Score a few more votes for Lionel Hollins in the Coach of the Year race, because he may have just figured out the best way to guard Kobe Bryant at the end of a game. Last night the Grizzlies were up two on the Lakers with 21 seconds left when Mike Conley blew a chance to ice the win and bricked two free throws. Then it was Kobe’s turn, and as he was going into his move to get space for his trusty mid-range jumper over O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol switched onto him. The 7-footer kept his arms up the entire time, and was quick enough on his feet to stay in front of Kobe long enough to force him to pass. Kobe did find Ron Artest wide open on the wing, but he missed and Memphis won. The next time this situation comes up, don’t be surprised to see the opposing coach bring his most athletic big man out on Kobe and take his chances … Before that, Kobe was basically unstoppable. He dropped 44 points (16-28 FG), and in the process passed Jerry West as the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. In the first quarter Kobe was already working the refs when Memphis’ color commentator snapped on him for barking after every call or no-call: “Why don’t you just not complain about EVERY single one? I’m so tired of that from the superstars.” The play-by-play replied simply, “Indeed.” … But the ref-baiting must have worked, because at the end of the first half one of the refs was seriously trying to give the Lakers the game. Can’t remember the guy’s name, but he completely killed all the momentum the Grizzlies had generated while building a double-digit lead, as Kobe went to the line EIGHT times in the final 1:35 thanks to some ticky-tack fouls and a couple technicals. The tech against Zach Randolph (22 pts, 17 rebs) was especially fishy, since all Z-Bo did was take his headband off. “This referee has gotten out of control,” one announcer said. “Somebody needs to reign him in.” Quick advice for aspiring refs: When you find yourself becoming the headline story, think twice about what you’re doing … Suns/Hornets was a reminder of the importance of mismatches. Looking to seal the deal down the stretch, Steve Nash quickly found his mark: Peja Stojakovic, who was guarding Grant Hill. First Hill lost Peja on a screen and hit a jumper while being fouled, pushing Phoenix’s lead to five. Next possession, Hill gave Peja a little stutter-step and stuck another J that was essentially the dagger with about 30 seconds left … The Hornets did alright for themselves without Chris Paul. They should at least be able to hang around with most good teams if Darren Collison (16 pts, 14 asts) and Marcus Thornton (25 pts) keep playing with veteran savvy with young legs … After the Bucks beat Miami in the first part of a home-and-home over the weekend, Brandon Jennings (of course) was among those hyping up Charlie Bell as the “D-Wade Stopper.” So yesterday in Miami — in front of approximately 285 fans — naturally D-Wade came out on a Destroy Charlie Bell mission. Midway through the first quarter Wade had an 11-0 lead on Milwaukee by himself, but the Bucks soon found their offense and Wade didn’t score again until almost halftime. He was then held to three points in the third quarter, and finished with 23 in another loss. The Book of Ruben Patterson tells us not to get too caught up claiming one guy holds the key to shutting down a particular superstar, but C-Bell deserves a ton of credit. He took Keyser Soze‘s best shot and came out on top … Other stat lines from Monday: Kevin Garnett had 19 points and passed Larry Bird for 24th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in a win at Washington; Deron Williams put up 18 points and 15 assists to beat the Mavs; LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 and eight boards to help Portland get past Charlotte; and Kenyon Martin posted 24 points and 12 rebounds in Denver’s sans-‘Melo win over Sacramento … Remember that epic Texas/Oklahoma State game in 2007 where Kevin Durant and Mario Boggan (100% “Where Are They Now?” subject in the making) were trading heart-stopping buckets through like three overtimes? Last night’s Texas/OSU game didn’t match that kind of drama, but Longhorns forward Jordan Hamilton did a pretty good KD impersonation. The 6-7 freshman dropped 27 points in 19 minutes of UT’s win. His playing time has been spotty — he saw just two minutes in Texas’ last game — but we’ve known Hamilton since he was high schooler in Compton, Calif., and if nothing else, the kid can get buckets. Keep an eye on him … We’re out like Ruben Patterson …
Smack / Feb 2, 2010 / 5:30 am
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