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Linsanity Overwhelms The Defending NBA Champions; Durant Drops 51 On Denver

So many story lines to watch during Sunday’s Mavs/Knicks national TV matchup: Carmelo Anthony‘s anticipated return ultimately being postponed another day; the Phoenix glory days reunion with Amar’e Stoudemire, Mike D’Antoni and Shawn Marion; Dirk Nowitzki‘s chance to prove he really does deserve an All-Star berth; Jason Kidd and Vince Carter playing on the Madison Square Garden court for perhaps the final time in their respective careers; Tyson Chandler seeing his former Dallas teammates for the first time since they won a championship together; NYC native Lamar Odom playing in front of his hometown crowd; and newly-signed J.R. Smith playing his first game as a Knick … Oh yeah, and there was something about this new point guard on the Knicks who’s been playing pretty well lately. Pretty much everything the Knicks did, Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown managed to link back to Jeremy Lin. During the second quarter, we swear we heard Bald-Head Mike credit Lin for New York’s 1970 NBA championship and for designing J.R. Smith’s last four tattoos. Hubie was ready to make Lin the poster child for his campaign that the NBA start recording hockey assists (the pass leading to the pass leading to the bucket). And in the studio, Magic Johnson made it his mission to put his personal stamp of approval on Lin as a legit player. Of course Lin also had the sit-down interview halftime feature where Rachel Nichols tried to make him cry, and the ABC cameras were so trained on Lin that they forgot to give Dallas’ owner, Odom’s wife and Spike Lee their usual allotment of camera time … The Knicks broke away with a 17-0 run in the first quarter, leading by a dozen at the end of the frame after Lin (28 pts, 14 asts, 5 stls, 7 TOs) beat the buzzer with a floater over Dirk. Smith (15 pts) came off the bench and hit three triples during the run, including a step-back in the corner with the shot clock winding down … The Mavs cut the lead to three by halftime, then came out in the third quarter playing like you’d expect the defending NBA champs to play. Dirk started the run with a fadeaway, then baited Amar’e into a four-point play. Vince knocked down a three, J-Kidd made a pull-up, and Marion hit a runner as the Mavs started to find more holes in New York’s defense than the Brooklyn Brawler’s t-shirt … Dallas was threatening to make it a blowout before J-Lin got consecutive and-ones off the drive to bring NY back to life, then ended the third quarter with a backcourt steal and dunk. Steve Novak took over for a spell early in the fourth as the game officially reached “playoff atmosphere,” netting 14 points and four threes in what felt like maybe a minute. Lin stuck two more pull-up threes – one in front of Dirk and another in front of Marion – and New York found itself up by five with 30 seconds left. Dallas’ last good possession resulted in Lin stripping Dirk (34 pts, 11-20 FG) and during an awkward pause where everybody was waiting for a foul to be called, Chandler (14 pts, 10 rebs, 3 blks) ended up all alone for a breakaway dunk that was the dagger …
Spike Lee is apparently over his Landry Fields crush – he’s now wearing a Harvard No. 4 jersey on the sidelines. Do you think Spike broke the news to Landry via text, or did Landry arrive for shootaround with Joey Greco and a camera crew at his side? Not that Spike has ever been a front-runner or anything, though. (This is the part when you cough and say “Kobe Doin’ Work”) … You know a basketball team is on fire when they start games in the kind of rhythm that would have you believe it’s already the second half. The Heat hit the ground running – when they weren’t flying – against Orlando yesterday and never looked back. Dwyane Wade (27 pts, 6 rebs, 3 blks) made the game’s first bucket on the kind of turnaround fadeaway that normal people don’t even attempt until they’ve at least run up and down the court a few times, then Wade hit an even tougher turnaround from the corner a few minutes later. Flash added a half-court alley-oop dunk (courtesy LeBron) and a Jordan-esque up-and-under on his way to 19 first-half points … LeBron (25 pts, 11 rebs, 8 asts) gave the Heat a 20-point lead with three minutes left in the game on a breakaway pump-handle slam that just further teased everybody who wants to see a real superstar in the All-Star Weekend dunk contest, then he and the starters called it a day … Keep reading to hear about the stat stuffers in OKC …

Kevin Durant did his best to climb out from under the shadow of Linsanity and LeBron, dropping a career-high 51 points (19-28 FG) to go with eight rebounds and four steals against Denver … Al Harrington hit back-to-back threes to put the Nuggets up nine in the fourth quarter, but Durant and Russell Westbrook (40 pts, 9 asts) wouldn’t let their team lose that easy. The margin was still five before Durant calmly drained a trey with 30 seconds to go, and after getting a huge defensive stop, OKC got the ball back with seven seconds left. Naturally they went to Durant, who separated from Arron Afflalo (27 pts, 7 rebs, 5 asts) thanks to a Serge Ibaka screen, then skated past Birdman Andersen for a surprisingly easy dunk … Westbrook gave OKC a four-point lead with 26 seconds remaining in OT with another mid-range J, and on the other end Ibaka (14 pts, 15 rebs, 11 blks) rejected Afflalo at the rim to effectively end it …
Isaiah Thomas won the battle in Cleveland, but Kyrie Irving won the war. Having recently earned his way into Sacramento’s starting five, Isaiah made it clear before the game that as the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, he had drawn a bulls-eye on Irving, the first pick. Thomas finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists versus Irving’s 23 points, three boards and one dime, but Irving stole the show at the end …
After DeMarcus Cousins gave the Kings a one-point lead with 2.9 seconds left on a swooping reverse layup that looked exactly like Jerry Stackhouse‘s famous dunk against Duke – except Cousins only got about three inches off the ground and he didn’t touch the rim – everyone knew Irving would be getting the rock. But before he could make a highlight, Tyreke Evans inexplicably fouled him trying to go for a steal with 0.4 on the clock. Mark that down as Bonehead Play No. 3,042 for the Kings this season. Irving stepped to the free-throw line and buried both shots to win the game … The other heroic free throws of the day belonged to Kevin Love. The Wolves were down one to the Sixers with three seconds left when Love (20 pts, 15 rebs) got the inbound pass outside the arc, lumbered his way to the hoop and had his shot spiked by Elton Brand. Great defensive play, only the refs called a foul and sent Love to the line with one-tenth of a second to go. Love made both and Minnesota stole a W … Other stat lines from Sunday: Kyle Lowry had 32 points, 9 dimes and 7 threes as Houston beat Utah; Roy Hibbert put up 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead Indiana past Charlotte; Ersan Ilyasova beasted the Nets for 29 points and 25 boards (13 offensive) in a Milwaukee road win; Greg Monroe‘s 17 points and 10 boards helped Detroit knock off Boston; and Marcin Gortat posted 21 points and 15 boards as Phoenix upset the Lakers, while Kobe Bryant had 32 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 10 turnovers … We’re out like Landry Fields jerseys.

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