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Defending Champs

By 04.19.10

Ron Artest, Dime #21


The Lakers are still the smart bet to defend their championship, but we’re also not counting out the Thunder in their first-round series. But if OKC is really going to pull a ’94 Nuggets job and win as an 8th seed, they may need to actually reanimate Dikembe Mutombo in his prime … The front line was the key to L.A.’s Game 1 win: Pau Gasol put up 19 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks, while Andrew Bynum went for 13 points, 12 boards and 4 blocks. And Lamar Odom didn’t even do much in this game. OKC can only counter with Nick Collison (not skilled enough), Serge Ibaka (too young) and Nenad Krstic, who is what we thought he was … Tough game for each of the marquee superstars: Kobe had a quiet 21 points (6-19 FG), while Kevin Durant scored 24 on just 7-of-24 from the field. Maybe he was just nervous or caught up in his first playoff game, but KD couldn’t get anything going until it was too late. Ron Artest and his blond dye job went bully-mode on KD, while Phil Jackson also threw Odom, Bynum, Gasol and Kobe at Durant here and there. Nothing really materialized from the hype earlier in the week about Durant getting babied by the refs; one time Jordan Farmar tried to cut off Durant in transition and got whistled for the foul, and the court mics picked up Farmar complaining, “Damn, let me get there, man!” … Russell Westbrook (23 pts) might as well have been playing in the Rookie Challenge all over again. He murked Derek Fisher, driving left and finishing with his right hand over and over and over again. But Westbrook will have to be more aggressive as the series goes on. Unless L.A. sticks Kobe on him, Westbrook can go right by anyone on their roster at will, and if nobody else is going to manufacture points it’ll have to be Westbrook … Speaking of Durant’s supporting cast stepping up, somebody should tell Jeff Green that the playoffs have started … It was two misses and one buzzer-beater off the mark, but otherwise Dirk Nowitzki re-enacted the famous Christian Laettner Duke/Kentucky game during Dallas’ win over San Antonio. Putting up 36 points, Dirk went 12-of-14 from the field and 12-of-12 at the line, and it seemed everything was either a jumper or an and-one jumper. Everybody in black took their turn with Dirk — Matt Bonner, Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Alvin Robertson — and every one of them got buckets … The Spurs were actually ahead midway through the third quarter before Dirk went on a 7-0 run by himself, and after San Antonio’s attempt at Hack-a-Dampier failed to produce bricks, Dallas stretched the lead to double digits early in the fourth quarter … George Hill started over Tony Parker, but he was ineffective in the first half and barely played in the second. That’s probably the end of that experiment …

Jerryd Bayless


They say it’s not really the playoffs until a road team wins. Or something like that. Anyway, we are now officially into the postseason because the Blazers knocked off the Suns on the road last night. With Brandon Roy out the lineup, almost everybody (including us) figured this would be a cakewalk for Phoenix, but apparently the Suns can’t stop Portland guards no matter who’s wearing the uniform. Andre Miller scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, while Jerryd Bayless had 10 of his 18 in the fourth … Miller’s three with 4:30 to go put the Blazers up for good. Jason Richardson knocked down a triple to bring Phoenix within three with 12 seconds left, and after Bayless missed two at the line, they had one last shot. Nash (25 pts, 9 asts) got off a deep three that was kind of rushed and fell way short. Not sure who it was (maybe Kenny Smith), but one of the TNT studio guys muttered under his breath, “He makes that 8 out of 10 times.” Really? A 30-footer over two defenders? Nash is dope, we’re not hating on him, but let’s not go too far … Magic/Bobcats was Sunday’s version of the Hawks/Bucks game. With Jameer Nelson (32 pts, 6 asts) watching everything he threw up go through the net, Orlando was up by as much as 22 despite Dwight Howard being taken out of the game offensively. But Charlotte rallied late, getting as close as five points in the fourth quarter before a dunk by Dwight and a circus shot three by Mickael Pietrus — he was basically riding his defender piggy-back but threw the ball in anyway — ended the threat … Dwight (5 pts, 7 rebs, 9 blks) pushed, scrapped, elbowed and fought with Tyson Chandler, Theo Ratliff and Nazr Mohammed, as Charlotte is clearly going with the “Poke a Grizzly Bear with a Sharp Stick” strategy. No PT for Alexis Ajinca, though; he might have been snapped in half … Speaking of guys getting aggravated, Kevin Garnett got suspended for Game 2 of Celtics/Heat. This would be a huge loss for Boston even if KG hadn’t been the MVP of the Game 1. And somewhere, Anthony Peeler is smirking … We’re out like Big Ticket …


TOPICS#DWIGHT HOWARD#KEVIN DURANT#KOBE BRYANT
TAGSANDRE MILLERANDREW BYNUMANTHONY PEELERAntonio McDyessBRANDON ROYCHRISTIAN LAETTNERDEREK FISHERDIKEMBE MUTOMBODIRK NOWITZKIErick DampierGeorge HillJAMEER NELSONJASON RICHARDSONJEFF GREENJerryd BaylessJORDAN FARMARKEVIN GARNETTLAMAR ODOMMickael PietrusNenad KrsticNICK COLLISONPAU GASOLRICHARD JEFFERSONRON ARTESTRUSSELL WESTBROOKSERGE IBAKASmackSTEVE NASHTheo RatliffTONY PARKERTYSON CHANDLER

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