Rockets advance, beat Blazers 92-76

The AP reports: For the first time in 12 years, the Houston Rockets advanced in the NBA playoffs. Ron Artest scored 27 points, Yao Ming had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Houston reached the second round for the first time since 1997, beating the Portland Trail Blazers 92-76 in Game 6 on Thursday night. Aaron Brooks scored 13 points and Shane Batter tied a career playoff-high with nine rebounds as the Rockets won for the first time in their last seven first-round series. They lost Game 6s the last two seasons, both to Utah. Houston put this one away with a big second quarter and moves on to play the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night at the Staples Center. The Lakers won all four meetings in the regular season. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Brandon Roy had 22 for the Blazers, who were making their first playoff appearance since 2003. Portland improved 13 games from last season and reached its highest win total since 1999-00.

Magic eliminate 76ers with 114-89 win

The AP reports: On a night the suspended Dwight Howard recorded a double-double in blog and Twitter posts from his hotel room, the Magic advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, beating the Philadelphia 76ers 114-89 in Game 6 on Thursday… Playing without Howard and injured guard Courtney Lee, the Magic thumped the Sixers from the start… Rashard Lewis scored 29 points and Rafer Alston had 21 to help the Magic win for the second time this series in Philadelphia. The Magic’s decisive run came early when they made 12 of their first 19 shots… Alston hit two 3-pointers during the Magic’s fast start that put them up 15 and quickly negated the home crowd. J.J. Redick made all three 3-point attempts in the first half and ably filled in for Lee… Andre Miller scored 24 points and Andre Iguodala had 20 for the Sixers, who were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season and face a cloudy offseason.

Bulls beat Celtics in 3 OTs, force Game 7

The AP reports: One more thriller, and now, the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics will play a decisive seventh game. Derrick Rose scored 28 points and blocked Rajon Rondo’s potential game-winner, John Salmons scored 35, and the Bulls beat the defending champions 128-127 in triple overtime Thursday night to tie the first-round series at three games apiece. Ray Allen scored a career playoff-high 51 points for the Celtics, but the series will go back to Boston for Game 7 on Saturday after another classic battle in a series that had already seen its share of drama. Three of the first five games went to overtime, including one that needed two extra periods. Another came down to the wire in regulation, but this easily trumped them all. Rondo penetrated and pulled up on the left block with 8 seconds left and turned, only to be rejected by Rose. The rookie of the year then missed two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining, before Rondo launched a harmless heave from beyond midcourt. That ended the game. The series, however, continues.

More on this game later tonight.

Jerry Sloan has knee surgery

Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan underwent successful right knee replacement surgery today, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor announced.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Russell Nelson in Salt Lake City.

The longest-tenured head coach in NBA history, Sloan recently completed his 21st season at the helm of the Jazz and ranks as the NBA’s fourth-winningest coach all-time with a career record of 1,137-751 (1,043-630 with Jazz).  Sloan was also selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Class of 2009 where he will be inducted in September.

Rick Welts named president, CEO of Phoenix Suns

Rick Welts has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Phoenix Suns, as announced today by Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver. Welts joined the Suns in July 2002 as President and Chief Operating Officer.

“During Rick’s seven years with the Suns he has distinguished himself as one of professional sports best operators.  Our creativity and success in areas such as marketing partnerships, technology, branding, customer service and this year’s NBA All-Star events have all been a result of Rick’s leadership,” said Sarver.

“I am very proud of what we have built here. Robert Sarver, Sam Garvin and our ownership partners have given this team the resources, confidence and support to be not just a good, but a great organization,” said Welts. “I have the best job in sports because of the extraordinary group of talented people I get to work with every day who are committed to being leaders in our industry and delivering our fans a great experience every time they visit US Airways Center.”

Welts’ NBA career started in 1969 as a ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics.  He remained with the Sonics for 10 years in several different capacities, including director of public relations when the Sonics won their lone NBA Championship in 1979.

He joined the NBA league office in New York City in 1982, and when he departed in 1999, he was serving as the league’s executive vice president, chief marketing officer and president of NBA Properties. Welts helped guide the revitalization of the league and its image through strong marketing initiated by the NBA and is credited with the creation of the NBA All-Star Weekend concept in 1984. He was responsible for the 1992 Olympics “Dream Team” marketing program as the agent for USA Basketball.  In 1998, Brandweek magazine named Welts “Marketer of the Year,” for his role in creating and launching the WNBA together with WNBA President Val Ackerman.

In addition to his Suns responsibilities, Welts oversees the club’s interests in the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) and US Airways Center.

Nuggets eliminate Hornets with 107-86 win

The AP reports: Behind Carmelo Anthony’s 34 points and the floor leadership of Chauncey Billups, the Denver native who came home this season and galvanized a city and a team, the Nuggets advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs, 107-86 over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night… Billups had 13 points and 11 assists, and J.R. Smith scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half to fuel Denver, which needed just five games to go from traditional first-round fodder to a playoff success story… Playing without Tyson Chandler but with a pride and passion unapparent through most of the series, the Hornets made the Nuggets sweat. It was tied at 62 midway through the third period before Denver went on a 24-4 run to ice it. David West led the Hornets with 24 points and Chris Paul toughed out a bum knee to get 12 points and 10 assists.

Johnson scores 25, Hawks beat Heat 106-91

The AP reports: The Hawks kept up the theme of this matchup between division rivals—no game has been close—but there were several subplots after a night of hard fouls and staredowns left the Heat feeling as though Atlanta rubbed it in a little too much in a 106-91 victory Wednesday. Joe Johnson scored 25 points in his first big game of the series, which the Hawks now lead 3-2, and Flip Murray added 23 from a bench that has taken on an increasingly important role. They already were without one injured starter (Marvin Williams) and lost another when Al Horford hobbled off the court with a sprained right ankle… Wade scored 29 points but didn’t get going until the game had been decided. The NBA’s leading scorer already was bothered by back spasms, and he was feeling even worse after colliding with Josh Smith late in the first quarter and banging the back of his head on the court… The Hawks made 13-of-16 from the field in the second quarter, including their last 12 attempts, to push a 24-20 lead to a commanding 63-40 lead by halftime.

NBA team notes swine flu

I generally talk almost entirely about basketball, occasionally touching on fun stuff in entertainment, and avoid discussing anything nasty in the world, but today, an NBA team located down near Mexico has sent a reaction to the current swine flu issue.

The Houston Rockets, showing that they’re on top of things, took a positive step to state that they’re aware of the swine flu’s existence and are monitoring the situation and making sure everyone is safe. I think they’re the first NBA team to say something about the issue, though they didn’t actually mention it by name in the release they sent out.

Here’s what the Rockets said:

“We are aware of the situation and concerned for all involved.  We have been working with city health officials and the mayor’s office, as well as monitoring the situation from state and regional authorities.  At this time, Toyota Center has been advised to continue its normal operations pertaining to Rockets and Aeros playoff games as well as concerts.  We will continue communicating with the various agencies and will keep our fans apprised if any operational changes are implemented based on the directives we receive from local authorities.”

Until there’s reason to do so, I’ll probably not mention the issue again. Good for the Rockets, for being proactive.

Now, back to focusing on the playoffs!

Dwight Howard suspended for Game 6 due to elbowing Dalembert

dwight howard suspended

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has been suspended one game without pay for elbowing Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert in the head, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred with 9:15 remaining in the first period of Orlando’s 91-78 victory over the 76ers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Amway Arena last night.

Howard will serve his suspension Wednesday night (April 30) when the Magic faces the 76ers in Game 6 at Wachovia Center.

Here is a video of the Dwight Howard elbow of Salembert:

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.