A night that had the potential to be the craziest of the regular season certainly lived up to the hype, with games in Minnesota, New Orleans, Utah, Los Angeles, Boston and Miami — all but one with major playoff implications — coming down to crunch time. The Jazz-Suns showdown was probably the most exciting of the night, with Paul Millsap and Steve Nash trading ridiculous clutch plays around a Channing Frye banked-in prayer that gave the Suns three crucial points during a dry spell.
But Lakers-Clippers might have been the most spell-binding game. The Staples Center tenants have been barking at each other and trading shoves since the preseason, Blake Griffin mauled Pau Gasol twice Thursday night and Chris Paul worked his brand of magic again in the fourth quarter. The win 113-108 Lakers win gave them the inside track to both the Pacific Division title and the No. 3 seed. They are now two games up in the loss column over the No. 4 Clippers, with the season series tie-breaker in hand. If the standings hold, the two teams could not meet in what would be a hugely entertaining playoff series unless they both advanced to the conference finals. That would seem unlikely.
Some bullet point thoughts on the game:
• About those Griffin dunks over Gasol: The second one was clearly an offensive foul, and as I watched it, I once again thought that if I were a coach, I’d create some sort of cash bonus system for players who give good, honest challenges against big-time dunkers. The system would also carry small cash fines for players who duck out of the way.
Alas, I checked with the league, and such a system would violate league rules that ban teams from changing a player’s compensation in any way.
Such a system is inherently silly, since it’s meant to heal wounds players may not even feel so deeply; players understand that being the victim of a highlight now and then is the price of doing business, and they keep the big picture in mind better than fans do. And Pau, of course, continued to play hard, highlighted by his crunch-time rejection of Griffin in the post. Still, when you catch Andrew Bynum desecrating the very idea of “transition defense” with his “elderly man jogging” routine several times per game, it’s discouraging to know lots of fans and highlight shows will miss that and focus on Gasol actually trying to play sound defense. Read More…