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Joe Johnson Makes His All-Star Push; O.J. Mayo Knocks Out Denver

Joe Johnson is absolutely balling right now. He dropped 24 in the first half of Atlanta’s blowout win in Toronto. After he closed the frame with a rainbow three from the top of the key, the ATL play-by-play guy yelled, “Nothing but the bottom of the sack.” It’s not even a question anymore whether he’s an All-Star. If he keeps this up, we’re only asking for him to give back $30 million to the Hawks, rather than $40 mill. 30 points on 13-for-18 from the field, in only three quarters … Tracy McGrady added 15 off the bench … Looking at the glass half full, the 56 points Atlanta scored in the first 24 minutes was the most the Raptors have given up in a first half all year. Last year, everybody treated Toronto like a Golden Corral … Pau Gasol didn’t really have a chance to back up what he said about players calling him soft. If he’s soft, than what are the Charlotte Bobcats? The Lakers bent them over and spanked them repeatedly, 106-73. Kobe took it so easy, he found time to launch 11 triples. Andrew Bynum was a monster inside (20 points, 11 rebounds) but he was also being checked by people like DeSagana Diop and Byron Mullens, neither of whom know how to do anything anymore on defense besides lift their hands up … The Celtics might have some old legs, but damn. They almost blew another huge lead to Cleveland, this time up 22 before having to fight off the Cavs to win 93-90. Paul Pierce had 20 and Kevin Garnett made a couple of huge run-stopping shots down the stretch to hold off Kyrie Irving (21 points). The rook plays like a vet already, and the numbers prove it. In NBA history, no 19-year-old has ever averaged more points per 40 minutes than Irving is doing right now (25.2). Kobe went for 23.7 and Durant was at 23.5 … Anderson Varejao went Barbara Walters on the Celtics with a 20/20 game. Doc Rivers joked around and called him an All-Star. At least, we think he was joking … With their backcourt oddly quiet again, the Warriors rode their mismatched group of backups to a tight 93-90 win over Sacramento. In the second half, Brandon Rush (15 of his 20 points in the fourth) hit a number of big threes, Ekpe Udoh shut off Sacramento rim transportation and even Nate Robinson was staying away from stupid … Tyreke Evans finished one assist shy of a trip-dub (22 points, 10 rebounds, nine dimes) … Keep reading to hear about O.J. Mayo’s game-winner …

If you have a beef with officials, we hope you missed the end of Indiana’s 106-99 win over the Nets. After Danny Granger (21 points) saved a ball from going out of bounds with the Pacers leading New Jersey by three in the closing seconds, Roy Hibbert (18 points, 14 rebounds) came up with it and then proceeded to move like eight feet without dribbling. On first glance, we thought we missed something. On the replay, it was blatantly obvious: dude clearly moved his pivot foot twice, like he was a glitch in 2KDeron Williams (34 points) seems to have gotten over the fact he’s playing with the world’s worst pickup team. It didn’t take him long to assert himself either. He pistol-whipped Hibbert’s face with a facial barely three minutes into it. D-Will only had seven assists (and by that we mean he SHOULD’ve had a lot more), but it wasn’t for any bad reason. Williams was handing out candy as usual, but his teammates just couldn’t hold on to it. For example, early in the second half, he ran a screen-n-roll, drew two defenders and then had a perfect dump off to a man wide open for a jam. But it was Shelden Williams and he fumbled it out of bounds … Paul George dropped 24, and had a smooth, reverse double-pump slam. For a split second, we almost wrote “one of the best dunks of the yea…” but caught ourselves. Everything will now be judged by what we saw the last few days … The Pacers were rocking the Hardwood Classics from 1971-74 – the blue ones with the race car tracks up the side. Man, compared to the trash the Grizz and Clippers wore last week, these looked flawless … Brandon Jacobs was in the house looking like a bodyguard and cheering on Granger, his childhood friend … Can someone tell us why the Nuggets were relying on Andre Miller jumpers down the stretch of their three-point overtime loss in Memphis? Twice they went to him in regulation. He had 20, but having the old man pull-up off the dribble isn’t getting you wins. On the other side, O.J. Mayo (18 points) hit the game-winning triple from the top of the key with 35 seconds left … No player in the NBA misses more layups than Tony Allen. He had a couple more interesting ones last night, including a fast break where he tried to draw a foul, lofted the ball over his head, and missed everything and didn’t get the call. But when you drop 17, clean the glass eight times and block four shots, we can overlook it … Carmelo Anthony reemerged from the trainer’s room to go for 25 points on one of his more efficient nights of the season. The Knicks offense finally had the alarm clock go off, and they beat Detroit by 27 … And check out T-Pain performing at a recent Pistons’ game. The most exciting thing that’s happened in the Palace all season … We’re out like Allen’s layups.

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