Iverson returns to Philly
Of course, Allen Iverson was the big story playing in Philadelphia for the first time since he was traded from the Sixers in January, 2006. He put up 32 points and eight assists and had another solid shooting night (13-of-24 from the field) despite his broken hand. He has shot better than 50 percent in three of his past four games. The other guys worthy of your attention played on the winning team. Samuel Dalembert has come all the way back from the strained quad that was bothering him a few weeks back. He posted another big line with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. This is a good sign heading into the last month of the season.
Last week I thought the benching of Travis Diener for Flip Murray was as much a motivational tactic by coach Jim O'Brien as a strategic one. Looks like I was wrong. Murray has started three straight games and his minutes have gone up in each from 20 to 30 to last night's 35. Diener on the other hand has seen his minutes in free fall from 28 to 18 to 12. Most of you have dumped Diener (5.6 percent owned) and that was clearly the right move. Murray's line last night (22 points, one 3-pointer, four assists and three steals) represents the high end of what he can give you night to night. He is a point guard in name only. He can contribute points, steals and the occasional 3-pointer. He is not a good source of assists.
Gerald Wallace is back to his old minutes. Last night he logged 40 minutes, scoring 17 points on 5-of-10 from the field and 7-of-7 from the line. This was the most PT Wallace has seen since he returned from his concussion. That's the good news. The bad news is that after five games and in particular in his 38 minutes last night we are not seeing the "Crash" of old. His shot attempts are way down as are the rebounds and steals. While this restraint is certainly better for his health, it is hurting his owners. There isn't much you can do about it but I would be surprised to see Wallace playing with the same abandon that allowed him to average 23.8 points and 8.0 rebounds as he did in January, his last healthy month.
Expect more nights like last night from Antawn Jamison. He put up 31 points, three 3-pointers, 11 rebounds and four steals. Jamison is the de facto go to guy on the Wizards now. Caron Butler has a small fracture in his wrist and while he is playing through it, he clearly is not the same player since this injury and the labral tear in his left hip. Jamison has dropped 26.4 points, 2.4 3-pointers, 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals over his last five. This looks like good baseline for the rest of the season. Even if Gilbert Arenas does come back, he has stated it will be as a distributor and the scoring load is going to fall on Jamison.
The less said about Miami's game last night, the better. I will expend one word for every point they scored. When Chris Quinn (14 points) leads your team in scoring, it is going to be a rough game. He got his playing time because Jason Williams missed last night with a jammed right thumb.
Chris Bosh played his first game in the month of March and put up eight points and eight boards. Obviously, while the offense wasn't all the way back, the defense was more than solid.
As a Vince Carter owner in at least one league I can say, "What took so long, VC?" It was vintage Carter last night as he scored 39 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists, easily his best line of the season.
Al Horford (20 points, 15 boards and six assists) showed folks why keeper league owners should be holding tight and why redraft owners should be thinking fifth round or so in 12-team leagues.
How the mighty have fallen. The Rockets are now 0-2 since ripping off 22 straight victories and the effort of the historic streak has taken its toll. For the second night in a row they suffered a 20-plus point loss. Their offense has all but disappeared. When Tracy McGrady (15 points) doesn't have it going, there aren't enough other scorers to pick up the slack for the Rockets. It doesn't get much easier for the Rockets as they face the Warriors and Suns next. At least the Rockets should score some more facing these teams. Luis Scola (14 points, nine rebounds) and Rafer Alston (10 points, four assists) are the best bets for scoring after McGrady but both are prone to bouts of inconsistency as we saw last night.
I am not sure why Delonte West isn't shooting better as a member of the Cavs. I really thought he would be a better fit on offense than he has proven to be so far. He has shot 32.6 percent from the field over his past five games and was 3-for-13 last night. At least one Cavalier other than LeBron James (30 points) showed life last night. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had his best game since returning from a sore back with 20 points, eight rebounds, one block and one steal. Big Z's jumper was hitting last night and his owners have to hope that they will see more consistency from him going forward.
Though he shot poorly from the field (2-of-12) Ryan Gomes extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to seven with 14 points. Gomes has been streaky all season. I see no reason to jump off now. He has been especially strong from the free throw line lately, hitting 30-of-31 over his past five games.
Rudy Gay still seems to be pressing. He hasn't looked good since injuring his hamstring late in the game against Phoenix. It isn't all bad. He did score 25 last night. It's just that it took 9-of-23 shooting to get there, including 1-of-7 from downtown.
Before we declare Steve Kerr a genius and the Shaquille O'Neal trade a success we should note that the Suns' current six-game winning streak has, with the exception of Golden State and the struggling Spurs, come at the expense of some weak competition. The road gets a little harder next week with games against Detroit, Boston and Philadelphia. Despite 26 turnovers, last night was a laugher and the usual suspects -- Amare Stoudemire (26 points), Steve Nash (23 points, five 3-pointers, 11 assists) and Leandro Barbosa (17 points, three 3-pointers) -- put up good numbers. There could be more good nights ahead for Barbosa as Raja Bell left last night's game with a sprained right ankle. It looks like he could miss a few games with this one.
Mickael Pietrus seems to have taken to the power forward thing. Now if only Don Nelson could keep the minutes consistent. Last night Pietrus got the minutes (35) and the stats his owners are looking for: 15 points, one 3-pointer, 12 rebounds, and one block. Taking out Tuesday's 16 minute game Pietrus has averaged 37.5 minutes, 14.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 1.0 steals over his past five games. One would hope Nelly would see these numbers and just give Pietrus the PT he deserves. Even he doesn't, I think owners can live with one stinker out of five games.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.