All-Star Weekend is in sight with the last chartered flights en route now. That means a three-day break for some, and a little ball and some partying for others. It’s easy to see why you’d want to take a break and take a little off in the last games before heading to Orlando. Not so for tonight’s marquee games, Lakers-Thunder, Heat-Knicks. It turns out how to stop Jeremy Lin (8 points, a -19 rating) is to have a Miami team that continues to take opponents apart with apparent glee … ‘Bron (20 points), Bosh (25 points) and D-Wade (22 points) all came out motivated to check the Linsanity, and it worked like it never has before in this two-week stretch of Manhattan madness. We said last night in this space that the Heat are the league’s most complete team. We’ll get to those boys in Oklahoma City later, but believe in South Beach right now. They’d heard about Lin and they couldn’t have gone at it harder. Realize that this is a team that knows about being the zeitgeist. It’s been a while since a Heat game hasn’t been in SportsCenter’s top five stories, but since Lin’s breakout against the Nets, they’ve been bumped in the public’s consciousness. How do you take that back? Sic some of the NBA’s best defenders on its best story, and see how the chapter ends. Lin struggled in the first half with only two points before finding a little more room as the Heat took control late. But it shows, again, that if Miami really wants something it will get it this season. Some teams have to flip a switch to get up for games, but the Heat just have to chance their game by a matter of degrees. And in South Beach on Thursday, those degrees made it too hot for the Knicks. … ‘Melo had a couple nice J’s for 19 points in the face of Wade, but he went 7-of-20 and was even less effective than that shows … Keep reading to hear what James Harden said to Kobe …
In Oklahoma City, there was no reason to roll over at home just because there’s a weekend of activities ahead. Kobe was going at it, talking smack all night to James Harden and his teammates, but it was much ado about nothing as the Thunder ripped off their 12th straight at home. We can talk about Kevin Durant‘s continued excellence again (33 points) but Harden’s 16 points hides the way he was dealing all night. In 32 minutes he found three assists but teammates bungled several others, and would have been even more efficient offensively if not for checking Kobe (24 points) into a 7-of-24 night from the floor … It’s not often you see Kobe rattled, but after Russell Westbrook nailed a three with 0.8 seconds left in the first half (he finished with an uneven 19 points), Bryant threw the ball right to Durant along the baseline. Given a last shot, he chucked it at the rim and, as with all things he puts in the air recently, it went swish. A two-point deficit at halftime became a three-point lead … The game was a confirmation of things we already knew, sure, like the Lakers are atrocious on the road while the Thunder are damn near unbeatable at home, but when Chris Webber said it was an end of an era at the end, the comment rang more true than ridiculous, really … Not often you’ll hear this, but Willie Green (14 points) broke Orlando’s back as the Magic get ready to host the All-Star Weekend. The Magic fought back from 11 points down to tie the game on a J.J. Redick (13 points) three in the fourth, but the Hawks put the brakes on the Magic’s plan to coast into a return home. Dwight Howard (12 points, 12 boards, 5 blocks) had a shoulder-shrug night in his hometown where you’re not sure if he wants to be there or can’t wait to get out … You didn’t think the Spurs were going to go out like that after losing by nearly 50 to the Blazers, right? The league’s hottest team after winning 11 straight, San Antonio washed a nasty rout out of its mouth against Denver. DeJuan Blair (28 points, 12 rebounds) led six players in double figures, including Timmy D (18 points) and Tony Parker (16 points), who both sat against Portland. … Knowing Gregg Popovich‘s temperment, even with the ASW coming up and knowing they lost because of all the guys who sat, you know he was pissed about the way they went down on Tuesday. … After being up as much as 25, it’s not a bad way to close the annual rodeo road trip, either, after nine games. … Peep a Kenneth Faried alley-oop from Andre Miller dunk when you get the chance. Remember Faried was in the Ohio Valley Conference just a year ago? Holy mismatch, Batman … We’ve got boots on the ground in Orlando, and we’re getting ready to bring you everything you need for All-Star Weekend. First up, the Rising Stars Challenge … We’re out like the Lakers on the road.
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