From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: On several counts, it was another outstanding effort from the Lakers. Individually, several players brought their A-game. Andrew Bynum continued his reign of terror, blocking three shots, altering several other shots he couldn’t get his paws on, and snagging 12 defensive rebounds (16 in all). Derek Fisher drew a pair of charges (one against Joe Johnson away from the ball), deflected a pass to create a turnover and got a steal while backpedaling in transition to prevent the kind of buckets Atlanta’s offense desperately requires. Ron Artest hounded Johnson into a miserable 11 point/14 shot performance. Allowing barely an inch to operate, Ron-Ron’s pressure also helped induce the Atlanta wing into three turnovers. And so on and so forth.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It’s been a tough 24 hours for milestones recorded by Moses Malone. Monday, his record for consecutive double-doubles since the NBA-ABA merger (51) was eclipsed by Kevin Love. The Wolves forward managed the same tally in one season, while Malone stretched his feat over the course of two. Tuesday, Malone found himself lapped by Kobe Bryant after contact from Joe Johnson beyond the arc sent The Mamba to the line for three free throws, all good. And with that, another rung on the ladder reached. For Kobe, the connection to Malone — who played for the Sixers of Bryant’s boyhood backyard — is obvious. Before Bryant turned heads in 1996 with his jump straight from Lower Merion High School to the Lakers by way of Vlade Divacs’ rights, Malone demonstrated such a move truly feasible. Yes, Kobe was the first high school guard drafted, but Kevin Garnett had been taken the year before him, Tracy McGrady the year after, plus five more youngsters before the decade concluded. The following decade began with Darius Miles taken third overall.
From Bret Lagree, Hoop Onion: The Atlanta Hawks can compete with any team in the league as long as their jump shots go in. When they don’t, they can’t because they aren’t, as a team, especially good at anything. Against lesser teams, the Hawks can take advantage of being not bad in a number of areas and punish the inferior team for its mistakes. Against better teams, the Hawks aren’t offered nearly as many mistakes to punish (only two teams in the league force turnovers less often) and frequently fall victim to the variance inherent in shooting a lot of jump shots. It’s a game like this that gives the lie to scapegoating effort after losses. The Hawks (outside of a not-so-surprising 5 cumulative defensive rebounds from Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Marvin Williams in more than 98 cumulative minutes) were not lacking for effort. They grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. They scored 20 fast break points. They held Los Angeles to five fast break points. Zaza Pachulia scored eight points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and was one of six Hawks, despite the team scoring just 87 points and making just 33 field goals, to earn at least a pair of assists.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Ron Artest sat in front of his locker after the game, all aglow. (That’s different from Artest being all atwitter, which he would be later with his Twitter account – announcing he had a “pork and skittle smoothie” for dinner, re-Tweeting Khloe Kardashian’s query as to where her fragrance-loving “B***hes” were at and contacting Charlie Sheen directly to offer that one word: “winning.”) Artest sat and spoke happily after the Lakers’ eighth consecutive victory about “locking up All-Stars.” Good-bye, Joe Johnson and your scoreless second half; next up, LeBron James. Artest didn’t mean to be demeaning, but he managed to make the Miami Heat sound like the Minnesota Timberwolves by insisting: “They’re young and dangerous.”
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: On Thursday night, the Lakers get their long-awaited rematch bout with the Miami Heat, who humiliated them back on Christmas Day. The game will be played under circumstances no one saw coming. Tonight the storm clouds that’ve been gathering around the Heat look more menacing than ever, as Miami face-planted at home to the Portland Trail Blazers for their fifth consecutive loss. The Lakers, meanwhile, continue to pound on fools left and right. With another surprisingly easy road victory, 101 to 87 over the Atlanta Hawks, the champs’ winning streak has reached eight, tying their best run of the season. The disintegrating Heat will be eyeing Thursday as a last-stand, save-our-season kind of game, which isn’t really ideal from the Lakers’ perspective. But if they play with the deluxe form they’ve shown since the All-Star break, no amount of desperation on Miami’s part will make a diff.
From Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Two days ago, Larry Drew declared the Hawks were “in disarray.” The good thing about being in disarray is that, while everybody might be running in the wrong direction, and possibly into a wall, there’s at least a certain degree of actual existence. That’s an assumption we can’t make any more. The Los Angeles Lakers came to town Tuesday night. They didn’t really do anything that special, and they still led the Hawks by 20 points in the third quarter. The final score was believed to be 101-87, although most fans would have a difficult time confirming that because they were running around Philips Arena looking for any unsold Kobe Bryant T-shirt. (More on that shortly).