The iPod Shuffle - "Higher Learning"
1.19 The Cooler

More Than Payback

By 01.19.10

Kevin Durant (photo. Jared McMillen)


So long as they can get their superstars to re-up when the time comes — which, knowing Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant, is a likely scenario — would it be too crazy to predict a Hawks/Thunder NBA Finals matchup sometime this decade? Maybe in the next five years? The up-and-coming contenders gave a preview in one of yesterday’s early MLK holiday games … With 2:30 to go in the fourth, Durant’s jumper coming off a curl broke a tie. After trading bricks for a while, OKC had the rock with 20 seconds left, still up two. The Hawks denied Durant (29 pts, 14-15 FT), leaving Jeff Green with an iso on Josh Smith near midcourt. Not exactly the guy you’d draw up that play for, Green put his head down, got a step on J-Smoove, and banged on his head, plus the foul. NBA TV’s Eric Snow called it: “Payback is a … That’s more than payback,” referring to earlier when Smith (18 pts, 12 rebs, 7 asts, 3 blks) got Green on an and-one … That should’ve sealed it with 12 seconds left, but Mike Bibby hit a three, and following a Durant FT, Atlanta had a chance to force overtime with four seconds left. On a play similar to when he burned out the Suns the other night, Jamal Crawford had a good (albeit long) look from straightaway over Green, but it didn’t drop for him this time … As for more realistic 2010 Finals contenders, the Lakers and Magic squared off for the first time since Kobe got that 350-pound Shaqzilla off his back. Still dealing with his recent SPINAL issues (you have to say it in Mike Tyson voice), though, Kobe was off, going for 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting. But the bench and role players held it down and dominated the fourth quarter to pick up a big win before L.A. goes on a long road trip this week … Maybe Dwight Howard has been playing possum all along, and was waiting to debut his shiny new post game against the Lakers. Dwight looked like a swole-up Tim Duncan in the first half: One time he faced up on Andrew Bynum, gave him a shoulder fake left and went baseline right for a reverse dunk (proper footwork and everything); another time he turned and drained a jump shot off the glass that he actually meant to hit off the glass. Dwight was in Fundamental Beast mode, but in the second half he went into another one of those long stretches of invisibility — not making his first shot until late in the fourth quarter on a nice hook shot over Pau Gasol. Howard finished with 24 points, but he could’ve dropped about 35 if he’d seen the ball enough … Without Kevin Garnett, which Celtic was supposed to guard Dirk Nowitzki? For the most part Rasheed did alright, although Dirk made him pay a few times for failing to step out and get him on the perimeter. But when ‘Sheed was in foul trouble, nobody else had an answer. Out of the Big Baby, Paul Pierce and Brian Scalabrine cast, one was too slow, one was too short, and the other generally doesn’t belong on a court with Dirk (37 pts) in the first place. Add it up and you have Boston’s third straight home loss … Other stat lines from MLK Day: Tony Parker‘s 25 points helped the Spurs knock off the Hornets; Rudy Gay posted 31 points, nine boards and three blocks as Memphis beat Phoenix; Nate Robinson scored 27 off the bench to lead NY past Detroit; Antawn Jamison dropped 28 points to beat the Blazers; Tyreke Evans put up 34 points, seven assists and three blocks in Sacramento’s loss to the Bobcats; Jonny Flynn had 29 and nine assists to get Minnesota past Philly in overtime; Luis Scola stamped 27 points and 15 boards on Milwaukee in OT, while Andrew Bogut had 18 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks in the loss; Marcus Camby had 17 points, 14 boards and three blocks as the Clips beat the Nets; and in the fantasy owner’s game of the night, Monta Ellis posted 36 points, eight dimes and four steals in G-State’s win over Chicago, while Stephen Curry added 26, 10 boards, six dimes and five threes, and Andris Biedrins had 19 boards and eight blocks … If you haven’t heard, the All-Star Weekend dunk contest field is (kind of) set, with Shannon Brown, Gerald Wallace, Nate Rob and the DeMar DeRozan/Eric Gordon dunk-in winner. No, LeBron isn’t on the list. And the crappy part is that even if the contest is pretty good, LeBron is going to overshadow the whole thing more than ever since he said he was gonna do it this year. But assuming there’s no last-minute LBJ addition, who’s your pick to win the crown? … We’re out like the Fundamental Beast …


TOPICS#DWIGHT HOWARD#KEVIN DURANT#KOBE BRYANT#LeBron James
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