By Sam Rubenstein

Is this going to be a regular thing? 60 points? I thought that was supposed to be a once in a lifetime or at least only for those special once in a few years nights. I thought March Madness meant the NBA was pushed to the back burner of irrelevancy. Kobe, you did it again. The signs were there; a mediocre Lakers team whose only chance of winning right now is to be carried by its star (hey, Tex Winter said it and you know how he usually feels about that kind of offense). Toney Barone’s less-than-rigid style of defense. Over three games: 65, 50, and now 60. The Lakers have won all three games and are still one game ahead of Denver in the race for the sixth seed. That race’s winner gets the honor of facing San Antonio in round one instead of Phoenix. But once again, it’s all about Kobe. 60. This might be his best individual and best team player/leader season. He leads the league in scoring by the way, now at 30.5 ppg.

Ohio State took us to the edge once again, falling behind by 20, missing a few free throws down the stretch, and holding on to beat Tennessee when Greg Oden snuffed out a shot that may or may not have won the game. They make it fun, nearly busting everyone’s bracket twice in a row, but surviving. I read the Bill Simmons column the other day where it talked about how Oden is emotionless and doesn’t seem to have the exuberant joy of a college kid winning the biggest games of his life. I like Oden that way. He is a throwback to when the big man was mean and intimidating. I’m glad Lang posted his old Lord of the Rings review, because I’ve been saying for a while that Oden looks like one of the talking trees from the trilogy.

The other NCAA action was tight, especially Memphis’s miraculous win – and by miraculous I mean a Memphis player stepping up and hitting two pressurized free throws to win. No crazy upsets yet. Wisconsin players, fans, students, boosters, and so on must feel like such losers right now.

Back to the NBA. Yesterday I saw a column in the NY Daily News about how the Knicks needed to treat last night’s game against Portland like a must-win to get a win to start the key stretch of the season and stay in the playoff hunt. Nate Robinson was on fire, hitting 8 of 9 threes, scoring a game high 31. Zach Randolph missed the game on bereavement leave. Naturally, the Blazers won on the road. The Lakers got past Memphis by 2 points, meaning all three of Kobe’s monster nights have come in close games, making them even more impressive. 20 and 15 for Lamar Odom, 35 and 15 for Pau Gasol. Slightly overshadowed, boys.

Houston beat Detroit getting 47 from YaoMac. Chicago and Denver came down to Iverson putting the Nuggets on top with 13 seconds left (so that’s who gets the ball in crunch time for the Nuggets), Ben Gordon missing the response, and the Bulls winning on a tip-in from money making Tyrus Thomas.

And finally, I don’t want to say that Kobe has competition for the Player of the D.A.Y., but Amare Stoudemire put up 33 and 21 against the Kings. Phoenix got the W, 118-100.