by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
What a way to end the first half of the season—from the show on South Beach to Thunder-Lakers late night, with a JSmoove-Dwight battle and classic Spurs in between.
Fair or unfair, this game was billed as Jeremy Lin vs. LeBron James, so let’s start there: JLin finished with 8 points on 1-11 shooting, 3 assists and 8 turnovers, while LeBron got flirty with a triple-double, racking up 20 points, 9 boards and 8 dimes. Miami played stellar D in the early going, and by halftime, the Knicks had racked up 15 turnovers—6 each by Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, who had just 2 points on 1-5 shots through two quarters. But Carmelo Anthony (who shot just 3-10 in the first half) beat the halftime buzzer to bring the Knicks to within 51-47 at the break, just moments after Mario Chalmers canned a step-back three as the shot clock expired for the Heat. In the second half, it was all MIA. Chris Bosh finished with 25 points, Dwyane Wade had 22 and Joel Anthony swatted 5 blocked shots. Melo (19 points, 7-20 FGs) and Amar’e Stoudemire (13 points) didn’t do much to help Lin, and the Knicks shot worse than 40 percent as a team. The Heat have now won 8 straight games, all by double-digits, and have a share of the NBA’s best record at 27-7, while New York has dropped 2 of its last 3 ballgames. Let the Lin backlash begin…
Even when teammate Joe Johnson went down with an injury, we still couldn’t find a way to get Josh Smith on the All-Star team, huh? Not to worry, all JSmoove did last night was lead his Hawks to a big win over Orlando with 22 points and 12 boards. Atlanta got up 47-30 at halftime, holding the Magic to 32 percent shooting in the first half (2-12 from three-point range) and getting a ridiculous 15 points from Jannero Pargo through two quarters, including 3 threes). Orlando came back to make things interesting late in the game, but simply didn’t have enough offense. With Jameer Nelson nursing a knee injury, Chris Duhon got the nod at point guard, but contributed only 6 points in 28 minutes. Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and yet had only 7 field goal attempts. Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson had no problem jacking up jumpers, though—they combined to shoot 8-29 from the field, not to mention Jason Richardson’s 3-10 shooting on his first night back from chest pains. Atlanta skidded to the All-Star break (4-6 in the last 10) but sits just 1.5 games back of Orlando for the No. 5 spot in the East.
The Spurs got all over Denver with a 19-1 run in the first quarter and never looked back. DeJuan Blair tied a career-high with 28 points and added 12 boards as the Spurs got to 24-10 at the All-Star break. San Antonio has won 12 of its last 13, this time getting double-digit scoring efforts from all five starters—Tim Duncan scored 18 points, Danny Green scored 16, Tony Parker had 16 and 12 dimes and Richard Jefferson connected on 5 of his 7 threes (17 points). The Nuggets, on the other hand, limp to the midseason break with a 3-7 record over their last 10 games and on the outside of the Playoffs looking in, at 18-17. Recently thrust into starting roles due to a bevy of injuries, Corey Brewer and Andre Miller led Denver with 23 and 20 points respectively, but the Nuggs trailed from start to finish in this one. The Spurs led by as many as 28, despite being outscored in the paint, 42-40.
It’s hard not to watch this game and think of the phrase “changing of the guard,” especially considering the manner in which the Thunder disposed of the Lakers in the second half, improving to 15-1 at home (best in the L) and 27-7 overall (tied with Miami for NBA-best). Both teams came in on the second night of back-to-back games, and it was the young legs of Oklahoma City that won the endurance battle, behind 33 points from Kevin Durant, 19 from Russell Westbrook and 11 points, 13 boards and 3 blocked shots from Serge Ibaka. The Thunder held Los Angeles to below 39 percent field goal shooting, and Kobe Bryant to 7-24 from the floor (24 points). The Lakers’ frustration boiled over late in the game when James Harden (16 points) jawed with Kobe and Metta World Peace, but talk was all L.A. could do, as OKC broke open the game in the second half—a Kendrick Perkins putback dunk with 4-plus minutes to play giving the Thunder a 14-point lead, their biggest of the game. The Lakers head to the half-season break at 20-14 and No. 5 in the West.
Line of the Night: Take your pick, LeBron’s 20/9/8/5 steals/2 blocks or KD’s 33/4/6/3/1.
Moments of the Night: DWade climbs the ladder for a follow slam Also a nice metaphor for what the Heat did to the Knicks for most of the night. Then Kevin Durant makes the Lakers look silly. Big players make big plays.
Dunks of the Night: Dwight with the hoop and the harm, and your nightly DWade-LBJ oop gets things started on South Beach. Would be nice to see both these cats in the Dunk Contest, wouldn’t it?
This weekend: All-Star Weekend 2012 gets underway in Orlando with the Rising Stars Challenge tonight at 9, before All-Star Saturday Night and the big game on Sunday. My picks for everything: gimme Team Shaq tonight, Steph Curry in the Skills competition, Anthony Morrow in the 3-point, Derrick Williams in the dunk contest and the East over the West.