Lakers survive test from familiar nemesis; Celtics tested in Cali

Kobe Bryant (photo. Nike)

Every legit NBA title contender this season seems to have that one Lottery-bound team that poses problems for them. For the Celtics, it has been Detroit. For the Spurs, it’s been Minnesota. For the Heat, it’s been Indiana. The Lakers? They’ve been having a tough time with the Rockets for the last couple of years now, Yao or no Yao. Last night’s matchup was another nail-biter … It’s easy to see why the Rockets are a bad matchup for the defending champs. None of L.A.’s point guards can stay in front of Aaron Brooks, none of their bigs can match Luis Scola‘s energy (or he’s just really good at blinding them with the sweat flying from his hair), and, well, nobody can really stop Kevin Martin. Guarding him is like fighting M.Bison on the hard level of Street Fighter II … The Lakers led by seven in the fourth quarter before Scola went on a tear, scoring 10 of Houston’s last 12 points in regulation. With under a minute to go, L.A. was up two as Kobe (32 pts, 11 asts) kept trying to deliver the dagger, bricking two tough jumpers over K-Mart. On Houston’s next possession, Pau Gasol got caught watching Brooks and left Scola (24 pts, 15 rebs) wide open under the rim for an easy layup. Houston took a four-point lead in overtime, but Gasol (26 pts, 16 rebs) proved to be too much inside and L.A.’s defense picked the right time to tighten up … Fun fact: Martin (30 pts, 8-15 FG) was the only member of the Rockets to shoot free throws. He went 10-for-11 … How does Lamar Odom put up 20 points, 20 rebounds and 4 assists and still leave you feeling like he could have done more? Is he so talented that we’ve placed his expectations too high? Maybe it’s because even L.O.’s best games include one or two bonehead plays … If the Kings can bottle whatever they had against the Celtics last night, they’re going to challenge the Warriors and Clippers as our favorite late-night West Coast League Pass option. The only reason Sacramento kept it competitive against Boston is that they simply played their butts off and out-hustled the C’s most of the night. Tyreke Evans (20 pts) and Beno Udrih constantly tried to push the pace and attack the basket, Sam Dalembert (5 blks) and the rest of the defense tried to swat every shot that crossed their faces — Tyreke had one catch-from-behind block where he pinned Rajon Rondo‘s layup on the glass — and everybody crashed the boards … Donte Greene was the star of the first half, scoring 15 points before the break, capped by a shot-clock-beating turnaround jumper in Paul Pierce‘s eye that one Sacramento announcer called “heat check” before Greene even released it. Greene ran back doing the Jordan shrug, as the Kings took a nine-point lead into the locker room …Read More>>

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