It might not last for the rest of the season, or even the rest of 2010, but the Lakers are officially way more annoying than the Miami Heat right now. And that's a major accomplishment.
The Lakers wasted our time with pitiful play on Christmas, then carped to the media about how things were going to change while they tried to make themselves look bigger than they actually were, and then came out to play stupid and impatient basketball on Tuesday night. The Spurs weren't exactly going great guns, but they completely outclassed the Lakers in this game. And Kobe Bryant(notes) played like a moron.
Thirteen straight missed shots for Bryant, who continually forced long, bad jumpers throughout. He had a little hot streak rolling in the first part of the first quarter, but it was enough to worry more sensible Laker fans ("haters," I believe they're called) as you knew that the other shoe was about to fall.
As it fell, the Spurs pulled away. The ball movement was good, but the transition work (with all those long Laker rebounds) was even better. San Antonio pushed the ball so much that it hardly needed Tim Duncan's(notes) offense (1-7 shooting for the Hall of Famer) in the end. This would have been an even more lopsided blowout had the Spurs knocked in a reasonable percentage on their open threes; the team finished 9-32 overall from long range.
Bryant ended up missing 19-of-27 shots and dishing just one assist (to five turnovers) all night. But assists aren't the problem, and assists from a single player isn't what you're after. The Laker offense is. Kobe, or any Laker guard, can have 15 assists in a game and still be the most selfish player on the floor. The Los Angeles offense is based around passing and cutting and spacing, and Kobe's ball domination stopped all three of those ideals in their tracks on Tuesday.
I don't care that Kobe owned up to his poor shooting after the game. That's the absolute least he can do. He's been in this league since 1996 and has been playing in this offense for a decade. He knows better, but he ignores that knowledge. And as it was in Game 7 last year, he's nearly shooting the Lakers out of a championship.
Did other Lakers shoot as poorly? Of course. Pointing that out would be missing the point. They weren't brought into this team to play the sort of role they're playing now. They were brought in to play in the Triangle offense, and Kobe is ignoring both that offense (the one that has won 11 championships over the last 20 years) and his teammates' needs. And the fact that he needs his teammates.
Portland didn't have any legs in this one, simple as that. They did well to win on Monday, but Denver (even without Carmelo Anthony(notes)) just executed better and seemed to boast a spark that the Trail Blazers just couldn't match.
Even with Dirk Nowitzki(notes) out, and especially at home, Dallas should be taking down the Toronto Raptors, if not handily. But you saw the Mavs start to fade offensively against the Raps on Monday, it carried over into this game, and you have to credit the Raptors for knowing their station in this win.
They knew Dirk Nowitzki was out, and that this was a winnable game. And the team genuinely played hard and played together, jumping off the bench to exhort each other, and attacking the basket early on.
Dallas didn't relent, but they did sort of let it slip. Taking one of two in nearly two games without Dirk, with the Raptors and Thunder in town, sounded about right to them. Even if the specifics behind the outcomes didn't make sense.
Chicago's offense wasn't great -- 103 points per 100 possessions and just 12 made free throws all night -- but with defense like this, who cares?
This wasn't all Milwaukee. The Bucks can't shoot straight, and they still take too many jumpers, but Chicago's interior defense was bloody brilliant. Kurt Thomas(notes) was everywhere (it's almost 2011, too, so I'll have what he's having), Omer Asik(notes) was a stud, and Taj Gibson(notes) (though he's fallen off the map offensively) had five blocks and changed several other shots by moving his feet.
Offensively, the Bulls just let Carlos Boozer(notes) spread the floor and shoot his way to 24 points. Derrick Rose(notes) needed 17 shots to score 18 points, but he pulled in six rebounds (there were a lot to go around, with Milwaukee shooting 32 percent) and dished 12 assists.
Andrew Bogut(notes) had 16 rebounds of his own, and four blocks, but he missed 10-of-12 shots. John Salmons(notes) has been shooting well of late, but he missed 12 of 17 in this loss, and the Bulls keep piling up the wins.
The Knicks can warm themselves with the thought behind the fact that they outscored the Heat by eight points over the final three quarters of this game. Good on ‘em. I'll just remember the way Miami was essentially looking at its watch repeatedly over that stretch, waiting for the clock to tick away, after nearly doubling-up the Knicks in the first quarter.
Miami was a scary, dominant thing in that first quarter, getting out in transition after forcing the Knicks into bad shots, and moving the ball offensively. And when the shots weren't falling, Zydrunas Ilgauskas'(notes) long arms and uncanny way with offensive rebounds put the Knicks away. Twelve points and nine rebounds, four on the offensive glass, for Big Z in the quarter.
Dwyane Wade(notes) scored 40 points, aided by 13 free throws, and the Knicks just couldn't compete with Miami when the Heat was actually gunning for it. Miami relented quite a bit over those final 36. They slept through it, but because they were so great in the first quarter, it didn't matter.
This game wasn't anywhere near the blowout the final score suggests for the first three quarters. Three and a half quarters, really, but the Magic impressively pulled away midway through the fourth. Just shut everything down and scored on the other end, turning a 91-85 nail-biter into a 102-85 blowout in a three-minute span.
This was without Dwight Howard(notes) on the court, it should be noted. New Magic forward Earl Clark(notes) suited up at center, I suppose, for the entire fourth quarter, and tossed in eight points. Gilbert Arenas(notes) had nine points and five assists in the final frame while playing alongside Jameer Nelson(notes) in the Orlando backcourt, and the Cavs just couldn't hit a shot to save their lives.
Ninteenteen-of-31 3-point shooting (61.3 percent) for Orlando, and the game looked the part. Cleveland was terrible in closing out.
Boston really looked like a sieve for the first quarter and a half of this game, it was allowing lay-ins and guard-around plays and good shots for the Pacers in transition. But the defense slowly improved throughout. Also, the Pacers' so-so offense has a way of making defenses look very, very good. And Boston's very, very good defense has a way of making any offense look so-so. So the Pacers eventually lost, putting up a miserable 92.2 points per 100 possessions along the way.
Twenty-one points and seven assists for Paul Pierce(notes), but as you'd expect from Boston, depth did the Pacers in. Marquis Daniels(notes) worked a fine all-around game, and the defense from the entire rotation was spot on.