The Pacers Steal L.A.’s Thunder; Paul Pierce Hasn’t Lost His Touch

To pass or not to pass? Kobe finally gave it up twice in the final minute of the Pacers’ 98-96 win over the Lakers, and we almost wished he would’ve forced up something. First, Matt Barnes missed a wide-open trey, and then Derek Fisher threw up some type of contraption (not sure what that was… a pass? a shot? a prayer?) that didn’t touch anything but the out-of-bounds paint. With the Lakers down three in the final seconds, Bryant was finally forced into a long, 30-footer off the dribble that was off. While the Mamba still finished with 33 points and and eight rebounds, for the Pacers, the outcome was a confirmation: Watch out for us. Judging these teams based just off of what they’ve done this season shouldn’t have turned Indiana into underdogs. But it felt like that. Now that they’ve won a few games against some “elite” teams, Indiana has to be a serious threat to win a round in the Eastern playoffs. Danny Granger chipped in 16 points, but it was Roy Hibbert (18 points, eight rebounds) who made the largest impact for the visitors. He broke his nose in the first half, and while he was originally not expected to return, he did come back with gauze pads stuck up his nose like the bell just rang. In the fourth quarter, he got whacked on that thing again. It started bleeding and he still stayed in, coming down on the following possession and beasting Pau Gasol (who had one of the best passes of his career last night in one of the most passive games we’ve ever seen) on the block with a jump hook. The Pacers had to fight all night after early foul trouble threw them in a ditch, and Hibbert was literally the one in the middle of that. Still, Andrew Bynum had a backdown dunk on Hibbert in the third quarter where the Laker sent Hibbert to the floor like he was playing linebacker. The Laker color guys actually thought it was a flop, and called the former Hoya out on it, saying no big man should be flopping. If only it were that easy to get them to listen … Kobe really doesn’t like George Hill defending him does he? Whenever he caught the combo guard isolated on him, his eyes got larger than Mike Tomlin‘s. What followed was almost always some type of twisting, double-pumping, fallaway shot. During the second half of the third quarter, Kobe’s mindset was particularly easy to see. This stems back to Hill’s San Antonio days when he was the first short guy to punk Kobe since Chris Childs. Also, what’s the deal with Kobe rocking jerseys that are three sizes too big? He’s always been a lil’ late-’90s with his on-court style, but Bryant seems to be pushing the envelope even more this year. He’s looking like Hot Sauce in those things … Kareem Rush – remember him? – sang the national anthem before the game. Pretty bad when the pre-game singer is a better player than half of your roster. Darius Morris, for one, is dangerously close to Smush Parker territory. And Metta World Peace scored 11 last night, and it felt like it was nearly his best game of the year … Interesting take we heard on Twitter last night: the Lakers look like they’re a year away from being where Boston is at right now, with Lamar Odom being their very own Kendrick PerkinsKeep reading to hear about the best dunk of the night …

And we thought Paul Pierce was dead. In what had to be one of the oddest starts to a season in his career – first the injuries then the awful play then the out of nowhere trade rumors – Pierce erupted yesterday for 34 points, eight rebounds and 10 dimes, as well as 14 of the Celtics last 25 points in their 100-94 win over Washington. If only Boston could play the NBA’s worst team every night; they’ve already played the Wiz three times. You know you have an old team when even Ray Allen, who never seems to get hurt, rolls his ankle by stepping on someone’s foot as they’re setting a screen and has to leave. With Rajon Rondo already out, that leaves Pierce, a decaying Kevin Garnett and a whole lot of nothing. In the last minute of the third quarter, the Celtics’ five consisted of KG, Avery Bradley, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Marquis Daniels. It’s horrifying that’s half of an actual NBA roster seeing real minutes … John Wall had another monster night (27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists), and looks to have finally turned the corner, averaging 26 points a night over his last four games. He just needed some time to get rid of that celebrity game bug that infected him in the first few weeks … The single best play of the night was UNDOUBTEDLY DeAndre Jordan going all Mola Ram on Ed Davis and nearly boxing him up and shipping out his remains on a dunk. Ruthless stuff. Jordan was dominant all game (16 points, 16 rebounds) in the Clippers easy win over Toronto, 103-91. But even with the game starting rather stereotypically (Blake Griffin catching a backdoor lob on the very first play), it was the unknown man in L.A., Mo Williams, who probably won it for the Clippers. As Griffin (18 points, nine rebounds) had an average night, and Chauncey Billups piled up assists (14) while shooting like a blind Jim McIlvaine (1-for-9) Williams dropped 19 of his 26 points (including 17 straight) in the fourth quarter. Is any bench player cooking like Williams is right now? After not hitting the 20-point mark in any game this year, he’s gone off for at least 25 in three straight, and during that stretch, Williams has missed all of 16 shots … If we had told you that LeBron James would have his third 20-point half of the season and that Brandon Jennings would shoot 5-for-20 in South Beach and have the worst 23, six and six game possible (Milwaukee as a team shot only 35 percent), the easy prediction would’ve been a Miami blowout right? Thanks to a rough stretch of games, the Heat had the added-in energy excuse, and played it perfectly, sleeping through an ugly first half before going on to lose to Milwaukee, 91-82. The Bucks weren’t exactly lighting it up but Scott Skiles gave them a ton of time off this weekend and it showed last night. They won every loose ball fight, and held down everyone in white not named LeBron (28 points, 13 rebounds) or Chris Bosh (23 points) … The only time the Heat got excited was during a 30-second span in the first half where Mike Miller, Joel Anthony and assistant coach Ron Rothstein all picked up technicals … Deron Williams came within one rebound (19 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds) of a triple-double in New Jersey’s 97-87 win over Charlotte … And this move gets our vote for the nastiest crossover we’ve seen in a minute … We’re out like Billy Cundiff.

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