New Orleans Hornets 116, at Los Angles Lakers 105
Chris Paul had another great first half against the Lakers with 23 points, seven assists, and two steals, shooting 8-for-12 from the field. This time when facing LA, the rest of Hornets matched Paul's intensity, and David West looked like the all-star that he is.
West finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds. All game he exhibited why he is the best jump shooting power forward in the NBA. He also exploited Pau Gasol’s lack of lateral quickness with dribble-drives.
While the Hornets were playing the team game, the Lake-Show reverted to the Kobe-Show as the reigning MVP reminded us that he can still take over. It wasn't just Bryant's scoring, however; The Hornets were so wary of his shot that it created open looks for his teammates.
Kobe had excellent shot selection throughout the game, going 14-for-22 from the field and 6-for-7 from behind the arc, finishing with 39 points. His 20-point third quarter was followed by a two-point fourth quarter due to time on the bench and double-teams in the final period.
Lamar Odom was out the entire second half with an injury he sustained in the game. His absence was felt as the Lakers did not have enough firepower to accompany Bryant down the stretch.
Phil Jackson made some critical coaching errors in the second half. First, he put Josh Powell in the game because he couldn't go to Odom; Powell broke the team’s rhythm. Jackson sat Kobe when he was hot, the second error. Third, when the Lakers were trying to shoot out of a late deficit he left Trevor Ariza in the game, who shot 2-for-7 from behind the arc, while Sasha Vujacic sat on the bench.
Lakers fans should be worried. The team is already short-handed without Luke Walton and Jordan Farmar, and if they have to face more adversity in the form of an injury they won’t be able to overcome it.
On the other hand, Hornets fans can breathe again. Paul's 32 points and 15 assists led the way to an important victory. I have never seen a player handle the ball as much as Paul does on any level, and teams seem scared to pressure him, allowing for open J's and easy passes.
The Hornets still have a difficult stretch in January, but road wins in Portland and Los Angles should give them confidence to role into the All-Star break strong.
Boston Celtics 106, at Charlotte Bobcats 114 (OT)
With Michael Jordan sitting courtside the Bobcats did not want to disappoint against the world champs. In the tradition of Larry Brown, Charlotte played aggressive in-your-face defense, which kept Boston from getting into their offensive sets.
In the final minute Raymond Felton hit a fadeaway jumper to give the Bobcats a 96-95 lead. After a missed Celtics field goal, Felton was sent to the line where he hit one of two, opening the door for Paul Pierce to tie the game at 97.
Felton missed the game-winning jumper and the Bobcats, who are now 10-12 at home and 3-1 in overtime, prepared for a fifth period of play.
D.J. Augustin sparked Charlotte in overtime with a behind-the-back bounce-pass on a fast break, and then he swished a three next possession. Emeka Okafor grabbed 17 rebounds while Augustin, Felton, and Gerald Wallace all broke the 20-point mark.
Since Boston's 19-game win-streak they have gone 2-5, with all of their losses coming on the road. This last loss drops them to a .806 winning percentage, second place behind Cleveland (.818) in the East.
This puts Boston in unfamiliar territory and seriously threatens their home court advantage throughout the playoffs. In January the Celtics still have road games against Cleveland, Orlando, and Detroit—all potential losses with the way they've been playing.
In the Celtics' previous four losses they had been held below 90 points. Tuesday Night broke that trend. The other common trend has been sub-30 percent 3-point shooting in three of the previous four losses. Tuesday night they were 6-for-23 (26.1 percent) from behind the arc.
The Celtics' 18 turnovers were not much over their NBA-worst season average of 15.8, but nine coming from Rajon Rondo was a serious shot in the foot.
Note to the NBA: If you want to beat the Celtics, play extended team defense that defends the three and doesn't let the ball get in the post.
Houston Rockets 96, at Philadelphia 76ers 104
Andre Iguodala broke the 20-point mark for his fourth straight game, scoring 28 points to lead the Sixers past the struggling Rockets. Luis Scola led the Rockets with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Houston, who was without wings Ron Artest and Shane Battier, has lost all three of their games in 2009. If their woes continue, Utah will soon snatch eighth place in the playoff race.
New York Knicks 99, at Oklahoma City Thunder 107
The Thunder got their second win in three games as Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook combine for 66 of the team’s points.
In the teams' last meeting, Zach Randolph scored 29 points down low. Without a legitimate post scorer to exploit the Thunder's weakest link, the Knicks could not out-gun the high-energy Thunder.
Washington Wizards 80, at Orlando Magic 89
The Wizards were held to an abysmal six points in the second quarter, leaving them with 32 in the first half. Caron Butler attempted to make-up for the deficit with 29 points in the second half, but the Magic's team effort was too much.
New Orleans Hornets 116, at Los Angles Lakers 105