Posts Tagged ‘Kool Moe Dee’

The Wild Wild West

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – My man Mohandas Dewese (stage name Kool Moe Dee) had it right all those years ago when he shot to the top of the charts in ’88 rapping about the Wild Wild West.

The Western Conference playoff chase can’t get any wilder, not with all eight teams posing a clear and present danger to one another, in some form or fashion.

Seriously, it’s hard to pick a favorite when they are bunched up the way they have been since the All-Star break. The Lakers have wrapped up the top spot but they aren’t playing like the top dog with a 14-9 record since then, the fewest number of wins of the bunch.

All eight playoff teams in the West project to win 50 games or more, making an already ridiculously tough postseason field preposterously tough.

On the set of The Beat Tuesday NBA TV analyst Kevin McHale posed the question, “who wants to play the Spurs?”

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Two days later I think it’s fair to expand on that and ask who wants to plays the Thunder, Jazz, Trail Blazers, Suns or anyone else? The only team in the West that hasn’t looked dominant for an extended stretch since All-Star Weekend is the Lakers. And we all know they’ll show up with renewed focus come playoff time.

That’s what makes every second of every single game so unbelievably critical for each team (that costly no-call on Kevin Durant‘s shot attempt against Utah Tuesday night stings even worse after the Thunder’s loss t Denver last night).

As always when there is extreme competition involved, we are the big winners.

We’re going to get some of the best top-to-bottom playoff action we’ve seen in years. You won’t be able to sleep on a single series, East or West, though we reserve the right to amend this statement after that eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference is claimed by either the Raptors or Bulls.

More news, notes, quotes and opinions from around the league:

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THE HOTTEST TEAM IN BASKETBALL ESCAPES

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: “If this season-ending surge truly is about resurrection, then Wednesday night was a significant step. For the first time since its 2005-06 championship season, the Miami Heat is 10 games above .500. Extending its winning streak to a league-best nine in a row and making it 15 victories in its last 18 games, the Heat staggered at times against the Philadelphia 76ers before closing out a 99-95 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. It wasn’t the smoothest path to 44-34, with Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and Jermaine O’Neal all struggling with their offense. But with much-needed bench boosts from Dorell Wright, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers, the Heat pushed forward in its chase for the No. 5 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. “We struggled tonight, simple as that,” Wade said. “But you know what? We found a way to win the ballgame.” It shouldn’t have been this difficult against a lottery-bound opponent that not only was coming off a 21-point home loss a night earlier to Detroit, but also was lacking perimeter scorers Thaddeus Young and Rodney Carney. But with center Samuel Dalembert dominant in the middle in a 19-point effort produced on 8-of-9 shooting and with 16 rebounds, the 76ers pushed their lead to 12 early and forced a 77-77 tie heading into the fourth quarter. At that stage, Wade stood 5 of 14 from the field, Beasley 2 of 9 and O’Neal, who was back after missing four games with a hyperextended knee, 2 of 8. Wade came around to close with 22 points on an 8-of-18 shooting, scoring eight points in the final four minutes. “It’s got to be more consistent,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Overall, we will take this.”

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SUNS CARVE UP SPURS, MOVE UP IN WEST RACE

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: “The San Antonio Spurs had given up 96 points per game this season. Their defense would sound even better if they had not played the Suns three times. Phoenix, foreign to losing streaks since late January, poured the offense all over San Antonio like syrup again Wednesday night, sticking it to the Spurs for the entire second half and running away from them at the end for a 112-101 home victory. “They sliced and diced us and did a real good job of executing their offense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. For the first time since the 1987-88 season, the Suns scored at least 110 points in three consecutive games this season against San Antonio, which no longer is a regular-season threat to the Suns. The Spurs dropped the teams’ regular-season series (2-1) and fell three games behind Phoenix with four games to play. The Suns (51-27) moved into a second-place tie in the Western Conference with Dallas and Denver but are actually fourth because Dallas and Denver are division leaders. The Suns closed strongly, thwarting an early fourth-quarter Spurs effort that cut Phoenix’s lead to five. After a timeout, the Suns lineup of four subs and Grant Hill put away a Spurs team that had played at Sacramento a night earlier and had to bring Tony Parker off the bench in his second game back from a broken finger. The Suns, coming off three days’ rest, went on a 19-7 run out of that fourth-quarter timeout, starting with a Jared Dudley 3-pointer and ending with two Goran Dragic steals that led to his 3-point dunk play and a Hill slam for a 109-92 lead with 3:58 to go. The close enabled Steve Nash to sit out the fourth quarter, having already done enough to set up the win with 18 points and 12 assists with only one turnover in 30 minutes of play. The stars starred for Phoenix with Amar’e Stoudemire (29 points, eight rebounds), who scored more against San Antonio this season than any other team, playing bigger than Tim Duncan (14 points, seven rebounds), and Jason Richardson scoring 20 to make the Suns 26-4 when he totals at least 20 points. The Suns snapped the Spurs’ four-game winning streak and moved to a NBA-best 20-5 since the All-Star break.

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WOUNDED NUGGETS FIGHT BACK TO DROP THUNDER

Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post: “The Nuggets’ star player was woozier than a Mardi Gras hangover. Down 11, his team hadn’t made a basket in 11 minutes. Two post players were in sport coats. The coach was back in Denver for his final chemotherapy session, while the acting head coach stood in pain on the sideline, grimacing with kidney pain. There were seven minutes left in Wednesday night’s fourth quarter, and this thing was over. So how did Denver possibly win? “It was just guts,” Chauncey Billups said. In a 98-94 win at Oklahoma City, Billups spearheaded a furious run, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter, without a turnover. Carmelo Anthony — knocked unconscious late in the third quarter — played at “50 percent” but still scored six fourth-quarter points with three steals. And with 6.8 seconds left, there stood Anthony — who won two games here last season in the final seconds — sinking both free throws, clinching the win against the playoff-bound Thunder (48-27). “I knew Melo wasn’t feeling his best, so I knew that somebody had to step up and take some of the offensive load,” said Billups, who finished with a team-high 31 points along with eight rebounds. “We put them in a high pick-and-roll, and I was able to trick them a couple of times, get away from the screen. We had the high pick-and-roll rolling.” This was a big win. The Nuggets (51-27) are desperate to snatch either the second, third or fourth seed in the Western Conference to get home-court advantage in the first round. Division-rival Utah lost Thursday, dropping to 51-28, so Denver remains in the hunt for a prime seed. But things couldn’t get any tougher for the Nuggets, who play a rested Los Angeles Lakers team tonight at the Pepsi Center. “Whenever we play hard and play with a chip on our shoulder, nobody can beat us,” said J.R. Smith, who had two fourth-quarter blocks.”

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JAZZ FIZZLE ON ROAD, LOSE TO ROCKETS

Steve Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune: “Graciously, the Jazz gave back the victory they stole from Oklahoma City. The Jazz’s 113-96 loss to Houston came too late to reward the Thunder for a game the Jazz would have lost — according to the NBA, in so many words — with a properly called foul at the end of overtime Tuesday. Just the same, Denver, Dallas and Phoenix will thank the Jazz for coming back Wednesday night and delivering practically nothing, while tumbling far from their temporary residence of second place in the Western Conference standings with three games remaining. That’s why this no-show hurts so much. In the Toyota Center, where the Jazz admirably won Game 7 of a playoff series in 2007 and two more first-round games in ’08, they could not summon any kind of adequate effort in an April contest that supposedly meant everything to them. The Jazz’s stakes: vital positioning for the playoffs, including home-court advantage for one or even two rounds. The Rockets’ motivation: whatever. Since when is having nothing to play for a good thing? Houston played carefree basketball, and thrived. At one point in the second quarter, the Rockets had gone 9-for-29 from inside of 3-point range, while making all seven of their three-point attempts. That means the Jazz actually were playing good interior defense, but let’s be honest: A big component of this team’s defensive approach is hoping the other guys miss from outside, and Houston did not cooperate. The Jazz’s available disclaimer of a tough turnaround from Tuesday is valid, except this was their own fault to a degree, as they blew a big lead against Oklahoma City in a game that then became more physically and emotionally draining. Beyond that, at this time of the year, you would like to think that something — Adrenaline? Opportunity? Fear? Anything? — would push them through the trials of travel. It did not happen. Label it understandable, but not forgivable, as harshly judged by the standings. “I expected a lot from them, yeah,” said coach Jerry Sloan. But “I’ve played in a game where I wanted to have energy and I didn’t have energy. If it’s not there, you can’t get it.”

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HAWKS STUMBLE DOWN THE STRETCH, AGAIN

Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, dropped their sixth consecutive road game and fell into a tie with Boston for No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics would win a tiebreaker over the Hawks, who are the worst road team among the East’s top four. The Hawks were without injured guard Joe Johnson (thumb), but the Pistons had even less manpower. They were missing starters Rip Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (personal) and then lost Rodney Stuckey (ribs) early in the game. Even without their top three scorers, the Pistons outplayed the Hawks down the stretch. The collapse was nothing new for the Hawks, who since the All-Star break are 5-8 in road games when they had a tie or a lead in the fourth quarter. “We self-destructed again coming down the stretch,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We’ve got to figure it out.” The Hawks led 76-67 with 10:20 to play but squandered the advantage amid a rash of turnovers, missed free throws, and blown defensive assignments. They scored only 16 points in the fourth quarter on 6-of-22 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 on free throws. Marvin Williams’ free throw with 2:15 to play gave the Hawks an 85-81 lead. Ben Gordon missed a 3-pointer for the Pistons, and the Hawks rebounded two of their own misses. The Pistons fouled Hawks forward Josh Smith, but he missed two free throws. Will Bynum quickly converted a 3-point play for the Pistons to make the score 85-84 with 56.5 seconds left. Hawks guard Mike Bibby was called for a foul during a scramble for a loose ball, and Gordon made both free throws to give Detroit an 86-85 lead with 42.3 seconds remaining. After Bibby shot an airball on a rushed 3-pointer, Bynum made two free throws to make the score 88-85. Jamal Crawford’s 3-pointer rimmed out for the Hawks, and Jonas Jerebko made two free throws to complete the Hawks’ collapse. “Same thing,” said Hawks forward Mo Evans. “We just relaxed a little bit and got comfortable and thought we had the game in the bag. We let it slip away.”

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NELLIE MOVES TO THE TOP OF THE HEAP

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: “There were no balloons, no confetti and no video tributes. Just as they had for so many of his previous 1,332 victories, things went exactly how Warriors coach Don Nelson planned it on the night he became the winningest coach in the history of the game. Nelson passed Lenny Wilkens for the top spot with a 116-107 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday with a modest amount of fanfare, exactly what he has wanted the last 5 1/2 months. “Nellie hadn’t said one thing to us about the record. He just wanted to come out and coach and find ways to win some games with the people he has,” forward Corey Maggette said. “Until he got the record, he didn’t mention it. Then, he called us together and told us that he loves us.” The on-court huddle included hugs for each member of the Warriors’ staff and roster and a dousing from a cup of water. The celebration, however, seemed forced in comparison with the emotion exhibited when Nelson tied the record with a one-point win at Toronto on Sunday. The best reactions Wednesday came behind closed doors, only the Warriors forgot to shut the locker-room door. They shook up cans of Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist and drenched the coach when he arrived from a courtside interview. “We didn’t have any champagne, so we improvised,” said forward Anthony Tolliver, who scored a career-high 34 points. “He hasn’t had a championship yet, so we wanted to make this as special as possible. We thought he might be mad, but he is on cloud nine right now.” Nelson’s record is 1,333-1,061 (.557), including 13 50-win seasons and 18 playoff appearances. One of only two to be named NBA Coach of the Year three times, Nelson is in his 31st season as a head coach, but detractors always mention the fact that he hasn’t won a championship. “Maybe everyone will stop hating now that he has the record,” said guard Stephen Curry, who had 27 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds and seven steals. “If I’m not mistaken, he does have five rings as a player,” Maggette said. “Now, he’s the winningest coach. You can’t knock the man’s accolades.”

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MAGIC SHOW NO MERCY TO LOWLY WIZARDS

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Matt Barnes and his tattoos could have been lolly-gagging in the last moments, looking forward to a break heading into the fourth quarter in game No. 78 on Wednesday night. Instead he stole a lazy in-bounds pass and fed Jason Williams, allowing Williams to finish something extraordinary on an otherwise ordinary night: Williams, in a two-second span, scored six points. It might be a Guinness Book world record, who knows? Most telling about Barnes’ steal and Williams’ two quick-trigger 3-pointers in the Orlando Magic’s 121-94 rout of the Washington Wizards was that the team that had no motivation to play hard found a reason to do just that in win No. 55. The Magic already had secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race and their third consecutive Southeast Division title — without having to lift a jump-shot, wrapping them up when the Atlanta Hawks lost on Tuesday night. Williams drilled a 3-pointer to give Orlando an 81-65 lead with two seconds left in a third quarter in which the Magic pulled away, outscoring the Wizards 34-21. Barnes then swiped Fabricio Oberto’s pass and hit Williams, who jacked up a ‘3’ just before the buzzer. And a 13-point lead instantly morphed into 19. “For the other team,” coach Stan Van Gundy said, “that is certainly demoralizing right there.” Barnes and Williams are of the same mind. They both play hard to the end, regardless of the score or the playoff scenario. With four games remaining, nothing makes Van Gundy happier. “You don’t want to fall into any bad habits in these last few games,” Barnes said. “I don’t think we’re the kind of team that can turn it off and on. San Antonio can; they’ve been together a long time. The Lakers can. “Half of our team is new. So, no, I don’t think we can just hit the switch come playoff time.”

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CUBAN APPLAUDS NBA FOR ADMITTING MISTAKE

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “On Tuesday night in Utah, the Jazz beat Oklahoma City, 140-139, in overtime when Kevin Durant  was fouled at the buzzer but no call was made. The NBA issued a statement acknowledging the mistake Wednesday, which Mark Cuban applauded. “Transparency is a great disinfectant,” he said. “The more transparent the league is, the less people can insert their own opinions. The facts speak for themselves, and that’s always good for the league.” Of course, it could end up costing a home court advantage for the Mavericks or somebody else. “Yeah, but that’s a reflection of another problem,” Cuban said. “Missed calls are missed calls. The question is how do you avoid certain calls being missed. That’s not an issue to address right now. It’s not like everybody didn’t realize it was a foul.” Interestingly, Bennett Salvatore was on the referee crew at Utah, just as he was with controversial endings with the Mavericks in Game 5 at Miami in the 2006 NBA Finals and last season in Game 3 against Denver in the second round.”

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VETERAN STACKHOUSE PROVIDES BIG LIFT FOR BUCKS

Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: “Some of his teammates were fighting fatigue after a playoff-clinching victory in Chicago on Tuesday night. But Milwaukee Bucks forward Jerry Stackhouse felt fresh after playing just 16 minutes against the Bulls, and it showed in his performance in the second of back-to-back games on Wednesday night. Stackhouse’s 18 points and 6-for-9 shooting helped the Bucks overcome a slow start as they pulled away in the second half to defeat the New Jersey Nets, 108-89, before 16,037 fans at the Bradley Center. “I was able to get into a rhythm and I’ve been getting some pretty good looks lately,” Stackhouse said. “If I continue to get those looks, I feel more times than not I’ll be able to contribute. “I only played in the second and fourth quarters (in Chicago) so I was a little bit rested. When guys log long minutes, you’ve got to mentally know and pick it up for them a little bit. That’s what the bench is there for.” The Bucks (44-34) won their third straight game and improved to 10 games over the .500 mark, which coach Scott Skiles said is a goal the team has set for itself. Milwaukee remained in the fifth position in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a tiebreaker with the Miami Heat (44-34), which edged Philadelphia, 99-95, on Wednesday. Charlotte (42-36) claimed a 104-103 victory over New Orleans and stayed two games behind the Bucks and Heat, with four games remaining in the regular season. John Salmons led the Bucks with 22 points and even took a turn at the point guard spot in the second quarter when Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour were hampered by foul trouble. Ersan Ilyasova added 15 points and nine rebounds and Kurt Thomas posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds as he started his second straight game for the injured Andrew Bogut. “You could tell we were very tired,” Skiles said. “We had that factored in. But again our guys were able to battle through it. “As the game went on, we started playing a little more consistent defense and moved the ball. Jerry came in and gave us a lift offensively, and Kurt gave us a big lift again, to say the least. It’s a good sign that we could fight through that fatigue.”

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PACERS PUMPING UP FOR NEXT SEASON

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star: “The Indiana Pacers say their recent offensive spark — the latest was a 113-105 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse — is something they plan to carry into next season. “We’ve been playing real well of late, and I said it before: It’s unfortunate it’s taken us this long to get going,” center Roy Hibbert said. “But hopefully the same guys will be back next year and we can figure it out sooner.” The Pacers know their summer vacation wouldn’t be starting in less than a week if they were nearly as good offensively earlier in the season as they are now. They’re averaging 107.4 points a game, which would be third in the league, in the past 10 games. They’re 8-2 in those games. “We’re clicking well,” Pacers forward Danny Granger said. “We’re making shots, we’re moving, we’re getting layups. Roy is scoring in the post, so we’ve got everything going. We’re showing what we can do and we have to make sure we carry it over.” Granger led five Pacers in double figures with 33 points on 11-of-27 shooting. Forward Troy Murphy chipped in 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Pacers looked like they were going to get back at the Knicks for the 43-point rout they suffered in early January in New York. The Pacers shot better than 70 percent for most of the first half and led by as many as 20 points while scoring 72 points. Granger led four players in double figures in the first half with 18 points. “It was a little bit of fool’s gold because we weren’t defending at all,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “To a large extent, that offensive production was negated by an extremely poor defense. “We were still in the attack mode, and when you put 72 points on the board in the first half, you should generally win going away. We did not.”

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CELTICS’ PERKINS SAYS PROBLEMS ALL IN THE HEAD

Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe: “Four games over seven days remain in the regular season for the Celtics to shore up their weaknesses and mental lapses, and center Kendrick Perkins said there is one certain way to determine whether they are going to be factors in the postseason. “You can tell by the start of the first quarter,’’ he said. “However we come out in the first quarter, that’s how the game is going to be. “If you get a lot of defense, a lot of energy going from the older guys more than the younger guys, then we are going to have a pretty good game. “I don’t think it’s talent. I don’t think it’s physical. It’s all mental.’’ In last night’s 115-104 win over Toronto, the Celtics shot 57 percent in the first quarter and outrebounded the Raptors, 11-5. While Toronto was able to rally in the second period, the Celtics played with more energy and passion than they did Tuesday in New York. Perkins said the solution to such lapses may be just to get to the playoffs and see which players respond to the challenge. Two of the remaining games are against the Bucks, who may very well be the Celtics’ first-round opponents. “I can’t speak for everybody else, but I am kind of ready for the playoffs,’’ said Perkins, who finished with 7 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes last night. “Let’s get it on, and whatever it’s going to be, we’ve got to go all in and let the chips fall where they may. “When the playoffs start, everybody knows how it is. It’s a different atmosphere, make sure we come in with the right mental [approach] and the guys work how they need to work and go from there.”

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