Posted by hiphopmama on April 21, 2009
Utah 109, LA Lakers 119
Lakers lead series 2-0
What’s new? We can’t keep quick guards out of the lane and we can’t hold a lead. Oh, and we rarely lose. I guess I’ll take those first two as long as they come with the third. We came out strong again tonight, building up another big lead in the first half and squandering it due to sloppy play in the third quarter. We had a strong finish to the third to set us up for the fourth quarter up double-figures, but that disintegrated after a while too and we found ourselves up just three points with three minutes remaining. An Odom lay-up and Kobe pull-up put it into the cooler, if not the refrigerator, but Ariza’s three with 33 seconds to go put the game on ice and shipped it back to Utah for game 3.
What was so disappointing here was that the boneheadedness was distributed throughout the team so evenly, even creeping into the play of bona fide clutch-masters like Kobe. Up just 5 points with 1:42 to play, Kobe throws a ridiculous full-court pass off a steal that gets intercepted but thankfully only leads to a Utah shot clock violation. Pau missed a pair of free throws late that would have left the ending much less in doubt. The whole team played lackadaisical basketball throughout the third and fourth quarters, seemingly drinking the Kool-Aid and believing their own hype. Deron Williams was a fucking beast again, and he refused to let his team go quietly into the night, firing away for 35 points and 6 three-pointers. His 9 assists outweighed his 7 turnovers, but the TOs hurt him in the end as they squashed any chance of a Utah comeback.
This is the kind of game we’ve seen the Lakers play all year, and we attribute it to regular season malaise. “They’re just too good for the competition,” we say. “Wait for the postseason. They’ll get it together then, when there’s something to play for.” To which I say: bull…shit. There is no proverbial switch. You build and lose momentum incrementally, and you cannot simply turn it around because you feel like it. That means that you MUST play the entire game like every possession – both offensive and defensive – is crucial. No more of this taking quarters off business, especially the third. It’s inexcusable. We’re not THAT good, for pete’s sake. No one is.
Still, at the end of the day, we head back to Utah up two games to none and looking, realistically, for a split in the two games in Salt Lake City. We don’t have the most pristine record facing the Jazz away, so I don’t foresee a sweep, but one win out of two seems like a reasonable prediction. Then, if we don’t make too big a mess of it, we should be poised to close things out on our own home court in five games to give us ample rest time before the second round. Looking too far ahead, you say? Nah, never that. Just reading the writing on the wall, as even Jerry Sloan seems to have done. We’re still the best team in basketball, albeit by a slim margin (kudos to Mike Brown and Cleveland), but we’re going to have to play like it to claim that title officially, and tonight was not the best indication of our potential. Phil should yell/scream/meditate/WHATEVER some sense into them after that game and remind them that the better teams WILL make them pay for those kinds of lapses. Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me twice……can’t- can’t get fooled again.