DimeMag

Lakers get back to winning, Cavs keep losing, and Super Bowl picks

While a slew of buckets from their two All-Stars helped, at the end of the day, it was the Lakers’ defense that allowed them to pick up a big road win against the best defensive team in the West and quiet some of that “What’s wrong with L.A.?” talk for at least a weekend … Kobe Bryant and Co. went into last night’s game at New Orleans needing a statement win against a good team. And although the Hornets are banged up — missing Emeka Okafor (oblique) and Trevor Ariza (ankle), meaning Aaron Gray and Quincy Pondexter started on Saturday — they are one of the top teams in the conference and had won six straight at home … After Chris Paul (21 pts, 15 asts) tied it up with a baseline runner with 3:45 left in the fourth, Kobe (32 pts, 9 rebs, 5 asts) answered with a three and the Hornets didn’t score again until it was too late. As L.A. built a seven-point lead, N.O. went 0-for-4, turned the ball over twice, and couldn’t get a rebound when they needed one. (Not to mention they couldn’t get a call to go their way all night.) Marco Belinelli finally hit a three to make it a four-point game with 15 seconds left, but then Kobe iced it at the line … And you wonder why people get frustrated with Lamar Odom‘s laid-back ways on the court. Key possession in the fourth quarter, Dave West trucked Odom while creating space for his jumper. Odom fell on his ass and just sat there as West missed the shot, fought for his own rebound, and put it back in … We forgot that Kim Kardashian was supposed to be campaigning for L.O. to make the All-Star squad. Is that why Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith were so convinced Odom should have made it? That whole “Odom is the second-best player on the Lakers” argument seemed like something you’d only say if a pretty girl wanted you to … Meanwhile, Pau Gasol got his Black Swan swag on with 34 points and 10 boards. One time right before halftime, he was face-up on Gray on the block and jab-stepped the kid like 4-5 times before he stopped toying with him and hit a jumper. Do you think Gregg Popovich gives Gasol the All-Star start at center? Or does he go with Tim Duncan (1) as a nice gesture to the man who’s made him rich, and/or (2) to mess with Gasol’s head? … D-West on the 27-4 free throw advantage for the road team: “It comes down to the name on the front of the jersey and the name on the back of the jersey. (The Lakers) get the benefit of the doubt, it’s just what we have to deal with. We know that. We just have to move on. That’s a crazy discrepancy.” … It seems like every night there’s a main-event caliber point guard matchup in the League, particularly in the Western Conference. Last night it was Deron Williams vs. Russell Westbrook in Utah. Westbrook scored a near knockout victory, dropping 33 points (10-15 FG, 9-10 FT) and 10 assists with just 2 turnovers, while D-Will finished with 14 points (6-15 FG) and 11 dimes and his team took the L … Westbrook played an almost perfect game, mixing his strong drives to the rim with sticking timely threes (4-4 beyond the arc) when Utah sagged off him in their zone defense or went under the screen on pick-and-rolls. After one trey he made his finger look like guns, blew on them and stuck ’em back in the holster. Somewhere in a Boston hotel, Gilbert Arenas filed a complaint with the commissioner’s office …Read More>>

Pretend the salary cap didn’t exist for a minute: If the Cavaliers offered their entire roster in a trade pitch for Westbrook, is there even a chance OKC would take it? Would any team in the League give up their second-best player for everything Cleveland has? The losing streak hit 24 last night, a new single-season NBA record, after the Blazers came into The Q and walked out victorious … For a minute it seemed the Cavs would pull this one out. (How many times have we said that in the past month and a half?) Manny Harris sparked an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to put Cleveland ahead by one, and knowing Portland sometimes struggles to score in crunch time minus Brandon Roy‘s ability to create his own shot, you could see the Blazers potentially falling apart. But then Rudy Fernandez hit a jumper to regain the lead, and next thing you know it was a double-digit margin … Still, the Cavs fought back to make it a four-point game with one minute to go, but Ramon Sessions blew a layup and bricked a short jumper, and J.J. Hickson missed everything on a three and continued to show worse hands in clutch moments than Stevie Johnson … Other stat lines from Saturday: Chauncey Billups put up 21 points and 13 assists to lead Denver past Minnesota, while Kevin Love posted 18 points and 19 rebounds in the loss; Dirk Nowitzki dropped 25 points as Dallas beat Charlotte; Tracy McGrady scored 20 points in Detroit’s win over Milwaukee; Monta Ellis went for 33 points and 4 steals to help Golden State upset Chicago; Kevin Martin scored 31 points (15-15 FT) while Luis Scola scored the game-winning layup with 30 seconds left in overtime to lift Houston past Memphis; and Josh Smith had 29 points and 16 boards as Atlanta edged Washington, a game in which he and JaVale McGee turned in some sick dunks but were outdone by Al Thornton destroying Zaza Pachulia with a one-hand facial … Big football game today. Who’s your pick: Packers or Steelers? And which song is better: “Black and Yellow” or “Green and Yellow”? And for those of you only watching for the commercials, who do you think is more likely to pop up in a Super Bowl ad: Diddy, T-Pain, Snoop or Flavor Flav? … We’re out like Lil Wayne making bandwagon songs …

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