All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘lakers’

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:

Advertisements

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

It Had To Be

Posted by hiphopmama on May 21, 2009

Nuggets Lakers
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. 

Highlights:

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to game 3 we go…

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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:

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What’s Done Is Done

Posted by hiphopmama on May 17, 2009

Job well done. Or maybe just DONE.

Job well done. Or maybe just DONE.

Houston 70, LA Lakers 89
     Lakers win series 4-3 

I can only hope that’s true. What’s done is done. Because if it is, then we have a good chance at knocking off Denver in five or six. What’s done is done. If it’s not, then we’re stuck alternating good and bad performances – no, make that stupendous and horrendous performances – at home and away, and we’re more than likely going to need the full seven again. What’s done is done. Or so I pray.

This game seven at home in Staples Center went entirely according to plan and much like all the other games we won. We jumped on them early and held onto the lead for the remainder of the game. The few twists, however, were notable and deserve some explication. For one, did you see that final score? We didn’t even make it to 90 points, yet we still won. Why? Because we played defense. That’s “defense,” with a “D.” I know, as Lakers fans, many of us are unfamiliar with the concept, but it’s a complicated system in which you position your body in such a way as to prevent the other team from scoring. Believe it or not, many, many championships have been won in this fashion. If we are somehow able to win one this year, it will be because we catch up with the rest of the world on this concept.

But the important thing today was that we cared enough to play some D, and we were able to keep up the defensive intensity the whole way through. We held the Rockets to an absurdly low 70 points and under 37% shooting while we shot 47% and out-rebounded them by 22 (55-33). 

The other crucial difference in this game was the continuous dominance we displayed. Houston took almost half a quarter to get its first points on the board, and they didn’t get their first field goal until the 4:43 mark of the first. All the things we were unable to do in games four and six came easily in front of the home fans. Most importantly, Pau and Bynum locked down Scola and finally made the Rockets pay for the yards of height differential between our front lines. I called out Pau in my last post – unfairly, I’ve been told – but he came through for the team today. He blazed the trail that the rest of the team followed with his 21 points and 18 rebounds, which allowed Kobe to slide by with a 14-point performance in 33 minutes. Pau once again led the team with his 41 minutes on the floor. 

Some of the old swagger was back for Pau in this one, which was more than a little comforting. He had the full complement of skills working for him, from the hook in the lane to the face-up options to the pull-up from the elbow. More tellingly, he was fierce on the boards as well, which is always a sign as to how he’s feeling on a given day. His three blocks were yet another indication of his energy level in this game seven, especially the early one he got on a Scola jumper that sparked a Lakers fast break and helped set the tone.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to feel in the wake of this series, or even this game. I’m happy we won, sure, but there are more questions than answers as we make our way to the Western Conference Finals. Taking the short view, we played with the requisite playoff intensity in this game, and our big men lived up to their seven-foot stature. Auspiciously, Andrew Bynum worked himself into a nice aggressive groove in game seven, and hopefully he’ll be able to carry forward the positive momentum into the next series. Being more pragmatic, however, leads to a host of problems that I’d rather not deal with. Which team is going to show up on a given night? Why is effort even an issue in the playoffs for a team challenging for a title? What exactly can we expect from our bench? And what the fuck happened in games four and six? I don’t have any answers, other than that I believe there aren’t answers to many of these. The Lakers simply are who they are, which is an inconsistent, mentally ambivalent team with little to no killer instinct. The talent level of the team means that they may still have enough to win it all, even with such a weak constitution clearly in evidence, but they are certain to keep their fans on the edge of their seats and reaching for the blood pressure medication as they make their way toward the ultimate goal.

Game recap:

Kobe and Pau postgame:

And Phil:

No one will ever care if the Lakers go on to win it, but I have to agree with Bill Plaschke in his assessment of Phil’s hands-off approach being ill-suited to our young team. I’m curious to hear my two readers’ thoughts about the issue, because, much as I think PJ believes too much of his own hype, I’m usually loath to criticize his handling of the team. But he’s had on the kid gloves for a long time, much more than I’ve ever seen from him before, and he’s been protecting his players like a mother bird sheltering her babies under her wing. That’s not an image I usually associate with Phil Jackson, which indicates to me that he’s somewhat out of his element here and perhaps grasping for a working strategy for the group of players he has. And kudos to him for being willing and able to adjust his tactics midstream, but I feel like he’s not always adjusting the right ones. Call a friggin’ timeout now and then to calm the young guys down, but don’t shield them from all criticism. That does nothing but reinforce this team’s already overlarge ego and further the players’ belief that they’re impervious to everything, even when they’re in the thick of a winner-takes-all game seven. At least that’s my take on the matter. But maybe my zen is off. In either case, what’s done is done. I hope.

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Game 6 Editorial

Posted by hiphopmama on May 14, 2009

Lakers Rockets
LA Lakers 80, Houston 95
     Series tied 3-3

I’ve just about given up on this Lakers team. I completely concur with the Forum Blue & Gold post about the Lakers’ lack of mental toughness and inability to learn from experience. They got it exactly right. There is no telling which Lakers team is going to show up on any given night. The best you can do is assume they will alternate good and bad performances, with some allowances for an occasional good or bad streak. They have zero killer instinct, and I’m gonna go out there and invoke Softgate again now. Let me tell you why.

Pau has gone all wet noodle on us. Remember that toughness he showed in the Christmas Day win over the Celtics? Remember how gritty he looked late in the fourth quarter, coming up with key defensive players and refusing to back down to the Boston attempts to punk him? Yeah, that’s all gone. Now, instead of fighting back, he hangs his head, flails his arms, and shrugs his shoulders. Instead of banging with the best of them, he looks timid on the boards. Instead of seeking out the contact, he struggles against 6-6 Chuck Hayes and can’t figure out how to adjust his game to take advantage of his half-foot size advantage. When even the intellectual side of his game has gone, it’s time to pack it up.

It may be an unfair burden to put on one player, but it really all comes down to Pau. Kobe is the team’s clear leader and most important player, but Pau is sort of the compass of the other guys. And the ability of other teams to hang off everyone in their defense of Kobe is in large part a result of Pau’s effectiveness, or lack thereof. When he fails to deliver, it makes Kobe’s and everyone else’s jobs that much harder, and it weakens us incredibly. It has been a non-issue for much of the season, but I’m going to hazard a guess that all those excessive minutes he played when Bynum was out are catching up with him and hurting his play. When you’re tired and everything else has left you, you fall back on what you know. And toughness has never been Pau’s strong suit. You could argue that this Rockets team is just be a tough match-up for him, but I don’t quite buy that either, because he has faced a variety of different players, most of them no more than seventh- or eighth-man caliber, and he has been unable to take advantage of any of them. 

Not that the team as a whole has been much better, but the lack of a legitimate one-two punch has severely hampered our efforts in the playoffs. If I wanted to see Kobe play with a bunch of amateurs, I would bring back Kwame Brown and Smush Parker. They’re shelling out millions for these guys, so it would be nice to see someone other than #24 play with a bit of passion. 

That’s it, I’m done. Off to watch some Brasileirão action I have recorded. It will be nice to see some players actually trying for a change.

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Lakers>Rockets, but David>>>Lakers

Posted by hiphopmama on May 13, 2009

Rockets Lakers
Houston 78, LA Lakers 118
Lakers lead series 3-2

I was really looking forward to watching this game, but I only got through the first two and a half quarters before I had to head out and see a movie with my brother. David is one of the only things in the world that could have made me miss this game, and it was still worth it. The huge lead didn’t hurt in that regard either. I’ll watch the rest tomorrow and try to post something before my usual time. Till then, HipHopMama out. (We saw Star Trek.)

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

All Tied Up

Posted by hiphopmama on May 10, 2009

What's that expression? A picture is worth a th-... Ah fuck it. If they can't put in the effort, I can't either.

What's that expression? A picture is worth a thousand... Ah fuck it. If they can't put in the effort, I can't either.

LA Lakers 87, Houston 99
     Series tied 2-2

I’ve been dreading doing this write-up, not because the game was so painful – which it apparently was – but because I couldn’t bring myself to watch it in its entirety after learning and partially witnessing the debacle. I was busy today with Mother’s Day activities – thanks again to Miguel and Mari for their thoughtful gifts =) – but I checked in from time to time and watched in horror as the lead ballooned to near 30 points. The only extended stretch I watched was in the last few minutes when they cut it to 13, but after a couple minutes of that I decided my Thai food was more engrossing and went back to that instead.

There’s nothing to say about this game that we haven’t already repeated ad nauseum, all season long. They just don’t have that killer instinct, even with the best closer in the game on their roster, and they simply refuse to put teams away when they have the chance. And tonight was a chance if ever there was one, up 2-1 and facing a team that had just lost its best player. Will they still win this series? Yeah, probably, if for no other reason than because Yao is out of the picture, but this loss, more than even the sweep by the Bobcats, puts in question their title hopes for me. During the year, the excuse was always that they were too good and played down to the level of their competition because they were focused only on the bigger picture, meaning a championship. Now, there is no such excuse as they are in the thick of a contentious playoff series and supposedly keen to get in a position to redeem themselves for last year’s failings. Yet instead of putting the series essentially out of reach and burying a wounded Houston team, they let little Aaron Brooks run rampant and boost the Rockets to a 2-2 series tie. That they allowed Brooks to beat them says a lot about their effort today, after having bottled him up for games 2 and 3. They had clearly devised a good solution to the problems he presented, but despite seemingly learning their lesson in game 1, they let up on the gas and let Brooks carouse in the lane once again, helping the Rockets to an easier victory than either of the two we earned against them. Oh, and on top of all that, LO got hurt. More updates on that as information becomes available.

I can’t bring myself to write any more about this one, so I’ll leave it to a writer as sarcastic as I am, T.J. Simers from the LA Times. His piece captures the sheer disbelief I feel at the display my team put on today. Read it at your own peril.

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Aww Shit

Posted by hiphopmama on May 9, 2009

yao

You never wanna see someone go out like this, let alone a team’s most important player. Having already lost Tracy McGrady long ago, the Rockets are now down 7 feet and 6 inches of wow as Yao Ming has sustained a fracture in his foot and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. I’m a Laker fan, but I don’t like to see anyone win at the expense of another player’s health, and I’d much prefer us to face teams at full strength. It’s pretty much a given that T-Mac will get hurt and miss games at some point during the season, but if Yao is going to be doing the same the Rockets will have a tough road to hoe. And I love the guy, so I wish him all the best. 

I’m not sure yet what this means for the Rockets’ line-up or for match-ups with the Lakers. With Mutombo out as well, they don’t have a true center backing up Yao, so maybe Scola moves over to the five with Landry entering the starting line-up at four. It’s a small front court, to be sure, but I’m not sure what other options they have at this point. Chuck Hayes is a heckuva competitor and quite a scrapper on the boards, but at 6’6″ he barely qualifies as a forward to begin with. You can’t help but think this depletes their squad just too much, but I won’t put anything past this group, especially with Artest fueling them. As a Laker fan, though, I still hope we can close this thing out in 5. Let Yao start his road to recovery that much sooner.

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Champion Caliber Win

Posted by hiphopmama on May 8, 2009

Lakers Rockets
LA Lakers 108, Houston 94
     Lakers lead series 2-1

Now that is how you play and win a playoff game.  Not just any playoff game, either, but a potentially series-swinging one in a contentious match-up against a serious contender. There was very little in the way of “afters,” as they would refer to it in soccer, referring to the extracurricular activities that marred game 2. There were a couple of contentious moments, but other than that, both teams just played hard, playoff basketball and gave it absolutely everything they had.

The normally stellar refs had another good game under difficult circumstances. They managed to keep a lid on what could have been a powder keg of a game, and they got the Vujacic call right even if they got the Artest call wrong. Sasha did come down a little hard on Wafer on that three-point shot, but in reality the Nilla-man jumped at a 45-degree angle into him, which could have been called a foul on the Rockets player instead. They gave him his three free throws and got on with the game, as they should have. The Artest call, on the other hand, was not so artfully handled. Yes he came across Pau’s head a bit and he crashed awkwardly to the ground, but he at least appeared to have some intent to go for the ball and clearly wasn’t looking to cause any kind of injury. It was either a hard regular foul (my vote) or a flagrant 1 at most. I could have understood the refs going with the flagrant 1 because of the circumstances of this series, but a flagrant 2 was pretty excessive. I fully expect that one to be overturned or at least reduced, and certainly no suspension handed down.

And the game. What a game. As a Laker fan, it was about all I could have hoped for. At this point you know they’re not going to blow anybody out and keep them down double digits the whole way, especially not against as tough a team as the Houston Rockets, so grinding out a convincing victory even through the nail-biting moments is as good as it gets. It shows that kind of champions poise that we’ve been looking for in them, and which they lacked woefully in game 1, and it is the first serious indication that they may be back on the right track. 

The first quarter was close, and the biggest edge we could claim was that we won the battle of the pace of the game by putting up 30 points in the first 12 minutes. We played the second quarter even but claimed the moral advantage by taking a 2-point lead into halftime with some good play to close the half, but we really got our mojo working in the third quarter, when we scored 24 and held Houston to a mere 14 points. As always, when our defense is knuckling down, there is little anyone can do to hang with us since we have such a killer offense. 24 points isn’t exactly a huge haul for us in a single quarter, but when we hold our opponents to 14 it is as good as 30 or more. 

We rode that 12-point advantage through the fourth quarter to a victory despite a few tense minutes when the Rockets got to within 6 on a Yao Ming slam dunk. Instead of panicking, though, we simply ran our offense, upped our defense, and gritted our teeth to get the victory. The next trip down court, Farmar calmly drained a baseline jumper, and Kobe hit a ridiculous three as the shot clock was winding down to bump it back up an 11-point gap.

And that, effectively, was the game. This was a quintessential playoff game in many ways, with defense being the foremost. Neither team made it to 44% shooting, but we won that stat battle, holding the Rockets to 41.7% while shooting 43.9% ourselves. Our distributed scoring was another hallmark of our good team play, as Kobe’s 33 was amply supported by 16 from Odom, 13 from Pau and Ariza, 12 from Farmar, and 8, 6, and 4 from Brown, Walton, and Bynum, respectively. The most impressive stat of the night, for my money anyway, was the turnover breakdown. While we scored 20 points off 17 Rockets turnovers, they were only able to capitalize with 5 points off just 6 turnovers. That means that all game long, we took care of the ball every single possession except for 6. That is simply incredible, especially for this Lakers team, which often seems to think it can get away with any number of turnovers by hitting shots. 

To me, this game came down to good coaching. No disrespect to Adelman, who has clearly done an incredible job getting the most out of this team without its best player and leading scorer, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the savvy – or star power – as Phil Jackson, and PJ worked his magic again tonight. No Derek Fisher? Fine, we start Jordan Farmar and instill the confidence and readiness in him to go out and have the biggest game of his career. (His stat line was 12 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 turnover, by the way.) We lost home court and need this win to put ourselves back in the driver’s seat? Okay, our guys will come out ready and grind through a tough defensive game despite the “soft” label that is still being bandied about. The accusation that we don’t want it enough? Pfft. Just read our efficiency statistics and tell me who was better prepared for this game.

Let’s not get it twisted, now. This series is still a long way from over. That 75% number they kept quoting for teams who win game 3 after being tied 1-1 is all well and good, but it still means that 1 in 4 teams who lose game 3 come back to take the series. Those aren’t the most reassuring numbers as far as I’m concerned, and when this Rockets team is involved, I’m even tentative to call this more than a momentary advantage. But tonight’s was a huge game, make no mistake, and I do believe it will be a postseason-defining moment for us. If we can really drive the stake into their hearts all the way in the next game, we could essentially break their spirits and set ourselves up to close it out at home just like in the first round, as remarkable as that sounds. Will it happen? I’m not sure, but I’d say we have a good chance of doing it with our squad back at full strength Sunday with Fish’s return. My fingers are definitely crossed, though.

Highlights:

And here is Kobe’s 30+ footer to close the third quarter and give us the 12-point cushion that saw us through:

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Laker Nation: Thinking of Revoking My Citizenship

Posted by hiphopmama on May 6, 2009

"Besame mucho"

"Besame mucho"

Houston 98, LA Lakers 111
    Series tied 1-1

This is the kind of night where I’m not proud to be a Laker fan. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t as bad as the Laker Haters (their official name) will have you believe, nor will it merit David Stern’s sure-to-be-extensive whining, but it wasn’t pretty either. And for as much as we took, we gave even more, acting like instigating little bitches more often than not. This is not how I want us to win a game, let alone a championship.

Here is my take on the extracurricular events:

It all started with Lamar Odom and Luis Scola. I have no fucking clue what sparked that one, but Lamar was talking to him from pretty early on – yapping in his face after blocking his shot and just generally being a punk. At the time, I was confused, because you never really see that from him and Scola seems so unassuming, but when I saw him tugging on Lamar’s jersey later on I figured he must have done something to spark it. Whatever the case, those two got the ball rolling and the everybody else ran with it from there. After a little extra English on a Scola foul on Odom, Lamar had something to say, as did Walton and Vujacic, which resulted in some technical fouls. The next possession, Fisher came out set to take one of those much-ballyhooed “message fouls” on Scola to put him in his place. Unfortunately, he went at him a little too hard and got himself ejected with a flagrant 2. I really think the thing that earned him the ejection was the extended elbow. Or maybe it was the way he tensed himself up in anticipation of the collision after looking over his shoulder to make sure it was Scola coming to set the screen. Either way, Fish was shown the door and it was officially on, if it wasn’t before. 

Things actually settled down for the better part of a quarter and a half, until Ron Artest finally hit his breaking point. And Kobe had to go and play the fucking instigator. That really is the perfect word for him. He’s probably my favorite player just based on how much I love to watch him do what he does – for everything else, Dwyane Wade is at the top of my list – but as a person he’s an ass-wipe. Most of the people who are the best at what they do are such unsavory types. Kobe just has a little extra of the punk-ass juice in him, and when he threw a little elbow up at Artest’s throat on a rebound but didn’t get called for a foul (somehow the refs put it on Ron-Ron himself – don’t ask, I have no idea either), Ron disputed the call before crossing the court to confront Kobe. On second look at it, it probably just should have been a technical rather than an ejection, as he got in Kobe’s face and made his point without any real physical aggression, but his reputation probably preceded him in this instance and he was given his marching orders. 

The only real action after that was a technical for taunting that Kobe got for telling Battier, for the umpteenth (unnecessary) time, “You can’t guard me.” Kobe looked shocked at the call, as it’s the kind of thing they usually let slide, but in a game like this they had to call it. You can’t really dispute that.

Oh, and the game itself? Even without all the extras it was a good one. We jumped out to a blazing start, got the lead as big as 15, then watched Houston come all the way back and take the lead. It was looking like the same old song and dance as last year’s finals, as we were getting out-toughed by a team that we really should have been beating. Then all the incidents and ejections and we actually managed to respond with the requisite level of grit needed to grind this one out. The subs finally came through, putting on a run with Kobe on the bench to regain the lead they had given up, as the team eventually made the decision to start hustling for loose balls and doing all the little things the Rockets had been doing better than us. The score wasn’t close in the end, but the intensity never wavered, right down to the final buzzer. 

There are plenty of questions left after this one. How hard will the hammer come down on all the players on the naughty list after this game? Will Fisher be suspended for game 3? Will Ron-Ron or Kobe be fined, and will Kobe be assessed any kind of foul after the fact for that elbow he obviously threw? How will the repercussions of this play out over the rest of this and any subsequent series? All tough to answer. I’ll wager the following guesses:

  • Kobe will get a fine for the elbow, maybe some kind of flagrant 1 assessed. Nothing more is merited, and nothing more will likely be given.
  • Artest’s ejection should be plenty of punishment for his actions, especially since it was probably excessive to begin with. I don’t foresee anything extra there.
  • Fisher has a good chance of being suspended for the next game. I can’t say for sure which way they’ll go with that one, but I can see that whatever they choose, they’ll be justified. On the Laker side, it was the same kind of foul Deron Williams took on Andrew Bynum in the last series which resulted in just a regular, garden variety foul being called. Plus it’s Derek Fisher, and how often do you see that sort of thing from him? On the side of actual logic, it was premeditated, harsh, and involved an extended elbow. They can interpret that however they want, but a suspension wouldn’t be out of question by any means. All I can say is, come on, Jordan.
  • As for the repercussions? That’s difficult to say. I tend to think this melee will galvanize the Lakers and help them on their way, even if it’s just because they’re the more talented team so a little extra motivation will push them to higher heights than Houston. They needed to be reminded that it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Why that reminder was necessary I have no idea. I would have thought last year’s finals would have been enough, but out of sight, out of mind, I guess. This will definitely be a series to watch from now on.

And now, because it’s my blog and I can, I have a word to say about Artest. I like the guy. I can’t explain why, I’ve just always been in his corner. I really felt like that whole incident in Detroit was more the fault of the fans than the players, because spectators at sports events get way out of control. Can you imagine if one of those fat ugly white guys saw Artest walking down the street? Would they really have anything like that to say to him? No, they would cross the street and avert their eyes. But on a basketball court, all of a sudden they’re real brave. They deserved what they got. The league had to do what it did, because that kind of thing can never happen, but it’s still karma for a couple bitch-ass fans. Oh well. Now Artest is back and doing his best to rein in the temper that has gotten him in so much trouble, and I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt as much as any other player. He looked so under control and within his element in game 1 and most of game 2 that I was starting to believe, or maybe hope, that he had finally figured it out. At the same time, though, I was waiting for him to snap, and he finally did, when Kobe threw that elbow up high at him. And to be honest, he deserved to have his say after the refs missed that one, and even to get in Kobe’s face about it a little bit. The thing that did him in was the fact that he crossed the court to do it and stayed with it a little too long. Oh, and the fact that he was Ron Artest. That didn’t help his case any either. I still hope he gets his act together so he can play out the rest of the series, because the way he’s performing he deserves as much shine as he can get. As much as I want us to beat the snot out of him and his team ON THE COURT, I still hope he plays well. 

A lot of Laker fans won’t like me for all of what I’ve said, but fuck it, that’s how I feel. I hate giving extra ammunition to all the Haters out there, but in this case most of it is true. Come on, Lakers, let’s win this the right way so we can feel good about our rings if and when they come. This whiny, instigating little posture is unbecoming of so talented a team. And if we can’t win without resorting to that stuff, then we don’t deserve to be wearing the purple and gold.

Highlights:

And here is Fisher’s foul on Scola:

And for anyone who still cares about the actual game, here’s a ridiculous play by Kobe:

Posted in nba | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »