Better To Be Lucky Than Good?
Posted by hiphopmama on December 16, 2008
New York 114, LA Lakers 116
Message to the home crew: Can we please stop with the streamers after mediocre, regular season wins? I used to laugh at the Mavericks for pulling that shit, thinking that the Lakers would never do that because they knew there was only one time for a real celebration: after winning it all. And now look at us. Yay! We beat the Knicks! By two points!! Chris Rock mode coming: What you want, a cookie?? You’re SUPPOSED to beat the Knicks at home. What’s that you say? The Knicks only had a seven man roster? That sounds familiar. Transition to Chris Farley: Y-y-you ‘member that time, umm, at the Staples Center, umm, w-when we needed all 48 minutes to beat an eight man S-s-suns team? That was awesome.
Except that it wasn’t, and neither was this. We won. Big whoop. I’ll give us credit for the good, patient comeback and ability to play the final minutes well. And yes, Pau Gasol was out with strep throat which understandably ravaged our lineup because he has been the one constant all year. Oh yeah, and all five starters were in double figures too, plus Ariza off the bench with 13. And Kobe shot over 50% for once. Wait! I’m pissed off. No more positives.
I can’t lie. I missed the first half because the game was, unbeknownst to me, on NBATV. I had set it up to record on the regular League Pass channel, so when I tuned in after the kiddo went to bed I had to scramble to figure out what had happened. Apparently I didn’t miss much of value, because we finished the half down by 15 due largely to being burned by three point shots. The Knicks scored five three pointers in the first quarter alone – six really, because Robinson drained all three free throws on a foul by Jordan Farmar. So that’s 18 points just off those, contributing to a 37 point quarter for New York. And then – count ’em – six threes in the second quarter to boot. They only needed four other field goals and a couple free throws to outscore us by four in the second.
Luckily we came out surging in the second half, going on an 11-2 run and getting back within striking distance. Of course we missed a number of chances to close the gap all the way, but we eventually caught up and took the lead in the fourth quarter. It would have been an easier run to the finish line if Nate Robinson hadn’t nailed a three-pointer at the end of a well-defended possession when the Knicks were down two, but the little bugger hit the big shot and made us win it outright. A good pass from Odom to Ariza resulted in a bucket to restore the lead, and a missed shot by Harrington forced the Knicks to foul and send Fisher to the line. When Robinson missed a shot in the lane on the subsequent possession, it became a free throw contest and was essentially over. (Thank goodness Phil ran that drill, eh?) At least it was an exciting finish.
And now, because it’s what you’ve come to expect, the requisite gripes. Here we go.
The list of non-star players that has gone off on us is ridiculous. John Salmons? Matt Barnes? Nate fucking Robinson?? Dude is two feet tall. His ginormous ego bumps him up to like three and change, but there’s still no way he should have season-high numbers against us. The fact that David Lee threw in 18 as well makes it that much worse. Disgusture.
Josh Powell may be the only person on this team who can box out properly. I know I’ve ridden this topic to death lately, but it’s sickening watching rebound after rebound fall into the opposition’s hands because three fools under the basket couldn’t put their backside on someone. Powell has a helluva nose for the ball but is also fundamentally sound, and he certainly made the most of his minutes tonight. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in the future. He’s quick, athletic, has a decent shot, can make a free throw, and, most important, is always at work out there. He’s less experienced but only marginally less effective than Odom, which is quite the knock on Lamar. Think we could dangle our sixth man out there and see if anyone bites? We need a surefire starter at the three rather than four passable players at that position, and he seems like the one expendable player who could garner something decent in return. I like him and appreciate his willingness (lately) to come off the bench, but we need to shore up the defense and get some more consistency and I’m looking for any possible way that might happen. As for the rumors that Sasha Vujacic is on the trading block, I couldn’t really care less one way or the other. I always thought he had the potential to be a key piece of the puzzle, but he has been mostly atrocious this season and his attitude doesn’t help. He’s had a better last few games, but his lapses are still too frequent and too costly, like those two ridiculous fouls in a row, one of which could easily have been called a flagrant. If we could someone good for him, I say let him go. No hard feelings, Sasha. If you could get your shit together I’d definitely be in your corner.
Despite the grumbling, there were a number of good things to take from this game. I’ve already mentioned most of them, but I figured I’d collect them in one place so as not to be too much of a downer after a win. Because I’m lazy I’m just gonna list ’em.
- We had six players in double figures (Kobe 28; Odom 17; Fisher 15; Walton 14; Bynum 13; Ariza 13).
- That distributed scoring helped us get the job done without Pau Gasol in the lineup. Our performance gets a +1 for adversity.
- Another +1 for being composed enough to come back from a significant halftime deficit against a good offensive team (top three scoring in the league). We didn’t get too harried except for a couple spells and we got stops when we needed to.
- Double-doubles for both Odom (17 & 12) and Bynum (13 & 11).
- Wow. Just noticed this one. We only had 11 turnovers with New York getting just 12 points off of them. That’s quite an improvement from the 20+ TOs we’ve been known to commit. Neither of our two point guards turned it over once.
- Kobe looks to be getting his form back. He’s making that pull-up J from the wing with more consistency and seems to have his legs under him better. He only needed 22 shots to get his 28 points and had a very well-rounded game with an additional 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. Them’s Jason Kidd numbers.
So that’s the good and the bad of it, albeit more of the latter than the former. I’ve realized that my sports criticism is the complete opposite of my music criticism. When I’m reviewing a new album (over at the illustrious RapReviews.com), I give artists the benefit of the doubt and am always on the look-out for the silver lining. Is there something here that might appeal to others if not to me? Is there potential for improvement? Might these people send me free shit? (J/K) With the Lakers, on the other hand, I can’t so easily overlook their flaws, and I think it’s because I have the long view in sight and such high expectations. Last season was already like their debut album, or maybe even their sophomore slump, so they are at the point where they should be delivering on their promise, not waffling around mediocrity. Am I a bad fan for seeing so much of the negative? I don’t think so. It just so happens that this team has ridiculously high expectations based on its history and its players, yet it makes things much more difficult than it needs to. We are so talented and so deep, with considerable experience playing together, that we can make it to 21-3 while playing well below our capabilities, but we shouldn’t have to be scrapping like this to beat sub-.500 teams. If that three-peat was their “Illmatic,” then the failed fourth was their “It Was Written” – almost but not quite; the between-Phil years were “Nastradamus” – gag-worthy; and last year was “Stillmatic” – a return to form that couldn’t quite eclipse our previous greatness. I’m praying that we can leapfrog “God’s Son,” “Street’s Disciple,” and “Hip Hop Is Dead,” and go straight to “Untitled” and finally fulfill our promise. Because based on our early output you knew we had lots more good stuff to come, but we haven’t been able to bring it all together yet. Hopefully this will finally be the year we bury Escobar and resurrect the Nasty. And if you get all that, you are my kind of hoops fan.