So, when exactly is the latest “new” Lakers season starting? At the end of the third quarter last night in Phoenix’s unbelievable 92-86 win, all was right in L.A. The Lakers shot 65 percent in the third quarter, Kobe was dishing (17 points, nine assists) and L.A. was up double-digits. Then, Dwight Howard re-injured his shoulder, Michael Beasley (27 points) took it back to K-State, and the Lakers started unraveling. Bryant missed the biggest shot of the game – a layup in the final 30 seconds that would’ve tied it … Props to Phoenix though for bringing back the late ’90s black jerseys. One of our all-time favorites. We were half expecting to see Rex Chapman emerge out of the tunnel and start raining threes … The maturation of Blake Griffin continued in the Clippers’ 96-90 win in Minnesota. With just a minute left, L.A.’s offense had bogged down in the fourth quarter without Chris Paul, and Blake had yet to score. He ended up with the ball in a bad spot in the lane, and hit a crazy shot off the glass through a double team, turning it into a three-point play in the process. It was the back-breaker, and a capper for Griffin’s night (26 points, 13 rebounds) where he scored in virtually every way possible without anyone there to spoon feed him … In the second quarter, Greg Stiemsma retaliated to a cheap shot from Matt Barnes and decked Grant Hill from behind on a rebound, and was lucky Hill didn’t disintegrate once he hit the floor. The TV crews started saying it wasn’t the big man’s fault because he just can’t control himself. That sort of makes sense; we don’t see any other reason why anyone would want to beat up Grant Hill … Nate Robinson had 16 of his 24 points in the second quarter’s game-deciding run in Milwaukee. The Bulls’ 16-point win was Chicago’s 41st straight win when scoring over 100 points. Robinson also caught a dunk, going backdoor and putting one down off one foot. We swore he didn’t have it in him anymore. It didn’t seem like he knew it either, preening to Chicago’s bench for about 10 seconds until Tom Thibodeau threatened to trade him back to Mike D’Antoni … The NBA admitted their refs screwed up two recent calls. One was a steal by Andre Iguodala on Paul George in a two-point game on Sunday that Denver ultimately won. The other came from last night when O.J. Mayo got called for an offensive foul in Portland’s epic comeback, setting the stage for LaMarcus Aldridge‘s game-winner. The Iggy play was a foul, but George was also an idiot for trying to take Iguodala in an isolation situation. But the Mayo play was completely ridiculous, and we pointed out why in Tuesday’s Smack … In some news for the All-Star Game, Brook Lopez will replace the injured Rajon Rondo on the East team. We’re not huge fans of Lopez’s game, but he should’ve been there in Houston regardless … And the pool of rookies and sophomores for the Rising Stars Challenge was announced, headlined by Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis. The other names involved are Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons, Alexey Shved and Nikola Vucevic. Shaq will probably draft Zeller with his first pick … Keep reading to hear about the Rudy Gay trade …
Brooklyn played Miami tough. For a half. Then LeBron James and Dwyane Wade turned it up as only they can, running through the Nets during a 36-14 third quarter en route to a 20-point blowout win. The fast break forays from James (24 points) and Wade (21 points) opened it up, but it was a play from Mario Chalmers that stood out. Dude got his own rebound sitting on his ass, and found Wade for a jumper. LeBron closed the door at the start of the fourth quarter by hitting a shot that nearly brushed the Barclays Center catwalks. Advice for Reggie Evans: next time, don’t get ‘Bron mad by saying he’s no different than Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche … Down one late against Atlanta, Toronto should’ve subbed out John Lucas III. He was having a good game with 19 points, but you should know anytime Kobe Lucas gets a chance to win a game, he’s going to shoot it. No matter what. He inevitably took a terrible fadeaway off the dribble that was short. Toronto had one more opportunity in Atlanta’s 93-92 win, but a wild final play turned into a H.O.R.S.E. shot from Alan Anderson (15 points). But off the offensive rebound, DeMar DeRozan (23 points) was definitely mauled without a whistle. The no call had Dwane Casey out at midcourt ready to go 12 rounds with the refs … From here on out, it’ll be Rudy Gay taking those last minute shots for Toronto. First reported yesterday afternoon, the Grizzlies and Raptors have agreed in principle to send Gay, along with Hamed Haddadi, to Toronto for Ed Davis and Jose Calderon. Calderon will then be sent to Detroit with Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye going back to Memphis. For Toronto and Detroit, the move doesn’t amount to much – they both suck, and the Raptors still aren’t sniffing the playoffs even if Rudy Gay finally picks up his shooting numbers from his slow start. The deal is all about the Grizzlies, who did this move purely to save themselves from having to pay top dollar to a guy who’s plateaued as a good, but not great player. Still, they had already gotten below the tax line with a prior deal. Why not ride this out the rest of the way, and try to trade Gay again in the summer? The move reeks of desperation … In other storylines from last night: Jrue Holiday tore up John Wall and the Wizards with 21 points and six assists in Philly’s eight-point win; Roy Hibbert (18 points, 11 rebounds) had one of his best games of the year as Indiana beat Detroit, 98-79; Utah beat the Hornets by five, getting 25 points and 10 boards from Paul Millsap; Tyson Chandler scored 21 and missed only one shot as the Knicks ran through Orlando by 16; Tony Parker scored 22, and San Antonio took a sledgehammer to Charlotte, beating them by 24; Denver got 27 from Danilo Gallinari in their 118-110 win over Houston; and we wanted to see how Boston would react to playing without Rajon Rondo, but Sacramento didn’t present much of a challenge. Paul Pierce (16 points, 10 boards) and the Celtics won by 18 in a game that was over by the half … We’re out like Memphis’ title shot.
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