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We're still two months away from the start of the NBA playoffs but last night's Lakers-Suns game had a playoff feel to it.

Of course, the story line was Shaquille O'Neal in his first game with his new team, the Phoenix Suns, against his old team and, more notably, old teammate Kobe Bryant.  Give this one to Bryant and the Lakers.  Los Angeles won, 130-124, and Bryant scored 41 points.

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But Phoenix wasn't entirely disappointed.  Earlier this season, O'Neal, nursing a bad hip, had been of no help to struggling Miami.  But the curative powers of the desert Southwest are amazing indeed (being with a contender helps, too).  Shaq played 29 minutes, scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked a couple shots.  He shot well from the field and lousy from the line. In brief, he looked like Shaq and, assuming his soon-to-be 36-year-old body holds up, he should help the Suns the way they planned when they sent Shawn Marion to the Heat to get the big guy.

It got less attention but another playoff-preview game was going on in New Orleans where the team with the Hornets, who own the best record in the NBA West, beat Dallas, 104-93.  That game also had a superstar wearing a new jersey.  Jason Kidd was back as a Maverick and the results were so-so -- 37 minutes, eight points, six rebounds and five assists.  It'll take a little time for Dallas to adjust to its new point guard, but the Mavs didn't get Kidd for games in February. They got him for games when the weather is a whole lot nicer and the results mean a whole lot more.

Photo credit: Alex Gallardo, Los Angeles Times

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