1. Brown Gives The Lakers Another Option
LOS ANGELES -- It used to be the explanation for the Lakers turning close games against hungry young teams into victories could be distilled down to two words: Kobe Bryant.
It takes more characters than could fit in a tweet to describe everything that the Lakers have going for them right now. The simplest answer is to say they have a greater array of good players than perhaps any other team right now, and the best of the good is Shannon Brown.
The Bulls had the spectacular superstar in this 98-91 Lakers victory Tuesday night. His name was Derrick Rose. Rose went around and over the Lakers -- and at one point he just went away from Bryant, so abruptly that the Staples Center crowd gasped. Rose had 30 points and eight assists, but guess who matched his 18-point first-half output?
That's right, Brown.
Now, among the things that separate the pleasant developments from emerging stars is extended playing time and consistent production. Brown sat most of the third quarter and made only one more field goal. But along with fellow reserves Steve Blake and Matt Barnes, Brown played the entire fourth quarter. His 3-pointer with 7:48 remaining gave the Lakers the lead for good, kicked off the decisive 17-2 run and gave him 21 points to match Lamar Odom for team-high honors.
It's getting to the point that every time Brown shoots you expect it to go in. He made 7 of 14 shots Tuesday, including 5 of 10 3-pointers, including a long 3 at the end of the first quarter in the face of an onrushing Ronnie Brewer that left Brewer shaking his head in amazement. Brown's night was right in line with a season in which he has made 52 percent of his shots this season and just over half his 3-pointers, averaging 12 points in 19 minutes.
On an appearance on ESPN radio in Los Angeles on Monday, Blake said the thing he noticed about Brown's shot is how it looks the same every time. Brown said it's the product of all the repetitions from his summer of shooting, a more consistent form even if it means reining in some of his leaping ability on the way up. You can tell Bryant appreciates the work Brown put in. He looks for Brown -- even goes out of his way to set screens for Brown -- and discusses strategy to the point their perspectives have merged.
"I see what he sees," Brown says.
For his sake, I wish Brown had played this well last season, so he could have hit the free-agent market and collected one of the ridiculous contracts that were tossed around over the summer. Instead he re-signed with the Lakers on a two-year contract worth $2.2 million this year with a player option for $2.4 million next year. He needs to test the market again next year, but what will the landscape look like under the next collective bargaining agreement -- if one is reached at all? Any regrets for flourishing a little too late?
"I do, always," Brown said. "But I turned down dollars [elsewhere], so."
So the Lakers benefited. He gives them instant offense. He gives them depth. He helps provide them with numerous options, more so than the Bulls. More and more, teams have to account for Brown on defense.
"If they do, gotta go to Plan B," Brown said.
B for Bryant? Not quite. But Bryant did play more of a decoy role Tuesday night, especially when the Lakers outscored the Bulls 24-18 in the fourth quarter. Each team wound up with similar defensive strategies to counter different attacks. The Lakers packed the lane in an attempt to stop Rose's penetration, the Bulls' defense was drawn in by the post-up threats of Bryant and Pau Gasol. In either case it meant open outside shooters. The difference: Barnes, Blake and Brown made nine of their 17 3-point shots, and the entire Bulls team shot 4-for-20 from 3-point range.
After a fan-led campaign got Brown in the dunk contest last year, Brown is a legitimate candidate to join Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler and Michael Cooper as players who have participated in both the dunk contest and 3-point shootout. Time for letshannonshoot.com?
"Why not?" Brown said.
2. If The Celtics Cruise, They Lose
BOSTON -- Doc Rivers has seen it from both sides. Early in his Boston incarnation, he had a team of callow kids and could never be sure which group would show up from game to game. He now has the opposite of that, sort of. It's a veteran team. It's a better team, for sure, but because veteran teams have a tendency to, er, coast, the coach also can't know for sure what group he will see on any given night.To wit: What Boston Celtics fan out there didn't expect this team to go into Toronto on Sunday afternoon and absolutely vaporize the undermanned, underwhelming Raptors, regardless of Rajon Rondo's status? There had been a disheartening loss on Friday at home, an easy-pickin's opponent on the road (and in a building where they'd won six in a row) and, well, of course they'd bounce back. Hold that happy thought.
It didn't happen. They lost. They stunk.
To read more from May, click here.
3. Daily Dime Live Recap
ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's games -- all in Daily Dime Live.
4. Granger Knocks Down A Handful Of Treys
Danny Granger made five 3-pointers in the Pacers' win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night. It was the fifth time this season that Granger made at least four baskets beyond the arc, tying him with Stephen Jackson for the most such games in the NBA.
5. Extreme Behavior
John Wall, Wizards: After missing four games with a sprained foot, Wall struggled in the first half against the Sixers. He made up for it after intermission, scoring 25, including three free throws with 3.5 seconds left that forced OT in what ended up being a Wizards win.
Richard Hamilton, Pistons: Talk about being up and down. Two days after tying his season high with 27 points against the Wizards, Rip missed six of his seven shots and finished with just five points in a loss to the Mavs.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"They're still kind of searching out how they're going to find a role and work their roles together."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the Miami Heat
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Nowitzki Gets Help Late
8. Knicks Win Streak At Four
ESPN New York
The Knicks haven't had a five-game winning streak since Larry Brown was their coach back in January 2006, but they are on the verge of accomplishing that feat again. And they'll get a chance to go for it against Brown on Wednesday night in Charlotte, when these teams play the second game of a back-to-back against each other. New York survived two fourth-quarter rallies by Charlotte, shooting just 6-for-18 in the period, but the Knicks made 24 of 25 free throws and got the job done on the defensive end with 10 steals and nine blocks. They've now won four games in a row after a six-game losing streak to improve to 7-8 on the year, one win away from getting back to .500.
To read more from Sheridan, click here.
9. Awards Watch: Blake Leads Rooks
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers: The Clippers may only win every seven games, but at least Griffin has made them fun to watch. His dunk on Timofey Mozgov punctuated a 44-point, 15-rebound, 7-assist performance against the Knicks. He followed that with 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Clips surprised the Hornets. (Last week: 2)
2. John Wall, Wizards: Wall's injured foot has forced him to miss the past four. Couple that with Griffin's off-the-chart play, and it's easy to see why Wall is No. 2 ... for now. (Last week: 1)
3. Eric Bledsoe, Clippers: The point guard's playing time and production are starting to drop, and with Baron Davis due to return soon, Bledsoe had better enjoy his lofty position in the rankings now. (Last week: 3)
4. Landry Fields, Knicks: Fields is shooting over 55 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line. He had the signature game of his young career against Denver, finishing with 21 points and 17 rebounds. (Last week: 5)
5. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings: In a possible glimpse of the future, Cousins dropped in 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a loss to the Jazz on Monday night. (Last week: 4)
To read the entire Awards Watch, click here.