What, was there a twenty dollar bill on the floor?
The Boston Celtics: Let me start off by saying that the Celtics could have -- and maybe should have -- won this game in a blowout had the three zebras not done everything in their power to keep the home team in the game. Orlando's 40-18 free throw advantage doesn't even begin to describe how crazy it was to see Dwight Howard earn a touch foul on one end and then watch Boston's perimeter players getting pushed and pulled around without a whistle on the other end. I have long since given up trying to understand the general inconsistency displayed by NBA officials. I honestly don't care what they decide to call a foul as long as whatever they decide on is called the same way for both teams. If Marcin Gortat gets the call for a hand in his back, then shouldn't Paul Pierce receive a whistle for running through a sea of hacking hands and into an oncoming chest bump on his way to the rim? Seriously, once the Celtics built that 16-point lead, I thought I was watching a game of NBA Live with computer assistance turned on.
"The refs love us! They really love us!"
But whatever. The Celtics were culpable in their own demise. Their worst sin was an inability to control the boards. Forget the total rebounding disparity -- which was 47-32 in case you're interested -- the worst part was Orlando's 17-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Between the foul shots and the second chance shot attempts, the Magic had way too many extra opportunities to put points on the board.
And yet, despite all that, the Celtics still had a chance to win. But that's where Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace come in.
First, it is really sad to see what KG has been reduced to. And I'm not talking about the base stats of 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes. The dude is well on his way to joining the Chris Webber Memorial One-Legged All-Stars. No, really. Garnett is playing with one leg out there. Are we still supposed to believe his injury was a simple hyperextension? Doc Rivers said Garnett was just "off" last night, and that he was "OK" physically. I call big-time shenanigans. And whatever is really wrong with him, it seems to have stripped him not only of his mobility but of his fire as well. That I-will-cut-you-to-pieces-and-then-eat-the-pieces mentality that has driven KG throughout his career seemed to be missing last night. It was stunning...and troubling...and downright depressing.
But I tried to pretend it wasn't happening until Orlando's final two plays. The first of which was a long three-pointer by J.J. Redick, who has apparently supplanted both Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter as the Magic's crunch-time shooter. KG was responsible for either switching or showing on Redick's three to force a pass or a bad shot. Only he didn't quite commit to it. My guess is he knew that -- with one dead, almost wooden leg -- there was no way he could both challenge Redick and recover defensively on his man (Rashard Lewis). So although Garnett's hand was up in the general vicinity of Redick's face, J.J. had plenty of separation to get his shot off. Which he did, and hitting it tied the game at 94-all.
Boston failed to score on the other end (and I won't even go into how ugly their offensive possessions looked down the stretch), and so the Magic got a chance to take the lead. They ended up running a play that got busted up because Vinsanity totally sucks tiny gorilla balls these days, but Lewis ended up with the rock and drove in unopposed for an easy layup. Seeing the play in real time didn't do justice to how horrible a play that was from the Celtics' point of view. Watching it in slow-mo was downright painful. Lewis strolled by Garnett like KG was some kind of zillion-dollar statue. I mean, seriously, Garnett was literally rooted to the spot while Lewis slid past him. What's worse, Rasheed "Look at that big, fat ass!" Wallace whiffed on the rotation, choosing instead to occupy Howard on the opposite block.
Of course, 'Sheed's biggest failure was his three-point airball at the buzzer. Considering the Celtics had only 1.4 seconds to get a play off, Wallace got surprisingly open. But instead of just squaring up for the shot, or hell, even leaning forward a little to force the officials to make a call, he fell away and to the side, which resulted in about as ugly a last-second shot as you're likely to see from a former champion with a reasonably open look.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Boston Celtics can win the NBA championship as long as they have a healthy Garnett. I believe that completely and utterly. However, after watching that game last night, I can't say I wholeheartedly believe KG will be totally healthy this season. Or maybe ever again.
By the way, nice screw-job by the NBA schedule makers. Back-to-back games against the Magic and Hawks followed by a game against the Lakers one day later. I can't recall any of the other contenders -- and I mean the Crabs and Lakers -- having a four-day stretch that difficult.
One last comment and then I'm done. Dwight Howard must have read Kendrick Perkins' comments about how easy it is to shut Superman down by playing him physically, because Dwight was pulling out actual, honest-to-goodness low-post moves in the fourth quarter. Jump hooks, running hooks, drop-steps to the bucket. I was shocked. The announcers were shocked. The Celtics were shocked. Maybe Howard finally got the message.
Vince Carter: The line: 2-for-13, 3 turnovers, and a long, conspicuous absence in the fourth quarter. And let's face it, he's not half the player J.J. Redick is for the Magic. Think about that.
Paul Pierce: The line: 3-for-12 and 4 turnovers. Sure, he didn't get some of the calls he deserved, and he did hit a huge trey to help Boston regain the lead late. But I once again feel the need to remind everybody that Pierce dubbed himself the best player in the world in the summer of '08. Man, that summer seems like a long time ago now...
Dunking cheerleaders: Hot or not?
No, really. I can't decide.
Reggie Miller, announcing superstar: He continues to flabber our gasts by, well, just being himself.
From Basketbawful reader Dave R.: "Reggie Miller to Marv Albert during Cs v Magic: 'I love that little two-man thing!' Followed by a short uncomfortable silence as they both realized how that sounds."
And from BW in Cleveland: "THE NBA: WHERE REGGIE MILLER COMPARES MARCIN GORTAT TO HAKEEN THE DREAM HAPPENS. WotN in NBA broadcasting."
Doc Rivers' wife: From AnacondaHL: "Awesome of the Night to Doc Rivers' wife, for reading a book in the stands late in the 4th of a tied game. I'd probably read books too, if I were Doc's wife. You know, to counter the IQ osmosis." Didn't Marv try to explain that she did that to ease her nerves? Which may be true and all that, but damn, she sure looked like somebody who would rather be plucking butt hairs off lab mice than sitting in the stands at that game. I have a feeling Doc got forced to watch The Notebook when they got back to their hotel room.
Al Harrington: Nice charge, dumbass.
By the way, I absolutely loved David Lee's eff-you performance (29 points, 18 boards). Seriously, are we still supposed to believe Al Horford is better than this guy? I know the Bricks suck -- for further reading, see Toronto 106, New York 104 -- but assuming he didn't get voted on, would LeBron James get left off the All-Star team if the Cavaliers were nine games below .500? Of course he wouldn't. Which means that, in theory, the coaches are supposed to choose players based on real-life skills and not team success. Eh, whatever. All-Star selections are a joke. We all know that.
The Dallas Mavericks: I want to draw your attention to the title of the AP recap for this game: "Amundson, Dragic, Dudley help Suns snap 3-game skid vs. Mavs."
Think about that.
No, really. Think about that.
Those three dudes ended up scoring 14 points in the Suns' 28-16 fourth-quarter romp that transformed another one of THOSE losses into a 112-106 win.
Said Jason Terry: "Their bench outplayed us all night. Clear as day and it can't happen. They outplayed us. It's unbelievable to me that we've come halfway through the season and we still look like we're searching in the fourth quarter."
Another random thing that's unbelievable -- at least to me -- is how much Steve Nash loves isolating against Dirk Nowitzki. Happens several times whenever the Mavs and Suns play. Pick and roll, Dirk switches onto his good buddy, and Nash stutter dribbles and crosses over until Nowitzki takes a half step back, then Steve fades away for the jumper...which usually goes in. That's just a case of two guys who have played many, many games of one-on-one against each other. I get that, but it's still funny to watch. And I swear, Nash, as unselfish as he is, shoots virtually ever time he gets to go one-on-one with Dirk. I wish somebody had the actual pass-versus-shoot numbers on those possessions.
Also, I'd love to point out how J-Kidd was recently spouting off about how this version of the Mavs has put the "D" back in Dallas basketball...and then they let the Suns shoot nearly 55 percent from the field. And Nash was 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-3 from downtown and committed only 2 turnovers (with 11 assists). And freaking Earl Clark hit his first career three-pointer. Way to back them words up, Jason.
Jared Dudley, quote machine: Regarding the lockdown defense the Suns' pine riders played in the fourth quarter: "We made people shoot the shots they didn't want to shoot." I dunno, Jared. Taking bad shots is a choice.
Amar''''''e Stoudemire: Benched for the entire fourth quarter. Ruh roh, Raggy. It wasn't because of any problems he had scoring -- STAT finished with 22 points on 7-for-13 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line -- but he grabbed only one lonely rebound in 27 minutes. Dude, seriously. You're huge and athletic. Hit the damn boards.
Amar''''''e said the fourth-quarter benching happened for "the first time in my life but it's all good," and Alvin Gentry had to perform some quick spin control: "I wouldn't read anything into that at all. If you go in there he's the happiest guy. For all that's been said he's been a great teammate. He understands things were going well with Lou." Meanwhile, Steve Kerr's attempts to trade Stoudemire continue unabated...
While most will probably give the WotN nomination from tonight's Suns to Amar''''''e for deservedly getting benched for the entire 4th quarter, I'm going to have to nominate Earl Clark. Yeah, he got some meaningful PT tonight and hit his first career 3-ball, but just a few minutes after that 3-pointer, he scored a pretty egregious "own hoop" for Dallas.
Gooden took a midrange jumper that was a miss, and as everyone else turned to head up the floor, Clark goes up for the easy rebound and just yakked on it. Didn't look like he was trying to be fancy, but still, the ball ricocheted off his palms, went up off the backboard, and into the hoop. They credited Marion with the basket, although I don't recall him being near Clark when it happened.
Clark knew it was going in, too. You could tell when it kissed off the glass that it was going in, and Clark had already dropped his arms and hung his head before it finished going through the basket.
It was a pretty bad boner (I don't know if it's up there with The Joker's Boner Capers, but it's close), and would have gotten a lot more press if the Suns had lost by a point instead of pulling out the victory.
I'm highly amused that TNT actually just put up this graphic after the horn sounded: "Suns: First win on TNT in 18 games"
Cheryl Miller also just said while interviewing Nash "By the sound of things you'd think you guys won the championship! How does it feel to win on TNT?"
The look on Nash's face was priceless. His grin pretty much said "I understand the humor, but are you really asking me this?" He grinned ear to ear, paused, and said "Well I'm not gonna say anything derogatory about the network..."
LeBron James: King Crab earned a belated WotN from stephanie g: "LeBron throws a hissy fit after not getting a call and slaps filled cups of gatorade into his own crowd. I understand that NBA stars are egomaniac prima donnas, but this sort of blatant action breaks my willing suspension of disbelief. My favorite though is when Kobe whines to the refs while the other team runs down court and scores 5v4. Someone could make a pretty funny compilation video of that if they had the dedication." Hey, someone...get on that, would you? In the meantime, here's LeBron's tantrum:
Lacktion report: And how, from Chris, a brief lacktivity update:
Raptors-Knicks: 50 seconds of Nintendo Power were enough to get Rasho Nesterovic back in the ledger with a Mario; although he made one free throw in that time, a foul and giveaway pushed him into Voskuhl territory with a 2:1 ratio!