Denver 94, LA Lakers 103
Lakers lead series 3-2
Now that is how you play team basketball. With the talent level the Lakers have, there is no excuse for the kind of lackluster performances they’ve been turning in. Even in their wins the last two rounds, they haven’t played particularly well, just sort of scraping by and getting enough clutch plays from Kobe to make it through. There have only been two games in which we’ve played like the Lakers we’re capable of being: game 5 against the Rockets, and tonight. Those were the only two where the whole team showed up ready to scrap for every possession, dive for every loose ball, and it showed in the result. Maybe we’re only entitled to one a series. Whatever the case, I’m glad we got it tonight.
It’s ridiculous that it still needs to be reinforced at this point, but somehow the message got through that they needed to really get after the ball and play like it meant something. What a novel concept, I know, but it worked at reigniting the fire that has been missing from this team for some time. They actually looked like the team we saw run off long winning streaks in the middle of the season, with various role players stepping up at key moments to bolster the squad. Tonight, we got big assists from lots of places. The biggest one was Lamar Odom, who put down his bag of Gummy Bears and applied some Icy Hot before finally making a mark on a game in this series. I understand that his back is hurting and he’s battling through it, but it was nice to see him bring it all together in one game. Before the tip, I told my husband, “I’d like to see one of those games where Lamar grabs like 20 rebounds again.” He didn’t quite make it to 20, but he certainly fulfilled, being the offensive force we needed off the bench and running down rebound after rebound. Those four blocks didn’t hurt, either.
The other player to step up big time was Shannon Brown. His monster jam over Chris Andersen (I refuse to use his pseudonym) sparked both the crowd and the team and started the quarter-spanning run that saw us grow the lead to eleven points in the fourth. To be honest, he was playing so damn well, I didn’t want to see him go out, even (or maybe especially?) to bring Fisher in. By that time, more than halfway through the fourth quarter, it was all but locked up anyway, although Melo did manage to stretch it out for a couple more possessions. Luckily it was too little too late for the Nuggets, who will try to force a game seven back in Denver on Friday.
One note on Kobe’s understated statline tonight. He was simply masterful in this one. He scored just 22 on 13 shots, but he orchestrated the game to perfection, drawing the double-team, baiting the defenders, and then dropping it off like a quarterback dropping back for the screen pass. It was beautiful, and a sign of his maturity that he was advised before the game to be more of a facilitator tonight and he came up with the goods. No worries about scoring or shot attempts, only about Ws. He’s still got his issues, but selfishness is no longer one of them.
And for the record, I don’t think either of the last two games was poorly officiated. Both coaches can shut the fuck up and eat a fat one if they want to blame a loss on the refs. Phil got his deserved fine, but Karl got his digs in tonight too, whining about “home whistles” and the like. Look, everyone knows there is some element of home cooking that goes on, but it swings both ways as the teams travel back and forth. If you have one less game on your home floor in a series, that’s your bad for underperforming in the regular season, not the league’s or the officials’ for calling it pretty darn consistently. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the NBA refs are the best in any of the big three sports. You can throw in international football (soccer) as well, though I can’t attest to officiating in hockey. I have some problems with calling cheap flagrants and technicals, but that’s a league office problem because they’re the ones who instruct the refs on how to make those calls in the first place. If you have a problem with that, take it up with David Stern, preferably by punching him in his smug little face. I can’t stand that guy. He can shove his dress code up the business end of his Armani suit.
Recap (first half only):
Oh, and my husband won $20 on the Champions League result. Color me blaugrana for the day.