Attacking the Boards: Kobe Beats Kevin Durant And Both Florida Teams Lose For The First Time

attacking the boardsLos Angeles Lakers 101 - Oklahoma City Thunder 98, OTKobe BryantThis game was almost as ugly as that Dallas game on Friday (This team is really missing Pau Gasol).

The Lakers turned the ball over 26 times, got outrebounded on the defensive end, and got hosed by a few bad calls and they still came out with a victory. It was a pretty lucky outcome for a Lakers team that definitely deserved a better margin of victory than what they got but were forced to play down to their competition because of some poor officiating.

Kobe Bryant, who had the flu while playing in this game, had to have been fouled by Thaba Sefolosha at least 50 times all night long, but Thabo ended up with just three fouls while Kobe had five (two of which came while he was trying to get away from Sefolosha, who was holding him on both occasions).

Bryant still got his 31 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals in 46 minutes despite playing with the flu and against a player that didn’t stop making contact with him that is defined by the NBA rulebook as illegal and worthy of a foul (for example, the refs didn’t think what moose Etan Thomas is doing there is a foul). Bryant redeemed his poor second half shooting effort with a huge shot, two big free throws and the game-winning rebound in the overtime period.

I can’t say that I was expecting Kobe to have such a connection with center Andrew Bynum on the offensive end this early in the season, but that seems to be the case. Kobe found Bynum at least four times in the pain wide open for an easy flush(I know he did this more than four times, but the official scorer in Oklahoma City felt it necessary to remove assists from Kobe’s stat column. That’s alright, just don’t be surprised when Russell Westbrook has 16 turnovers on the 22nd when the Thunder are in LA. No, really, don’t be surprised, he’s a turnover machine).

Bynum finished with a double-double, 25 points and 10 boards, but his rebounding problems have got to be fixed. In these last couple of games, in particular this one, no names like Etan Thomas were getting rebounds above Bynum because they just wanted it more. Bynum wasn’t jumping as high as he could to come down with the ball, which needs to change if this team is going to be without Pau Gasol for an extended time. Lamar Odom can’t bailout Bynum on every missed shot.

Ron Artest was a pleasant surprise for Los Angeles. He was the only offensive they had when Kobe was off the court, and he came through with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Artest was making his shots from outside and was getting to the basket and the free throw line better than I have seen him do in a while. If he can give this team that kind of scoring on such a horrible night for the team on the offensive end, he will be well worth the money he got. Artest was also very good on Kevin Durant, who we will get to soon, down the stretch and his D alone gave the Lakers a chance to win this game.

Providing a big three in overtime was Lamar Odom, who finished with 11 and eight. And this will go underrated, as he always is, Derek Fisher hit momentum swinging or saving shots and made some big defensive plays late in the game. Solid game from the veteran.

Kevin Durant was unstoppable in the first half for Oklahoma City. He was coming of off screens and hitting jumpers with ease from the top of the post and he was finishing at the rim (whether it was his own dunk or cleaning up a teammate’s miss). But then, when crunch time came, the Durantula folded. With a chance to take the final shot of the game with the score tied at 90, Durant took an unbelievably ill-advised 28-footer that hit out-of-bounds with 2.7 seconds to go and the Lakers could have easily won the game thanks to that mishap.

One player that really made a big impression on me was Jeff Green. This guy can nail the open three (or a contested one), drive to the basket, finish at the rim and never gives up when it comes to rebounding or defending in transition. His 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks really don’t do the game he played justice. He was probably the most important player in this entire game. Green swung the momentum several times, kept the Thunder in it with his big shots and was the clear emotional lead of the team when Durant went into his shooting funk late. I think this guy is an all-star right now.

I know I took a shot at him earlier, but Russell Westbrook really needs to get his play under control. I love the play he made to finish at the rim with three Lakers around him in overtime and I like his 12-footer down the stretch in the fourth quarter. I don’t like the seven assists to six turnovers (Kobe haters will say that his six were better than Kobe’s seven turnovers which is completely misleading because five of Kobe’s turnovers were actually him being fouled without a call). Get that under control and you have yourself a darn good point guard.

One last thing: Rookie James Harden is a good basketball player. Were it not for the misconception that Thabo Sefolosha can play defense, this kid would be starting, and he really should be (this is kind of like the Dahntay Jones starts and J.R. Smith comes of the bench combo in Denver last season). Harden came into this game and was a spark plug for the offense. Harden keeps his body under control, makes better decisions than Westbrook most of the time and can shoot the lights out. When Harden was in the game, the Thunder were +16 over the Lakers. That’s a lot of positive impact from your rookie shooting guard.
Boston Celtics 105 - Philadelphia 76ers 74Andre IguodalaI watched the beginning of this game, and then I stopped watching. Not because Boston isn’t fun to watch, because they are, but because they had already established their domination and I figured I would go watch a more competitive game.

You’re a pretty good team when Kevin Garnett scores three points, Ray Allen gets five and Kendrick Perkins scores three and it doesn’t matter. Paul Pierce had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and eight boards. Rasheed Wallace had another huge game off the bench with six threes and 20 points. Eddie House also poured in four threes on his way to 12 bench points.

Rajon Rondo reversed his normal performance, scoring in double-digits (11) while finishing with single-digit assists (5).

This was exactly what I was scared of seeing out of this Philly team. Andre Iguodala had an average game for him (17 points, three assists, three steals) and his teammates were unable to pick-up the production.

The 76ers best two starters other than Iggy were off. Lou Williams had just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting and Thaddeus Young had 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Elton Brand needs to get something done or he may turn out to be a pretty big bust of a signing in Philadelphia. He had just six points and four boards in this contest.

This is the second humiliating loss for the Sixers on the year, both coming to the top two teams in basketball, Orlando and Boston. Fact: The Celtics outscored the Sixers 42-3 from beyond the arc.

Denver Nuggets 111 - Indiana Pacers 93Carmelo AnthonyThis was actually a pretty bad game for Carmelo Anthony. He only had 25 points on 17 shots, which was a season low for Melo. To his credit, he only played 29 minutes because of the big lead (!) they had all game.

Picking up the slack (yes, I just referred to a 25 point performance as something that needed to be overcome) was Chauncey Billups, who had 24 points (in retrospect, I guess Melo picked up his slack) and five three-pointers. Nene had a big game for Denver, pulling down 13 boards to go with his 16 points.

Off the bench for Denver came Aaron Afflalo, who showed his first signs of life on the offensive end. Afflalo had 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

When Danny Granger has a bad night for the Pacers, it’s pretty much a lost cause. Tonight was one of those nights as Granger found himself recovering from an injury while having to deal with Carmelo on the offensive and defensive ends. Granger had 18 points on 16 team shots and made just two of his 10 three point attempts. Roy Hibbert was the best starter for Indiana, giving the Pacers 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Playing against his former team, free agent acquisition Dahntay Jones had 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field.

Cleveland Cavaliers 102 - Washington Wizards 90Gilbert ArenasI had a reader e-mail me and tell me that my Cleveland ranking at 19 was absurd. You know what happened then? Cleveland went out and got dominated 31-17 in the first quarter of this game. I could care less that they came back and won because of foul trouble for Washington’s big three, the fact that the Wizards went out and outplayed the Cavs for a half in Cleveland was good enough to tell me that the Cavs aren’t a very good team. They are likely a second round out in the playoffs at this point.

Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas had 44 points combined (22 apiece), but Brendan Haywood (6 fouls), Andray Blatche (4 fouls), and JaVale McGee (4 fouls in 11 minutes) all combined for just 17 points (Blatche was averaging over 20 himself coming into this game).

All first hand accounts said Shaq and LeBron got the easy whistle, which is to be expected at this point. Together they shot 23 free throws and scored 48 points.

Detroit Pistons 85 - Orlando Magic 80Down goes Orlando. In what can only be described as a fluke game, Detroit did exactly what I said they needed to do in order to sneak into the playoffs by taking a big game against a big time contender.

The main focus for the Pistons all game long was to force the ball at Dwight Howard and it payed off in a very big way. Howard finished with just eight points and four rebounds after fouling out in 17 minutes of play. This the way you beat Orlando, folks. Pay attention.

When Howard was out, all three of Detroit’s best guards (Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum) all forced the issue at the basket and were able to take short jumpers that Dwight normally changes or blocks. As a result, Detroit picked up the win and Gordon (23-5-3), Stuckey (20-9-3) and Bynum (20-3-2) all had very good games.

Had Charlie Villanueva shot better, this game could have been a double-digit affair. Instead, he finished with a disappointing 12 and eight.

Without Howard creating offense, only J.J. Reddick (14), Vince Carter (15) and Matt Barnes (11-7) were able to score in double figures. Power forward Ryan Anderson (fresh off of a lights out shooting performance) went 1-for-11 from behind the arc.

Phoenix Suns 104 - Miami Heat 96Steve NashSteve Nash won this game for Phoenix. There is simply no other way to put it. Nash could not be stopped from the offensive end and he came through with big shots in the fourth quarter. The two-time MVP (Which should really be one. As Bill Simmons taught me in “The Book Of Basketball“, Kobe Bryant was the obvious choice in the 2005-2006 season yet he finished third. I mean, what’s not to like about 35 points per game and an 81-point game in the same year? Everything is to like. He should have won.) had 30 points on a ridiculous 11-of-15 shooting performance with four threes and eight assists.

Amare Stoudemire notched a double-double with 16 and 11.

Dwyane Wade didn’t have a huge game offensively. Even though the Suns are thought of as a primarily offensive minded team, which is true 99% of the time, the combo of Jared Dudley and Jason Richardson actually did a pretty good job on Wade defensively. In the end Wade had 23 points, nine assists and seven boards, which can be considered a good thing for the Suns since they won the game.

Finally stepping up for Miami in this game was Quentin Richardson, who nailed four triples, scored 18 points, and brought down 10 rebounds. Udonis Haslem also had a double-double with 10 and 13 off the bench.

Jermaine O’Neal can receive part of the blame for this loss. He was solid offensively (14 points, 7-12 FG) but his two rebounds are unacceptable.

(The Photo above is priceless. Click to enlarge and check out Nash’s face and Mario Chalmers, #6 for the Heat, behind him.)

Chicago Bulls 83 - Milwaukee Bucks 81I was surprised to see the Bucks hang in there in this one without Michael Redd against a good Bulls team.

The Bucks hung in there because of rookie Brandon Jennings, who had 25 points, his second game in a row with more than 20. I think Memphis and the Knicks are the two teams in the top 10 from last year’s draft that will regret not drafting Jennings the most.

After a quite first half, Derrick Rose finished strong with 16 points and five assists. Luo Deng was a monster for Chicago, scoring 24 points and grabbing 20 boards (seven offensive).

Dallas Mavericks 96 - Utah Jazz 85Deron Williams’ 22-5-5 is a good line. It is not, however, a dominant line like 40-11-5, which is what Dirk Nowitzki had. I dunno, but this Dirk guy isn’t missing. He may one of those years again percentage wise where it is just impossible to stop him no matter where he is shooting from.

Jason Kidd had 19-6-5 and Shawn Marion had 10 points and eight boards.

Atlanta Hawks 97 - Portland Trail Blazers 91Joe Johnson versus Brandon Roy is just one of those match-ups. Fun to watch. Both guys had 19 tonight (19-8-3 for Johnson, 19-3 for Roy), but it was the Hawks Jamal Crawford that had the game’s best performance. 27 points on 50% shooting with seven assists for Crawford, his best game as a Hawk. I loved the trade for Crawford when it was made and it looks better now.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 and 14 in the losing effort for Portland. Josh Smith filled up the statsheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Al Horford added a double-double (11-13) for the Hawks.

Line Break

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Mark is an 18-year old sports fanatic that founded this website back in October of 2008. He is the lead contributor for this site and a credentialed member of the media for several sports leagues and organizations. Mark's main focus is the NBA, though he also covers MLB, NFL, and International events like the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic. Follow Mark on Twitter: @Mark_Travis

1 comment to Attacking the Boards: Kobe Beats Kevin Durant And Both Florida Teams Lose For The First Time

  • [...] One Laker fan wasn’t excited about Thabo’s “defense”: “Kobe Bryant, who had the flu while playing in this game, had to have been fouled by Thaba Sefolosha at least 50 times all night long, but Thabo ended up with just three fouls while Kobe had five (two of which came while he was trying to get away from Sefolosha, who was holding him on both occasions).” [...]

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