Kobe Bryant moves to 8th all-time scorer, hits 21 in 1st, 1-5 clutch in loss

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Last night was just a big night for Kobe Bryant in general. You might even say it was a rollercoaster of emotions for him. Perhaps a rollercoaster of love. Maybe not. By the end of the night he’d hit another amazing career milestone, had an insane first quarter display, a disappointing end, and a loss. But we’ll get to all that.

First, Bryant wound up taking over Hakeem Olajuwon’s spot on the all-time scoring list, moving into the eighth spot with this little move-o-rama.

So that was a pretty good time. This was in the midst of a 21 point first quarter for Bryant. An incredible display of shooting from Bryant, who seemed to be on a mission to show those who questioned him that they were absolutely 100% wrong and there was no point in even suggesting that he isn’t clutch.

Bryant would finish 2 of 11 in the fourth quarter, 1-5 in “clutch” time as referenced by 82games.com (inside 5 points and 5 minutes), with a pair of free throws. 38 points on 27 shots which is pretty good and had Bryant not scored like gangbusters in the first, the Lakers may not have even been in the game. Still, this won’t help the discussion of whether Bryant going AWOL in the offense takes his teammates out of it. And for those who said that you have to watch the games and ignore the numbers to see if Bryant is clutch, tonight will be one of many games completely tossed aside as “irrelevant.”

In all honestly, the Lakers were having one of those nights, and combined with the trap game aspect with the Celtics looming and a terrific performance by DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings, just one of those things that happens. The nice thing about having five rings is you get to ask people to count them when they doubt you.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.