Posted by hiphopmama on March 24, 2009
LA Lakers 107, Oklahoma City 89
Exactly one month after their last win in Oklahoma City, the Lakers were back for more, looking to stay within a single game of the Cavs. Like the last game, we jumped out to a quick lead, built that lead up, and then sort of coasted. Unlike the last game, the players – be they starters or subs – maintained the lead all the way to the finish. It was exactly the kind of game I am constantly imploring them to play, and for once they delivered. They led from the opening to the closing whistle, and the Thunder never got closer than 17 points in the second half.
The obvious upside of this was that the starters got a good rest in the fourth. Kobe sat out all of the final quarter, and Pau left with more than 8 minutes to go, which is plenty good news heading into the final five games of this road trip over the next eight days. Gasol somehow still managed to play 34 minutes, but no one else reached 30. Six players scored in double-figures (Kobe 19; Odom 18; Pau 14; Powell 14; Fisher 11; Walton 11), and Shannon Brown even came in and got a couple buckets, including an awesome dunk on the fast break.
Full disclosure here, I didn’t get to actually watch this one. I remembered at the last minute and tried to tell it to record from the computer at my mom’s house, but the damn thing didn’t listen to me so I was stuck reading all the recaps and watching all the highlight packages I could find. I’m glad to hear I didn’t miss the most exciting match-up, but I would have liked to see them play a dominating start-to-finish game, since we don’t get to witness that too often.
For whatever reason, I was looking to this road trip as a possible time for us to get our act together, and so far we look to be doing just that. Maybe there are less distractions on the road, or the team just has nothing better to do than focus on itself and what needs to be done. It seems pretty likely given that places like Oklahoma City don’t have quite the same night life as Los Angeles and its environs. Maybe the guys just get up for the challenge better with a sort of Tupac “Me Against the World” mentality, hunkering down around their play. Whatever the case, I like what I’ve seen so far, or at least since the comeback against the Bulls. That first half can go to hell.
We start the first of our two back-to-backs on this trip, heading to Detroit on Wednesday and then New Jersey on Thursday. I know we have a lot more road games left than Cleveland, but they’re not against real powerhouse teams for the most part. We do have to play Detroit and Atlanta this next week, and we have one more chance for redemption in Portland (dear god, please), but the toughest of our remaining match-ups are all at home: against Houston, Denver, and Utah. Lots of those games will test our mettle, to be sure, and knowing our tendency for lapses I’m sure we will indeed slip at some point(s). But I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say we might catch the Cavs after all, especially since we have the tiebreaker. Of the three big teams – us, Cleveland, and Boston – the Cavs have the biggest need for home court advantage, and I don’t even think it’s close. They still have just one loss at home all season, and, unlike the Lakers and Celtics, they haven’t proven they can get the requisite road wins to advance in the playoffs. This year is different, sure, but they’re still a young and relatively inexperienced team looking to make that breakthrough, so playing at home will help their chances greatly. And oh yeah, that one home loss? That was to us, suckers, so I’m not overly concerned with catching them. It would be nice – hella, to expose my NorCal leanings – but it’s not absolutely essential. I know everyone goes on and on about that game six lost last year in Boston, but that wasn’t down to being on the road. That certainly didn’t help, but our backs were broken on our own home floor in game four, when we gave up a 24-point lead to fall behind 3-1 in the series. Would it be nicer to play games 6 & 7 at home, along with those mood-setting first two? Hells yeah it would. But this team believes it can steal at least one game on anyone opponent’s court, so even without it they’ll be okay and likely to win or lose on their own merits. I still wish they’d do a 2-2-1-1-1 for the Finals, though. Who the hell can consistently string together three wins in the playoffs, even on their home floor??