Dwight Howard crushes injury-depleted Suns

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, Dime #60

Could you, with a straight face, make an argument that Robin Lopez is more valuable to the Phoenix Suns than Steve Nash? If you watched the Suns get dropped into the proverbial oubliette last night by the Magic, you could. Nash missed the game with a groin injury (maybe or maybe not the byproduct of somebody’s reaction to Nash announcing his divorce the same day his wife had a baby), but perhaps more important, Lopez was out with a knee injury that will keep him sidelined for about a month … Without Lopez, the Suns were using guys like Earl Barron, Earl Clark, and somebody named Garrett Siler to man the post. Their starting front line consisted of Channing Frye (a 7-foot guard), and small forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Grant Hill. Without any semblance of a defensive presence inside, the Suns found themselves down almost 30 by halftime, as Orlando made 60% of its shots before the break, scored more than half of their points in the paint, and generally did whatever they wanted offensively. Rashard Lewis was slapping the backboard after open dunks, Vince Carter was attacking and getting layups at will, and of course Dwight Howard (20 pts, 12 rebs) got to add to his highlight reel against guys who wouldn’t even be good workout partners for him … Wasn’t Goran Dragic supposed to be having a breakout season? Getting the start for Nash, Goran posted a forgettable 10 points, 4 dimes and 6 turnovers, and the Suns were almost better off when Grant Hill (21 pts) was the primary ball-handler … Jameer Nelson finished with 15 points, 12 dimes and zero turnovers … Meanwhile, the Blazers are doing OK for themselves with Wes Matthews filling in for Brandon Roy (knee). Matthews put up 20 points and 10 boards and the Blazers again leaned on Andre Miller (16 pts, 6 asts) down the stretch to knock off the Nuggets … Is Carmelo Anthony (18 pts) all the way in this thing? It seems at least once or twice per game there’s something ‘Melo does that can be read as apathy toward his current team, but then again, he’s always been one to crack a smile during tense situations and make the toughest parts of the game seem easy. Last night he was contained by the length of Nic Batum and strength of Matthews, and ‘Melo fouled out with three and a half minutes left in a close game. Afterward, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith said it’s obvious to them that the Nuggets are going through the motions and ‘Melo is checked out mentally … Thursday’s only other game only confirmed that the Clippers stink. Again. They almost got 30-pieced by the Pacers behind Danny Granger‘s 22 points and 4 threes …

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As much as we love the NBA, though, nothing beats the excitement of a down-to-the-wire college basketball game on a big stage. Last night pretty much all of the Dime crew was at Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic semifinals, which featured #5 Pitt vs. Maryland, and #13 Illinois vs. Texas … Pitt found themselves in a battle with the unranked Terrapins, but eventually pulled away to win by nine as star guard Ashton Gibbs had 13 points and 7 boards, and big man Talib Zanna added 14 points and 12 boards … But the main event was worth the price of admission alone. It looked like Illinois PG Demetri McCamey (22 pts, 6 rebs, 6 asts) — a Deron Williams clone from the tats to the name on his jersey to the “Get the eff off me” disdain in which he treats the guy guarding him — could take over the game by himself, but Texas freshman PF Tristan Thompson‘s defense (20 pts, 5 blks, 3 stls) and sophomore SF Jordan Hamilton‘s offense (25 pts) kept the Longhorns right there. In the final seconds of regulation, Texas frosh PG Cory Joseph hit a cold pull-up J for a two-point lead, but then Illinois frosh wing Jereme Richmond got to the rim for a bucket to tie it back up. In overtime, Texas got out to an early lead, and while Illinois’ Bill Cole (think Matt Bonner without the hair or the sammiches) knocked down some threes to keep it close, the Longhorns hung onto the lead and scored the upset … Evan Turner and Jodie Meeks came up from Philly to watch the game and were sitting near the Dime contingent. Turner and McCamey were high school teammates … Coolest moment of the night may have been Texas’ pep band playing Waka Flocka Flame‘s “Hard in Da Paint” in crunch-time late in the second half. This was just minutes after they’d been playing Lady GaGa joints … Freudian slip or mean joke? Here is LeBron‘s tweet from yesterday: “Man i seriously feel for Greg Olden! Keep your head up man and put all faith in the man above. Best of luck.” Olden? … We’re out like Lopez #2 …

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