What's On Tap Tonight
Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs (TNT, 9 p.m. ET)
What To Watch
Some Los Angeles Lakers fans are hoping that Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who shot a combined 22.2 percent in the Lakers loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series, will rally and come riding over the hill to save the club in tonight's Game 2 matchup.
Malone and Payton combined for 14 points on 4-of-18 shooting in Game 1. On defense, with Malone and Shaquille O'Neal protecting the Lakers' basket, Spurs' forward Tim Duncan still managed to score 30 points. Payton, a former nine-time member of the NBA's All Defensive team, failed to slow San Antonio guard Tony Parker, who tallied 20 points and 9 assists.
The question Malone and Payton must answer is whether they can keep up with the Spurs young stars. A 40-year-old Malone must help defend a 28-year-old Duncan. A 35-year-old Payton must try to cover a 21-year-old Parker.
The bad news for the Lakers is that even if Malone and Payton catch fire, the Spurs have several players of their own that are due to break out of their own slumps. San Antonio guard Hedo Turkoglu went scoreless after missing all six shots against Los Angeles. Former Laker Robert Horry, who has a history of shinning in the playoffs, also was shut out in 23 minutes of play.
Last Night's Big Winner (Team)
Miami Heat. A young Heat squad, which began the season 0-7 and were 25-36 in March, was supposed to crumble under the pressure of a seventh and deciding game. Instead, they unleashed a transition game, grabbed an early lead that they never relinquished and won 85-77 to eliminate New Orleans.
Last Night's Big Loser (Team)
New Orleans Hornets. The purge has begun in New Orleans. Expected to replace coach Tim Floyd, the franchise saw general manager Bob Bass retire today in the wake of last night's loss.
The Hornets battled back from 2-0 deficit in the series only to bumble Game 7. The club turned the ball over 20 times compared to Miami's 6. On defense, the Heat were more aggressive as well, logging 13 steals to the Hornets 2.
After a 17-7 start, New Orleans finished with a 42-42 regular season record and is bounced in the first round for a second straight year. The 42 victories is five fewer than last season when Paul Silas was coach.
Last Night's Big Winner (Player)
Mike Bibby. Keys the Sacramento Kings 104-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves with 33 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 7 assists. Bibby tops the 40-point performance by Timberwolves' Sam Cassell by hitting big shots and finding open teammates late in the game.
Last Night's Big Loser (Player)
Latrell Sprewell. Kings shut down the mercurial forward, holding him to 5 points on 2-of-14 shooting and 5 rebounds.