The Post Up: Kobe. LeBron. Greatness.

by March 03, 2008
21

By: Holly MacKenzie

Eastern Conference

1. Boston 46-12
2. Detroit 43-16
3. Orlando 38-23
4. Cleveland 34-26
5. Toronto 32-26
6. Washington 29-30
7. Philadelphia 27-33
8. New Jersey 26-33
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9. Atlanta 24-33
10. Indiana 24-36
Western Conference

1. San Antonio 41-17
2. LA Lakers 42-18
3. New Orleans 39-19
4. Utah 38-22
5. Houston 39-20
6. Phoenix 39-20
7. Dallas 39-21
8. Golden State 36-22

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9.Denver 35-24
10. Portland 31-29

We have a wonderful weekend of basketball to talk about today. Games like yesterday just make me ridiculously happy that I am a fan of this game. While we have lots of topics to choose from, none are bigger than the performances of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James on ABC yesterday. All on the anniversary of Wilt’s 100. I watched the Cavaliers and the Bulls and after that Bron dunk where he froze in midair before deciding when to come down, I jumped up, almost knocked over my laptop and didn’t think it would get any better. A Lakers win would have been just as good, but I honestly thought Bron’s complete takeover of the fourth would be the performance of the day. I should know by now to never, ever count out Kobe Bryant. Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t too bad either.

A quick review for anyone who hasn’t heard: Bron had 37 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against the Bulls and he absolutely took over the game from the moment he returned to the game in the fourth until the final buzzer sounded. Kobe dropped 52 in an overtime win against the Mavs, on 15-24 shooting. Dirk had an answer for Kobe shot for shot down the stretch, until the final possession in overtime when he missed a game-tying three-point shot.

Now the game between the Bulls and Cavaliers wasn’t really great basketball, but because of the trade it was interesting to watch and of course LBJ is always entertaining. Because of his play in the fourth it turned out to be a very exciting game, but it still had nothing on the Lakers/Mavericks match up. This game had a playoff intensity from the tip and the battle between Dirk and Kobe was pure perfection for a basketball fan. To put into perspective what Kobe did, Dirk was fantastic and he finished with 30 points. Kobe had 30 points in the fourth and overtime alone.

Kobe is absolutely the closest thing to MJ that we will see in a very long time. Let the comments flow on this one, but the emails and texts I received after that performance were all the same. From the jumpers, the drives, and the look in his eyes that said the Mavericks were in trouble, his passion and determination is unrivaled in the game today, and is on par with Jordan himself.

Greatness is a gift. As much of a gift as Kobe and LeBron were given, we have all been given the gift of being able to watch these guys play in their prime. Let’s appreciate them while they are still playing.

To switch gears for a second, lets talk about Chris Paul and Deron Williams. While the talk this season is whether it should be Kobe or Bron for MVP (although, for many Kobe ended that debate yesterday), in a few years I can definitely see the conversation being focused around these two young guys. So talented, so smart and they play the game the right way, these guys are a dream match up as well. The game on Friday didn’t disappoint, although Utah did in the first half.

Before it gets lost in the shuffle this morning, Houston has now won 15 straight games, the last three without Yao. Can they keep it up? And, Denver, will they make the playoffs?

Dwight Howard with a monster game on Saturday night against the Knicks with 26 points and 22 rebounds.

Andre Iguodala was huge in the 76er’s win over the Suns with 32 points.

Washington opened the fourth quarter against the Hornets yesterday with a 19-0 run in their 101-84 victory. Good thing they aren’t in the West because they’ve got it out for New Orleans.

SJax was great with six three-pointers in the Warriors game against Portland last night. Especially those last two in the final minutes.

After scoring 21 points in his debut as a Net, Devin Harris had another 21-point performance off of the bench in NJ’s loss to the Spurs last night. I think it’s time for the kid to get his starting spot.

New Orleans 110 Utah 98

Deron Williams versus Chris Paul. While Williams has had Paul’s number in their match ups of the past, this one was all about Paul and the Hornets. At the end of the first quarter, New Orleans led big, 38-15 thanks to a 23-0 spurt in the period. The rest of the game was all about playing catch up for the Jazz and after cutting the lead down to 13 at the half they continued to push in the third and went into the final quarter trailing single-digits, 85-77. In the fourth, Williams willed the Jazz even closer and they cut the lead to 89-85 midway through period. The Hornets were not about to give up the game and got to work extending their lead. After a three by Peja Stojakovic and then seven quick points by Jannero Pargo, Paul assisted on another three by Stojakovic and the New Orleans lead swelled back into double-figures with 3:30 left in the game. It was enough for the Hornets to hold on for the victory as Paul finished with 24 points, 16 assists and 5 steals in the game while only turning the ball over once. David West scored 25 points to go with 13 rebounds, Stojakovic scored 20 points and Jannero Pargo added 15 off of the bench. Williams had 22 points and 10 assists for Utah while Mehmet Okur scored 23 points and pulled down 13 boards, Carlos Boozer scored 10 points to go with 9 rebounds and Ronnie Brewer added 15.

Philadelphia 119 Phoenix 114

After dropping some tough games since the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, the Suns were ready to get a win and thought the 76er’s were the perfect opponent to have a statement game against. Philadelphia had something else in mind and stunned the Suns and their fans by stealing the 119-114 victory Saturday night. After a quick start that saw them lead by 10, 28-18 after the first quarter, the76er’s struggled in the second quarter and watched as the Suns managed to cut the lead and tie the game at the half, 58 all. Going into the fourth, Philly was up by two thanks to a last second heave by Andre Iguodala beyond midcourt to finish the third. The combination of Iguodala and Andre Miller was too much for the Suns down the stretch and despite a furious comeback led by Steve Nash they fell short after getting as close as 114-112 with 10 seconds on the clock. Clutch free throws by Willie Green and Miller sealed the victory for Philadelphia as the Suns continue to search for their new identity. Iguodala had 32 points for the 76er’s while Miller added 25 points and 12 assists, Reggie Evans had 13 points and 13 boards and Green added 17 points. Amare Stoudemire had 26 points and 11 boards for the Suns, Steve Nash had 21 points and 11 assists, but also 6 turnovers. Leandro Barbosa scored 22 points and Boris Diaw added 17 in the loss.

San Antonio 96 Milwaukee 94

Now that the Spurs have Tony Parker back, the combo of Parker and Manu Ginobili will have their opponents rocking on their heels trying to keep up. After playing great and sticking with the Spurs things went downhill for Milwaukee in the third after Mo Williams was ejected for arguing with the referee. After his ejection, the momentum shifted and San Antonio went ahead by as many as 10 points before going into the fourth up 73-68. San Antonio would stay in control for much of the final quarter until the Bucks went on a late run, outscoring the Spurs 11-3 in the final minutes to take a 94-93 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the game. San Antonio was not done for the night and Ginobili had more in store for Milwaukee as he rose and hit a jumper with 13 seconds remaining to put the Spurs up 95-94 and then stole the ball from Charlie Bell resulting in Tony Parker being sent to the line for free throws. Parker hit one of two, but it was enough for the Spurs to hold on for the victory. Ginobili finished with 30 points for the Spurs while Parker had 26 and Michael Finley added 11 points off of the bench. Michael Redd had 25 points to lead the Bucks as Andrew Bogut scored 17 points to go along with 13 rebounds and Mo Williams added 13 points before being ejected from the game.

Golden State 110 Portland 104

Coming off of a big win on Friday against the LA Lakers, the Trailblazers hit the road to face the Warriors and try to get a second consecutive win. Stephen Jackson and the Warriors weren’t having that and with a season-high six three-pointers and 29 points from Jackson, they took down the Blazers, 110-104. After a close game throughout, the Blazers took a lead early in the fourth, but the Warriors rallied back and went on to outscore Portland 29-23 in the period, Monta Ellis dropped in six quick points, Baron Davis scored on back to back possessions and the Warriors were up by seven with four minutes to play. After a layup by Brandon Roy cut the lead to 105-102, Jackson hit a huge three-pointer with 1:30 remaining to break Portland’s back. After a final layup by Mickael Pietrus, it was over. Besides Jackson’s 29 points and 9 rebounds, Monta Ellis finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, Baron Davis had 18 points and each Brandan Wright and Al Harrington added 13 points. Brandon Roy led Portland with 26 points, Travis Outlaw had 17 points, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 15 points and James Jones added 12.

Cleveland 95 Chicago 86

In their first of four match ups since the trade between the Bulls and Cavaliers, LeBron James led the Cavs to the 95-86 victory. In a game of runs with each team trading the lead, the Cavaliers found themselves trailing by nine early on in the fourth quarter. This all changed with Bron back into the game. After going on an 11-2 run to tie the game at 79, the Cavs finished the game outscoring the Bulls 27-10 after the return of James to the floor. James not only gave Cleveland the lead for good on a shot with three minutes remaining, he sucked all hope out of Chicago, shifting the momentum in Cleveland’s favor with a thunderous dunk on the next possession. A three by Szczerbiak made the lead swell to nine points and the Bulls wouldn’t get any closer. James finished with 37 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, Szczerbiak added 17 points and Devin Brown and Delonte West each added 9 points. The Bulls were led by Larry Hughes and his 23 points, Tyrus Thomas scored 12 points, Drew Gooden had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni each added 11 points as well.

Houston 103 Denver 89

The Rockets continued to roll in their third game without Yao Ming last night, taking down the Nuggets 103-89. After trailing by seven early on, the Rockets battled back to go up by one at the end of the first quarter and they did not trail again as the went up by as many as 19 points in the contest. With Denver creeping close in the second quarter, the Rockets closed out the half scoring six straight to take a 10-point advantage into the locker rooms. After leading by nine points at the end of the third quarter, Houston blew the game open in the fourth by opening up with an 18-8 run that extended the lead to 19. From there, the Nuggets would try to get things under control, but it was too late, especially with All-Star Allen Iverson struggling the entire way. Tracy McGrady led the way with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, Shane Battier had 20 points including five three-pointers, Luis Scola had 18 points and 14 rebounds and Rafer Alston added 16 points and 8 assists. Carmelo Anthony led the Rockets with 19 points, Iverson finished with 17 points but shot only 7-22 from the floor and Kenyon Martin scored 12 points to go with 10 rebounds.

LA Lakers 108 Dallas 104 OT

After their 10-game winning streak was snapped in Portland on Friday night, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were ready to start another one. Facing a Dallas team that has recently reloaded by adding Jason Kidd to the mix meant a tough game for the Lakers on their way to the 108-104 overtime victory. After holding a 50-47 lead at the half, the Lakers struggled against Dallas in the third quarter, scoring only 15 points in the period while the Mavericks had 21, giving them a 68-65 lead going into the fourth. In the final period it was Kobe Bryant versus Dirk Nowitzki as the rest of the teams faded into the background, allowing their respective superstars to go to work. While Bryant posted 22 points in the final quarter of regulation, his free throws with two seconds remaining were not enough as Nowitzki hit a huge three to send the game into overtime. Nowitzki continued to be hot in the extra session, scoring nine points in the overtime, but it was all Bryant as he scored 30 points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. After Jason Kidd missed a game-tying free throw, it was Bryant who grabbed the rebound and converted free throws to extend the lead back to three points and a final free throw by Odom would seal the deal after Nowitzki missed his final three-point attempt. Bryant finished with 52 points on 15-24 shooting, including 20-27 from the free throw line to go along with 11 rebounds to lead LA. Pau Gasol had 17 points and 14 rebounds while Luke Walton and Derek Fisher each added 11 points. Nowitzki led the Mavericks with 30 points and 13 rebounds, Erick Dampier had 16 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out in regulation, Jason Terry scored 18 points and Kidd added 15 points and 11 assists