The Good, the Bad, the Kitchen Sink

— -- With two handfuls of games left in the season, it is very conceivable that there might be only three teams in the Eastern Conference with winning records while three teams with winning records in the West won't qualify for the playoffs.

The Good
Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers
Week's work:
4-0 record, 24.2 ppg, 17.5 rpg, 3.2 apg. 4.5 bpg, 68.5% shooting
Groundhog. Schmoundhog. Winter's over when this guy gobbles up 85 rebounds and 23 blocks in his last five games. By the way, Shaq is now shooting 58.8 percent from field on the season, his highest since he shot 59.9 percent in 1994. Time to hang the sign. Don't Feed The Bear!

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Week's work:
3-0 record, 20.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 spg, 0.3 bpg, 52% shooting
The Heat are only three games behind the slumping Hornets for fourth place in the East and home court in the first round, meaning every other rookie of significance could very well be watching this kid from a couch come May.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Week's work:
4-0 record, 28.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2 spg, 0.7 bpg, 51% shooting
It's taken Tracy McGrady 294 games to build his reputation as the game's most prolific scorer and Kobe Bryant 29 minutes on Monday night to dismantle it.

Baron Davis, New Orleans Hornets
Week's work:
1-3 record, 24.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.5 apg, 2.7 spg, 1 bpg, 15 triples, 38.8% shooting
The win-loss record is bad, the shooting percentage even worse if that's possible. But it's certainly not for a lack of effort on Baron's part after going 173 minutes in one week of a possible 192. On this list purely on hustle points.

The Bad
Steve Francis, Houston Rockets
Weak work:
0-3 record, 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.3 apg, 4 spg, 1.3 bpg, 4 triples, 30.8% shooting
Started off the week shooting 3-for-15 in a loss to the Suns. Finished it off with his league-leading 17th technical foul of the year in a loss to the Kings. In between, had seven turnovers in a loss to the Warriors to boost last week's average to 4.6 per game and 3.6 on the year.

Ricky Davis, Boston Celtics
Weak work:
1-2 record, 7.6 ppg, 2 rpg, 3 apg, 1.3 spg, 29.6% shooting
Drifting off into his own little slam dunk contest again. Only this time, he's losing.

Tyronn Lue, Orlando Magic
Weak work:
0-3 record, 8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 0.6 spg, 20% shooting
Not quite sure you can shoot this bad and still be considered an NBA starter, but Jamaal Tinsley might argue with me. But, then again, Tinsley had nine more assists last week than Lue in six fewer minutes.

Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets
Weak work:
0-3 record, 11 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1 spg, 1 bpg, 31.4% shooting
Somewhere along the line, he forgot that he once led the league assists at 10.9 per game back in 2002. Sometime after that, he forgot completely how to shoot. The result: a point guard with few points and even fewer assists.

The Ugly
If the Milwaukee Bucks aren't careful, they're not going to miss the playoffs by a game or two. They're going to miss them by a minute or two. For the third time in their last four games, the Bucks had the lead going into the closing moments of a game and lost, dropping them to 34-35 on the year after five straight loses and eight defeats in their last 10 games.

On Sunday, it was Kobe Bryant hitting the game-winner with 24 seconds left in overtime to push the Lakers ahead for good at 104-103. Last Sunday, it was the Knicks coming from a 26-point third-quarter deficit to win 103-100. In between, it was Damon Stoudamire hitting the buzzer beater with 0.6 seconds left as the Blazers won, 100-99, after the Bucks had a 20-point second half lead. That's three games decided by five points in fewer than three minutes.

The Kitchen Sink
The Kings may have won their last two games, but in the four games prior to those victories, Sacramento was outrebounded 183 to 147. That's a whopping none per game even with Chris Webber in the lineup. The Kings have never been a great rebounding team, averaging 1.9 per game fewer than their opponents on the season. But to put that in perspective, the league's worst rebounding team, the Toronto Raptors, have been outrebounded by 5.2 per game.

They remain one of only three winning teams in the entire NBA with a rebounding deficit, the other two being the New Jersey Nets and Memphis Grizzlies.

For the second time in his career, Sonics guard Brent Barry is on pace to shoot above 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the line. He did it two years ago when he went 50.8 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from long range and 81.6 percent from the line. So far this year, he's at 50.4 percent from the field, 45.7 percent from long range and 82.6 percent from the line while averaging a career-high 5.7 assists per game.

Detroit Piston sixthman Corliss Williamson is moving back up the charts. In his last eight games, all wins for the streaking Pistons, he has averaged 12 points per game on 61.2 percent shooting.

After going 6-for-24 from the field in his last game, Paul Pierce has seen his shooting plummet to a career-low 39 percent from the field on the season and season-low 22 percent from long range and season-low 78 percent from the line in March.

Since his return from knee injury this month, Tim Duncan has made 17 of his 22 free-throw attempts for 77 percent. Prior to the injury, he was 281-for-474 from the line for 59 percent.

For Ben Wallace to claim his third rebounding title in a row, he would have to average 21.2 boards per game over the Pistons' last 11 games to catch Kevin Garnett, assuming the Minnesota forward maintains his 14-rebound per game average. On the season, Wallace is at 12.9. But in his last 11 games, he's fallen to 11.5.

In order for Ben Wallace to claim his third shot-blocking title in a row, he would have to average 5.7 blocks per game over the last 11 to catch Theo Ratliff, assuming the Portland center maintains his 3.47 per game average. On the season, Wallace is at 3.1. But in his last 11 games, he's fallen to an even 3.

Houston Rocket Jim Jackson is on pace a drill a career-high 167 3-pointers this year after making only 96 in his last 3 seasons.

Jermaine vs. East: 20 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2 apg, 2.5 bpg, 43.5% shooting
Jermaine vs. West: 21.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.8 bpg, 42.7% shooting

Sacramento Kings (51-19) versus Los Angeles Lakers (47-23)
Wednesday, March 24, 2004 at Staples Center at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

The most important game of the NBA season. Until, of course, they play again on April 11.

The End
"If they're down to one guy and four managers, we'll be ready."

Dallas Maverick Michael Finley refusing to make a bold prediction if the Nets started Sunday night's game with one guy, three managers and a towel boy.