Kobe Bryant Plays Like A Gladiator, Lakers Win In The Last Seconds; Indiana Nearly Pulls Off An Unthinkable Comeback

We make jokes all the time about Kobe Bryant‘s evolution from “human being” into “basketball cyborg” but last night, all of these 48-minute nights finally took their toll. We’d list the leg injuries he packed on over the course of the game against Golden State, but screw it. Let’s just say the dude’s entire lower body was a mess (and he ended up leaving with what is probably the worst injury of his career). He was completely zoned in though, scoring 34 before he eventually had to leave, duck walking off the floor with just over three minutes to go. What happened after that? Pau Gasol (26 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) and Dwight Howard (28 points) stepped up, and the Lakers survived two potential game-winners from the Warriors to win 118-116. The first was a wide open jumper from Carl Landry with 1.5 seconds left. The second was when Stephen Curry gave every Lakers fan a heart attack by nearly dropping a 66-footer. … Curry (47 points, nine assists) was unreal, scoring 22 points in the first quarter. He had 30 halfway through the first half. You know you’re a good shooter when you have a four-on-one fast break, and they still give it to you to shoot a triple. … Afterward, Bryant was in tears talking to the media, and says he knows his latest injury is a torn Achilles, hearing it pop on a routine move. That would be awful, especially at this point in his career. Let’s hope/pray the news gets better. … In Utah, the Jazz survived by seven against Minnesota mainly because Al Jefferson had perhaps the best game of his career, finishing with 40 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. That keeps them just a game behind the Lakers for the final West Playoff spot. … Memphis delivered a big blow to Houston’s hopes of overtaking Golden State for the No. 6 seed, beating them in a slugfest, 82-78. With the Rockets down three with a minute and a half left, Jeremy Lin (17 points) canned a triple from almost outside the arena to tie it. After a couple of screwball possessions from both teams, James Harden (30 points, seven rebounds) went right to the rack to try to draw a foul with Houston down one and only 30 seconds left. He got snuffed instead, something that happened consistently in the second half. On the other end, Mike Conley hit one of two to put Memphis up 80-78. Houston’s best opportunities came on the following two possessions, but on the first, Tony Allen put the shackles on the Beard, and on the second, Harden missed the easiest jump shot he’s had all year. … Earlier, with 10 minutes left in a two-point game, Harden got whistled for a charging call on Jerryd Bayless, and the entire arena erupted in anger. Everyone was pissed, and the announcers went on about it worse than we’ve seen from any announcing crew all year. Even Clyde Drexler was pissed, so you know it must’ve been bad. … At 54-25, the Grizz now have identical records with No. 3-seeded Denver, after the Nuggets dropped one in overtime against Dallas last night, 108-105. Vince Carter, who’s had a season’s worth of throwback games, pulled out one of his best: 22 points, 12 boards, seven assists. … You have to feel for John Wall. He had another solid game last night, grilling Philly for 24 points and seven dimes, and had Washington up for almost the entire first half. But then the Sixers hit the hosts with a 12-0 run in the third, and Washington started doing typical “Wizardy” things like have three big guys battle each other for the ball before it ending up in Spencer Hawes‘ hands for a layup. Jrue Holiday had 22 points in Philly’s eventually 11-point win, yet something tells us this game had very little influence on Doug Collins‘ future. … J.R. Smith better win the Sixth Man of the Year (he’s averaging about 25 points a game since Amar’e went down). He had another 31 points last night (missing just three shots) in New York’s 10-point win over Cleveland, and combined with Carmelo Anthony (31 points, 14 rebounds) to put the Cavs to bed. Last night was also the second time we’ve heard Austin Carr (Cleveland broadcaster) refer to Steve Novak as Machine Gun Kelly (aka the Cleveland-based rapper). One of the best nicknames we’ve heard in years. … New York also waived Kurt Thomas yesterday. The oldest player in the league had to go because of injuries. He wouldn’t have been able to play in the postseason. … Is there anyone in college basketball who doesn’t feel like they’re ready for the league? Texas guard Myck Kabongo is the latest to announce he’ll skip his final two years in college to earn a paycheck. We’ve always loved Myck, but his timing couldn’t be any worse. He played just 11 games last year after being suspended by the NCAA, and the Longhorns finished 16-18. The point guard did average 14.6 points and 5.5 assists, but not even David Kahn would spend a first rounder on him. … San Diego State junior Jamaal Franklin is also declaring for the NBA Draft. … Keep reading to hear why San Antonio cut Stephen Jackson…

At one point in the third quarter in Indiana, the Nets had racked up a 24-point lead, Deron Williams (33 points, 14 assists) was cooking anyone the Pacers put on him, and Brooklyn looked like the first team all year that had solved the riddle of Indiana’s defense. But then they put Paul George (21 points) on Williams and everything changed. The Pacers’ defense turned into a sticky web, getting deflections all over the court. Within minutes, the lead shrunk in half. Within the quarter, it was a four-point game. Then with five minutes left, Lance Stephenson canned a triple to give Indiana a lead. Stephenson has to be the only starter in the league who consistently gets the “easy… EASY…” treatment from the team’s broadcast. He is the definition of a loose cannon. The ironic part? Indiana actually likes that about him. …Yet after Roy Hibbert (18 points, 10 boards) stuffed Brook Lopez (Pacers announcers: “That’s some smother chicken!”), leading to a George triple that almost blew the roof off with about three minutes left, Brooklyn scored nine straight points to put it away, winning 117-109. The Nets still left with a bittersweet taste: Deron Williams limped off the court after bumping knees with two Pacers with only 25.6 seconds left. … In Atlanta, after the Bucks tied it up at 92, the Hawks mercilessly pummeled Milwaukee inside. They scored 12 of their next 13 points in the paint, and won, 109-104. Al Horford (18 points, 17 rebounds) got a lob, then basically threw Ersan Ilyasova (25 points) through the basket on a backdown dunk a little later. A few possessions after that, Josh Smith (24 points) did the same thing to Mike Dunleavy, leaving his remains all over the paint. … After we called him the NBA player with the biggest ego, Monta Ellis did this last night: 27 points, 17 assists, eight rebounds, five steals, five triples. … In other scores from last night: Toronto beat the Bulls, 97-88, as Amir Johnson had 24 points and nine boards; the Pistons smoked Charlotte by 20 despite getting lit up for 28 by Kemba Walker; LeBron James (20 points, nine assists) and Miami took care of Boston, 109-101; Chris Paul (17 points, 14 assists) brought the Clippers from behind to win in New Orleans by three; OKC ambushed the Blazers, beating them by 16 with Russell Westbrook giving Damian Lillard 33 points; And the Spurs had no problems against the Kings, winning 108-101 behind 22 points and 10 dimes from Tony Parker. But the bigger news was the team’s release of Stephen Jackson. It’s being reported that there was friction with Gregg Popovich. San Antonio waited until Jack became ineligible to be picked up by someone else for the postseason, so the only good that comes from this is the inevitable Spurs diss track coming from Jack. … Meanwhile it sounds like Derrick Rose won’t be suiting up this season for Chicago after all, with The Chicago Tribune reporting the team was looking at the 8-12 month time period for rehab all along (Rose had surgery on May 12, 2012). Before you go speculating about how Rose’s injury is worse than they’re letting on (we don’t believe that), here’s what really happened: people (and fans especially) always want to see the glass half full when it comes to major injuries. So once one report says there’s a chance he comes back in March — which was always CRAZY — everyone believes it. Everyone expects it. Considering the time frame, the expectation all along should’ve been that we wouldn’t see D-Rose until the fall of 2013. It’s too bad people don’t want to hear that. … We’re out like Crazy Eyes.

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