That's right.


The New Orleans Hornets want us all to forget about the checkered history of, you know, jobbing a Charlotte market years ago that had originally embraced the Association...and have decided that a renaming is in order.


To...


the PELICANS.

Let's ponder this for a moment.  


Hornets sting (as do the painful recollections of losing Chris Paul with the help of David Stern shenanigans).  Their longstanding logo reflects this aggressiveness:


On the other hand, while the pelican IS Louisiana's state bird, one looks like this:



Or this:



That imagery doesn't exactly scream "dominant handchecking" does it, guys?

Let's just say we can let the NHL off easily now for the "Mighty Ducks" after this one.  Yeah.

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sad pacer
Don't be sad, Roy. There's always nex...oh, wait, you're on the Pacers. Nevermind.

The Atlanta Hawks: Let's see, despite being savaged by Dwight Howard for four straight games, the Dirty Birds managed to build a 3-1 series lead. With a chance to finish the Magic off in Game 5, they (and foul trouble) limited Howard to 8 points on 1-for-4 shooting and 8 rebounds in only 29 minutes.

Said Joe Johnson: "I'm looking forward to playing in the second round of the pla..."

Wait. Hold on a second.

Atlanta trailed by as many as 32 points and lost 101-76? Ooooooooo...I feel a "they are who we thought they were" coming on. Must. Resist.

But, honestly, the Hawks were bawful in so many bawful ways. They scored only 13 points (on 3-for-19 shooting) in the first quarter and finished the half down 58-35.

And, just like that, the game was over.

Atlanta's offense was, in the words of Patches O'Houlihan, like watching a bunch of retards try and hump a doorknob. The Hawks shot 36 percent from the field, shanked 12 of their 16 three-point attempts and bricked 10 free throws. The committed 13 turnovers to only 6 for Orlando, which was a franchise playoff record for the Magic.

Getting back to Atlanta's first quarter of fail, check out this snippet from the AP recap: "The Magic were leading 10-8 when Howard picked up his second personal foul of the night with 5:40 left in the first, but Orlando closed with a 16-5 run without him. Redick had the hot hand, going 5 for 5 in the period and scoring the Magic's last 11 points."

Yes, you read that correctly, Redick shot the Hawks right out of the air.

Quick impression for you: Caw! Caw! Bang! Fuck I'm dead!

(I assume everybody's seen The Crow. If not...what the hell?)

Said Atlanta coach Larry Drew: "We're in a situation where we still feel good about ourselves. We'll go back home. We still have an opportunity. Our fans are gonna be behind us, just as their fans were behind them. So we're gonna put this game behind us as fast as we can."

I have no idea how the Hawks could possibly feel good about themselves. They won Game 3 thanks to an unintentionally banked three by Jamal Crawford and Game 4 thanks to Jason Richardson's suspension. Then they didn't even bother to try in Game 5. Plus...they're the Hawks. They have a long and storied history of playoff chokes. If any team in this postseason was going to surrender a 3-1 series lead, my money would be on Atlanta. It's in their franchise DNA.

Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: On his team's shooting: "We're a good shooting team. This is more of us than what we showed in the first four games. ... This isn't an aberration. We've been doing this for four years. The first four games were the aberration."

Stat check: The Magic shot 41 percent (34-for-83) for the game.

Joe Johnson: The 119 Million Dollar Man finished with 5 points on 2-for-12 shooting. And the Hawks were outscored by 28 points when he was on the floor. Only Jamal Crawford (-30) had a worse plus-minus score.

The Indiana Pacers: It happened. It finally happened. The Bulls started doing Bulls things, and the Pacers became the Pacers again. After a reasonably competitive first half, Indy got outscored 62-43 over the final 24 minutes. As a team, they shot 39.2 percent from the field and gave up 34 points off 21 turnovers. They also gave up 17 fast break points and got their eyebrows singed off as the Bulls shot 14-for-31 from downtown.

The beating truly began thanks to an MVP-like stretch from Derrick Rose, who erupted out of the slump he was in during Games 3 and 4.

With 5:52 left in the third quarter and the Bulls leading 61-57, Rose dished to Taj Gibson for an 18-footer. On Chicago's next possession, Rose drilled a three-pointer to push the lead to 66-57. On the other end, Rose made an amazing block on Roy Hibbert (see below). With 4:31 to go in the third, Rose nailed another three. Five seconds later, he stole the ball from Darren Collison, sprinted the other way, drew a foul from Tyler Hansbrough, and converted one of two free throws. Then, with 2:47 left in the quarter, Rose lobbed in yet another three-bomb to make it 75-60.

And the rout was on.

Rose wasn't the only slump buster. As a team, the Bulls pulled out of the dreadful offensive funk they were in. Well, everybody except Carlos Boozer, that is. To wit: Boozer, who suffered a turf toe injury during the second quarter, finished with fewer points (2) than Rasual Butler (3).

Boozer aside, the Bulls literally blew the lid off the rim. Not figuratively. Literally. There was an actual explosion. With fire. And stuff.

Luol Deng scored 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting, adding 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals for good measure. With his grandfather and hot sister watching from the stands, Joakim Noah had 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. Chicago's Bench Mob added 36 points and 15 rebounds. Taj Gibson in particular delivered a strong performance (10 points and 7 boards) in relief of Boozer.

And Keith Bogans -- yes, that Keith Bogans -- went 5-for-7 from downtown and finished with 15 points. For those who enjoy random stats: The Bulls are now 27-2 when Bogans scores at least 6 points.

Oh, and did I mention yet that Kyle "The Four-Inch Vertical" Korver dunked?

Yep. It was that kinda night for the Bulls. And that kinda loss for the Pacers.

I have to tip my hat and offer a firm handshake to Frank Vogel and his boys, because Indy really gave the Bulls all they could handle. But, in lieu of TNT's "gone fishin'" act, I must nonetheless present "The Lonely Man" theme:


Ah, now, if only the Pacers could have lost with a little more dignity...

Josh McRoberts, lover: Okay. I have no real proof that McBob is a lover...but I have to assume he is because he sure ain't a fighter. Case in point: Watch him try to punch at Joakim Noah and hit...nothing but air.


Said McRoberts: "I was trying to shove back to defend myself."

Uh huh. Right.

For his shadowboxing efforts, McBob was booted and Noah got free throws. That probably should have been the end of this embarrassing spectacle. But it wasn't...

Danny Granger, whine machine: After the game, Granger couldn't let the McRoberts-Noah skirmish go. Couldn't or wouldn't.

Said Granger: "[Joakim Noah] pulled a cowardly move. He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out ... The refs never catch what he did ... it's cowardly. And I'm going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don't think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand."

Uhm, okay. As Shakespeare might say, the lady doth protest too much, methinks. Or did Granger forget about this:


Or this:


Or this:


The Pacers kept this series competitive by making it extremely physical and, at times, dirty. They grabbed. They pushed. The hacked. They threw elbows and committed fouls that were borderline flagrant (or deemed flagrant by the league after the fact) in every game. The Bulls finally retaliate and...they're the dirty ones?

As Stacey King said: "Now, the rabbit's the one holding the gun, and the Pacers don't like it."

Granger continued: He's a dirty player, honestly." What's more, Granger apparently had to be restrained from going after Noah as the teams exchanged handshakes on the court after the game.

Really, Danny? Really?

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's response? Whatever.

Said Thibs: "It's just heat of the battle stuff."

Added Noah: "I played dirty? Ok. I'm just trying to win basketball games, man. It's the name of the game. I'm just out there trying to do what I gotta do. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to their team. The play hard as hell. They were competitive. I don't have anything bad to say about them. Everybody saw what happened out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don't think I've ever been a dirty player. It is what it is. It's ok."

Look, the Pacers wanted the games to resemble urban warfare when it benefitted them, and they made a mess in their panties when, after four games, the Bulls started using their tactics against them. I'm just sayin', if you live by the sword, you don't get to complain when somebody runs you through with one.

What makes Granger's sniping worse is that, despite the showering of cheap shots and hard fouls, the Bulls took the high road all series long. They refused to call Foster dirty even after he pulled a Randy Savage on Deng's head. Thibodeau's general response to Indy's bullying tactics: "They're just playing hard. Period."

Then, in defeat, Granger takes the low road with accusations of "cowardly" and "dirty" play. Not Danny's finest hour.

Carlos Boozer: He finished off a nightmarish series by getting outscored by Rasual Butler and suffering a turf toe injury. Now even his own teammates won't high five him. Fail.

H/T to Dan B. for the link.

Roy Hibbert: The officials are bringing out the chains. Okay. The measurements are: Derrick Rose 6'3", Roy Hibbert 7'1". This is important because...


Paul George, layup master: Basketbawful reader gf provided the video for this great moment in Pacers playoff history:


Bulls fans: For whatever reason, the bloggers (other than myself) and commenters at ESPN's Daily Dime Live chat really love to give Bulls fans crap. Because, apparently, only non-Bulls fans get to talk crap.

Anyway, pictures like these aren't going to shift the paradigm:

bulls fans
This shouldn't happen. Ever.

The New Orleans Hornets: Look, we all knew the Hornets were going to have to play another perfect game to win in L.A. last night, and it didn't happen. They some things right, shooting 49 percent from the field and going 10-for-21 from three-point range.

But two things went wrong: They committed 19 turnovers and got outrebounded 42-25. That rebounding deficit included a 15-3 drubbing on the offensive glass. Between the TOs and the offensive boards, the Lakers got eight more field goal attempts and nine more foul shots.

Want more stats? I've got more stats.

From ESPN Stats and Information: "The Lakers finally took advantage of their size inside, outscoring the Hornets 42-30 in the paint. The Lake Show held a 15-3 advantage in offensive rebounds, 22-2 advantage in 2nd-chance points and 7-3 advantage in blocked shots."

Yes, it's true. The Lakers are tall.

Moreover, L.A. got balanced scoring, with six players in double figures: Kobe (18), Andy Bynum (18), The Spanish Marshmallow (16), Derek Fisher (13), The Candy Man (13) and Mr. Citizenship (11). L.A.'s bench outscored the New Orleans reserves 29-14. The Lakers weren't exactly overpowering, but they assumed control in the second quarter and semi-cruised to a 106-90 win.

And, more importantly, a 3-2 series lead.

Said Trevor Ariza: "They got 15 offensive rebounds. They were in the paint all day. They were more aggressive, and they took it to us. They played well. There's nothing that we can say."

Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry, poster boys: One of the most ridiculous and overblown subplots of this game was the status of Kobe's ankle and how he bravely refused an MRI because he doesn't want to know how badly he's hurt. The way Lakers fans were talking, Mamba needed his entire leg amputated, but he was gonna play through it through sheer force of will.

"He's Kobe Bryant! All he cares about is winning! Winning! WINNING!!!"

Reality check: No amount of will power would allow anyone to do this on a broken ankle. The human body doesn't work that way.


Said Hornets coach Monty Williams: "All this talk about his ankle. Did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then."

Added Kobe: "I just had a lane to the basket. It looked like he was going to challenge me at the rim, and I decided to accept the challenge. ... It's a message for us that this was important. It's time to raise up and do what we've got to do. They're not saved dunks. I don't have much of those left."

I'm not saying Kobe's ankle wasn't sore. But I also think he likes to, ahem, help craft his legend.

Chris' Playoff Lacktion Report: Sorry, folks. Forgot this on the first pass.

Hawks-Magic: Jason Collins collected a board and assist in 14:04 as starting big man, only to brick once and foul twice for a 2:1 Voskuhl.

Pacers-Bulls: Jeff Foster's last playoff game of the year managed to generate two boards in 9:44, but also three fouls and two turnovers for a 5:2 Voskuhl.

Hornets-Lakers: Jason Smith soured a field goal in 8:01 with three fouls for a 3:2 Voskuhl.

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jo noah

Ron Artest versus Coffee: I know, I know. It's a day late and it could have happened to almost any player. But it happened to Ron Artest. And these things always seem to happen to him, you know?


Derrick Rose's stalker: This is also a day late. Basketbawful reader GabV sent in a picture of a dude checking out D-Rose's buttocks before the Bulls-Heat game. I'll go one further and provide video of the dude taking a picture of Derrick's butt. I...have nothing more to say.


Erik Spoelstra: After (rather foolishly) outting some unnamed players for crying after a nationally televised home loss to the Bulls on Sunday, Spoelstra could have manned up and said something like, "What happens in our locker room should stay in our locker room. I know that and, from now on, it will. No further comments." Instead, he took the easier and more predictable way out: Blame the media.

The embattled Heat coach claimed his remarks were taken out of context and blamed the media for over analyzing his comments. Neither Spoelstra nor any of the Heat's players revealed Sunday or after Monday's practice who actually shed tears in the locker room following the 87-86 loss to the Bulls.

Spoelstra even went as far as to backtrack a bit from his original comments and said Monday that he wasn't certain that he saw actual tears when the team gathered immediately after the game.

"This is a classic example of sensationalism, looking for a headline," Spoelstra said after the team's two-hour film session and workout on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I really think you guys are probably reaching for this. Guys were very emotional about it in the locker room. Heads were down. I saw glossy eyes, but that's about it. I think everything else is probably an exaggeration."
An exaggeration? That would seem a little more credible if 'Spo hadn't immediately offered up the whole "crying" thing of his own free will and without any prompting whatsoever from the always-looking-for-a-headline media.

But hey, why take responsibility for your words when you can foist the responsibility onto someone else?

Update! Miami Heat late-game fail compilation: From the SportsPickle via chris:


Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: "I do chuckle a little bit when [members of the Heat] complain about the scrutiny they get. My suggestion would be if you don't want the scrutiny, you don't hold a championship celebration before you've even practiced together. It's hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren't going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you're getting that attention."

The New Orleans Hornets: This was one of those classic "Give Them Credit" games. New Orleans was without Chris Paul (concussion) and Trevor Ariza (strained left adductor), and playing on the second night of back-to-back road games in the final game of a five-game road trip. Yet somehow, with their backs against the wall and fighting against the odds, the Hornets tied the game at 77-77 with 3:18 remaining...

...and they never scored again.

Said David West: "I thought we played well enough to win. We had the game right where we wanted it at 77-77 with 3-something to go. We couldn't convert down the stretch. We didn't have enough offense."

New Orleans shot 36.3 percent from the field and gave up 19 points off 11 turnovers. Oh, and Derrick Rose had almost as many assists (9) as the Hornets did as a team (10). As the Fun Police would say: "There's only one set of prints on this ball."

The New Orleans Hornets' uniforms: Mardi Gras is supposed to inspire people to drink and eat to excess, and women to flash their boobs for a five dollar set of beads. Not this. No, not this.

The Orlando Magic: This was another "Give Them Credit" game. The Magic were playing without Dwight Howard, who was serving a one-game suspension for earning his 16th technical foul of the season against the Bulls on Friday night. And, after falling behind by as many as 14 points, they fought back and nearly had a chance to win. I emphasize the "nearly" part of that last sentence. Orlando was doomed by careless turnovers: The Magic bobbled the ball away 19 times, and the Frail Blazers ended up with 10 more shot attempts and eight more free throw attempts. And Portland won by four points.

Said Jason Richardson: "We played really hard, gave it our all, but it just didn't come up at the end. We weren't taking care of the ball. ... They just kept reaching in and knocking the ball out of our hands. You can't win the game when you have 19 turnovers."

Jameer Nelson: The line: 21 minutes, 2 points, 1-for-7, 4 assists, 5 turnovers.

Said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: "The only guy that had a really bad night was Jameer. He had a really, really bad night."

Don't hold back, coach. Give it to us straight.

Stan Van Gundy: You knew he was going to bitch about Dwight's suspension, right? Basketbawful reader Robert M. did.

Van Gundy quoted an Elias Sports Bureau statistic Monday that notes Howard has been fouled 593 times this season without any of those calls being labeled flagrant.

Asked if the Magic had a case to the league office about whether they feel Howard has been excessively fouled, Van Gundy said he thinks outside input doesn't carry much weight at the league office.

"This is the system David Stern and his minions like it," Van Gundy said. "So that's the system you have...I certainly can't have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot or leaders we've seen in this world lately, don't really tolerate other people's opinion or free speech or anything. So I'm not really allowed to have an opinion. So it's up to him.

"He decides and he likes the system he has."

Howard is serving a one-game suspension Monday night against the Trail Blazers after picking up his 16th technical of the season against Chicago on Friday. For every two technicals he receives the remainder of the season he also must sit out a game.

"I think he has settled down," Van Gundy said. "He's gotten two (technicals) in the last month (and) he hasn't gotten any for arguing. His problems were early in the year when he got a lot of arguing calls. Lately what he's gotten is two for retaliating for hits he's taken after the whistle and I think to be quite honest he's already had great restraint on those plays.

"... You guys can estimate how many of those were hard hits and how many of those were above the shoulders. ... I would say his control is amazing."
The Charlotte Bobcraps: The Clippers entered last night's game 5-25 on the road and 4-16 without Eric Gordon. Plus they're, you know, the Clippers.

Didn't matter. The Bobcraps are just that bad. Gerald Wallace is playing for the Frail Blazers now. Stephen Jackson was out with a strained hammy. And Charlotte has now lost five in a row. It's their longest fail streak since dropping seven straight last season.

There were a lot of reasons they didn't win, but bricking nine freebies in a five-point loss has gotta string.

Vinny Del Negro, coach of the year candidate: "We'll take the win on the road, but we have to have a tougher mentality on the road. We seem to have it more at home. But we need everybody to play at a high level and not worry about minutes and statistics and who has the ball."

The Utah Jazz: "We're not here to have fun. We're not here to enjoy the nightlife. We're not here to get away from Utah. We're here to take care of business and we didn't play like that tonight."

So said Al Jefferson after Utah gave up 40 points in the first quarter, trailed by as many as 31 points and eventually lost 131-109. While the Jazz were committing 20 turnovers, the Knicks were shooting 56 percent from the field (including 13-for-26 from downtown) and registering 35 assists on 46 baskets.

But that's not all. From Elias Sports Bureau:

Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony combined for 46 of the Knicks 66 points when the two were on the floor together. When the two players were on the court together New York outscored Utah 66-35. Even more impressive, out of the 19 shots they took combined while on the floor together, they missed only three (16-19, 84.2 pct).

Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire both scored early and often eclipsing the 30-point mark before the 4th quarter began. They are just the 5th pair of teammates over the last 5 seasons to do so. While this has been rare to the NBA, Carmelo Anthony is no stranger to the feat as he has been involved in 3 of the 5 occurences, including both times it has happened this season.
The Jazz have now lost nine of their last 11 games and are tied or ninth place in the West. The ship, as they say, be sinking.

Said Utah coach Tyrone Corbin: "As individuals, as a group, as a franchise, that's embarrassing the way we came out and played tonight. Even if you lose a game, you can lose with some dignity. I don't think this loss tonight did anybody any good."

Somewhere Jerry Sloan is happy he retired. Speaking of Sloan...

Jerry Sloan, complete and total badass: (via Ball Don't Lie) KFAN's Tony Abbott interviewed Jerry's son, Brian, and Abbott revealed the following awesomeness during said interview:

Someone shoots an elk on a mountain hunting trip that Karl Malone had helped them arrange and Jerry and Tony walk up to it. "In a split second, this bull elk jumps up and comes at me full bore at about 10 yards. I'm a sitting duck. Your dad, without a blink, steps in front of me, pulls up [his old rifle that he got for $80 at a garage sale], puts a bullet in this elk's chest, and it falls at my feet. I have no chance to even react. I turn and look at your dad and he looks at me and he goes, 'That's as good as a fast break.'"
Like I said: Complete and total badass.

Al Jefferson: From Ross Siler (via Dan B.): "Has any player ever duplicated Al Jefferson's feat tonight: 36 points, 12 rebounds, team outscored by 33 points while he was on court?"

Carmelo Anthony, quote machine: "We're not going to shoot like that, I don't think. There's not going to be a game where we only miss six or seven shots combined. We hope we go out there and score 30 points and we win and everybody else contributes in their own way, but for me personally, I don't want to do that. I don't want to put that pressure on me to go out there and say that I want to score 30 points a night. I'm past that now."

Amar''''''e Stoudemire, quote machine: "Myself and Carmelo can score 1-on-1 with ease, but to get other players involved and play team basketball is the ultimate goal for us and tonight it worked out very well."

STAT check: Amar'''''e had zero assists.

The Minnesota Timberwolves: Brian Cardinal scored a season-high 12 points. The Timberwolves lost by three points. I know this may sound elementary, but teams that can't contain "The Custodian" won't win many games. In possibly related news, Minnesota's record is now 15-50...worst in the Western Conference.

Said Dallas coach Rich Carlisle: "Without Cardinal, I don't think we'd have won the game. His activity, rebounds, loose balls, deflections, shot-making completely turned the game around."

Rebounds, coach? Cardinal finished with zero boards. Had three steals, tho'.

Kevin Love (23 points and 17 rebounds) got his 51st double-double in a row, which, according the AP recap, is tied with Moses Malone in 1978-79 for the longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. And Malone's streak spanned two seasons, so Love's is the longest single-season streak.

The Target Center crowd even chanted "M-V-P!" for him. How cute. Batshit crazy. But cute.

Said Love: "I'd be jumping for joy if we were winning and everybody was playing great, including myself. I'm just going out there and playing hard and it is just kind of happening for me. But it is kind of an afterthought because we aren't winning."

The Oklahoma City Thunder: They let the Care Bears shoot 52 percent from the field, score 21 fast break points and 68 points in the paint, and build a 17-point lead before making a failed fourth quarter rally.

Defense? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "We got down 17 because our defensive effort wasn't where it needed to be. We gave them too many easy layups and points around the paint. We got back into it because we made some shots, but we still weren't playing the defense that it takes to win in this league."

At least he knows.

The Sacramento Kings: Congrats to Rick Adelmen Adelman, who tied Dick Motta for 10th on the NBA's career coaching victories list (935). Among the top 10 in wins, only Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach have better winning percentages than Adelman (.605).

Bet you never would've guessed that.

Said Adelman: "It means a lot to me. If you take a look at all those names up there [on the top-10 list], they are some of the best coaches."

Kind of a "Captain Obvious" quote, but I'll let it go. He was emotional.

As for the Kings, they trailed by as many as 30 points before losing 123-101. At home. So, uh, when are they moving to Anaheim?

Said Sactown coach Paul Westfail: "You've got to guard somebody. You can't give up 30-point quarters every quarter and expect to win. Our defense was not good enough really ever to give us a chance to hang around in the game."

Added DeMarcus Cousins: "We have a tendency to panic and just try to do things on our own. We are not going to get back into the game that way and we're not going to win games that way. We have to play the whole game together."

In possibly related news, Cousins took 20 shots and committed 4 turnovers while registering only 3 assists. Further related is the fact that Cousins has 57 more turnovers on the season (181) than assists (124). Oh, and he leads the league with 242 personal fouls. That's 23 more than fifth-place Amar''''''e Stoudemire.

Chris's Uncanny Two-Line Lacktion Ledger:

Clippers-Bobcats: DeAndre Jordan jacked up two boards in 17:10 with three fouls for a 3:2 Voskuhl as the Clips' starting big!

For Charlotte, Joel Przybilla negated three boards in 10:18 with a brick, four fouls, and a turnover for a 5:3 Voskuhl.

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manwich
Marc Gasol's favorite food? Manwich.

The New Orleans Hornets: Well, then. Make it 3-9 since Hornets coach Monty Williams made his infamous "our record might be fool's gold" comment. And I think the ship be sinkin'. Of course, help might be on the way, in the form of four sub-.500 teams in their next five games (Paupers, Pissed-ons, Pacers and Nyets).

But for now, it was yet another offensive castration the Buzzing Bugs, who finished with only 84 points on 41 percent shooting. Other un-notables included their 1-for-13 three-point shooting and their nine-point fourth quarter.

New Orleans hasn't reached the 100-point mark since November 19. That's 13 straight games of pure scoring futility. Pretty soon, we're going to see Chris Paul dressed in a Santa Claus costume and ringing bells on street corners. Only instead of money he's going to be asking people to donate baskets. The Hornets freakin' need 'em.

Said Paul: "We need to get a win so we could see how it feels."

As for the Heat, they've won nine straight games, all by double digits. According to ESPN Stats and Information, that leaves them one win short of matching the NBA record. Which, for the record, is co-held by the 2007-08 Houston Rockets, the 2003-04 New Jersey Nyets and the 1946-47 Washington Capitols.

Also for the record, those three teams combined for zero NBA titles.

Chris Paul: A lowly 3-for-10 from the field and only 5 assists. And one eyeball pointed directly at New York. Or...anywhere.

The "rest" of the Heat: The Heat are going to continue to roll as long as Dwyane Wade (32 points, 8-for-13, 14-for-17 from the line), Chris Bosh (23 points, 11 rebounds) and LeBron James (20 points, 7 assists) do, well, pretty much everything.

Here's the sum total of what fellow starters Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Arroyo contributed last night: 9 points, 4-for-12, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 7 fouls. Meanwhile, the bench came through with 11 points (3-for-11), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks and 10 fouls. Oh, and two DNP-CDs (Eddie House and Jamaal Magloire).

Note that, despite yet another double-digit win, Lebron (40 minutes), Wade (30) and Bosh (38) logged quite a few minutes. I think coach 'Spo knows that's too many, right?

One last thing: An anonymous commenter left this link. It gives the secret of Miami's recent success. This is great.

Especially because when Miami does give maximum effort, it is one of the best defensive teams in the league. Early in the season, when they were basically a .500 team, the Heat's defensive efforts varied nightly and it was a factor in their unsteady play.

So Spoelstra has come up with a deal. It is not an unheard-of proposition. In fact, it is right in the coach's handbook. But originality isn't important -- execution is. And during the Heat's winning streak, their execution has earned a solid A.

Here's how it works: If the Heat get a stop on defense, there will be no play call. In general, the players can just run, jump and play. Like good old recess.

But if they take the ball out of the basket, then they've got to look over at the bench for instructions.

"Coach has said if y'all get rebounds, y'all can do whatever you want," Wade said. "As players we enjoy that. When the ball goes through the basket then we have to do what he wants us to do."
Playing Defense + Rebounding = License to Chuck. You can't make this stuff up.

Still, at least 'Spo's laissez faire coaching is leading to plays like these. Thanks to Basketbawful reader kazaam92 for the link.


The Golden State Warriors: Speaking of ships that be sinking, how about the Warriors, who have lost seven straight games and 12 of their last 13?

Golden State gave up 18 points off 19 turnovers. Furthermore, the Warriors were outscored 50-26 in the paint and 24-11 on the fast break. They had 18 offensive rebounds...but they offset their advantage on the glass and some decent three-point shooting (11-for-25) by shanking 11 free throws.

Of course, the game was still reasonably close before Deron Williams went apeshit, scoring 11 points in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter to help the Jazz run away with it.

Said Warriors coach Keith Smart: "That's what you pay players like that for. You pay them for fourth-quarter heroics, to take over a game and make plays and make big shots. That's why your team moves from one level to another level. "

I wonder if Smart was giving (16 points, 7-for-16, 7 turnovers) the stink eye when he said that.

By the way, Williams finished with 30 points (8-for-16, 4-for-8 on threes, 10-for-11 from the line) to go with 10 assists and 6 rebounds. And to think, as recently as the beginning of last season, a lot of people -- maybe even most people -- thought CP3 was the runaway winner in the "Who's better: Paul or Williams?" point guard debate.

The Portland Frail Blazers: ZACH SMASH PUNY BLAZERS!!

That's right. Zach was vintage Zach last night. Minus the crazy dribbling and air-balled threes. Z-Bo went all Animal Style on the Frail Blazers, going off for 25 points and 20 rebounds, as Portland looked softer inside than a chocolate marshmallow Santa Claus. Which I love and can get three for a dollar at Wal-Greens. But I digress.

Portland had won eight straight games in Memphis, a streak that had lasted nearly five years. But Randolph, who had his fourth 20-20 game with the Care Bears, proved that he doesn't read history books. Or anything else for that matter.

Said Zach: "I just try to be aggressive and hit the glass on both ends and play around the basket."

Keepin' it simple. I like that.

You know, usually holding your opponent to only 86 points on 38 percent shooting will get you a win in the NBA. Not for the Blazers, though, not last night.

The thing is, the Blazers had outscored the Griz 22-12 in the third quarter. Then they got outscored 25-9 in the fourth.

Said Andre Millier: "We had a bad fourth quarter. The most important quarter, and it killed us. That was the game right there."

By the way, that fourth quarter was Portland's lowest-scoring quarter of the season. What's more, the Blazers -- who scored 78 points against the Spurs on Sunday and then only 73 last night in Memphis -- finished with a season-low total for the second straight game.

They must have caught whatever the Hornets have.

Said Portland coach Nate McMillan: "I think the [starting] five, those guys are gassed. I think they have played some heavy minutes. We need the bench to give us a breather. In the fourth quarter, down the stretch, we [are] not able to score late in ball games."

Brandon Roy: 38 minutes. 16 shots. 7 points. At this point, he's barely a shadow of Wesley Matthews. This is getting sad. And ugly.

Greg Oden: Whenever the Blazers get stomped on by an opposing frontcourt player, do you ever find yourself wondering, "What if Greg Oden had a normal human body not made out of used tin foil and scraps of soggy cardboard?" I know I do.

In fact, here's a quick production by position update from 82games.com. You know, in case you were wondering what frontcourt players were doing against the Blazers:

Small Forwards: 21.7 PPG, 56% FGP, 8.1 RPG.
Power Forwards: 20.0 PPG, 56% FPG, 10.7 RPG
Centers: 15.3 PPG, 50% FPG, 11.0 RPG
Tony Allen, quote machine: "It ain't Chinese algebra. If you get stops, and you execute on offense, normally that teams wins."

"It ain't Chinese algebra" is now my new favorite phrase ever.

Rudy Gay, quote machine: "Defense wins games. It's the oldest saying in the book."

Rudy Gay...talking about defense?! Mental note: Time to check Gay's basement for Body Snatcher Pods.

The Dallas Mavericks: Back on November 19, Dallas lost at home to the Bulls and then ripped off a 12-game winning streak. A streak that ended last night. At home. To the Milwaukee Bucks.

I guess the Central Division is the Mavericks' Kryptonite or something.

Mind you, we probably should have seen this coming. On Saturday, Dallas blew a 25-point lead against the Comeback Jazz before eking out a close win. Last night, they went up by 20 points (42-22) in the second quarter and then hit the snooze button.

Mistake.

Said Tyson Chandler: "This was a game we should have won, a game we clearly had under control. We let them back in it."

Memo to Tyson: Milwaukee scored 52 points in the paint. Protecting the paint is your very specific duty. As always, I'm just sayin'.

Added Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: "This kind of slippage we've seen all too often."

I'm sure Dallas fans are nodding vigorously at that one.

Carlisle continued: "I've got to coach harder, the players have got to be more conscientious, we've got to do better than we did tonight."

More conscientious? I don't think helping old ladies across the street is going to help. But, hey, I'm not an NBA coach. What do I know.

But seriously, the Mavericks are going to look back at this one and wonder what the hell happened. Two Bucks starters went scoreless (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders) and Milwaukee's big three offseason signings (Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and John Salmons) went 7-for-21 from the field.

Bonus stats that might mean something: The Mavericks went 5-for-20 from beyond the arc and bricked seven free throws (0-for-4 by Brendan Haywood).

The Indiana Pacers: Can't fault the Pacers too much for this loss. After all, they had to play on the road against a hot team -- the Bulls have now won six straight for the first time since 2006 -- without Danny Granger. And they actually hung in this one until the Stags ripped off a 19-4 run to finish the game.

And yet...Indy has gone 2-5 since back-to-back road wins over the Lakers and Kings gave them a 9-7 record. They're playing good D (9th in Defensive Rating) but their O is bad (21st in Offensive Rating) and devolves into jump shooting by the end of most games. It's amazing that a team that ranks 8th in Pace could be 18th in PPG. But there you have it.

With all due respect to Rudy Gay, it takes defense and offense to win games. I know, I know. It ain't Chinese algebra.

Antoine Walker and Mario West Watch: From Basketbawful reader Benjamin Grenier:

News about D League team Maine Red Claws.

The Red Claws host Antoine Walker and the Stampede on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (5 p.m.), while also sandwiching a visit to Springfield Friday night. Keep an eye on this space for more on Walker's return later this week.

I live 45 minutes from Portland, Maine, you can be sure I will be going to one, maybe both of these games.

also in the same article

"Maine also announced that Jan. 6 will be Mario West Bobblehead Night, with the first 1,000 fans receiving the collectible courtesy of Wright Express.

'In addition to being a fan-favorite and one of the hardest working players on the team, Mario West’s name will forever be in the Red Claws’ history books as the first player in team history to earn a call-up to the NBA,' said Red Claws president and general manager Jon Jennings. 'We wanted to do something that, not only the fans would enjoy, but that would honor Mario’s unique place in Red Claws’ history.'"
Benjamin, on behalf of everybody who follows this site, we demand a book report if you attend either (or both) of those games.

Chris's Lacktion Report:

Hornets-Heat: Aaron Gray went 100% from the field AND from the stripe in 10:43, totalling an impressive 4 points for the insects from Louisiana...only to lose the rock twice and foul five times for a 7:4 Voskuhl.

Pacers-Bulls: Omer Asik provided the heifers with one assist in 2:35...and one giveaway for a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.

Frail Blazers-Grizzlies: Nioclas Batum barged into the ledger tonight by bricking twice in 8:36 (once from the Peabody Hotel) for a +2 suck differential, while Sean Marks negated two boards in 4:56 with a trio of fouls for a 3:2 Voskuhl.

Bucks-Mavs: Steve Novak is BACK for Dallas once more! 10 seconds of trying to find Wario's gold coins resulted in a Mario.

Warriors-Jazz: Charlie Bell rang up a brick from Pioneer Park for a +1 in 5:09, while Dan Gadzuric countered one made free throw in 8:44 with two fouls for a 2:1 Voskuhl. Jeremy Lin and Ekpe Udoh can now afford the cost of living back in the Warriors' Bay Area abode, after 1.35 (1:21) trillion for Mr. Lin and an exact 1 trillion for Udoh!

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dirk
I wonder if Dirk would be smiling so widely if he realized
that he looks like the cover model for WNBA Live 2011.

The Dallas Mavericks

Last season, the Mavs won 55 games, which was the second-best mark in the Bestern Conference and fourth-best in the league (behind the Cavaliers, Lakers and Magic). Then they lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Sure, it was a six-game defeat by San Antonio, but the Spurs were swept clean in the second round. So I'm not sure that speaks very highly of how good the 2009-10 Mavs actually were.

And check it: Despite being a top team in terms of wins and losses, the Mavericks ranked only 8th in Point Differential, 10th in Offensive Efficiency and 12 in Defensive Efficiency. I say "only" because those are decent rankings. But "decent" and "championship-caliber" are two very different things.

And these Mavs are not contenders. I mean, what's changed?

Mark Cuban re-signed Dirk Nowitzki (four years, $80 million) and Brendan Haywood (six years, $55 million), and he traded Erick Dampier's expiring contract (plus Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll) for Tyson Chandler's expiring deal (and Alexis Ajinca). Lesser (read that, meaningless) deals included drafting Dominque Jones and signing Ian Mahinmi to a one-year contract.

Other than that, all the Mavericks did was get older. The age of the team's top six players ranges between 30 (Caron Butler) to 37 (Jason Kidd). Dirk Nowitzki is still churning out points at a fairly efficient rate, but the rest of the crew seems to be in slow decline.

Why should we expect this squad to get any better?

Okay, there is a wee smidge of hope. Between Butler, Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, Cuban has $27 million in expiring contracts. And you know what that means: Mid-season trade! Dallas could almost certainly pick up one or two key players with that kind of money. But unless it's a high-caliber All-Star or Superstar-level player -- which seems doubtful -- I don't see the Mavs leaping from also-ran to major player.

This team has finished with at least 50 wins for 10 straight years, and they'll either reach that mark or come close again this year. But another first round exit -- or, if they get a favorable matchup in round one, an elimination in the conference semis -- is about as optimistic an appraisal as I can muster for these guys.

Which means more Mark Cuban facepalms!

cuban facepalm
This never gets old. Never.

The Houston Rockets

During the 2009-10 campaign, the Rockets were the little engine that almost could. Despite losing Yao Ming to injury and Tracy McGrady to fail, Houston managed to win 42 games with a bunch of gritty role players giving their best. It was a true underdog story. [Insert uplifting music here -- maybe Queen's "We Are The Champions" -- and feel free to shed a single, dramatic tear.]

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they weren't in a movie. So instead of the happy ending where a group of scrappy misfits bust the odds to defeat a group of vastly superior athletes, the team got an early vacation.

game over

So how did the Rockets improve over the summer? They locked up Luis Scola for five years (overpaying him with a $47 million contract), drafted Scola's backup (Patrick Patterson), overpaid ($24 million!) for backup point guard Kyle Lowry, overspent on Brad Miller ($15 million!) for Yao insurance, and traded Trevor Ariza for Courtney Lee.

Other than the Ariza trade, those moves don't look all that great on paper do they? Or a computer screen. Or an Etch-A-Sketch. But I keep hearing about what a crazy-mad genius Daryl Morey, so I'm sure these were championship moves. Now please wait a moment while I mop up all this dripping sarcasm.

Still, if Yao can stay healthy for once, the Rockets have two legit inside threats (Ming and Scola), a great young point guard (Aaron Brooks), a crack perimeter player (Kevin Martin), and a group of solid role players/shooters (Lee, Shane Battier, Chase Buddinger, etc.). The Rockets have talent. They definitely have talent.

What they also have is a franchise player who's body is made of broken glass covered in soggy marshmallow and tissue paper. Meanwhile, their second best player (Martin) is more of a crispy papier-mâché, having missed 88 games over the past three seasons. Oh, and two speedsters (Brooks and Lowry) surrounded by a bunch of guys who have the quickness of a thick paste (Battier, Ming, Miller, Scola, Chuck Hayes, Pat Patterson). It's kind of hard to fast break when most of your team takes 10 seconds or more to cross halfcourt.

Doesn't another Yao injury, 40-45 wins and a brave but ultimately futile playoff chase sound about right? Yeah, it sounds right to me, too.

The Memphis Grizzlies

The general consensus among NBA fans is that the Grizzlies had what was, for them, a wildly successful season last year.

Reality check: That success equated to a 17th place finish in Offensive Efficiency, a 24th place finish in Defensive Efficiency, 40 wins, and yet another year of watching the playoffs from the lavish comfort of their own homes while covered in Victoria's Secret models and hundred dollar bills. Or maybe fifty dollar bills.


When the 2009-10 season was about to open, some Basketbawful readers suggested an "Assist Watch" for the Grizzlies, who opened the year with Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph on the roster...notorious ball stoppers one and all. Sure, Memphis sent Iverson packing when he started ranting about minutes -- which happened after the first game, mind you -- but that still left the Griz with a "Big Three" who live by the motto "I will go down shooting. And then shoot from my grave."

The result: According to ESPN's John Hollinger, the Grizzlies had the lowest percentage of assisted field goals last season. And according to Basketball-Reference.com, Memphis finished with only three more total assists than the 12-win New Jersey Nets.

Shock. Awe. More shock.

For all their "success," the Care Bares were a shot-happy, defenseless bunch who probably would have won only 30-35 games if they hadn't led the league in offensive rebound percentage (KBAs, baby!).

Don't worry. It gets worse.

During the offseason, owner Michael Heisley made a series of mystifying moves, like way overpaying ($81.6 million!) for Rudy gay, letting Ronnie Brewer walk (after having acquired him from Utah for a first round pick), immediately insulting two smart draft picks (Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez) by offering them 20 percent less than the maximum specified by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and then selling the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft to the Dallas Mavericks.

Oh, and he signed Acie "One and a half feet in the NBA grave" Law.

The Grizzlies have a beastly frontcourt in Randolph and Marc "Why am I still so underrated anyway?" Gasol, a couple streaky perimeter players in Gay and Mayo, and...Mike Conley at point guard. Ugh.

Adding Henry, Vasques and Tony Allen will improve the team's depth, but I wouldn't trust this bunch any more than I would trust Eddy Curry to guard my ham sandwich. This team won't make the playoffs. Heck, they probably won't win 40 games again. Maybe ever.

But at least they have Allen marinating in the locker room.

The New Orleans Hornets

Chris Paul is begging, crying, and even screaming for some help. And if the Hornets don't give it to him, he's probably going to leave.

Seriously.

Well, no worries, Chris: Help is on the way!

Here you go: Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Craig Brackins, Quincy Pondexter, Mustafa Shakur, Jason Smith, Jerryd Bayless! And Aaron Gray!!

Oh dear God. CP3 is so gone.

I mean, the starting five -- Paul, Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor and Marcus Thornton -- is solid (if not spectacular) enough. But there's no depth. None. The New Orleans bench is like one of those old NBA Live games where the reserves were just a bunch of faceless guys who cheered and clapped in an endless loop. Even if everybody stays healthy and Chris Paul plays like a miniature Godzilla pumped up on Super Soldier serum, this team's ceiling is, what, 40-45 games? Unless coach Monty Williams turns off fatigue so the starters can play 48 minutes a night...oh wait, this isn't NBA Live.

The only winner here is going to be the Knicks when they trade for Paul at the deadline. Just kidding. But not really.

The San Antonio Spurs

Look, can we just agree that the window has closed?

Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. A lot of Spurs backers are pointing at the Tiago Splitter signing and using that as proof that there's still a glimmer of hope. Maybe even more than a glimmer.

I said it before and I'll say it again:


Look, I'm not trying to get lazy with my analysis here. But the Spurs aren't contenders for one key reason: Tim Duncan is in decline. It's hard to tell. I mean, he's played at least 75 games in each of the last five seasons (including 78 last year). His PER has been standing pat at 24+ for the past four seasons, including a fifth-place mark of 24.7 last year (which is only three-tenths of a point off his career PER of 25.0). And he's still in the top 10 in categories like Rebound Percentage, Defensive Rating and Win Shares.

See, that's how freaking amazing Tim Duncan is: Even in decline, he's awesome.

But he's not what he was. He's not. If you have an HD television, you can practically watch his knees creak. And even though he's still amazingly efficient and as smart as ever, he doesn't dominate the way he used to. He doesn't own games like in the old days. And when he has bad nights -- often against the better teams -- they're stinkers. Take his 5-point, 1-for-10 performance in a 110-84 loss in Orlando. Or his 6-point, 2-for-11 outing in a 92-83 home loss to the Lakers. Or even his 4-for-23 brickfest at Indiana.

Everybody has bad nights. And Duncan still has more good nights than bad ones. For instance, he had a 27-rebound game in a win over the Hawks and grabbed another 26 rebounds in that Indy game. But you can't automatically pencil TD in for total domination anymore. Which is a problem, because he's the foundation of San Antonio's offense and defense.

The Celtics can get away with Kevin Garnett's semi-gimpy knees because he anchors their defense but is only a happy addition on offense. Duncan is responsible for everything. Sure, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (assuming their health holds out) take pressure off on the offensive end. But the O begins with Duncan and the D ends with him.

Unfortunately, Duncan is 34 years old and his NBA odometer reads 977 regular season games and 35,577 game played, plus another 170 playoff games and 6,740 minutes played. Timmy has spent the last decade-plus carrying the Spurs on his back -- and make no mistake, Duncan (not Kobe, LeBron, or Shaq) was the best player of the 2000s -- and I just don't think he has it in him to keep doing it and win a championship.

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sad huskies
Today's sad bench photo is brought to you by the
Bring Chris Bosh To Chicago This Summer foundation.

The Excremento Kings: Thank you so much, Purple Paupers, for possibly helping to screw up Basketbawful's dream season by giving the New Jersey Nyets their eighth win. No, really. Thanks. You can expect a gift basket filled with gorilla feces and biting insects to arrive by courier van pretty much any minute. And no, I don't want to hear about how this was your third straight game without Tyreke Evans. You really should have been able to get your freak on against the Nyets even without The Freak.

Said Excremento coach Paul Westphal: "I would say it's not even really close, so far, by miles and miles our worst game of the year in every way." Hey, maybe you should bench Spencer Hawes again, Paul. Because that so worked before. Or maybe some other random act of stupidity. Bitch slap Andres Nocioni, maybe? Ooo, or maybe knock on Omri Casspi's hotel room door and then run away. That would be coaching genius.

Added Carl Landry: "You really don't want to lose to this team. They are facing the worst record of all-time in NBA history and this is a team you just don't want to lose to. It will be a game I will remember forever, the rest of my life."

SAD TROMBONE.

Bonus Bawful: The comments from last night's BAD post.

Devin Harris, quote machine: "It's always a nice feeling to win. It's been a rough year for all of us. It's a good feeling to see guys cheerful back in the locker room and excited about coming to work tomorrow. Hopefully, we can hang onto this and carry it into the next game." For the record, the Nyets are now 31-103 since Devin Harris said "We knew we were going to be a playoff team" back in December of 2008.

The Orlando Magic: The Magicians lead the league in Defensive Rebounding Percentage (.772) and -- going into the final play of last night's game in Atlanta -- had outrebounded the Hawks 48-37 (including a 9-2 advantage in offensive rebounds). Too bad they forgot to block out on the final and most important play of the game...


I've seen crippled garden gnomes with better last-second reflexes. How does a garden gnome become crippled? That's not for you to know, mortal fool.

Said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy Ron Jeremy: "On the weak side, we just stood and watched. The guys on the court are doing the same thing the guys on the bench are doing: just standing there watching." So in a way...the Magic have become their coach. Only without the super-sexy t-shirt-and-blazer combo. Weird.

This win clinched a playoff berth for the Hawks and the very first postseason appearance for Jamal Crawford, who began the night having played [insert scary music here] 666 games without making it to the postseason. That was the third-longest drought in NBA history, and also a sign that Crawford must have done something truly unspeakable to make it happen.

"I finally got it," Crawford said, breaking into a big smile and trying to wipe the virgin goat blood off his sacrificial dagger.

The Denver Nuggets: Speaking of clinching playoff berths, the Celtics did that last night at the expense of the Nuggets. Denver had second-night-of-back-to-backs-itis, missing 12 free throws, getting outrebounded 45-36 (including 17-8 on the offensive glass), getting outscored in the paint 58-28, and giving up 28 points off 17 turnovers. Obviously, getting outplayed in most of the significant categories will get you beat.

The loss -- make it three straight, by the way -- dropped the Nuggets a half-game behind the Dallas Mavericks and into a third-place tie with Utah in the Western Conference. Remember: This is the team that's supposed to challenge the Lakers in the playoffs. And yet despite the fact that they've been the second-best team in the West most of the season, they're only 17-19 outside of Denver. That's the eighth-best road record in their conference. If elite teams usually win on the road and the Nuggets do not win on the road, then...

Of course, the excuse parade is marching down Nuggets street because coach George Karl missed his ninth straight game (cancer treatment) while Kenyon Martin missed his 11th in a row (left knee tendinitis). Said Chauncey Billups: "It's tough playing without your head coach and the guy [Martin] that has the biggest presence and the biggest voice on the team. There is nobody stressing on it. We just have to man up and get ourselves through it."

The Washington Wizards Generals Bullets: One night after Andray Blatch decided listening to his coach was purely optional, and Flip Saunders benched him and declared he probably wouldn't see court time against the Pacers, Saunders totally caved and played Blatch 39 minutes. The result? A 99-82 loss that allowed Washington to tie the franchise record for consecutive defeats (13).

Karma really is a bitch.

I mean, remember what Saunders said after Blatch refused to D up and then also refused to listen to Flip tell him to play defense? Here. Allow me to remind you: "Fifteen years, I've never seen anything like it, never. He can be pissed at me or whatever, but you never leave your teammates hanging out to dry like that, no matter what, especially when you've lost 11 games in a row and you’ve got a chance to win a game. Uncalled for. We'll deal with it." I like to imagine he punctuated that statement by running a finger across his neck, executioner-style.

Apparently, Flip's method of "dealing with it" was letting Blatch log game highs in minutes and shot attempts. If there's a team in this league that needs discipline and leadership, it's the Bullets. But this was an epic fail in those categories, and several others that haven't even been discoverd by earth science yet.

Update! As Basketbawful reader Hellshocked pointed out, this situation is even worse than I originally painted it. Here's some of Blatch's blather about this incident:

"There's a lot of misunderstandings," Blatche said on 106.7 The Fan's Mike Wise Show. "I'd say out of 100 percent of the situation, I'd say blame me 25 percent. They took me out of the game, I heard [Flip Saunders] say something to me but I just sat down on the bench. I was frustrated, I didn't want to make things worse, so I just sat down. And after that he just sat me down for the rest of the game, and I didn't come back in."

"We had a meeting today at breakfast, and one of the coaches said I owe my teammates an apology. And I said, 'Actually, I don't, because I still don't feel that I'm wrong.' Because I never said I don't want to play....

"It was Randy Wittman, because Flip, he has a migraine, he didn't come to the meeting. So I guess he had randy speak for him, and when Randy said that I felt once again disrespected again, because I didn't say the word that they said I'm saying. And I'm not gonna just roll with the punches and be looked at as a bad person when I didn't do something wrong. If I do something wrong, I don't have a problem with saying I was wrong and I owe you an apology. But I don't, because I never said I don't want to play."

"He said that in the meeting after the game. Coaches are never wrong. And that's the problem. That's the problem right there. I mean, as a man, everybody makes mistakes. But as a man, you have to learn how to apologize, and therefore he needs to apologize, because he was wrong, because I never said that."

"This situation, I wish it never occurred, but you know it's gonna blow over after a while. To me, I think this will all go away if I receive an apology, because to abuse my name like that, that's disrespectful and that's hurtful. And you want me to play for you after you made all these stories about me in the paper and after the game? That's crazy."
You know, everybody's always looking for the next Bird, the next Jordan, the next Magic...nobody's ever looking for the next Dennis Rodman or next Ron Artest. Well, I think we found one of the next of those last two guys. Now if he would only release a rap CD and ask for a mid-season vacation so he could do a publicity tour...

Oh, and by the way, here's an extra special (and totally sarcastic) double thumb's up to the Pacers. As BadDave put it: "For you Royalty double-timers, you can always offer this consolation. Bawful (and I) are Pacers fans. Our team doesn't start winning until it hurts their draft..."

approval guy
As always, Approval Guy approves.

The Toronto Craptors: This is your birthday song! It isn't very long! [polite applause] That's about how long Chris Bosh's 26th birthday celebration lasted against the Jazz last night. Utah raced out to a 33-17 lead after one quarter and then pretty much just coasted in for a 113-87 win. In Toronto of course.

And the RuPaul of Big Men wasn't happy. Said Bosh: "[The Jazz are] good, they're one of the best teams in the West. But that's still no excuse. We didn't come to play. "Yeah, they're good, but we have to [say], 'Who cares? We're still going to win this game.' And I don't think we have that fire right now."

Is it teammate blaming time? Yep, it's teammate blaming time.

Said Bosh: "I can't instill it in guys. You have to have it on your own. As much as I would like to do everything, I can't do everything. Personally, you have to bring something to the plate. Whatever gets guys going, we have to find it."

Mmmm. Smells like leadership. The bad kind, but it's still leadership, right?

Jarret Jack, quote machine: "We got our butts kicked, bottom line. I don't think anybody in here is into moral victories. We fought hard and got blown out. That's just the way I feel about it."

The Minnesota Timberwolves: My favorite quote from the AP recap of the Timberpoops-Bobcats game: "It took a trip to the weight room, some special exercises and a ball of tape to help Stephen Jackson overcome a painful finger injury and break out of his shooting slump." Let's just rewrite that to: "It took a trip to the weight room, some special exercises and a ball of tape to help Stephen Jackson overcome a painful case of poisonous werewolf cramps." I like that version better.

Blah, blah, blah, Minnesota blown out, blah, blah, blah, 14-58 on the year and 5-32 on the road, blah, blah, blah. Minny let Charlotte shoot nearly 54 percent. Now here's some blah, blah, blah from Kurt Rambis.

"Our team has difficulty sustaining their defense. They lose focus," Rambis said. "They get away from their defensive game plan. It's inexcusable for us as a team to turn the basketball over as much as we do and also give up 66 points in the paint. That number is just ridiculous."

And believe you me, anybody who coaches in Minnesota knows ridiculous.

Stephen Jackson, unintentionally dirty quote machine: "I do a lot of stuff with my left hand, so it's been frustrating."

The New Orleans Hornets: Last night's 105-92 home loss to the Craboliers made me think, man, what if Chris Paul was pla...wait, what? He did play? For, like, 31 minutes?

Well...shit.

Said Paul: "I have to get back into the flow and understand what we're doing. Hopefully that will come sooner than later." Yeah, especially since your team is one loss away from playoff elimination, Chris. No pressure, tho'.

The Milwaukee Bucks: Chugchugchugchugchugchug...CHOO CHOO!! That's the Bucks Train comin' at ya, baby! 15-2 in their last 17 games! Unstoppable! A friggin' force of nature! Fear the deer! They're the Juggernaut bitch! So their 101-86 home win over the Sixers isn't all that surpr...

...wait, they lost by that score? At home? To the Sixers?! That's like a boot to the head from, like, Aquaman.

aquaman boot to head
You knew it was coming, right?

Jerry Stackhouse, who recently got into the best shape of his life using P90X, said: "We've got to understand, we haven't clinched anything yet. We've still got to win games to make sure we secure ourselves a spot."

Added Andy Bogut: "We're [not] past that point where we look at teams that are below us and expect an easy win. We're not that good yet. Definitely not. We just came out and didn't play well tonight."

Concluded Milwauke coach Scott Skiles: "In three months, two teams are going to be playing in the NBA finals, so if you're fatigued right now you're probably not up to that challenge. That's the reality of it, but I can't deny what I see with my own eyes."

Damn. Those are some pretty sour grapes from a team that's 15-3 in their last 18 games. I think expectations for the Bucks have gotten a little out of control.

Elton Brand: Damn. Even when his team shoots nearly 53 percent from the field and scores over 100 points in a blowout win, Brand still sucks. The 80 Million Dollar Man finished with 6 rebounds and 3 points on 1-for-7 shooting.

The Houston Rockets: Team Scrappy fell behind 39-25 by the end of the first quarter and then spent the rest of the game making fishin' plans. After all, the 122-104 loss in Oklahoma City knocked them 5 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Frail Blazers in the Western Conference. And the Money Ballers have only 12 games left to make up that ground.

Huh. I guess teams need stars after all. And no, Trevor Ariza does not count as a star, no matter what Ron Artest says. Niether, apparently, does Kevin Martin (8 points in 28 minutes) or Aaron Brooks (3-for-12).

(Okay, okay. The Houston bench was a little bare, as the Rockets were missing Shane Battier, Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries, and had to call up D-Leaguers Jermaine Taylor and Mike Harris. But I honestly didn't get the feeling Battier, Hill and Jeffries would have made the difference last night.)

The San Antonio Spurs: I know last night's 92-83 home loss to the Lakers -- during which they were outscored 51-35 in the second half -- looked bad. I'll grant you that. But the Spurs are a second half of the season tea...wait, this is the second half of the season? Eh, no matter. The Spurs will kick it into gear for the stretch ru...wait, this is the stretch run? Oh, and did I mention the Lakers were without Andrew Bynum?

Uh oh.

The Memphis Grizzlies: It seems worth noting that the Grizzlies are still in the hunt for a playoff spot out West. Mathematically speaking, they're right there in the chase, which means games against, let's say, the second-worst team in the conference are ones Memphis kinda-sorta has to win. Right...?

Only the Warriors scored almost 80 first-half points, shot nearly 55 percent from the field, and won 128-110. Man, I bet Zach Randolph was having flashbacks to his days with the [insert crappy team name here].

Said O.J. Mayo: "We didn't play any defense, nobody. It's not about the offense. We gave up 78 points in the first half -- enough said."

Added Mike Conley: "We were sleepwalking the first half. They were being aggressive and making shots. We just didn't play defense in the first half."

Who knew Marc Gasol was the linchpin of the Grizzlies' defense? The ninth-place Grizzlies are now 4 1/2 games behind the Frail Blazers in the Western Conference with 10 games remaining.

Dubious records and historic fails from the AP game notes: "The Warriors had their highest-scoring first half of the season, including a season-best 44 in the second quarter. ... The 78 points allowed were a Grizzlies opponent franchise record."

Lacktion report: If you note a hint of sadness in chris's lacktion report, please refer to the entry above titled "Excremento Kings."

Hawks-Magic: Josh Smith's monster slam may be the story of the night, but how about Dwight Howard going 11 for 16 at the stripe and earning a DANTLEY?!?!?

Back to lacktion - Marcin Gortat countered a board with a trio of fouls in 4:16 for a 3:1 Voskuhl, while THE Mario West ran into a Goomba for a foul in 36 seconds, resulting in a +1 suck differential and his namesake stat, the Mario! (This also happens to be the 4th time in 8 days that Mario West has donned the plumber's overalls, making the term even more appropriate than ever!)

Nuggets-Celtics: Marquis Daniels bricked once from the Big Dig and fouled thricely in 6:01 for a +4 - his second suck differential of that score in five days! Shelden Williams tossed a brick once in 54 seconds to complete a Tetris puzzle, which earned him a +1 and a Mario.

Wolves-Bobcats: Ryan Hollins negated a steal in 7:26 with a brick, foul, rejection and giveaway for a 2:0 Voskuhl. For Charlotte, Gerald Henderson tossed a piece of masonry in 2:22 for a +1.

Jazz-Raptors: Marcus Banks deposited a pair of bricks from Yonge Street in 3:03, also fouling and losing the rock once each for a +4!

Kings-Nyets: Okay. The Paupers gave the Nyets their 8th win of the year.

:facepalm:

Now that that's taken care of...Dominic McGuire got 6 seconds of Nintendo DS time tonight in a Super Mario at Brendan Byrne Arena, while the Kings broadcast crew noted that Devin Harris actually took a foul with 35 seconds to go to give Chris Quinn a stint worthy of the Famicom, finishing out the game for a celebratory Mario! Trenton Hassell capitalized on Kiki Vanderweghe's generosity and bricked once in 4:16 for a +1.

Sixers-Bucks: In a rare losing effort during this John Salmons Era, Kurt Thomas wasted away two boards and a block in 12:18 with four fouls for a 4:2 Voskuhl.

Crabs-Hornets: With Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson no longer on the roster, Jawad Williams stepped up in a pinch and tossed a brick for a +1 in 1:20.

Lakers-Spurs: DJ Mbenga made one free throw in 4:42, but fouled and gave up the rock once each for a 2:1 Voskuhl; Josh Powell also made the Voskuhl ranks tonight in 6:03 by negating two boards with four bricks, two fouls, and a giveaway for a 3:2. Sasha Vujacic provided Jerry Buss with more funds for his weekly poker rendezvous with a 2.7 trillion (2:44).

For the Spurs, Malik Hairston and Ian Mahinmi made 1.2 trillion each together (1:11) for Gregg Popovich.

Grizzlies-Warriors: Anthony Morrow, our latest addition to the season-long lacktion ledger, gave Team Nellieball a +2 in 2:24 via foul and giveaway.

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FEEL THE POWER

The Gol_en State Warriors: If there was a team in the league that was going to let the Philadelphia 76ers -- who had scored 91 points or less in five of their last eight games -- 1) drop 117 points and 2) break their 12-game losing streak, it was bound to be the Warriors, right? I mean, Allen Iverson went 7-for-10 from the field. What does that tell you? But hey, Gol_en State is ranked 28th in Defensive Efficiency (108.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) for a reason.

The 117 points was the second-highest total by the Sixers this season, next to the (giggle) 141 they scored in an overtime game against (of course) the New York Bricks back on Halloween. The 71 points they scored in the first half was a season-high, and their 59-33 advantage on the boards was the largest rebounding margin by any team this season and Philly's largest since March 19, 1972. The Warriors had to outscore the Sixers 33-20 in the fourth quarter just to pull within 16 points at the final buzzer.

The Not Answer said: "We felt like once we did get a win, it was going to be extremely hard, one of the hardest games to win. It was totally opposite." Ouch.

Elton Brand: You'll notice the 80 Million Dollar Man played only 17 minutes in his team's most important non-loss of the season...and those minutes were off the bench What was up with that, you ask? From the AP recap:

Looking for a spark, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan benched power forward Elton Brand and paired rookie Jrue Holiday in the backcourt with Iverson. Jordan's move worked: Holiday had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

"He just put us in a good rhythm tonight and had us flowing," Iverson said.

Brand, who was previously benched in some fourth quarters, said it was hard to complain about his role after a victory. He just can't believe he's considered a bench player early in the second year of an $80 million, five-year deal.

"When you look around at other teams, yeah," Brand said. "It's like, no disrespect, but [Golden State's] Mikki Moore gets the start and I don't. Not that he's not a good player, but, definitely."
Like I've been saying, the Clippers were the ones who made out like bandits when the Sixers "stole" Brand away from them.

The Memphis Grizzlies: Everybody has been getting pretty excited about the Grizzlies lately. After all, they've gotten a couple quality wins lately (at home against the Mavs and Crabs), and their 10 wins (versus "only" 14 losses) is more than most people thought they'd have by February or March. And last night they fought the Boston Celtics -- who have won 11 games in a row, eight of which have been on the road, by the way -- to a near standstill. The game featured 18 lead changes and 15 ties, and neither team led by more than eight points at any time.

Not bad for bad team, right?

But you'll notice that the Celtics shot almost 53 percent and 50 percent from downtown (10-for-20). Which isn't a big deal, you say, because Boston is second in the league (to the Phoenix Suns) in Effective Field Goal Percentage (53.9). True. However...has anyone stopped to realize that Memphis currently ranks 29th in Defensive Efficiency (108.8 points allowed per 100 possessions)? That's right, worst than the Warriors (108.1), Kings (108.0), Sixers (108.0) or Knicks (107.7).

It's just something to keep in mind. Because, yes, they are playing pretty well and can be fun to watch. But are they really good enough to overcome their woeful defense? Some team are, like the Suns, who rank 24th (107.3). I'm not sure I'm ready to put the Griz in their league, though.

Paul Pierce, dis machine: Apparently, the Truth doesn't think very highly of his own conference. This is what he said after the Celtics edged the Grizzlies last night: "It's unfortunate that they're in the Western Conference. If they were in the East, they would probably be a top-four seed right now." Really, Paul? Really? See my comments on their Defensive Efficiency. Also see the combined works of the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Craboliers (who are disappointing but still much better than Memphis) and the Atlanta Hawks (who aren't winning a title but are still better than the Griz). I'm just sayin'.

Tommy Heinsohn, quote machine: From Hilary:

I can't decide whether this commentary from the Celtics' broadcasters is Basketbawful, Basketbawesome, or merely honest and incisive:

Mike Gorman: "Zach Randolph has played very well for this team."

Tommy Heinsohn: "And they like him as a person, which is, um...unique."
Chris Paul: In New Orleans' 94-90 road loss to the Dallas Mavericks, CP3 was matched up with Juan Jose Barea. One of these men scored 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting, the other scored 20 on 9-for-22 s hooting. Guess which was which? Barea's 23 was a season-high, which helped Dallas overcome a season-low 10 points (on 11 shots) by Dirk Nowitzki. And 19 of those points game in 16 first-half minutes. Said David West: "I don't think we gave Barea enough respect in terms of his ability to impact the game. He was getting layup after layup and we didn't have an answer." Speaking of which...

The New Orleans Hornets: As West said, they didn't have an answer for Juan Jose Barea.

The Dallas Mavericks: Sarcastic golf clap to the Mavs for keeping the Hornets in the game by giving up 28 points off 23 turnovers. Said Jason Kidd: "We gave it away a lot tonight. That kept them in the ballgame."

Rick Carlisle, unintentionally dirty quote machine: Or maybe he was being intentionally dirty? I have no idea. Like, literally, no idea whatsoever. The quote: "We need," said the coach of the 18-7 Mavericks, "to not always make hard work out of sex." Thanks to BJ for the head's up.

The Utah Jazz: I don't get it. I just don't get this Jazz team. On the one hand, they've suffered ugly home losses to the Rockets, Kings and Thunder. On the other hand, they've won three in a row this season versus the Spurs, including the their first win in San Antonio since 1997-98. They got smacked in the mouth in L.A. when the Lakers blew open a close game by holding them to only 6 fourth-quarter points. Utah responded to that embarrassment with back-to-back home wins against the Magic and Lakers. So just when you think the Jazz are getting on a roll...they lose at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves?!

The Timberwolves now have four wins on the season. One of those wins is against the 2-win New Jersey Nyets. Two of the wins are against Utah.

Rookie Jonny Flynn -- who bested his previous career-high of 20 points by scoring 28 on 11-for-19 shooting -- hit the go-ahead layup with three seconds left in the game. Deron Williams -- whose season-high 38-point, 13-assist explosion was negated by Utah's loss to the second-worst team in the league -- clanked a three at the buzzer. Game over. Think Jerry Sloan is happy about the fact that his team not only choked up a game to the lowly Timberpups, but that Minny's winning bucket was a layup?

The Jazz can blame this defeat on their misguided foul shooting. Utah missed an astonishing 16 free throws. That's an awful lot of blown freebies in a 2-point loss. According to the AP game notes: "The Jazz were 11 of 24 from the line through the third period -- Williams had made 10 of 12. His teammates were 1 of 12." Said Carlos Boozer: "How come we can't get up for Minnesota but we can get up for everybody else?" It's an interesting question from a power forward who earned only three free throws...and missed them all. Boozer also had a team-high 4 turnovers.

The Washington Wizards Generals: And here I thought Washington's defeat by the Pacers last weekend was about as Generals-y as a loss could get. The poor Generals -- who have now lost five in a row by a total of only 11 points -- suffered yet another heartbreaking fail in L.A. against (of all teams) the Clippers. Washington built a 17-point lead in the third quarter, and the Clippers were this close to earning another "they are who we thought they were." But, as it turns out, the Generals are who we thought they were more than the Clippers are. Or were. Or whatever. The point is, as snake-bitten as the Clippers have been, are, and always will be, Washington is even snake-bitten-er this season.

The Other L.A. team came all the way back and took a 2-point lead with 11.3 seconds left when Eric Gordon -- who matched his season-high by scoring 29 points -- hit one of two from the line. That meant the Generals had a chance to tie the game...until former Clipper Earl Boykins (zero points, 0-for-4, 1 assist, 1 turnover) bumbled the ball away with four seconds left. Fail.

Boykins fail
Fail you can fit in your pocket.

Said Boykins: "I just lost the ball. It was that simple. I saw Brendan (Haywood) open up under the basket, I went to make a pass, and I lost the ball. It was a game where we didn't execute at the end. Whenever you lose a one-possession game, there's other possessions in the game that lead to that. We played good, but we didn't play well enough to win. ... It seems every game we'll find a different way to lose."

In all fairness to Boykins, he wasn't the only Washington player with spaghetti fingers. As a team, the Generals gave up 23 points off 19 turnovers. That was in addition to shooting 38 percent from the field.

This sucks
"I know it sucks, but dude, I play for the Clippers."

Marcus Camby, unrealistic expectations machine: After wrapping up a six-game homestand, the Clippers now embark on a five-game road trip though Minnesota, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Houston. Said Camby: "We talked about this being our getaway game, so this was an important win. This will boost our confidence and allow us to play strong. Every game on this road trip is winnable. We just need to come in with the same attitude we did tonight."

Every game is winnable? Really?! Marcus does realize he plays for the Los Angeles Clippers right? I predict a 1-4 trip with at least one "they are who we thought they were loss," maybe against the Timberwolves.

Shaq's rebounding in his prime: Basketbawful reader Eddie C. sent in this interesting little tidbit (via Ball Don't Lie). And it's not just interesting because Pau Gasol was passive-aggressively complaining about his lack of shots (which was facilitated by Kobe taking too many shots):

Mike Bresnahan, L.A. Times: "Losses don't happen often to the Lakers, but there's often something interesting to come out of them. After their 102-94 defeat Saturday against the Utah Jazz, forward Pau Gasol wanted more touches. He made a plea for more action in the post after being asked how it felt to collect 20 rebounds for a second consecutive game. 'I'm just being active, pursuing the ball,' he said. 'I don't get many looks offensively, so I've got to get my offensive rebounds. Otherwise, I'll get five shots during the game. I'm trying to get my looks there, and I work hard and stay active and do what I can.' Good thing for him that he's rebounding a lot. Gasol's back-to-back rebounding efforts made him only the third Lakers player in the last 14 years to take 20-plus rebounds in consecutive games, joining Lamar Odom and Vlade Divac. Gasol made six of 11 shots in almost 43 minutes. He had nine offensive rebounds. So are teammates not looking for him or is he being thwarted by double-teams? 'A little bit of everything, I guess.'"

You mean to tell me even in shaq's prime, he never got back-to-back 20 rebound games?

That's awful.
Lacktion report: Chris continues to ignore the potential hazards to his heart and mind by reporting on all the latest lack of action:

Warriors-Sixers: In a matchup of the past and present Philadelphia teams, Nellieball lackey Chris Hunter scoped out a foul, two giveaways, and a brick in 5:53 for a suck differential of +4.

Celtics-Grizzlies: Brian Scalabrine and DeMarre Carroll played against each other in a round of ORIGINAL Mario Brothers (with spiky 18 and 16 second stints respectively)!

Hornets-Mavs: Dallas's Drew Gooden sketched a single foul in 7:12 for a +1 and a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.

Wolves-Jazz: Ryan Hollins had a +1 in 3:49 via foul, which also gave the aforementioned Clothesline a 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl.

Generals-Clippers: While Fabricio Oberto preserved one foul for a +1 and 1:0 Madsen-level Voskuhl in 3:06, Ricky Davis was called by Mike Dunleavy to help the Clippers hold onto the lead with 16 seconds left, but after shedding the warmups for plumber's overalls, was pulled with 11 to go - resulting in a 5 second SUPER MARIO!!!!!!!

This Yahoo! Sports team preview for the Clips ended up being rather ironic, considering the brevity of Davis's time tonight on Tetris: "Ricky Davis played for 20 minutes, but wasn’t much of a factor. He netted four points and snagged four rebounds in the extended action that he hasn't seen much in 2009-10. He may need more of these prolonged chances to prove himself to develop consistently strong performances going forward."

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