AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson

3 votes – Carlos Boozer. What a turnaround for this half-man half-jungle animal. Grabbed more rebounds than he did in games 1 and 2 combined, broke the Jazz playoff record for rebounds in the first quarter (11) and a game (22), and more importantly, continually bulled the Lakers frontline from start to finish again raising questions of the Lakers’ softness. Boozer basically did what he wanted to in this game, including a thunderous left hand jam over Gasol in the final minute – a play that typified the Lakers inability to get stops when it mattered. I was going to say a lot more about the Lakers late disappearing act but Empty the Bench already said everything I wanted to say, namely that I doubt the testicular fortitude of this Lakers team. With Malice also has you covered, making the all-too relevant point that “Kobe needs to recognise where he is in a game, whether he’s feeling it… or not.  And play accordingly.” That degree of difficulty stuff I wrote about two days ago is at the heart of Kobe’s ill-advised shot attempts in this game – just too many tightly contested, turnaround fadeaways. But then again, if Trevor Ariza knocked down a couple of those threes off Kobe’s dishes we’d be calling Mamba a hero. Hell, why does this need to be all about the Lakers? GOOD JOB UTAH! You kicked ass in this game.

2 votes – Rajon Rondo. Somewhere along the line Rondo became the most important guy in this series, probably when people realised he’s the only Celtics player capable of playing at 110% for 48 minutes in every game. 20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals is nice, but what’s even more nice is again muting Derrick Rose – remember that shine I was talking about? It’s wearing off. Two things I found amusing about this game. 1) Bill Simmons (the world’s most famous Celtics fan) picking the Bulls to win Game 3 by 20-plus points, when in fact the complete opposite happened. And 2) Rondo getting carried off the court after the game which actually made me laugh out loud because I’d read this over at Hardwood Paroxysm just hours earlier:

The only problem I have with Rondo is every freaking game he has an injury that he “toughs”through. The first four times he did it I was worried about it. When he went down tonight I was like “He’ll be back. He’s never actually hurt.” Then I saw the replay and thought he might actually be seriously hurt. Nope. Taped the ankle and came back. I know he got hurt, I just never see him hurt enough to leave the game.”

Well surprise surprise, despite battling through the entire game seemingly injury free, Rondo still found a way to try and earn your sympathy. After the game Rondo said he just had sore feet, from a bad tape job, and that it hurt. HTFU Rondo.

1 vote – Dirk Nowitzki. Almost gave this vote to Pierce or D-Will for hitting the game winner, but someone needs to be recognized for whooping the Spurs tonight. I watched the end of this game from an Irish Pub in Manhattan, and I did a complete double-take when I saw the score early in the fourth. 80-44???? Was that the Guinness messing with my eyes? Or was that the biggest Spurs beat-down I’ve seen in my life? Turns out it was the latter, and yes that was actually the score at one point. Dirk lead the charge with 20 points on 8-12 shooting, the Mavs bench was again superb, and Dampier, while he didn’t knock Parker down on his ass like he promised, did swat one of his shots away that sent the crowd nuts. I think the Spurs are beat. I think the fate of this series lies solely in the hands and minds of the Dallas Mavericks. Unless they try and mimic their complete choke job from games 3-6 of the ’06 Finals – and that has to coincide with a burst of phenomenal form by a Spurs player -  they will easily handle San Antonio in 6 games.

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The other thing I wanted to do today was jot down my All-NBA Teams, if for no other reason than being able to say “I told you so” if my predictions are correct.

First Team
C – Dwight Howard: Lock
F – Lebron James: Lock
F – Tim Duncan: Toss up between Duncan and Gasol for me, but Gasol is the second banana on his team whereas Duncan is the primary banana
G – Kobe Bryant: Lock
G – Dwyane Wade: Lock

Second Team
C – Yao Ming: Lock
F – Kevin Garnett: Not sure how voters will respond after he missed so many games. Melo would be my next choice.
F – Pau Gasol: Has to be first or second team
G – Chris Paul: Lock, but ridiculous to think this guy can’t crack the first team. And that is because votes are done based on Guard, Forward, Center – not positional as in point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc.
G – Brandon Roy: I think he’s a definite second-teamer, but wouldn’t be surprised if the voters don’t agree with me

Third Team
C – Shaquille O’Neal: There’s a small chance, if Gasol is deemed a Center that he gets this spot, otherwise Shaq deserves an All-NBA selection for his revival this season. Plus Camby kind of slid off the map.
F – Dirk Nowitzki: I’d just as happily put Paul Pierce here. But again, primary banana rule.
F – Carmelo Anthony: Deserves an All-NBA selection after his best season so far.
G – Deron Williams: Did miss quite a few games, and for that reason Tony Parker or Ray Allen could get the nod.
G – Chauncey Billups: Lock. Only squeezed down this far because there are so many worthy guards this season.

Deserving Others
Paul Pierce – Actually raised his scoring numbers and rebound numbers from last season, and held the ship together when KG went down. The next guy in line after my above choices.

Tony Parker – Tony’s most productive season. Clearly the next best guard in line.

Ray Allen – Had a great season, and I think surprised people by managing to play at a high level while remaining quite durable.

Danny Granger – Second half of the season wasn’t as impressive as the first, or was it that we knew what to expect from the Platypus? Shouldn’t detract from what was a stunning season, a ray of light for Pacers fans.

Mo Williams – Voters might figure the league’s best team deserves two All-NBA’ers. That logic is stupid, but props to Mo Will for stepping up several times this season. Without him, Lebron doesn’t get to 55 wins.

Joe Johnson – Atlanta’s best player, but didn’t necessarily have to stand out for Atlanta to be successful this year. That says more about their balanced play than it does about JJ’s ability, who lets face it, is still one of the most dangerous guards in the league on his day.

Jason Kidd – Still a major factor defensively and a triple-double waiting to happen, but what impressed me most about Kidd’s season is the way he improved his three-point shot. A career-best percentage after 15 seasons!!!! Who improves anything after 15 years in this league? Impressive.

Steve Nash – Probably still the third best point guard in the league (at least until the Billups Renaissance), but the Suns complete mess is what robs him of an All-NBA Selection

David Lee – Yes, David Lee deserves a mention. He lead the league in double-doubles for Gods sake! If you want to label him a center, he might be even more deserving than Shaq in that Third Team.

Have I missed anyone?


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