LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after his basket and a foul in a 110-82 win over the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on March 31, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

NBA Scores And More: Lakers Blast Mavericks; Celtics Handle Spurs

The game was ugly, with the Lakers running up a big lead. It got even uglier as a shoving matches led to five ejections. In other action, Rajon Rondo broke out to help lead the Celtics past the skidding Spurs.

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Mavericks Vs. Lakers: Kobe Bryant, L.A. Crush Dallas, Make Statement

The Los Angeles Lakers crushed the Dallas Mavericks 110-82 on Thursday, and the statement referenced in the headline is a simple one: "Challengers, stand down." Dallas has been clawing for the No.2 spot held by the Lakers since Dirk Nowitzki returned from injury; that quest met a brutal end in the Mavs' visit to L.A. Such a blowout actually makes the No. 2 seed irrelevant; it's central role is to provide home court advantage in a prospective second-round series between the Lakers and Mavs. Anyone think the champs need home court to beat Dallas after Thursday's game?

Kobe Bryant scored 28 points on 8-21 shooting; he got to the line 15 times, and did all of that in 30 minutes. Pau Gasol offered up 20 points on 7-14 shooting, and Andrew Bynum was strong with 18 points on 6-9 shooting and 13 rebounds. The Mavs, unfortunately, only pulled big output from Dirk Nowitzki; the German scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds; he shot 10-20 from the floor, and did best to keep pressure on the Lakers. But the rest of his Dallas team shot a pathetic 32 percent. Only Peja Stojakovic (13 on 4-10) and Jose Barea (10 on 4-8) hit double-digits. Co-star Jason Terry shot 2-9.

Despite the margin, there were some late fireworks as Terry shoved Steve Blake on a stumbling drive to the basket, earning the ire of the Lakers' reserve and, eventually, a response from noted hothead Matt Barnes. Barnes has always been an extremely emotional player, and unfortunately the Lakers have emboldened his unpredictable streak by referencing said emotional bent. If he thinks he brings value to the Lakers by being a hothead, he's going to be a hothead. So he's going to fly in out of nowhere to get a lick on Terry when things had already calmed down, and he's going to skirmish with Mavericks assistant Terry Stotts.

Barnes, Terry, Blake and Brendan Haywood were all ejected. Barnes is probably going to get an extra game off for his efforts, and don't be surprised if Haywood, who made contact with an official, sits too. Shannon Brown got ejected later on after a brief interlude with Brian Cardinal; he just felt that he had been missing out on the fun.


Celtics Vs. Spurs: Rajon Rondo Leads Boston To Win Over San Antonio

Rajon Rondo had a stellar second half to help lead the Boston Celtics to a 107-97 win over the San Antonio Spurs in a big East-West matchup on Thursday. Rondo had 12 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers in the second half to push the Celtics forward. He finished the game with 22 points and 14 assists. Paul Pierce scored 21 and added 11 rebounds and seven assists; Kevin Garnett scored 20 on 9-12 shooting.

The Spurs, now losers of five straight, struggled on both ends of the court. San Antonio averaged 1.04 points per possession as Boston's elite defense held the rusty Spurs attack down. Meanwhile, the Celtics' mediocre offense blew up, scoring 1.15 points per possession. Boston had struggled on offense against teams far less talented defensively than Spurs of late.

The Spurs' offense got a big boost from the return of Tim Duncan, who had missed four games with an ankle injury. He scored 20 points on 8-12 shooting and added 13 rebounds. But he also had five turnovers. Manu Ginobili shot just 4-13 from the floor, and none of San Antonio's reserves performed very well. Tony Parker (23 points on 9-16) was able to score on Rondo, and Richard Jefferson hit 4-of-8 on three-pointers, but the Spurs' attack just wasn't what it had been before All-Star Weekend.

It remains to be seen whether the Celtics are back on track after going 5-7 over their previous 12 games, or whether this performance is another indication that the season is catching up to the Spurs. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, though it's hard to ignore how good Rondo was and how much Duncan helped. For the sake of competition, let's hope both teams are at their best come April 14.

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