All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘blazers’

WTF Is Up With Portland?

Posted by hiphopmama on April 10, 2009

Is it the postseason yet?

Is it the postseason yet?

LA Lakers 98, Portland 106

(63-17)

Even more importantly, what is up with Phil? He just didn’t feel like traveling to the Pacific Northwest this weekend? He needed a little breather before the playoffs? I’ve never heard of a coach missing a game for a foot injury, but I am not yet of that venerable age so maybe I just don’t get it. Whatever the case, we were coach-less tonight, with Kurt Rambis filling in for the beardless one, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it actually mattered. Not an excuse, just something to note. Believe me – we don’t need any excuses for losses in the Rose Garden. Not at this point anyway.

I won’t go into the whole game much. It was a good one, with both teams sparring and feeling each other out, taking what the opponent had to offer and then counter-punching with the best of them. The teams traded leads a few times, but a Portland surge gave the Blazers a small lead late and forced us to play catch-up down the stretch. Kobe and Brandon Roy squared off in a battle of two of the game’s best closers, and Kobe was not the victor tonight. Granted, it’s easier to play as the front-runner in that situation, but Roy was tough as nails and aggressive in the clutch. It takes cojones to want to take those meaningful shots late in games, and Roy was sporting a Sam Cassell pair in this one. After Kobe and Wade, he’s the best I’ve seen this year. As with Dwyane, I can’t even be mad about it because I like the dude.

I’m baffled as to how this can be, but I actually like this Blazers team as a whole. It’s quite a change from their old toker persona, when Sheed and Stoudemire were passing blunts rather than basketballs, and their youngsters are a likable bunch. LaMarcus Aldridge, despite a relatively quiet 16 tonight, has an impressive all-around game to complement his size and strength on the block. Steve Blake is one of those hard-nosed utility guys at the point, and he proved he can hit key shots tonight as well. Travis Outlaw is another fun player to watch and is explosive off the bench. And Brandon Roy is a superstar in the making who I fully expect to be a perennial all-star in the league. To top it off, none of them has the A-hole attitude that the old Blazers possessed in spades. Batum has his moments, but nothing that approaches Rasheed levels of impertinence. I wish them well, although I wouldn’t be sad to see them go out in the first round. I’ll be damned if I want to see us head up to Portland again this year.

And now to swagger-jack one of my favorite soccer blogs, Ole Ole’s Chelsea blog, with the following segment: the good, the bad, and the ugly. First off the good:

  • Shannon Brown. He has been by far my favorite Laker over the past week. He comes in and just does his job with the requisite hustle. Shooting 4-for-4 with two 3-pointers doesn’t hurt, either, and his contributions were much appreciated tonight, as evidenced by his 20 minutes on the floor. Farmar has slipped way down the bench, playing just 5 minutes tonight and going 0-for-2, but I’m not particularly sad about it. Brown even proved that he can fill in at the point a little, paired with Sasha in the backcourt, which gives us lots more options in there. For a throw-in on a cap-saving trade deal, he’s been quite an addition. 
  • Brandon Roy. Gotta give credit where it’s due, and Roy certainly earned it tonight. He didn’t have the most amazing shooting night, but just like Kobe, he found a way to get it done when it counted and his team reaped the benefits. Keep an eye on this one. (Not “that one,” as per McCain. Just saying.)
  • Kobe Bryant. I suppose you have to put him in here for scoring 32 points and carrying us down the stretch, but it wasn’t a stellar performance from him in general. He was in foul trouble from jump, picked up a technical foul, and spent more time pouting than defending at times. Wait, this is the “good” section…
  • Lamar Odom. 17 points off the bench, plus 10 boards for the double-double. That is one helluva sixth man. Bynum is still a step – or maybe two or three – slow, but the ability to bring a player like Odom off the bench is a huge luxury that we should use to our advantage from here on out.

And the bad:

  • Derek Fisher. 1-for-7 and 2 points in 23 minutes. Is he getting tired? He definitely had to carry a heavy load this season when Farmar went out, so maybe it’s catching up with him. Maybe he’s just coasting to the finish line before the postseason push. Don’t want to be too harsh on him because he’s always come through for us when we needed him, but I’m hoping he can pick it up in the playoffs. We need his leadership out there, but not without any kind of production.
  • Trevor Ariza. He came out with a bang when he was first inserted into the starting line-up, but his effectiveness has waned since then. Even his defense hasn’t been as sparkling as usual, so I wonder whether a move back to the bench might not be in order. He seems to thrive there anyway.
  • Team defense. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but at the same time it is. We held the Blazers to 42.7% shooting and took them out of their offense at times, but we got all of 2 steals for the whole game. What happened to the old swarming team that forced double-digit turnovers in a half? I understand that a more settled D is helping us hold down opponent shooting percentages, but the drop-off can’t be this huge. We just looked tired tonight, which makes sense since it was the second of a home-away back-to-back. We also had just one block to Portland’s 6 and were out-rebounded 44-39. 
  • Pau Gasol. This one may seem unmerited, but even at 6-of-9 from the floor it was an off night for Pau. He only had 12 points and, despite the score sheet listing him as just 1 turnover, made a number of iffy plays that hurt our possession chances. Ticky-tack fouls, followed by plenty of whining, and little of the aggression he’s shown this year. Again, I’m attributing it to end of season lethargy. Please prove me right.

And finally, the ugly:

  • Game management. Kurt, you may have designed a good defensive strategy for this team, but you, sir, are no Phil Jackson. Big surprise, I know, but Phil’s absence was palpable tonight, much to my own shock. PJ is usually barely sentient on the sidelines, sporting the same expression in good times and bad, but he at least has the team prepared. Kurt didn’t do that tonight. As the game wound down and we were playing catch-up, he just didn’t have the guys ready to make the necessary plays. He called time-outs that Phil wouldn’t, because apparently he hadn’t thought ahead to call the next play as PJ would have, and even our veteran point guard committed an ill-advised foul when we just needed to play tough D. Kobe was furious, and some of the blame must lie with Fish, but the coach should have drilled the plan into the players’ heads before that point. We were like an orchestra without our maestro tonight. And I thought he was just a figurehead. 

So there you have it. An over-long run-down of that one, but I felt it was needed following another disappointing loss in Portland. Thank god we at least have home court against these fools come playoff time, although I won’t be rooting for that match-up. Two more home games and then we’re off. And home court throughout is looking less and less likely.

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Blazed ‘Em

Posted by hiphopmama on January 5, 2009

Is his head touching the backboard??

Is his head touching the backboard??

Portland 86, LA Lakers 100

(27-5)

And we’re back to having the best record in basketball. Not that it means much in January, as made clear by the Celtics’ recent fall from grace, but I’d rather be up than down, I suppose. On a night when the other three biggies – Boston, Cleveland, Orlando – all lost to sub-par opponents, we managed to hold our own against an admittedly hampered Blazers team short of its All-Star guard Brandon Roy. 

We didn’t have the most promising start, falling behind early by nine points (multiple times). And the damage would have been worse if the Blazers had hit even SOME of their open shots, of which there were many. Steve Blake, who has been stroking it from distance this year, missed a number of clear chances to stretch the lead, as did others, while only LaMarcus Aldridge looked to be playing with any kind of confidence. And boy, did he play. I remember him a little from his Texas days, but apparently I’ve never gotten a good look at him in the NBA, because DAMN this boy can play. He hit shot after shot against good defense, attacking the basket, falling away with a hand in his face, facing up from the wing. Between him and Roy – and Oden, if he can stay healthy – they have quite the nucleus of future talent waiting in the wings.

They lost the game, though, and by a considerable margin, because this is our year (or so I keep telling myself). Maybe if they could have built up a bigger lead things would have been different, but we played strong enough in the second quarter to go into the half up one, and we put them away in the third. That was really all there was to it. We were the better team, and once we decided to act like it, the rest came easily. Kobe glided to an easy 26 points in 33 minutes (11-of-19) and Gasol chipped in 19 on a ridiculous 7-of-9 from the field. It’s heartening to see him get fired up out there, and it seems to be resulting in improved energy for him. When they’re both on, he and Kobe are one heck of a one-two punch, and it was plenty to stop Portland.

I don’t have much analysis of this one – I watched it amidst family madness after opting to see Twilight (meh) instead of keeping my date with the Lakers. I hope they forgive me, but in the meantime I offer the following notes on the team:

  • Ariza did a great job as the starter in Luke’s absence (hurt his footsie), despite voicing his preference for coming off the bench. (Don’t you just love this guy??) He contributed zero offense, but it wasn’t needed, and he had his usual hustle stats (5 rebs, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks). I still like Luke as a starter – I feel like it stabilizes the line-up and allows Ariza to bring that extra energy off the bench – but we could do much worse than Trevor as a starter and Radmanovic off the bench.
  • Sasha continues to deputize well for Jordan Farmar. He had 11 points and a beautiful 4-point play, but most importantly he had zero turnovers in his 25 minutes. Along with the fact that he didn’t take too many shots and made them at a good clip (4-of-7), it indicates that he’s making good decisions in his new role at the point.
  • I don’t think we should be looking to do much trading for personnel. We have the guys we need, now it’s just a matter of getting them to play to their potential. I know I’ve done a little bit of whining about Sasha and Lamar in particular, but they’re nothing if not committed and I can’t see us getting anything of real significance for anyone we’re willing to part with. Plus they know the system and are comfortable with the team, which is no small thing. I know it comes in the midst of a good streak for the Lakers, but it’s hard to argue that this team is missing much of anything talent-wise, so the focus should now be on getting mentally and physically prepared for the real test of the postseason. Whenever Farmar comes back, we’ll be that much deeper and further loaded to take on whatever comes our way.

Game recap, courtesy of NBATV:

Tomorrow we take on New Orleans at home before heading up north to face Golden State. The Hornets – currently our closest competition in the Southwest – are 20-10 and coming off a tough loss to the Nuggets on Saturday. They are, however, 7-3 over their last ten and Chris Paul is always a concern, especially with no true back-up point guard. We’ve already handled them twice on the road, though, so with our home form looking good – no, make that excellent – I’m hoping we can turn in another dominant performance before our trip to the Bay. Keep on rollin’, boys.

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Opening Night Thoughts

Posted by hiphopmama on October 29, 2008

I didn’t get a chance to watch either (nationally televised) game all the way through, so I can’t in good conscience give a true recap. But here are my thoughts after watching what I could:

 

  • Poor Greg Oden. Is it destined to be this way? No official word yet on the exact injury to his right foot or how serious it is, but it’s not a good look to play your first regular season game when you’re already in your second season, then go out after two quarters with another knock. Tough luck for the Blazers. When he was in the game, his defense stifled the Lakers somewhat – notice the qualification there – and helped spark some Portland fast breaks. Without him, their playoff hopes look to be slim again. Fingers crossed for him. UPDATE: The injury is officially a “mid-foot sprain on his right foot.” The x-rays came back inconclusive and he’s scheduled to have an MRI.
  • The Lakers looked solid in the most crucial area tonight: defense. They contested shots and kept their intensity up, even the starters we’re accustomed to seeing pack it in on occasion. Indications of the offensive mindset were good as well. Kobe is able to score pretty much at will, but he has slowly learned to rein it in for the sake of the team, and he did so again tonight. He shone when he needed to in the third quarter, but he got into the groove of the game more methodically, accumulating an impressive statline and managing the game effectively. He’s gradually making it easier for me to root for him personally as he develops this more humane aspect to his personality. Gradually.
  • Trevor Ariza makes me nervous. This has been the case since the Finals last year, when Phil decided to play a line-up that included Farmar, Vujacic, and Ariza while leaving D. Fish, Luke Walton, and Vladimir Radmanovic to languish on the bench. I’m not his Grand Imperial Majesty, but I could not fathom how those three players – with their combined big game experience next to nil – could possibly be favored over the oldies but goodies. Only Phil knows, I guess.
  • What is up with Phil Jackson sans facial hair? Has this happened before and I just didn’t notice? Because it’s really tripping me out. 
  • Sasha Vujacic has the hairstyle of a soccer player. It’s nothing new, and I guess it’s not that surprising given his continent of origin, but after watching European football the last few months I couldn’t help but notice. The flowing mane, the mini-hairband – it’s all very Sergio Ramos.
  • I’ll give Boston one bullet point, my last of the night. I gotta say, I actually felt happy for (some of) them getting their rings tonight. I’m very glad KG finally won a title, so it was nice to see him get to enjoy that moment. Paul Pierce, though, was the one who really earned this one, sticking with Boston all those years, many of which were simply dreadful, and being overall a class player. It was really nice that he got to experience the fulfillment of finally getting there. Hopefully it’s for the last time, though.

 

FINAL SCORES:

Cleveland 85, Boston 90

Milwaukee 95, Chicago 108

Portland 76, LA Lakers 96

Lakers Highlights:

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