All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘dj mbenga’

Aaaand We’re Back

Posted by hiphopmama on October 27, 2009

Ringzzz
LA Clippers 92, LA Lakers 99
(1-0)

It always feels a little weird to me when the NBA season doesn’t start on Halloween, but my daughter’s third birthday is as good a day as any to inaugurate another year of basketball.  With this being “Championship Ring Night,” which is apparently the newest addition to the commentator vernacular, emotions were high at Staples Center as the Lakers kicked off their season against their in-house rivals, the Clippers.

Now before I really get into it, I have a caveat. This year’s updates are going to be much shorter. At least that’s my intention. I’m back at work, braving daycare with my baby girl, and frankly too damn tired to pump out 800+ words for every Laker game. That said, I often have a hard time shutting my mouth (or my laptop), so brevity is more of a tentative goal than an absolute promise. And now on with the show.

The Lakers turned in a mostly convincing performance against a Clippers team that was without its number one draft pick Blake Griffin, who picked up a knee injury in the last game of an impressive preseason. He is expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, which is a big blow to Dunleavy and the Clips. That wasn’t the biggest of their problems tonight, though, as they were generally dismantled by a far superior Lakers team that looked loose and ready to get back to work. We were without Pau Gasol due to a nagging but minor injury, so Odom was inserted into the starting line-up along with old faithfuls Kobe and Fish, the hopefully healthy Bynum, and newcomer Ron Artest.

The team fared well in the early going, moving the ball well and defending with good energy. Phil treated it like a preseason game with his rotation, playing the likes of Mbenga and Powell significant minutes in the first quarter somewhat surprisingly. When the Clippers made the expected run, the starters were re-inserted to steady the game and stretch the lead back to a comfortable margin. The same basic pattern followed in the second half, with the team taking a little cruise in the third quarter to let the Clips back to within one before slamming the door shut on them with an early fourth quarter burst.

It’s the first game of a long season, so I don’t think too much can be read into this one, but it’s worth analyzing things a bit I suppose. Kobe turned in a routine 33 in 38 minutes and filled out the rest of the stat sheet with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. He looked like a fish in water, thoroughly in his element and happy to be back on the court. He linked up well with his teammates all night long. Odom looked like the good Odom that makes us all but unbeatable, going for a cool 16 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Dayyyumm. Phil showed us a little somethin’ somethin’ with a three-guard set of Kobe, Farmar, and Brown on a couple occasions. We’ll have to see how that one plays out as the season goes on.

The biggest story of the night was easily Ron Artest’s debut in the purple and gold. He wasn’t spectacular, but he played the kind of game I’d like to see more of from him in the future. He was quiet for large stretches, defended staunchly, hustled for loose balls, and picked his spots offensively. The main question fans had going into the season was how Ron-Ron would fit into the triangle offense and whether or not he would be able to defer to the great offensive beings on his team. At least for tonight, he did all that and quite well. He missed a few open threes, but that will come with time, and the extra threat on the post and toughness in defense is well worth the transition time. And Ariza’s agent looks worse and worse….

So here I am, 650 words in and still talking. I’m gonna shut up now and leave it at that until Friday night, when we host the Mavericks. 20-1 may be a little lofty (but thanks for the nod, Reggie), but something similarly remarkable does seem achievable, at least for this early season stretch, which is pretty straightforward for the second straight year. 70 games? Probably not, but the goal is much more than that anyway. Here’s to all that and more.

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T-Minus One

Posted by hiphopmama on June 11, 2009

fishLA Lakers 99, Orlando 91
     Lakers lead 3-1

Out-fought. Out-coached. Out-played. I will erect a shrine to Derek Fisher, and to my sister too, for that matter, as she helped ensure a win by leaving the room for Fisher’s overtime three that put us up. Back when we were kids and I was a punk older sister, I would kick her out of the room when I got to a tough part in a video game because somehow she was “bad luck.” The sad thing was I always won when she left, so to this day we joke that she can help the team cause by taking a breather during key moments. She got home just in time to watch overtime, and I joked with her that she shouldn’t watch because we really needed this game, and she just happened to be in another room when Fish drilled it and gave us the lead we never gave up. So this win is for you, Danielle. May you always be in another room at the right moment.

What can you really say about a game like this? I’m still struggling to come to grips with it, and my team won. I can’t imagine how the Magic must be reeling after this kind of loss. Orlando had every opportunity to win this game, and they rolled out the red carpet for us to take it from them. They didn’t give it away – don’t let anyone tell you that – because we still had to hit the shots and make the stops to get the win. But it was their game to win and the let it slip away. Stan Van Gundy can dismiss the value of experience all he wants, but he was simply on the wrong side of it tonight. A Phil Jackson team wins the game in that situation nine times out of ten. Yes, we will occasionally lose games we should win, just like we should have capitalized on our chance to grab game 3, but it’s a rarity. Playing under Finals pressure is a whole different thing and I don’t think you can discount that, no matter how much Van Gundy wants to believe it’s just another game. Kenny Smith is right in pointing out how few rookies have ever led their team to a championship – it just doesn’t happen because there’s no equivalent for having been there before. Sorry, Stan, it’s just the truth.

It’s not an excuse, though, and he still should’ve had his guys fouling with 11 seconds left and a three-point lead. I’ll be honest – I texted my husband, “It’s slipping away” when Orlando had the ball with a 5-point lead and under a minute remaining. Then Kobe drops off a brilliant pass to Pau for a dunk and Howard misses two free throws to set up our out of bounds play. Phil elects to take it full court, we use Kobe as a decoy, and the ball goes to Fish, who pulls up and drains it from the wing. Jameer Nelson was there and eventually got a hand up, but he was playing way too far off, and Fisher did what he has done so often. He came through for his team and propelled us to overtime. 

Once we got to overtime, it was pretty much over. We had broken their backs in regulation, and there was no coming back from that. Orlando opened the scoring with a Rashard Lewis three-pointer, but they didn’t get another field goal. Kobe made back-to-back jumpers before Howard converted on one of two free throws to tie the game. We then came up with two huge offensive rebounds, Kobe drew the double (and dished an elbow) in the post and kicked it out to Fisher, who drilled ANOTHER three to give us the lead we never relinquished. Turkoglu fired up a quicker three than they really needed and we got a run-out dunk for Pau. Then another missed three by Turkoglu led to a Pau dunk plus foul, which turned out to be a flagrant on Pietrus for shoving him in the back and making no play on the ball. I was even happy to see him get into it with the Frenchman after the play, because he has had a tendency to not get as fired up as I would like or as the team would need. None of that tonight in a crucial win.

Who would have thought at the beginning of the year that Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza would be our players of the game in game 4 of the Finals? Our big two made big contributions tonight, but Ariza was the man that got us back into the game after a horrendous first half. After getting zip in the first two quarters, he dropped 13 in the third, when we outscored the Magic 30-14. Then he hit a huge three with two and a half minutes left in the fourth after a blown play and with the shot clock about to expire to tie the game. And then there was Fish. It’s hard to quantify all the stuff he does for us, but tonight it was relatively easy. Whether it was diving on the floor to secure a steal or knocking down the two biggest buckets of the game, he was once again the steady hand in rough waters. It doesn’t top the 0.4 seconds shot, but it’s easily number two on his list of great performances with the Lakers. Those are the kind of players you need to win a title. Thank god he’s on our side.

Kobe shot 11-for-31. Pau kicked in just 16. All three big men – Pau, Lamar, and Andrew – were in foul trouble early, forcing us to go with DJ Mbenga and play all twelve guys in the first half. Kobe and Pau played a grueling 49 minutes, and we had to come back from a butt-ass first half after which we trailed by 12 points. But talk about championship poise. The mental toughness to come out a different team in the second half and clamp down on Orlando’s shooting. Just eight turnovers for four plus overtime from a team with a history of filling it up in the category. And the ice-in-the-veins coldness to take the opportunities when they were presented to us. All things the Lakers can claim but the Magic can’t, and the difference in this series. I think we owe it to Nick Anderson, who must have invoked his spirit by presenting the game ball. How else can you explain all those missed free throws when it counted the most? Yes, Diana, I believe they call that irony. Word to Alanis.

Recap:

Phil’s postgame press conference:

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Finally A Blowout

Posted by hiphopmama on March 6, 2009

DJ!

DJ!

Minnesota 90, LA Lakers 110

(50-12)

I love games when Kobe sits for the whole fourth quarter. I especially love games when DJ Mbenga is a key player for us, because it means Pau is getting some rest and DJ is capably spelling our other All-Star. Gasol logged 31 minutes tonight and Kobe finished at just 28, while Mbenga set a new career high with 10 points. More impressive, though, was how he did it, scoring on 4 of 5 shots and picking up 4 rebounds and 5 blocks. He was Mr. Energy for the second straight game and the LA crowd ate it up. He was almost like Mark Madsen, only with actual athletic ability. 

This is the kind of win we should be getting more often. We steadily built and expanded the lead over each quarter, with a brief slip to start the third quarter. After allowing the Wolves to pull within 4 partway through the third, the Lakers knuckled down and held the Minnesota offense in check and put on a run to end the quarter up 18. The bench played the whole fourth and extended and then maintained the lead – a rare feat for a bunch of guys as likely to explode for a double-digit lead as to give one up. It was as entertaining a blowout as you’ll see, too, with Mbenga swatting everything in sight, Ariza throwing his body all over the place, and Shannon Brown jumping through the friggin’ roof. Someone get this guy in the dunk contest, pronto.

This little two game homestand was exactly what the doctor ordered. A little mental and physical fatigue had set in and the guys were looking sluggish, so a couple nights on the home front against subpar competition should pump them up for the road trip ahead. It was especially important for the bench, which was looking strangely ordinary of late, as they used these games to get their mojo working again, playing long, and successful, minutes in both. The subs are always going to play better at home, but hopefully they can carry some of this momentum with them as we head out into the wild blue yonder. Mbenga’s game in particular lends itself well to road games since he’s all about energy and defensive intensity, meaning that his offensive game – which is the side most susceptible to jitters – is not a crucial part of his role for us. If he can come in and do even half of what he did tonight, it will be incredibly helpful in resting Gasol to keep him fresh for the big moments. 

We now have another two days off before heading out for three games in four nights against some tough opposition: first Portland, where we haven’t won in four years, and then Houston and San Antonio on consecutive nights. This would be a good time to make a statement about our intentions to close the season with a bang and roll into the postseason at a brisk pace. Tonight we became the first team to 50 wins, and Phil said in the postgame chat that the goal is to be the first to 60. I don’t see why that shouldn’t happen.

All I got so far are some first half highlights. I’ll check for the rest later.

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The Skid Stops At Two

Posted by hiphopmama on March 3, 2009

The Brothers Gasol, or Battle of the Beards

The Brothers Gasol, or Battle of the Beards

Memphis 89, LA Lakers 99

(49-12)

Two words: D. J. Mbenga. (Forgive my Michael Scott impression.) With 4 points, 2 boards, 3 blocks, and 1 steal in 19 minutes, he was emblematic of the difference maker in this game, which was the bench. Our vaunted subs have been noticeably absent for a number of games now, and it has exposed our weaknesses without Bynum in the line-up. Because really, without Andrew, we’re just a talented offensive team that happens to be backed by a solid bench. With neither Bynum nor bench production, we are quite vulnerable to teams putting together big runs while Kobe and Pau are on the bench. 

But tonight, the bench was back, scoring 32 points and extending the lead in the fourth quarter to put it beyond Memphis’ reach. Of course, they then turned around and let them claw back to within 8, but they steadied themselves with the insertion of Gasol and closed the game out with the double-digit lead in tact. 

I’m tempted to say this was a game whose outcome was never in question, but I know better. There is no such thing as a money game, especially for this Lakers team, so a relatively comfortable victory against a horrible road team is good enough for me. In addition to the good bench play, our defense was passable, holding the Grizzlies to 41% shooting. Memphis is one of the worse shooting teams in the league, but we didn’t look as susceptible to defensive breakdowns as we have in recent games and the rotations seemed to be on target more often than not. And although the Grizzlies finished at 50% from three, we defended the outside shot much better tonight. I rarely saw us scrambling after the ball was swung to the weak side, a play which has caught us out many a time this season, and this is quite a comforting development. 

Players just showed up and filled their roles tonight. Kobe sensed that the team needed a good start after some poor showings, so he came out firing, finishing with 31 points in 30 minutes. Luke was aggressive offensively, hitting his open shots often enough and finding the open man as niftily as usual. Lamar had a terrible shooting night (1-for-8), but he made up for it with 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 6 blocks in yet another energetic effort. He kept himself on the right side of the officials as well. Pau seemed a little out of sorts battling his brother, even shooting 50% from the free throw line, but other players picked it up, including Josh Powell (8 points) and Sasha Vujacic (11 points).

This little two-game homestand is just what we need before setting off on the road again, so with Memphis under our belts we can turn our attention to Minnesota on Friday. It will our second and final game of the week, which should hopefully allow us to refuel before heading out to take on Portland, Houston, and San Antonio. After that we have three games at home followed by a ridiculous SEVEN GAME road trip that includes stops in Detroit and Atlanta.Of the final 21 games, only 8 are at Staples, which has to be one of the toughest home stretches of any team in the league. If we intend to challenge for the title, though, we ought to be up to that challenge. We shall see.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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140? Not Tonight

Posted by hiphopmama on February 27, 2009

Suns Lakers

Phoenix 106, LA Lakers 132

(48-10)

Ah, that was sweet. It had little meaning as a win over the Suns, being that they were without their two most important players in Stoudemire and Nash. But it signified plenty as the kind of professional performance we have had a hard time putting together for a full 48. We started well, continued well, and finished well, building up and – here’s the key – maintaining a big enough lead that the starters didn’t have to make an appearance in the fourth quarter. It’s always nice to see your superstars icing the knees with more than 10 minutes left to play.

We were on offensively all game, but it took us about half of the first quarter to bother with defense. When we finally paid some attention to it, we went on a big run and put them away before the second quarter even began. We shot 57.4% for the game (!) and held the Suns to 42.9%, which is saying something since our reserves all got in the game for considerable minutes. 

My highlight of the game, other than the blowout? DJ Mbenga. Dude played 15 minutes, shot 4-of-7 for 8 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 2 blocks, and more importantly, he spelled Gasol for long stretches without giving up the lead. I had almost forgotten he existed, but there he was last night, playing competently and helping keep Gasol’s minutes under 25 for the first time since the fall of the USSR. Especially in the first of a home-away back-to-back, that meant a lot. I hope he can give that kind of performance all the time, because it would help prevent any more Pau burnout as we await Bynum’s return. 

There really isn’t much to say about this one. We absolutely blew them out of the water, especially their little miniature line-up with Grant Hill at power forward. So instead of any kind of in-depth analysis, I’m going to give you our guys’ shooting numbers.

  • Luke Walton: 6 (3-6)
  • Derek Fisher: 7 (2-3)
  • Pau Gasol: 16 (6-12)
  • Kobe Bryant: 22 (10-13)
  • Lamar Odom: 23 (11-12)
  • Sasha Vujacic: 14 (5-14)
  • Jordan Farmar: 12 (5-10)
  • Trevor Ariza: 10 (3-9)
  • DJ Mbenga: 8 (4-7)
  • Josh Powell: 6 (2-3)
  • Adam Morrison: 5 (2-4)
  • Shannon Brown: 3 (1-1)

Only two below .500 shooting and everyone got on the score sheet. And hot damn, look at Kobe and Lamar. Odom missed just one shot all game and Kobe missed three. They were a combined 21-for-25 for 45 points. Disgusting. 

Game recap:

Highlights:

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A Win Is A Win…I Guess

Posted by hiphopmama on February 22, 2009

Kobe moved into 20th on the all-time scoring list, passing Elgin Baylor

Kobe moved into 20th on the all-time scoring list, passing Elgin Baylor

LA Lakers 111, Minnesota 108

(46-10)

What is it about these little pissant teams that trips us up so bad? No offense to the Charlottes and Oklahoma Cities of the world, but they should not be able to hang with us, yet we continually have to work our butts off till the final whistle, and sometimes beyond, to get a win. 

I don’t have time for a full post – I was too busy getting nostalgic over some classic Tupac (review coming soon to RapReviews.com) – so I’ll restrict my comments to the basics.

  1. Why the FUCK can’t we defend the three point line? This has been a near constant since the beginning of the season, and at this point it seems like we’re just conceding it. Like Phil is saying, “Fine, bomb away from downtown, but you’re not getting in the paint.” Which I understand, I suppose, but how hard is it to modify that strategy in the final moments of the game when the only thing that can hurt you is a three? Sersly! (Word to Nana.)
  2. Role players are the key to unlock the universe. Our big three – Kobe, Pau, and Lamar – really carried us tonight, until the very end, when we needed some clutch plays from other sources. This time, Luke Walton and Derek Fisher were the two to step up and drag us across the finish line, both hitting key threes at big moments. Kudos to both of those guys. Stay ready, boys.
  3. You know Phil is worried about Gasol’s minutes when DJ Mbenga is getting in the game. I’m glad I’m not the only one noticing a troubling trend in Pau’s 40+ minutes per game since Mihm’s departure, but Mbenga’s three minutes did little to offset the 41 Gasol put in and didn’t indicate much future playing time. I would hope we could start putting some weaker teams away so as to rest our overworked Spaniard, but I’m beginning to think that would be too much to ask. Let’s all just pray Bynum recovers quicker than expected.

And that’s all I got. Apparently the Lakers were vying for their own Oscar in the suspense category as they bent over backwards to let Craig Smith shoot 9-of-10 in order to keep the game tight. Very nice.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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