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Posts Tagged ‘chauncey billups’

Still On Track For Seven

Posted by hiphopmama on May 25, 2009

Lakers Nuggets
LA Lakers 101, Denver 120
     Series tied 2-2

Another predictable, if still disappointing, result. We were all hoping game 3 would be a sign of things to come, but the pragmatists (and historians) among us must have secretly known it was too tall an order. How many times have we written the storyline that supposedly ends with the Lakers turning a corner, only to watch it disintegrate in a crushing away loss? We only have to go back one series to witness this exact same scenario playing out, so it’s not surprising to see the same thing happening again. Doesn’t make it suck any less, though.

It was just a struggle all night for the team. In the first half, they were getting after it, but they just weren’t hitting their shots. Denver played like a proper home team and made a more concerted effort to take it to the rim and control the game that way. It also helped the Nuggets that they hit a fair few shots in this game, something they were completely unable to do in game 3. Melo had a bad game, suffering through some ailment or other, but the rest of the team showed up and played to its full potential. Billups was a true floor general; Martin and Nene attacked the glass with force; and JR Smith finally emerged from his hibernation to score 24 points and energize his team. It was the kind of performance I expected to see from them in game 3, when I was quasi-predicting a Denver win. It came one game late but was still plenty powerful.

It wouldn’t be particularly disheartening if we seemed capable of getting this kind of a result on our own home floor, but we have given no indication of being able to take a game over even at Staples. If there was ever a time for it, it was now, as the team could use it to galvanize itself and hopefully propel themselves forward just enough to take the series, even if it requires seven games (and really, who isn’t counting on that anyway?). We all just have to come to grips with the fact that there is no corner to be turned, no lesson to be learned, and that this Lakers team is who it is at this point. It hurts to admit it, but it’s true that our team has a weak, or at the very least variable, mental fortitude that is entirely undependable and liable to completely disappear on any given night. They can dig deep for a win some days, but on others it is outside the realm of possibility. Tonight was one of those nights, so we lost, and by a lot. I just keep repeating the mantra other Laker fans have espoused: you don’t necessarily have to be good to win it all, just good enough. In the end, we may still be good enough. But only just.

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Home Court Advantage, Part Deux

Posted by hiphopmama on May 23, 2009

Threeeeee!!!

Threeeeee!!!

LA Lakers 103, Denver 97
     Lakers lead series 2-1

Are you kidding me? Six points?? Someone won a game in this series by more than one possession? Don’t be fooled, though – this one was just as close as the others and could easily have gone either way.  The difference tonight was as expected, as it came down to Kobe vs. Melo. Tonight, for the first time in the series, Kobe won by a landslide.

Carmelo came out on fire again, scoring 14 in the first quarter and helping Denver get off to a quick start, but foul trouble kept him on the bench and disrupted his rhythm enough to throw him off after that. He only had three points and no field goals in the second half, partly because of improved defense by the Lakers. They were quicker to throw an extra defender or two at him when he drove to the basket, cutting him off and forcing decisions from him. And, to be honest, we were helped out by the Nuggets’ failure to hit their shots tonight, which helped us hang around even when we weren’t playing particularly well. The lead was rarely, if ever, as high as 10, and for most of the night it hovered between four and eight. The Lakers countered each Denver run effectively, keeping the home crowd from really getting involved and allowing them to stay close enough to swoop in and steal it at the end.

And we did steal this one, make no mistake. It wasn’t as criminal a theft as game 1, when we were vastly outplayed for three quarters, but it was definitely Denver’s game to win, especially in their own building. Kobe just wasn’t having it. He put up 41 points, bringing his three-game tally to 113 and willing us to a 2-1 series lead. Props to Pau Gasol, who, despite looking tired and decrepit at times, dug deep enough to carry us for a while in the fourth quarter. He had a couple tough turn-arounds while we were in the midst of five or six consecutive stops, allowing us to pull even with the Nuggets and set the stage for another Kobe clinic in the final minutes. Winded and exhausted, he still had the wherewithal at 93-95 to pull up and drain a three-pointer while heavily guarded to give us the lead with 38 seconds left. It was a truly ridiculous shot. Not quite as dramatic as Lebron’s but equally effective and more tightly contested. He brought the ball up in a strange arc to avoid the swiping hands of JR Smith, hung in the air a split second longer than usual, pumped his legs once, and fired it up to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish. 

The rest of the game was a replay of game 1 for Denver, only sadder. After K-Mart missed a lay-up and Kobe converted on one of two free throws, the Nuggets once again threw the ball away on the inbounds, once again as a result of a Trevor Ariza steal. Perhaps in an attempt to learn from his game 1 mistake, Karl used a bigger man to inbound the ball. Unfortunately, the man he chose was Kenyon Martin, a man certainly not known for his passing ability. Odom’s length forced him to lob it to a streak Carmelo, but Melo appeared to cut his run off a bit and Ariza streaked in, this time on his outside shoulder, and snatched the ball away. Again. As he took off for the other end, Anthony grabbed him to pick up his sixth foul and sentence himself to the bench for the final seconds. 

Ariza made both free throws, Kobe made four more, and that was that. Not even Chauncey Billups could come up with any heroics to save his team tonight, as his two free throws were all Denver could muster after the Ariza steal. Carmelo was clearly devastated on the sideline, watching in resigned agony as his team waded through those horrible final seconds, and even I felt bad for him given how incredibly he’s played in this series. Not that bad, though, but a little, I suppose.

As with any other Lakers game, there is no real take-home lesson here. A win like this for any other team would probably mean a turning point and an opportunity to get their minds right and blaze through the rest of the series. This Lakers team? Not so fast. The optimist in me wants to say they will put the clamps down and thoroughly destroy a demoralized Nuggets team in game four, especially now that they have adjusted somewhat to the altitude. The realist in me knows better. Game four will more than likely be exactly like the first three – punches and counterpunches in the first half, then a dogfight to the finish line. In my mind, the odds of us prevailing in close games are about two in three, which is borne out by the series thus far, so Denver may have as much as one more miracle win in them. That won’t be enough, though, and I still see this one going no further than six games. We’ll pretend that was the realist and not the optimist talking.

Recap:

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Off to a Better Start

Posted by hiphopmama on May 20, 2009

Play of the game

 

Play of the game

 

Denver 103, LA Lakers 105
     Lakers lead series 1-0

Sorry for the delay. This write-up was preempted by my attendance of the No Doubt concert, which was great, better even than this gripping game. I was lucky enough to get updates throughout (thanks, Diana), so my friends and I were biting our nails as it went down to the wire, and we let out a big “Lakers!” cheer when the final score came through. Poor Paramore probably thought it was for them. Oh well.

The best word I can think of to describe this game is EVEN. These are two quite evenly-matched teams, at least when the Lakers are somewhat off their game as they have been, and it was reflected in the tight scoreline in the final three quarters. It reminded me of a heavyweight boxing match, with each team punching, then counter-punching, then responding with a slightly reworked strategy. The Lakers came out flat, allowing the Nuggets to build as much as a 13-point lead in the first quarter, but after their second quarter spurt it was close the rest of the way. Around the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Denver had a seven point lead, but other than that it was always around a one to four point margin. 

And then we closed on them. Our front line had been battered and bruised by the shorter and, frankly, lesser pairing of Nene and Kenyon Martin, but Pau kept on battling and eventually got something going by crashing the glass, specifically on the offensive end. More importantly, though, Kobe took over. He scored 18 points in the fourth, with nine straight free throws, including four to ice the game. He got a big assist from Ariza, who made two key plays in our come-from-behind effort. The first was a three-pointer when we were down 94-89 with 4:16 remaining, at a key moment when you felt we could either make or break our comeback. A Kobe jumper and a Fisher three put us in front 97-96 with 2:30 on the clock. Ariza’s other game-saving play was his steal of Denver’s inbounds pass after two Kobe free throws put us up 101-99 with 30 seconds remaining. Kobe was guarding Melo, but Ariza came out of nowhere and closed on the ball like a cornerback reading a quarterback’s eyes, just in time to snatch the ball off Anthony’s back shoulder and race down court. Anthony Carter’s pass, presumably obstructed by Lamar Odom’s lank, had just enough loft on it to give Ariza that extra split second, and that was all he needed. Two more Kobe free throws later, and it was a done deal. 

Actually, Chauncey Billups did his best in the midst of all that to steal the game back, hitting two ridiculous, highly contested three-pointers, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Nuggets, who had to settle for second-best on a night when they were the better team for most of the game. 

I can’t yet decide on an interpretation of this one. There are two non-mutually exclusive ways to go. The first is this: Championship clubs close games. It doesn’t matter how you play the first 47 minutes, only who is ahead when 48 are completed. In the end, the “better” team doesn’t always win, just the team that performs better when it matters most. The Lakers have the game’s best closer and arguably its best coach, along with last year’s playoff experience, so they have the natural advantage when it comes to late-game situations. This win is just a sign that we have the right ingredients to get the job done even when we’re not playing our best. The other interpretation is slightly less favorable: The Lakers are scraping by and will soon meet up with a team or a situation that with catch them out. Sure, they escaped by the skin of their teeth in this one, but one of these days they won’t be so lucky. They continue to underperform, even in this most crucial of games, and if they can’t get their act together they will soon be shown the exit so they can retreat to their Hollywood homes and watch the Finals from comfier confines.

I sit somewhere in between these two extremes. Yes, they were at a notch below their best, but, aside from the opening six minutes or so, they were not exhibiting the lack of effort that characterized those two catastrophic losses in Houston. They weren’t phoning it in, they were just being matched, move for move, by a very good team that has found its groove. They slugged it out, with some brave performances thrown in there (Kobe’s defending, Ariza’s hanging in there). Carmelo had an exceptional game, one which I doubt he can repeat too many times in this series, and our bigs were outworked by a pluckier twosome, all of which helped account for the close nature of the game. The Lakers have the ability to play much better than this, while the Nuggets have much more limited room for improvement. J.R. Smith was far from his best, and Chris Andersen will play a much bigger role in front of the home fans, but I doubt they can defend much better than they did in game one and of the starters, only Billups has the potential to show much more than he did last time out. And when all the chips were on the table, the Lakers were the ones who found a way to win, which is what it all comes down to. That doesn’t mean that they won’t make it interesting, but if they can continue to perform with the kind of heart we saw over the last three quarters of this one, they should still make it through. So we can start this whole process over again with Cleveland. Or Orlando, apparently.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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A Heartening Loss?

Posted by hiphopmama on February 27, 2009

If I never hear another "Bird Man" reference again it will be too soon.

If I never hear another "Bird Man" reference again it will be too soon.

LA Lakers 79, Denver 90

(48-11)

I can’t remember the last time a loss left me feeling so hopeful. Normally I like to give plenty of credit to the other team for holding up well enough to beat us, but tonight the best I can do is tip my hat to two players: Chauncey Billups and Chris Andersen. Those two guys were almost solely responsible for the Nuggets getting a result here, and without them, even as dismally as the Lakers played, we probably would have won. I realize that I usually completely ignore the other teams’ players in my write-ups, but Chris Andersen was a beast tonight, and I for one would love to see him or anyone like him coming off the bench for us. Talk about a success story for the NBDL.

The reason I feel so good about our team after the L is because we played, quite frankly, horrendous basketball. No, scratch that – just horrendous offense. It was probably the first time all year that our offense let us down, and it was fatigue. We’ve had some tough stretches in the past, and in the middle of bigger injury crises, but this is also the first time I’ve seen us truly tired and struggling because of it. The home-away back-to-back really kicked our ass this time. I mean, fuck, when’s the last time you saw us shoot under 30% from the field? I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’d bet dollars to pesos this was a first. And we STILL could have won, if we could have hit even half the shots we normally hit. We absolutely massacred them on the offensive glass and took 22 more shots as a result. If we had made just a few of those, it’s a different outcome, point blank. 

But I don’t even really care, because I am more convinced than ever that nobody in the Western Conference can hang with us. Obviously Denver is a rung or two below San Antonio and even New Orleans, but we were in this one the whole way playing at about 60%. When playoff time comes and there are no back-to-backs and Kobe is in full swing and Bynum is back….well, you get the picture. At least pre-Marbury, I was pretty confident we had the edge against the Eastern Conference behemoths as well, but I’ll have to withhold judgment until I see the new and improved Green Menace in action. Two new signings could have a huge effect for them, because Boston is like a catalyzing agent: additions that would otherwise be rather small tend to come in and have a disproportionate impact because of how quality a side they are. It just might put them over the top and give them enough firepower to beat Cleveland, but I’m still hoping for Kobe-Lebron in the Finals.

I went back and checked my previous Denver posts to make sure I hadn’t done this yet, so here goes. The Nuggets’ announcers suck a fat hairy one. I had gotten disgusted with the Celtics’ guys earlier and turned it off, but these Denver fools are painful. Every home crew is going to be partial; it’s just a given. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Lakers’ announcers call out a refereeing crew for any kind of favoritism. I understand that the Lakers are believed to get the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not like we never travel to Boston, Cleveland, etc., to take on other big names on big teams. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any announcer from ANY town bitch about the refs as much as these pricks did. Every fucking call was either “a Laker call” if it went our way or “good work by the ref” if it was for the Nuggets. I think once all game I heard them break this pattern. Then they had the nerve to bitch about OUR guys disputing calls. I was warming up to this cold-ass state after they came to their senses and voted the right way, but if they can put up with fools like these, I have my doubts.

In the end, this was kinda like that Utah game – just badly situated in the midst of a draining run of games. And to be fair, we deserve to have a few more of these with the easy schedule we had in the first half of the season. I think it’s fair to say that we had the breeziest first third of the season of any of the top teams, and we took advantage of it by racking up the wins. Now we have to roll with it as we make up for the initial cakewalk with a series of road trips and tough back-to-backs. If I know Phil, though, he’ll have his guys ready and playing for it when it counts. I was hoping for more after the starters got so much rest last night, but the whole team still looked beat and in no condition to be playing even D-League ball. They’ll bounce back, if for no other reason than because Phoenix is up next and Kobe never capitulates to a Shaq attack. 

I couldn’t find highlights but I did come across this postgame piece from KCAL about how they weren’t really up for this one with the late game and travel last night. That about sums it up.

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Lakers Cruise Past Nuggets

Posted by hiphopmama on November 21, 2008

Look at those white legs!

Look at those white legs!

 

Denver 90, LA Lakers 104

(10-1)

Coming off a back-to-back and three games in four nights, this was a potentially tricky match-up for us. The Nuggets had won seven of their last eight games since adding Billups to the line-up, including away wins against both New Orleans and San Antonio, so they were definitely experiencing a good run of form. 

It didn’t matter tonight. The Lakers absolutely took it to them from the opening tip, for the first time in a while starting the game effectively on both ends of the floor. They shot the ball upwards of 60% in the early going and darted in and out of passing lanes, creating turnovers and easy transition baskets. The whole starting line-up, save Radmanovic who left in the third with a poked eye courtesy of Carmelo, had a good game. Fisher was a little frustrated by some calls on defense, but he played well in the minutes he split with Farmar. The other three starters all finished in double figures: Gasol with 12, Bynum with 13, Kobe with 29 points in 30 minutes on 12-of-18 shooting. He finally found the stroke tonight, nailing jumper after jumper and slashing down the lane for the dunk. 

In the game’s only rough patch, we started the third quarter like garbage, seeing our 20 point halftime lead dwindle to 11. But the way we worked ourselves out of the funk was telling and quite promising: it was our defense that did the trick. We didn’t lock them down Detroit-style, camping out around the key and forcing shot clock violations. We hawked the ball and got in every passing lane, resulting in easy points in transition and fouls on Denver players. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that the Lakers used their defense to pump up a slumping offense, but that was the case in the third.

Individual performances were outstanding across the board. Bynum in particular showed his up-side, adding 13 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 block to his 13 points. He looked slightly more settled too, and, most promisingly, he made a couple of good moves in the post that showed what we might come to expect in the future. Trevor Ariza kept the spark burning as well, with 3 steals and 4 rebounds to go with his 11 points. Lamar Odom once again led the second unit off the bench and also made it to double figures (13 points). But my vote for super sub of the game goes to Jordan Farmar, who literally did not stop moving all night. I’m convinced that even while on the bench he was running lines around players. He had 7 points and 4 assists, but his 3 steals and 1 block were the more notable aspects of his game tonight. He was always the first guy out on the break and, simultaneously, the first guy getting back on defense, on a couple of occasions altering shots and even swatting Denver big men who thought they had an easy bucket. 

Only Sasha Vujacic had me pulling out my hair. I have to ask: will he please stop shooting every time he gets his hands on the ball? He fired up reckless threes with abandon tonight, and he only made one of them (1-for-7). I was scared he might get the ball in the backcourt and, on instinct, go for the 80 foot bomb. He’s a really good bench player with a role to play, but he sure knows how to get under your skin.

That minor gripe aside, this was a tremendous game and an improvement even over last night’s victory against the Suns. For much of the time, it looked like our varsity against their J.V. team. It was just too easy, like taking candy from Rasheed Wallace.

I don’t want to get too cocky, though, as we’ve had a pretty cushy schedule. We’ve only played 11 games, 6 of those at home, and tonight was the start of a 5-game home stand. We’ve played some decent opponents, but these are games we SHOULD be winning. Kudos to us for winning them, but I’m trying to keep it in perspective and hope we can continue the winning ways when we go on some of those grueling road trips that are surely coming.

And now I have to ask you to allow me a small detour. I try not to get political on here, but it occurred to me while watching this game that the Lakers behaved after that Finals loss to the Pistons in 2004 like the Republicans have after the defeat to Obama (and just about every other Democrat they ran against). They were a mess of back-biting, finger-pointing, it-wasn’t-me innocence, and it came from all sides. Phil called Kobe “uncoachable” in his book; Shaq pouted his way out of LA; and Kobe was widely perceived to have orchestrated the departure of both O’Neal and Jackson in the aftermath. Those anonymous campaign staffers apportioning blame to Sarah Palin with zeal – a strategy no less lame for its probable accuracy – had their counterparts in all the he-said-she-said going on between Buss, Kupchak, Phil, Kobe, and Shaq, and the team didn’t survive, at least not in the short term. Thank god we made it through, which I suppose bodes well for the Republicans eventually (sadly). We just had to excise a cancerous element (Shaq – you can make the appropriate analogy yourself) and make a fresh start without completely wiping the slate clean. Luckily for us, we only had to spend a couple years in exile. I sure hope the Republicans’ sojourn is closer to the Biblical 40 years.

So that’s all for tonight. Next up is Sacramento at Staples on Sunday. The Kings are currently 5-9 and hurting without their star and lead scorer Kevin Martin, who is out with a sprained left ankle. They’re 1-4 in their last 5 games, but that all goes out the window against the Lakers, for whom everyone seems to get up and give their best performance against the Western Conference champs. Still, if we play like we’re capable of doing, it should be a straightforward win for us. Or, should I say, another one.

Full game highlights:

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Iverson Officially A Piston

Posted by hiphopmama on November 3, 2008

The trade officially went through, sending Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and class of 2006 center Cheikh Samb to make the money work. McDyess supposedly has no interest in playing anywhere besides Detroit, so he will be forced to either retire or buy out the rest of his contract with Denver. 

The logic of this really eludes me, from both perspectives. Knowing that McDyess won’t even play for them, I can’t see any benefit for Denver, except that AI was never going to work there when Melo was the primary ball hog. (There ain’t enough room for the both of ’em.) So Chauncey for AI was pretty much a straight swap that leaves the Nuggets down a big time scorer but up a less selfish playmaker with a couple of titles. 

As for the Pistons, the consensus seems to be that they are clearing cap space to make a play after this season for the big name free agents on the market. The most intriguing of these hypothetical scenarios sees Detroit being a prime destination for LeBron James in 2010, with Dumars pulling the strings to perfection behind the scenes. It’s no secret that James wants to go to a team with title aspirations, and Detroit definitely has that pedigree. It’s not quite the big market town he was looking at in New Jersey/New York, but the Jay-Z connection appears to have been faltering of late, making Detroit’s steady hand in management look all the more enticing. 

It’s all just speculation at this point, though. What we do know is that for now, this weird trade has indeed taken place, with the Pistons and Nuggets essentially swapping Billups for Iverson (and McDyess leaving the picture). How it will play out is anyone’s guess. My own take is that it makes little difference for either team over the rest of the season, leaving the Pistons somewhere around the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and the Nuggets languishing at the margins of respectability. From there on out, who knows.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Iverson to Detroit?

Posted by hiphopmama on November 3, 2008

The latest word is that Denver is working on a deal that would send Iverson to the Pistons in exchange for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess. Iverson reportedly wants to contend for a title late in his career, and Detroit is a potential trading partner that has a chance to do that. 

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning by either side, although I see more benefits for Detroit than Denver. The Pistons team could use some shaking up after falling short the last few years, and switching up the point guard position might be a good way to do that, especially when they can get a Hall of Fame caliber player in return. Billups has been as much of a go-to guy as they’ve had, which might hurt somewhat, but Iverson has been clutch in his career as well and might provide the necessary spark to get them back to the top. McDyess has been a vital piece of the puzzle too, and the lack of depth in the front court is the biggest question mark here. Whether old-ass Rasheed Wallace will hold up with back-ups like Jason Maxiell filling in will be interesting to say the least. Also – and probably most crucially, for the Pistons – Iverson is in the last year of his hefty contract, as is Rasheed, so after the season Detroit will have considerable cap room to work with.

From the Nuggets’ perspective, it’s two-for-one, with the added bonus of getting rid of a player with no desire to continue with the team. Billups is a more traditional point guard who can still step up and hit the big shot, and McDyess will provide some much needed depth up front, where Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin have been injury prone to say the least. I have a hard time believing the trade will drastically improve their chances, but it certainly can’t hurt. 

We’ll see how it pans out over the rest of the day.

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