was by their homecourt fail against the Spurs by not giving any details about the game.
Chris's Amazing Lacktion Ledger:
Bobcats-Happy Cadavers: Joey Graham crumbled from the field, with a trio of bricks in 9:35 and a foul for a celebratory +4.
Wolves-Nyets: Dan Gadzuric countered an assist in 4:21 with three fouls and a turnover for a 3:0 Voskuhl.
Bucks-Magic: Larry Sanders had a steal guest on his statline in 6:55, as well as a made free throw...only to foul thricely for a 3:1 Voskuhl ratio.
Pissed-ons-Generals: Ben Wallace botched two boards with three fouls in 8:21 for a 3:2 ratio - the 100th baller this year to score a Voskuhl!!!!!!! - while fellow Oakland County resident DaJuan Summers bricked once from Woodward Avenue and fouled once for a +2 in 1:52.
Sixers-Celtics: Mareese Speights bricked twice and took a rejection for a +3 in 2:48, while Boston's Sasha Pavlovic fouled once in 2:12 for a +1.
Suns-Bulls: In the highly unanticipated rematch of the 1993 Finals, Robin Lopez laid yet another egg by countering a block with a brick, four fouls, and a turnover for a 5:0 Voskuhl in 3:04! Meanwhile, Chicago's Kurt Thomas bricked and fouled once in 2:43 for a +2 and a Madsen-level 1:0 Voskuhl.
Clippers-Grizzlies: Craig Smith bricked once in 3:26 for a +1. Darrell Arthur gave the baby cubs two boards in 14:20, but bricked seven times, fouled twice, and lost the rock twice for a 4:2 Voskuhl. Ishmael Smith tossed two misses in 5:41 for a +2.
Thunder-Nuggets:Timofey Mozgov panned a 1.1 trillion treasure (1:08) (Mozgov got hurt and thus did not score lacktion), while Kosta Koufos collected two airballs in 2:39 for a +2.
Warriors-Frail Blazers: East Oakland's Ekpe Udoh was 66% from the field (on three tries) and garnered a board in 18:48 as starting big man...but fouled four times and lost the rock twice for a 6:5 Voskuhl.
Jazz-Lakers: Francisco Elson fouled twice against a board for a 2:1 Voskuhl in 3:18, while Luke Walton had the SUCKIEST APRIL 5, 2011 OF ALL TIME by bricking four times (once from the Library Tower) and taking a rejection for a +5 in 5:07!!!