NBA

COURT MARSHALL: Kobe vs. Gino

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Mike Monroe

 
   
 
COURT

One on one:
vs.
Sunday at SBC Center, San Antonio.

Ginobili, this week's Reserve on the Rise, for obvious reasons, is one of the NBA's most aggressive, peskiest defenders of big guards. Bryant, of course, is the best big guard in basketball. How these two match up in this game may well be a precursor to the key matchup of what has the potential to be the best first-round series in the history of the NBA. (As things stand now, the and would meet in the first round, though both appear to have an opportunity to move up a notch in the standings before season's end.) Ginobili is such an outstanding defender and has such a good feel for what's happening on the court that coach Gregg Popovich has given him the green light to freelance and gamble on the defensive perimeter. Nobody has been able to shut down Bryant and Ginobili won't, either. But it will be fascinating to watch how this matchup plays out, especially considering the implications it has for the playoffs.

Game of the week: at
Thursday at Arco Arena
Sacramento

Game 3 of the season series between two teams that really don't like one another very much. And this one means more than most in what has become the NBA's most heated rivalry. Why? Well, start with the fact the have won seven of the last eight games they have played at otherwise daunting ARCO, including playoff games. Just as the last week needed to get a win at ARCO to diminish the ' mental edge should they meet in the playoffs the need to defend their home court in this one. Especially to prove to the that winning in Sacramento won't be easy should they meet in this season's playoffs, which is looking more and more likely. Then there is 's latest "dissing" of the -- more specifically, of . O'Neal scoffed at Bibby's being named to a spot on Team USA for this summer's Tournament of the Americas and next summer's Olympic Games. As only he can, O'Neal dismissed Bibby in the most insulting of ways. Bibby is nothing if not competitive, as he proved when he nearly led the to a series win over the in last season's memorable Western Conference finals. He is certain to respond in the most competitive of ways in this game.

Rookie to watch: ,

Granted, Tskitishvili has been a bust this season, a high lottery pick (fifth overall) in the last draft who might not even go in the first round were the draft re-held. But Tskitishvili has been in Denver's starting lineup for the last nine games as the try to give him some badly needed experience and confidence. The 19-year-old has had his moments of late, too. In a win over the he had 11 points and six assists. Tskitishvili often looks like a deer in the headlights. The are hoping that by playing a lot between now and season's end he can learn to jump out of the road before getting hit.
Mike Monroe can be reached at his e-mail address: mmonroe@foxsports.com.
Reserve on the rise
, : See "One on One." Had not Ginobili missed 13 games this season and been hobbled by a bad ankle sprain for another dozen he would have been a prime candidate for both Rookie of the Year and the Sixth Man Award. Fact is, he now logs all the crunch time minutes at big guard for the and has become a reliable third scoring threat, after and . He also ranks first in the league in steals-per-48 minutes, at 3.44.

Coach in a corner
Isiah Thomas, :OK, now it's official: The are in free fall. Thomas had better find the rip cord soon, or there's going to be a messy "splat!"

All net and air ball
  • All Net: To , , with our apologies. Kobe gets this week's "all net" award because he is about to become just the fourth player in NBA history to complete a season with averages of 30 points, six rebounds and six assists. He gets our apology because in Friday's NBA Notes we gushed about 's being on the verge of 30-six-and-five. That's quite a feat, all right, but Kobe's gone him one better and is about to join Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and as the only players to achieve 30-6-6.

  • Air Ball: To , Cavs

    This is the easiest air ball of the season to "award." What Davis did against the — intentionally missing a shot at the basket and rebounding the miss so he could get a triple double — is symptomatic of what is wrong with sports today: Selfish individuals more concerned with statistics than team play or the integrity of the game. The fact Davis was ignorant of the NBA rule that makes shooting at one's own basket a violation, which automatically negated his "rebound," magnifies his idiocy.

  • Stat of the week
    Utah's on Sunday passed Johnson and moved into second on the league's all-time assists list behind teammate . Here are the league's all-time leaders: 1. , 15,559 asst., 1,487 games, 10.5 apg.
    2. , 10,142, asst., 1,238 games, 8.2 apg.
    3. Johnson, 10,141 asst., 906 games, 11.2 apg.
    4. Oscar Robertson, 9,887 asst., 1,040 games, 9.5 apg.
    5. Isiah Thomas, 9,061 asst., 979 games, 9.3 apg.
    6. , 7,684 asst., 1,013 games, 7.6 apg.
    7. , 7,481 asst., 1,011 games, 7.4 apg.
    8. Maurice Cheeks, 7,392 asst., 1,101 games, 6.7 apg.
    9. Lenny Wilkens, 7,211 asst., 1,077 games, 6.7 apg.
    10. Terry Porter, 7,160 asst.; 1,274 games, 5.6 apg.
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