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LAst Night's Action: Kobe-less Lakers Make It Interesting in Denver

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Denver Nuggets defeat LA Lakers 98-96. In hockey terms, Kobe Bryant was a healthy scratch for the Lakers. In media terms, TNT was crying. As for Laker fans, it almost turned out well. The Lakers climbed back from a 15 point deficit in the third quarter to take the lead by attacking the paint and their swarming defense. After a back and forth fourth quarter, the Nuggets had the 98-96 lead with 12 seconds left. Derek Fisher with a second remaining went up for a three to win the game and was blocked by Carmelo Anthony. No foul, no bucket, no win. With the absence of Kobe, Sasha Vujacic took his place in the starting lineup scoring eight points including a key three down the stretch that gave the Lakers a seven point lead. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 26 points and 13 boards while Ron Artest added 22 points. Shannon Brown was key from the bench scoring 12 points in 27 minutes. For the Nuggets Carmelo led the way with 31 points, although he did land awkwardly on his ankle after blocking Fisher’s shot. JR Smith known for his big games against the Lakers didn’t disappoint with 26 points. The Lakers have now lost four of their last five games as they head to their final four games of the season.

LA Dodgers (1-2) defeat Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1) 10-2. Chad Billingsley proved that the third inning of the final spring game against the Angels at Dodger Stadium where he gave up five runs including a grand slam was an aberration. Not to say he didn’t get into trouble, but he was able to get out jams especially in the fourth inning when with the bases loaded he got out of the jam striking out Andy LaRoche and pitcher Paul Maholm. Meanwhile the Dodgers did a much better job getting runners home. They took a 1-0 lead when after Reed Johnson doubled, James Loney singled him home. After Rafael Furcal doubled to lead off the third inning, Johnson bunted him over to third and Matt Kemp scored him home with a fly ball to deep center for a 2-0 lead. After the Pirates got one run back for a 4-1 deficit, the Dodgers exploded for four runs in the seventh inning off of Pirates reliever Hayden Penn. The first six hitters got on base safely with the only out being recorded when Johnson was thrown out at home. Penn would save himself with a double play to end the inning with the Dodgers leading 8-2. After Delwyn Young doubled Ryan Doumit home in the eighth inning, the Ronnie Belliard responded with an RBI double and Garret Anderson hit a fly ball scoring Loney for the 10-2 lead.

Chad Billingsley (W, 1-0): 5 1/3 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts. 107 pitches/66 strikes.

Paul Maholm (L, 0-1): 6 innings, 4 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 homer. 90 pitches/61 strikes.

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Phoenix Coyotes defeat LA Kings 3-2 (SO). Two faceoff losses by the Kings allowed the game to be tied 2-2 late in regulation as the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Kings 3-2 in the shootout.
Read my recap of the game complete with quotes!

Minnesota Twins (3-1) defeat LA Angels (1-3) 10-1. It took a while, but the Twins took out their big sticks and pounded the Angels. The Angels took the quick 1-0 lead in the second inning when Maicer Izturis drove Juan Rivera in with a sacrifice fly. But after that Twins pitching took over. Starter Kevin Slowey was just sharp enough giving up that lone run and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings while the bullpen gave up only one hit the remainder of the game. The offense rewarded them in the fifth inning with a Jason Kubel single that scored Jim Thome and Brendan Harris hitting a two-run homer to put the Twins up for good 3-1. Thome in the eighth inning hit an Earl Weaver, his 565th homer of his career, to give the Twins the 6-1 advantage. And to prove they weren’t done, they got in four runs including a Delmon Young Earl Weaver. Basically it wasn’t a pretty night for Angels pitching.

Joel Pineiro (L, 0-1): 6+ innings, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 2 strike outs, 1 homer. 103 pitches/66 strikes.

Kevin Slowey (W, 1-0): 5 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 3 strike outs. 92 pitches/60 strikes.

Sacramento Kings defeat LA Clippers 116-94. Kings Rookie of the Year contender Tyreke Evans proved hard to stop as the Clippers lost in a blowout. Evans got 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists with almost no resistance from the Clips. Despite the lopsided nature of the score, the Clips were actually trailing only by three points at the end of three quarters, but the Kings went on a 16-2 run to take care of that. The Clips proving to be slump busters allowed the Kings to break their eight game losing streak. Chris Kaman led the Clips with 23 points and six rebounds while Eric Gordon scored 21.

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Dallas Stars defeat Anaheim Ducks 3-2 (SO). A game between two teams out of the playoffs was made eventful when Mike Modano of the Stars had a goal and an assist in regulation. In the shootout, he scored in the second round to help the Stars win in their final home game. Modano said before the game that he was considering retiring, and fans in Dallas begged him to stay. With six minutes left in regulation, the video board showed Modano who got a standing ovation and cheers from the referees and Ducks. Bobby Ryan scored both goals for the Ducks.

Notable Notes

  • When one thinks of the NBA coach with the most wins ever Pat Riley, Red Auerbach or even Phil Jackson would be the ones that come to mind right away. But with his team’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night, Golden State Warriors’ head coach Don Nelson has supplanted Lenny Wilkins as the winningest NBA head coach. With a record of 1,333-1,061 Nelson has won coach of the year three times in a career that took him to Milwaukee, New York, Dallas and Golden State twice. While he has never been to the NBA Finals as a head coach, he did make the playoffs with every team except New York. Nelson introduced the concept of the point forward where the small forward directed the offense. He was also known for using undersized lineups with much success. Of course that’s where he got into trouble in his partial season with New York who were coming off seasons of success with Pat Riley’s defensive brand.
  • Baseball umpire extraordinaire “Cowboy” Joe West is not happy with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. West told the Bergen Report, “They’re the two clubs that don’t try to pick up the pace. They’re two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest? It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.”While all the Red Sox and Yankees players are butt hurt about these comments, it’s the damned truth. Why the hell does Yankees catcher Jorge Posada have to go out to the mound to talk to CC Sabathia eight times in one inning as he did in Game 4 of the World Series? As Jerry Coleman hall of fame announcer for the San Diego Padres told me last season, “Two hours. This damned game should be played in two hours.”

Tonight’s Action

LA Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves. 5:00 pm KCAL9, AM 710 KSPN.

LA Dodgers (1-2) at Florida Marlins. Hiroki Kuroda (0-0) vs Chris Volstad (0-0). 4:10 pm FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.

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Oakland Athletics (3-1) at LA Angels (1-3). Gio Gonzalez (0-0) vs. Matt Palmer (0-0).7:05 pm FSWest, AM 830 KLAA.

Anaheim Ducks at St. Louis Blues. 5:00 pm KDOC,