Lakers-Heat was Hollywood at its finest. The Heat’s 99-90 win had leading men, a duel as its storyline and a big budget (the Lakers’ payroll). Generally in a big game like Miami-Lakers the question after the game becomes was Team X that impressive or Team Y that bad? Miami’s first four field goals â€” all huge dunks off sloppy Laker turnovers from Miami’s wing pressure â€” left no doubt that Miami was just that spectacular at the start — and the finish, too. It looked like a video game set on “JV” difficulty with Easy Play on. The Lakers kept on throwing the ball away at an alarming rate — 16 in the first half for 19 Miami points — and yet led by one at the half, even after Dwyane Wade‘s (27 points) brilliant play to end the first half. He Euro-stepped to the heart of the paint, went up with three Lakers around him and spun around in the air to hand the ball off to LeBron James (39 strong points, seven boards, eight assists, two turnovers), who found zero opposition for a two-handed slam. The catalyst for L.A. keeping it close was Dwight Howard, who beasted for 10 points and eight boards (finishing with 13 and 16) and looked on every one he’d taken Robert Horry‘s criticism to heart. Also, Miami was pitiful outside of the key, shooting 2-for-19 at one point while Wade and LeBron had 50 of Miami’s 73 points. … It was interesting to see LeBron, typically stoic on the court, get absolutely infuriated by Joel Anthony with three minutes left in the third quarter. It feels like LeBron gives you less emotion than more but don’t tell that to his teammate. He was late getting a screen and then got called for a moving screen. James lost it. He slammed the ball to the floor and ripped into his teammate. And you know what? We’re totally fine with it. Only reason why we bring it up is after the harrowing road trip (5-6 entering the game) the Heat have endured, this team needed a kick in the ass from someone other than Erik Spoelstra. … They eventually got it once because Kobe woke up, forcing the Heat to answer. LeBron hit Miami’s first three of the night halfway through the fourth quarter, but if that was reason for the Heat to breathe a sight of relief, Kobe Bryant (22 points, 13 in the fourth, although he shot just as many attempts as LeBron overall) was putting Miami in a chokehold at the other end. All he needed was one to get in rhythm, and he got a quick runner. All of a sudden Kobe was turning into the hyperbolic figure his new Nike commercial portrays him to be, hitting two successive threes and a jumper. Just like that, LeBron was sicced on Kobe and vice versa and Twitter was about to melt. Bryant’s three to tie it at 90 with 2:23 left only intensified how this game turned into “The Game” we’d all hoped it would be. LeBron’s jumper to turn it into a six-point lead a couple minutes later capped how a pretty good game that was close for three quarters had become one that lived up to the billing. We give it four stars. … Hit the jump to read about the most important performance of the NBA’s London game. …
Cheerio London. The Knicks were never in doubt of losing their English matchup with the Pistons, 102-87, thanks to a 16-2 first four minutes and the kind of hot shooting from deep that made everyone sit up and take N.Y. for real in November. When they went cold in the third quarter, Iman Shumpert (eight points in his season debut) and Carmelo Anthony (26 points, 18 in the first half) kept the lead steady. … Shumpert could be a monster once his minutes limit is relaxed by Mike Woodson. As it stands, the second-year guard’s 14 minutes against Detroit (he has a limit of 15 per night now) were the perfect display of his game (even considering he showed rust). He had three points in the first half but hit a corner three to start the third quarter, then got a nifty step-through layup to beat a defender on a 1-on-1 fast break. The Knicks have scorers in bunches, though, so we watched his defense: blind-siding Greg Monroe for a steal and coming off his man to try to get a steal off an entry pass to the Pistons’ post were highlights. … Will Bynum‘s pure-playmaking skills don’t always fit within Detroit’s system but he almost single-handedly turned a 20-point deficit into a seven-point game at one point in the fourth quarter with his barreling drives to the bucket and corner threes. He had 22 points. … The last time Milwaukee won in Phoenix, seven current Bucks players weren’t born. It had been 26 long years and 24 long games since the Bucks won in the desert, but if they hadn’t won this game, they would have spoiled a golden chance with Phoenix having twice as many losses as wins. Mike Dunleavy was clutch like it was the 2001 Duke NCAA title game, hitting a triple with 57 seconds to go to secure a 98-94 win for Milwaukee. The Suns didn’t lay down but didn’t have a punch left when the Bucks went on a 10-0 run in the fourth, capped by Dunleavy (16 points, 4-of-5 from deep). … No Chris Paul, no problem again for the Clippers, who won in Minnesota, 90-77. Minnesota is so banged up, and lost Alexey Shved off an ankle injury, hopping right to the locker room after falling on Lamar Odom‘s ankle. L.A. won despite three of its starting five combining for 13 points. The T-Wolves just can’t hang with anyone and it’s sad to see after how well they’ve played missing so many starters to this point. … The All-Star starting lineups have been announced. They’re all the no-brainer picks you’d expect. The real drama is who joins them in a loaded field of candidates. Who should make it to Houston? … We’re out like the Bucks’ ridiculous losing streak.
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