All Balls Don’t Bounce

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

Posts Tagged ‘lamar odom’

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:

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On To Bigger And Better Things

Posted by hiphopmama on April 27, 2009

"Watch me tell the Jazz, 'Take that, take that!'"

"Watch me tell the Jazz, 'Take that, take that!'"

Utah 96, LA Lakers 107
     Lakers win series 4-1

Now it’s official. It was essentially a foregone conclusion, but now that it’s happened we can move on. The Lakers are in the second round and prepping to face Houston, in all likelihood, en route to the ultimate goal. The Jazz were a heck of an eight seed, much better than anything outside of the top three or four in the East, but they were never going to match up with us or take more than a game. The one loss was disappointing, as much because we couldn’t close out a winnable game, but it’s to be expected that you’ll let one go here and there. And anyway, we don’t want to have too many days off in between games and get stale waiting for that next match-up.

The first quarter was a fairly stagnant affair, but we pulled in front in the second, mounting a nice run to close the quarter and take a 13-point lead into halftime. Kobe epitomized the team’s effort when he rescued a loose ball/quasi-turnover as the clock wound down and scored it on a ridiculous fall-away in the lane. The third was just one big surge, and we put together another quarter-ending run to take the air out of the Utah sails once and for all. Well, not quite, because they managed to come back from 21 down to within 7 with 4:40 left, and then 6 with 3:30 left. The Jazz went on a 16-2 run to put themselves in prime position, but once Sloan re-inserted his starters (read: Deron Williams), the Jazz lost their momentum, we tightened our defense, and our rebounding and fast break game saved us. We always gotta make it interesting. The important thing is that they got the job done and didn’t let it get any close than that, proving that they could close out a series at the first opportunity. 

It was a great team effort tonight. Kobe was brilliant again, if slightly less dominant only because the rest of the guys stepped their game up. Our MVP had 31 points on 10-for-21 plus 4 assists and 4 steals. He was all over the court in this one, giving everything he had to make sure it ended here. Odom had a fantastic game as well, providing some great energy and shooting amazingly well (10-of-15) for his 26 points, 15 boards, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. Pau was good, not great, by his standards, adding 17 and 11 to the overall effort. No one on the bench was particularly enthralling, but the subs performed competently enough. Poor Bynum only made it to 12 minutes and 2 points. Let’s hope he can rest up and get rid of some of that soreness before the next series, because if it is Houston, we’ll need that extra big body down there to defend Yao. Have you seen that guy lately? He’s a monster.

Game recap:

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Just Barely

Posted by hiphopmama on April 21, 2009

Jazz Lakers

"Oh, were we supposed to keep playing? Even in the second half??"

Utah 109, LA Lakers 119
     Lakers lead series 2-0

What’s new? We can’t keep quick guards out of the lane and we can’t hold a lead. Oh, and we rarely lose. I guess I’ll take those first two as long as they come with the third. We came out strong again tonight, building up another big lead in the first half and squandering it due to sloppy play in the third quarter. We had a strong finish to the third to set us up for the fourth quarter up double-figures, but that disintegrated after a while too and we found ourselves up just three points with three minutes remaining. An Odom lay-up and Kobe pull-up put it into the cooler, if not the refrigerator, but Ariza’s three with 33 seconds to go put the game on ice and shipped it back to Utah for game 3.

What was so disappointing here was that the boneheadedness was distributed throughout the team so evenly, even creeping into the play of bona fide clutch-masters like Kobe. Up just 5 points with 1:42 to play, Kobe throws a ridiculous full-court pass off a steal that gets intercepted but thankfully only leads to a Utah shot clock violation. Pau missed a pair of free throws late that would have left the ending much less in doubt. The whole team played lackadaisical basketball throughout the third and fourth quarters, seemingly drinking the Kool-Aid and believing their own hype. Deron Williams was a fucking beast again, and he refused to let his team go quietly into the night, firing away for 35 points and 6 three-pointers. His 9 assists outweighed his 7 turnovers, but the TOs hurt him in the end as they squashed any chance of a Utah comeback. 

This is the kind of game we’ve seen the Lakers play all year, and we attribute it to regular season malaise. “They’re just too good for the competition,” we say. “Wait for the postseason. They’ll get it together then, when there’s something to play for.” To which I say: bull…shit. There is no proverbial switch. You build and lose momentum incrementally, and you cannot simply turn it around because you feel like it. That means that you MUST play the entire game like every possession – both offensive and defensive – is crucial. No more of this taking quarters off business, especially the third. It’s inexcusable. We’re not THAT good, for pete’s sake. No one is.

Still, at the end of the day, we head back to Utah up two games to none and looking, realistically, for a split in the two games in Salt Lake City. We don’t have the most pristine record facing the Jazz away, so I don’t foresee a sweep, but one win out of two seems like a reasonable prediction. Then, if we don’t make too big a mess of it, we should be poised to close things out on our own home court in five games to give us ample rest time before the second round. Looking too far ahead, you say? Nah, never that. Just reading the writing on the wall, as even Jerry Sloan seems to have done. We’re still the best team in basketball, albeit by a slim margin (kudos to Mike Brown and Cleveland), but we’re going to have to play like it to claim that title officially, and tonight was not the best indication of our potential. Phil should yell/scream/meditate/WHATEVER some sense into them after that game and remind them that the better teams WILL make them pay for those kinds of lapses. Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me twice……can’t- can’t get fooled again.

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One Down, Fifteen To Go

Posted by hiphopmama on April 20, 2009

Translation: "I'm Kobe Bryant and you're not."

Translation: "I'm Kobe Bryant and you're not."

Utah 100, LA Lakers 113
Lakers lead series 1-0

That went pretty much according to plan. We got a fairly comfortable double-digit victory on our home floor against the lowest ranked playoff opposition in the Western Conference. It’s nothing to get over-excited about, but it definitely puts us on the right path.

I won’t do much game summary, since everyone in the world was able to watch this one, but suffice it to say that, once we got ourselves on the scoreboard after a few tries, we never looked back. We allowed the Jazz to put up a big third quarter against us when we came out of the break looking complacent, as if we thought we had already won the game, but we played them even after that and the 22-point halftime margin saw us through to a game one victory. The statistical breakdown is encouraging as well. Only Kobe hit the 40-minute mark, which is to be expected from him in the postseason – I swear the guy is a cyborg – and Pau barely got to 37 before picking up his sixth personal and fouling out for the first time all season. The most comforting aspect of the game was how much production we got outside of those two. Trevor Ariza led us in scoring most of the way, until Kobe decided to let loose and seal it for us, and his 21 points came on a clutch 8-for-10 shooting performance. Lamar chipped in a solid 13 as well, and Luke got himself on the board as well with 5. And what can you say about Shannon (not Chris, Jeff) Brown? 3-for-4 from the field, all threes, for 9 points, plus 3 assists and a couple boards on top of his all-around hustle play. Can I start this man’s fan club?

Because it was such a straightforward game, it might be tempting to dismiss this Jazz team – as, I’ll admit, I have essentially done – but there were a few points from this match-up that are worth keeping an eye on. For one, we foul this team way too much. How often do opposing teams shoot more free throws than us? Okay, I honestly have no idea, but I’d have to guess we generally win in that category. Today, however, we continued the trend we started in the final regular season game by putting Utah on the line seemingly every possession. They shot 35 damn free throws to our 32. That’s not a huge margin or anything, but it’s still too many to be giving up to a team that relies so heavily on the pick and roll and has no true big man. Where exactly are all these fouls coming from? Granted, Deron Williams will draw a handful or two on his own, but why do we need to foul Ronnie Brewer EVER? All the fouls were part of a slightly troubling lack of composure for a few moments, which resulted in technical fouls for both Kobe and Lamar and threatened to halt our momentum. Harpring is an irritating little bastard, but he’s got nothing to really threaten us with besides his wayward forearms so just let him slide. In a similar vein, our 17 turnovers weren’t particularly pleasant either, especially since almost all of Utah’s offense came off of our missteps. If we can clean it up just a tad, we won’t have another problem in this series, or any other for that matter. Realistically, however, we will have a one-game slip-up somewhere along the way, almost certainly in Utah, and that will snap us back into focus. Let’s hope it comes at a not too painful time.

Game recap:

Highlights:

One final raised glass here to Kobe, who controlled the game throughout without having to dominate possession or take all the shots. He looked to set up his teammates from the beginning, getting them going before seeking out his own shot, and it paid big dividends in the form of multiple teammates getting and staying in rhythm. Trevor’s offensive explosion – and career playoff-high numbers – can be largely attributed to Kobe setting the table for him early on. Same goes for Shannon’s threes. He was a maestro out there today in orchestrating the whole team, and he was still able to step up and knock down bunches of baskets when we needed him to. Best player in the world till Lebron takes it from him via a title. I’m still waiting.

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A Fitting Ending, And Beginning

Posted by hiphopmama on April 14, 2009

Jazz Lakers

Utah 112, LA Lakers 125

(65-17)

And now the fun begins. It was a very good season – an exceptional one, had LeBron and the Cavs not spoiled the party – but you can put it all in the rearview at this point. The real season starts Sunday, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel – at Staples against this eight-seed Jazz team.

Aside from a good opening quarter from Utah, this one went pretty much according to plan. We worked our numerous advantages to progressively grind down the Jazz, who eventually called it a night and sat their big guns midway through the fourth quarter. Deron Williams was explosive as always, but the rest of the team looked out of their league against our guys. It was the perfect way to finish the season: playing our prospective first-round opponents, whipping them by double-digits, getting some good minutes from the subs, and resting our starters. 

I gotta admit, I feel how I imagine the players must feel – done with this regular season business and itching to get the real season started. I don’t really have it in me to go in-depth on this game that doesn’t mean much, aside from its psychological value in putting the Jazz in their place. I mean, kudos to them for making the playoffs in a tough Western Conference, but when you go 33-8 at home and 15-26 on the road you’re gonna put yourself in a tough position come playoff time. That feat has earned them the honor of facing us in the first round, and if tonight is any indication, I don’t foresee too many bumps in the road for us. It will be a challenge, to be sure, as postseason match-ups always are, but Utah doesn’t present any real personnel problems, aside from the obvious D-Will issue. Aside from him, they just don’t have much to trouble us. They certainly don’t have the size to match up with our front line, especially now that Bynum is back, and no one on their team is equipped to handle the versatility of Odom or poise of Kobe. This one should be done in five.

And now, because it has gotten late early on me, I’m going to call it a night and get some much-needed sleep. If my daughter lets me, of course. I need my beauty rest so I can be prepared for the big playoff push and there with our boys every step of the way. The last two years of the three-peat were nice, but this season has just about matched them for sheer entertainment value, and this blog has been a big part of that. I’ve never gone as in-depth in my viewership or analysis of the team, and it has made it that much more fun. I will never again be able to live without the NBA League Pass. Thanks again, Mom, for the perfect Christmas present.

Highlights:

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WTF Is Up With Portland?

Posted by hiphopmama on April 10, 2009

Is it the postseason yet?

Is it the postseason yet?

LA Lakers 98, Portland 106

(63-17)

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

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

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

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

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

And the bad:

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

And finally, the ugly:

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

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

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Welcome Back, Andrew!

Posted by hiphopmama on April 9, 2009

Nuggets Lakers

Denver 102, LA Lakers 116

(63-16)

How much have we missed Andrew Bynum? It’s hard to quantify exactly, especially when you consider how good our record without him has been. But it only took one game with him back to see how much he helps our line-up, even hobbled and out of shape after missing 32 games, because of how much improved our rotation is when he’s available. It’s a tough blow for Odom to be sent back to the bench after performing admirably in Drew’s absence, but how much better is our second unit with Lamar as playmaker and sparkplug. It will be an adjustment, to be sure, but I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see Luke, Lamar, Sasha, and Shannon Brown/Jordan Farmar in there with Pau while Kobe got a rest. That’s a second unit I can live with. In fact, now that Odom is coming off the bench, I could see Walton moving back into the starting line-up because we don’t need him to settle the subs as much with Lamar out there to run the offense. That makes our second unit that much more dangerous, especially because Ariza seems to thrive on catching teams off guard when he comes off the bench. The possibilities are endless.

The game itself deviated from the standard Laker script slightly. Instead of building a big lead in the second half and then nearly blowing it late, we maintained a middling lead for most of the game and then slowly put it out of reach over the course of the second half. It was a much less nerve-wracking storyline than the usual one, and it made Andrew’s return a more settling one as we got to work him in in spots without putting too much pressure on him on the production end. We did give up one lead, in the second quarter, when we watched the Nuggets tie it up at the halftime buzzer despite being generally outplayed by us. Actually, that’s not entirely fair, as we shot poorly and Denver did their part by hanging around. Our entire advantage boiled down to offensive rebounding and foul shooting in the first half, but we picked up the defense in the second and it helped spark the offense. From there, it was just a matter of working up the lead, and Denver’s propensity to get into foul trouble only helped matters. Dahntay Jones started the foul-fest by picking up three quick ones in the first couple minutes of the third quarter, which sent him to the bench and helped us get into the penalty by the six-minute mark. Carmelo followed shortly thereafter with his fourth, as did Johan Petro. When Kobe decided to take the game over in the fourth, it just sealed the deal. If this is the best the Western Conference has to offer, I’m not particularly worried.

Aside from Bynum’s return, my favorite development in this game was the continued emergence of Shannon Brown. Perhaps more important was the evidence of Phil’s growing trust in the young guard, as he was the first man off the bench when Fisher picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter. He didn’t just spell Fish, though. He played some solid minutes, hitting a three, getting fouled on another three-point effort for a few free throws, and playing some feisty defense. I’m not entirely sure why, since he hasn’t proven himself completely yet, but I like seeing Brown off that bench before Vujacic and Farmar, maybe just because I know he’s more likely to stay within the established system and not go off on some individual tangent and kill our momentum. It’s nice that some of our old hands are comfortable enough to want to improvise a little, but when you’re a role player, you need to know your role and pick your spots. Sasha and Jordan have both been guilty of forgetting that at times this year, so maybe a stint further down the bench will do them some good. 

Andrew played just 21 minutes and took a little while to warm up, quite understandably. His timing looked off in the early going, as did his footwork, but he picked it up considerably in the second half and made a number of good shots in addition to his solid rebounding. He shot 7-for-11 for 16 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, 4 of them offensive, and helped us get the early advantage on the boards which set the tone for the whole game. You couldn’t have asked for anything more in his first game back, and I only expect him to get stronger and more comfortable with each progressive game. With three games to go before the playoffs start, he should be able to do a little work to get his legs back under him, and we can work him back in slowly throughout the first couple rounds. With San Antonio falling by the wayside due to injury problems, I feel much more comfortable with the idea that he’ll need some extra time. His mere presence on the roster aids us considerably.

No highlights available yet. Damn, this game went late! I even caught up with the live broadcast and had to sit through commercials like some common TV viewer. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch a game live that I’ve lost all patience with commercial breaks. Oh well. I can handle it in a win. Back tomorrow for Portland. Keep your fingers crossed as we enter that Bermuda friggin’ Triangle known as the Rose Garden. By the way, how did the Blazers end up with such a decent name for their arena? Sure as hell beats Amway Arena.

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I’m Baaaack!

Posted by hiphopmama on April 7, 2009

Scruffy white guy alert

Scruffy white guy alert

LA Lakers 122, Sacramento 104

(62-16)

Please, dear readers – all both of you – forgive my extended absence. I just bought a house and spent the last week moving in, much of it without internet access. By the way, was anyone else aware of how much the world comes to a halt without the worldwide web? Apparently I have nothing to do, outside of menial household chores and unpacking, without the ‘net. Needless to say, I am glad to have some semblance of normalcy back and be watching the Lakers for the last five games of the regular season. Tonight was the first night since we moved that I’ve actually sat down to watch anything, and I only did minimal unpacking. I’ll get back on that bandwagon soon enough too.

As for the game, it was a good one to come back to. It didn’t look that way to start, with the Lakers falling behind by 12 points in the first quarter, but the time off has apparently given me some added perspective, because as I watched the Kings run up the score on us, I stayed calm and relatively certain that we would pull out of our funk. The Kings are a bad team – make no mistake – and there was no way they could keep shooting at a 70% clip, no matter how porous our defense. They put it on us the first three times we played, even getting a rare win against us, but without Brad Miller they were less able to open up the floor by pulling out our big guys. Plus, with no Andrew Bynum we’re a more mobile group out there and we guard the perimeter better. Whatever the case, it was only a matter of time before they cooled off and our offense kicked into gear, all of which happened in the second quarter. We put on a bit of a run to close the first down just 6 and then absolutely routed the Kings 40-18 in the second. It was a 28-point swing from down 12 to up 16, and it was an easy ride from then on out. Of course, we had a couple of lax stretches that let the Kings get to within 10, but we settled down pretty quickly and got the game back in hand.

The easy pickings were reflected in the lower minutes played by the starters – Gasol topped out at 37, Kobe and Odom at 31 – and extended time for the bench. The most impressive of the subs was easily Shannon Brown, who has looked good in his limited minutes so far. This is the first extended run I’d seen him given, and it included some good time in the first half that should reassure Phil that he can help shore up the backcourt for brief periods. He finished with 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting and a couple steals, plus no turnovers in his role as ball-handler. He’s a good hustle player with amazing athletic ability, and if he can prove his ability to play within the offense with minimal mistakes, he will be a good asset. Vujacic hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, although his outside shooting always makes him a threat, and Farmar has been less than stellar as well, so an extra body to throw in there is a plus. 

Not to bash Sasha too much, because he had the play of the game with his dunk on half the Kings team in garbage time in the fourth quarter. It was all the more amazing because it came from Sasha, whom I’ve never seen get so much as a breakaway dunk before. Okay, maybe I have, but it wasn’t memorable enough to make an impression, so to see him facial on the Kings’ front line was jaw-dropping. It had me hitting the Back button on my DVR more than once. 

Another substitute who made a real impact was Luke Walton. He was part of the unit that got the Lakers back in it in the second quarter, and he orchestrated perfectly during his time on the court. His offensive gamesmanship was exceptional, as he picked up 11 points (on just 4 shots) and a whopping 9 assists in his 24 minutes. His willingness to move to the bench to anchor the second unit is a testament to his belief in the team concept, but it was also a brilliant tactical move that could pay dividends down the line. Ariza seems a touch less explosive since he doesn’t enter the game when everyone else is already huffing it a bit, but it’s still a good trade-off. Trevor had a good game as well with 14 points and his usual scrappy defensive effort. 

All in all it was a solid game that helped us pull within half a game (one loss) of the Cavs, who have a fairly straightforward set of games to close the season. They do have to take on Boston at home on the 12th and play Philadelphia twice, home and away, but Washington at home and Indiana on the road aren’t daunting proposition for Lebron and Co. We still have to play Denver at Staples on Thursday before traveling on Friday to Portland, where we still can’t win a game for some damn reason. We finish things out with a pair of home games against Memphis and then Utah before we get to the postseason and the real fun. Oh, and Bynum is coming back, probably on Thursday. He won’t be anything near full speed or strength right away, but even the ability to bring him off the bench – good lord, what an option – will strengthen the team considerably. And as much as it sucks, Manu Ginobili going out for the remainder of the season makes our road to the Finals that much smoother since no one besides the Spurs looked likely to really challenge us. Without Manu, they just don’t have enough firepower, if they ever did, to contend with us. Not to rule out Denver or Houston, or even – heaven forbid – Portland, but it’s going to take an effort both special and steadfast to knock us out, and I don’t see any team in the West that can measure up. Let’s hope I’m not just being over-confident.

Highlights:

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Kings of Detroit

Posted by hiphopmama on March 26, 2009

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

LA Lakers 92, Detroit 77

(57-14)

Who the fuck is Will Bynum, and how can we sign him? In all seriousness, we need one of those monstrously quick little dudes on the perimeter. Don’t get me wrong. I love Farmar, but when paired with Fish they’re not dynamic enough to match up with some of those spark plug guys other teams have in the backcourt. 

The game itself was a mixed bag, which translates to a typical Laker affair. We jumped out quickly on them, building a 13 point lead by the end of one, but then we faded into nothingness in the second quarter. The Pistons literally scored the first 17 points in the second before we ever got on the board. It was pure disgusture from the second unit (plus Pao, who is a part of every unit at this point). It’s not even worth pretending this bench so much as resembles what we saw earlier in the year, but it’s not entirely their fault. We have to remember that the first two guys off the pine – Odom and Ariza – are now in the starting line-up, meaning that our first-choice subs are now Farmar and Vujacic. Or maybe Powell and Walton. Either way, it’s a considerable drop-off, and it means that we are going to give up leads like this pretty regularly when the starters need a rest. 

Giving up leads is one thing. Complete capitulation to the forces of doom is another, and that’s what the team showed in the second quarter. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t run the offense – and they definitely couldn’t, make no mistake about that – but they also couldn’t defend for shit. We only gave up 12 points in the whole first quarter, but we let Detroit score more than that in the first five and a half minutes of the second. Will Bynum, the plucky little point guard forced into starting by AI’s absence, ate us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including aperitif and digestif. I guess you could say it’s a good sign that we haven’t seen that in a while, but it’s still a familiar pattern that I hope we don’t revert to.

The third quarter started to slip further away from us as we fell behind by 10, and then they pulled an us and disappeared for the remainder of the quarter. Phil uncharacteristically called a timeout to regroup, and they came out gangbusters after that. Kobe got aggressive without sacrificing the flow of the game; Ariza added a few hustle points; and Sasha capped it all with a three. But the real savior of the quarter was Derek Fisher, who exploded for 10 points in the third, including two three’s and a few free throws. He is so steady out there it’s ridiculous. He even had an ugly airball go wide, got heckled by the crowd, then ran right back up and nailed one. Farmar might be quicker, but he doesn’t have half the steadying influence Fish does and you can see it in how ragged our play gets when the veteran is out of the game. Someone find this man a philosopher’s stone.

Now that I have outed myself as a nerd, I will note that we finished the third on a 30-5 run after having trailed by 10, and we took a 15-point lead into the fourth. That proved to be enough to get us to the finish line, as Detroit was never able to climb closer than 10 after that. I don’t know if Phil was trying to enact some weird form of punishment, but the starters played the whole way down the stretch, even when the outcome was decided. He did eventually take Kobe out with a minute left, and Fisher and Odom followed shortly thereafter, but it was kinda bizarre watching them out there in garbage time when we have another game tomorrow in New Jersey and four more left in this road trip. Was he sending a message to the subs? Punishing the starters for past blown leads? Losing track of time while Twittering from the bench? I don’t know the reason, but any of our big guys picking up a knock in that situation would have been pretty hard to take, so I hope he’s gotten it out of his system.

While I was happy to see us pull out a good road win after looking so hapless, it should be noted that the Pistons were down three former All-Stars in Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Allen Iverson, all of whom were out with injuries. That we couldn’t put them away in the first half, after jumping out to an early lead, without their three best players is a little troubling. But I guess I’ll let it slide since we haven’t won in Detroit in nine years. Now if we can just get a win in Portland, we can shed that last monkey.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Str8 Ballin’

Posted by hiphopmama on March 24, 2009

Lakers Thunder

"They can never take the game from a young G"

LA Lakers 107, Oklahoma City 89

(56-14)

Exactly one month after their last win in Oklahoma City, the Lakers were back for more, looking to stay within a single game of the Cavs. Like the last game, we jumped out to a quick lead, built that lead up, and then sort of coasted. Unlike the last game, the players – be they starters or subs – maintained the lead all the way to the finish. It was exactly the kind of game I am constantly imploring them to play, and for once they delivered. They led from the opening to the closing whistle, and the Thunder never got closer than 17 points in the second half.

The obvious upside of this was that the starters got a good rest in the fourth. Kobe sat out all of the final quarter, and Pau left with more than 8 minutes to go, which is plenty good news heading into the final five games of this road trip over the next eight days. Gasol somehow still managed to play 34 minutes, but no one else reached 30. Six players scored in double-figures (Kobe 19; Odom 18; Pau 14; Powell 14; Fisher 11; Walton 11), and Shannon Brown even came in and got a couple buckets, including an awesome dunk on the fast break. 

Full disclosure here, I didn’t get to actually watch this one. I remembered at the last minute and tried to tell it to record from the computer at my mom’s house, but the damn thing didn’t listen to me so I was stuck reading all the recaps and watching all the highlight packages I could find. I’m glad to hear I didn’t miss the most exciting match-up, but I would have liked to see them play a dominating start-to-finish game, since we don’t get to witness that too often. 

For whatever reason, I was looking to this road trip as a possible time for us to get our act together, and so far we look to be doing just that. Maybe there are less distractions on the road, or the team just has nothing better to do than focus on itself and what needs to be done. It seems pretty likely given that places like Oklahoma City don’t have quite the same night life as Los Angeles and its environs. Maybe the guys just get up for the challenge better with a sort of Tupac “Me Against the World” mentality, hunkering down around their play. Whatever the case, I like what I’ve seen so far, or at least since the comeback against the Bulls. That first half can go to hell.

We start the first of our two back-to-backs on this trip, heading to Detroit on Wednesday and then New Jersey on Thursday. I know we have a lot more road games left than Cleveland, but they’re not against real powerhouse teams for the most part. We do have to play Detroit and Atlanta this next week, and we have one more chance for redemption in Portland (dear god, please), but the toughest of our remaining match-ups are all at home: against Houston, Denver, and Utah. Lots of those games will test our mettle, to be sure, and knowing our tendency for lapses I’m sure we will indeed slip at some point(s). But I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say we might catch the Cavs after all, especially since we have the tiebreaker. Of the three big teams – us, Cleveland, and Boston – the Cavs have the biggest need for home court advantage, and I don’t even think it’s close. They still have just one loss at home all season, and, unlike the Lakers and Celtics, they haven’t proven they can get the requisite road wins to advance in the playoffs. This year is different, sure, but they’re still a young and relatively inexperienced team looking to make that breakthrough, so playing at home will help their chances greatly. And oh yeah, that one home loss? That was to us, suckers, so I’m not overly concerned with catching them. It would be nice – hella, to expose my NorCal leanings – but it’s not absolutely essential. I know everyone goes on and on about that game six lost last year in Boston, but that wasn’t down to being on the road. That certainly didn’t help, but our backs were broken on our own home floor in game four, when we gave up a 24-point lead to fall behind 3-1 in the series. Would it be nicer to play games 6 & 7 at home, along with those mood-setting first two? Hells yeah it would. But this team believes it can steal at least one game on anyone opponent’s court, so even without it they’ll be okay and likely to win or lose on their own merits. I still wish they’d do a 2-2-1-1-1 for the Finals, though. Who the hell can consistently string together three wins in the playoffs, even on their home floor??

Game recap:

Highlights:

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