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Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: Friday Night's Action

Friday night offered a full slate of NBA action. Here are some things that caught my eye:

The Score: L.A. Lakers 122, Boston 96

The Key Stat: Kobe Bryant had 22 points and three assists in the first quarter, finishing with 38 points, nine assists and five steals as the Lakers ended their six game losing streak, the longest such run of Coach Phil Jackson's career, and handed the Celtics their worst loss of a very dismal season.

The Bottom Line: Bryant's performance reminded me of two very different songs: "All By Myself" by Eric Carmen and "Forgot About Dre" by Dr. Dre (featuring Eminem). The first reference should be self explanatory: with Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic--players who were expected to be key members of the eight man rotation--out of the lineup, Lamar Odom struggling to regain his form after his knee injury, the youngest starting center in the league and a starting point guard who would likely be in the minor leagues if the Lakers had not signed him, Kobe Bryant must feel very alone at times. The Lakers' only chance to stay afloat until Odom and some of the others return to form is for the "new" Kobe Bryant (who is actually the "old" Kobe Bryant who led the three-peat Lakers in assists) to go off for about 35-40 ppg for the next few weeks. Or, as Dr. Dre put it, "Y'all are gonna keep (messing) around wit me/And turn me back to the old me."

The Score: Utah 114, Denver 104

The Key Stat: Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points and Allen Iverson scored 33 points, but the Nuggets committed 24 turnovers (including seven by Anthony and three by Iverson) and were outrebounded 40-36.

The Bottom Line: The Anthony-Iverson combination has produced a ton of points but has yet to make much of a dent in the win column and time is rapidly running out on this season. Denver simply does not have enough of an inside presence to be a serious playoff contender.

The Score: Chicago 105, Washington 90

The Key Stat: Chicago outrebounded Washington 47-40 and committed just five turnovers while forcing 14 Washington turnovers. The difference in points off of turnovers (21-5) almost exactly matched the final margin of victory.

The Bottom Line: Ben Wallace has had back to back monster games (14 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and seven blocked shots in Thursday's win over Cleveland; eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots versus Washington) and his activity and energy take the Bulls to another level. Chicago is a defensive minded team that will be a very tough out in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Like Denver, Washington is an offensive minded team that does not have the fortitude in the paint to advance very far in the playoffs.

The Score: New York 95, Milwaukee 93

The Key Stat: The Knicks have won five of their last eight games and dropped a two point decision in overtime at Utah.

The Bottom Line: Isiah Thomas' crew is steadily improving and could make a run at the last playoff spot in the East, particularly if the Miami Heat struggle to adjust to the absence of Dwyane Wade. Orlando is reeling lately, so even if Miami stays in the playoff hunt the Knicks could pass the Magic.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:13 AM

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