On the opening day of the regular season, it was hard to pick a leading headline. Too many great games. Matchups. Players to watch. Championship-caliber teams. And it was all on Christmas, so you know everyone (besides the entire Dallas organization) was bringing everything they had for the national TV audience. But we weren’t sure any game topped the one smack in the middle: Chicago coming from behind in the final minutes to shock the Lakers, 88-87. Chicago gave us a new meaning for Chistmas stuffing by snuffing Kobe Bryant‘s (28 points, seven rebounds, six assists) baseline pull-up at the buzzer and stealing a game they had no business winning, down double digits in the fourth quarter, and then after being down six with 54 seconds left once Kobe made a miraculous spin move fallaway. The Bulls just never gave in, even after controlling the game for most of the way only to see the putrid Lakers’ supporting cast open the lead up to eight at the start of the fourth behind crazy shots from Steve Blake, Troy Murphy and Andrew Goudelock. In the final moments, the game turned because of two insane defensive plays by Luol Deng (21 points, four steals), once stealing Kobe’s pass and then blocking Bryant’s jump shot to win it. It also didn’t hurt that no one in white wanted to hit a free throw. Finally, Derrick Rose (22 points) crossed up Derek Fisher‘s chalk figure and hit a tough floater right over Pau Gasol with four seconds left, which proved to be the game-winning shot. Rose wasn’t killing L.A., but seemed to always save his points for the perfect time. And he actually made four threes. If this was more than just an outside shooting aberration, it’s going to open up that entire Chicago offense … Kobe had serious energy and was playing his ass off to keep them close. Points, rebounds, jumping passing lanes – he was doing everything. That’s cool, but there’s no way he can physically play at that level all season, especially since he’s starting off with the wrist injury. Obviously not having Andrew Bynum is a factor, but Kobe plays that well and they still can’t win? Not a good sign for L.A. … Going from TNT to ABC is like the difference between opening a present and getting an iPhone and opening a present and getting a shoe horn … Whereas Kobe was once the king of clutch, Carmelo Anthony might’ve taken his crown. Late in the fourth quarter against Boston, it was Anthony (37 points, eight rebounds) coming through with a three, an off-balance jumper and then two ice cold free throws with 16 seconds left. When Kevin Garnett‘s (15 points, eight rebounds) jumper was off at the buzzer, New York had themselves a 106-104 wild win against their Northeast rivals. After KG missed that J, he then decided to use his Jedi Force push on Bill Walker‘s neck, cuffing the former Celtic and throwing him out of his face. We were ready to go off on him, but then we remembered Skywalker was looking too much like some Cool Runnings knockoff and that he nearly set a record for stupid basketball plays in the first half. In fact, the Knicks went up by nearly 20 early and really could’ve been up even more. Without Paul Pierce playing, they weren’t hustling back on defense at times, losing the ball or throwing it away. Their most aggressive player was rookie Iman Shumpert, who looks like he’s going to be really good (he also hurt his knee and may miss two weeks). But all in all, their defense looks three times as good as it’s been in the D’Antoni era … For all the haters who are convinced he sucks, Rajon Rondo (31 points, 13 assists, five steals) is pretty freaking good. He controlled the flow of the entire second half, and was nearly the sole reason why Boston stormed back from a ugly first half. He was hitting jump shots, running the offense perfectly and even threw one pass to Marquis Daniels (left-handed bounce pass) that may end up in top 10s even by the end of the year (KG also had a fabulous one to Jermaine O’Neal). After the way he finished last season, Rondo is due for a major bounceback year … We like how Chris Wilcox is endearing himself to his new teammates: By throwing the ball to the wrong guys and giving people wide-open, free layups … There was a game going on in Dallas between the defending champs and the Miami Heat, but the Mavericks seemed to lose interest about 15 minutes after they raised their championship banner. Not much to say about this one other than Dallas got embarrassed, losing 105-94 in a game that wasn’t even close. LeBron James (37 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Dwyane Wade (26 points, eight rebounds, six assists) dominated so convincingly that it didn’t even matter that no one else on their team even reached double figure scoring. They combined for one alley-oop (LeBron tipping his own oop to Wade) that was freakish. This game reminded us SO much of the Chicago/Miami season opener from 2006 – the year after Miami won it – when the Heat came out without any interest in competing during a 42-point loss. Dirk Nowitzki (21 points) and Jason Terry (23 points) got their numbers, but no one in Dallas was into the game at all … Keep reading to hear about Chris Paul’s Clipper debut …
Smack / Dec 26, 2011 / 1:47 am
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