With the Knicks winning, and the Celtics losing, the world inched a tiny bit closer to a possible Cavaliers vs. Knicks -- a preview of 2010's hypothetical battle for LeBron James -- first round playoff matchup. The Knicks need to do a lot more winning (John Hollinger's playoff machine gives them a 9% chance of making the post-season) but it could happen! And if it does, they should probably build a statue to Mike D'Antoni.
Dallas has proven to be a pretty good team this year. But the Mavericks are a stellar 3-0 against the Blazers. I get the feeling they could play four more games and Dallas would win those, too. A big long shooter like Dirk Nowitzki is a problem for a team that switches on a huge percentage of picks. (The Mavericks' margin of victory was similar to the number of points 7-foot Nowitzki scored while being solo-covered by 6-4 Steve Blake.) Little quick guards like Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea are another problem for Portland. The biggest problem of all, however, is the Mavericks' defense -- including a 2-3 zone -- which somehow makes Portland's offense wholly inefficient. Right now the Mavericks are holding the eighth spot in the West, but they're right up at the top of the list of teams that scare me as a Blazer fan.
Irony: Trevor Ariza causes a ruckus with that foul on Rudy Fernandez. And in the ensuing melee, Lamar Odom gets suspended for leaving the bench. So last night against the Rockets, with Odom out, Ariza gets to start. (UPDATE: I'm wrong here. Kurt from Forum Blue and Gold e-mails: "Ariza did not get the start because Odom was out, Josh Powell did. Ariza is now a regular starter because Luke Walton went to Phil and said Ariza needs to start.") (For the record -- several of you seem to have the feeling I made Ariza out to be some kind of bad guy. Find me the quote where I said that! I'm actually fine with hard fouls, and I'm fine with Ariza. I'm sure he's a great guy, and I like watching him play. My point is this: It is a good goal to make sure nobody ever has a major head or spinal injury playing this game. You only get so many falls like Rudy's before there is such an injury. So ... what can you do? All you can do is be careful with airborne players. That's the code, and it's a good one, and if you're late to the play, stopping an easy layup ought to be somewhat less important than honoring that code, no matter what some old-school tough cookie tells you.)
So, Kobe Bryant faces the Houston Rockets for the first time since an article comes out in The New York Times detailing how knowledgeable the Rockets are at making him take inefficient shots. So, how did he do? TrueHoop reader Walter e-mails: "Last night Kobe was a very efficient 14-23 (61%) from the field including 2-3 from beyond the arc. It is even more impressive when you consider the fact that he was being guarded by two the best perimeter defenders in the league in Shane Battier and Ron Artest. It is almost mind blowing when you find out that he scored 37 points with 61% shooting while only taking TWO shots inside of 12 feet!!"
Could Dwyane Wade's week get any better? On top of one of the greatest finishes of all time, now he gets to make the key shot in a big win against the Celtics? For Boston, Rajon Rondo appreciation week rolls on ...