For about two hours yesterday, the Boston Celtics had us double-checking our calendars and second-guessing our travel plans, because they made it look like All-Star Weekend had started on a Wednesday. The C’s played like they were already on vacation in Oklahoma City (which should have been their first hint that it wasn’t a vacation), falling behind big early and never catching up to the Thunder … Russell Westbrook (31 pts) used his arsenal of drives and mid-range pull-ups to help put OKC ahead by 14 going into the fourth quarter before the Celtics finally woke up. Paul Pierce (23 pts, 8 asts) and Ray Allen (21 pts, 7 asts) got on a roll, and a pair of techs by Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka helped, but the real key for the Celtics was remembering how to play defense. Avery Bradley was a pure pest on the perimeter – a couple of times he found himself on an island against Kevin Durant and forced KD to give the ball up. (By the way, LeBron would have gotten KILLED by his critics if he had a 6-2 guy in a post-up situation didn’t capitalize, and LBJ is shorter than Durant) … Boston cut the lead down to six with 3:30 remaining, but some backbreaking turnovers and clutch shots by Durant (28 pts, 9-22 FG) ultimately ended comeback bid … Before the game, Rajon Rondo – still sitting out his league suspension – was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team to replaced injured Joe Johnson. Rondo has been nice this year, averaging 14.8 points and 9.5 dimes, but seriously, what does Josh Smith have to do to get his first All-Star nod? … Kobe Bryant learned a long time ago that he can’t please everybody, and last night was a classic example. In a game where he did everything that every armchair Lakers coach wants him to do – i.e., giving the ball up to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – Kobe still put himself in position to get a lot of flak because he bricked some crucial free throws in the final seconds that allowed the Mavericks to almost steal a win … With 1:30 to go, L.A. had a three-point lead and the ball. That’s the time when everybody expects Kobe to block out the rest of the world and go for his, but he tossed some pretty lobs to Gasol and Bynum on back-to-back possessions to give the Lakers a sizable cushion. But just when the Mavs fans were filing out of the arena and the game seemed over, L.A. went cold at the free-throw line. Kobe, Matt Barnes and Gasol combined to miss six freebies in a row, and suddenly the Mavs were only down two with 27 seconds left. (Can’t really blame Gasol for his misses, though, since he’d just gotten destroyed by an MMA-style forearm to the neck from Brendan Haywood.) But thanks to a huge offensive board by Barnes and an airball by Jason Terry, the Lakers hung on for the win. And when it was over, all Lisa Salters could ask Kobe about were those free throws … The first half was kind of surreal, as Vince Carter dropped 18 points on an array of deep jumpers and Vin-tage moves to the cup. (What’s that? Corny NBA puns are the sole property of Jeremy Lin? Sorry.) But VC only scored two points after halftime … The highlight of the night, though, happened in the third quarter. Kobe (15 pts, 4-15 FG, 7 TO) had Jason Kidd in his hip pocket at the top of the key, spun left and took a football hit from Haywood before throwing in a no-look, over-the-shoulder banker … There’s something hilariously ironic about Mike Breen praising Jason Kidd for being one of the smartest, most crafty players of all time, and having his soliloquy interrupted by Metta World Peace barreling through the lane like a bull in a red carpet outlet shop … T.O. was at the game. And he got more playing time than Luke Walton … Keep reading to hear how the Knicks worked things out …
Smack / Feb 23, 2012 / 2:16 am
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