The Starting Lineup: Howard Could Be Done For The Year

If the Orlando Magic were screwed before… man, I don’t even know what they are now. The latest Dwight Howard status update has him at “50/50 for the playoffs” (that’s according to Stan Van Gundy), and now Big Baby’s gone down with a sprained knee. The Baby injury, assuming he misses at least a little time, leaves the Magic with four healthy bodies which stand 6’10″ (not including Hedo Turkeyglue my bad, forgot he’s out too): Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Justin Harper, and Daniel Orton. What the f@ck is a Justin Harper? Stan Van should probably execute a full [Don] Nelson and run a lineup of Jameer, Redick, J-Rich, Turkey Clark, and Anderson.

Talk about Andrew Bynum’s rebounds and Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting all you want, but the officials ultimately determined the outcome of Mavs/Lakers (112-108, Lakers). I’m mad? Not really. You might be in denial, though. Matt Barnes stepped out of bounds, and then he goaltended Pau Gasol’s three. Simple as that. Yeah, Dirk shot like sh!t (9-28) and Bynum was dominant on the offensive glass (5), but the Mavs forced an overtime only to see the Lakers get spotted five points. Sometimes Dirk’s gonna shoot bad… doesn’t mean the Mavs have to lose, even to Andrew Bynum and your Los Angeles Lakers. It shouldn’t even matter who you were rooting for; if you love basketball, this game left a bad taste in your mouth.

Luol Deng: What planet were you on yesterday? Fortunately for Luol and the Bulls, Rodney Stuckey clunked a couple freebies and Derrick Rose nailed a very Derrick-Rose-like shot to force OT. Joakim Noah played huge throughout the game (20 points, 17 boards), but he came up particularly large in OT. Noah got his hands on four critical offensive rebounds, and he spotted Kyle Korver in the corner for a wide-open three that gave Chicago a two-possession advantage with 1:24 the go. You’ve got to feel for Rodney Stuckey. The guy’s had an excellent season, and he had an exceptional game (32 points)… but the pair of free throws he missed in the final 20 seconds of regulation left the door open for Chicago. Good teams tend to capitalize on opportunities, so you simply can’t give them any.

In other Pistons-related news, Charlie Villanueva is alive…

I love Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass. Bradley has become one of the finest on-ball defenders in the league, and he’s made incredible strides on the offensive end in a span of just a few months. Bass may not be as talented as Big Baby, but his attitude is on point and he’s a great fit for the Celtics. The following happened against Jamario Moon’s Bobcats, so……. yeah, but Bradley and Bass totaled 42 points and the Cs picked up a W without any of the big three. Rajon Rondo (20/6/16) extended his double-digit assist streak to 22 games. As incredible a run as it’s been for Rondo, Magic Johnson once did the same thing for twice as long. Assuming playoff games don’t factor into the equation Rondo will probably have to ride his streak into next December in order to match Magic.

Make it five of seven for those pesky Hornets. Eric Gordon’s return has made a huge difference, obviously, but how about the play of Jason Smith (you know, the guy who flagrantly fouled Blake Griffin)? Yeah, that guy, he’s averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds over his last 11 games. He matched a career high with 10 rebounds in last night’s 88-75 win over the Grizzlies, and he threw in 14 points and 4 assists for good measure. The guy has a nice mid-range jumper and he’s very athletic, energetic, and active around the basket. As for the Grizzlies, they fall two games behind the Clippers… but that’s the least of their concerns. Marc Gasol left the game in New Orleans with a left knee injury. Fortunately, it seems that it’s just a bone bruise.

Jeff Van Gundy used the Heat/Knicks game as a platform to launch into his most epic rant ever. The subject was flopping, of course.

As for the game… uh, well, the Knicks missed 21 three-pointers and turned the ball over nearly as many times as they assisted (14 to 19). Carmelo Anthony went off for 42, but 19 points from the rest of the starting lineup weren’t enough. Miami ramped up their defensive effort in the fourth quarter, holding Carmelo to 7 points as they outscored the Knicks by 8 on their way to a 93-85 victory. The Heat got just 20 points from the role players, but Wade, LeBron, and Bosh all played pretty well in the same game. That’s encouraging, as is the win at Madison Square. This lands the Knicks back in 8th, by the way.

The Rockets have dropped to 8th (just one game ahead of Phoenix) with an 86-101 loss to the Nuggets. Houston has gone just 2-3 since Kyle Lowry returned. I’m not saying it’s Lowry’s fault– he hasn’t even played that much–but chemistry is an awfully touchy thing. Goran Dragic, for whatever reason, has looked human lately. He’s shooting just 36% over his last three. McHale and company better get it together pretty damn quickly… they play the Nuggets again tonight before traveling to Dallas and New Orleans on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hasheem Thabeet sighting…

“The Dream” (don’t be mad at me, that’s what he calls himself) finished with 2 points, 3 rebounds, and a blocked shot, but the Blazers went down in Sacramento. The Bayou Bomber got ‘em.

Box Score Observations: Ben Uzoh’s Toronto Raptors beat the Hawks by 16. Uzoh scored 10, Anderson (Alan) dropped 16, and DeMaR DeRoZaN had 23. Jameer Nelson scored 21 as the Magic beat the Cavs 100-84. Cleveland shot 37% from the floor.  Wes Matthews knocked down 8 three-pointers in that aforementioned Blazer loss.  Portland is now 1-3 when Matthews hits five or more threes.

Highlight Recap, Jason Maxiell Edition: He still eats babies (and Carlos Boozers)…

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