Dwight Howard says he “loves” confrontational Kobe

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For years the Lakers had a great locker room balance — Kobe Bryant was the bad cop, Derek Fisher the good cop. Kobe would get in a guys face over a missed rotation or whatever, Fisher would come along later as the “big brother” who would listen to you but also tell you how it is.

Fisher is gone and the Lakers are still looking for that balance. The Lakers had a team meeting in Memphis last week where Kobe reportedly was direct with Dwight Howard asking him “do you want to play with me?” Then Kobe said he wanted to direct the offense and Howard needed to take a secondary role then dominate the defense.

So how does the more jovial, smiling Howard like confrontational Kobe? Mark Medina at the Daily News asked him.

“I love it,” Howard said. “That’s something we needed. A lot of times we have a lot of guys come together and nobody wants to step on anybody’s toes or do anything against anybody else. We want to win. In order for us to win, we have to pull the best out of each other every night….

“We all know Kobe is the first option,” Howard said. “Whoever scores after that doesn’t matter. The defensive end is where I take lead and make sure I hold guys accountable and make sure do my job in being active.”

What did you expect him to say?

‘For a couple games the Lakers have gone away from Mike D’Antoni’s offense to an offense where a lot of guys are having success at things they haven’t done a ton of in the past — Kobe the facilitator, Steve Nash a shooter off the ball, Howard making off the ball cuts. Their defense has been a lot better as directed by Howard.

Can they maintain it? Especially on a seven-game road trip (granted mostly against teams under .500)? We will see.

But the chemistry in the locker room appears to be just fine.

Watch Kawhi Leonard, Mike Conley in epic playoff duel Saturday (VIDEO)

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Kawhi Leonard scored 16 straight points for the Spurs at the end of regulation to give San Antonio the lead and a chance. Then Mike Conley hit a floater in the lane forced overtime.

There Mike Conley hit a floating bank shot that had the Grizzlies up three with :47 seconds left, only to have Leonard answer with a three to tie the game. Marc Gasol would break that tie and get Memphis the series-evening win.

Conley and Leonard traded blows through the clutch parts of Saturday’s epic Game 4 between Memphis and San Antonio. It’s worth checking out the highlights again.

John Wall goes coast-to-coast, behind-the-back for lefty dunk (VIDEO)

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There’s not going to be many plays better than this in the entire playoffs.

There wasn’t a lot for Wizards’ fans to cheer in Game 3, the Hawks took control early and routed Washington, making it a 2-1 series. But there was this, John Wall going coast-to-coast with the ball, going around-the-back and throwing it down left handed.

Wall is just so fast end to end.

Warriors take 3-0 series lead over Blazers with 119-113 win

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 34 points, Klay Thompson added 24 and the short-handed Golden State Warriors overcame a slow start to take a 3-0 lead in their playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 119-113 victory on Saturday night.

The Blazers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but couldn’t hold off the Warriors, who can clinch the series with a win Monday night in Game 4 at the Moda Center.

Golden State was without Kevin Durant, who was sitting for a second straight game cause of a left calf strain, and coach Steve Kerr stayed back at the team hotel because of illness.

The Warriors took a 108-100 lead after Andre Iguodala‘s dunk with 4:05 to go.

Noah Vonleh‘s dunk got Portland within four at 110-106 with 1:29 left, but Curry answered with a 3-pointer that all but sealed it, sending fans streaming for the exits.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 32 points, while Damian Lillard added 31.

Markieff Morris calls Paul Millsap a “crybaby,” Millsap responds “It definitely got personal now”

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The Atlanta Hawks owned the Washington Wizards from the opening tip Saturday, making it a 2-1 series with an easy win.

It’s a series now — and that includes trash talk.

Paul Millsap had 29 points, pulled down 14 boards, got to the line 11 times, and led the Hawks to the win. He got the calls he wanted this game, but Washington’s Markieff Morris was not exactly down with high praise for Millsap.

The key line here: “”He just did more for his team. He’s a crybaby. Get all the calls and you a crybaby.”

Millsap was asked about that comment in his postgame presser — and the best part may be Dennis Schroeder’s reaction.

“It definitely got personal now, yes. I mean, I don’t care. So what? He can take his loss and go back to the hotel and be ready for the next game.”

These two have already had a beef this series.

Game 4 in this series just got a lot more interesting.