Before Ric Bucher left ESPN this fall, he tweeted one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes nuggets to take into consideration whenever Oklahoma City and the Lakers play. Bucher said that underneath the “We’re all friends!” vibe Team USA put out in winning gold in London last summer, Kobe Bryant was trying to create a wedge between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant by telling Russ he deserved to be the team’s alpha male. The young OKC stars were wise to the Mamba’s plot then and apparently want to destroy L.A. each time they play the Lakers now because of what Kobe tried to do. Friday night in L.A. was a destruction, all right, but it looked so easy as to be actually scary. KD had a season-high 42 points while looking as relaxed as some of the fans (well, not Jack Nicholson — he bailed with a quarter to go). Russ had 27 points and his hard-as-hell hanging J over Bryant (28 points), combined with KD’s first-half buzzer beater, turned a close game through 25 minutes into a 16-point halftime lead. The Thunder rolled, 116-101, and the Lakers are free falling into six losses in a row. … You won’t see Pau Gasol going anywhere, as Got ‘Em Coach correctly predicted. Jordan Hill out for the year with a hip injury shut down that trade talk because this team needs every frontcourt player not named Robert Sacre it can get. … Last dispatch from Laker land: Kobe and Vanessa have called off their divorce, according to her Instagram account. … Rudy Gay (23 points), himself a trade talk magnet, hit a big bucket to beat the Spurs, 101-98 in OT. Gay stepped up and drilled a 14-footer. Maybe it was the case these teams were dog tired by OT, or maybe Memphis’ defense is restoring some of its original shine this year, but the Spurs only got three points in OT. Also, Jerryd Bayless came up with one of the season’s top “C’mon man!” entries when he threw an oop Gay wasn’t expecting on a fast break with no one within 20 feet of either of them. The ball just sailed out of bounds. … Minnesota lost a bizarre game to New Orleans, 104-92. The banged-up Wolves, down to nine guys in their rotation, went from 18 points up in the first quarter to as many as 15 down. Nawlins’ bigs woke up and held Nikola Pekovic to eight points over the final three quarters after he had 10 in the first 15 and Greivis Vasquez had another great game, getting 18 points and 13 dimes. … Danilo Gallinari may have a recessive ‘clutch’ gene. He hit a three to beat the Lakers a week ago and then got a triple (part of his 23) as time wound down to bring the Nuggets to a 98-91 win over the Cavs. … Boston nearly gave back all of its 17-point lead on its home floor to Houston, but the Truth shone through with 16 points in the second half (he had 23) in the 103-91 win that wasn’t in doubt the last six minutes. Jared Sullinger‘s been balling during the C’s 5-game win streak, and he had 14 and 11 off the pine Friday. … Hit the jump to hear about Damian Lillard’s big night back home …
Was Rookie of the Year sealed and mailed to Portland on Friday night? Damian Lillard had a ridiculous second half of 29 points just to get Portland close to Golden State in their 103-97 loss. Playing in front of his hometown Oakland crowd, Dame finished with 37 points overall, going 5-of-7 from three in the third quarter alone. That brought the Blazers back from 20 down to within a couple, and turned GSW’s famed homecourt advantage into a very quiet building â€” except for the Lillard cheering section â€” for about a 15-minute stretch. At one point his pull-up in transition from easily four feet behind the arc was as cold as the emotionless look he gave the crowd after he sunk it. Portland could have made things very interesting in the last 30 seconds but Steph Curry (22 points, 12 dimes) drove to the paint and when two defenders converged hit Carl Landry for a nice bucket down low. … It seems a while ago that David Lee complained he should have been an All-Star over LaMarcus Aldridge, but his play (24 and 10) completely outshone LMA (seven points, 3-of-14) on the second night of the Blazer’s back-to-back. … Also of note: the Warriors tied last year’s win total with the win and the Blazers shot 43 three-point attempts. Wow. … Chicago hit a switch against New York this season it can’t find against anyone else. The Bulls’ third win over the Knicks this season, 108-101 at the Garden, came because suddenly the Bulls, a lower-half team in offensive efficiency, found its game on that end. Luol Deng had 33 and was cash with his pull-up jumper. Much like Wes Matthews guarding LeBron and still getting huge buckets on O a night before, Deng took Carmelo Anthony. While LeBron didn’t get his points, ‘Melo still reeled off 39 points â€” but took 32 shots. The offense felt like he’d been away for a week, not a game. … The Raptors won their 10th game in the last 13 by having their way with Charlotte, 99-78, at home. Playing even basketball is nice if you’re the Bobcats but not so much when three dudes tie for the scoring lead with only 12. Odd game for DeMar DeRozan, who was content to create without getting his own shot. He had six points, 2-of-8 shooting, but played 34 minutes. … In other games, it was an unlikely hero who led Atlanta back from an uninspired first half and 15-point hole with 24 points: Devin Harris. The Hawks beat the Jazz, 103-95. … MarShon Brooks has seen the court more under P.J. Carlesimo and the Nets are better for it. They’re undefeated in 2013 and Brooks had 17 and a baseline smash in a 99-79 win over Phoenix. … Greg Monroe had 26 and 11 and Detroit put an end to the nice start of the Jim Boylan “era” in Milwaukee, 103-87. … We’re out like Russell Westbrook‘s leather shirt look.
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