It was one of those days in which Dwight Howard wills his team to victory (116-110 over the Knicks). Suddenly, the paint is impenetrable and you can have three guys hangin’ on Howard’s shoulders and he’ll still slam that ball. Dwight Howard finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds , becoming the youngest player in NBA history to grab 7000 rebounds.
The Knicks dominated for nearly three and a half quarter, leading by 11 at half time, including a 37-15 second. The Anthony(25)-Amare(30)-Billups(30) triangle worked perfectly, but didn’t get enough help. The bench scored 11 points, while the Magic’s scored 44. The clamp down on defense led to a Knicks 37.2% shooting night. The Magic can get tough from time to time, but not often enough. It takes Dwight Howard to get pissed at everybody and start yelling for all the guys to wake up. He can’t do this every night. The Knicks? Dangerous team, but the depth is gone, and despite that win in Miami, I don’t see them getting further than a conference Semi Final.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the Lakers won their fifth straight (90-79) game since the All-Star break. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points, killing Kevin Love (47th straight double-double) and the Wolves on the boards. The Lakers grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, with Gasol-Bynum-Odom combining for 35 rebounds.
That’s the advantage the Lakers have over other teams, that and Kobe Bryant when he’s up for it. A win over Minnesota isn’t a real indication, but as long as Bynum, Gasol and Odom play with passion and fire, which hasn’t happened a lot this season, the Lakers are a scary team. Problem is I don’t think they can bring the needed intensity, all three of them, when it’ll matter the most. Not this time.
Memphis didn’t have Rudy Gay, the Spurs without Tony Parker. The Memphis Grizzlies had no problem against the league’s best record holders, the San Antonio Spurs, beating them 109-93. The Spurs had only one player, one(!!!), Gary Neal, score in double figures, with 14 points. It was a confused night from the Spurs, finishing with 22 turnovers and allowing Memphis, led by Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur (21 points) to shoot over 52% from the field.
With the Mavs looking unstoppable right now, with Tony Parker out for a few more weeks, George Hill needs to grab hold of the starting position and do it fast. The Spurs still have a comfortable edge on top of the Western rankings, but nights like these show that they are vulnerable team when missing a key piece, maybe the most important piece, in Pop’s puzzle.