Rob Blackstien

The Daily Dose

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Getting Even

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Amare Stoudemire was definitely not impressed with the elbow in the ribs he received on Wednesday courtesy of everyone's favorite NBA good guy Bruce Bowen.

And while Stat had some choice words for Bowen, he ultimately let his performance do the talking, shaking off foul trouble and scoring 21 points to lead a balanced Sun' attack as Phoenix dominated down the stretch and beat San Antonio 96-79.

There was a definite playoff-like feel to this game, bringing back memories of last season's six-game second round series between these two teams that caused Stoudemire to call the defending champion Spurs a "dirty team," with Bowen in particular raising his ire.

Last night, in the wake of Bowen's elbow in the fourth quarter, Stoudemire again pulled no punches.

"Bruce came elbow first. Elbowed me right in my rib cage," he said. "You know, definitely wasn't a basketball play on his part and I reacted. I definitely didn't appreciate it. So, I let him know about it."

While we salivate at the prospect of another potential playoff matchup with these two teams, let's scour the hardwood for the rest of Wednesday's NBA highlights…

  • Rafer Alston returned from a three-game, hammy-induced absence with a flourish, nailing 6-of-11 from the field for 18 points with two steals and two treys. Pick him up if he was dropped in your league. While Alston has played less this year, he's actually wound up being a bit more involved in the Rocket offense.

  • Chris Bosh shook off a poor offensive effort Saturday by sinking 11-of-18 Wednesday night en route to 32 points with 11 rebounds, four blocks, three steals and even his third trey in the past five games as the Raps ended a three-game losing skid. It hasn't particularly been a banner year for CB4 with his PT dropping for the second straight season, his free throws down slightly and his blocks also down, however, he appears to be finishing strong. In the past five games, Bosh is averaging 25.8 PPG, 1.4 SPG and 1.2 BPG.

  • It's been a rough season for Charlie Villanueva, who again has failed to build on that solid rookie season he put up two years ago. However, he's looking like a great late-season pickup with his recent play. Charlie V exploded last night against his ex-team with a season-best 38 points on 14-of-25 shooting, canning seven treys along the way. Where did that display of outside shooting come from? That's a career high. Villanueva also had 12 boards, an assist and a steal last night and, over his past five, he's putting up 19.4 points and ten boards per game. Get this: the dude accounted for 25 of the Bucks' first 29 points last night. That'll do.

Injury Report

Shane Battier left early Wednesday after suffering a bruised left foot in the first half. He wound up starting the second half, but was gone after playing just seven minutes. Although Battier has struggled with his shooting this year, he's remained a moderately useful fantasy player because of his across-the-board production, but if this injury is more serious than we think, go ahead and grab someone that will help you. For now, Battier is being listed as questionable for Friday. Tracy McGrady was sitting this one because of his shoulder, but he's expected to return Friday. It's not as if Houston needed either of them to hammer to woeful Sonics.

Tip-ins: Manu Ginobili has gone ice cold at the wrong time. In the past five games, he's sunk just 18-of-49 for 11.2 PPG while averaging just 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.4 steals. He's just 2-for-13 from 3-point land over this stretch. Not exactly peaking into the playoffs, is he?...The Suns won three out of four against the Spurs this year, the first time San Antonio dropped this season series since 2002-03. Let's see if that can translate into success come playoff time should these teams renew their rivalry…Tim Duncan checked in with 23 points and ten boards, although he sunk just 9-of-21 including only 1-of-5 in the fourth quarter. Give him 51 double-doubles in 74 games, compared to just 45 in 80 last year…The Spurs have only been beaten seven times at home this season. How bad do you think they want home court advantage?...Tony Parker shook off a couple of substandard offensive performances with 20 points last night…Veteran Michael Finley has only been useful in very deep leagues, but he's hit double digits in three of his last five games, averaging 10.8 PPG over that stretch. Last night, he canned both his attempts from beyond the arc…The Spurs are averaging just 71.7 PPG in the last three. I don't care how good you are defensively with that kind of O…LeBron James shook off his back woes with an 11-for-21 shooting performance Wednesday good for 33 points. He flirted with another triple-double, getting eight assists and seven rebounds, while also blocking a pair. Is he the MVP? I discussed this issue yesterday, wondering whether Cleveland's disappointing year would hold LBJ back from the hardware…Rajon Rondo departed early to the locker room because of an upset stomach. What did I tell him about eating spicy burritos before the game? Assumedly, he's day-to-day…Chris Paul shook off that down game Tuesday with another double-double, scoring 19 points with 16 assists and a pair of treys as the Hornets reached 55 wins for the first time in franchise history….Dwight Howard had 30 points and 14 rebounds for another double-double. Ho hum. That's 67 in 78 tries for the man child…Fred Jones nailed five treys, including a key one late to ice it as the Knicks won their third straight. No, I did not mistype that. Donnie Walsh wants answers from Isiah about what went wrong with the team this season. Isn't it obvious? It's because the real Fred Jones didn't show up until now! Uh, yeah…Andre Iguodala scored 25 points, dropped six dimes, had five steals and four treys to lead Philly past Detroit. Iggy now has at least 25 points in three straight…David Lee (back spasms) returned to action, but forgot his offense (six points). On the plus side, he pulled down 11 boards…Antawn Jamison looked none the worse for wear in returning Wednesday from a two-game absence because of his shoulder. He had 27 points, 11 rebounds, three treys and two assists…As long as the Nets are still alive, Vince Carter will soldier on (if you can assess VC's play at any time as soldiering, which is dubious at best), scoring 19 points on his bad ankle last night. Prepare to lose both him and Bostjan Nachbar (who you likely don't care about anyways) at any time…Jeff Green gained a lot of waiver wire attention after his 35-point game on the weekend. Since then, he's sunk just 9-of-26. Gotta love the consistency of rooks…Talk about the difference between the NBA haves and have-nots. Utah holds the powerful Hornets to 66 points Tuesday. A night later, the T-Wolves spot them 120 points.

Team Report

Whatever struggles the Phoenix Suns had adjusting to life with Shaquille O'Neal seem to be over as evidenced by team's strong finish to March and huge win over the Spurs Wednesday when they enjoyed a nicely balance offense with six players reaching double figures.

While the Suns aren't going to touch last year's 61-win effort, last night's victory pulled them within a half game of the Pacific Division-leading Lakers and kept Phoenix in the hunt in the wild, wild Western Conference race, where it is currently in sixth place. The Suns have a chance to pass the Rockets with a win in Houston Friday.

Led by an outside shooting game that is the NBA's best for the fourth straight year, the team's offense is actually better than it was last season, but with 105.1 points allowed per game, it's pretty clear what this team's Achilles' heel is.

Shaq returned to action last night after missing Tuesday's game because of his hip. He only played 24 minutes, but did very well, sinking 7-of-9 for 16 points (eight coming in the final quarter) with nine rebounds, two steals and a block. It's no secret that Diesel's offense has been in decline for a long time, and he hasn't exactly found the fountain of youth in the desert, but to be fair, his rebounding work has been stellar for the Suns (10.5 RPG). Damn, he's even doing better from the line in Phoenix.

Thanks to his wonky back, Steve Nash is also finally beginning to show his age, and he's been in a scoring slump of late with just 14.6 PPG over his past five. He managed just 12 points last night, but came through with eight in the pivotal fourth quarter. Throw in ten assists against no turnovers and Nash checked in with his still near-automatic double-double. And in fairness, he's enjoying the finest season of his career from beyond the arc.

Boris Diaw has been a huge disappointment this year, and has had little use in mid-size or smaller fantasy leagues as a result. However, he appears to be finishing strong, with three straight double-digit scoring games and an average of 11.6 PPG with 4.6 RPG and 1.2 SPG in the last five. While Diaw has shot poorly from the field and the perimeter this year, he has done better at the line than ever before (76 percent). Still, what has to irk whatever fantasy owners he still has left is the lack of blocks. Remember when Diaw averaged a block per game? He recorded 85 blocks in 2005-06, but has just 74 in the two seasons since then.

When looking at his across-the-board numbers and career-best shooting from the field, this has been Stoudemire's finest season as a pro. His minutes are up as he continues to put the micro-fracture surgery in the rear view mirror. Stat is even getting more assists this year (did you see those five dimes he dropped on Tuesday?). San Antonio seems to be about the only team capable of stopping this dude. In the past 37 games, he's been held below 20 points just twice, with the Spurs responsible for both of those.

Leandro Barbosa is still a must-own fantasy commodity, but thanks to a much worse effort from beyond the arc (38.5 percent), he hasn't been able to duplicate his breakout 2006-07 season. Even though his overall scoring is down, the Brazilian Blur remains a great source of treys, putting up back-to-back multi-trey games this week.

Raja Bell's PT is down this year as he suffers through his worst season as a Sun. On the plus side, he appears to be picking things up now, with four straight double-digit scoring efforts, averaging 13.3 PPG over this stretch.

Grant Hill remains a decent fantasy play, but his offensive game continues to deteriorate and he's been very inconsistent of late while he battles through injuries. But I'll give him this: he's learned to play the Phoenix way, hoisting up a career-high 1.5 three-point attempts per game this season.

Rob Blackstien runs, a site featuring daily fantasy sports analysis. In addition to his baseball work on the site, he contributes to Rotoworld’s basketball coverage. Rob also writes for, and has contributed to Rotoman’s Fantasy Baseball Guide and Fantasy Football Guide.
Email :Rob Blackstien

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