Carlos Boozer Destroys Boston; Chris Paul Is Mr. Clutch

With Linsanity temporarily suspended, a nation turned its eyes to the next best thing: Bulls-Celtics. Paul Pierce came out on fire, knocking down his first three shots in Chicago, but it was Luol Deng (23 points, 10 assists) who capped the night for the Bulls’ 89-80 victory. He dropped 14 in the fourth quarter, with a huge three from the left corner (one of his six threes) to go up nine in the final minute. Since we brought it up, don’t overlook who fed him on that three — 10-day contract signee Mike James, who’s now with his 10th team (and also looks like Jason Weaver‘s father)… The common thinking is the Bulls will be as good as Carlos Boozer allows them with his post play. Thursday he went for 23 points, 15 rebounds and five dimes. Great stuff, but you didn’t think we weren’t going to mention him blowing a gimme fast-break layup in the third, right? Kevin Garnett then matched Boozer with his own case of the “shorties” (that’s Reggie Miller‘s term) on a tomahawk dunk attempt a touch later … Joakim Noah‘s always going to rub some people the wrong way, but what about his pistols dance? He broke it out after a jumper in the third … You can’t blame All-Star snub Rajon Rondo (17 points, eight assists, seven boards), who followed up 32, 15 and 10 on Sunday against Chicago in Boston and 35 against Detroit on Wednesday with another big performance … Did the lights go down on either team’s chances this season in the Pacers’ 93-88 win over New Jersey? Nah, but the Fieldhouse in Indy’s lights did go out for a few seconds in the second quarter. Can’t blame DeShawn Stevenson‘s trey that missed by three feet a possession later on the outage, though … Danny Granger (game-high 32 points) gave Johan Petro a nasty facial (plus the foul) off a curl to the hoop in the third quarter. Kris Humphries (24 points on 11-of-14 shooting, with 10 boards) caught Granger the next time down the floor, though. The former Mr. Kardashian beat Tyler Hansbrough off a quick baseline step and did a chin-up on the rim over a helping Granger … It hasn’t been the best week to be Dahntay Jones of Indiana. First he got smashed on by Alonzo Gee on Wednesday with two hands. Thursday, he had his breakaway layup in the third quarter’s final seconds destroyed (clean) by a trailing Humphries … Speaking of the Knicks was Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” on Thursday. The third-winningest Division I men’s coach says the notion ‘Melo can’t play with Jeremy Lin is “the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard.” … Keep reading to hear how clutch Chris Paul is …

The offense was offensive in the Rose City for the Clippers’ 74-71 win over Portland. It drops Portland, on the third night of three straight games, to its fourth consecutive home loss for the first time since January of 2007. The start was anything but boring, though, with Portland coming out guns blazing, looking like the team from six weeks ago that was talked about as the best in the West. The Clippers gave everyone in Portlandia a taste of Lob City early with a tip dunk by Blake Griffin and then Kenyon Martin cleaning up like a janitor on Griffin’s miss a few plays later. And then, as if Vinny Del Negro broke out a Men In Black mind eraser, the Clips stopped scoring. They rang up all of 32 points in the first half, 12 coming in the second quarter. Nicolas Batum (19 points) scored 15 by himself in the first quarter. Not to be outdone, the Blazers scored 11 in the fourth … The saga of Blazers (still) starting point guard Raymond Felton continues after he scored zero. This line won’t quiet his critics: 0-7 field goals, zero points, five turnovers. Weirder, though, was that Chris Paul didn’t hit his first field goal until 9:15 left in the game. You know the saying, “Big players make big plays in big games?” Well for Paul it was as true as it was cliche. Once he got his first bucket, he knocked down a triple and a step-back J to put L.A. ahead for good. Cold-blooded … Steve Kerr said it best, terming it a matchup of two “punch-drunk teams.” After the emotion of the first six minutes, everyone was stumbling around like it was 2 a.m. (Ironic because DeAndre Jordan made his first ever shot from outside of the paint.) … Does Griffin have the most practiced “who, me?” face to refs in the game right now? … And Mike Tokito of The Oregonian tweeted this in the second half: “The Situation‘s younger brothers are putting on a great jersey popping display just below us. Both with Griffin jerseys.” …Charles Barkley and Shaq chose their teams for the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Weekend, with “Commissioner” Kenny Smith adding Miami’s Norris Cole and New York’s Jeremy Lin to the pool. Shaq’s team, coached by Steve Kerr, is Blake Griffin, Lin, Ricky Rubio, Markieff Morris, Kemba Walker, Landry Fields, Cole, Brandon Knight, Tristan Thompson and Greg Monroe. Barkley’s squad, coached by Mike Fratello, is Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, Paul George, MarShon Brooks, John Wall, Tiago Splitter, Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward and Kawhi Leonard. Everyone on Twitter is going for Shaq’s team, but who do ya got? … We’re out like Portland’s fourth-quarter offense.

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