By Craig Kwasniewski
You know tonight there's actually more than just announcing the All Star Reserves, right? TNT was nice enough to put together a virtual pick-me-up bouquet of a double-header to cheer up the Deron Williams, Chris Kaman and Andrew Bynum fans as their guys failed to make the All Star game (in D-Will's case... yet again).
BTW - While I have your attention, I have a very hard time admitting any New York Knicks to All-Star Weekend, to defend a slam dunk title or as a power forward reserve, after that 50 point embarrassment last Sunday. Yeah they sort of bounced back against the second worst team in the league, but no team should ever lose a home game by 50. Never not any! As punishment, all Knicks should lose their Dallas privileges for that weekend. Sorry to all those David Lee lifers.
Back to Thursday's Hoop Preview (all times Pacific):
Boston at Orlando (5:00 PM): Nice to open with a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semis. And really nice of Boston to be nearly in the same health with KG dragging his knee all over the floor as Celtics fans cross their fingers together so hard they bleed hoping and praying he'll be healthy enough for the playoff run. Sheed is on week 13 of his 26 week play-myself-into-shape workout regimen. The funny thing is does he really need to be in shape to trail on the break, jack up threes from the top of the arc or occasionally play in the post? Obviously Sheed agrees while Celtics fans slowly accept that he's signed until 2011-12.... Have fun with that Boston!
Orlando is still looking for an identity while learning that life ain't so easy with championship expectations, learning to play Vince Carter ball (poor shot selection, random injuries, disappearing acts) and with a big target on your back. Last year Orlando stole a few games while the rest of the league was debating between Boston or Cleveland as the beast of the east. I'm wondering if Magic fans saw Turkoglu break down the Lakers last Sunday and pull out a very veteran savvy W. How many fans are secretly wanting a do over between Carter and Hedo.
Boston blew out Orlando on Christmas Day. *IF* the Magic decide to actually work the ball inside to Dwight Howard, they win easily. The problem is that much of this season the Magic have gone away from their best player, which totally makes sense?!? Tonight they attack down low and Orlando wins 96-88.
Dallas at Phoenix (7:30 PM): Danger, danger, danger! It's officially panic time in Phoenix! In November they were talking 50+ wins and a long shot at another MVP award for Steve Nash. Now... now, they break out with huge leads in the second quarter, blow them late and lose every single time. Injuries are starting to mount, the coaching staff is making panic line-up adjustments and the feeling is that they'll be lucky to get an 8 seed. And let's not forget the HUGE pink elephant that is the Amar'e Stoudemire trade rumors. Early in the season I really liked how this Suns roster was put together. They had the right finishers and more importantly the best perimeter shooting since the 06-07 team. But they lack that run stopping low post threat. Amar'e is more of a pick and roll finisher and nobody else has the low post game... so they become the typical live-by-the-three die-by-the-three team and there's a lot of dying these days.
Dallas seems very content in their role as 2nd or 3rd best team in the west. They're pulling out every close game (10 one point wins in a row!) and have the right mix of talent to be considered a Western Conference Finalist. Not bad for a team that looked to pull off the ultimate panic trade for Jason Kidd. Instead they got a floor leader that took off all the pressure on Dirk, who's playing his best basketball since the MVP season. Serious props to the Mavs front office for this team!
Quite simply, Phoenix is deep into panic mode and won't be able to protect any lead (if any) as Dallas wins easily 112-101.