20 things to ponder

Posted: April 20, 2007

1 - The Rockets posted their best record (52-30) since 1997. This will be Tracy McGrady's sixth playoff appearance. So far, he's 0-for-5.

2 - A serious knee injury, some thought career-threatening, limited the Suns' Amare Stoudemire to just three games last season. He bounced back big-time, averaging 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

3 - Former Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson will be making his first playoff appearance with Orlando after an erratic season in which he averaged 13.1 points, but shot only 43 percent with sometimes questionable shot selection. Orlando has lost its last five first-round series.

4 - Dirk Nowitzki had his lowest scoring average (24.6) in three seasons. So why is he going to win the MVP? Because his all-around play (8.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 50 percent shooting, 90.3 free throw) has helped Dallas go 67-11 since an 0-4 start.

5 - Golden State is making its first playoff appearance since 1994. Its coach then was Don Nelson, as it is now. The team went through eight coaches before Nellie's return.

6 - It's easy to fly under the radar when LeBron James is on your team, and Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has done just that. Raise your hand if you knew he has won 50 games in each of his first two seasons.

7 - It appears the Wizards' quest to advance in the playoffs for just the second time since 1979 is in serious doubt with injuries to Gilbert Arenas (28.4 points) and Caron Butler (19.1). They combined for 45.2 percent of the team's offense.

8 - Think a team from the East has a chance of grabbing the title? Neither do we. Here's a stat to support that: The Pistons were the only East team that had a winning road record (26-14). Five West teams (Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston and Denver) were above .500.

9 - Kobe Bryant wowed by scoring 50 or more 10 times this season, the third most in NBA history. The Lakers went 7-3 in those games. Wilt Chamberlain scored 50-plus 45 times in 1961-62 and 32 times the next season.

10 - The Heat's 44 regular-season wins were the fewest posted by the defending NBA champ since . . . We'll let you sit on that for a little bit. Answer at No. 20.

11 - After averaging 29.3 wins the past four season, the Raptors won the Atlantic Division with a 47-35 record. Don't be surprised if Chris Bosh (22.6 points, 10.8 rebounds) gets some serious MVP votes.

12 - LeBron James finished the season averaging 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists. He and Oscar Robertson are the only players in NBA history to average 27-6-6 in three straight seasons.

13 - Toronto fans will be hyped for the return of Vince Carter, who played six-plus seasons for the Raptors. The Nets go in on a high note, having won 10 of 13. They finished 41-41, the first time they'd been .500 since Jan. 20.

14 - Utah didn't help its playoff seeding, finishing the season winning just eight of 20, but keep an eye on Deron Williams (16.2 points, 9.3 assists). In just his second season out of Illinois, he's already become one of the best points in the league.

15 - San Antonio's Robert Horry will again be in the playoffs, making it in each of his 15 NBA seasons. He's been in with Houston (four times), the Lakers (seven) and San Antonio (four). He'll be looking for his seventh NBA championship.

16 - Since acquiring Allen Iverson, the Nuggets went an unremarkable 31-28. It seems now, though, that Iverson and Carmelo Anthony are getting used to one another as Denver finished the season winning 10 of 11. In that span Iverson has averaged 22.8 points and 6.8 assists, and Anthony 26.6 points, 7.2 rebounds.

17 - Battling injury much of the season, Miami's Shaquille O'Neal averaged 17.3 points this season. It was the first time in his 15 seasons that he didn't average at least 20.

18 - Chicago's 49 wins were the most the Bulls posted since 1998, when they went 62-10 with a certain tongue-waving guard. Had the Bulls won one more this year, they would have been the second seed, not the fifth.

19 - Keep an eye on Dirk Nowitzki's numbers against the Warriors in the first round. Don't forget, he'll be going against a coach in Don Nelson who knows a thing or two about the big German's game.

20 - After winning the title in 1998, the Chicago Bulls won only 13 games in 1999. Of course, the Bulls lost future Hall of Famers Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.

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