Is Stan Van Gundy a master motivator or just annoying enough to stoke the Magic’s fire? There’s evidence each way, but the result was a much-needed win for Orlando against Chi-town. SVG had called out his team just days ago, saying they were being complacent about having the third-best record in the East. Hey, you’d be upset too when you lose to the Bobcats and show the energy of a corpse as Charlotte started its double-digit comeback … Different story on Thursday: The Magic came in the first quarter hot like a burning building with 75 percent shooting. They were getting buckets like it was an All-Star Game. Tom Thibodeau was close to having a coronary as he saw his Bulls get 37 dropped on them in the opening quarter. At one point, they were down 17. Jason Richardson (18 points) ripped off a couple threes and Dwight Howard was stuffing Derrick Rose (17 points) and sending goaltended shots into the third row just because. Superman had 25 through the first three quarters and finished with 29 points and 18 boards. Two came on a monster of an alley-oop over a couple Bulls at the cup … How many Bulls fans were fantasizing about Dwight in a red-and-white jersey? Did Joakim Noah (nine points, 10 boards) feel like he was playing for his job? After Dwight got the ball stripped from him in midair by Omer Asik and still hit the shot off glass on the way down, it’s pretty clear why they would. Strong like an ox … The Bulls aren’t going to go quiet at home, of course, but Rose, on 6-of-22 shooting, just didn’t find his rhythm. He missed a free throw late that you could tell bothered him like no other … The big news on campus Thursday was that the G-men are looking into Auburn’s program for point-shaving allegations by guard Varez Ward. Sad when a point-shaving probe is the only reason to pay attention to your program. Chris Porter‘s wild dunks, armbands and blowout hair are the only things anyone remembers about that program and that was in the late ’90s … Northwestern’s heartbreak continues. The school without an NCAA Tournament bid to its name, ever, lost in the Big Ten to Minnesota and that burst their bubble. Sorry guys, but when you make one hoop in the final 10 minutes, losses seem to happen … Over in the Pac-12 tournament, the conference didn’t do itself any favors to making people believe it will get more than one bid for the NCAA tournament. The league always prides itself on its research institutions, which works out well this year with its teams breaking new ground on just how bad a league can be. Case in point: Washington earned a regular-season chip, then lost to eighth seed Oregon State in the tournament. Tony Wroten, a smooth freshman swingman who you could see drafted in the first round come June, missed four free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds. They lost by two … UConn may still get into the tourney this year, but they won’t have a Captain Kemba comeback again. Syracuse bumped them out in the Big East quarters. Just hearing about that run last year makes the ankles of former Pitt center Gary McGhee (the dude immortalized by Kemba’s game-winner in the final) still ache … Keep reading to hear about the crazy thing that happened between Dirk and Grant Hill …
In the desert, Steve Nash was the talk before the game because of trade rumors. But the actual game came down to another guard. Roddy Beaubois (five points) missed two shots in the final seconds that could have tied the game and the Suns escaped. Roddy Buckets couldn’t find Dirk either time. The guy that denied him the ball, Grant Hill (15 points) missed free throws to almost blow the game, which may be the first time Hill hasn’t done something right in a while on the court. Asked afterward about seemingly guarding every Mav on the floor, specifically Nowitzki, Hill said it’s tough to man up Dirk. Why? “I actually like him as a person,” he said. He may like him but he locked him up all night … Fun to watch the former Sun turned Mav (Jason Kidd) get 12 points and three assists while a former Sun-turned-Mav-turned-Sun (Nash) put up 11 and 11 … Dirk wasn’t his normal self, putting up only 18 for Dallas. Sure, he did his usual in-air gymnastics leg-kick fadeaways (He was also limping around like a wino. We never want to see anybody get hurt, but the replay of Dirk’s section-by-section fall made us laugh because it was just like Kevin Hart describing how Shaq falls down), but they weren’t dropping like normal, and that’s a compliment to Hill’s defense. Dirk needs about half an inch of space to get his shot off but it was rare he even got that … The nice sign for Dallas was Lamar Odom, who scored 15 on 6-of-10 shooting. In one stretch he had a nice baseline drive, then lost his man on a screen and stepped back for a three. If he can just get confident and do that, what’s the Mavericks’ ceiling this year? … Shannon Brown had a putback dunk in the fourth quarter that looked like something out of NBA Jam. It put the Suns up by 10 and blew the roof off the building (the roof Shannon had just scraped before coming down), threatening to put the Mavs to bed. But the best part was the non-reaction by Suns assistant Bill Cartwright. He seemed almost bored by the dunk, like he’d seen that kind of thing a million times. Granted, Bill did practice and play next to Michael Jordan for years, but still … Are there any circumstances under which Chris Webber and Dick Stockton would kick it outside of work? We just picture Stockton reminiscing about Bobby Darin and C-Webb reminiscing about Bobby Digital … We’re out like Washington.
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