Dwight Howard’s 22-and-20 wins duel with Blake Griffin

On paper, Magic vs. Clippers was shaping up to be a nice showcase for the NBA. You had Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin, the two most ferocious dunkers and beastly physical specimens in the League, sharing the court. You had one of the top teams in the East hosting an up-and-coming threat in the West. You had random entertaining guys like Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas and DeAndre Jordan lurking in the supporting cast ready to do something … But then the game started, and frankly, both teams looked amateurish for stretches while putting the Amway Arena crowd to sleep. Blake and Dwight each had a decent dunk in the first quarter, but what seemed like warm-up crams didn’t materialize into the YouTube No. 1 hits we’ve come to expect. The Magic couldn’t make a three, Baron missed the mark on more passes than Donovan McNabb, and the overall theme for both sides consisted of bricks and turnovers … The Clips led by four at halftime, then Dwight (22 pts, 20 rebs) picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter and it seemed Orlando was in trouble. But that’s when they decided to put on a fast-break clinic, ripping off a 13-0 run. Baron (25 pts, 8 rebs, 8 asts) hit a couple treys to get L.A. back in it going into the fourth quarter, but Gilbert Arenas woke up from his month-long nap to spark a 12-0 run with a three and some dimes that helped Orlando pull away … Chris Webber said before tip-off that Ryan Anderson‘s best defensive strategy against Blake would be, “Blindfold, cigarette, and hope somebody else can help you.” But Anderson actually did a good job denying Blake (10 pts, 4-12 FG, 12 rebs) the ball and not giving him any easy looks … Orlando’s announcers were recalling the story of when Elton Brand talked Baron into signing with the Clippers before ditching him for the Sixers, and initially called Brand “Carlos Boozer.” After detailing Brand’s shady move, one of them said, “You can see why I had the Freudian slip with Boozer.” … Anybody else think Ike Diogu and Earl Clark look like Keenan & Kel grown up without haircuts? … You know Matt Goukas is old when he’s reminiscing over a time when NBA free throws were 3-to-make-2. “That was terrible,” Goukas said. Can you imagine how much longer games would be today if Dwight played with those rules? …Read More>>

During that dominant stretch the Miami Heat had a while back — you know, before LeBron tried to sling karma at the Cavs and felt it recoil back in his face — the only negative with the team was that they were rarely tested in close games. Since then, Miami has found itself in a few nail-biters, and they’re getting better at taking care of business … The Heat were down as much as 13 to Indiana in the second half before Chris Bosh (19 pts) got rolling and brought the deficit down to one with five minutes left. Erick Dampier of all people made the go-ahead bucket on a follow dunk, the best offensive play we’ve seen from him since Mississippi State. With 15 seconds left it was still a one-point Miami lead before LeBron stuck a jumper. Mike Dunleavy Jr. hit Josh McRoberts on a pretty inbounds alley-oop right after that, LeBron made two free throws, and then the Pacers shot themselves in the foot with a five-second inbound violation that ended their last good chance … LeBron finished with 41 points (15-23 FG), 13 boards, 8 assists and 3 steals. It’s getting increasingly tough to make a good argument against LBJ for MVP right now … Something about seeing the OKC Thunder on the schedule — and having O.J. Mayo out of the lineup under suspicious circumstances — makes Tony Allen turn into Andrew Toney. In early January, O.J. sat out the night after the infamous gambling-debt fight while Tony dropped 19 points and hit multiple clutch shots to beat the Thunder. Last night, with O.J. out on PED suspension, Tony went off again on OKC, putting up 27 points, 5 steals and 3 blocks. He scored 10 of Memphis’ last 15 points in the fourth quarter, and made some crucial stops while guarding Kevin Durant (31 pts, 10 rebs), paving the way for the Grizzlies to win in overtime. If last night’s game had happened a couple weeks ago, Scott Brooks would have voted for Tony Allen as an All-Star … Other stat lines from Tuesday: Tony Parker put up 19 points and 7 assists in San Antonio’s win at Detroit; John Salmons scored 17 points to lead Milwaukee past Toronto; Lou Williams scored 20 off the bench as Philadelphia destroyed Atlanta; and Kevin Love‘s 20 points and 14 boards helped Minnesota edge Houston … Rip Hamilton took another DNP-CD in that Spurs/Pistons game. Later on we heard a rumor about Rip trying to sneak onto the Spurs team plane in Antonio McDyess‘ suitcase, but we couldn’t get confirmation … We’re out like Rip …