Boston Beats Down The Lakers; Denver’s Torrid Shooting Torches Chicago

When will the Lakers’ “new” season start exactly? And did Boston’s begin once Rajon Rondo was lost for the year? These are things we think about after Thursday’s second-half power surge by Boston shut off the lights on the Lakers, 116-95, now four games under .500. We won’t say these are two teams going in opposite directions because as much as L.A. is floundering, Boston is still living on borrowed time without Rondo and Jared Sullinger. Still, with Pau Gasol now out apparently 6-to-8 weeks and Dwight Howard (nine points, nine points before fouling out) playing at about half his capacity, the ship is definitely sinking. After Kobe Bryant (27 points, seven boards) browbeat Howard through the media about the severity of his labrum’s pain, the latter turned in a half-baked performance. He loafed back, didn’t put a body on Kevin Garnett, and KG (15 points) got a board and bucket with three Lakers around him in the first half. Another time he set the pick for Steve Blake to use at the elbow but didn’t actually engage the defender and then just, uh, stood there blocking the set’s movement. Maybe that allowed the Celtics to get nearly their per-game average of offensive boards in the first 15 minutes? Just saying. …  What was odd was how the offense ran through him and he got four field goal attempts in about the first four minutes, but then the effort dropped or the pain increased. In the fourth when the game was out of reach, he couldn’t even keep track of Chris Wilcox but did show his left shoulder is fine by putting Jeff Green on his ass on a poster dunk attempt. Which leads us to ask, why was he playing that whole quarter anyway? … What do you take away if you’re L.A.? Maybe that Jodie Meeks (13 points) was active offensively? … Paul Pierce (24 points) was throwing daggers in the third quarter. He had buckets on three straight possessions to give Boston a 15-point lead. It escalated quickly from there when Avery Bradley got a bucket off a dumb Bryant pass for a layup. TD Bank Garden smelled blood in the water. Then, all hell broke loose. Boston’s Green smacked a L.A. shot off the backboard and hit Pierce on the outlet pass, who calmly drained a 26-footer on Antawn Jamison to lead by 26 — in the third quarter. Pierce’s “Not in here!” yells after that triple made sure you knew this rivalry was still on, in case you thought the scoreboard only indicated such things. Pretty shocking how in-sync this team looks without Rondo, though making 13-of-14 in one stretch is a nice smokescreen for their defensive problems against *good* teams. Are they better sans Rondo? It’s an insulting question. But, they have been on this short-term run … We’re always on milestone watch yet this caught us by surprise: Garnett became the 16th player to reach 25,000 points Thursday but more importantly the first and only with 25K points, 10,000 boards, 5,000 assists and 1,500 blocks and steals. And some of the most diabolical trash talk. … Hit the jump to hear about a crazy finish in college…

The Nuggets took the third-best defense to the woodshed for the worst beating of Tom Thibodeau‘s tenure in Chicago. Chicago allows only 91 points per game but Denver had that by the end of the third quarter. It’s possible the 140 points Houston had this week would have been in jeopardy had this required Denver’s main players to continue deep into the fourth but as it ended, it was 128-96. Wilson Chandler (24 points in 19 minutes) and Kenneth Faried (21 and 12 in 26 minutes) put up numbers in bunches. At times, it resembled a mini-dunk contest between Faried and JaVale McGee (10 points), though Andre Iguodala‘s over-the-shoulder dime to a trailing McGee on the break elicited a tomahawk that looked to peak at around 12 feet, no joke. Joakim Noah played conservatively with a banged-up foot, weakening a line of defense in the key. Denver scored 64 points there. … College hoops is getting nuts, with the No. 1 team losing for a fifth week in a row. This time Indiana got snookered on Illinois’ out-of-bounds play from the corner with 0.9 left, allowing a wide-open Tyler Griffey layup on a backcut. Lots of bottles popping in the Champaign Room last night. … In other games, Andrew Wiggins had himself a night against a college JV team: 57 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in his Huntington Prep team’s 111-59 win. Wiggins was 24-of-28 from the floor. … The NBA drew the curtain on its All-Star Game Saturday Night lineup and as geeked out as we are on the dunk contest including Gerald Green and James White, we think the casual fan will feel underwhelmed in a “who are these guys?” kind of way. Green and White are joined by Terrence Ross, Eric Bledsoe, last year’s champ Jeremy Evans and Faried. Faried’s an interesting choice — seems like more of a brute, power dunker but maybe he’ll surprise us in a the way Howard did. Running around the skills challenge’s barriers will be Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight, Jeff Teague, Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker. The three-point contest is: Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Steve Novak, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner and Stephen Curry. In the shooting stars challenge Team Bosh includes Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash; Team Lopez has Brook, Muggsy Bogues and Tamika Catchings; Team Harden has James, Sam Cassell and Tina Thompson; and Team Westbrook includes Russ, Big Shot Robert Horry and Maya Moore. We like Team Westbrook because Horry has a reputation to uphold, after all, and Moore is incredible. … Harden and Westbrook also will coach the Celebrity All-Star game teams. … We’re out like Indiana’s out-of-bounds defense.

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