LeBron’s Giant Half Beats The Knicks; Kobe And The Lakers Scramble Back Into the Picture

For the second time in the second half Sunday at Madison Square Garden, J.R. Smith passed the ball a little too casually from above the three-point line, allowing LeBron James to intercept it. The first time, about 16 game minutes earlier, LBJ went to the line for free throws in the middle of Miami’s comeback from 17 down to the Knicks. Uh oh. The second time, no one stopped him. And that was the story of the second half at MSG. Smith (13 points, 12 boards) and Carmelo Anthony (32 points) doubled over immediately knowing the game was now 99-93 with 30 seconds left and Miami had done it again. This time, New York’s reaction was, oh sh**. It’s 14 wins in a row for the Heat, tying their team record thanks to outscoring the Knicks by 20 in the second half. LBJ had 29 and 11 boards, with 19 points in the second half. He hit two triples in a row to end the third and enter the fourth quarters that tied the game and gave MSG pause you could hear through your TV set. He had a follow dunk off Dwyane Wade‘s drive (20 points, eight boards, eight assists that kept Miami afloat in the first half) to start the third and a huge board and bucket with 4:15 left while Tyson Chandler (10 points, eight boards) howled about a non-call at the other end. You could spread the blame around to several Knicks, but Smith’s three-point confidence that kept him shooting even though he was just 3 of 14 stands out. Or, too, how Steve Novak (0-of-3 from distance) was utterly useless in his 12 minutes, just like in last year’s playoff series. … Even though STAT was kept on the bench most of the final quarter we did like how the Knicks fed him three straight times in the third to get him buckets/free throws. It won’t change the bottom line but is encouraging that he’s becoming a legit scoring threat again, not just a decoy for ‘Melo. … Chandler Parsons may have had a superior game and shot 12-of-13 from the field, but his GM still trolled him after Houston’s 136-103 rout of Dallas. Who cares though, when he can drop 32 and James Harden and Jeremy Lin can co-exist for 21 apiece. Combine all three and you get a dominant 44-point third quarter. … Thaddeus Young‘s (14 points) return to Philly’s lineup last Sunday in New York went under the radar because of his coach’s meltdown and Jrue Holiday‘s (14 points) attention-grabbing play, but he’s one of few reasons to be positive in Philly. His throwdown on Sunday against the Wizards after blowing down the baseline was nasty, though it was another 76ers loss, 90-87. The win was two-sided for Washington, which got a 360-layup from John Wall (16 points) that left Spencer Hawes unable to use his motor skills, but also a sprained ankle from Wiz rookie whiz Bradley Beal (14 points before leaving). … Read on to hear about the insanely good doubleheader in L.A. …

Kobe ‘s (34 points, 13-of-27 shooting) dunk and layup in the fourth quarter Sunday closed out the greatest win for a team that reached .500 you might ever see. We’re not trying to be flip, but instead trying to see both sides of this 99-98 win. Bryant’s dunk over Josh Smith was dirty drawers filthy (and will be stuck in the minds of every GM considering offering Smith a max deal) and his layup to win it with 9 seconds left continues to make us think Bryant has reversed aging. Then, at the same moment, this team flashes those moments where you realize how truly dysfunctional they’ve been to be at just .500 in March and how those stains haven’t been all washed out. Dwight Howard (11 points, 15 boards) boarded like a man possessed when he couldn’t do anything else offensively in the first half, but then lost Al Horford (24 points, five boards) like a coin between the cushions with less than 30 seconds to go in the fourth. It allowed Horford to get a backcut and bucket to take the lead before Bryant’s layup. To his credit D12 did free Bryant for his baptism of Smith by screening out Zaza Pachulia, though. All in all, a trademark 2012-13 Lakers win, complete with Metta World Peace having to hit clutch threes and letting the Hawks stay within striking distance before a turnover by Smith on the final possession. …  Will Tony Parker‘s monthlong injury drop the Spurs out of first place, meaning possibly OKC will overtake them and meet L.A. in the first round? That’s a guaranteed first-round exit for L.A. if so. … Earlier in L.A., the Clippers started slow, came back from 19 down, then saw their rally get punched right in the balls by Oklahoma City. Serge Ibaka straight up karate chopped Blake Griffin (20 points before fouling out) in the yams in the fourth quarter and got a flagrant 1, but then later got a key layup in OKC’s 108-104 win. All of Staples wanted to fight Serge after that. It was a great game that showed how CP3 (26 points, but just 8-of-21) doesn’t let his team go down without a fight (a 10-0 run in the third got this game manageable again) and how Kevin Durant (35 points) and Russell Westbrook (29 points), if not scraping the ceiling, are damn close to it it seems. Picking a best highlight from this is like choosing between Playmates but Blake’s thermonuclear block on Nick Collison is our choice. … In other games: Marc Gasol was Memphis’ de facto point guard inside the arc in a 108-82 win over Orlando, whipping 11 assists in the rout … In a game only the diehards caught the Kings beat Charlotte 119-83 … No Tony Parker, no problem against Detroit for San Antonio’s 114-75 win. Even without his speed, the Spurs still had 25 points on the fastbreak. … The Pacers got a big Central win and are now No. 2 in the East after beating Chicago 97-92. The Bulls were forced into a brutal final possession to tie by Indiana’s D out of bounds, forcing an initial pass into the corner to Joakim Noah that led to a comedy of errors by the Bulls. … We’re out like Kobe’s retro dunk.

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