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Dwight Howard Rewrites History; Kyrie Irving Wins His Duel With Steve Nash

Just put Dwight on the line, right? That was Mark Jackson‘s strategy on Thursday against Orlando and it seemed good for a while against the career 59 percent free-throw shooter. The Magic didn’t lead through the first quarter after going wire-to-wire against Portland in its own building the night before. Well, Howard’s not exactly Mark Price from the stripe but if you send a guy there an NBA-record 39 times (he made 21), he’s going to get his, anyway, and score with a stopped clock to help a comeback, too. That’s how Orlando held off Golden State, 117-109. Ryan Anderson made big buckets late and there was even a Jason Richardson sighting and Big Baby Davis took a huge charge in the final minutes, but the Big Disgruntled turned in a monster night, with 45 points and 23 rebounds. If you’re scoring at home, it’s the first 40/20 game since Shaq went for 48 and 20 on March 21, 2003. Golden State looked like its strategy wore themselves down (they shot 36 fewer free throws than Orlando, after all) and took away the momentum they still had after beating Miami in overtime two nights before. With Dorell Wright out and Nate Robinson (14 points) not as electric, and even with Monta Ellis (30 points, 11 assists) going off, the Oracle crowd looked affected too. If you’re a basketball fan in general, you know how good that building can get. So could Hack-A-Dwight be a new trend? It might be worth it, because only Wilt Chamberlain has missed as many free throws in a game as Howard did (By the way, we feel like there needs to be a different word to describe Dwight Howard’s blocks. He doesn’t only send them back or stuff them. It’s something more.). It’s just the whole concept of Dwight Howard taking 30-plus free throws in a game just seems wrong. It’d be like quarterbacks in the NFL throwing 50 passes a game and halfway decent signal-callers throwing up stat lines like 41 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Wait, that already happened? Oh … Where did all those people go who said they wouldn’t give up Andrew Bynum anymore for Howard? When you can put up 45 and 23 and STILL leave 18 free throws on the table, Bynum ain’t touching that … Isn’t it great when things just work out? If you had asked us earlier this year when Nate Robinson was pissed off in OKC and the Thunder were trying to drop him like loose change, we would’ve said the perfect home was out in the Bay. Now he’s there balling, or at least getting PT … New York got the blues and then some in Memphis. It was like a real-life version of the video for New York, New York with Tony Allen, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol playing the roles of Daz, Kurupt and Snoop. The Knicks put up just 38 in the first half, and then Carmelo Anthony (14 points) left in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle that knocked him out the rest of the game (After he left with an injured left wrist earlier.). You could almost see the emotion drain out of Mike D’Antoni‘s face, but maybe it’s to be expected in New York’s fifth game since Jan. 6. Apparently Iman Shumpert took the bad signs of the Knicks’ first half and decided to try and fix it himself, shooting 3-of-15 in the first 24. We know D’Antoni lets his players shoot in the flow but Shumpert’s first half might have even tested his coach’s limits. Coming into the night, Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving had taken the most attempts by a rookie at 19 (Shumpert finished 5-for-20) this year. Say what you want in this compressed season, because it comes after a four-game winning streak, but it was too hard for some Knicks observers to stomach — and then it got worse. We aren’t sure we’ve ever seen defense like we saw in the third. It was like the Grizz blindfolded the Knicks and told them they had to call out wherever they were going before they did it. Every other play was a steal, a deflection, Tony Allen backing up what we said about him by ripping somebody or Rudy Gay (26 points) catching Tyson Chandler‘s dunk. The Knicks were 5-for-19 from the floor in the third, and then during an eight-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, they went 3-of-18 … Bill Walker and O.J. Mayo combined for 32 points off the bench. If we had told you five years ago, they’d be coming off the pine in the NBA and it’d be a surprise when they put up numbers like these, you might’ve thought we were high. Even Mayo scoring 18 last night off the bench was a little eye-opening. We wonder what they were saying to each other last night: “Yo man, did you ever believe we’d one day be backing up Tony Allen and Landry Fields?” … A sign it’s been a tough season so far in Detroit: Franchise rock Tayshaun Prince air-balled an open jumper from the baseline that would have pulled the Pistons within one with 45 seconds remaining against Milwaukee. Air ballBrandon Jennings (27 points) finally learned. After missing late shot after late shot in the last few weeks, he passed off on a shot to Stephen Jackson (25 points). Jack found Jon Leuer (15 points), who punctuated his “What’s my name?” performance with a game-deciding dunk … Does Greg Monroe have a shot at the All-Star Game? He dominated Andrew Bogut last night (32 points, 16 rebounds)… While Dwight Howard was busy setting up camp at the charity stripe, the Bucks and Pistons combined to hit all 41 of their free throwsKeep reading to hear about the battle of the point guards out West …

Life without Al Horford won’t be easy, but you can’t help but smile a little bit if you’re in the ATL. Six Hawks were in double figure scoring and Josh Smith dropped 30 and 13 in their 111-81 beatdown of Charlotte. Horford, if you hadn’t heard, is expected to miss 3-4 months with a torn pectoral. One of the most likely to benefit will be Ivan Johnson, who played 21 minutes off the bench and scored 12 points with seven boards. We brought you Johnson’s winding backstory earlier this week. Now it could get even more interesting … Phoenix continues to baffle in the West, losing to Cleveland at home with only seven fast-break points. Steve Nash (16 points, 15 assists) is leading the charge but as our Sean Sweeney points out, what about his belief in where the team is headed? Last night, the team had no answers for a rookie on their own court. Kyrie Irving danced to 26 points, including one move in the first half where he broke off the whole state of Phoenix, going behind-the-back around a screen, hitting a big man with a double crossover off the pick, spinning and then hitting a smooth up-and-under layup. Phoenix, which dropped to 4-6 with a second straight loss, certainly doesn’t look like the team of old (and is it scary that the “glory years” were only five years ago?), but there was some nostalgia on the floor. Michael Redd played in his first Suns action, with 12 points and three threes. Alvin Gentry said this week he doesn’t want fans to think Redd is going to “ride in on a white horse and save” the team. He played well but no one said it feels like 2004 all over again … Actually, it might be. Taking a step back from the daily action, reports surfaced that Rasheed Wallace wants back in the league. He hasn’t played in 18 months and one GM told Yahoo: “I’d be worried about his conditioning in a condensed season.” We don’t doubt Sheed, because he knows what it takes to be a success — both teams playing hard. … No one on the Lakers wanted Kobe to miss much time after tearing the ligament in his wrist, but rookie Andrew Goudelock is pining to be more than just that guy who spells a tired Kobe. You know he wants to play and he seemed to be diplomatic about his role so far. “It’s definitely an honor to even be with the Lakers, let alone be Kobe Bryant’s backup,” Goudelock said in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. “That being said, I don’t want to always be known as Kobe Bryant’s backup. I want people to actually get my name right and I want people to actually know my name.” Apparently that, too, is a problem. Goudelock says Staples Center public address announcer Lawrence Tanter took eight games before he pronounced it right (To be clear, it’s GOWD-lock, everyone) … Back on campus, once-Big Ten winless Minnesota knocked out No. 8 Indiana in Bloomington. The Assembly Hall that was so unkind to Kentucky and Ohio State suddenly became upset central for the struggling Gophers. Huh? The Big Ten’s already the best conference in college this season, and if this portends anything bigger for Tubby Smith‘s team, it could get even more fun to watch … Hey, Mark Few, how do you really feel about your No. 23-ranked Gonzaga’s 21-point blowout loss to Saint Mary’s? … The first batch of All-Star voting results were released and Dwight Howard (754,737) led all players with Kobe Bryant topping the West. Howard paces centers in the East, followed by the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah (75,038). James leads Eastern Conference forwards with 640,789 votes. Carmelo Anthony (496,351) is second. In the backcourt as of now, it’s Derrick Rose (640,476 votes), followed by Dwyane Wade (637,912). In the West, Bryant’s 690,613 votes is tops among the guards, with Chris Paul second (540,173). Kevin Durant (633,538 votes) and Blake Griffin (394,264) lead the West forwards while Andrew Bynum is first in centers with 496,597 votes, followed by the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (134,961). We’re surprised Tim Tebow isn’t leading in votes … We’re out like Mark Jackson’s strategy.

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