By Sam Rubenstein

The Hawks are in first place in their divison and they brought playoff intensity to Cleveland. I’m serious. There were a few good matchups last night, and some not so great matchups. Here we go.

ATLANTA 104 CLEVELAND 95 OT
Lang is going to be in a good mood today. LeBron was a one man show for a long period of time in the third and the fourth. You probabaly saw the highlight of him knifing through the Hawks D on the way to the basket, finishing with a righty fingeroll off the left side of the glass. Before that he had a play where he faced up and thought about breaking Zaza’s ankles but he was nice enough to hit a step back three. The game had every indicaton that it was to be another LeBron lovefest. Then, the Cavs gagged a little, missing free throws. The Hawks took advantage and grabbed the lead. After it had slipped away, Larry Hughes hit a huge three to put Cavs up 1. Atlanta came back letting Joe Johnson do his thing. His thing in this case was driving under the basket and getting caught there swinging it to the other side, and then never getting the ball back as it made it’s way to Josh Smith who had to jack up something ugly and double teamed. At this point I was thinking “Same old Hawks”, the team that couldn’t execute down the stretch last year. The Hawks had another chance, down by 3. Tyronn Lue had Drew Gooden on him, so he went to the basket for the smart-n-easy 2, Cavs up 1 with 6.7 seconds left, LeBron at the line. He clanked his second free throw off of every piece of the iron, leaving the door open for the Hawks if they could score in less than 7 seconds. Tryonn Lue got his Tyus Edney on. And he talked trash too. Overtime. Tied at 92, guess who comes running off a screen for the three? Tyronn Lue. In OT the Cavs fans turned their MVP chants for LeBron into boos when he missed even more free throws, finishing the game at 5 for 11 from the line. He also went for 34, 7, and 6 in 47 minutes. Joe Johnson got to hoop smoothly as always for the And1, then came back and hit a killer three with shot clock winding down to make it 101-93 with about 2 minutes to go. That was pretty much it. The Hawks are flying higher than they ever have in the new millenium.

NEW ORLEANS 97 GOLDEN STATE 93
The Hornets wore their Oklahoma City jerseys for their second straight home opener, this one taking place in… Oklahoma City. It looked like a blowout when I turned the game on, but 20 minutes later the Warriors were back in the game. The Warriors kept coming back from whatever defecit they fell into. At crunch time, Monta Ellis had Desmond Mason guarding him and tried to feed J-Rich but Mason stole it. Would it be one last shot for Warriors to tie, down by three? Or go for 2s like the Hawks did? The answer was a terrible fadeaway three from Anthony Roberson? He scored 15 on the night, hitting 3 of 7 threes, so why not. Baron Davis came back and hit a too little too late three. Peja sealed the deal at the line. The Warriors are showing a lot of heart early on this year. So is Tyson Chandler, but he showed the refs a little bit too much celebrating after a dunk. He was given a technical of course. Don’t laugh but Andris Biedrins has been a shot blocking monster. After snuffing out Jason Terry two nights ago, he came back with 6 blocks in this game. J-Rich had a tough shooting night going 2 for 9 with only 6 points but Ellis picked up some slack with 17. Baron cold have given the Warriors the lead a few times, getting revenge against the team that traded him so they could sign other players and hand the keys to the team to Chris Paul, but Baron might have been tired from the 48 minutes he played in Dallas the night before and his shots didn’t go. He scored 22 and showed alot of leadership. Then there’s that Chris Paul fella. 22, 11, and 6. Point God for an undefeated team. Balling. The Hornets beat up the Warriors on the glass, with Chandler grabbing 14 boards, and as a team they had 21 on the offensive glass. Sprained ankles for Pietrus and Diogu didn’t help Golden State any.

LA LAKERS 95 MINNESOTA 88
From the opening tip, Andrew Bynum was changing shots, grabbing boards over shorter players, and even took it to KG in the paint. This kid, and yes I’m calling him kid cause he was born in 1987 (nineteen eighty SEVEN!!!!), is a player. He finished the game with 20, 14, and 3 blocks. The Laker offense was flowing, almost like a triangle. Kobe got his ponts in the flow early and Luke Walton hit some shots to give LA an early lead. The Los Angeles Lakers look like a nice balanced team. They are playing winning basketball. Garnett scored 26 and missed the 10 rebound plateau for the first time n 37 games. What does that mean? The T-Wolves were outrebounded 44-31. Randy Foye scored 12 points in 22 minutes. He might get some more playng time in the near future.

MIAMI 90 SEATTLE 87
The Heat were ice cold int he first half and the Sonics were reasonably hot. Ray and Rashad continued ther season long three pont shooting contest, combining to hit 6 of 13 for the game. Seattle had a lead at halftime while Dorrell Wright was Miami’s most effecitve player. He would even make the highlight reel with a fancy behind the back pass to Antoine Walker fot the layup. With no Shaq and Miami struggling to score, D Wade had to take 15 shots in the first half, and he only got to the free throw line 3 times. “They” must have talked about that at halftime cause Dwyane Wade shot 14 free throws in the second half on his way to 31-7-6. Hey, there were no techs called in a game that included Danny Fortson, Toine, Zo, and Gary Payton! That’s kind of historic in these times. Oh and I should mention that James Posey hit the go-ahead three to win the game. The Miami Heat are treating the regular season like it’s B—-HIT. B—-HIT!!! THEY ARE… WHAT WE… man I love Dennis Green.

HOUSTON 86 MEMPHIS 80
Latest player to posterize Yao: Dahntay Jones. Oof. Yao did score 11 of his 24 in the fourth and his team got the win. Here’s a crazy stat for you: the Rockets won their second game aganst a Southwest division rival this year. That is more then they won all of last season, when they went 1-15 in the division. From the department of things you never thought you’d hear, T-Mac said he was envious of Shane Battier. “I’m kind of jealous of (Battier) that he can come back and get a standing ovation. I go to Orlando and Toronto and they kill (me).” Well, Tracy that might because he was traded for a rookie with a lot of UPSIDE, not that he abandoned a young team for the money and chance to be the man or whining about how bad his team was and forcing a trade. I dunno, maybe they just like the lines on his scalp. Tracy scored 19 and grabbed 9 boards. Neither Tracy nor Kobe have ht the 30 point mark yet this season. The Stro Show led Memphis with 15 against his ex-team.

INDIANA 97 PHILLY 86
It says that Philly was up after the first quarter, but I turned it on early in the second and the rout was on. Iverson didn’t hit the 30 point mark and Philly lost for the first time. Not a coincidence. Jermaine O’Neal led the way for Indy with 16 and 11 and Rawle Marshall came deep off the bench and hit all 5 of his shots and all 6 free throws.