12.26 The Cooler
Cop: Sneakersnstuff x New Balance 10th Anniversary RGB Pack

Gift of the Game

By 12.26.09
Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

The relatively easy time Cleveland had running the Lakers out of their own gym in the most-hyped NBA game of the year was personified best by, of all people, Anderson Varejao. At the start of the second quarter, as the Cavs began to build a 20-point lead that the Lakers could never make up, Varejao looked amazingly competent on offense: He hit a fadeaway, used a smooth up-and-under to get himself a layup, and actually handled the ball for significant stretches without looking like a doofus … Meanwhile, LeBron and Co. ran most of the quarter, getting numerous transition opportunities off L.A. turnovers and taking some steam out of the Staples Center crowd. Kobe (35 pts, 9 rebs, 8 asts) and Ron Artest sparked a late-quarter rally to cut the lead to nine at halftime, then got it to six early in the third, but Mo Williams (28 pts, 7 asts) came back with a jumper and a gang of free throws, and Shaq threw down dunks on back-to-back possessions that really stretched it out to an insurmountable gap … Looks like the Cavs’ team barber took the holidays off. Daniel Gibson (who got a whole six seconds of PT) had a decent design cut into his head that we didn’t get enough time to actually see, but LeBron (26 pts, 9 asts) and Mo looked a bit scruffy … It was like even when the Lakers did the right thing, it turned out wrong. One time Artest hounded LeBron as he brought the ball past midcourt, eventually getting a steal. Artest was fouled (but not hard) as he went in for a layup, missed the shot, then hit only one of the free throws. A potential three-point play resulting in only one point … The frustration boiled over for the Laker fans in the fourth quarter. After Lamar Odom got ejected and Kobe picked up a tech within seconds of each other, people started throwing foam fingers onto the court (the “MVPuppet” L.A. fingers), and somebody flung a water bottle. Of all the NBA crowds you’d predict to go off like that, wouldn’t L.A. have ranked 29th and 30th (for the Lakers and Clippers)? … Do you think D-Wade (or Dirk or ‘Melo or whoever else) grinds his teeth every time he hears people declare Kobe and LeBron the two best players in the world like it’s not even up for debate? … Say what you want about Shaq being a role player, but he was hired to neutralize the other team’s center, and Andrew Bynum was quiet like Elmer Fudd with just four points and six boards … Far removed from the goons who were throwing stuff, the crowd had more than its share of celebrities: Ken Griffey Jr., Snoop Dogg, Andy Garcia, Danny Devito, Rocky Balboa, Alex Trebek and Anna Kournikova … Despite all the offensive talent on each roster, this Magic/Celtics rivalry is headed for a smashmouth playoff series next spring that could spark images of those old Heat/Knicks series in the ’90s. In two meetings this season the final score was 80-something to 70-something, and now Boston has added to fuel to the competitive fire. After playing his part in completely taking Dwight Howard out of the game offensively (5 pts, 1-7 FG, 20 rebs), Kendrick Perkins said, “You’ve got to play (Howard) physical. You watch other teams around the league, they pretty much let him set up shop. You’ve just got to go in and be prepared to go to war. You’ve got to fight him first, hit him first. He likes to be physical, but he doesn’t like anyone to be physical with him.” … This is nothing new, though. Doc Rivers is simply taking a page from the book Detroit used on Dwight back when he could never get past them in the playoffs. Those Pistons had 4-5 big men they could throw at Dwight who had diverse styles and six fouls apiece, and Boston is replicating it with Perkins, Rasheed, KG, Shelden and Big Baby (who returned to the lineup yesterday). That’s also a sign Dwight hasn’t developed his game much since those early Pistons series … What was that about Brandon Roy being limited with a sore shoulder? Wearing a brace/sleeve on his left (non-shooting) shoulder after missing Portland’s last game, B-Roy couldn’t miss early on against Denver. Dropping threes and step-backs in the first quarter before going into slashing mode in the second to get layups, he scored 26 in the first half and finished with 41 points (16-26 FG) … But even with Roy’s hot hand and Chauncey Billups (groin) sitting out the second half, the Nuggets kept it close throughout until Roy and Steve Blake started hitting threes down the stretch to give the Blazers a cushion … Other stat lines from the Christmas Day schedule: D-Wade put up 30 points, nine boards, five dimes and four steals to lead Miami past the Knicks (who wore their St. Patrick’s Day green unis on Christmas); and Amar’e Stoudemire scored 26 in Phoenix’s rout of the Clippers … We’re out like Rocky …


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