This past week was filled with excitement, disappointment, and surprise for NBA fans. We learned Dwight Howard would need surgery, and that Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire would likely return to their respective teams Friday, and they did.
Despite the return of Amare to the Knicks and Kobe to the Lakers, both teams suffered devastating losses. Sure, the Knicks 98-90 loss doesn't sound too devastating, 8 points isn't terrible, but this was undoubtedly an upset.
"The Cavs just outworked us tonight," said the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony. "It's that simple. Tonight was just one of those nights for us. The Cavs had it more than we did, and we didn't adjust to it."
Since November 2006, the Cavs have won 10 straight home games against the Knicks. Reflecting on either last night's win or the 10 game winning streak-it's unclear, at least to me- Cavs coach Byron Scott said, "I can't explain it whatsoever, I really can't." I don't think he would be that surprised by one single win, but I guess when your team has a 33.9% win percentage and beats a team with a 52.4% win percentage, you might be surprised. "I thought tonight we really came ready to play, and they were kind of not into it for whatever reason, and we just took advantage of it."
Kyrie Irving, who returned to the Cavs lineup Wednesday after missing 9 straight games due to a shoulder injury. had 21 points against the Knicks Friday.
After missing 13 games because of a bulging disc, Amare Stoudemire returned to the Knicks lineup. He had 15 points. Carmelo Anthony had 12.
The Knicks have already clinched a playoff berth, and sit in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, so this wasn't a must win by any stretch of the imagination, but still. It has to be disappointing to see an all-star veteran return for just a disappointing loss.
I was at Best Buy today waiting for Geek Squad, and I overheard some of the guys who work there talking about the way Stoudemire was limping on the court? Did he return too early? Or did the Cavs just really, really want that win?
Meanwhile, the LA Lakers had another major return with upsetting results. After missing 7 games due to a shin injury, Kobe Bryant returned to the lineup only for the Lakers to suffer a blowout loss to the Spurs, 121-97. Kobe had 18 points. He seemed to play well, but where were the others?
The other night I wrote about team unity. When Kobe was gone, his teammates more than made up for his absence and in some instances even dominated their opponents. Andrew Bynum, Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol were noticeably phenomenal in their leader's absence? So what happened?
Well, frankly, the Lakers' defense was pathetic, and basically non-existent. Gasol had 11 points and was 4 for 10 ,Bynum had 28 less rebounds than he did last time the Lakers played at the AT&T Center, and Ramon Sessions, who the Lakers acquired at the trade deadline, had his worst game as a Laker yet. He missed 7 of his 9 shots, had only one assist, and got 4 fouls The Boston Herald reports.
The loss leaves the Lakers 1-4 against the Spurs. Tony Parker had 20 points and Tim Duncan had 21. Both sat out the 4th quarter. Manu Ginobili had 20.
There is no disputing that the Spurs played incredible basketball Friday. They're an extremely tough team to beat, but the Lakers shutting down upon their leader's return is disappointing. Kobe is supposed to make them better. I don't think this is how anyone in the Lakers' camp thought this would go.
The Lakers are 3rd in the West and have 2 games left in the regular season. Sunday they play at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Thursday they're in Sacramento to play against the Kings.
The Spurs sit at 1st place.
My predictions: The Knicks and Lakers are both out in the first round, UNLESS the Lakers learn to play as a team and not rely on Kobe. They need to look inside themselves and find the power they used without him there. And the Knicks, I'm sorry. I just can't see anyone getting past Miami, even if the finals, they're going to give Oklahoma a run for their money.
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