So, the Lakers are back in business, right? Four straight wins after the All-Star break – two convincing home wins and two tough road wins, right? I’m not convinced yet. The Lakers beat teams they’re better than. Next week comes the real test – Spurs, Hawks, Heat, Mavs, all on the road, in seven days. If the Lakers manage to win three on that trip, I’m back on the bandwagon. Still, that win against the Thunder last night put on a lot of smiles in Laker land. Sure, the Thunder have now lost 14 of the last 15 to Kobe and gang but it’s still a good win.
The Thunder don’t have Perkins yet (still injured) but that didn’t stop them in the first half, scoring 56 points. The second half? Artest woke up and the entire Laker D clamped down on the Thunder, limiting them to only 31 points. Kobe Bryant, on a bad shooting night (8-22), scored the jumper that put the Lakers up by three after a quick comeback led by Westbrook. The Thunder just couldn’t hit the three’s that would have tied the game.
Later, in the East – Crazy game. The Heat were up by 15 at a point in the first half with LeBron James soaring and flying (finished with 27 points) but a great Knicks run in the second quarter made it all even at half time. The Heat had a six point lead in the fourth quarter but managed to lose it. The defense, yes that praised Heat defense couldn’t get the stops against Amare and Billups. The Knicks did get theirs, leading 87-86. LeBron took Carmelo to the hoop, Anthony got just enough hand on the ball to disrupt James and Stoudemire was there for the block. Who knew Anthony had that kind of defense in him. Well I guess for one play, even on LeBron James, he can prove George Karl wrong.
The Heat didn’t have the real Wade with them, who just couldn’t get shots to drop (5-15 from the field, 12 points) and focused on feeding James and Bosh. The lack of a real inside presence on defense hurt the Heat down the stretch. They’ll have to find an answer for that, because guys Like Amare, Howard or teams like the Celtics and Bulls (now that Noah is back) can really hurt you in the paint.
Speaking of Howard and the Magic, he is the next opponent for both teams – The Knicks play at Orlando on Tuesday while the Heat play Orlando on Thursday getting a nice rest before getting a tough stretch (mostly at home) against the Spurs, Bulls, Blazers, Lakers, Spurs again and the Thunder. Rough March for the Heat, who need a tough Bosh, Wade and James at their best and better defense when it counts.