The timing was just too perfect to be a coincidence. On the same night when they’d have to compete with the NFL Draft for ratings, the NBA just happened to roll out a schedule with Kobe and LeBron both in playoff action — the first time that had happened this postseason. Too bad the superstars failed to deliver their end of the c-o-n-spiracy, dropping road games to respective 8-seeds OKC and Chicago to make each series interesting again … You can’t watch a Thunder home game without hearing “college-type atmosphere” in the first 10 minutes. But in the franchise’s first-ever playoff game in OKC, the Lakers took the crowd out of it immediately, scoring the first 10 points after tip-off and forcing them to play catch-up for the next three quarters … After Kevin Durant (29 pts, 19 rebs) tied it up in the final minute of the third quarter with a casual 28-footer, the fourth was like a contest between KD and Russell Westbrook to see who could hit the craziest shots, and who could make the crowd explode louder. And guess whose life Westbrook was making miserable? Yeah, Derek Fisher. Seriously, the kid was deuceing on D-Fish like Danny Glover did Tracy Morgan in Death at a Funeral, and one time Russ (27 pts) blew past him before crowning Lamar Odom something vicious … From the 10-minute mark until literally the last second of the game, Durant and Westbrook scored all of OKC’s points, as they led by as much as eight in the quarter. Kobe (24 pts, 8 asts, 10-29 FG) got a tough layup in traffic to cut the lead to two with about 13 seconds left, but Durant made his free throws on the other end, and Ron Artest and Jordan Farmar missed treys on L.A.’s last chance … Those who argue Scott Brooks really earned his Coach of the Year and did more than just mind the store while Durant and Westbrook blew up will point to the Thunder defense in this game. If they can get L.A. to shoot 31 threes every night, they have a real chance to win. And is Phil Jackson serious, questioning the free-throw differential? Phil, your team only shot 12 FT’s because they took THIRTY-ONE threes! … The Bulls were destroying the Cavs for most of their game until Cleveland rallied and got within single digits late in the fourth. You assumed it would be LeBron Time from then on, but LBJ was strangely passive and too unselfish. You wouldn’t know it from the 39-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist stat line, but LeBron didn’t dominate this game. We already know he can take Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, James Johnson or whoever else to the rack whenever he wants to — or when he’s feeling it, bury jumpers in their eye — but down the stretch LeBron passed up several open shots and opportunities to go to the hoop, putting a lot on the shoulders of Mo Williams (21 pts), Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison (19 pts, 11 rebs). When LeBron did decide to attack with about two minutes left, it was almost too late. The Cavs cut the lead to two, but Deng and Derrick Rose answered with back-to-back shots in the lane, and the Cavs killed themselves with some huge turnovers in the end … Adding to the strangeness was the way the refs called the game for LeBron. He got whistled for an offensive foul in the fourth that was jaw-dropping only because you never see LeBron on the wrong end of that call in that situation; and later ‘Bron was going for an offensive rebound on a free throw when Joakim Noah mugged him Brooklyn-style with no whistle … Meanwhile, Hinrich was playing out of his mind. He put up 27 points, 5 boards and 5 dimes on a ridiculously efficient 9-for-12 from the field and made all four of his threes. Hinrich was also key in the defensive effort against LeBron. D-Rose added 31 points. This was a lot like that late-season home game Chicago had to win against Boston, where the backcourt just owned it … This Suns/Blazers series is starting to look like the dog of the first round. For the second game in a row, Phoenix just thoroughly outplayed a depleted Portland squad from start to finish. Jason Richardson dropped 42 points (8-12 3PA) to go with 8 boards and 3 steals, including 12 points in the first quarter when the Suns were already knocking on a 20-piecing. By halftime the Suns were up 30, and while the Blazers tried to make it respectable in the fourth quarter, it seemed Richardson or Amar’e Stoudemire (20 pts) was always there to kill the momentum … If you’re anywhere near Connecticut tonight, swing by the Mohegan Sun Casino’s “Ultra 88″ club, where none other than Dennis Rodman will be on the 1′s and 2′s. No joke. Now we’re not promising Rodman will actually show up, but he is scheduled to appear. You can ask his “Celebrity Apprentice” teammates how reliable that is … We’re out like sweeps …
Smack / Apr 23, 2010 / 3:33 am
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