Lakers 101, Mavericks 81
On a night when Shaquille O'Neal had his jersey retired by the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant naturally stole the show. Bryant played 47 minutes and notched a triple-double in a 101-81 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, a key victory for the Lakers in the Western Conference playoff race.
Bryant finished the night with 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Lakers (39-36) pulled back even with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Dwight Howard dominated down low, scoring 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds on 7-of-12 shooting and 10-of-20 from the line. Pau Gasol and Earl Clark both had double-doubles as well, as Los Angeles had its way with Dallas in the paint. The Lakers out-rebounded the Mavs, 57-37, and held a 44-26 advantage in points in the paint.
Los Angeles led essentially the entire game, using a big second quarter to create some breathing room. The Lakers took a 15-point lead into halftime, and when the Mavs (36-38) cut that to five in the third quarter, Earl Clark hit two big shots to push it back out to double-digits. The lead never got under seven the rest of the way, and the game turned into a blowout in the final few minutes.
This loss may be a back-breaker for Dallas, who now sits 2½ games out of the final playoff spot with time running out on the season. The Mavs' normally solid offense struggled mightily against the Lakers, as evidenced by their 42.0 percent shooting and the fact that Chris Kaman led the team in scoring with 14 points. Dirk Nowitzki was a non-factor pretty much all night, scoring just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Knicks 102, Heat 90
Playing once again without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat found themselves with a pretty good chance to win in the fourth quarter against the red-hot New York Knicks. But in the end, there was too much Carmelo Anthony, as the Knicks' star tied a career-high with 50 points in a 102-90 win. The win was New York's ninth in a row.
Anthony came out of the gates firing, hitting his first seven shots en route to 15 first-quarter points. The barrage continued for the rest of the night, with Anthony finishing 18-of-26 from the field and 7-of-10 from three-point land. And almost amazingly, he did not make a single shot inside the paint:
The Heat (58-16) actually led by eight points at halftime, fueled by a big first half from Mike Miller. But the Knicks (47-26) got back into the game in the third quarter before finally pulling away down the stretch. Miami's offense struggled mightily without James and Wade in the fourth quarter, scoring only four points over the last 7:54 of the game.
Chris Bosh had 23 points and six rebounds to lead the Heat. Miller did not score a single point after his big first half, but he still finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ray Allen had 16 points off the bench.
Wizards 90, Bulls 86
John Wall's stretch of excellent basketball continued against the Chicago Bulls, with the point guard nearly notching a triple-double in a hard-fought 90-86 win for the Washington Wizards. Wall finished with 27 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in the Wizards' eighth straight home victory.
Washington (28-46) started slow out of the gates, but it began to find its groove in the second half. A big third quarter gave the Wizards a one-point lead heading into the fourth, and despite an ugly stretch to start the final frame, they were able to pull out the victory. A Nazr Mohammed put-back tied the game at 86-86 with just under a minute left, but Emeka Okafor's dunk put Washington ahead for good. After Jimmy Butler missed a potential game-tying jumper, Trevor Ariza iced the game at the line.
Carlos Boozer had 19 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in the loss for the Bulls (40-33). Nate Robinson had 17 points off the bench, but it took him 16 shots to get there and he went just 1-of-7 from deep. To add injury to insult, Taj Gibson left the game after spraining his left knee, the same knee he sprained earlier this season.