|West playoffs finally set, and madness starts again soon|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 April 2008 23:44|
Three games in Texas on the last night of the regular season settled the final six spots in the Western Conference postseason - and set up some intriguing first-round matchups.
The best could be San Antonio against Phoenix, a rematch of a tense series from last year - and this time with Shaquille O'Neal playing for the Suns.
``It's an unbelievable way to start off the playoffs, but that's how it is,'' Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said.
The Spurs routed Utah 109-80 on Wednesday night, clinching the No. 3 seed. With that same seed, San Antonio beat Phoenix in six games in the West semifinals on the way to its fourth NBA title.
San Antonio won the final two games, aided when Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for Game 5 after leaving the bench during an altercation in the final game.
The Suns won both meetings since acquiring O'Neal from Miami.
``Shaq slows them down a little bit,'' Manu Ginobili said. ``So they gain a lot in one part, but they lose a little bit in another part. Still, Shaq is Shaq and you have to respect that.''
In other games, it was: Indiana 132, New York 123; Orlando 103, Washington 83; Detroit 84, Cleveland 74; Dallas 111, New Orleans 98; Charlotte 115, Philadelphia 109; Miami 113, Atlanta 99; Boston 105, New Jersey 94; Minnesota 110, Milwaukee 101 in overtime; Chicago 107, Toronto 97; Houston 93, the Los Angeles Clippers 75; Denver 120, Memphis 111; Phoenix 100, Portland 91; and Seattle 126, Golden State 121.
The playoffs begin Saturday, with no clear favorite in a conference where eight teams won 50 games. The Lakers are the No. 1 seed, but Denver's Allen Iverson is ready for his crack at Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant.
``Let's go. This is what it's all about for me. You can't draw it up any better,'' Iverson said. ``People say he's the best basketball player on the planet, so I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge. Especially with me believing that about myself, so let's go.
``This is what it's about. If you're scared, get a dog.''
The deepest playoff race in league history wasn't settled until the final few games of the schedule. The Rockets wrapped up the No. 5 seed with their victory over the Clippers and set up another first-round series against Utah.
The Jazz are No. 4 automatically by winning the Northwest Division, but finished a game behind Houston. The home court didn't help the Rockets in the same scenario last year, as the Jazz beat them in seven games.
``I think home court is kind of overrated. You can't rely on home court to win any series, as last year proved,'' Houston's Shane Battier said. ``We have to play good basketball, both here and on the road. We've been playing well at home and have a higher level of confidence here. We need to take that confidence on the road and be able to steal a couple. That's how you win in the playoffs.''
Dallas set up a rematch of another sort with its victory over New Orleans. That gave the Mavericks the No. 7 seed and a first-round meeting with the second-seeded Hornets, the Southwest Division champions, instead of a trip to Los Angeles.
``This was definitely a win we wanted to get,'' Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said. ``The Lakers are probably the hottest team in the West. We definitely didn't want to face them in the first round. ... (New Orleans) had a great year, but I think we match up pretty well.''
The East pairings had already been determined. Top-seed Boston faces No. 8 Atlanta; No. 2 Detroit opens against No. 7 Philadelphia; Southeast Division champion Orlando is the third seed and meets No. 6 Toronto; and defending East champ Cleveland and No. 5 Washington hook up for the third straight year in the first round.
Mavericks 111, Hornets 98
At Dallas, Jason Kidd had the 100th triple-double of his career and first since rejoining the Mavericks with 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Jason Terry finished with 30 points, one shy of his season high.
Rockets 93, Clippers 75
At Houston, Luis Scola had 22 points and 10 rebounds, backup guard Bobby Jackson added 15 points, and Tracy McGrady made up for a 2-for-11 shooting night with 11 assists as the Rockets improved to 22-2 in their past 24 home games.
Houston won 35 of its last 43 regular-season games. Los Angeles dropped its last seven.
Suns 100, Trail Blazers 91
At Phoenix, little-used Sean Marks had 16 points and 13 rebounds as Phoenix went with its reserves after learning it was locked into the No. 6 seed.
Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal didn't play after halftime. Stoudemire finished with 12 points in 18 minutes, snapping his streak of consecutive 20-point games at 18, the third-longest in franchise history.
Nuggets 120, Grizzlies 111
At Denver, Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first game since getting arrested on a drunken driving charge, and the Nuggets reached 50 wins for the first time in 20 years.
Pacers 132, Knicks 123
At Indianapolis, Mike Dunleavy tied a career high with 36 points, and the Pacers sent the Knicks to a franchise record-tying 59th loss in what might have been Isiah Thomas' last game as coach.
New Knicks president Donnie Walsh is expected to make a decision on Thomas' future with the team in the next few days.
SuperSonics 126, Warriors 121
At Oakland, Calif., Kevin Durant set career highs with 42 points and 13 rebounds in what could have been the SuperSonics' final game as a Seattle team. The NBA Board of Governors is set to vote later this week to approve the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City.
The Warriors (48-34) had their best season since winning 50 games in 1993-94, and had the most wins by a non-playoff team since a 16-team postseason format went into effect in 1984.
Celtics 105, Nets 94
At Boston, second-stringer Leon Powe scored a career-high 27 points, adding 11 rebounds for his sixth career double-double, and the Celtics finished 66-16.
Richard Jefferson scored 24 points, and Nenad Krstic scored 13 with a season-high 12 rebounds. The Nets ended up 34-48, missing the playoffs for first time since 2001.
Pistons 84, Cavaliers 74
At Cleveland, LeBron James spent the final game of the regular season in street clothes, resting up for the playoffs and watching Detroit's reserves outplay the Cavaliers' bench.
Rookie Aaron Afflalo scored 15 points, Jason Maxiell had 13 and Rodney Stuckey 12 for the Pistons, who will meet the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round starting Sunday.
Magic 103, Wizards 83
At Orlando, Fla., J.J. Redick scored a career-high 18 points in the regular-season finale for two playoff-bound teams.
Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison didn't play for the Wizards, and Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy pulled Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu by halftime.
Bulls 107, Raptors 97
At Chicago, Tyrus Thomas scored a season-high 26 points, Aaron Gray had career highs of 19 points and 22 rebounds, and the Bulls' woeful season came to a merciful end.
T.J. Ford finished with 18 points in 18 minutes, and Chris Bosh had eight points in 15 minutes as the Raptors rested many of their starters.
Bobcats 115, 76ers 109
At Charlotte, N.C., Jason Richardson scored 29 points, Emeka Okafor had 24 points and nine rebounds, and the Bobcats sent the 76ers to the playoffs on a four-game losing streak.
Timberwolves 110, Bucks 101, OT
At Minneapolis, Randy Foye scored 10 of his career-high 32 points in overtime to help Minnesota finish a forgettable regular season on a winning note.
In what might have been the end of Larry Krystkowiak's only full season as coach, the Bucks blew a 16-point third-quarter lead. Milwaukee (26-56) closed by losing eight straight.
Heat 113, Hawks 99
At Miami, Jason Williams scored 17 points, Mark Blount and Daequan Cook each added 16 and the Heat ended what could be coach Pat Riley's last season on the bench.
Riley will meet with Heat owner Micky Arison soon to decide his future. Miami finished 15-67, matching the 1988-89 expansion team for the worst record in franchise history.