It Had To Be
Posted by hiphopmama on May 21, 2009
Denver 106, LA Lakers 103
Series tied 1-1
Did anyone really expect this series to go any other way? After watching game 1? Please. We Laker fans may have harbored dreams of taking a commanding 2-0 lead and picking them off in 5 or 6, but this series screams “seven games” loud and clear. If it weren’t for the Bulls-Celtics first round series, I would not hesitate to dub this one a classic in the making, but as it stands it is likely to play second fiddle after that stunner. Yet while that match-up yielded more purely fantastic results, game after game, the stakes in this series are so much higher that, even without a single overtime game, this one might trump it.
With that build-up, you just knew we were going to be heading back to Denver at 1-1. The frustrating part was how it happened. Tonight’s script was a reverse image of game 1, with the Lakers jumping out to the big first half lead – as high as 14 points – only to watch it dwindle and then disappear in the fourth quarter. Somehow, even with that big lead, we were the ones playing catch-up late in the game after Denver roared back to claim a 7-point lead at the 9-minute mark of the fourth. Our almost savior tonight was the three-point line, as big shots kept us in the running on numerous occasions. Back-to-back threes by Kobe and Brown cut that 7-point lead to 1, and a tough pull-up from distance by Kobe evened the score at 99. This time, though, the Nuggets were the ones who performed down the stretch, making free throw after free throw and executing (just) effectively enough to stave off a cataclysmic 2-0 series deficit.
Carmelo had another stellar game despite a slow start, finishing with 34 points and 9 rebounds, including some incredible displays of strength on the offensive glass in crunch time. The way he effortlessly muscles defenders out of the way is a sight to behold, although it’s one I wouldn’t mind never witnessing again this season. He has officially shed the “chokes in big situations” tag he earned early in his career. He has stepped up marvelously in this series, going head to head with Kobe and coming up essentially even with one of the best to ever do it. Win, lose, or draw, I have gained a lot of respect for him, especially in his evident maturation as a person and player. Rather than engaging in Kenyon Martin style demonstrations after the play, he now simply jogs back up court and gets his job done. It doesn’t preempt him from being incredibly intense or maintaining his focus at all times, but it does prevent the occasional self-destruction he was prone to in the past. It’s nice to see that players can indeed develop in this way, and he is currently reaping the benefits.
On the (very small) plus side, our bigs played better in this game, looking less like the Swiss cheese they resembled in game 1. Pau had a strong night on the boards (17 rebounds plus 17 points), but two consecutive missed free throws late in the fourth put a damper on his rejuvenated performance. Odom played capably as well, as did Bynum, but Andrew was somewhat MIA as a result of Phil’s resorting to a smaller line-up, with Shannon Brown picking up a lot of those minutes. He played well in them too, scoring 8 points and hitting a big three in the fourth quarter. What was extra impressive was his willingness to take and make the big shot in an important situation. His worth just keeps going up and up.
I think the only take-home lesson from these first two games is that this is going to be a tight, tight series with little breathing room. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the end of the series, the total point differential over a full seven games was under 25 or 30 points. Right now, we’re on pace for more like 20 points of differential between these two teams, a testament to how well constructed and well coached they both are.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to game 3 we go…