Just like the great champions of individual sports — Manny Pacquiao, Roger Federer, Ric Flair — NBA title contenders make statements by avenging their losses. Last night, you had the Lakers and Cavs up against teams they’d suffered somewhat embarrassing losses to earlier this season, with mixed results that may tell us something about who will be left standing with the Larry O’Brien come June 2010 … Back in October, the Mavericks went into Staples and handed L.A. a decisive loss. This time the Lakers administered an all-out demolition, 131-96, especially impressive considering Ron Artest didn’t suit up, Pau Gasol left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and Kobe was on chill mode for most of the second half. Lamar Odom (15 pts, 15 rebs, 6 asts) and Jordan Farmar (24 pts) did the heavy lifting … Kobe entered the night just a few points away from passing Patrick Ewing for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. But rather than viciously going after Patrick’s head — surely another Kobe-as-Jordan moment — Kobe (15 pts, 8 asts) was in his facilitator mindset and finished the game tied with Ewing. One time Kobe got the rock by himself on a breakaway and gave it up to Shannon Brown so the kid could enhance his dunk contest application … Nothing went right for the Mavs. Guys were throwing up ugly, disgusting bricks and tragic airballs. Shawn Marion went in for a dunk over DJ Mbenga — about as much of a gimme bucket as you can get against the Lakers — and still got his stuff sent packing … Meanwhile in Cleveland, LeBron was looking for some get-back on the Bobcats, who won the last meeting in late-November when Gerald Wallace simply outplayed LBJ. This one was close throughout, and the Cavs closed a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie it up with a minute left. Flip Murray then dropped a go-ahead triple in Delonte West‘s eye, and down three with 2.5 seconds left, LeBron’s fadeaway trey deep in the corner didn’t go … One of the NBA TV studio guys said LeBron’s attempt was “kind of like Kobe’s” game-winner against Sacramento the other night. Except it completely wasn’t. Kobe had a wide open catch-and-shoot, while ‘Bron (29 pts, 7 rebs, 6 asts) took a difficult fadeaway with a guy draped all over him. The only similarity is they were both from the left sideline … If you’ve ever wondered whether a top college team could beat a bad NBA team, Pacers/Knicks was about as close to a test run as you’re going to get. Without Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster in the lineup, and T.J. Ford having officially been taken out of Jim O’Brien‘s rotation, Indiana was giving guys like A.J. Price, Solomon Jones and Josh McRoberts major burn, and they got destroyed. Wilson Chandler had 23 points and David Lee had 22 as the Knicks shared the ball and played solid team defense, toying with a 50-piecing and eventually winning by 43 … Nate Robinson followed up his 41-point effort at Atlanta with a quiet six points (2-11 FG), but the MSG crowd gave him a crazy ovation anyway. (Dustin Hoffman was sitting courtside and broke out a picture of Nate when they showed him on the big screen.) On the flip side, Darko got zero love even in the blowout. One of the reporters sitting near us on press row had everybody laughing when he said, “Where’s Darko? Tonight could have been his night.” … Other stat lines from Sunday: Allen Iverson had 17 points and seven assists in Philly’s win at Denver; and Chris Bosh scored 22 with 15 boards as Toronto knocked off the Spurs. During the game Bosh became the Raptors’ all-time leading scorer, jumping over Vince Carter for the top spot. Wonder if they’ll boo Bosh as hard when he decides he wants to leave, too. (Just kidding, T-Dot fans!) … Play of the night: Jarrett Jack threw a bad alley-oop that DeMar DeRozan adjusted to in mid-air, caught off the glass and dunked it … Yesterday’s generic NBA TV halftime show was a replay of TNT’s “Best Buzzer-Beaters of the Decade.” Apparently a decree was signed that every entry had to be from a national TV/playoff game, otherwise there’s no justification for leaving out Rasheed Wallace‘s three-quarters-court miracle against the Nuggets … Speaking of, did you catch the end of Florida/N.C. State? Two seconds left in overtime, Wolfpack up two, Farnold Degand (winner of the Coolest Name of the Week award) missed a free throw that would’ve put them up three. Chandler Parsons got the rebound, took a few steps and launched a 70-foot bomb that dropped at the buzzer. Stunned silence in the N.C. State gym except for the Gators going nuts; that will be tough to beat for the best finish of the year … We’re out like Air Canada …
Smack / Jan 4, 2010 / 5:14 am
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