Dallas and the Thunder must be fuming right now. We would be. With the Lakers reeling, losers of five games in a row, the Spurs had the chance to sneak into L.A. and deliver another crucial blow to the two-time defending champions’ home-court advantage hopes. It was the perfect setup. Or at least, it would’ve been had Gregg Popovich cooperated and played his big guns. But as nice as it was for the Lakers to finally get a win, how costly was it? Andrew Bynum hyperextended his knee and there’s no telling just how long he will be out. Stormy clouds ahead in Los Angeles … Behind 27 points from Kobe Bryant and 17 points and 17 rebounds from Pau Gasol, the Lakers shook off a very shaky first half to beat the Spurs, 102-93. San Antonio chose to rest their Big Three, and had trouble scoring almost from the start. But the game itself nearly became an afterthought after the Lakers’ most fragile big man crumbled to the floor again. In the second quarter, Bynum stepped on DeJuan Blair‘s foot and his leg immediately buckled. He sat on the floor for a few minutes and you could visibly see the air go out of his sails. We can only imagine what was going through his head … Was it a coincidence that Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all sat out last night? Popovich said it just happened that way, that it was the scheduling, and we believe him. How often do some of these teams actually attempt to negotiate their playoff fate? A lot less than most people speculate. There are too many variables and too many opportunities to get screwed over. The second you start playing with fate, that’s when someone gets hurt (ironic to say on this night) or you end up drawing an even worse position. For the Spurs, it’s probably better that the Lakers stay on the other side of the bracket, but what’s more important than that is maintaining the best record in the league. Pop wouldn’t give that up just to tempt fate. It’s obvious, in a game as important as this one was, he really did want to give his older guys some rest. But still, they are supposed to play tonight against Phoenix … What was up with Cheryl Miller‘s haircut? She looked like a pineapple … And Steve Novak: the ankle breaker … While the TNT nightcap failed to live up to it’s anticipated excitement, two of the league’s most entertaining, and most dangerous lower seeds dueled in Portland for the chance to move up to the sixth seed. The Blazers locked up that spot with a convincing second-half against the Grizzlies, winning 102-89. Portland, who had to deal with as many injuries this season as anyone, has to be ecstatic about where they are heading into the playoffs. They are 16-8 since acquiring Gerald Wallace (14 points) and have as good a shot as anyone of upsetting one of the higher seeds. With LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points, 11 rebounds) playing as well as he is, anything can happen … Memphis opted to rest Zach Randolph and Tony Allen … For the Lakers, either one of these teams could be killer in the first round. Portland’s mastery of them in the Northwest is well-known, but the Grizzlies happen to have one of the few frontlines that can match their size (even if Bynum is able to play), and they just might have the two best Kobe-stoppers in the world in Shane Battier and Tony Allen … The Bulls beat down the Knicks in New York, 103-90, by using a suffocating 26-2 run to start the third quarter, punctuated by a Derrick Rose double-pump reverse dunk. Rose (26 points) was a beast again, and had another couple of dunks in the first half that had the arena buzzing. With a first-round series against Boston on the horizon, New York opted to sit Amar’e Stoudemire again and that hurt. In the second half, they just couldn’t generate enough offense against Chicago’s stifling defense, scoring just 35 points … Carlos Boozer added 14 points and 22 rebounds in the win … Charles Barkley said in the pregame that he believes the Hawks have a shot in the playoffs and that their series against Orlando will be the only competitive one in the Eastern Conference’s first round. Chris Webber took it a step further, saying he thinks Atlanta will win. They did win three out of four during the season against the Magic. Are Barkley and Webber right? … Yesterday, it was reported that Chris Paul said signing on with the Bobcats after his current deal is up would “definitely be something to think about it.” Even though he is from the area, does anyone actually believe Paul will consider Charlotte? … We’re out like Bynum.
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