Starting 5


Every morning, we will give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1: Getting testy

Russ Isabella/USA TodayOklahoma City has some tough guys. Kendrick Perkins is not going to take anything from anybody. Russell Westbrook is a bit of a hothead.

But Kevin Durant? As the commercial says, he is the nicest guy in the NBA.

A bad night though will raise some emotions and perhaps looking forward to a much-deserved All-Star Break is enough to make emotions run a little bit higher. Not to mention the physical style of play and raucous crowd teams usually encounter when they travel to Salt Lake City.

Al Jefferson was complaining about Kendrick Perkins tacitly elbowing him and pushing him all night. Kevin Durant was complaining about fans sitting behind the Thunder bench. And then he got in a shoving match with DeMarre Carroll late in the game as Oklahoma City saw the game slip away.

Utah won 109-94, withstanding 33 points from Kevin Durant and 22 from Russell Westbrook. Al Jefferson though withstood all the pounding in the paint with 23 points.

What is surprising, Oklahoma City shot 55.9 percent from the floor. But the the Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 38-26 including 16 offensive rebounds. That proved to be a big difference. The Jazz were better in the paint and better for the game.

And Oklahoma City has one more game before the break to worry about — at home against Miami.

2: Pass happy

Danny Moloshok/Stamford AdvocateKobe Bryant did not make his first field goal until there were two minutes left in the game. That would be a Lakers loss, right?

Not quite. The Lakers held off the Suns 91-85 on Tuesday at Staples Center behind a stellar performance from Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to make up for Bryant's odd offensive performance.

Howard scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. Steve Nash had 10 points and eight assists, pulling the strings on the offense late to help the Lakers pull away.

The story of the night though was Kobe Bryant's stat line. Bryant scored only four points on 1-for-8 shooting. He had eight of his nine assists in the first half and eight turnovers. It was not an overall good game from Bryant. Particular since the second half he was extremely inefficient with the ball and seemingly actively not looking for his shot.

In fact, the four points were the fewest Bryant has scored since January of 2005 – in a game he played only six minutes. He has not scored this few points in a game he played at least 20 minutes in since March of 1998. It sure seemed like Bryant was trying too hard to be pass-first.

Bryant had plenty of help though. Antawn Jamison came off the bench to add 19 points. The Lakers still lacked a fair amount of urgency and the frustration was visible. The Lakers raced out to the lead in the first half while Bryant was efficient with his passing. But turnovers allowed Phoenix to make a double-digit comeback. It was not until the fourth quarter that the Lakers finally took control.


Rudy Gay wins it

Look out for Tony Allen

Steal and Foye

4: Line of the Night: Dwight Howard — 19 points, 18 rebounds

Maybe it was the headband all along. Dwight Howard ditched the headband he was sporting this season and put in a throwback performance with Kobe Bryant doing whatever he was doing. Howard was aggressive on the boards and active running the pick and roll with Steve Nash. He was exactly what the Lakers needed and will need. Especially at the end of the game defensively.

5:  You can quote me on that

I knew we needed him down the stretch. I waited as long as I could, waited as long as I could. I kept asking the coaches, 'Can I get him back in now?' and all the coaches were saying, 'Let's wait, let's wait, let's wait.' I knew we were going to need him and I was trying to save him.

-Raptors coach Dwane Casey on putting Rudy Gay in with five fouls in the fourth quarter

I'm kind of at a loss for words, honestly. To be able to have this streak, to be able to do it when we're winning games, to be able to be efficient means a lot.

Heat forward LeBron James on his stunning efficiency lately

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily