The weekend really started last Thursday, with player altercations all night: Bulls at Heat, Bucks at Pacers, Clippers at Suns…it was spicy. Playoff intensity definitely started early this year. It was a wild weekend….
WORLD PEACE IS OUT
….for a while. If you think Metta’s “accidental” elbow to the head of James Harden will only cost him one game then you don’t know David Stern, and you definitely never heard of Ron Artest. The Lakers don’t play till Thursday (their final game) so the league will take its time deciding on the punishment. But I think this will be a 3-game suspension at the least. Metta World Peace will be starting his playoff run on the road this year.
As for the actual incident, I think we can all agree that the artist formerly known as Ron-Ron is still a very dangerous man on the court. I feel bad because after it happened I honestly couldn’t stop laughing…not at the expense of James Harden (players laying on the floor in the NBA is a regular occurrence, so I wasn’t moved) but more so because it was hilarious how Metta tried to play it off like just part of his post-dunk celebration. His second chest pound didn’t even make contact, he aborted it early in order to wind up on the Thunder SG. Then he gave an extra mini-chest bump downcourt to sell it. I thought it was hilarious…..till I saw Harden at halftime walking back to the locker room with a face like a relative had passed away. I may be swayed to think that Metta didn’t plan on hitting James in the head but only to clear some space in a more reactionary move. Either way, it was still a dangerous play. One thing is for sure, some guys in the league (and even at your local gym) can lose it in the midst of competition. Make sure you know who you’re playing against, at any level. Some dudes just got nothing to lose…..
THE JAZZ ARE IN
There is a god! I was so annoyed last week at the thought of either the Rockets or Suns making the playoffs out west. As of today, the Utah Jazz have a 1 game lead and are looking like the favorites to get in. They remind me of last year’s 8th seed that ruined San Antonio’s summer. Just like the Grizzlies, Utah has a dynamite inside rotation: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter…..that’s a lotta meat. When you consider that they even play 3 of them together at times is a scary matchup. If Raja Bell ever gets healthy this could be another Lionel Hollins-like playoff run. Devin Harris is making clutch plays down the stretch of games, a la Mike Conley last season. Head coach Tyrone Corbin is pushing all the right buttons…inside. Oh, and if you liked March Madness, then you won’t want to miss Tuesday night’s game between Phoenix and Utah….it’ll be an all out war in Salt Lake City.
THE SIXERS WON A CLOSE GAME?
Yes they did….at playoff-ready Indiana. The 76ers somehow kept the game close down the stretch to force overtime, clearly not their style this season. Despite giving up a four-point play to start the extra session (following a 3-point shot), Philly was able to take control and hold on for victory. It was a rollercoaster final minute that saw a 5-second violation on Indiana and then a bogus jump ball call to give the Pacers back the ball to possibly tie. When it was all said and done, coach Doug Collins celebrated…then made a charge for referee Zach Zarba and let him know (colorfully) that the refs, um, stink. Could this be enough to propel Philadelphia to playoff heights? Chicago and Miami say otherwise.
CHICAGO & MIAMI TRADING PLACES
No, I’m not talking about in the standings….Bulls are still 1, the Heat 2. What I mean is, Chicago has pretty much been without Derrick Rose for the entire second half of the season (though Rip Hamilton has returned nicely). Now, with a week to go in the regular season, last year’s MVP is back and ballin’. The Heat, healthy all year, saw Dwyane Wade badly dislocate a finger this weekend. I doubt he will miss a game in the playoffs, or even a possession, but it can’t be a good thing. Chris Bosh too is “resting” lately on the bench. Miami should be trying to build momentum and cohesion heading into the postseason, not resting their stars not named Lebron James.
…..Bulls in 6.