There wasn't much hype to this game considering that these two played only 3 weeks ago in Miami. But that didn't stop this game from being just as entertaining as the last. 5 technical fouls, 3 disqualifications, and Shaq and Kobe combined for 20 in the 4th.
It's just too bad it didn't have a more climactic ending.Much like last year's Lakers/Heat game in LA, the Lakers led practically the whole game. Lamar Odom finished just an assist shy of a triple-double and managed 19 points despite never really asserting himself.
Devean George provided 17 off the bench as well as an intensity boost. And of course Kobe had 37. When Bryant actually shoots above .500 in a game, you know the other team is in trouble.Miami had injury added to insult with ailments to both Jason Williams and Dwayne Wade. Williams didn't return and Wade has serious troubles with mobility.
The game's highlight obviously occurred in the short time that Andrew Bynum was in it. After getting posterized by a Shaq dunk, Bynum was able to turn away from O'Neal and slam the ball in his face. Bynum was so hyped that he inadvertently nudged Shaq, who wasn't shy on responding with a powerful forearm to the chest. It was a double technical and neither players were ejected.
However Shaq can expect a fine in the near future.Miami began to make a run with both Wade and O'Neal out in the early stages of the 4th. Payton, Walker and Mourning (the only Heat players to play off the bench) all contributed heavily and helped cut the lead down. When Wade came in he gave the Heat a lift and hit several bank shots to trim the lead to 3. However he was wobbling the entire way and might sit out the next game.But in the end it was too much Kobe.
Hitting four tough shots he carried the Lakers on his back and prevented Shaq to get the better of him this time around. Wade finished with 34 and O'Neal ended with 18.Thanks to the Spurs/Grizzlies game, the start of this one was delayed so we didn't get to see Shaq and Kobe exchange heartfelt interactions. As sick as I was of these two meeting or not meeting at half court, this gesture was both appropriate and nice to see. Shaq said that Bill Russell told him to shake hands with Bryant; major kudos for Russell for both taking place in the Spurs/Grizz halftime and this.All those great early games on Monday were a perfect tribute to MLK.
It wasn't necessary to play all the games in the afternoon instead of night but it showed that it was a special occasion. The Memphis/San Antonio halftime show was significant (where were all the fans? How could FedEx Forum be that empty?). If Kobe/Shaq is to be annually played, the NBA should consider putting it on MLK day. Seeing Kobe and Shaq extend an olive branch is fitting for the occasion, and this shouldn't be the last time we see it..
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By: David Pincus