Cleveland clinches best record, Orlando keeps stumbling

By 04.14.09
LeBron James, Dime #47

LeBron James, Dime #47

If you’re spending money on NBA tickets right now, or if you’re in a fantasy league that’s still going, this is the most uncertain time of the season. With some teams having locked up playoff seeds, Lottery teams randomly benching vets to give their young guys some run, otherwise minor injuries upgrading to “shut-down” worthy, and each playoff team’s coach having his own philosophy on whether stars should be rested or stay in rhythm headed to the postseason, you never know who’s gonna be suiting up in this last stretch of games … Trying to lock up the NBA’s best record and homecourt throughout the Finals, the Cavs ran their full squad in Indiana last night. LeBron went for 37 points in front of a road crowd that was giving him scattered “M-V-P” chants, but his team was getting all they could handle. Danny Granger scored 38 for Indy, who were ahead in the second quarter and had it within single digits in the fourth, but it was just too much ‘Bron and Mo Williams (18 pts). Those two will likely be on the bench for Cleveland’s season finale … Right before the first-quarter buzzer, T.J. Ford hit Granger for an open three on the wing. After the shot went down, Granger did some kind of move that was between a disco dance and the D-X “suck it” sign … So much for the Magic looking at last night’s game in Milwaukee as a must-win. While Dwight Howard said his team needed to work out of its mini-slump — three losses in their last four games before Monday — Stan Van Gundy had to decide whether he’d let his guys get back on their game before the playoffs, or give ’em some rest since the Magic are locked into the 3-seed no matter what. Van Gundy’s call? Rest. The starting lineup last night was Skip, Courtney Lee, Mickael Pietrus, Tony Battie and Marcin Gortat (10 pts, 18 rebs), and they got smashed. Battie claimed after the game, “We’ll be ready to go when it counts.” … Dwight was on the bench in the first half, but after the League let him know he was in violation of the dress code, he spent the second half in the locker room. Dude was wearing a sweater, a shirt with a collar and dress pants; isn’t that good enough? It’s not like he was rocking Ed Hardy and a rubberband chain … Pistons/Bulls resembled a normal game between two teams with something to play for: Chicago was trying to move past Philly for the 6th seed, while Detroit was trying to avoid the 8th seed and their first sub-.500 record since the Jerry Stackhouse/Mateen Cleaves era … Down three with about 45 seconds left in the fourth, Derrick Rose (24 pts, 8 asts) took the ball and went flying downcourt at Usain Bolt speed with just Rasheed standing between him and the basket. Staying under control somehow, Rose elevated and contorted his body around ‘Sheed (doing his best impression of a tree) to score the layup and get fouled. After tying it up at the line, Rose then blocked Rodney Stuckey‘s pull-up J on the other end, and on the Bulls’ next possession, Ben Gordon skated past Tayshaun Prince for the go-ahead layup that proved to be the game-winner …

Chris Paul (photo. Chad Griffith)

Chris Paul (photo. Chad Griffith)

Byron Scott on the Hornets after their crap performance last night: “We don’t play hard every game, and that is really a problem.” New Orleans had a chance to clinch the 6th seed in the West with a win at Houston, which obviously isn’t easy to do by any means, but N.O. came out like it was a mid-January game against the Nets or something. The defense wasn’t there, and when Chris Paul and crew weren’t being passive offensively, they were missing the shots they took when they were aggressive. In the end the Hornets scored just 66 points while getting 20-pieced … Some big stat lines from Monday: Drew Gooden posted 20 points and 15 boards in a win over Golden State, while Anthony Randolph had 24 points, 16 boards and four steals in the loss; Steve Nash put up 18 points and 12 dimes in a win over Memphis; Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Clippers; Chris Bosh and Shawn Marion each had 25 points and 15 boards in a win over the Wizards (Bosh hit the game-winning three); Brook Lopez posted 18 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Charlotte; and Dirk Nowitzki dropped 34 on the Wolves in a game that Jason Terry won with a baseline J with two seconds left … Of course in the one game where Ike Diogu remembers he’s an NBA player and used to be a Lottery pick, he gets overshadowed by a historic performance. Diogu put up 32 points and 11 boards for the Kings against the Nuggets, but nobody was talking about him because J.R. Smith stole the show. Smith (45 pts) dropped ELEVEN threes, one shy of the NBA record shared by Kobe and Donyell Marshall, against some of the sorriest perimeter defense you’ll ever see from an NBA team. On at least seven or eight of J.R.’s treys, somebody on the Kings was either running out at him two steps too late flailing their arms, or playing off him several feet, then looking surprised when he pulled in their face. You could just imagine Kenny Natt in the huddle reminding guys to respect J.R.’s drive when he’s steady lighting them up for 26-27 feet … Speaking of bad coaching, Florida International University is reportedly talking to Isiah Thomas about becoming the program’s next head coach. That’s actually not a bad move for Zeke. He’d be in his element on the recruiting/scouting trail, using his charm and stature to convince not-quite All-American high schoolers to come to FIU, and he’d have automatic authority amongst the youngsters and in a place without high expectations. No one’s ever said Isiah doesn’t know the game and doesn’t know talent; he just needs to be kept far, far away from things like salary caps and semi-attractive female employees. So maybe going to a college campus in Florida isn’t the best idea after all … We’re out like a winning Pistons team …


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