Back in the Saddle (Me and My Muse)
Posted by hiphopmama on January 21, 2009
LA Lakers 108, LA Clippers 97
Bynum went for 42. Kobe had a triple-double. Luke was back in the starting five. But this game was all about me. Incredibly egotistical? Hell yeah, but true nonetheless. In a sort of “if a tree falls in the forest” way, I’m not convinced the Lakers exist outside my own consciousness. Because, really, what is their purpose outside of making my own life livable? You may disagree, but I know the truth – we have a personal connection and our fates are linked like ET and Elliott. The both of us – me and the Lakers – have been going through a rough time of late. My life has been, well, shit, for lack of a better word, but I’ve been rolling with the punches. Same for the Lake Show, losing the first two of the murderous trifecta but coming back strong to beat the Cavs in part three, and we’re all slowly getting back on our feet. For both our sakes, I hope this is the beginning of better times.
This should have been a routine victory against a decimated Clippers line-up, but we made it a little more difficult than that, giving up the inevitable late run to make it a bit nervy down the stretch. We’re already prone to such mistakes, but this time it seemed to be our desire to get Bynum to 40 that got us off track, as Kobe and others fed him repeatedly on the screen-roll to get him over that hump. It never happened, and in the meantime the Clips strung together some points and got it to within seven. But then Kobe finally got his game face back in time to nail a tough runner and effectively sew it up. When a defensive rebound fell to Kobe, he finally had the chance he needed and found Bynum on the outlet, setting up the slam for the big man to hit 40. A rebound put-back later, and he had upped his career high to 42 to go along with 15 rebounds and 3 blocks.
It was an incredible night all around for Andrew. He finally fulfilled on all the promise mostly by just playing smart positionally and giving all the energy he had been lacking for a while. He made a number of nice post moves, to be sure, but most of his points came much more easily as a result of good spacing, movement, and passing in the two-man game. The Kobe-Bynum screen-roll worked particularly well, but everyone else found him tonight too and he was constantly moving to keep himself in position to receive the ball from the outside. His incessant board work also netted him a few baskets and helped the Lakers dominate the glass, 46 to 26 in rebounds. Not too surprising since the Clippers were without Camby and Kaman, but still a pretty resounding margin.
Kobe had a fairly mundane evening and still rolled out of the arena with a triple-double. No matter how much he tries to grin and bear it, that ring finger is hurting him and affecting his shot. The net result is that he’s still the best player on the floor every time out there, but he wisely adjusted his game to play to his strengths for the moment, foregoing the pull-up J in favor of slashing to the hoop and efficiently running the pick and roll from the elbow. He has been a league beyond his own lofty standards in distributing the ball these last few games, and he continued that trend with his 12 assists in this one. This year more than any other, he appears to have finally grasped the principle that it’s all about winning and not individual performance. If feeding the big guys down low will get it done, then do it do death, even if you take a few less shots in the process. Of course, it’s a lot easier to trust your teammates when you’re surrounding with the guys he’s playing with this year.
Did I mention that Luke came back? People can whine all they want about him having a weak shot or being a half-step slower than others we have at that position. For my money, he still easily belongs in the starting line-up. That doesn’t mean he’s the right guy to have in there at any given moment in the game, especially in the late minutes, but I think he is clearly the right choice for the starting five. He is a savvy player who stabilizes the squad, and starting him helps keep Ariza fresh for when we need his defense and athleticism later on. And by the way, Trevor stunk if up tonight, at least offensively. I’m all for him being confident enough to take the open shot when it’s there, especially if it comes from running the offense, but having him randomly rise up for a jumper with 15 left on the shot clock without ever chucking it down low is not a strategy I want to see us employ much. I don’t even love to see Kobe do that much, and I’m certainly not gonna take kindly to Ariza going down that road. I still love the guy to death and thank my lucky stars we got him on the cheap, but I’d rather he stick to running his ass off without the ball.
The only other thing of note in this game was DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers rookie center who got his second start of the year tonight. I’d never even heard of this guy before, but he sure made an impression tonight. He massacred us with his 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting, scoring the vast majority of those on emphatic dunks and generally overpowering everyone within his massive wingspan. The 12 rebounds and 4 blocks were further evidence of his omnipresence in the paint. The Clippers home announcers are some of the better ones out there, and while their increasingly stratospheric comparisons (Dwight Howard! Hakeem Olajuwon!) got a little out of hand, I can’t say they were too far off the mark in their praise. This is the first time he’s ever had a game like this so it’s much too early to say for sure, but if tonight’s performance was at all indicative, he’s got quite a future ahead of him. The joy he played with was fun to watch as well, and I was glad to see Kobe have a long and seemingly encouraging chat with him when the buzzer sounded. I’m definitely a Lakers fan, but I’m never averse to seeing the Clippers do well, and this Jordan kid could be the start of something good.
We get the Wizards tomorrow in what will hopefully be a less nerve-wracking game than the last but with the same outcome. I don’t know if you remember, but they caught us up late and Caron Butler even had a three to win it at the buzzer that fell just short. The Wiz are 9-32, but we should know better than to take them lightly. For once I’d like to see us NOT play down to the level of an inferior opponent, but I’ll settle for a win however we can get it. It’s nice to see the injury situation progressing, with Luke and Odom both back and Farmar progressing ahead of schedule. Hopefully we can get all our guys back in time to set ourselves after the All-Star break and make a serious run in the second half of the season – not just for home court advantage but for the comfort that comes with working out the kinks well in advance of the big test.
Until tomorrow, when I fully intend to be back with another recap.