A Tale Of Two Cities

02.06.09 9 years ago 120 Comments
Kobe BryantKobe Bryant

Coming into last night’s game, the Lakers were in a Charles Dickens-esque predicament. It was the best of times (Kobe‘s 61 and the top record in the West), and it was the worst of times (no Andrew Bynum for the foreseeable future). But nonetheless, it was a trip back to Beantown – a place the Lakers hadn’t been since June 17, when Boston’s 39-point win set the NBA record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher. With the wound still fresh despite a win over the Celtics on Christmas Day, all eyes were on Kobe. With a combined 97 points in two games, you knew Mr. MVP was going to get up for the champs. But after being named an All-Star replacement by David Stern for the injured Jameer Nelson, it was fellow Class of 1996 member Ray Allen (22 pts) who came out the gates gunnin’. Goodness gracious, Ray had the hamster wheel in full effect on panicky Derek Fisher – whose eyes were darting all over the floor looking for coming screens all night. At one point, Jesus ran him through three guys for a beautiful corner trey. But despite Ray’s prolific shooting, Los Angeles took the early lead … Still think the Lakers don’t need to make a move? After two quick fouls by Lamar Odom in the first six minutes, Josh Powell (and the 200+ minutes he’s logged so far this season) was the first guy off the bench … After falling in a hole during the second quarter, the Celtics’ version of the “Bench Mob” – led by Eddie House (16 pts) and Leon Powe (10 pts, 8 rebs) – cut the Lakers’ lead to four. House hit for five straight, while Powe auditioned for the role of Frank Dux in Bloodsport 2. Serious question: If Powe and Kobe met in an alley, what would happen? … Hitting four threes on the night, when will opposing defenses figure out that you CANNOT help off of House. There’s a reason he’s the all-time leading scorer at Arizona State and has a 61-point game of his own (nine years ago last month) … In the second half, things got ugly. E-mail from Dime’s Christian Grant-Fields after Rondo (16 pts, 12 asts, 8 rebs) pushed Kobe on a loose ball garnering a double technical: “Rondo is about to kick Kobe’s ass!” Couple plays later, a little tiff sparked after Odom smacked KG on the ass to say that he “drew” an offensive off-ball foul on Garnett. As Reggie Miller put it, they were “eye dancing” … Honestly, these teams may genuinely dislike each other. Maybe that’s not quite that profound, but in today’s world, it’s fairly rare. Most of the time, people realize that it’s just a game, but when tempers really flare, it brings sports to a whole other level. It’s a big reason why we were all so compelled by the Bulls/Jazz (Rodman/Malone) in the ’90s, and couldn’t stop watching the Celtics/Lakers (McHale/Rambis) in the ’80s. We’re only in year two of this rivalry now, and it doesn’t seem like the players genuinely dislike each other simply because of tradition … After being called out by Miller during halftime, Odom (20 pts, 6 rebs) decided to pick up the slack while 22 minutes passed without a Bryant field goal … Flu or no flu, Garnett (16 pts, 6 rebs, 3 blks) at the top of the key is lights out. But fouling out with 4:22 to play, it’s hard for the commander to lead from the bench. Doc Rivers decided to roll the dice with Big Baby over Powe, and Davis came up with a huge rebound over Pau Gasol (24 pts, 14 rebs). Cool as the other side of the pillow, Kobe (26 pts, 10 rebs, 5 asts) came back with a couple big threes, one giving the Lakers their first lead in the second half, 101-100. But despite three missed Big Baby jumpers (Really!?!), Pierce (21 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asts) was able to notch one from the stripe and head to overtime … With five more minutes on the house, it came down to who wanted it more, and despite Pierce’s tremendous D on Kobe, the Lakers willed their way to victory. Snapping the Celtics 12-game win streak, the Lakers are the only team in the NBA to beat the Celtics twice all year …

Deron WilliamsDeron Williams

By the time we got switched over to the Mavericks/Jazz game, Utah led 22-20 with a minute left in the first quarter. First question: Who would win in a fight between Paul Millsap and Brandon Bass? … The real story in this one was Deron Williams (34 pts, 12 asts, 5 rebs, 5 threes). Before the game, the Jazz identified this as “one of the most important games of the season,” and Williams took that to heart. With three teams (Utah, Dallas and Phoenix) jostling for the last two slots in the playoff race, every win – especially head-to-head – is extremely important. While the game was close through two, Millsap capped off a 14-2 run on a Williams pass from half court for the alley oop to put it out of reach. Boozer, sitting behind the bench wearing earrings he clearly bought on Overstock.com, should find a good realtor real soon … Next time we put together a list of the Top 10 Best In-Game Dunkers, we’d be crazy not to include Ronnie Brewer (who could be the League’s best kept secret) … NBA on TNT had Malone in the studio last night, and speaking of 61-point games, the Mailman talked on the set about the one he had back on January 27, 1990 after he found out that he didn’t make the All-Star Game. “I had a bird in my salad,” said Malone. Chuck better make it back by All-Star Weekend … In the only other game on the NBA docket, the Sixers beat the lowly Pacers behind solid outings from Sam Dalembert (18 pts, 20 rebs), Andre Iguodala (20 pts, 11 asts, 8 rebs, 4 stls) and Andre Miller (13 pts, 12 asts). Overwhelming Troy Murphy (15 pts, 14 rebs), Mike Dunleavy (21 pts) and the power of the mustache, Philly persevered despite the knowledge that they’ll be without their $80 million man, Elton Brand for the rest of the season … Highlights from Thursday’s college schedule: University of Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt finally has gone where no other D-I basketball coach – man or woman – has before, winning her 1,000th game. I guess you can finally say she’s got this coaching thing down pat … In a good ol’ American shootout in Clarksville, Tenn., Tennessee-Martin’s Lester Hudson went off for 30 points and 10 boards in a victory over Austin Peay’s Drake Reed who notched 35 points and 18 boards … Arizona State’s James Harden scored 36 as the Sun Devils defeated Oregon; Michigan’s Manny Harris went off for 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a 20-point win over Penn State … Davidson’s Stephen Curry, who just keeps doing his thing, had 29 points and eight rebounds in a 21-point win over UNC Greensboro. For those of you looking forward to seeing Davidson in the tournament, they are now 20-3 with losses only to Oklahoma, Purdue and Duke. With only eight games left on the season, their next big test is February 22 versus No. 11 Butler … Finally, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies are expected to add Damon Stoudamire and Henry Bibby as assistant coaches on Lionel Hollins‘ staff pending final approval by owner Michael Heisley. Since December, Stoudamire has worked as Director of Player Development for the Rice Owls men’s basketball team in Houston … We’re out like the Celtics versus the Lakers in the regular season …

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