Tempers Flare in Portland and Wade Makes His Case for MVP

03.10.09 9 years ago 44 Comments

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Late in the third quarter of last night’s Lakers/Blazers game, Rudy Fernandez was going for a breakaway layup when Trevor Ariza whacked him across the forehead and caused Rudy to take a nasty fall, after which he got taken out on a stretcher. And in the ensuing near-brawl, B-Roy was more fired up than we’ve ever seen him; he was really trying to rip into Ariza, saying afterward he wasn’t so much pissed about the foul but about Ariza talking smack as Rudy was still laid out … Ariza was hit with a Flagrant II (and automatic ejection and seemed to be a product of Lakers’ frustration and the brewing mini rivalry between these two teams, but we’re not 100% sold that Ariza was trying to hurt Fernandez. Hit us with your thoughts … This morning the Blazers said that Rudy sustained some soft tissue bruising and had to stay in the hospital overnight, but he should be alright … OK, we officially don’t get Portland. In the course of eight days, Portland 20-pieced the Spurs, eked out a win over Indiana, got blown out in Denver, barely survived the Wolves — then last night they go out and dominate the Lakers from start to finish … Keeping Kobe relatively neutralized (26 pts, 11-29 FG) while picking apart the Lakers’ D from all angles, the Blazers were simply better in every facet of the game. Brandon Roy scored 27, Travis Outlaw had 22 off the bench, and Joel Przybilla pulled down 18 boards … The fact that D-Wade didn’t emphatically clinch the MVP last night just shows how tight the race will be this year. In a double-OT thriller, Wade threw up 48 points (15-21 FG, 13-18 FT), six boards, 12 assists, four steals and three blocks against the Bulls, just doing whatever he wanted to on the offensive end of the floor. He also knocked down three buzzer-beaters, including the absurd game-winner when he ripped John Salmons with three seconds left and dropped a running three at the horn … Afterwards, Wade said, “Coach said we had a timeout left. I was about to call it, then I said, ‘Naaah.'” … If it’s true that some of the Hawks are a little salty because Joe Johnson has too much freedom on offense, they need to keep a copy of last night’s Hawks/Hornets game in the DVD bank for future reference. In snapping N.O.’s seven-game win streak, Atlanta looked as good as they have all season while Johnson dropped 30 points (11-21 FG) to carry the offense and everyone else contributed to a stellar defensive effort … In fairness, you could see last night why some guys might be disgruntled: Joe Jeezy definitely has the green light to do whatever he wants. At his worst, he’ll take bad shots over multiple defenders, and the trickle-down effect is that everybody else gets caught in that “If I don’t shoot it now, I might not get it back” mode you see in high school and with the Washington Wizards. But at his best, Joe simply takes advantage of what the defense gives him (i.e. Byron Scott having Rasual Butler guard him) and sets the tone offensively … But the real story was ATL’s defense. After initially pressuring Chris Paul 94 feet proved pointless, the Hawks settled into just protecting the rim like their playoff spot depended on it. They took control during a five-minute stretch of the second quarter where the Hornets went scoreless, and throughout the game snuffed David West at the basket, forced CP into six turnovers, and had N.O. taking bad shots at the end of the shot clock. And when they couldn’t play solid textbook D, the Hawks would just mug the guy going to the basket … Case in point: D-West (16 pts, 20 rebs) got clobbered one time going in for a shot, and when the refs didn’t give him the call, we were kind of fearing for Acie Law‘s health as a pissed-off West ran back on D while Law brought the ball up. Fortunately, West didn’t pull another Mike Miller move … The Hawks’ play-by-play man on Chris Paul (24 pts, 10 asts, 3 stls): “You just can’t help but think about what might have been.” Color commentator Dominique Wilkins: “Yeah, that’s why you try not to think about it.” … Yao MingNobody is really talking about the Rockets, but they’ve quietly won 10 of their last 12 after knocking off the Nuggets on the road yesterday. This McGrady-less Houston squad is kind of modeled after the Spurs: The offense runs through a dominant big man with passing skills, they’ve got an ultra-quick point guard (two of them, actually) who can penetrate into the core of the defense, they have solid outside shooters and scrappy glue guys, and everything is predicated on tough defense. If they keep the game at their desired pace and get stops, Houston can hang with anybody in the League … Last night the game appeared over when Shane Battier hit a corner three that put Houston up by seven with a minute left, but Chauncey Billups (28 pts) answered with a quick three and Nene scored to bring Denver within two at the 22-second mark … It was a three-point game a few seconds later when a confusing/controversial series of no-calls and close calls really decided it. After Battier blocked a Billups layup and the ball headed for the sideline, J.R. Smith was in position to get it before Kyle Lowry basically tackled him (no call). Chuck Hayes dove for the ball and may or may not have saved it (close call) right to Lowry, who called timeout. The Nuggets announcers were both livid that no foul was called, and utterly confused as to why the Rockets were given the ball, and Houston was able to close it out at the line … Some big stat lines from Monday: Ben Gordon dropped 43 points in that loss to Miami; Rip Hamilton put up 29 points and 14 dimes in a win over Orlando, while Dwight Howard posted 27, 14 boards and four blocks in the loss; and Caron Butler went for 27 points and 10 boards in a win at Minnesota … Did you see what happened before the Gonzaga/St. Mary’s WCC championship game? One of the St. Mary’s players dunked during pre-game layup lines — which is apparently against the rules, and gave Gonzaga a technical free throw before tip-off. The Zags won easily anyway, so it’s not like it mattered, but what kind of 1967 Lew Alcindor crappy rule is that? … We’re out like arcane rules …

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