Is this the Year of the Heat? LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Co. looked very impressive going into Dallas yesterday and leaving with a 105-94 victory that was nowhere as close as the final score indicated.
It was a statement game for Miami, which led by as many as 35 points midway through the third quarter. James led the front-running Heat with a game-high 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Nobody better as front-runners. Whether or not they can bounce back from adversity will be their true test this season.
On first glance, the defending champion Mavericks really miss center Tyson Chandler, now with the Knicks. And Jason Kidd appears to be a year slower as well as a year older.
In Los Angeles, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin promise to make a bid for on-court supremacy over the Lakers. The Clippers received 22 points and seven rebounds from Griffin and 20 points and nine assists from Paul in their 105-86 victory over the Warriors.
Kobe Bryant scored 28 points during the Lakers’ 88-87 loss to the Bulls while wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm. He hurt his wrist last week and appeared to have some trouble handling the ball, but not with his jump shot. Derrick Rose rallied the Bulls from an 11-point deficit and hit the game-winning shot.
Carmelo Anthony helped the Knicks overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and beat the Celtics, 106-104. He had a game-high 37 points, including two free throws with 16 seconds left that proved to be the difference. Boston was without the injured Paul Pierce.
Kevin Durant, the league’s scoring leader the past two seasons, went for 30 in Oklahoma City’s 97-89 victory over the Magic. Dwight Howard was held to 11 points.
Back on top: After proving to be mortal last week, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers heard the talk. Green Bay is vulnerable. Perhaps Tom Brady or Drew Brees will overtake Rodgers in the eyes of the MVP voters.
Then Rodgers threw five touchdown passes to lead the Packers to a 35-21 Christmas night victory over the Bears and we’re right back to where we started. Rodgers: the best player in the game. The Packers: Who can possibly beat them in Green Bay?
The cherry on top for the Packers (13-1) is knowing that they were the team to officially eliminate their rivals, the Bears, from playoff contention. Chicago was 7-3 when Jay Cutler went down, soon followed by Matt Forte. Now they’re 7-8.
Jordy Nelson and James Jones each caught two touchdown passes from Rodgers.
Saints are Super in New Orleans: The Saints (11-3) enter tonight’s Monday Night Football game against the Falcons hot on the trail of another division title and a first-round playoff bye.
Drew Brees has been sensational during New Orleans’ six-game winning streak and is poised to break Dan Marino’s single-season mark of 5,084 passing yards. Brees, who was 32 of 40 for 412 yards and five touchdowns against the Vikings last week, needs 305 yards tonight.
Atlanta (9-5) clinched a return to the playoffs when Green Bay knocked off the Bears last night.
Matt Ryan has tossed seven touchdown passes with no interceptions in his last two games, victories against the Panthers and Jaguars.
Picking games in the NFL is never a sure thing, but taking the Saints in the Superdome is as close as it gets. Go with New Orleans.
Tony Pauline of SI.com says there will be a couple of potential first-round picks on defense for North Carolina when the Tar Heels face Missouri tonight in Shreveport, La.
Defensive lineman Quinton Coples (No. 90) has had a disappointing senior year but still has the skills to be taken in the first round while linebacker Zach Brown (No. 47) has been moving up the draft board with his play this season. Brown is seen as a starting weakside linebacker in the pros.
For Missouri, Michael Egnew (No. 82) is a dependable pass-catcher who is also a deep threat from the tight end position. He has second-round talent. Wide receiver T.J. Moe (No. 28) is a potential third receiver and punt returner at the next level. He could go as early as the fourth round.