Every now and then, we could all use a reminder that this basketball thing isn’t as complicated as we think. Last night’s national TV showdown between the Thunder and Clippers was one of those reminders. Sure, we could get all Hubie Brown-ish and meticulously pick apart and break down every little subtlety, but the game ultimately came down to this: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were better than everybody else when it mattered most … Matt Barnes of all people sparked L.A.’s fourth-quarter rally to force overtime, but then KD and Russ took over the extra session and won it for OKC. Westbrook (23 pts, 9 asts) drew first blood with a three-pointer, then dropped in an off-balance baseline pull-up straight from the D-Wade collection. Durant (35 pts, 5 stls, 19-21 FT) rattled in a trey of his own in OT, and whenever the Clippers tried to get close the gap on the scoreboard, KD added more free throws to keep them at a distance … While it’s not exactly surprising that Jamal Crawford (20 pts) has replaced Chris Paul (9 pts, 9 asts, 2-14 FG) as L.A.’s main give-it-to-him-and-get-out-of-the-way option in crunch time, it is surprising that it only took a few weeks for JCrossover to earn the job … Barnes (19 pts, 9 rebs, 4 stls) had some key buckets that kept the Clips in the ballgame late — including one driving layup where he made Durant look worse than an NFL quarterback trying to make a tackle — but otherwise his night was defined by watching Durant light his ass up. Barnes is a good defender, but there are only a few people on this planet who can actually shut KD down, and Barnes just isn’t one of them … Is it just us or does Eric Maynor look like a light-skinned Rakim? (For you kids out there, Rakim is a rapper who’s better than your favorite rapper) … As much as we liked the Westbrook/CP3 matchup, we wouldn’t mind being witness to Eric Bledsoe playing Westbrook for an entire game. To watch those two athletic freaks with nonstop motors and massive chips on their shoulders go 48 minutes would be like watching Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward go 12 rounds again … But last night’s best matchup of elite point guards went down in Boston, where Tony Parker (26 pts, 6 asts) outdueled Rajon Rondo (22 pts, 15 asts) in a big road win for the Spurs. While TP and Rondo’s head-to-head was almost too close to call, it was Tim Duncan‘s unanimous decision over Kevin Garnett that gave San Antonio the victory. Duncan had 20 points and 15 boards versus KG’s 14 and three, and Duncan hit the jumper in the lane that effectively killed Boston’s last-ditch rally in the fourth quarter … For Act 2 of the D’Antoni Experiment, the Lakers decided to switch places with the Sacramento Kings for a night. This game saw one team sharing the ball with a fluid efficiency amongst their multiple talented scorers, one team dominating the glass, one team buckling down to create a wall on defense. And that team wasn’t the Lakers … Six Kings scored in double figures in a 113-97 win, led by Marcus Thornton‘s 23 points. Sacramento’s offense looked downright Showtime-esque at times, plus they won the rebounding battle and forced 20 turnovers on defense. Tyreke Evans even made the highlight reel on D when he chased down Metta World Peace and swatted his layup back to Queensbridge … Kobe was technically efficient as a scorer, finishing with 38 points on just 20 field-goal attempts. But he also committed seven turnovers, and too much of L.A.’s offense consisted of their other All-Stars standing around watching Kobe do his thing. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, got outplayed by Chuck Hayes. He finished with just seven points and nine boards in over 40 minutes … Keep reading to hear about Kevin Love’s comeback …
There’s no question what the T-Wolves are thankful for this holiday: Kevin Love‘s return to the court. Making his season debut ahead of schedule last night, K-Love hung 34 points and 14 rebounds on the Nuggets and didn’t look at all like somebody with a busted-up hand. It wasn’t enough to get the win, though, as Denver was just too fast and shot the ball too well. Highlight of the night went to Andre Iguodala (18 pts, 9 rebs), who got a steal and led a fast break before spinning around Luke Ridnour and dunking on Andrei Kirilenko in one motion … Kevin Seraphin‘s day was only slightly better than Kevin Clash‘s. Late in overtime of Wizards/Hawks, Seraphin took (and bricked) two terrible shots on consecutive possessions while Washington was trying to protect a lead. That caused Wizards coach Randy Wittman to go all Bobby Knight on his young big man, but he still left Seraphin in the game because, well, the Wizards would stink even more without him. How does Seraphin respond? He fouls Al Horford on one possession, then seconds later loses Horford completely and allows him to score the game-tying basket. Seraphin almost redeemed himself when he made a wide-open jumper on the next play, but Kyle Korver came right back and calmly drilled a three that put Atlanta up by one with 1.9 seconds left. Last chance for the Wizards, and who do they go to? Seraphin, who airballs a hook shot. Game over … And sadly, Seraphin was probably the Wizards’ best player last night, posting 21 points and 10 boards. Washington’s crunch-time lineup consisted of A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton and Seraphin. Yes, this was an actual NBA basketball game … The Suns kicked the Blazers’ butts so bad, all Portland’s TV analyst could say afterward was, “Well, when we go home, we have grass on our lawns. They have rocks.” Burn … Marcin Gortat led the way with 22 points in Phoenix’s 114-87 rout, while Jermaine O’Neal found his knees from 2006 and scored 17 off the bench. The Suns probably could’ve put in the guy we spotted sitting at the scorer’s table who looked like Ralphie May wearing a pink shirt with yellow suspenders and shades indoors, and he would’ve managed six points and three rebounds … Other stat lines from Wednesday: O.J. Mayo scored 27 points and Vince Carter added 25 as Dallas knocked off the Knicks; James Harden dropped 28 points to lead Houston past Chicago; Paul George scored 37 points in Indiana’s win over New Orleans, while Roy Hibbert posted a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks; Andrew Nicholson scored 15 points as Orlando beat Detroit; David Lee put up 20 points, 13 boards and six assists in Golden State’s win over Brooklyn; Kyrie Irving fill-in Jeremy Pargo dropped 28 points to lift Cleveland over Philly; Kemba Walker had 19 points, seven dimes and three blocks to help Charlotte edge Toronto; and LeBron put up 28 points, 10 boards and eight assists in Miami’s win over Milwaukee … Brandon Jennings was trying a little too hard to score in the final seconds when the outcome wasn’t really in doubt, and the cameras caught LeBron with a “What the hell is wrong with that kid?” look on his face after the buzzer … If you had Reggie Evans in the pool for who would draw the NBA’s first fine for flopping, you made a smart bet. On one hand, it’s good because Evans could be a poster example for the flopping epidemic, as he is one of the strongest and most unmovable men in the league when he wants to be, so for him to be diving around like a soccer player insults the game. On the other hand, Evans is just a working-class scrapper who makes his NBA living by doing things like flopping. Will the NBA ever be bold enough to fine one of its many superstars who comically flop when they don’t have to? Looking at you, Chris Paul and Kobe and Paul Pierce and LeBron and … We’re out like the NHL season.
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