There were three games Thursday night and each one had a clear star. Actually, each was an All-Star.
Third Star: Kobe Bryant (33 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists)
Kobe Bryant played like a guy trying to will his team into the playoffs — he returned to scoring mode on Thursday night, but it was hard to blame him early as the Timberwolves gave him good looks. Then he got in a rhythm and by the third quarter he was three feet behind he three point line with a hand in his face and it didn’t matter. He got his 33 points on 22 shots. It’s what Los Angeles needed — the Lakers can’t afford any more nights off and have to take advantage of every break that comes their way (such as Monta Ellis hitting a prayer to beat the Rockets). For a night Kobe made sure they did that.
Second Star: Chris Paul (29 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds)
Chris Paul looked like the best point guard in the game pretty much all night, making shots, setting guys up. But when it really showed was in the games final minutes — just when the game seemed over the Pacers went on a 15-2 run to make it a four-point game. So CP3 took over, went into hero mode a little and scored the Clippers final eight points to secure a quality road win for Los Angeles.
First Star: Joakim Noah (23 points 21 rebounds, 11 blocked shots)
When you get a triple-double with 11 blocks, you get to be the First Star of the night. Noah absolutely owned the paint all game, looking like a guy who wants to be named Defensive Player of the Year. At the offensive end he brings that same hustle plus an ability to finish. But mostly the Bulls beat the Sixers because Noah wasn’t going to let them lose. Well, that and the Sixers are pretty bad right now. But mostly it was Noah’s will power forcing a Bulls team that has had some ugly games lately to pick up a win.