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The Lakers Reclaim Their City; Dirk Tries A New Career

Lob City’s a Laker town again, if only for a night in this upside-down season where the Clippers are the supposed juggernaut in town. With Andy Garcia looking on with an, ahem, obvious Lakers’ interest, Metta World Peace was as much a factor tonight as he hasn’t been the rest of the season. His physicality and hesitation three, his only bucket of the night, with 3:30 left capped an 11-4 run and the Lakers put the game away from there, thanks to two key plays from Andrew Bynum (19 points). In the closing seconds, he caught a lob from Kobe and finished, and then snuffed DeAndre Jordan‘s layup. Was this truly the night the big kid finally grew up? Andrew Goudelock had a surprising 14 points to add to the front line of Bynum and Gasol, who combined for 43 points and 16 rebounds. Caron Butler started off hot but cooled, and Blake Griffin had a nice 26 and nine night (including three INSANE plays: a follow-up dunk where he came down out of the sky, a crazy double-pump facial and an over-the-head layup) but were the Clippers as rattled as Garcia thought they were? They certainly didn’t handle late-game situations well. Chris Paul seemed too busy handing the ball off to front-row fans who looked exactly like the Doc from Back To The Future … We see Mo Williams (16 points) is getting rid of all his jumpers now so when the playoffs come he’ll have none left … The night after the Oscar nominations came out, our nominee for best game was Raptors/Jazz in Salt Lake. It felt like a game in May the way Toronto’s Linas Kleiza was letting the crowd know about his big night (25 points). He was playing, and kinda looked like one of the Eastern European hitmen in Eastern Promises actually, making it funnier that it was Jose Calderon who dug in the dagger with a minute to play in double overtime. Kleiza tossed it back to Calderon, unaware there were two seconds left on the shot clock, when Calderon threw up a rainbow prayer from 26 feet from his hip…swish. Mind you, they were playing without Andrea Bargnani late, making the team from up north’s first win over Utah since — wait for it — December 2004 even more interesting … LeBron made shots down the stretch to win in Detroit — from the free-throw line. His missed threes in the final two minutes won’t help his reputation with some for missing in clutch moments. But really, LeBron (32 points, seven boards) and Chris Bosh (27 points, six boards) are keeping the Heat afloat without the still-injured Dwyane Wade. Up just eight with eight minutes left, Norris Cole stripped Austin Daye, sped out on a two-on-one break and led LeBron for what looked like a momentum-crippling slam. But before you could change the game on League Pass, the Pistons came back with a 14-2 run and took the lead at 98-95 on Jonas Jerebko‘s top-of-the-key three. Yes, the same Jonas Jerebko who has his own poster for ’80s Night tomorrow in Detroit. Daye was a man though, scoring a career-high 28 to go with six rebounds … Does anyone know what a “diminished groin” is? The Pistons’ color announcer mentioned it about Rodney Stuckey late in the game. The Pistons might be better without Stuckey anyways … Start spreading the news that the Knicks lost again, this time to Cleveland. That’s seven out of the last eight they’ve dropped. Fair to say the Knicks need to switch something up, ’cause it ain’t working. What was surprising was Amar’e going for two emphatic dunks within the first two minutes. It’s almost like he’s reading everything about how his knees are finished and his explosion is gone because the last two nights that boy (19 points, 14 boards) has been jumping more often than the Cameron Crazies. The Knicks aren’t running as fast as expected when Mike D’Antoni was hired, but we’re about to see just how fast James Dolan runs him out of town. … Did anyone else think they were watching Oak Hill when Cleveland took the floor in their new unis? … One of the more unique starts to a fast break went down in Oklahoma City last night. With two minutes left in the fourth, Kendrick Perkins snagged a loose ball and, either bewildered or incredibly savvy, tossed the ball backward over his head at the three-point line to James Harden, who threw it to Durant for the two-hand finish. It was Oklahoma City’s 10th win in its last 11 games. New Orleans coughed up the ball twice with a chance to make it real interesting on its final possessions on mistakes by Al-Farouq Aminu. Trevor Ariza‘s face is on a milkbox this morning in New Orleans-area grocery stores after going M.I.A. the whole game. He shot 1-for-8, finishing with two points … Keep reading to hear about Dirk’s new TV career …

J.J. Barea must have given dap to every Mavs staffer and player on the same day Dallas got its championship rings delivered with a security detail. Barea got his much deserved bling, too, but after that he sat and watched his Wolves win 105-90, not that he was the only champ to sit this one out. Dirk didn’t dress while he’s getting back into shape, leaving him free time to contribute what some are calling the greatest sideline reporting in history. Two serious questions from it: How often will “Shut it doooown” and “Wooooooo” be mentioned around Dallas-area water coolers Thursday? And how soon until the Internet throws up a Nowitzki Sideline Soundboard up? … By the way, no one can tell a story like Jason Terry can … Kevin Love got a double-double (31 points, 10 boards, 4-of-6 from three) to cap the day where he signed a four-year extension with Minnesota. You think he’s happy playing with cats like Rubio? The rookie dropped 17, seven and 12 with four steals … Love wants all of your jackets too … The Warriors didn’t let Portland get W’s in back-to-back-to-back games. Steph Curry (32 points, 12-of-19 from the floor) was hungry all game and ran Wesley Matthews roughshod, wearing him out like your favorite pair of Jordans. But what helped the Warriors in their eight-point win was an unexpected shot from Ekpe Udoh, who played big down the stretch on the defensive end … There was some speculation about how Nicolas Batum would play tonight after the team couldn’t reach a contract extension with the small forward, but he came out aggressive early and went diving over Brandon Rush for a block attempt in the fourth quarter. He and Craig Smith, the self-described “Rhino,” were two of the few guys going at full speed in the third straight game … Oh, and MC Hammer sat courtside in case you’re living in 1990 … You know who Portland could use at point right now? Andre Miller. File this play under, “Why ‘Dre is a pro’s pro.” With six seconds left in the first half of Denver’s 122-93 “Braveheart”-style rout of Sacramento, Miller (15 points, 10 assists) took a long feed at the three, dribbled once and drilled Nene (16 points) with a one-bounce dime for a slam. No panic with the clock winding down in his head. That bucket was part of a running theme all night for Denver, who scored 92 points in the paint. Let that stat marinate for a second … It’s bad enough that the Kings are terrible on the court, but we’re pretty sure they don’t even like each other off the court. During garbage time, Isaiah Thomas was draining deep threes, setting up sleep-walkers like Donte Greene and Jason Thompson for buckets, and generally weaving through the Nuggets like Ryan Gosling in Drive. Now on any other team, a 5-8 rookie putting in work like that, even in a loss, would inspire some kind of reaction from the bench. Not the Kings. While Thomas was doing his thing, they all looked like they were in the waiting room at the free clinic. There were a few times during the game when Tyreke Evans looked like he was contemplating retirement. It got so bad, we thought they could’ve used Skip 2 My Lou. Rafer is definitely coming back – but he’ll start in the D-League … Some other headlines around the league: San Antonio blew out Atlanta by 22; Deron Williams dropped 34 and 11 as Jersey shocked Philly; Andray Blatche (17 points, 10 rebounds) had a big night in Washington’s 92-75 win over the Bobcats; Danny Granger (22 points, nine rebounds) led six players in double figures in the Pacers’ surprising five-point win over Chicago; And Brandon Jennings had 20 in the Bucks’ 105-99 W over Houston … Yesterday, we broke down which top players were most likely to get contract extensions before last night’s deadline. A lot of guys didn’t work anything out, and some really good players will be restricted free agents come the summer. Those names will include people like Eric Gordon, Roy Hibbert and Ryan Anderson. One guy who won’t be available? The immortal Kosta Koufos, who signed a three-year, $9 million extension with Denver. He should throw about half of that into the Rogaine For Men products … We’re out like Dirk’s TV career.

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