Well, at least now we know that the Lakers would rather not play Portland in the first round of the playoffs. Last night, the Lakers battled like Erick Dampier in a non-contract year. They simply didn’t care, and most of them probably would’ve stood around in the corner if they were allowed to. How do you go to a dance and not get down? On the other side, the Blazers played with the urgency of a team that was telling itself all night: “Win this game and we probably get to play Dallas in the first round!” … In a game that actually meant a whole lot to both teams – Portland had a chance to move up and face an easier playoff foe while the Lakers were trying to wrap up home-court advantages against Boston and Miami should they meet in the Finals – L.A. played bored and tired, losing to the Blazers 93-86 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. LaMarcus Aldridge (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Gerald Wallace (19 points, 13 rebounds) destroyed the Lakers inside, and held Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to a combined 11 points … It all started with a 15-0 Portland run early in the second quarter that was punctuated by Blazer dunks on three consecutive trips. Kobe Bryant (24 points) actually hit four consecutive threes near the end of the first half to get it back to six, but the seeds were planted. And sure enough, the start of the second half was a complete L.A. breakdown. Portland ran all over them. Really the best way to describe the performance from the Lakers is to take a waiter, bored with working too many hours and not enough tips. He sets a table for a group coming in, realizing at the end that he gave two of the guests utensil rolls with no forks. Still, he shrugs his shoulders, says “screw it” and keeps walking … A tweet from ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin: Backdoor lob dunk, backdoor lob dunk, backdoor lob dunk…Can I just cut and paste that like 50 times and turn it in as my column? … Continue reading to hear about the Thunder’s maturation, Tony Allen’s wild celebration and what Mike Bibby needs to do to stop Derrick Rose.
If Denver plans on beating the Thunder in the playoffs, they better discover how to do it within the next week. While it isn’t a guarantee they will play, Oklahoma City again made sure that they have the mental edge, beating Denver for the second time in the last few days with a 104-89 win … Kevin Durant (28 points) was big, but it was the Thunder bench who blew it open with a 20-4 run early in the second quarter. Denver struggled to regain control and were getting beat up inside all night by the Thunder’s physicality. In the fourth quarter, Kendrick Perkins nearly took off Nene’s (18 points) head on a foul … In the third quarter, Nazr Mohammed had a dunk and three-point play on Al Harrington’s head that could’ve turned back time … Interesting finish in Memphis’ playoff-clinching, five-point win over the Kings. With the game still in the balance, Tyreke Evans (16 points) forced a drive to the rim while being double-teamed and had his shot blocked by Tony Allen and Zach Randolph (27 points, 15 rebounds). All of this happened as the announcers screamed “Pass the Ball!” … When the buzzer sounded and the Grizzlies’ ticket to the playoffs was checked, Allen started running around flexing and popping his jersey to the crowd. Then, he kneeled down on the halfcourt logo. Didn’t this dude already win a championship with Boston? Why is he so excited about a playoff appearance? … We think we hear Andrew Bynum’s stomach churning … The Knicks ran all over the Nets, 116-93. Jay-Z was there courtside, seeing Carmelo Anthony tear up his team (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Spike Lee laugh it up. Right now, Jay’s like the cool kid that gets sent to the private school, standing around at recess as all the nerds play World of Warcraft. With Deron Williams, Kris Humphries and Anthony Morrow sitting out, the Nets would’ve even been calling “next” all day at the YMCA. It got so bad, this happened … Somehow, the Knicks have won six straight games … Funny stat from the game: Jordan Farmar had eight rebounds. Brook Lopez (27 points) had two … Carlos Boozer‘s big night (24 points, 11 rebounds) helped lead the Bulls to an easy 11-point win in Cleveland. Derrick Rose had a pretty quiet night (11 points, 8 assists), but still got love from Cheryl Miller last night on NBA TV. Discussing a potential Heat/Bulls series, she said: “We saw Derrick Rose dismantle Rajon Rondo. What do you think he’s going to do to Mike Bibby?” If those teams make the Eastern Conference Finals, Bibby might want to fake an ACL tear, or hire Team Dime to smuggle him out of the country … Was that really Kwame Brown (23 points, 13 rebounds) out there in Miami’s nine-point win over the Bobcats? LeBron James (23 points), Dwyane Wade (27 points) and Chris Bosh (27 points) were typically great, but Brown did something no one has seen him do since he was maybe a 17-year-old … And what about Chris Wilcox? He might’ve scored more points (27) and had more rebounds (13) than he’s had all year in the Pistons’ 10-point win over Milwaukee … Other headlines from around the league: the Celtics finished off Washington by 16 as Rajon Rondo rebounded with a big night (20 points, 14 assists and six steals); Danny Granger (28 points) and Indiana beat the Hawks by 12; Elton Brand (22 points) helped Philly hold off a late charge from the Raptors for a five-point win; Willie Green went berserk (hit his first 12 shots, 31 total points) as the Hornets beat the Suns by 12; and the Mavs got a huge boost from Corey Brewer (20 points, 4 steals) in their 11-point win over the Clippers … We’re out like big nights from Kwame and Chris.