1. Kobe's Gunning Shoots Lakers In Foot
WASHINGTON -- If the lowly Wizards have proven anything, it's that they're more apt to spawn GIFs of boneheaded plays than come close to competing on their home court, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors, on the last game of a six-game road trip, by 20 points on Monday.
With the Lakers coming off an ugly overtime loss to the Pistons in Detroit the night before, and Kobe Bryant coming out snarling behind his mask in front of the hordes of Lakers jerseys, things initially looked no different. With an especially friendly Verizon Center crowd regaling him with "M-V-P" chants on occasion, Bryant fired off 20 first-half points on 6-for-13 shooting as the Lakers coasted into halftime sporting a 15-point lead.
The lead would balloon to 20 with 6:05 left in the third as Bryant hit his only shot attempt of the quarter and held a prolonged follow-through in the air for all to see.
But then Kobe missed two shots, badly -- a 3-pointer with Trevor Booker running at him that didn't even touch rim, and a free-throw line jumper over Jordan Crawford that was short and far to the right. As the Wizards cut into the lead while running double-teams at Kobe, he increasingly forced the issue. He followed a falling, double-clutch, one-handed miss over two players with a steal, but then immediately missed a 17-foot baseline jumper. He finished the third period 2-for-8, and Washington finished on a 22-4 run.
Kobe barely clanged rim while playing the final 12 minutes. While the little-used Roger Mason Jr. knocked down three 3-pointers in the fourth, hitting two in the quarter's first 80 seconds, Kobe shot 1-for-10. After an MVP-like burst of 14 points from Bryant in the first quarter, a period where L.A. also picked up seven of its 21 assists, it looked as if the mask were giving him tunnel vision on top of dead legs. He took 18 of the Lakers' 38 second-half shots and made three of them.
Pau Gasol called the 106-101 loss "a little bit embarrassing."
"It's not something that we would ever expect to happen, and it doesn't feel good right now," said Derek Fisher, ready to move on.
Bryant, well after the game, kept the throngs of media waiting, their angst only building by the moment. Some wondered if Kobe had left the building. He did talk, sort of.
"Very," Kobe said to the initial question, about the level of disappointment in losing to Washington. "Keep it to one-word answers."
Sly smiles crept across Kobe's face, gently, but barely, hiding his frustration in a condescending game with the press. His shell eventually cracked into multiple-word answers, but the point was driven home to viewers: Kobe was not a happy camper.
The deeper reasons behind if the Lakers can get their act together will be left up for time to tell. But on this night, the road, the concussion, the face mask, the finger tendons, the teammates, the Wizards, were just a little too much for Kobe and the Lakers.
Kyle Weidie covers the Wizards for Truth About It, part of the TrueHoop Network.
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: Trevor Booker had a decent first half, with 10 points and four rebounds (two offensive). He was a monster in the second half, finishing the game with 18 points on nine shots and 17 rebounds (eight offensive). No one on the Lakers could match his physicality.
Defining moment: When the Lakers lost in overtime to Detroit on Tuesday night, then boarded a plane to Washington for a game on Wednesday night. The whole team was tired. Guess it didn't find much rest in the Nation's capital. Washington used a 22-4 run to end the third quarter in their comeback win.
X factor: Roger Mason saw all of 44 seconds in the first half, but did make his only attempt, a 2-pointer. He played 1:43 in the third quarter, and again hit his only attempt, a 3-pointer. In the fourth, Mason caught fire, going 3-for-6 on 3-pointers and contributing 14 total points off the bench in the upset.
Recap | Box score
Defining moment: With the Clippers up two after Chris Paul sank two free throws with five seconds left, Deron Williams hit Jordan Farmar on the wing and Farmar splashed the game-deciding 3-pointer.
MVP: Williams. He made everything happen for the Nets: scoring, getting into the lane and finding open teammates. It could've been Paul, but the gamble he took and lost on the last play sealed the deal.
That was ... the matchup we've been waiting for: It was their first faceoff on their new teams, and ultimate competitors Paul (22 points, 10 assists) and Williams (21 points, 10 assists) put on a show.
Recap | Box score
MVP: With Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade having off shooting nights, LeBron James took over and made 12 of 20 shots for 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds. His 10-point burst in the third quarter was one of the key moments of the game.
X factor: Udonis Haslem, who has been struggling to hit his normal mid-range jumper all season, nailed a big one from 16 feet away with a 1:07 left. Then he finished an alley-oop with 12 seconds left.
That was ... redemptive: Dwyane Wade was the goat in the last close game the Heat played, last week in Utah when he missed a crucial free throw and committed two bad fouls. This time he was the difference-maker down the stretch, picking up three assists and making two clutch free throws in the final 70 seconds.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Evan Turner. And if your physician has advised you against consuming hyperbolic sports coverage, best stop there. Turner, a largely disappointing No. 2 overall pick who delivered an entirely disappointing game 48 hours earlier in his first start of the season, was a stud against the Celts. Name me three 2-guards who can drop 26 points and nine rebounds in just three quarters without breaking a sweat? Name me one.
That was ... a relief: Philadelphia, firmly ensconced in the Atlantic Division driver's seat for most of 2012, found itself facing, if not a must-win game, something awfully close to it, against the Celts. And with their lead down to a single game, back squarely against wall, the Sixers responded accordingly.
X factor: Something tells me the fact that the geriatric Celtics were on the third leg of a back-to-back-to-back -- the first two games of which were emotionally draining overtime wins -- might have played a role in this one. That's just me, though.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Kevin Love. He got off to another hot start and, more importantly, put LaMarcus Aldridge in foul trouble. Without their best player, the Blazers operated at a deficit the entire contest, and Love kept rolling without anyone to defend him. Twenty-nine points, 16 rebounds and another All-Star forward left in his wake.
Defining moment: Luke Ridnour blocked Raymond Felton's jumper off a jump ball, sped down court and missed an uncontested layin. Martell Webster missed the tip dunk. Ricky Rubio missed the putback of the missed putback. The Wolves' lead had dwindled to five points, and Portland seemed primed for a push with three minutes left. But Ridnour made a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to eight, and the Wolves ran away with the contest.
X factor: The Wolves -- if only temporarily -- reined in their turnover-prone ways in the first half. Zero turnovers in the first quarter and only four in the first half. Better yet, their hot streak from long range continues, as they converted 13 of 23 3-point attempts.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Tony Parker. Six assists doesn't really reflect how he managed and ran the offense, but the 32 points show how he gave the Knicks a clinic in running the pick-and-roll. Parker was just so far ahead of the Knicks' defense, it was absurd.
LVP: Amare Stoudemire. A failure to execute this concept allowed Parker to embarrass Knicks "defensive coordinator" Mike Woodson and allowed the Spurs to put up 118 points on a good defense. Ding! "What is 'help defense'?" Correct!
X factor: Kawhi Leonard. Finished plays, completed dunks, played great defense. This guy is the most underrated rookie of his class.
Recap | Box score
That was ... inevitable: The Suns looked like the class of the West when they led 84-68 with 4:13 remaining in the third. However, it was only a matter of time before the Thunder asserted their dominance, following with a 30-7 run.
MVP: It's hard to pick just one when three players explode for 30-plus, but James Harden kept this one close with an eight-point flurry at the end of the first after the Suns led by 15.
X factor: After shooting 52.2 percent through three quarters, the Suns knocked down just three of 17 shots in the deciding period to handily lose a game they controlled early.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Jose Calderon scored 17 points and dished out 12 assists, setting the tone for a Raptors squad that shot a scorching 59 percent from the field overall for the entire game.
LVP: Kevin Martin scored just seven points on 1-for-7 shooting. Lately, performances like tonight's have been closer to the norm for K-Mart. One wonders how long until management loses all patience and ships him out.
That was ... inhospitable: The Rockets now have lost five straight games in Toronto.
Recap | Box score
That was ... not nearly as close as the final score might indicate: The Jazz controlled the game from start to finish. The Bobcats exist to give opponents a little pick-me-up when stopping by, and Wednesday night was no different.
MVP: Al Jefferson had his second monster game in a row, putting up 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He even channeled his inner John Stockton with four assists in the first quarter.
LVP: Bismack Biyombo (two points, five turnovers, fouled out) returned to earth after a strong game against Dwight Howard. Jefferson, Derrick Favors (14, 7) and Paul Millsap (16, 5) teamed up for 56 points in the paint.
3. Wednesday's Best
Derrick Rose, Bulls: Ersan Ilyasova had another improbably big night (career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds) and tied the game with 24 seconds left. But D-Rose (30 points, 11 assists) was impressed less than he is with dancing All-Stars, shaking free of Brandon Jennings and sinking a step-back jumper to win it at the buzzer.
4. Wednesday's Worst
Kobe Bryant, Lakers: Kobe couldn't find his stroke. His response? Keep shooting. Obviously. Bryant lofted up 31 attempts from the field but connected on just nine in an ugly loss to the Wizards. It gets worse: In the final frame, with the Lakers needing a lift, Kobe connected just once in 10 attempts. The 30 points sure look nice on a stat sheet, though.
5. Dub-Step Up
Defining moment: Derrick Rose dribbled for 14 seconds and then took a step-back jumper for the win. The timing was fun, given Henry Abbott's story on hero ball earlier today. Maybe Rose wanted to provide a counter point.
MVP: Derrick Rose. The Bulls star was too strong for Brandon Jennings and too quick for everyone else. He knifed and hop-stepped his way through the Bucks' defense with regularity, and hit all 14 of his free throws and the game winner.
That was ... intense: A lively crowd full of Bulls fans who made the trip up to Milwaukee seemed to bring out the best in what Bucks fans were in attendance. Conversely, they brought out the best in the Bucks.
Defining moment: With 15 seconds on the clock and the Nuggets leading by one, Denver decided to put full-court pressure on Kyrie Irving. It was, to say the least, a poor decision. Irving blew by the Denver defense, crossed over to his left and finished at the rim to hit what would be the game-winning layup with four seconds left on the clock.
MVP: Kyrie Irving. Irving was quiet for the first half but erupted late, scoring 10 points in the last 2:35 of the game to give the Cavaliers a one-point victory.
X factor: Kyrie was Cleveland's crunch-time hero, but the Cavaliers wouldn't have been in the game at all if it weren't for Antawn Jamison. All of Jamison's offensive tricks were working early, and he scored 26 of his 33 points in the first half on jumpers, flip shots and tip-ins to keep the Cavs competitive throughout the first half and ultimately allow them to get the win in crunch time.
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. NBA Video Channel
Defining moment: With 13.2 seconds remaining in the game, with his team trailing by one, rookie Isaiah Thomas stole the inbounds pass and fed John Salmons for the game winning layup.
MVP: Thomas was the man of the night. After a very nice first quarter, Thomas was abused on the defensive end by Jarrett Jack and sent to the bench. He returned to the game just in time to be the hero.
That was ... loud: The old Arco Arena thunder was back in Sacramento. After a historic city council vote to get a new arena built for the Kings on Tuesday night, the fans brought the noise Wednesday, helping to will their young team to the victory.
8. Quote Of The Night
"I was out there kind of loafing around and having a good time."
-- Andrew Bynum, who took on some blame for a second straight upset loss.
MVP: Despite Rudy Gay's big night, Marc Gasol's physical presence was evident: 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
That was ... unity: The Grizzlies have some good scorers in Gay and Gasol, but they played team ball, finishing with 33 assists to the Warriors' 23.
X factor: The Grizzlies' defense was quite physical, and seemed fresher and more active throughout the contest, and led to 32 fast-break points the other way.
9. Stat Check
Russell Westbrook (31 points), Kevin Durant (30) and James Harden (30) gave the Suns more than they could handle as the Thunder topped Phoenix on Wednesday night. Oklahoma City's big three were the first trio of NBA teammates to each score 30 points in one game this season, and they were only the second threesome of teammates to do that in franchise history, joining Dale Ellis (37), Xavier McDaniel (31) and Tom Chambers (30), who accomplished it for the SuperSonics on Feb. 26, 1988, against Sacramento.
10. Dunk Of The Night