Lakers 73, Mavericks 70: The Lakers won this game — and were the better shooting team — hitting 38.2 percent of their shots. They were just 1-of-10 from three, but that one was Derek Fisher’s dramatic game winner. Which is to say this game was ugly but still entertaining right down the final seconds.
Kobe Bryant’s 40-point game streak came to an end as he shot just 7-of-22. Maybe he was just emotional over Lamar Odom’s return to Staples Center. Nah. That the Lakers struggle to score when Kobe struggles speaks to the problem with the Lakers right now — they have multiple great offensive weapons yet everything goes as Kobe does. Pau Gasol struggled (Dirk Nowitzki defended him well, as he did in the playoffs) but Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 15 rebounds. But things didn’t flow through him. A better point guard might organize and balance the offense better, something the Lakers will eventually need.
But as they have done in recent games, the Lakers won this with defense. Nowitzki had his 21 points but needed 17 shots to get there as Gasol defended him with energy (and Gasol is long enough to at least challenge him). The rest of the Mavericks combined to shoot 31.8 percent (and were just 4-of-26 from three). It wasn’t all Lakers defense, Dallas had an off night, but when the Lakers hold a team down like this they win a lot. No matter what Kobe does.
Grizzlies 102, Bulls 86: No Derrick Rose and no Richard Hamilton for the Bulls — both out injured — and their defense couldn’t bail them out. Mike Conley just dominated John Lucas III on his way to 20, Rudy Gay had 24 and Marreese Speights had 16 points plus 12 rebounds. Don’t read much into the outcome because of everyone missing, but the Grizzlies could use every win they can get.
Be warned Bulls fans, Chicago is likely to sit Rose on Tuesday as well.
Magic 102, Knicks 93: This game was close with five minutes to go, but when Dwight Howard got his fifth foul Orlando decided to protect him by playing a zone — and the Knicks offense went stagnant. Knicks players tried to shoot over the top of the zone and they just missed. Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson dropped 30 and J.J. Redick 21 as the Orlando role players stepped up. Carmelo Anthony had 33 but was 9-for-27, meanwhile the Knicks as a team were just 5-for-20 from three. Also Knicks, you have Tyson Chandler, why all the doubles on Howard?
Clippers 101, Nets 91: Los Angeles was up 18 at one point and 13 early in the fourth, but fell apart and suddenly we were tied at 81-81 with 6:46 left. Why? No Chris Paul or Mo Willaims (both out injured) to take control and settle things down. But Chauncey Billups did step up and hit the dagger three to put this out of reach.
Cavaliers 102, Bobcats 94: With the game on the line — Cavs up 1 with a minute to go — Anderson Varejao caught a bad pass with one hand and turned it into a nifty spin move and basket. Then when Byron Mullens missed on a pick-and-pop Kyrie Irving got the ball and didn’t try to slow down and eat clock, he attacked and scored on a twisting layup around Mullens. Irving, who finished with 25 points, has a fantastic left hand around the rim.
Rockets 114, Wizards 106: Houston pulled away in the third quarter as the Wizards offense did what the Wizards offense does — fall apart — and the Rockets were able to capitalize with some fast break points. Samuel Dalembert had 14 in the quarter as he outplayed the Wizards bigs. The Rockets just know how to execute and the Wizards are showboating at inappropriate times. John Wall tried to lead a comeback with 18 in the fourth quarter (and 38 overall) but it was not enough.
76ers 94, Bucks 82: Not much rocket science here — it was a grinding game and the Sixers shot the ball better and turned it over less (the Bucks turned it over on 18 percent of their possessions and that led to 16 Philly points off turnovers. Jrue Holiday had 24. Andre Iguodala 21. Andrew Bogut is back for the Bucks and he had 20.
Trail Blazers 84, Hornets 77: The Hornets packed the paint on defense and it took about a half for the Blazers to get more comfortable moving the ball and creating the shots they wanted. When they did they pulled away a little bit and held on.
Timberwolves 99, Kings 86: This was close for three quarters, but in a sign of where these teams seem to be headed the Timberwolves had another gear that the Kings couldn’t match it. Kevin Love had 33 and 11, but it was Luke Ridour’s 25. Keith Smart is in a tough spot, trying to find a way to make the Kings work mid-season, but they just seem a challenged team that once something goes wrong they don’t know how to respond.
Hawks 93, Raptors 84: Atlanta led this from the middle of the first quarter on, but the pesky Raptors hung around. Josh Smith was shooting too many jumpers but was hitting them today and had 29, Joe Johnson abused the Raptors zone defense and Jose Calderon in the third and that was basically the ballgame.