The Thunder Unravel The Lakers; Miami Exacts Revenge

By: 03.30.12
Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, Dime #43

Derek Fisher looked FOCUSED in his return to Staples Center on Thursday. After getting the pregame video tribute treatment he came off the pine to get seven points in seven minutes. They were all the points he got before he got out of the way for the bigger show. The purists who don’t want players to even give dap before tipoff won’t like the tribute treatment, but come on, he helped deliver five titles. Anyway, his return the benchings of Kobe Bryant (23 points, nine boards) and Andrew Bynum (25 points, 13 boards) were the game’s storylines. Surprise! It ended a Russell Westbrook (36 points, six assists) and Kevin Durant (21 points) story. They’re still young enough to make dumb mistakes and we definitely know they have this season, but the Thunder proved again they might be too explosive for the Western Conference when they’re on one. One stretch from the beginning of the fourth to late just had people throwing up their hands in disbelief as it went to an 18-point game. The capper was KD’s enormous throwdown on Pau Gasol (13 points) with 8 to go in the fourth. Wow (Somewhere Brendan Haywood knows the KD treatment feeling, Pau). Westbrook started with 21 points and zero turnovers, and hasn’t that been one of his biggest critiques? … Just like how we thought the game was one thing going in, the Lakers started just molten, with Bynum looking like a beast. He played solid all night going 10-of-15 and finding dudes out of double teams easily. … Anyone else see SNL’s Lorne Michaels snapping quick camera shots of KD from courtside like a starstruck Joe Regular? … Miami’s win in the American Airlines Arena Showdown over Dallas wasn’t a measure of revenge for the NBA finals loss, but it was a 15th straight win. And what about this? It’s the Heat’s first win vs. the Mavs at home since 2004. It wasn’t as out of hand as the final score looked, but it never felt like Miami would be challenged, either. At a 10-point margin most the second half, D-Wade’s pretty runner with a spin and then a right-handed bank off glass over Brandan Wright got it going late. He had 16 points and five dimes at the finish but provided all night with his defense, as well, finishing at plus-30. His post-up turned easy dunk past Jason Kidd put it out of reach. LeBron James (19 points, nine boards, five assists) finished an oop from Wade that will make the morning highlight circuit. … Late comedy of the game came from Yi Jianlian getting stuffed by Dexter Pittman trying to sneak in a dunk with 10 seconds left. Yi just dropped his head afterward. … Jordan Crawford (20 points) could have filed a police report against Indiana on a couple of hard fouls that he finished on. On the last, he got mugged by Tyler Hansbrough with 13 seconds left in the fourth to get it to two, but he missed the free throw and Indiana closed out the win. Danny Granger was the answer man with 25 points and a jumper when the Pacers needed it seemingly every time — plus zero turnovers. … The Pacers haven’t gone gangbusters at 6-4 in the last 10 games, but they’re in good company. No one until Boston has a streak of longer than one game won in a row. Hit Page 2 to read about the best dunk contest of the year.

Page 2
LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge (photo. Hance Taplin)

We turned on Blazers-Hornets at the point in the first half where Wes Matthews had all of the Blazers’ six threes (Marco Belinelli finished with all seven of New Orleans’ threes for 27 points, too). Fast forward through a big third where Portland took back the lead and Nic Batum hit a drive-home-safely three go get up seven with less than a minute left. LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 12 boards, five assists) went for one of his fading jumpers where his hands are at 10 feet at the release, and the victory was in the bank. Luke Babbitt, everyone’s favorite inside joke in the Rose City, played — yes, we’ll say it — well with 16 points, making 4-of-6 threes. Raymond Felton, where have you been since January? He had 10 dimes and 12 points. Portland fans will take anything positive, that those counts. … 5-10 James Justice of Martin Methodist (it’s in Pulaski, Tenn. You’re welcome.) put down a dunk better than anything in this year’s NBA dunk contest. The clincher is the height his front leg gets, almost parallel to the floor. Goodness. … We’re out like James Justice.

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